Who is my audience?

Who is my audience?  This is something I have been struggling with in writing my novel.  I veer between thinking that it will be a YA novel because the protagonist starts out at being 17 years old… but then I change my mind and say that it will contain too many adult concepts to be in the YA genre.  Then, I go back to thinking that what adult wants to read about a 17 year old girl, anyway? (Even though she’s going to grow older and get married as the novel progresses… but shh, she doesn’t know that yet – and I don’t think she would particularly care to find out.)

 

I wonder how many writers out there struggle with that very same question.  Do you know, as soon as you put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) towards whom your novel – or other written work – will be targeted?  Or do you wait a little while until you see what the tone of your novel/short story/etc. will be, and then decide?  I’ve never actually spent time contemplating this until I began working on this novel in its horrible, plot-ninjas-ahoy NaNoWriMo style.  I thought that it would be YA fiction, since it centered around a seventeen year old… but then as the novel progressed, with many more adult concepts than I had intended (incest, marriage, pregnancy, etc.), I decided that I had better change the audience/genre I had picked for it on the NaNoWriMo website since it was most definitely changing in the writing of the novel!!

 

Prior to writing my current work-in-progress, I had just merrily toyed about with writing whatever I felt like writing.  Whatever came to mind.  Whatever a keyword or phrase prompted.  However, now that I am actually planning on writing with the intent to publish, I need to keep the audience in mind.  I don’t think that I want this novel to be intended for a younger crowd, since I plan on keeping some of the same elements in it that were in its NaNo form (although nix on the incest – that was more to get words flowing, as much as I hate to say it… but admittedly, it did add to the story.  I just don’t want to have that in a novel with my name on it, assuming this gets to the publication stage).  And because I know that for sure, I need to keep the little doubtlets that are spawning in my brain at bay, too… Are you sure you don’t want this to be YA fiction? do you really think adults will be interested in reading a book that starts off being about a teenager? honestly now, how crazy are you?  …As you can see, they can be pretty nasty at times.  Silly little doubtlets, you’re not going to change my mind yet again…

 

So – what helps you decide who your audience will be?

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Balance.

Balance.  It is the one thing that we have to learn on our own.  No one can teach us how to balance; babies have to learn this on their own.  The same goes for balance in our own lives, the more abstract balance that has nothing to do with walking or dancing.  We need to learn how to balance priorities in life.  What is most important to us?  What is it that we value above all other things?

 

Although much can be said for age aiding in the art of balance, even those among us who are older do not always have balance fully mastered.  I believe that it’s a lifelong task, to learn how to truly and carefully balance those things which are valued.  Sometimes work comes before family, even though we chide ourselves and say that it shouldn’t.  Sometimes family comes before God, even though those of us who believe in a higher being believe that it shouldn’t.  Sometimes we misplace priorities and think nothing of it in the moment, only to realize later that we have made a mistake.

 

Balancing priorities is a difficult thing for me to do now.  I am in my second semester (out of six) in grad school, and this week I have been bombarded with assignments (and it’s only the first week).  Read three chapters here, read four articles there, figure out what to do with these two assignments…  It’s challenging for me to sit back and say, “No, I can’t read for fun right now… I need to dig into that horrible hell of a textbook and attempt to decipher what the annoyingly wordy author is trying to say.” (And yes, I do actually say those things to myself.  Try reading a textbook by Bruce Jansson and you will understand… oh, and by the way, he writes about social welfare and policy.  So it’s even drier than could easily be imagined.  Also, the professor for my Policy class gets irked if I ever mention how boring I find policy to be, because she adores studying policy – obviously.  As I did that a few times last semester, only to earn her ire unintentionally, I’ve learnt my lesson, I suppose…)

 

However, although grad school takes first priority in my life right now, I need to remember that I need to take time for what I call “mental health and well-being exercises.”  One of these would be writing.  Whether it’s updating this blog with my thoughts about life, writing, and books, or if it’s working on my novel here and there (I got another 2,000 words a few days ago, so I am slowly making progress!!), or if it’s fixing myself a mug of tea and writing in my journal… I need to remember that there is a place for all things in my life.  Granted, the largest portion of my time will be devoted to grad school – reading textbooks and articles, doing assignments, writing papers, et cetera – but there is almost always room for the “smaller” things that will help keep me balanced over the course of these next five semesters.

 

What are some things that you do in your life to help yourself stay balanced?

Bibliophile? Yes please!!

Today I am not going to be getting much writing done, I am fairly certain, but I am currently planning on organizing our apartment a little more than it has been in the past.  This may not sound particularly exciting to much of anyone, and truthfully, the idea of cleaning doesn’t appeal all that much to me either… but then I remember that today’s cleaning is going to be organizing books.

 

Yes, books.  Our apartment is overflowing with books.  My husband, Jarrod, has about a two foot tall stack of books on his side of the bedroom… the rest of the books – bags, and boxes, and stacks – are all mine.  We have a small bookshelf in our bedroom that I have filled two rows thick with books, and somehow, I keep accumulating books.  I have no idea why this is, but it certainly does help my creative endeavors, because by reading books by so many different authors, in so many different genres, I expand my horizons.  I get new ideas for writing my own novels.  I see different ways of developing characters, learn new ways of coping with plot ninjas, and realize that the world building I can do is endless.  This is why I love to read. (Not to mention the escapism that occurs when I allow myself to get truly lost in a book.  What bliss!!)

 

Recently, I have had an acquaintance comment on my reading.  She is a very picky reader, and she said that she wishes that she could read anything as I tend to. (Well, “anything” is excluding harlequin romance and Westerns, since those are just not appealing to me.  But anything else I will at least try!!) I never really truly realized what a gift that is.  I don’t know what draws me to certain books, but whenever I am buying books, I buy an assortment of different ones.  I don’t particularly care if they are perfectly written, although like any other writer or bibliophile, I do so enjoy it when beautiful language is used.  I read books from Trollope’s Palliser novels (and Chronicles of Barsetshire) to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series… from Jodi Picoult’s heartwrenching stories to Terry Pratchett’s comedic novels… from Mary Norton’s The Borrowers series to different series’ by Beverly Lewis.  I am currently laughing and crying my way through The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, among other books.  Even though it’s young adult fiction, it has a place somewhere in the hearts of many, even among people who aren’t normally fans of YA fiction.

 

So today, I will be taking stacks and piles and boxes and bags of books, and finding them a new home in our apartment.  No more sitting on the floor.  We’re going to be cleaning off a huge set of bookshelves that served as our pantry for some years, until we got new shelves in our kitchen.  I recently realized that we could reorganize and make those shelves into a place where I can store my miscellany of novels.  This is indeed a happy thing!!  It makes me sad seeing books on the floor, because although they act as a good insulator in our bedroom (drafty walls, cold winter…), I tend to knock stacks over by accidentally stubbing my toe against the bottom-most book, etc.  So instead of annoying, frustrating, and tiring organizing, I am full of energy (and cinnamon tea) to get going on this project!!

Creating and receiving critiques.

As a writer new to the world of actually considering publishing work, rather than simply writing for personal enjoyment, I am also new to the art of critiquing work.  I have recently critted a friend’s work, and I realize that I am lacking in the language of critiquing.  My few poetry classes in college are failing me, and while I know I will get better with practice, at first my crits are going to be pretty bad.  It’s also a little daunting realizing just how many critiques I will be receiving over the next many years as I continue to push forward and aim for the stars, so to speak, with my writing.  No goal is too high.  I may never reach said goals, but I may as well aim high because I do agree with the quote by Brian Littrel: “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

 

My current goal is to get a novel written and edited and mostly ready for publication by this time next year. With grad school all year (the only full break I get is winter break), and field placement starting this fall, I don’t know how realistic that goal is, especially with other commitments that I have, but that is my goal.  Even if it doesn’t happen, presumably I will be closer then than I currently am.  I have done NaNoWriMo for two years in a row thus far (prior to that I was in college full-time and was not in a good headspace, so I didn’t have the chance to write although I knew about it), and have won each time, a day or two ahead of schedule, so I know that I can keep to a schedule.  I’m not saying that by winning NaNo I am the best writer on the face of the planet – I know that what I churn out for NaNo each year needs much revision before it’s even close to resembling a novel, but it does create (or rather, encourage) self discipline as well as good ideas that can possibly later be turned into novels or novellas.  For example, NaNo2012.  I wrote an incomplete novel that I didn’t like by the end, but I am using the original idea to write a novel now.  This, or possibly the idea I have floating around in my brain now, will be the novel that I want to have done around this time in 2014.

 

But because I am so new to the writing world, I am a little afraid of the comments I will get about my scribbling.  I have been told that I write well, but I do tend to doubt myself.  I also am fairly sensitive about critiques when it comes to my fiction – I’m used to it when it comes to nonfiction, since I’ve had to write so many papers for classes and such, but my fiction… I’ve only shared it with a handful of people before (literally – I can count on the fingers of one hand how many people have read my fiction).  So the thought of sharing it on a Submit Your Work forum on Absolute Write is pretty terrifying.  I mean, people will be kind with critting my work as long as I specify that, but still – having people I don’t know reading my work is scary.  Self doubt is not my friend here, and I know that.

 

But write I will.  And I will get better at writing, giving crits, and receiving crits about my own work.  I am determined that I am not going to be scared out of this field by criticism of my writing.  I want to learn and grow as a writer and I know that the only way to do that is to actually work at it.

I don’t believe in introductions.

All my life I have written introductions to my blogs – and believe me, there have been many of them. Only a few are still active, but those that are active are dear to me, as they are my portable ways of expressing myself.

 

However, in this blog, instead of writing a ton about myself and my personal life, I am going to chronicle my adventures with writing, test out new styles of writing, update you all on how I am doing with my works-in-progress (WIPs), and possibly throw in a few pictures or ramblings about tea on the way.  I may also write about the books I am reading that are inspiring my articles, novels, and short stories, but I have yet to figure out if that is going to be feasible.  However, anything can go!!

 

So here’s to the journey!!