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The First Audience

The book I'm currently writing is a scary thing. Which is good, because as a suspense (even a romantic suspense), it's meant to be. As I was tweaking one particular scene yesterday, I felt the fine hairs rise along the back of my neck. My pulse picked up, and - yes, ladies and gentlemen - I had seriously freaked myself out. Which is kind of strange, since I've written the synopsis. I know how everything turns out, whodunnit (although I'm kind of murky on the secondaries), the whole nine yards.

My husband, who is not a writer, simply shakes his head, as he does when I laugh at something my characters say or can't stop in the middle of an exciting scene while proofing my own galleys. Simply put, he doesn't understand that every writer is his/her own, crucial first audience.

If your own story doesn't make you laugh or cry in the right places, make your pulse race or your palms sweat, turn you on or make you furious, how can you expect it to do any of those things for the larger audience it (with luck and skill) will reach? Writers fail, in my opinion, when they're no longer entertained by their own work, when they're simply going through the motions to earn an advance or meet a deadline.

So as you set to work today, I hope you'll ask yourself some crucial questions. When I reread a section, have I engaged my own emotions? If I hadn't written this book, would I plunk down $6.99 (or more) to read it ? And most importantly, when was the last time I thoroughly entertained myself?

I don't know about you, but that's why I started writing fiction in the first place.

Comments

Christie Craig said…
Colleen,

This is so true. If our work doesn't entertain us, how can we expect others to be entertained?

I love it when I laugh, or cry at something I've written. And when I give my work to others to read (when they are in front of me) I find myself just watching them, hoping for the reaction I wanted.

I'm certain that if you freaked yourself out, you'll leave a lot of us freaking. I can't wait to read it.

CC
CC
TJ Bennett said…
So true! My first novel, which I had written five years ago and stuck under the bed when it didn't sell, got resurrected as a result of this phenomena. While unpacking, I came across it one day, started reading it, and found myself laughing at the funny parts and crying at the sad parts. Okay, I thought, I'm giving this book one more shot at publication. I tried one last publisher, and that's the one who agreed with me the book should see the light of day. After all these years, it doesn't even feel like I wrote it anymore, which is a delightful, mysterious experience every writer should have at least once. I read along and think, "Damn, this chick is good!" LOL!

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