Friday, February 12, 2010

Purposeful Writing: More Thee, Less Me

Blog me thee If there’s one thing that irritates me in non-fiction writing, it’s writers who don’t keep their audience in mind.

This is not the same thing as writing for a specific market (a word of warning to I-want-to-be-published writers who think that churning out another Harry Potter clone or vampire romance is going to catch the eye of an acquisitions editor). Writing for a specific publishing market often leads to a mechanical exercise in “what will sell?” rather than a creative expression of that story inside you that needs to be told.

But when you write with a purpose – such as a blog, or a book or movie review – you need to keep an image of your reader perched right in front of you.

Reviews are notorious for being “all me and no thee.” That is, the writing is more about the writer/reviewer than it is about the material.

I read reviews partly because I want a preview of that book or that film. I also read them because reviewing allows a good writer to focus on a small target and comment on it from all sides. Good reviewers create little nuggets of tight, purposeful, nuanced writing, a pleasure to read. But bad reviewers stand out because their voice, their biases, their agenda, and their love of their own voice dominate.

In writing fiction, we’re allowed to forget the reader for a while, turn off our inner editor, and just write. That’s when the magic happens – when the story takes over and drives us on.

But in purposeful writing, the audience plays a role. So, a reminder to writers of reviews and business correspondence and web copy and, yes, even blogs: It’s not about you! Craft your message with your reader in mind.