Lessons from a writer: readers are teachers, too
Teachers help a person know what to learn and initiate the process of knowing more about something. With a writer, though, learning doesn’t stop with a teacher or a mentor who is a veteran writer. Actually, a writer’s teacher comes in many forms, including their editor, publisher, and even their reader.
Writers forget sometimes that the reader is the one buying the book, and while any writer can take for granted the difference between what a reader should read and what a reader will read, what writers forget most is that the reader is knowledgeable. Readers have preferences, turn-ons and turn-offs, and you’re selling to them. So, who better to learn from?
Follow these three lessons:
Teachers (mentors, school, etc.) provide knowledge of the basics, mechanics, and rules of writing.
Editors improve these basics and help develop a story’s voice and execution.
Readers show the writer what works and what doesn’t.
Those are basic, laymen explanations that I could expand on, but those are lessons to be learned from three types of people. Don’t disregard them, and don’t forget them. We have a group panel today, and a few writers have been asked what they’ve learned. Perhaps you’ve learned some of these things, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
What are three lessons you have learned from beta readers, other writers, or an editor?
- I have learned that less is more. It is not necessary to use too many descriptive words to describe something, whether it be a thing, place, or even an action.
Simple is better. You always have the option of using longer or lesser known words to sound smart, but that doesn’t mean you should. Your writing should be easy to read, and what you can say in seven words could probably be said in two words just as well.
I’ve learned that if you are going to follow dialogue with something like “he said,” there needs to be a comma after the dialogue and not a period. Writing 101, I know. But it just goes to show how little I knew when I started and how much I’ve learned since then. -Eric Smolinski
From editors, I’ve learned that I have to keep in mind what I am using them for. I now use them for very specific things, such as word counts, grade level that I’m writing, or spell check. Anything beyond that would be a pointless addition to my writing . . . I may have to edit it out later or change more of my own writing to blend well. Besides, I like my own voice. -Dee Banks
- Write what I want to write, not what I think others want to read.
Be SPECIFIC in the information you want from beta readers—have questions prepared, ask lots, give specific guidance in the information you want back. If you leave it totally open, you don’t get enough good information from the readers to use.
Write first, edit later. No matter how terrible the words, no matter how jumbled the idea, just write it down anyway. Propel the story forward. Finish the story. THEN go back and fix it. A perfectly written unfinished story is still an unfinished story. -Cari Jehlik
I have learned that beta readers can provide great feedback and advice. My wife was my beta reader for my memoir, and she told me I danced around the crime I committed to end up in prison and watered it down too much. Her advice to “just let it all hang out” was right, because authenticity is vital if your desire is to truly help others. -Robert Gallant
Want to know more about this week’s panel?
DeAnna is an artist/author who strongly believes in the power of creative expression. She teaches enrichment programs which infuse writing, music, and drama to at-risk youth ranging from six to eighteen years of age. DeAnna also merges her love for writing into her art, which she travels the country selling.
I am a walking miracle who conquered addiction, homelessness, and hopelessness through the power of God and positive action. I am an accomplished public speaker who is ACB and ALB certified by Toastmaster’s International, and I am seeking education to become certified in the helping profession. I am newly married, an active church participant, and volunteer my time ministering to juvenile offenders, fellow church members in need, and the homeless.
My name is Cari, and I’m a work-at-home mom of two kiddos. I currently have four novels in various stages of completion and am considering actually taking this author thing seriously. I also enjoy eating, running, knitting, crocheting, and watching documentaries.
I am currently working on my first novel, a fantasy adventure called Accrue’s End: Pursuit. I’m still learning a lot about the writing process but am getting a lot of help from amazing people on Facebook.