Many years ago, when I was starting out as a serious writer, I went to a weekend workshop with John Sherlock – a famous Hollywood script doctor. One of his main take home messages was that, for all my romantic notions of ‘being in the world of the novel’ as the prime motivator to write, writing is a craft, producing product, which needs to be saleable to the customer - i.e. the reader.
Like any craft, so much can be taught and so much more is a given gift. This explains why many writers only write (or have inside them) one novel. As professional writers, said Sherlock, you must produce stories; they are the product, just as another craftsman produces chairs, or pottery. To produce product you have to understand the craft of transforming an idea into a saleable story.
And to make a story saleable - You MUST put the customer (i.e. the Reader) First
This came home to me again some years later when I read a book by Jean Z. Owen who said ‘the writer takes an important step when he realises that THE ONLY IMPORTANT PERSON IS THE READER. The inability of would-be writers to shift the locus of emphasis from themselves to their readers has resulted in more literary failures than all other reasons added together . . .’
According to Mr. Owen, a professional writer MUST:
• ‘Master techniques so that THE READER finds the writing clear and easy to assimilate.
• Learn not to strut in prose because this bores THE READER.
• Sacrifice timidity and force himself to write scenes with emotional impact because this is what THE READER seeks in fiction.’
In my next blog, I’ll pass on some of the tips I learned over the many years I’ve been writing on how to put the reader first and hopefully, produce stories that people will actually want to pay good money to read. However, I make no claim whatsoever that I personally can actually DO this - you THE READER will have to be the judge of that!
Looking forward to hearing from you.