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How to reach your writing goal

Sally-Anne Watson Kane . Thursday, August 24, 2017 . Comments
How to reach your writing goal

Arguably, the main goal of writing is simply to get your message across to the audience as clearly as possible.

How do you reach that writing goal?

  1. clarify your chosen audience and make sure you understand their needs
  2. write your 1st draft with the goal of getting the words down on paper/computer
  3. self-edit (rewriting where necessary) with the goal of getting your message across to that audience, and
  4. send your manuscript to an editor to set your manuscript on the path to publication. 

Know your audience

Who is your audience?

First you must first clarify your chosen audience because this will determine how your message needs to be delivered in order to meet its mark:

  • children? Young adults? Middle-aged people? Elderly people? 
  • people of a specific ethnic origin or who live in a specific country? 
  • people who already know a lot about your topic? People who know nothing about your topic?
  • people whose first language is, or is not, the language you will be writing in?
  • people just like you (whatever your demographic) or people very different from you? 

Understand your audience

To communicate to your chosen audience you need to understand them - their level of education and knowledge of the topic you are writing about; the writing style they prefer; whether they like or need illustrations along with text; the length of publication that audience will want to read. Arguably, the better you know your audience, the more chance you have of getting your message across to them as clearly as possible.

If your chosen audience is the same demographic as yourself, you will already share a certain understanding. If your chosen audience is not from your demographic you'll need to gain that understanding by:

  • Researching to find out all you can about them.
  • Talking to people who represent your chosen audience; listening to what they have to say about what they like to read - style, topic, presentation. 
  • Looking and learning from the publications of other writers (especially if they're popular) who have targeted the same audience as yours.

1st Draft: just get it down on paper (or computer)

Now you've clarified your audience and their needs, you can put that out of your mind and put on your creative hat to write your 1st draft with the sole aim of getting the information out of your head and onto the page.

Depending on what you are writing, this may be like violently vomiting out what's been churning around in your stomach for days or weeks or months or years; or it may be more like your body methodically putting to good use well-digested food and ejecting the rubbish into the toilet as you go. Or it may be like something entirely different depending on who you are and what you're writing. The end result - your completed 1st draft - may be so rough you can hardly read it; then again, it may read beautifully, especially those passages that fell out of your pen like a river. Parts will have come out back to front and don't quite make sense; some sections may be awful and others hit the spot. 

Congratulations: you have achieved the extremely challenging goal of penning your 1st draft.

Self-editing: producing the 2nd draft

To commence the first self-editing stage - the 2nd draft - put on your editing hat and big picture view of your overall message and how to best get that message across to your chosen audience. Don't be too precious with your words: don't be scared to get rid of them if they're not useful. Slash and burn - remembering that if you regret slashing or burning something you can always go back to the 1st draft and find it and put it in again. Use words that will have meaning for and win over your reader.

The value of your story, your message, is its ability to meet its mark. Edit your manuscript so that 1) it will be clearly understood by the reader, 2) it engages the reader until the last page, and 2) the reader afterwards thinks about it and talks to others about it - because they really got your message.

Self-editing: subsequent drafts

Once you have self-edited your manuscript once (including rewriting if necessary), you may need to:

  • self-edit it again (especially if you have made structural changes or rewritten whole sections during the first edit)
  • hand it over to some beta readers who represent your chosen audience to give you feedback then self-edit again
  • hand it over to an editor for manuscript appraisal or, if you feel it is ready, editing. 

Remember: the most important part of your brief as self-editor is to get your message across to the reader as clearly as possible. And the most important part of your chosen editor's (and proofreader's) brief is also to get your message across to the reader as clearly as possible. 

Publication 

Unsurprisingly, part of your chosen publisher's brief - or your goal as self-publisher - is also to get your message across to the reader as clearly as possible.

Other publication goals may include:

  • selling as many books as you can and/or making as much money as possible from your publication
  • your book receiving good reviews and/or awards
  • your book being popular, even beloved, by readers - the more the better
  • your book helping people - the more the better - making the world a better place. 

For more information about the difference between self-editing and editing see: Why writers need editors

For a description of the different types of editing see: The three stages of editing

For information about how to choose an editor see: Choosing the best editor for your project

For general information about proofreading see:What is proofreading?  

This article is based on my own experience over the past 20 plus years, writing, editing and proofreading reports, policy documents and my own and others' publications; self-publishing non-fiction hardcopy publications; and publishing my website and articles online. Keep posted for future articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Sally-Anne Watson Kane, On Time Typing. Please seek my permission prior to reproducing this article in any way but feel free to link directly to this page if you wish to use this content - thanks!

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