Every book on writing says “Think about the reader” – and of course that’s essential, to think about what they need to know and how you need to say it. The content you choose and the way you write depends on who you’re talking to. In practice, though, how do you do that? Simple: look at them. Pictures of real people you really know. Writing can sometimes feel difficult, but communicating is effortlessly human. It’s part of what defines us as human. The throes of unrequited love aside, it’s usually easier to explain what we mean when we’re talking to a human face. So here’s how to do it.
If you’ve done your prep-work on your book, you know who your target markets are. Jot down the main types. For instance, if you’re writing for small businesses, some will be owners, some will be employed managers, some will have staff, some will be one-woman-bands, some will be starting up, some will be established already… Get down all the main types you’re writing for.
Now think about real people – friends, clients, family. Find a real person for each type of reader you’re talking to. Next, get pictures of these real people’s faces. (LinkedIn and Facebook make this bit a cinch, so you don’t even need to hide in the bushes outside their house with a camera.) Print the pictures out, onto real paper, ideally in colour. Stick them up in front of your desk. (If you don’t write at your desk, stick them on the front of your writing-notebook or anything else that’s omnipresent while you write.) Now, every time you look up thoughtfully, wondering what else to say and how to say it, their happy expectant faces will look back at you.