What Readers Want

One of the distinct pleasures of interviews after publishing a book is the chance to chat with someone who's read the book and asks questions about these imaginary friends you're missing. 

That's a new roof!

Every interview/conversation is different, because people have unique needs for their own media outlet, but some questions overlap. As a result, I'm getting better at describing what my book is about and how it started and why it's stayed with me. 

And at last I'm finally developing a better understanding why publishers and others in the book community ask the question, "What would you like readers to take away from this book?"

It feels presumptuous to prescribe what a reader might take away from my book. But that's also, in a way, why I work at the book in the first place. 

I may begin a writing project because it's interesting to me or pushes me artistically. I may stay with it because I'm trying to figure something out, and I'm nearly there. I may complete a draft and revise it a few times to make sure I'm comfortable and pleased with it.

But at some point, writers (or maybe I should just say "I"?) have to start thinking about connecting with a reader. Will readers understand the mechanics of the storyline? Does the text leading up to a difficult moment make that moment plausible and evoke the emotion I'm trying to convey?

And yet. Until I was in the position of describing both of my books, I hadn't really thought about a reader's takeaway specifically. Now I can see that as much as I write to understand something, I also write so that what I'm writing about can be understood. And that requires a reader, one I treat with respect and care. 

I'm starting, as I work on my next novel and a newish nonfiction project, to wonder about the reader's experience earlier in the process. Not so early that thoughts of "who do you think you are to write?" and "nobody will care about this" prevent me from starting. But anyway, earlier. 

Is this insight earth-shattering? Probably not. Heck, maybe I've known all this ::waves hands:: stuff about readers and writers and writing before. If so, I'm pleased to learn it again, more deeply or personally or otherwise differently. And I'm grateful for these chances to learn.