Happy Monday, WG2E-Land!!!
As Indie Epublished Authors, it’s all about Making Readers Happy. So, to that end, please give a Big Ol’ WG2E Welcome to Joanne Phillips who’s sharing her research on how to do that.
Take it away, Joanne…
Recently I was asked the question: Do you write for yourself or for your readers? Even though I understand that the urge to write has to come from within, I firmly believe you need to fix your reader front and central and keep her there at all times. Which got me thinking about how to make readers happy – or more importantly, how not to tick them off!
Based on extensive research here is my list of the top ten things readers hate:
- Flat or stereotyped characters. Characters are the doorway into a story for readers, and they need to come to life on the page. It doesn’t take much to ‘lift’ a character – one excellent tip is to give a character a conflicting or unexpected trait: a gritty detective who secretly loves to play the piano, say, or a beautiful heroine who can’t stand cats because she’s allergic to them.
- Inconsistency – in character description, storyline, viewpoint (head-hopping or switching viewpoint without realising), tone or style of writing. Inconsistency will pull the reader out of the fictional world. This is a bad thing. The cure? Thorough editing by someone other than the author.
- Predictable endings. This is a tricky one, because some genres appear to demand a predictable ending – romances need a happy one, mysteries need the puzzle to be solved. But your job is to bring about the ‘predictable’ ending in an unexpected way. It’s a good idea to surprise the reader towards the end, even if you aren’t writing a thriller. But …
- Unbelievable endings! … don’t go so far that you make the ending appear out of nowhere just to give the reader a jolt. The ending, although unexpected, should fit the rest of the book perfectly, and seem with hindsight totally inevitable.
- Slow beginnings. Many creative writing tutors advise their students to cut their first chapters completely and see what remains. Some books could quite happily lose the first three chapters! Start right in the action, or at the most dramatic point possible, and then build in any backstory as you go along.
- Too many subplots. One review of my debut novel, Can’t Live Without, complained that it had too many subplots, and I think she had a point. (And I’d already cut two!) Sometimes writers can add too much to a novel, afraid it will be boring if the focus is too narrow. If your central premise is strong, there is no need to worry. Subplots can be great if used well, but too many and the reader gets tired.
- Overly long descriptions. My own pet hate, and I’m afraid I tend to scan-read if a description goes on for more than half a page. Of course there are dozens of literary exceptions to this rule, and if you are 100% sure your description won’t bore the reader, feel free to ignore this too.
- Having their intelligence insulted. Readers are clever, educated, interesting and interested people. They don’t take kindly to having information forced down their necks, or being told the same thing over and over for emphasis. Less is more. Let them do a bit of the work.
- Spelling, grammar or formatting mistakes – obviously. The cure is to have your book professionally proofread. But we all do that anyway, don’t we?
- Single-book authors! A surprising one this, but lots of readers complain when they find a book they love and then discover there are no more available by this author. So get writing – and publishing – and give readers more of what they want.
Thanks for having me on WG2E today everyone, I hope you found something useful here and will ask me back again soon! And please share your thoughts and findings when it comes to keeping readers happy…
Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire, England, with her husband and daughter. Since leaving school she’s had an eclectic career, working as a hairdresser, an air hostess and a librarian. She now writes full time.
Find out more about Joanne’s writing and books at http://www.joannephillips.co.uk
Can’t Live Without links