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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

Know Your Audience

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Though I generally try to branch off and give advice about writing that not everybody has heard, occasionally I'll throw in a common one. Why? Well, if it is a truly good piece of advice, it deserves to be reiterated. So here's my "common knowledge" piece of advice for today: know your audience. Yes, it really is that important.

When I first started writing my novel 12+ years ago, I had no idea who my audience was. I had a vague idea that it would probably be young adults, but I wasn't sure about that. And I definitely wasn't sure about the genre that the book would end up being. The result? Apart from the fact that I was only 14 years old at the time and had little to no experience writing an actual book that I planned to publish, I made one of the worst mistakes you can make when planning to writing a book. I had no audience picked out. I had no idea what my goal was when I started writing my book. Each time I would hammer out a few pages, I'd end up with broken scenes, random snippets, or just plain garbage that wasn't even worth saving. Needless to say, I ended up going around in circles, throwing out what I had written, starting all over, saving and few paragraphs that I particularly liked, then repeating the cycle. It was a completely waste of time and very inefficient looking back on it.

Since then, I've gained considerable experience writing various pieces, taking courses, earning a degree, and getting advice from trusted friends, family members, professors, editors, and other writers. I now know exactly where the same novel is headed, I know that my audience is young adults, specifically those who like to read fantasy/supernatural novels, and I know I will be producing a series of books, likely a trilogy. I know who all of my main characters are and their personalities, I know several secondary characters, I have the overall story arc planned, and I have a rough outline and several maps drawn already (See my first post for more information on maps.). How far am I in my writing? I'm only in the second chapter. About 16 pages in. Yes, that's it.

See, books take a lot of planning. Far more than I ever realized in my naive 14-year-old outlook on writing. I always knew I wanted to be a writer of some sort, but I also never realized just how much goes into making a good book. I just figured if you had the talent and the passion for writing, it'd all come to you as you wrote. Not the case. In the least. Good writing takes a lot of planning and preparing before you even get to the writing stage. And it all starts with knowing your audience. If you don't know your audience, I guarantee you will find yourself in my shoes, spinning in circles, eventually leading you to give up on the book that you've been trying to write for ages, or, you'll produce a piece of drivel like Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey (more on those at another time), then come to grips with what actually needs to be done and start planning. Don't believe me? Give it a whirl, then come back and re-read this post when you've reached the point I've just mentioned. You'll have a better understanding what I mean then.

In the meantime, check out this page that the University of Maryland has published on planning your audience.

It's a quick read, and it's very helpful in explaining why some pre-writing is necessary, like I stated, and how to go about determining the correct audience for your particular piece of work.

Happy planning!