I think one of the most important things, if not THE most important thing, for any writer is this:
Know your audience.
When I sit down to write anything, I always have a target audience in mind. If I’m working on a YA novel, I’m thinking of teenagers between the ages of about 14 and 19. When I’m working on children’s picture books, I’m usually envisioning my own kids at ages 5 and 7. When I was in school and working on an essay or paper, I had my professor and classmates in mind. And when I wrote Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, I had an audience of frustrated students who had to write a paper in mind.
If you know your audience, you can gear your book or project for them. You can keep the language appropriate. Now, I’m not talking about swearing or questionable jokes or anything. I mean using the big, field-specific technical language in your papers where your professor will appreciate them and keeping your young adult novels teen-friendly by using the type of language kids use when they speak.
How popular is your YA novel going to be if you use so many huge, unreadable words that your readers have to run it through a translator just to figure out what you are saying? How popular will your adult spy thriller be if your main character is a bunny named Buttons who solves crimes with his sidekick Terry Turtle? What kind of grade are you going to get if you turn in that college-level essay peppered with phrases like “So, dude, like you should totally just listen to me cause I like tooootally get what I’m doing.”
And how much help is a frustrated, confused student going to get from a guidebook that is so overly-technical and complicated they end up more confused than when they started? Probably not much. Which is why I made sure I kept my audience in mind while writing Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers.
I want my readers to feel like I’m sitting right next to them, pointing out every single step of the process to them. I wrote the way I’d speak to them if I were sitting right there…non-formal, conversational, just me telling them step by step what they need to do.
No matter what you are writing, you’ve got to keep your audience in mind. I guarantee they’ll love you for it :)
Michelle McLean is a writer and the Chief Editorial Consultant for PixelMags, LLC. In addition to her non-fiction work, Michelle writes YA historical novels and other children’s books. If she's not editing, reading or chasing her kids, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book.
Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers is a fun, user-friendly book that guides the reader, step by step, through writing a dozen different types of essays, including the dreaded SAT essay. Using straightforward, plain English, this book shows the reader exactly what they need to do, from start to finish, and includes rough draft, edited, and final draft versions of every type of essay discussed. This book also provides chapters that include tips and instruction on researching, proofreading, and citations.
Thanks a ton Michelle. If you stop by Michelle's blog, you'll see she has allowed me to put a post there as well. You can also reach Michelle on Facebook or Twitter, and she's a contributer at Operation Awesome. You can pick up a copy of Michelle's book Essays & Term Papers at Amazon, Borders, or Barnes & Nobles. Or check your local retailer; it's a sure bet they can get you a copy.