Lesson 3: Varied Viewpoints


Here’s the thing about writing, your readers, or target audience to use marketing parlance, come from various backgrounds.  One of my favorite questions to people I meet is to ask what type of books do they like.  It gives me a clue into their enjoyment and nothing is more personal than what we like to read.

For example, I’m a science fiction, fantasy, suspense/thriller fan.  Sometimes I even enjoy horror.  I don’t read a lot of mystery and romance, I believe I only have maybe 10 romance novels.  The only reason I have the ones that I do is that either a) there wasn’t anything else available to purchase and I desperately needed to buy a book or b) a friend gave it to me.  I’m starting to get into YA, but that’s a select bunch (Witch & Wizard by James Patterson is the most recent).  I write science fiction, fantasy, and suspense/thriller books.  I read it therefore I write it.

I also have a love of action scenes and military focused characters.  I like them because I’ve been involved with the military in one form or another since birth.  It’s what I know, it’s what I like…you get the point.

I have a friend who is also into military type themes who is more focused on military adventures from the past.  I have another friend who is a die-hard science fiction fan, and I have a father who is an everything fan.  Well, probably not romance.

My point is that what we like, what we enjoy to read varies as much as our lifestyles, our viewpoints, our perceptions.  This variance gives us a chance to touch many different kind of people with our writing.  I know, it seems like a big job.  Not only do writers have to balance their own likes and dislikes, we also have to take into consideration our audience.  So how do we do that?

The answer is easier than many might think.

You get a pocket group of beta readers (there is that marketing parlance again) who you trust, who won’t blow smoke about the story, and will (usually) give you good advice about your piece.  Just remember, even they are allowed to have bad days or not like what you wrote.

Which reminds me of the one of the most important aspects of this lesson that I’m still learning.  You can’t make everyone happy.

Sorry, but you can’t.  Oh, I’ve tried, believe me, I have.  I’ve tried to accommodate all four of my beta readers only to fail because what one hates, another loves.  It comes back to that varied viewpoints, likes and dislikes.

Sand lines
Sand lines (Photo credit: A5ForFighting)

There comes a point in every writers life where you have to make a choice between continuing to tweak, edit, and improve a story to fit the issues that your beta readers come up with to saying, “That’s it, I’m done.”

It’s not easy to do, to draw that line in the sand, and I have this hunch that when I finally get representation and my book starts moving through the publishing world I’ll find that it only gets worse.  When these various comments come from people who you trust, it’s easier to deal with, but when it comes from strangers who are supposed to be experts you have to negotiate between your desire for the best piece and the integral charm of your story as you see it.

At least that is my take on the process so far.  As I get through it and go further I’ll be sure to share if I’m right.  In the meantime, however, this particular lesson doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the first two exactly, but sits after the fourth or fifth draft when you sigh and say to yourself, “I’ve done as much as I can.”

Fair warning though, you may think that your beta readers will come back saying “it was fantastic!!!”, they won’t.  Not if they are good at their job of being honest with you.

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2 thoughts on “Lesson 3: Varied Viewpoints

  1. In addition to the risk of trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no-one, I foresee a risk of making a book worse even if all the beta readers mostly agree. Prose starts as the raw fragment of half an idea expressed; each draft benefits from our attempts to make it more accessible to others but is still ultimately a product of emotion and not rote; by tweaking a work that has begun to bore us we start to add boredom to it.

    Also, thank you for the link.

    • I can see your point and I evaluate each suggestion from them with care so that if I do make a change, it improves the story because often, I find that they spotted the problem areas.

      Granted, that’s not always the case, but 8 times out 10 it is.

      Thanks for reading and reply, and you’re welcome!

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