I don’t know about you but when I write, or at least when I start writing, I’m writing from pure imagination. There’s a story in my head and I am obligated to get it on paper. The person who may eventually read my story hasn’t even entered my consciousness. I could not care less about my reader – when I’m writing my first draft.
I’m not entirely sure that’s a great idea.
In fact, it’s a terrible one. After all, the first draft is the foundation for your story, right? And while the editing and revision process may be laborious, generally speaking, the story itself doesn’t change much. So what happens to your potential reader in this process? Shouldn’t you care at least a little bit about what they think and feel?
Here’s a quick example…
Let’s say that you write a story and the heroine’s beloved dog dies. Chances are, you’ve just ticked off your reader, right? You don’t kill the dog.
Or let’s say that you’re writing a romance and the hero has a one night stand with a woman that is not your heroine. Oops. You’ve just upset your reader.
So, assuming that you want to sell books and aren’t simply writing for your own pleasure, which is perfectly okay, then you do want to consider your reader as you’re working through your first draft.
Here are some tips, ideas, and strategies:
Know the Rules of Romance. There are some fundamental rules for a romance just like there are some fundamental rules for mystery, suspense and so on. For example, you need to introduce the hero in the first three chapters, or 30 pages, whichever comes first – assuming you’re writing a full length novel. For traditional romance, the couple needs to be monogamous – no one night stands. Your reader knows these rules and has expectations. Can you break these rules? Of course, but understand why they exist before you do.
Make Sure It’s Believable. Your story, even in draft mode, needs to be believable. It’s always a good idea to stop and ask yourself “Will my readers believe this?” Believability doesn’t just apply to your plot, it also applies to your characters. Believable characters are also consistent.
Will They Care? I spent many wonderful years as a reviewer for Romantic Times Book Reviews. The worst story I ever read, and fortunately the bad ones were few and far between, had a woman walking through a graveyard alone in the middle of the night. Oh, and she was drunk. Did I care what happened to her? No. She was stupid. Make sure that your readers care about the characters in your story. They don’t necessarily need to be sympathetic, we sometimes root for the villain, but they do need to be someone that your reader will care about.
Sure, you can write from your imagination and think about your reader later. However, I guarantee you that you’ll have a better story and an easier time with revisions if you think about your reader right from the very beginning.