Do You Know How Others See Your Writing?

disparity is evilDisparity — defined as the lack of agreement between internal perceptions with external behavior. So what does that have to do with writing? Simply put, what we think about our writing is always different from the public’s perception. There’s a huge gap in what we see in our writing and what others see in it.

“So what, of course there’s a huge difference.”

Sometimes that difference can be bad, as the Evil Mastermind explored in this article about Misadventures in Wordcraft. Those are just little instances – sentences, phrases, awkward misplaced modifiers. Of course, then there are the big picture instances where you don’t make your point at all.

That’s right, what you say may be what you think you mean, but that might not be what comes across. Even experienced authors at times are just too close to their work to know these things (especially in book descriptions). And that causes little things called anxiety, insecurity, and a whole host of other feelings.

That’s why we have beta readers, editors, and ARC readers. They will tell us when something doesn’t make sense.

I know some authors who obsess over this. They question every single sentence they write. Can this be taken the wrong way? Does this make sense? Should I move the verb? The object? The adjective? The subject? Don’t let the chance of disparity cause analysis paralysis.

You see, once you grasp disparity and the role it plays in your writing, you’ll begin to see how it represses and inhibits your ability to let go. Everything changes at this moment. Just do your best and allow yourself to rely on the editors, beta, and ARC readers. This simple realization can liberate you and lead to more confidence and more energy for our work.

Our writing rides on energy. You know the feeling. You just wrote the killer scene or chapter, maybe you even found yourself crying as you saved the document. That’s the feeling you strive for, that overwhelming feeling of immersion into our work, letting it all go. That’s when we are most in tune with our audience.

If you’re not confident in your writing, others will feel it. You truly have no idea how others will perceive your writing, so you need to let go and write for yourself.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

7 thoughts on “Do You Know How Others See Your Writing?”

  1. A very interesting article. You do write for yourself but try to read the story the way a reader would read it. As time goes on, you get better and better (Hopefully) until the gap is so small that the reader is reading it exactly as you wrote it and receives the whatever message you are trying to include.

  2. I think years of teaching gives me an advantage and a disadvantage. I’ve had years of trial and error of choosing the best words to communicate concepts. That’s the advantage, But because different kids respond differently to what you say, teachers tend to phrase things in two or three different ways to make sure we reach all of them. That presents a problem, as a writer. I have a bad habit of making a point, then re-phrasing it one way AND another, resulting in excess verbal flab. Editing consists of a lot of deleting.I have to get rid of a lot. See what I mean?

    1. After reading this I was just thinking along those same lines, Tui. Specifically how you can write something like instructions that you believe are clear and comprehensive. Feedback from others is positive, yet there is always a non-trivial number of people who can’t seem to comprehend them.

      If saying “first put piece A in slot B” or something clear cut like that is prone to misunderstanding, it isn’t hard to imagine how fiction which depends on the reader’s interpretation which is influenced by experience, culture, and other subtle factors might be misinterpreted.

  3. Jim, you make a good point that there is such a fine balance between our perception and our readers’ (possibly). I believe beta-readers are absolutely essential, since they will see things that we, the writers, are blind to and can alert us to misconceptions and confusion. However, it still all boils down to our own story, which no one can tell but us. Only we know where the story wants to go, needs to go, and I don’t believe we should ever compromise on that. But helping us to tell it well, tell it clearly, yes; we need that, as well. It’s quite a delicate dance, actually.

  4. Thanks Al, this is a great article. It illustrates precisely a dilemma I have faced, that of making something completely alien to my readers, both interesting and comprehensible. It’s easy for me, because I lived through the events I’m writing about in my African Memoir series. But for most of my readers, even the culture is strange and they need to be able to get a grip on that to understand much of the story I want to relate.

    It’s like walking in bare feet over thorny cobbles, and there is no right or comfortable way of doing it. So I tend to relate the tale as I would if telling it round a campfire, including all the detail I can remember, but telling the story the way I understand it best. Then I edit, and edit again, cutting out all that doesn’t directly relate to the primary tale I want to tell. After that I think about my readers and how they might respond, so my third or fourth edit asks this question for each element. Later I redo this edit, after receiving comments from my beta readers.

    It’s a long process, but so far, my readers seem quite pleased with the results. I’ve not had many say they couldn’t get into the story.

  5. You can reach some of the readers all of the time, and perhaps all of the readers some of the time, but it’s difficult to reach all of the readers all of the time. Probably the best we can strive for is to reach most of the readers most of the time. It’s a fine balance, Jim: being mindful without being obsessive. And you’re right: it’s great when you’re hot and you know it.

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