Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guestopia: Emily Wenstrom

How to Write like a Reader
by Emily Wenstrom

When you are writing, how much time do you spend thinking like your target reader, versus thinking about being a writer? It’s easy to get caught up in the process.

There's tons of tips out there to help us “read like writers” and learn straight from the masters’ work--but these articles have never really helped me. Like a lot of writers, I already pick apart everything I read and overthink every line I write.

One of the best things you can do for your writing, I think, is to write more like readers. After all, who are you writing for? Most of us are writing to be read.

How do you do it? It's easier than it sounds:


Know your audience. Gender. Age. What else they do in their free time. Your writing is not for everyone. You don't want it to be. Anything bland enough for everyone to approve of it is not worth your time. Learn all you can about your target reader group.

Immerse yourself in other books for your audience. Let the mentality of these books sink into you. The more you expose yourself to other successful works in your genre, the more you will intuit the styles, techniques and plot devices that your audience will enjoy--because it will be the same as you YOU will enjoy.

Get inspired. Put all that reading to work to get your creative juices flowing.


Listen to your instincts. Don't bother rationalizing…if your gut tells you something is or isn't working, trust it. This your informed judgment speaking, paying you back for all that reading you did. Overthinking is a classic writer challenge—stop. Trust your gut.

Put plot and character first. If your writing is true to the tone of these two basic elements, it will resonate. Never, ever prioritize pretty prose over these key components.

Stop thinking. Just write write write write write. Keep those fingers marching right along there, no time to stop and smell the roses. Don't worry, we'll be back. For now, just get those ideas on paper.


Forget it's yours. I know. There's an anxious writer-you in your head who is dying to re-open that manuscript and see if it likes what's there. Don't let that writer-you anywhere near it. Tie her up if you have to, gag her, lock her in a closet. Give yourself a few weeks to mentally separate from your draft.

Put. The computer. Down. When you read for enjoyment, how do you do it? If you read on paper, print your manuscript out in two columns in landscape mode and fold it over like a book. Even easier, if you read ebooks, PDF it and open it on your ereader of choice. Do NOT read it on your computer. It's too easy to get stuck in editing mode. Just use a notepad for now.

Okay, let that writer-you back out now. I might be picking on the writer-you a little, but she's still important! Using your notes, go back through the manuscript and make the updates to address the reader-you's feedback.

Repeat until done.
It seems safe to say that all writers started as readers. And yet we rarely bring that mentality to our own work. And yet, channeling that genuine love of story is a natural path to an enjoyable book.

You need the writer in you, too … but the writer can sometimes get in your way. By keeping the reader-you at the forefront, you will never forget who you're writing for.

Emily Wenstrom is the editor of wordhaus, a weekly short story ezine. She also blogs about creativity for writers, artists and professionals at Creative Juicer. Follow her on Twitter at @emilywenstrom and @wordhaus.


  1. Knowing your audience via reading books written for them is just invaluable!

  2. Thanks Johanna. To me, that one's always been the easiest part, because I write the books I'd want to read myself, so I'm already reading books for my audience. Makes the whole process more fun, in my opinion!

  3. It kind of gave me a laugh how your post was very pep-talkish and then at the end you're just staring at us like do you understand or do I have to repeat myeslf, lol. Great suggestions, thanks for the post!

  4. Oi, I need to update my headshot. I'm nicer than I look, I swear.