If the purpose of stories is to be shared, that brings us to the question, who do we share them with? It's an answer every writer needs ...

If the purpose of stories is to be shared, that brings us to the question, who do we share them with? It's an answer every writer needs to find for their story. Different stories suit different audiences; you wouldn't gift a picture book to a die-hard crime reader, and you couldn't give an epic fantasy to a woman who prefers lighter tales with the confidence she'd enjoy it.

For my university course we've been encouraged to think about products' audiences, and if it seems cold to think of your book as one, let's define a product as this: it's something to be exchanged which has value. There's an instrinsic need inside writers to share our stories, a desire to sweep readers away into another world, and words' ability to do so has an incredible amount of value.



Though the term 'audience' applies to books as well, for marketing your book it's easier to think in terms of an ideal reader. This is the person you're desperate to tell your story to, to press it into their hands and hope they love it. I originally came across this idea on She Novels (which is a fantastic blog!) and I can't stress how crucial it is to find your ideal reader.

Here's why:
1) It narrows your marketing focus. Rather than trying to make your book appeal to everyone and advertising everywhere, you'll understand where to promote your book and what your audience might expect from a campaign. You can find specific niche communities to join, rather than posting to the whole world and hoping ideal readers stumble across you. The more you know and understand your ideal reader, the greater chance you have of reaching them.

2) Motivation. Imagining a reader reading your story and cheering you on is an amazing tactic to keep pushing through edits. Your ideal reader will be the one sharing about how much they love your book everywhere they can! Knowing that someone out there will name your story their favourite is incredibly motivating.

3) You understand what the reader expects. If you're feeling stuck and unsure where to go next in your story, exploring the mind of your ideal reader can provide inspiration of what they'd enjoy. This can help both with both storytelling and marketing. What kind of twist in your story will appeal to your reader? What about your story will intrigue them to pick up your book, or make them feel like they'll enjoy it?



So how do you create or find your ideal reader? There are two key areas which are equally important! 

The Basics

This is the kind of information you would put into a platform when you're advertising on one. It's demographic information about age, location, gender, and more, which is a great starting point.

Age: for books within an age range this is clearly important, as you wouldn't market your adult fiction novel to a thirteen year old. Age changes the places where you'll be marketing your book, and will give you a sense of the level of language and expectations your readers will have for it.

Location: if your books are available to buy online, this isn't as large a factor with the rise of international distributors, but it's something to consider if you go traditional and sell rights. Will your readers be able to buy your book in a bookstore, or will they have to pay expensive shipping fees?

Gender: this is a tricky and contoversial one, but generally speaking, you would market a book differently depending on whether it's a 'boy story' or 'girl story'. (Though it would be great if children felt like they could read any story.) Often the ideal reader's gender is influenced by the age range category; in YA, for example, the vast majority of readers are female.



Going Deeper

Humans are a complicated bunch, so even if you have, say, an ideal reader who is a seventeen year old female in the United States, that is still an incredibly diverse reader. This reader could have parents or be in foster care, she could be interested in art or have a passion for numbers, she could have dreams to build a strong family or spend every hour thinking about her future business.

To truly understand your ideal reader, you need to know them deeply. You need to understand what drives and motivates them, and what entertains them. A way to break it down is:

Interests: For fiction, one would clearly be reading. If you're marketing a non-fiction book, reading might be one interest, but there could still be others connected to your topic such as faith, business, or writing. We'll run with the fiction example, as that can be trickier to figure out. Besides reading, what does your reader love to do? Does she spend lots of time on Bookstagram, does she blog about books? Does she play sport on the weekends or love coffee with a passion?

Readers' interests are diverse and complex, but if you can tap into them, you can know where online, and offline, you can find your reader. Rather than throwing your book out into the ocean, you can meet them in their favourite cafe, so to speak. For example, if they're a Bookstagrammer, connect with them on Instagram and join the community there.


Expectations: This one may be like playing with fire, but as much as in the writing community originality is championed, there are expectations for whatever kind of book you write, especially genre fiction. If you're writing a romance many readers will expect a happy ending. If you write epic fantasy, well-rounded worldbuilding with high stakes will be the norm. Readers go to genres because they give them security of knowing books will have the elements they love, but told in a new and different way.

What would readers of your book expect from you? Do they love diverse books? What tropes made them fall in love with reading? What about your genre do they love, and what parts don't they love that you could play with? What is it about reading that makes them coming back to read more; characters, the world, the plot?

A Note About Writing for Yourself

There's a famous writing quote which encourages writing the book you want to read, and there is nothing wrong with that at all! It's very important for the writer to love the story and book they're creating, every part of it. So if you think that you are the ideal reader of your book or story, then put yourself at the end of the questions. First start with the basics, but then look at what your interests are and why you'd want to read your book. That, is where the gold is. For when you know, you can show others why they'd want to read yours too.

I hope that this post helped stir some ideas of how to create your ideal reader, and promped you to try a hand at it! Even if you don't feel near the publication stage, it's crucial to start thinking about your ideal reader, so as you write and edit and grow frustrated with your story, you remember the eager hands at the end who want to grab hold of your book. Your ideal reader is waiting for their favourite story to come along, and it could very well be yours.


Have you ever thought about who your ideal reader is? Who's your ideal reader for your current story? Would you like to see more posts on book marketing?
Have a wonderful day! <3

It's been some time since I last shared about my stories and especially my characters, so I'm super excited today to be able to part...

It's been some time since I last shared about my stories and especially my characters, so I'm super excited today to be able to participate in the Voted Most Likely Tag! Both Victoria and Emily tagged me (thank you!!), which means I'm double-tagged and probably should have gotten to this before now. But I digress. To the tag!



The Rules:

Rule One: Thank the lovely blogger who tagged you. You know you want to. (Double thanks for a double tag! <3)
Rule Two: Include this lovely link in your post.
Rule Three: Use your own lovely Original Characters (OC’s); don’t use a friend’s characters or characters from your favorite fandom. They can be from any project, so long as you created them. For more fun, try to use as many different characters as possible.
Rule Four: Tag at least five lovely blogger friends to play along.

1) Most Likely to Be a Poet

Summer from Call of the Vanished (I just finished its first draft!) loves to write and everything that has to do with stories, so she's probably written a hundred poems by now. Most likely they'd be nature or love poems.

2) Most Likely to Dance in the Rain

Feriha from Golden Revenge. I can't say exactly why because of spoilers, but she loves the feeling of raindrops on her skin, and the rumble of thunder beneath her feet. It's a dance that she's always eager to join.

3) Most Likely to Look Good in a Kilt

I feel a little uncomfortable saying Koray from Golden Revenge, but with his super big grin and constant joking he could pull anything off. Even if he felt very awkward in one, he'd turn it into a huge joke.

4) Most Likely to Get Punched in the Face

Taylan from Golden Revenge. Apart from his general stubbornness and anger issues, he puts himself into a lot of situations where he's not everyone's best friend. 


5) Most Likely to Drop Everything and Become a Sheep Herder

(This is a super random question, but sure.) Considering Lonnie from Call of the Vanished is a country boy and doesn't like cities all that much, I can see him becoming a sheep herder or a farmer in general. 

6) Most Likely to Be Found in the Library

It's a tie between Summer, and Kyrone from Golden Revenge. They'd be in different sections of the library though; Summer would devour every fantasy book and browse the fiction aisles, while Kyrone would check out every book on history or accounting he could find.

7) Most Likely to Sleep Through an Earthquake

If I was a character, this would be me, because this has actually happened in real life. But since I can't pick myself, I'll pick Alp from Golden Revenge, as he's a very deep sleeper and has been mistaken for dead once while napping.

8) Most Likely to Steal Food from Other Peoples’ Plates

Koray. And he'd do it with a smile and a joke so that by the time you realized your food was in his mouth, you would be more amused than annoyed.


9) Most Likely to Cheat on a Test

Connor from Call of the Vanished would cheat on a test, mostly to give himself the challenge of finding the answers beforehand and seeing if he could get away with it.

10) Most Likely to Say “Oops” After Setting Something on Fire

Vaara, also from Call of the Vanished, has the funniest quips and comments ready for the worst situations. She makes jokes to keep herself from panicking, and this seems like the perfect example of that.

11) Most Likely to Open an Orphanage

Feriha, if the orphanage could double as a hospital. Her heart is huge and aches for all the hurting, broken people in the world, especially children. 

12) Most Likely to Run off with the Circus

Koray is apparently the star of today's post. He can entertain a crowd as well as one person, and he'd have plenty of card tricks up his sleeve.


13) Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

There's a mysterious (and fairly creepy) character called Kola in Call of the Vanished and honestly, he would survive anything. He has skills in deadly areas and can make himself blend with shadows, so zombies wouldn't be a problem in the slightest.

14) Most Likely to Fake Their Own Death

Ela, the queen and villain of Golden Revenge, would definitely consider doing this and moving abroad if she felt like she was losing her power. She'd make sure to take as much money as possible to claim a new life elsewhere.

15) Most Likely to Die and Haunt Their Friends

Taylan would make a restless, hurting ghost who would never find peace after death. I can picture him haunting his friends but mostly enemies, scouting the earth, looking for one more chance at vengeance.

I focused on only two WIPs today and their characters, as they're the main ones in my thoughts at the moment, but I hoped that you enjoyed these little snapshots of their personalities! Now, I tag...



If I didn't tag you, please feel free to steal the tag! Which of your characters are most likely to cheat on a test? To dance in the rain? How is your writing going?
Have a wonderful day! <3

I had the enormous pleasure of hosting a flash fiction contest to celebrate my blogoversary this year, and wow, you all outdid yourselves! ...

I had the enormous pleasure of hosting a flash fiction contest to celebrate my blogoversary this year, and wow, you all outdid yourselves! I had so many excellent entries that choosing between them was incredibly difficult. It broke my heart that I couldn't give everyone a prize, and the best I could stretch the prizes was to have a tie for third place! All that being said, thank you for everyone who submitted for the contest, and here are the winners!



Tied Third Place - Skye Hoffert
Thoughts from Melissa: This piece had a different take on the theme and I loved the banter and quips between the two characters! There are also beautiful moments of description and an underlying tension woven throughout the piece. If you'd like to read more of Skye's work, she blogs over at Ink Castles

Muted, soft blues and pinks appeared through the viewfinder of my camera. I pulled it away to appreciate the clarity of the sky before me. The clouds looked like puffs of cotton candy, the way they were edged in pink.  As I looked back through the lens, the image seemed slightly warped. Not as crisp and alive as the one before me. Lifeless. 

I snapped a picture anyway. Fiddled with the dials and changed the aperture value to match the failing light. It didn’t matter what I did, the photo would never be anything more than a cheap copy. That didn’t seem to ever stop me from trying.

“Are you going to be out here all night?”

I didn’t turn around to acknowledge the mocking voice. I flicked through my less than perfect photos on the led screen.

“That’s a yes then. I brought you some tea.”

I gave the intruder a cursory glance and mumbled a ‘thank you’.  He was a mess of bed head and a wrinkled hoodie. I barely registered his somewhat annoying presence.  I was losing the vibrancy of the sunset. The light was leaving me. I snapped a few more shots. The click of the shutter was always a soothing noise.

I sorted through them in frustration.

He leaned in closer to get a better look at the photos I was flicking through. “Those are really good,” he said, his voice belaying way more appreciation than they deserved.

I blew hair out of my eyes, and inched away from him, “No, they’re really not, they're disappointing.”

He laughed. “Well I’d have to disagree." He nudged me with the still-hot thermos. "Not that I know much about this kind of thing, but they’re pretty and that’s kind of the point, right?”

I glared at him. “Not quite."

“It’s not?” He squinted at me and pulled a small stack of Styrofoam cups out of his hoodie pocket. He held one out to me and I reluctantly took it.

“Is this sanitary?” I inspected the cup for any unsavory additions.

He smiled, his white teeth gleaming in the now dim light. “Probably not.” He poured a generous amount of steaming milk tea into my cup.

The warmth spread quickly to my red fingers, I hadn’t even realized how cold it was. I took a careful sip, it was more milk than tea, but it warmed me up.

I watched the sun disappear taking all of the colors with it. “I missed it.”

He quirked an eyebrow at me. “What did you miss?”

I clicked my lens cap on, “The sunset... Everything.”

“You got plenty of pictures of it.” He looked confused, as he squinted at the sky with me.

I shrugged, “I didn’t capture it. I never seem to do that... the pictures don’t do it justice.”

“What exactly are you trying to capture?”  He asked, punctuating his question with a loud slurp of tea.

I dodged his gaze and focused on the now navy blue sky. “The horizon.”

Tied Third Place - Conrad
Thoughts from Melissa: Both mysterious and engaging, this piece captured me straight away. It's poised in the moment of a life-changing decision, with a killer last line that had me hungering for more.

     He leaped from rock to rock. The years had hardened him. 
     He was not a child anymore.
     He smirked at the frantic cries in the valley behind him. “No longer,” he whispered.
     He slowed as he reached the crest of the ridge, no longer defiant. The place he dreamed of standing for years now felt frightening and unknown. Where was the moment of glory, of achievement?
     He glanced behind him and saw “them”  searching for him, their cries now changed to whimpers. Shaking his head,  he tried to move on but his feet felt like lead. He looked at the crest that had for so long been the line between heaven and earth, the place of  a lifetime of sunsets.
     What if something large and frightening lay on the other side? He shuddered, but even worse, what if nothing lay on the other side.? 
     Collapsing to his knees, he put his head in his hands. Was it better to have the joy of a dream or to take the risk of testing its reality? He didn’t know. He had never known.
     He had never been able to escape before. Their soft little hands had always gently but firmly pulled him back. Why did he think this time would be any different? Did he even want this time to be different?
     He looked back again at the little creatures milling around, then pulled himself up . He was so close. Or maybe he was farther than he had ever been. 
     Raising his eyes to the starry sky  and the unblinking moon, he murmured, “If something, or someone, is out there... help!” 
    He stood. Did he feel stronger? He didn’t know. The line between imagination and reality had disappeared long ago, if there had ever been a reality. 
    He took another step. One more and he would glimpse what was on the other side. 
    Which was better, imaginary beauty or painful reality? 
     Maybe there was such a thing as beautiful pain.
     He knew his dreams had only been beautiful because of the hope of reality. A dream without hope  was like a mist that would just be blown away by the winds of time.
     If his dreams were destroyed by what was on the other side of the horizon, they weren’t worth having anyway.  
     He felt a new sensation now, peace spreading throughout his body where peace had never been. He was afraid of being unafraid, of letting down his guard, but all those thoughts and feelings slowly trickled away, replaced by peace. 
     He smiled. 
     Had he ever done that before? He didn’t know, but he knew that he liked it. 
     Here he stood, on the fine line between two worlds. One step would set his destiny. What had happened to the fear that had once plagued him? 
    Taking a breath,  he stepped forward,  sending tremors through the only life he had ever known. 

Second Place: Emily G. 
Thoughts from Melissa: This piece was so much fun to read and was the perfect blend of high stakes and adventure. A lot of character was revealed in the few lines of dialogue and the ending had me on the edge of my seat. I wanted more! If you'd like to keep up with Emily's writing, she blogs over at The Ones that Really Matter and is on Instagram @bookwieldingemily. 


Sail Far Enough
Legend says you can catch the horizon. What legend fails to mention is that the horizon just might catch you first. ​

I can see that now, as I stand in the dead of night clutching the sides of our stolen ship. The starry sky bulges like a canvas, as if someone on the other side is trying to break through. And the ocean roars beneath us, rushes up fifteen feet over the stern and pushes us forward.​

A few days ago, this had seemed a fantastic plan: sail through untouched waters, so far that eventually, the place where the water and sky meet begins to grow closer. And once we reach that point, reap the abundant riches said to be found there. ​

Sounded like a pretty good deal for four lowly orphan boys. Kids of eighteen who can no longer live in the orphanage, but have no money to survive outside of it. ​

"Vinn!" ​

I turn to see Fal standing across from me, throwing a crate over the side of the ship and motioning for me to start doing the same. I look down at the cargo rolling around on the floor and reach out with one hand, unwilling to let go of the ship with the other. ​

I hear a grunt and look up. Tomman is at the helm, trying to steer us out of danger. He's the best man for the job, yet even he struggles. ​

No wonder, with sky and sea literally reaching out to grab us. ​

"This is crazy," Tomman yells, shaking the wet hair out of his eyes. "Why did we think this was a good idea?"​

Ralloren, standing at his side, stumbles then rights himself. "Of course it's crazy!" he says. "We always knew that!"​

The words of the old legend suddenly enter my mind. Sail far enough, and you can catch the horizon. ​

My hands clench into fists. Ralloren's right. We didn't know what we were getting into, yet we decided to try anyway. Now we're here, and we can't let this opportunity go. ​

"Tomman!" I shout. "Stop!"​

Tomman throws a brief look over his shoulder, the incredulity clear on his face. "Did you smuggle some rum on board after all, Vinn?" ​

"We've come this far!" I edge toward him and clamp a hand down on his shoulder. "We can't just turn back!" ​

He looks at me, uncertainty in his eyes. ​

"We wanted to catch the horizon, right? Well, we won't if we run away from the challenge! This journey was about courage, going where nobody's been before, right?"

"Yeah!" Ralloren nods eagerly. "We've got nothing to lose but our pride!"​

I turn to see Fal joining us. "I'm in," he says.​

Tomman hesitates. Then suddenly he releases the wheel. A great wave pitches us all to the floor. I look up to see the stars grow closer and wrap around the back of our ship to meet the rising waves.​

We all look at each other. "Here we go," Ralloren says, grinning. ​
The sea calms and our ship glides forward, as if there had never been a struggle at all.​

"Us and the horizon, catching each other," I say in wonder. Before us, a rift opens up between the water and the sky, spilling light into our path.

First Place: Kayla Stoltzfus
Thoughts From Melissa: Kayla's story immediately hooked me with its gorgeous prose contrasted with the horrors of the scene. There's a deep and challenging undertone and theme to the story that had me thinking long after I first read it. So much is packed within so few words.


The Train Will Come
     I reach, yearning for the brightness, for the strip of light they call dawn. For years I have sought it, longed for it. My fingers brush the light, but just as I grasp it, a whistle shatters the stillness. It’s that train again. The train that always passes by with its wretched human cargo, their hands wriggling out between the slats, reaching for hope. 

     It always happens. Just as I touch the horizon, as I nearly have my dream in my hands, the train comes with its wailing load of humanity. The first few times I saw it, it touched me, and I sacrificed my dream to deliver bread and water to dirty, chapped hands. 

     Now my dream has become a reality. I hold the dawn with white knuckled fists, a tenuous relationship between human and infinite. Light oozes out between my fingers, softening the train’s iron contours and falling on filthy, grasping hands. 

     I draw the light toward me, hugging it, reveling in the warmth. 

     A church stands beside the tracks, all warm wood and stained glass. It’s Easter Sunday, and the building is full, the singing almost as beautiful as the light I hold in my hands. 

     Don’t they hear the cries of the hopeless that languish just outside their door? Why don’t they do something?

     As the wailing grows louder, the saints raise their voices, drowning it out. They sing for an impossibly long time, long after I know the pastor should be sermonizing. 

     They are waiting for the train to leave. Don’t they know it never leaves before sunset? They should, as it is like this every Sunday. Eventually, the singing stops and the pastor starts in. His voice is rich and soothing, but it does not soothe the wounded humanity trapped in with their own sweat and tears. 

     I cradle my pulsing armload of light, not caring to hear what he has to say. Sunset will eventually steal my dream away, but for now I relish my time with it. 

     Time flies by, and before I know it, the church empties. People stream out, and several actually pause to stare at the train. One little boy holds out a crusty piece of bread he digs out of his pocket, but his mother pulls him away, covering his ears from the moans and wails. 

     I look away, shaking my head. Someone should help those wretched souls.

     Hours later, the churchgoers have all gone on to their large houses and Sunday afternoon naps. Shadows creep across the sky, and my dream slips away. 

     The whistle blows. As the train disappears over the horizon, I chastise myself for feeling guilty.

     It will come again, like it always does.

     Won’t it?


Please join me in congratulating the winners!! If you didn't place, please know that I enjoyed every single submission and it was so hard to choose between all of them. May your words continue to develop and shine! <3

When I attended a panel of the NSW Premier Literary Award winners a few days ago, one of them took an interesting standpoint; that craft, ab...

When I attended a panel of the NSW Premier Literary Award winners a few days ago, one of them took an interesting standpoint; that craft, above all else, is what creates great fiction. There was a lot of disagreement and mixed opinions in the audience, some saying that creativity is all in the subconscious, others trying to find a middle ground between the ideas.

It got me thinking about what I believe makes great writing. Does it come from talent, practice, or something in between? Great writing is subjective and what constitutes it is a post for another time, but for now let's define it as writing that you love and stories you want to visit again and again.



Talent

There are some authors that are superstars. They're the authors everyone has heard of, the household names, with stories that become fandoms and movies and TV shows, and generate more Bookstagram posts than you can count. They shoot to the top of the bestseller lists and have raving fans. These authors... it seems like they've just got it

I think there are definitely people who are naturally talented in writing. They're the children who spin stories from a young age, with wild imaginations, who curl up in the corner with a notebook. Everyone has different gifts, and one of those might be an affinity for words. Just as some children can pick up an instrument and master it in a few weeks instead of years, talent and natural ability also applies to writing.

The problem with assigning all great writing to the result of talent is that it negates all the work that author or writer put into improving their story. It's dismissive of the author's efforts and hard work. They might have had a step up through being born with a gift, but gifts don't manifest completely by themselves. They have to be nurtured and built upon, or they'll never be realised.


Practice

This is what almost every post with writing advice focuses on; the rules, the structures, the ideas to get writers looking back at their manuscripts, and reworking them until they're clean and polished. Practice is writing, then rewriting, then writing again. It's looking hard at what they've produced before, analysing it, and seeing what they can do better.

Practice is craft. It's getting feedback and beating out the story as if its molten metal, shaping it in the heat of the forge.  There is definitely something to be said about how practice creates great writing; the more a piece of art is looked at and refined, the clearer and often more beautiful it is to those who consume it. As they say, practice makes perfect. 

Almost every first draft a writer produces, talented or not, will never be amazing and without flaws. Not to mention everyone's first stories are... cringey, as the general consensus goes. That's where practice and revision come in to save the day. We have to be careful, however, not to neglect experimentation and inspiration in favour of practice; then we follow already written scripts, tying in tropes and rigid structure without allowing creativity to settle in.


We Need Both?

I think that while both talent and practice are essential to great pieces of writing, a better way to put it might be this: you need craft and creativity. Writing is a mesh of structure and the colours inbetween, it's both the canvas and the paint, the recipe and the dish. It's necessary to be careful when throwing words around like 'talent', for if that's championed above everything else, it will push so many writers away.

Hard work and passion, a love for writing, and a commitment to becoming better at it; these are the things that makes great writing. If a talented writer never bothers to edit their stories, the writing won't be great, it will be half-baked. Talent is a stepping stone, but it doesn't stretch across the whole river; there will still be swimming, whether you take the stone's path or not.

Writing requires practice, a willingness to learn, passion, and creativity. When they join together and the writer puts in both their love and their willingness to work, that's when great writing is produced. 



Where do you think great writing comes from? Do you agree or disagree with me? What elements make up great writing?
Have a wonderful day, and best wishes with your writing! <3