Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Writing Tip That's Simple, Useful, and Kind of Fun

While I was at the library the other day I took a break from writing and started reading a magazine. Hold on now! It wasn't Glamour or Allure or anything like that. Although I really could use the fashion advice.
But no. It was Writer's Digest.
I've never actually picked up a copy of this magazine before, but I probably should have. It's got all sorts of interesting and helpful articles.

One article in particular really spoke to me. It was by Kip Langello entitled "One in a Million".
The point of this article was that, as writers, we can't please everyone. We can't successfully write for every reader. This is probably not new advice, but the suggestion he gives is an original one.
He recommends that you write for just one reader. Not just any reader, but one specific reader. A completely fictional one. A person you simply make up.

I write YA so my fictional reader is sixteen. Her name is Cecelia Kalvass. She has light blue eyes and long, straight brown hair that she keeps neatly combed. She's pretty, but she doesn't know it.
Too cliche? Who cares, she's not gonna be IN the book. She's just the audience.
Cece, as she'd like to be called (but nobody calls her that), is an only child. Her parents are both professors at a local college and have high expectations for their daughter. Her room is neat. Her grades are A's. And she secretly wants to be popular. I know, I know...cliche!
Anyway, she wants a boyfriend, a gentleman to sweep her off her teenage feet, but she isn't interested in any of the boys at school. She reads in her spare time, which she has a lot of. Right now she's reading the first draft of a pretty terrible novel, but I'm going to make sure she falls in love with it.

Langello's advice is to write your book with this one reader in mind. What will she (or he) love? What will make her laugh? Cry? What will inspire her? Write everything to please this one imaginary reader.

It sounds too easy, but before I made up Cece I was having trouble with one of my main characters. I needed to make a change, but I wasn't sure what. After reading Langello's article I now know what I need to do to make my novel better for Cece.

Will it work? Will it make my novel better? I guess I won't know until I'm finished. But listen to this. Langello wrote nine books. All of them rejected. Then he wrote book number ten for his fictional reader, "Peggy", and it was published with a hefty advance.
We could argue that it was the work he put into nine books that got number ten published, but Langello seems certain it was because he wrote with his fictional reader in mind.

"Entertain and enlighten and move that one reader. The single-mindedness that results from this technique is what makes the difference."Langello says.

I'll try anything once. And when it comes to writing I'll probably try it until it works:)
Tell me about your fictional reader. Cliches acceptable!

Good luck! And happy writing!


  1. I hope this advice is helpful to you. I'd never heard that before. Good thought that will probably help many struggling writers.

  2. What a great piece of advice - thank you for sharing