>Five Easy Steps to Success
Writers often forget the most important factor in becoming a successful author – the reader. The reader is essential, the life and breath of a writer. An author’s job is to satisfy the reader. Author satisfaction is secondary. After all, don’t you want to make each novel better, to improve your craft? An author should never be satisfied until the reader is. Below are 5 points in which I firmly believe. I hope they prove useful to you.
1. Credit the readers. Readers are usually intelligent creatures. It is best to think of them as more intelligent than you, the writer. This avoids those nasty little details that trip up readers – loose plot points, disappearing characters, obvious foreshadowing that fails to materialize … the list goes on. As a writer, you know what is going on and don’t need those little hints or adding a name instead of ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ or ‘He looked at her’ to keep track of the conversation. This is my biggest mistake, which I have to dutifully go back and correct. My dialogues flow rapidly and it’s easy to confuse the reader, especially with multiple characters speaking.
2. Be original. Don’t think for a moment that your readers haven’t read the classics or perused more novels than you have. They often have. Rehashing earlier movies works for movies but often does not for novels. If not plagiarism, it is at least an insult to the reader and the original author unless, of course, you give them credit or are writing a spoof. Originality scores high marks with readers.
3. Challenge the reader. Surprises keep the reader interested. A flat, dull chapter ending discourages turning to the next chapter. Why do you think serial adventures were so popular at the movies in the 40s and 50s? Cliffhangers still work.
4. Teach the reader. Readers usually choose authors and topics with which they are comfortable. Using strings of polysyllabic words is okay for textbooks but not for light reading. Be concise and real, but do choose some words that send the reader to the dictionary. Learning new adjectives or words or phrases from other cultures keeps the reader coming back. No sixteen-year old or even thirty-something reader wants to read a Grade School level book. Most people inherit the vocabulary in which their culture, their geography or their literary preferences immerse them.
5. Enlist the reader. The average writer will author more than one novel. If you want to retain readers, you must enlist them in your cadre of fans. Encourage dialogue though social networking – blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Encourage critiques of your work. They will be honest in their opinion and, after all, it is they you need to please, not friends or family. Social networking is easier and less costly and time consuming than book signings or conventions and you can reach more people. Become tech savvy. Utilize the new technological tools available to writers. Even an old dog like me can learn a few new tricks.