Conflicting Opinions and Writing to Your Audience

Writing is hard...

I am currently in the process of editing my first novel.  As part of the process I sent the novel out to a small group of test readers; friends whose opinion I respect and (at least most of whom) new little or nothing about the novel beforehand.  Well, I recently heard back from my test readers.  I was very happy to receive generally positive remarks.  Everyone liked the novel, thought it was well written, and easily worth what I plan to charge (or at least that’s what they told me ;)).  However, as I asked, every one of my test readers gave me comments on how they thought the novel could be better.  Most of these comments were helpful and quickly implemented.  Some of them are going to take a little bit longer to actually work in but will happen.  A few were confusing or nonsensical and I had to sit down with the person and ask what that person meant…

And then there were the areas where people disagreed.  These actually cracked me up at first.  One reader would say, ‘I really like so and so but I think you get rid of him too early,’ while another reader would say, ‘I didn’t like so and so (same character) very much and I’m not sure why you put him in the novel in the first place.’  Or one reader would say, ‘I love the pacing of such and such part of the storyline, I though it was perfect,’ while another reader would say, ‘I thought the pacing of such and such (same thing) was way too slow.  You definitely need more on this earlier.’

Obviously we, as authors…or as people, can’t make everyone happy.  In fact to try is relatively foolish.  On the other hand if we just write exactly what we like with no attention paid to anyone else then…well we’ll like what we write…but most other people probably won’t.  However, if we keep a specific audience and purpose in mind as we write, then we can take contradictory comments like those above and weigh them accordingly.

For my novel I can look at the comments and say, this reader didn’t like this, but that reader did like this.  Well that reader is closer to my target audience than this reader is, so it will serve me better to weigh that reader’s opinion as heavier than this reader’s opinion.

Yes, it's true. I am actually a famous Indian man who was assissinated in 1948.

At the same time when multiple readers agree (e.g. All of my test readers mentioned that they really liked one character and felt that he disappeared from the novel too early) then it obviously behooves me to listen (in this case to do some rewriting and expand said character’s role).  All in all, I am very glad that I sent the novel out to test readers and I have received some very valuable feedback from them.  Of course that means more writing and more work for me to do…but if it makes for a better novel…well, that’s not a bad thing.


About noothergods

I hate writing these things. Ok, a little bit about me. I split my time between this world and other worlds so I'm only here about 25% to 50% of the time. Other times my body might be here (or you never know it might not) but I am off somewhere else having strange and usually pretty horrible adventures. I consider myself a scholar of Christian Theology and of Religion in general, I love learning about other people's belief systems. I think that Shinto is fascinating and I'm obsessed with the theology of sin...and with monkeys...I don't know why I'm obsessed with monkeys but I blame Gus...if you know him you'll understand that, if you don't then...well...I blame Gus. Anyway, I'm the one of the blog that needs to be censored the most so if there's anything posted that you find offensive it was probably me. I think that my brain doesn't really work the way it's supposed to but that's an issue for a whole other time. I have two degrees, a B.S. in Religion and an M.Div. in leadership. I enjoy a great many things some of which include writing (gee, what a surprise), martial arts, anything media that has a good story to tell, cooking, discussing/reading/occasionally writing about Christian theology, General theology, religious belief systems, philosophy, etc. I also enjoy reading medieval and previous magical texts and studying the history, practice, and beliefs about magic from around the world. I don't practice magic and if you want to know my personal beliefs on the subject you can email me, however the intersection of magic and religion is a very interesting topic.

Posted on March 19, 2011, in Books, Editing, Tobias Mastgrave, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Some day you may experience the same thing with student evaluation comments: “This course put way too much emphasis on grammar.” . . . “This course needed way more emphasis on grammar.” Fortunately, an author does not have to face the fact that his proper target audience is actually morons.

  2. Well, I suppose…considering the fact that we are all morons at least some of the time…that it is a good thing that I can overlook that fact. Otherwise I would be forced to don the hat of the village idiot and spend my days dodging rotten fruit.

  3. I was interested in what you said about writing to a target audience. I really really like some of Stephen King’s work. Some I don’t and some just scares me to death. But he says he has always written for himself and in the course of it has found a huge audience. Although I think he scares himself sometimes!

  4. I’m fairly positive he scares himself sometimes. I do think that it is important to write what you enjoy. I have defined my target audience several times as ‘people like me’. However when it comes to what to edit and how (especially when people have conflicting opinions) I found it very helpful to consider who I would want reading my books. Not necessarily specific people but the type of people I want reading them. That helps me to filter through all the opinions and suggestions and come down to what I think is actually useful.

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