Giving Readers What They Want, Part 1: Escape

Giving Readers

What is most important to you, as a writer, to provide to your readers? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Confession: I’ve been struggling to complete the final revisions on Book One.

You all will probably remember my post about follow-through in my Libra’s Guide. It’s the last few yards before the finish line, and my feet are dragging. Why? Am I subconsciously afraid of it being over? Am I allowing doubt cloud my vision?

Probably.

So I’m buckling down and getting this done. I’m encouraged by writers that I admire, knowing that they’ve pushed through the hoops of manuscript prep and gotten published. I’ve also found solace in advice columns on writing quality that readers want, on pushing through those last few stages, on seeing everything come to pass.

An article that I really enjoyed came from the acclaimed Gotham Writers Workshop. They have a list (which people LOVE, in case you were curious) of things that readers want. Going through it I realized, “Yes, of course they want these things. And we writers want them too. All of this boils down to a good story well told.”

But the list isn’t as overwhelming as the phrase “a good story well told.” If you’re like me, you hear those words and slight panic stems outward from your stomach and through your extremities.

What if my story isn’t good?

What if it’s good but not “well told”?

Before I dive into my reaction to Gotham’s list, here are some calming words and reminders from a fellow worrier:

  • Are you excited about writing your story?
  • Do you love your characters so much that you put them through hell so that they can succeed?
  • Have you created a plot that you would enjoy reading?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then YOUR STORY IS FINE. STOP PANICKING.

If you said “no” to one of them, then YOU CAN FIX IT. All is not lost! Ask yourself why you said no, then fix it until you can say yes.

Keep in mind that you’ve read your story a dozen times, revised it a dozen more, and tweaked things here and there. You know what’s going to happen. Like any good writer, you know your story better than you know your own mother. You may feel that it’s no longer suspenseful, or that the plot devices are TOO predictable. STOP THAT. Your readers haven’t read your story yet, and they’ll be surprised and suspended in all the right places.

Now, Gotham’s List:

In this series, I’m going to go through each item on the the list, briefly explaining my own struggle, excitement, and hope with each one as we go along. I’ll also include the Worksheet Question that I will have for you all on the free printables for this series, starting with Giving Your Readers What They Want: Escape (PDF).

Escape

  1. Readers love to get away from it all. The whole point in reading a book is to be teleported to a time and place unknown to us somehow, even if the locale is known or understood. Urban fantasy stories take a real place like New York City and transform it, either with denizens of a fantastical nature or with a dystopian spin.
  2. In thinking about how I provide escape for my readers, my setting is sort of urban fantasy with a heavier leaning toward science fiction, as I am writing steampunk. But the location is a fictionalized version of what is currently Winthrop, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. I can use what we know now, take us back in time, and ask the question, “What if we had steampunk tech in the 1880s?” That is really fun to explore, in all aspects.
  3. Worksheet Question: What are your goals in providing escape for your readers?

Bustle has a great article on the scientific reason why we get lost in books. It coincides with how we relate to the characters and root for them on their journeys. So all that work that you’ve done hone your character’s backstories, arcs, conflicts, turmoils, and struggles all help your reader to ESCAPE. Job well done, writer. Your hard work will pay off!

Interested in the free “Escape” worksheet? Click here!

And be sure to check back throughout the series for more worksheets as we progress. By the end of the series, I will have them all compiled into a handy-dandy eBook for your downloading and printing needs.

Want to contribute key questions and points about helping your readers to escape? Let me know in the comments, and your questions and advice may be featured in the final eBook!

 

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