There is a particularly cutting reality that you should make peace with from the start if you suspect that you may be a writer: nobody wants to read your sh*t!
I have been writing fiction for roughly around 14 years and can tell you from experience that you cannot trust your parents and friends when it comes to getting feedback on your writing.
They will probably pretend to like everything you write at first, maybe raise some surface feedback and minor points to get you off their backs but eventually their patience is gonna run out and you will have to face the facts: they don’t want to read your sh*t!!!
Probably because they’re not the right type of audience for the kind of stuff you write.
Of course there is also the possibility that your writing sucks (mine did in the beginning…maybe it still does in a number of respects) but I think that 9 times out of 10, a mismatch between readers and genre are the more likely explanation.
So, what is a writer to do when this harsh reality comes crashing down on you weighing at least a ton?
Write in secret?
Apparently the right answer is: none of the above!
The appropriately titled book ‘Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t’ by Steven Pressfield was an eye-opener as well as a beacon of hope for me and I highly recommend this engaging read to any aspiring writer who is feeling discouraged by a lack of readership.
I pulled a number of great lessons out of this book and will share the following 5 reasons to keep writing even though nobody wants to read your sh*t:
1. Find the right audience
Easier said than done, but if you can find the right audience for the kind of stuff you write you are more likely to receive constructive and usable feedback on your work and actually feel like you are good at this and have room for improvement. Getting the right kind of readers (even if it’s only 1 or 2) can give you a massive uplift. Read and comment on blogs which deal with the genres you’re interested in, get on goodreads, read and write reviews and comment on other people’s work and somebody might discover and love your stuff. Or at least they will be willing to read it and leave you some nuggets of wisdom or praise.
2. Work on your presentation
The world of self-publishing is flooded with poorly formatted prose. Many works out there are riddled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Don’t let that be you. Read, re-read and read your work again before putting it out there. Find someone willing to proofread or pay somebody if you can afford to. Presenting your work well will work wonders. Making your fiction look professional will make it easy to read and understand. This way you can forge a true connection between the work and the reader and maybe even win some fans. The possibilities are endless.
3. Write engagingly
All writers suffer from the same disease. We love words. LOVE THEM! And we want to use them all. Unfortunately our readers often don’t care about the beauty of carefully crafted sentences. They want a story. That means, plot, characters, incidents, settings, the whole shebang. To them reading your work is like listening to a symphony orchestra and they can tell when the balance is off. Don’t spend two thousand words describing your character’s nail polish if it isn’t relevant to the storyline. Your readers won’t care. You can effectively characterise somebody in a couple of sentences and move on. Write simply using the ‘right’ words instead of the most elegant or the most outlandish ones. Your readers will thank you.
4. Learn how to build tension
Play with different ways of telling your story and figure out what way you can build tension most effectively. Is a first person narrator suited to your story or would it be more effective if you could drop in scenes between side characters to advance the story and reveal an obstacle that your protagonist is unknowingly steering towards? Give it some thought and choose wisely. I can’t say that I am a master at this yet, but I have certainly made a lot of progress when it comes to figuring out how a story should best be told. Tension is what keeps readers flipping the pages and if you can figure out how to build and release it, the pacing of your story will be spot on.
5. Never just screw around
Note, I am not saying don’t screw around. Sex scenes are common in contemporary genre literature and can be very interesting and satisfying to read. However, for those of us who don’t write erotica (or romantica), a sex scene should be a storytelling device rather than the centre of our storyverse. Never have two (or more) characters JUST screw. Make sure that there is something else going on which will drive the story forward. Do you need to reveal something about one of your characters? Would an intimate setting bring this character trait, memory or epiphany to the surface? If so, go and figure out ‘how’ and ‘why’ and incorporate it into the scene. This way you can get it on as well as drive your story forward and your readers will be begging for more.
Hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think of my post or Pressfield’s book (if you’ve read it) or post other helpful book titles in the comments below.
And …if you LOVED this post and want to help me keep writing:
Image Attribution:By Magnus Johansson (fly) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons