Monday, March 16, 2009

Building a Solid Story--Moving to a Reader-Centric Viewpoint in Your Writing

Today in my class at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center in Westchester Co., NY,we talked about moving from a writer-centric viewpoint to a reader-centric one. It's a natural part of a writer's evolution. A maturing, where we begin to see why someone else would read our book (besides our mother, best friend, and partner/spouse). In other words, we begin to write for a reader.

This isn't about compromising your ideals. It isn't about not telling your truth. It's about becoming less self-focused.

An odd idea, for us writers. Aren't writers supposed to be self-focused? After all, that's where we get the juice--from our lives and our imaginations.

When I got my novel manuscript back from my editor (see my overwhelmed post below), I realized the book was a stranger to me. I was no longer on center stage, as The Writer. The story had now become my reader's. I almost didn't remember writing certain parts. These, of course, were the parts my editor liked best.

What happened? In the editing and revising stages, I'd moved out of the "room" and all that remained was my story--and an open door, welcoming my reader.

I hate books--and wonder how they ever got published--where the writer is The Writer, on his or her soapbox, telling us what to think about every moment in the story. Don't you? But how do you, the writer, get out of the room where your story lives? How do you convince yourself that it doesn't need you there, acting as interpretor for your own story?

Know what I'm talking about? It's insidious...our need to interpret our stuff for our readers.

This week, pick a piece of your writing that's at least a month old. Read a page out loud. See if you can be surprised by something in there, maybe not remember writing it. Like it, even. Are you The Writer or the writer?