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What is the audience?

Lugh

A potential editor declined to work on my material, certainly his right, because he said I wasn't writing for the audience. That's a fine starting point: what is the audience?

There's a component that sends "your story is crap. Period." messages and votes 1. I'm writing for ladies and gentlemen, not them.

I freely admit, as has been suggested by a couple of authors, that I'm most comfortable writing nonfiction, not just engineering but, as in the current material, politics and strategy. I'd love to learn from the more proficient dialogue authors.

Some of my image of my particular audience comes from participation in a group in which Tom Clancy occasionally participated.

Most of my stories at least start with situations that I've experienced, with most characters at least based on real people. I try to tell their story much as I have told the reality to friends.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
ustourist

I think you will find "the audience" here is just as broad as the general public.
Most stories seem to have some sex in them, but that certainly isn't necessary. Some popular authors never include it and some only imply it. when the writing is good it obviously doesn't impact their popularity.

I will read almost anything that is well written, not overtly politically or religiously biased, but tend to be turned off by pointless sex, stories bordering on pedophilia, or unrealistic kids who are expert martial artists as well as being a genius, a good shot, and attractive to every female in sight.

Try for a different editor. What "the audience" like in the minds of some editors is what they like, not necessarily what may be popular, though to be fair, their preference is probably what they edit best.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Actually, it sounds like you're not writing to the editor's audience. He needs to make a better case for his argument, defining what he means rather than giving you a simple knee-jerk problem category. If you start addressing one audience and then switch, mid-story to another, then you've got a problem.

An author I know and edited started a story with a young man going to prison and being victimized, then midway through the story, he become manipulative and schemes to have his lawyer--the only one working to help him--thrown in jail. Clearly, the latter half of the story appeals to a separate market than the first half of the story. There might be an overlap, but you need to address it in terms those first attracted to the story will understand.

Instead, it sounds like your editor suggesting you're not writing the kind of story he thinks will 'sell', rather than tackling the subjects that interest you.

This is a common issue with authors and editors. Often they approach a story from very different viewpoints, and it isn't until several chapters in that they realize they'll never agree, and it's best to cut the ties. If an editor insists that you change your entire style to satisfy when they define 'literature' to be, then he's barking up the wrong tree and is trying to rewrite your story for you.

My history with a professional editor, which cost me a pretty penny, eventually came down to her inference that she considered my writing to be subpar, and she essentially changed the entire story, rewriting substantial segments of the text. Since she changed the story to tell the story she wanted to tell, I essentially lost interest in it, and the story I paid so much for has languished ever since. If a story is unpublished/unposted, no amount of editing improves it a wit, and all the editing did was to discourage the writer from improving.

Replies:   Lugh
Lugh

@Crumbly Writer

My history with a professional editor,


Thinking of my editor experience with a couple of academic publishers, I changed, in part, because the editor would argue even with the technical reviewers. Geeky example: she argued with everyone when I said something increased by two orders of magnitude, or ten to the power two, or one hundred.

If she had said "orders of magnitude" is obscure, I might have grumbled and gone with it. She, instead, argued that I should have said "doubled", which is completely wrong.

Another publisher asked me to finish a manuscript abandoned by another author, but I found the assigned author too intrusive.

Anyway, what I'm hearing is "it's the editor, not you." I only wish that I had more choice of editor with my paid work. Alas, there's no economic justification for me to do more nonfiction in my field. After four books, I think I've given back/paid forward.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Lugh


Anyway, what I'm hearing is "it's the editor, not you."


I'm wondering, and this is probably a stretch, if the editor meant you were writing for yourself, not to tell the story to an audience (whatever or whoever that audience might be). This would be the editor's own view, of course; no idea whether it actually applies to what you wrote.

I have no idea what "writing for yourself" really means, but it's probably being so much in love with your own words they're more important to you than the story itself or the folks you want to tell it to.

That said, "Get another editor" seems like good advice. Or at least find one who can explain the first guy or gal's comment, if you can't get an explanation directly.

bb

awnlee jawking

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." - Cyril Connolly (who?)

AJ

Bondi Beach

@awnlee jawking

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." - Cyril Connolly (who?)


No idea who that guy is, but I agree with him totally: you are the captain of your pen, and you write what you want to write (unless you're commissioned to produce something in particular).

I was wondering if the editor meant being so wrapped up in your own words the story doesn't get told and the audience is left wondering what the hell happened. Even if you were trying to tell a story you knew the audience would love.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

Cyril Connolly


Google be thy friend.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Connolly

Cyril Vernon Connolly (10 September 1903 - 26 November 1974) was a literary critic and writer. He was the editor of the influential literary magazine Horizon (1940-49) and wrote Enemies of Promise (1938), which combined literary criticism with an autobiographical exploration of why he failed to become the successful author of fiction that he had aspired to be in his youth.

Ernest Bywater

@Lugh

Here's a link to a free e-pub of a Writer's guide I wrote, it doesn't tell you how to write, but tells you what to think about and sort out before you write. It's available from Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, B&N as well, if you prefer to deal with them - it's supposed to be free with them too. It's short with a word count of 10,000 words that includes a couple of pages on formatting.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ernest-bywater/writer-guide/ebook/product-22733371.html

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

I was wondering if the editor meant being so wrapped up in your own words the story doesn't get told and the audience is left wondering what the hell happened. Even if you were trying to tell a story you knew the audience would love.

And a large portion of the job of editor is communications and ego soothing. Every time an editor gives advice, they need to explain their reasoning rather than giving out knee-jerk pat sayings that help no one. If an author doesn't understand your advice, it's as if you offered no advice at all. If they can't explain themselves in an understandable way, then you simply can't work together as a team. The other half of that, is that authors typically get bent out of shape over 'their' words, so editors need to put their egos aside and be able to explain why certain changes are necessary, even if the author initially rejects their arguments.

If an editor tells me something is wrong, I'll often say "No, that doesn't fit the story," but then I'll invite them to argue with me. Often, they'll come back and say "No, it should be this way because of X and Y". If I, as the author, then explain, "I understand that, but this is a personal choice for MY writing, then the editor needs to understand the author is intentionally breaking the rules for effect, rather than simply not understanding what they did wrong. That's when you back off as an editor. Mistakes made in ignorance are bad, but writing "just like everyone else" can be equally as bad. Again, authors typically know their own audiences better than editors who've never read the author's work before.

That said, the claim that authors "love the sound of their own voice" often implies that they write 'flowery prose' which doesn't add much to the plot. Even so, many readers prefer that. I'll often pick up books in a library, read random sentences on random pages, and if the language can captivate me, I'll purchase the book regardless of the content, knowing the writing alone will captivate me. So again, it's knowing your actual audience vs. the editor's desired audience. However, if an editors calls you on your use of language, it's generally time to step back and ask whether you're over doing it. However, if you strongly believe you're using it correctly, then you've got to be willing to stand your ground, to the point of firing your editor if necessary.

Unfortunately, if you fire an assigned editor, you'll end up paying for both that editors time and the time for an entirely new editor to start from scratch, so often we compromise with bad choices because we don't anticipate humongous sales. :(

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

And a large portion of the job of editor is communications


you bet, Jim and I have some very interesting communications about his edits. I'm still trying to work out why he changed a 'salad sandwich' to a 'tuna salad sandwich' - the story context was they had to feed the MC but didn't want to give him anything nice, thus the bland salad sandwich.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


the story context was they had to feed the MC but didn't want to give him anything nice, thus the bland salad sandwich.


In that case, I'd define the context, establishing:

"they gave him some strange Salad sandwich, instead of anything recognizable as food. 'What the hell is this crap?' he demanded."

Just because an editor suggestions something, doesn't mean you have to put it in those exact terms.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Just because an editor suggestions something, doesn't mean you have to put it in those exact terms.


I realise that, I was simply using it as an example of where an editor will, unintentionally, insert their own preferences to a situation in the story because they see something as odd and needing fixing. A situation where communication is needed to keep everyone on the same page.

typo edit

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I realise that, I was simply using ti as an example of where an editor will, unintentionally, insert their own preferences to a situation in the story because they see something as odd and needing fixing. A situation where communication is needed to keep everyone on the same page.

Agreed. The communication failure between my editor and I was that the only feedback we'd had over my writing style was almost two years previously, when I first sent a sample edit of 2,000 words (a small sample of my first chapter). I sent her the entire book, and rather than begin with the first chapter to get a feel for my writing style, we didn't communicate again until she delivered the entire finished book, so I never had the opportunity to define my own style, or how I wanted the book to evolve. Since she did the entire thing in one pass, I then felt there was little point in arguing over the various points, since she'd already run roughshod over the entire story, regardless of my own intentions. The fact she never respected me as an author was just a bitter icing on the already spoiled cake.

In the end, if she really thought that little of my writing, she should have turned the entire assignment down and suggest I start with another editor, as it really had little to do with how well I wrote as it did with her expectations of the type of stories that established authors are supposed to write.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I was simply using it as an example of where an editor will, unintentionally, insert their own preferences to a situation in the story


I worked with a developmental/structural editor once. She's published and really good at the structural editing (at least that's what the other authors on wattpad say).

I learned something. The developmental editor brings their own biases/values to the table. She said my heroine wouldn't do what my heroine did and therefore was unrealistic.

Her version of my heroine wouldn't act that way. But my version would. It was a core part of the character (and the plot).

Whenever I explained it, she said I was being defensive and compared me to an author who blasts someone giving them a bad review. Basically, she was right and I was wrong.

She also said one of my heroes couldn't be a hero because he was murdering people in cold blood. I asked her if she ever saw "Death Wish" and she ignored me. In her mind, a vigilante cannot be a hero so I was wrong.

Now back to the topic. She would definitely not be the audience for my novel. The heroine wasn't what she liked in a heroine and she hated one of the heroes. And not to pick on her, when the novel was rejected by Ellora's Cave, the editor said their readership doesn't want the heroine to commit adultery. So they wanted me to change it (making the wife a fiance) for their audience.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Now back to the topic. She would definitely not be the audience for my novel. The heroine wasn't what she liked in a heroine and she hated one of the heroes. And not to pick on her, when the novel was rejected by Ellora's Cave, the editor said their readership doesn't want the heroine to commit adultery. So they wanted me to change it (making the wife a fiance) for their audience.

Technically, that's not a plot hole--what you hire a structural editor to find--instead it's a value judgement, and it involves writing for an expected market (i.e. traditionally published romance novels). That's fine, if that's your explicit market (i.e. you either get published or you don't), but for many of us, we no longer play by those rules. For myself, no traditional publisher would touch my writing with a ten-foot pole simply because I don't write to their expectations (notice my circular logic?). I started writing in the first place to replicate the style of writing I missed from the early 19th century (longer, more complicated, more intelligent sentences rather than the dumbed-down writing encountered since the 1960s). So writing exclusively so I'll be published by a traditional publisher is a fool's errand on my part, and demanding I change my story based on that premise misses the point of my writing entirely.

I wouldn't mind earning a living from my writing, but frankly, it's not what motivates me to write. I'd write if I never sold a book or no one ever read my stories, and the readers who enjoy my books enjoy them because I break the rules. Hell, if everyone who wrote followed each 'rule' (i.e. publisher expectation) explicitly, there would be no point in reading at all!

In my case, if an editor isn't willing to work with you (i.e. they go off in a corner and edit your entire novel on their own, with no feedback from you at all), then run, don't walk, to the nearest exit and get as far away from them as possible! If they don't care what you, the author, thinks of their changes, then they aren't working for you, they're only working for themselves.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Technically, that's not a plot hole--what you hire a structural editor to find--instead it's a value judgement


Structural editors look for more than plot holes. Among other things, they also look to see if the characters are realistic. She said my heroine wasn't. And she said a hero cannot be a murderer.

Now if I were writing for her audience, which is what this thread is about, maybe she would be right. But I learned with my experience with Ellora's Cave that my audience is not the typical romance genre audience.

So maybe the editor referenced in the OP meant that when he said Lugh wasn't writing for an audience -- meaning his story wouldn't be liked by a certain type of reader.

Replies:   Lugh  sejintenej
Lugh

@Switch Blayde

A different potential editor had a different concern, but we agreed to disagree. I still need to search, if my fundamental idea will work.

For the alt-history or whatever we call it, I find it necessary to have parallel activities going on, with changing POV or perhaps historical references. To separate them, I use some headings and horizontal rules.

My mental ideal for this is some of the works of Tom Clancy. I wonder if some of this works better in a paper book than on screen.

Of the authors here whom I read, Ernest Bywater seems to make the greatest use of "section delimiting" -- colors, headings, etc. Perhaps that's the model that I need.

Switch Blayde

@Lugh

There are conventions for fiction (notice I didn't say rules to avoid the ire of many). There are given ways to do section breaks and specific reasons for having a section break.

Each author's creative side can break any of those conventions. Most won't be successful doing so. Maybe that's what he meant by not writing for an audience.

Joe_Bondi_Beach

@Lugh

For the alt-history or whatever we call it, I find it necessary to have parallel activities going on, with changing POV or perhaps historical references. To separate them, I use some headings and horizontal rules.


Do they have to go on or be described in the same chapter? If not, I liked the use of distinct chapter to describe activities of different characters in Martin's "Game of Thrones." Otherwise, despite the liberal use of section delimiters there's always the danger the dreaded head-hopping groundhog will show up.

bb

Replies:   Lugh
Lugh

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

Do they have to go on or be described in the same chapter?


In many cases, yes. For example, I just wrote a scene in which one individual knew he could not participate in one meeting, so he and another character went off for a bedroom sojourn to pass the time ... I'd like that as an option with some meetings.

In another case, I have members of a large group breaking up into pairs and threesomes, with the protagonist tuning into their minds.

Less essential is discussing some activity in Vietnam, and subsequently observing the events in that country.

Bondi Beach

@Lugh

one individual knew he could not participate in one meeting, so he and another character went off for a bedroom sojourn to pass the time


I understand this is a staple of time management practices.

bb

Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

Less essential is discussing some activity in Vietnam, and subsequently observing the events in that country.

Discussing varying points of view, I'd probably restrict 'events in Vietnam' to come as Presidential status updates as events unfold, with various 'experts' to interpret the events (in accord of their perceptions of the underlying causes). That way you can play off the interdepartmental/interpersonal conflicts between the power players in the Pentagon and the White House.

As far as section breaks, for SOL a simple dividing line is usually sufficient for breaks in either perspective or time. A change in focus or themes requires a chapter break. If several chapters focus on similar themes (such as Vietnam, the election, the Pentagon, Congress, etc.), then it makes sense to break the story up into subsections, with each subsection named (use { t } for each section head, and { p } for each chapter title).

Ernest tends to use more alternate formatting (colors, etc.), but Switch, Ernest and I are all pretty knowledgeable about book formatting (I tend to go overboard with graphical chapter titles and section breaks). If you're interested in publishing options, I'd suggest contacting one of us to discuss details and options.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Lugh


Of the authors here whom I read, Ernest Bywater seems to make the greatest use of "section delimiting" -- colors, headings, etc. Perhaps that's the model that I need.


This is actually moving well away from the subject of this thread, and deserves on of it's own, so I'm going to start another thread on section marking in stories.

edit to add - it's here:

http://storiesonline.net/d/s2/t1212/section-markings-in-stories-and-why-you-use-them

sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

And she said a hero cannot be a murderer.

which just goes to show how careful one must be with words. Self defence can be (justified) murder and if the person was already viewed as a hero..... Was the man who shot Osama bin Laden a murderer or a hero or both?
An editor should be the ne most careful in the use of words

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@sejintenej


Self defence can be (justified) murder and if the person was already viewed as a hero..... Was the man who shot Osama bin Laden a murderer or a hero or both?


This is a vigilante. The theme of the story is revenge and he's getting his revenge. He knocks them out, ties them up, and slits their throats when they wake up and he tells them why. Not self-defense.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

which just goes to show how careful one must be with words. Self defence can be (justified) murder and if the person was already viewed as a hero.....


If it's justified, as a matter of law and normal usage, at least in the US, it isn't murder. It's called justifiable homicide.

El_Sol

Generally when I make that criticism, it means one of a few of things.

1. You are masturbating your ego with the story. (This is different that 'writing for yourself', this is a one person circle-jerk.)

2. You have absolutely no concept of what the reader needs to move forward with your story and no care... you starve the reader.

3. As crumbly said -- you have no clear thought or switched between what audience you are writing to or for... A story is heard/read by 'someone'... Who? It is okay if the answer is 'me' as in the author.

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