I spend some of my time at Toastmasters, where I learn to speak to groups of people. One of the lessons important to a public speaker is that you must connect with your audience. You can string together the best words in the world but if you’re not connecting to the audience they probably are not hearing your message.
It’s the same with writing. You can string together the best words in the world, but if you don’t connect to your reader they won’t read on. Those black squiggles on the page or on the screen will remain just that – black squiggles. Your meaning, you message is lost.
So how do you connect with readers?
- You write for the reader, not for yourself. You don’t show off your vocabulary, your knowledge or abilities. You don’t write to impress, you write to give the reader a good reading experience.
- You pull them in quickly, not wasting their attention on all the little details that set up the story. Showing the set up is the mark of an amateur – it’s like showing the pan you baked the cake in.
- If it’s fiction, get to know your characters so well that you can almost see the pores on their face. If you can’t see the character and care about them no-one else will.
- Use dialogue wherever you can, especially to pass along information to the reader.
- Imagine the reader you are writing for. Think of ten words to describe your ideal reader. Words like: young, educated, living in North America, fairly affluent, unmarried, female. Then write for that person. Do not imagine that anybody and everybody will be interested – focus on somebody.
- Spend time on your opening paragraphs. Spend an inordinate amount of time on them. This is the make or break point that pulls people in or tells them it’s not worth their time.
- Work on finding a title that intrigues – that hints at a question, that implies an unresolved but important issue, that tells without telling.
- Make sure that one event or conflict leads tightly to the next, making it seem inevitable and allowing the reader no lapse in focus where they could drift away.
- When you edit your work remove all the little words that have no purpose, especially ‘that’, ‘there’ along with extra ‘was’ and ‘were’. Leave behind strong words to carry the message, especially the strong verbs.
And the freebie, Number 10 point is – practice writing. Write more, write more often. That’s how we learn.