Friday, March 8, 2013

Why writing to your audience is easier than you think!

I’ve never been the rebellious type. It’s not that I didn’t ever test the boundaries… shoot, I still do that with flair, but most often I find it easy to live between certain acceptable lines.

But when I started writing novels I got to defy all the rules. As a creative outlet, it helped me escape to a world outside my comfy little suburban bubble and in a lot of ways, it taught me about a wild side of life I’d never experienced. Or perhaps never had the stomach for.

I write about everyday women who face danger head on, who gamble with their mortality for the sake of justice and true love. They almost always travel a journey of grace to a depth of which I can’t really fathom because I’ve never had to wager with my life. Never had to overcome even a fraction of the stuff I throw at my characters.

But, I love where each adventure takes me! You ever felt this ways about your story? Or someone else’s great book?

You get to be someone completely different for a few hours and yet, you get to discover yourself in the characters too.

Because my fiction can tend to be viewed as “edgy” I have been worried about how readers, present and future, might receive the honesty I slather on the page. I’m not one to shy away from violence or the very real temptations we face in our world today. None of us are blind to it and yet so often we write like we are. As a very stubborn woman, I decided that I wouldn’t pander.

It got me thinking though… Is it too much? Are Christians going to be offended? Are those really the only people I want reading my stories anyways? And might there be a great opportunity to tear down the dividers that make those without faith think Christians have put themselves up on a holy pedestal and are judging their struggles. I mean, lets be honest… don’t we all struggle with the same things anyways?

The only difference is we don’t go through it alone.

But… what if they don’t get what I’m trying to convey? What it they get so caught up in their offenses, they don’t see the message of grace shining through all the junk that clutters our lives? What if no one wants to take a risk with a story like mine? What if… (fill in the blank)

The uber-awesome Chip MacGregor wrote a blog post recently about writing to your audience, finding your true voice and telling the story you were meant to tell. He said the most profound thing.

He said:

Your reader is yourself.

I’ve been fretting so much about how my stories might be perceived by some more conservative believers. By readers with more sensitive appetites. How might people be offended by the honest struggles I show battling within my characters?

And then I realized the very simple truth.

These stories aren’t for them. And furthermore, my stories aren’t for everyone.

For a reader like me, well, it will be right in their wheelhouse. They will love it. I LOVE what I write. It’s like dreaming on paper. And honestly, I don’t wish to whittle away those questionable things and cookie-cut my stories into some placating bundle of pages.

But for a different kind of reader, they’ll probably hate it! They might say it’s creepy or too steamy or salacious. And that’s totally okay.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want your work to sell, and I sure do, there has to be a market out there. There has to be more than one of you who wants to read it.

But as much as your story is meant to be shared, it’s also your own kind of therapy for yourself.

I want to encourage you. Write what you love. Fall in love with the freedom of the open page and the story God is pouring out from you. Enjoy the ride.

And…Be your own preferred reader.
Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little mischief makers and would challenge anyone to a cutest family contest. Represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Sorry for the tardy post, everyone! Sickness has apparently clogged by brain. Happy and healthy Friday!

Unknown said...

Awesome post, Amy! I think you (and Chip, too!) are so right. Besides, if we spend so much time worrying about what readers will think, it'll stifle our voice, stifle our characters and most of all, stifle our joy. I mean, I think it's important to know who my dream audience is, who I hope picks up my it fits into the market. But none of that can trump the very real awesomeness of writing the story we're meant to write, the one God places on our hearts that won't let go. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks Melissa! I totally agree! If we are writing for someone else it drowns our joy and our creativity. God puts those stories in our hearts for a reason. And so often, I find He's trying to tell me something. I'm more than happy to listen and hope the right readers get a chance to hear what He is speaking to them as well :)

Elisabeth Pettifor said...

Great post Amy. You definitely cannot please everyone. In order to please others you've got to please yourself. I can sometimes tell when an author tries to tone things down for the conservative Christian market. Honestly it bugs me. Our job is not to shrink from sin, but to portray it as it is.
I wonder, would I be totally out of line if I asked for some feedback on my latest blog post? I'm covering a potentially controversial subject this week, and feeling extremely insecure about it. I know that you ladies will be honest and also kind in what you think. I won't post a link lest you think I'm a hacker, but if you click on my name up there, my blog should be on my profile.

Jeanne T said...

Amy, I appreciate your post. It can be so easy to try and gear my story toward a particular audience instead of writing the story God put inside me. Thank you for the exhortation to write what I love.

Thank you.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Wonderful post, Amy! You're so right. Imagine how boring it would be if we all wrote the same rote stories. There's such a variety of experiences to draw from, and such wonderful stories of redemption and hope to share.

And as writers we have to realize that even if (or should I say when) our work gets published, there will always be those people who either love or hate our stories. I've seen this with contest judges. It seems inevitable that 2 out of 3 judges really like my work, the 3rd always marks it low. A matter of personal taste is how I choose to look at it.

So write what you love and enjoy it!

Now I'm curious to know what kind of books you write! LOL!


Lindsay Harrel said...

*love* And your kind of writing sounds right up my alley. ;)

I am such a people pleaser, but when it comes to being an author, I simply cannot please EVERYONE. There are specific readers God will touch with every book, but every reader won't like every book. And that's okay. The sooner we come to grips with that, the better. (I'm reminding myself of that too!)

Pepper said...

"dreaming on paper"
And I'm in your wheelhouse, girlfriend. You stuff IS edgy, but it's authentic and you have an amazing talent for tangible clarity in your writing.
And fast paced? I LOVE fast paced - whether from near-death experiences or relationship banter. LOVE IT!!!

I appreciate the truth (and my own need for self-realization) that not everyone is mean to read what I write. God has the people in mind to read it- but YES at the heart, I write what I WANT to read! And I love it. And I"m kind of self-absorbed in the fact that I like reading what I write over and over again and laughing like an idiot!

At least I know THIS reader likes the story ;-) LOL
GREAT post, Ames!

Anonymous said...

Great post Amy! Can't wait to read your books:)
Cathy Johnson

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Elisabeth-I popped over to your blog and left you a comment! Honestly, I can't think of a single topic that would be out of bounds for Christians to tackle. Of course, there needs to be some sensitivity, depending on the topic, but we live in a broken world. We ourselves are sinners. I'm one that's saved by grace. No matter what the topic, if you are speaking in love, showing grace and trying to tear down barriers instead of erecting them, I say the sky is the limit!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Jeanne & Lindsay- it is particularly difficult when a publishing house might want to publish your story under certain conditions. It's not that we want to be inflexible, and we certainly want to share our message, but we just cherish our stories so much we want to see them whole :) It's always a battle of writing to love or writing to sell. Hopefully we all get to do both!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Sue- I have had the same such luck with contests. Such strong reactions on either side. Love it or hate it. :) But you know, if we are saying anything worth it's salt, it's bound to hit a nerve somewhere. Truth very often meets opposition. This is what I remind myself ;) An author friend of mine with a wonderful book told me about how offended people were about certain aspect of her very sweet book. I'm thinking, well if they are offended by that, they are going to lose it if they ever read mine.

So hard not to let others opinions shape our stories and our hopes for them. But God gives them to us for a reason. I like His plan better than mine any day of the week.

Oh yeah, and I write Romantic Suspense. But umm... the spicy kind--not the sweet kind. Nothing R-rated mind you, and there are infinitely worse things on television that I KNOW Christians watch. Lets just say I write rather honestly about temptations we face today and I know my way around a kiss scene.

Thanks for coming by!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh Pep- We are soul sisters on the page for sure! I love what you write, and I appreciate, like you said, the authenticity. Nothing worse than rolling your eyes at your book and sighing "Oh, please." Or only getting that one stiff kiss at the end. Not the kind of Romance I want to daydream about.

We want our stories to translate to people from all walks of life. And as Christians, we can be the best examples of God's love when we are un-offendable. Goodness, I don't know why people are so touchy. I'm secure in the truth, but I also live in this world.

Thanks for sharing this today, and for graciously soothing me for my late arrival!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks Cathy!! So glad you came by!

Great comments here today! Way to go, ladies!

Debra E. Marvin said...

Oh yes, I agree!
I've heard it said... write the book you want to read. It won't be for everyone but how can you write a book you wouldn't want to read?

And we all represent a portion of the reading population and if God blesses it, that story will get into the hands of someone who wouldn't have read the books your friends write.

You've intrigued me to want to read it. So you must be up to 20-30 people. ha ha. it's a start.
I'm teasing you of course but I know you are right!

Debbie Stehlick said...

Hi Amy,

Great post. I totally agree, but then I love reading your writing:)

P.S. Send pages!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So glad you stopped by Debra and Debbie :) someday, Debra, someday you can read my book. I'd be honored to have your opinion on my... Ahem... Honesty. ;)

Sandra Orchard said...

Since I'm tardy in visiting, I hope you're now feeling better. :) Sounds like you've found the perfect agent for your books. I'm so excited for you.

Carla Laureano said...

I found this post late, but I'm so glad I did, because it mirrors my own writing journey. I decided that I would not compromise my story out of fear of offending a minority... the greater the struggles, the greater triumph of grace and forgiveness! Keep on keeping on. Can't wait to read your stuff.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Carla, I'm so glad you found me! Looking forward to getting to know you on Facebook! :)