Important Questions Continued
Last week I started off this blog by answering two questions posed by Orna Ross in her first blog post of the year:
What do I offer to readers that is different and unique?
Why should readers read my books?
What do I need to do to make readers care about my work?
How can I build a community around what I offer?
As I mentioned last week, these are questions that every writer should know the answers to.
Of course, I tackled the easiest questions first – why should people read my work and what makes me unique. Today I’m going to make an attempt at answering the second two, which to me are trickier.
Making readers care is, to me, 101 of writing. I’m afraid I was rather harsh with some of my writing students when I taught a course on critiquing which included each student having their work critiqued by everyone else in the class.
“Why should I care?” was the first question out of my mouth when I read their work. Sometimes it was the hardest question for a student to answer because they felt that their work was compelling—clearly, otherwise, I don’t think they’d be writing it. It was a particularly harsh question when it involved someone who was writing their memoir. I was essentially asking why I should care about their life. But as they were strangers to me, just like anyone who picked up their book (assuming they went forward and published it), I had no compelling reason to care. They needed to give me one and make it clear right up front what it was.
So, I turn the tables and ask myself, why should anyone care about what I write?
Thankfully, I’m not writing memoir (although I’ve toyed with the idea a few times because it might be interesting for someone to read about my inter-cultural marriage, but I don’t think it’s unusual enough so that strangers would care). But why would someone pick up a romance novel written by me?
The first reason, I would think, is because they identify with one of the main characters. As I mentioned last week, they are always, in some way, a fish out of water struggling to fit in. We have all, at some point in our lives, felt this way, so I think reading about someone who dealt with such a situation might be interesting.
I hope that someone would pick up a book of mine because they find the premise intriguing—whether that be someone trying to fit in, or a man trying to learn how to use his magic and why he doesn’t have the powers he was destined to have. Each one of my books presents a different problem unique to the characters within it. Yes, there is always the larger theme, but I think I’ve created some fun and interesting characters and I would hope that that’s why people pick up my books. And I try to keep them light and fun.
Another reason might be to take a journey back to Regency England—always a fun time! The fact that there’s an entire genre of books just for the Regency means that it is a fun and fascinating time. Lords and ladies, war, fashionable society, and so much trouble for a young woman to get into when the rules of society were so incredibly strict.
So why should you care? Because the people you’re going to read about in my books care, and because sometimes you just want to go someplace else, be someone else for a little while.
Now, how can I build a community around what I offer? That’s trickier.
Being a writer, I’m naturally introverted. I’m not terrific at community building. I’m not great at talking to people (unless I’m teaching them something, and then I can be very interesting—or so my students have told me).
Thank goodness, there’s social media! Facebook! I’ve got a page there that, every now I then, I remember to post to (oops! I should do so much more often!). Twitter… yeah, I’ve got an account, but I don’t like shouting into a void. It’s not really for me, although I will post something every now and then. Instagram… ah, now that’s something that I’ve really gotten behind in the past year.
I live in Europe and have the greatest time documenting the world around me. There’s beautiful architecture, amazing art (I love street art!), and places of historical interest that I visit pretty regularly. I also have had the opportunity to travel a good bit around the continent and have loved sharing those pictures with my followers. But is that building a community around what I write?
Not entirely, although I have tried to write stories set in some of the more interesting places I’ve visited. And the hashtag I always use in my Instagram photos is “#whereimwriting” – look for it and you’ll find me.
The only other way I can think of how to build a community is through this blog. And so I encourage you (implore you?) to respond to my blog posts. Tell me what you think and what you’re doing that relates to what I’m writing. I will always respond. And I will always appreciate what community grows from those who read my blog. So… please join in!