Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Ann-Marie Slaughter recently wrote an article, “Why women still can’t have it all” for The Atlantic. It was more of a confirmation than it was a revelation of what women have known for years and that is that women can’t really have it all (at least not at one time). The notion that we can bring home the bacon, fry it up, serve it, and take care of that man of ours and do all of this equally is about as likely as fairies with pixy dust coming to magically clean my house when I’m having an off day (although this would be nice). What they did find is that women can have it all, but not all at the same time. You choose. Oh, whether you admit to it or not—you do choose with your actions.

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In all that you do there must be focus and intent. This fact is also true in our writing. It’s a gushy, fantastic sentiment to believe as we are writing our novel the entire world will love it. Oh, the smile that sneaks across our face with this thought in mind. But the truth is some of our closest friends won’t even like it. Oh, yes. It’s true. But that’s O.K.

Stephen King talks about the ideal reader. The ideal reader is the one reader who is a representation of all readers like her. Maybe she is 25ish, recent college grad working her first professional job, dates when she has a chance; she knows all things Bey and lives by her iPhone. Her apartment is sparse and filled with functional pieces only.

Or perhaps she is African American, growing family, works the treadmill more often than not, cherishes the time spent with her book club pals. She and the hubby love cruises and drives up north to watch the leaves change colors during the fall. No matter what she is like your ideal reader will be the face you see as you write. When you edit especially, you will do it with her in mind.

It is the one of the reasons for Stephen King’s success. And Tyler Perry’s as well. Everyone’s not into it. But there is that person, who represents that group and when you get it right with them they will let you know and reward you by being a loyal follower.

When Perry’s first movie debuted, it was met with so much criticism it was probably good that he did not pick up a review. They blasted for his “chitterlings circuit” concepts and plots. And even when his sit-com debuted many predicted it would not work; it was pedestrian, simple, demeaning and not funny. But years prior, Perry had the fortunate opportunity of getting instant feedback from his audience as he performed his stage plays. His work brought relatable stories to many. And they told him so with the applause and by filling auditoriums and laughing their butts off as he parading the stage as Madea. He wrote for them. He appealed to them. And they loved him for it. He tapped into an audience dying to be fed; an audience which had been overlooked by mainstream filmmakers. Ahh…there it is…his niche, his calling, his ideal audience.

Perry knows many will never go to see one of his plays, watch one of his movies or T.V. shows. In fact, they will continue to blast him for having the audacity to show up for work every day. But that’s fine too.

And many may scoff at what you write. But find that audience, that reader and know that they are waiting on you to write what can only be written by you.  Yes there will be critics, but those who love it will be your faithful followers.

Now, this is not to say that you do away with your originality or the voice which makes your writing exclusively you–not at all. That voice will drive you. But that reader will give you focus.

Kip Langello wrote an interesting article about this in September 2013 edition of Writer’s Digest. And he says: “When a writer achieves this focus…the reader buys into the story…the reader will not merely read the novel, she will enter it—and she won’t emerge until it’s over.”

That says it all.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you

It is never to late to write that novel

It seems we attribute the greatest accomplishments in life to our youth: having children, getting married, starting a business. As we get older we look at the younger generation with both admiration and disdain. They don’t know how good they have it, we say. If only I had that kind of energy, we lament. We forget that at one time we were that young and spent that energy as if there was an unlimited supply. Then as the years pass we often don’t look back in warm nostalgia but with regret. My motto is ‘no regret’. It is what it is. The relevancy is here. The important moment is now. Regret robs us of our future.

Fortunately writing a novel is one of those career moves that have no expiration date stamped to it, unlike having children or playing football. In fact some of our greatest works were produced by those well into their adult years.  Laura Ingalls Wilder, who penned the Little House series, began writing when she was well into her 40s, Frank McCourt wrote Angela’s Ashes in his 60s.

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If nothing else (hopefully there’s more) with time, comes experience and a different kind of passion; it is a passion drenched in wisdom. It is not that you know everything but you have begun to comprehend the important things. Those things that seemed so relevant and necessary in youth have shifted in their place of significance. Sure, we can still write about the trite, create characters that are still struggling to find meaning in it all, with but you are doing it from a loftier position, a position of knowing—if only somewhat. The urgency in your writing is that which you have created or remembered.

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Writing at this point is not from desperation to launch a career, but a need to get it out, so to speak and to give life to the voice that has been haunting you and urging you to write. The truth is, sometimes the work of an older writer is clearer, more insightful. They’ve seen and lived multiple points of views the perspective is not obscured by novelty or neediness. Now don’t get me wrong, for as long as I live I want to find and discover new heights and fresh experiences, but they will add to what I already know.

I say if you have an urge or desire to write; if all you can think about is putting pen to paper, than get it out there. And yes, the game of book publishing has changed even within the past 10 years, but that’s OK. The thing to be concerned with right now is getting your story on paper. Go on, the world may be waiting to read the story told your way.

The Problem with helping people

The Problem with helping people

It has been and is still my prayer that I am in a position to help more people, to give and do for others in a way that will be significant and apparent. I’m talking about paying for schooling and buying and building homes; I want to help people in a way that will be far reaching and long-term. And, most recently, God heard my prayer. Should I have ever doubted Him?

We recently had the opportunity to help a homeless relative and her son. Nope, we did not buy them a house. But we did not have to. When you truly have a heart to help people God will meet you where you are. We invited them to stay at our home for a few months until they got back on their feet. My husband and I had lofty aspirations of helping her to take care of her young son while she found gainful employment and eventually finished school.

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The problem with helping people is that, well, they are people. As destitute as they may be they aren’t necessarily as humble as you may expect. They may not be as appreciative as you think they should be. It may be downright difficult to get along with them. And even with all of this in mind, they still need your help.

I knew that these people had been placed in my path because it was an opportunity for all of us; God was answering both of our prayers. In fact, if it had not been us helping them, God certainly would have sent someone else to her rescue. But there we were waiting for that feeling of accomplishment to wash over us and confirm to us that what we were doing was so fine and good. But what we felt was something completely different–frustration and indignation.  And then He began to remind me that helping people is for their benefit and His. For them, it is the answer to their prayer, their hopes. And for Him it is doing what He has commissioned all of us to do. Any good feeling we get from it is secondary.

God also reminded me of the humility that underlies such actions and that truly helping others often begins as a sacrifice, the denying of oneself for the good of someone else. It is not simply writing a check without even feeling the effect of it. The doing unto others is clear in scripture, but acting on it means putting aside our ideals and images of what help looks like and give real aid without pretension or apprehension. It is not the pictures we see on T.V. of needy children chosen specifically for the camera, smiling and receiving with much gratitude bowls of food and stuffed animals. It is getting in the trenches because before you can truly feel empathy you have to feel the heart and soul of another. You may not like what you see. You may be turned off because the single mother is bitter, resentful and proud and does not know how to express gratefulness. You may be appalled because her kid(s) isn’t cute and adorable with pudgy cheeks but is unruly, ill-mannered and hyper. But they still need your help. The problem with helping people is there is rarely overnight success; there is no one-check cure. For many, their dilemma didn’t develop suddenly and neither will their fix. And the truth is the help they need may not begin or end with you. You may never see the end result, the finished product, the polished diamond. You will just have to have faith that you did all that you could do. That is really all that God requires.

Moving with Purpose: Reaching goals in the new year

Moving with Purpose: Reaching goals in the new year

As a kid I had a best friend that was the complete opposite of me. She was the six- o’clock-in- the morning kind of perky; she would swing her arms around me as an every time greeting (which, as a shy kid made my palms sweat) and looked at everyday things as adventures. As a nine-year-old growing up in a Pentecostal household where there were rules for everything from the way we ate to the way we wore our hair, she was a cool breeze. She was unshackled and unpredictable and perfect in small doses. With her the day could bring…anything. As we grew, I did the proper thing and went to school, eventually married and had children. For the most part I had goals and some plans and accomplished many of them. I don’t think she ever had any long term goals or plans; her life shifted often, she moved from state to state on a whim and had more phone numbers and addresses than I could possibly keep up with(Growing up we only had one and I still remember the number.). Even as I write this, her life is a series of blunders and missteps. No definitive purpose in her movements. No structure.

 

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On the other hand, the children’s church leader at my church has the kids’ schedule down to increments of five minutes. I get this feeling of being forced under water even as I think about it.

Flying freely and without a compass may make you sound brash and spirited when exchanging stories with your bestie who has one kiddo propped on her hip and the other smearing chocolate frosting on her shoes but the reality is life is a succession of moments carefully strung together by time and left unfettered we may one day look back and wonder how we used it all. On the other hand structuring our life down to the very minute is not only unrealistic but almost guarantees failure.

There is a middle ground. As you walk into 2015 look back not only on where you’ve come but where you want to go. Think about those goals. Now write them out–every one of them. No matter how ridiculous they may sound to others. Write them out. Then write out your objectives—how will you accomplish those goals? If you don’t have all of the specifics as of yet, that’s OK. Get something down. This will be a working document. It will become clearer or more focus as you move towards it. Be as specific as you can. What do you plan to accomplish by spring? Summer? Or before the next cold spell hits? Moving with purpose is essential.

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Now print it out and post it. Post it somewhere conspicuous for yourself—perhaps your home office or closet door. It is not for the whole world to see. Ensure it is somewhere you will be forced to look at every day. Write small goals, large ones and lofty ones. The small ones can be accomplished with ease and will keep you motivated. And then visit them often. Don’t be afraid if months into the year you haven’t achieved them, but make it a point to do something to work towards them every day. Take small steps. Move with purpose. And if you find you are off course—re-evaluate and figure out why. You may find you need help. Perhaps ask someone who knows you well and is not afraid to be honest with you. Ask them how they see you. Don’t be offended by what you hear. Pray. Pray daily and seek God. And then listen for his voice. When he speaks, listen and obey. You’ll be surprised at how far you get from listening to the divine One who had your life planned out well in advance. His plan is complete and always purposeful.

Nothing Lost: Live your Dream

Nothing Lost: Live your Dream

Here we are near the end of another year as 2015 awaits us. This is the time we begin to reflect on our accomplishments over the past 12 months—we either look back in wonderment at how far we’ve come, or with dismay over things not yet accomplished. The things left undone often bother us the most. Regret. It’s an evil thing. It’s big and impactful and has absolutely no benefits. And yet many of us spend much time living in that very realm.

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Years back when the economy took a dive I was out of work for a very long time. As a journalist I struggled and scrambled trying to find work in my profession to no avail. And then a dear friend of mind suggested I come and work at the hotel where she working as a night auditor. It wasn’t the job for me; it was a midnight shift, the pay wasn’t great and I’d be dealing with the public. I didn’t want to deal with the public. It felt like God just didn’t like me anymore. But I did it anyway because a slim paycheck beats no paycheck any day. I work there four years. It was there I begin to sincerely write fiction. I begin with some short stories then a novel that I finished but didn’t quite flush out. Often the nights were solidly quiet and my thoughts would flow freely.

I wrote a second novel. Night after night, page after page I wrote. And yet, it seemed I’d never get a real job. God really didn’t like me. But several years later that novel was published. It was then I realized that those four years dealing with complaining guests, working weekends and holidays, sleeping during the day so that I could be awake and perky at night, I was able to accomplish much on the backend of my dream. I was there in the solitude of the night that I put in the work, honed the craft and figured it out. I was there in long stretches of quiet that ideas flowed. It was during those four years that I learned how to deal with people (a necessary skill at some point in every writer’s life). Before that job I had not been focused on writing. I wrote when I could carve out some time and that was practically never.  But there at the desk, 4:00 am, every morning without fail, I wrote. It was a good friend who helped me to realize that those years had not been wasted. Nothing had been lost.

Every time I wanted to look back on those days and feel sorry for myself I remembered that God’s will and timing is purposeful and perfect.  He doesn’t piddle or mismanage time; he doesn’t get off course or sidetracked. Nothing lost.

Those times in our lives when it feels as if nothing is happening may be the very crux of our destiny. The next time you feel like time has been wasted or you’ve lost ground I encourage you to ask yourself, what was the lesson in this? What was accomplished? Often time accomplishments are internal changes—a shift in the way we think or feel about a matter. Sometimes internally we are developing the groundwork for something bigger. Therefore it is not time wasted, but time well spent.
 

 

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