Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

Here are three tips from 300 Days of Better Writingabout how to understand your readers and give them what they need.

Day 110: Be prepared to work hard at your writing.

Easy reading is damned hard writing.
(Nathaniel Hawthorne)

(Please excuse the curse word. It may indicate Hawthorne’s frustration with the work necessary to produce good writing, or it may indicate the strength with which Hawthorne believes this.)

The point of this quote is that clear, easy-to-read writing is not easy to produce. Instead, it is the result of writing, analyzing what you write, and re-writing—perhaps many times.

When you write, you are attempting to communicate. The more work you put into writing, the better you will be able to communicate. Hard work by you leads to easy understanding by your reader.

People have told me, “Writing is so easy for you.” This isn’t true. I have practiced writing, studied writing, and analyzed what makes writing clear. The documents they read are the result of much work: writing, criticizing, and rewriting until they are “easy reading.” That’s what great writers aim for: not easy writing but easy reading.

Day 158: Edit for, and with, your readers.

Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.
(Stephen King)

This quote by King can be interpreted in 2 ways, both useful as you seek to improve your own writing.

  1. When you write, you should be concerned with only your ideas, but when you rewrite (or edit), you should be concerned with your audience.
  2. You write alone, all by yourself, but the rewriting (editing) process involves others, i.e., you don’t do it alone.

In either interpretation, the writing is a deeply personal and private process, but the rewriting and editing process occurs from the reader’s perspective.

Day 200: Think more about your reader than about yourself.

When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.
(Abraham Lincoln)

This quote summarizes the art of persuasion. You have your ideas about a topic, and you have reasons for believing those ideas. What ideas does your reader have? Why does your reader have those ideas? What arguments will your reader make about your ideas?

When you wish to persuade your reader, not only do you have to present a compelling case for your ideas but also you need to address and counter your reader’s ideas. If you only present your ideas, your reader may consider you to be shortsighted, misinformed, and naïve. If you only attack your reader’s ideas, your reader will consider you to be argumentative, hostile, and contentious. Hence, do both.

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