Horror and guts just ain’t my thing. I don’t tend to read much of it and I sure as heck don’t write it.
“But what about the zombies, Angela? You can’t possibly write a zombie western romance without some horror and guts?”
Okay, you caught me. Maybe I do write an itty-bitty amount of horror and guts, but NOTHING like Stephen King. That’s a ball field I’m just not comfortable playing on—I’m at T-ball level, and he’s playing pro. And I’m okay with that. I’m comfortable where I am.
So why in the world would I say that Stephen King’s book “On Writing” is about the best gosh darn book about writing that you can get your hands on, especially since I don’t tend to read his fiction work? Because it is. It’s the best I’ve ever come across. I had actually borrowed it from a writing buddy of mine and after reading it, I decided to purchase my own. I HAD to have it. Yes, people it’s that good. I highly recommend you read it, regardless of the horror aspect behind King’s name. No matter your genre, pick it up and give it a good once over. But if I were a betting kinda girl, I’d say you’ll read it several times.
In his book, Stephen King talks about having an “Ideal Reader” or that one specific person you most want to impress with your work. Now, don’t confuse this with your whole intended audience (though you should probably have that in mind as well), but instead, it’s that one special somebody in your life who you know is going to tell you like it is and give you the feedback you need (or in my case, crave). It’s that one person who will let you know when you have a big ol’ nasty piece of green broccoli stuck in your teeth so you don’t look like a complete fool.
For Mr. King, his “Ideal Reader” (I.R.) is his wife, Tabitha. “Someone—I can’t remember who, for the life of me—once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, “I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?”.” (From On Writing)
Think the idea of an I.R. is weird? Mr. King also goes on to explain how even Mr. Alfred Hitchcock had an I.R. as well, his wife, Alma, who helped catch a mighty big flaw in the movie production of Psycho—Janet Leigh swallows when she’s supposed to be dead. Pretty good catch, huh? Talk about broccoli in the teeth.
Now, the trend in this blog seems to be that spouses make for a very good I.R. So you would naturally assume that my I.R. would be my wonderful husband.
Well, you’d be wrong. Real wrong.
If cynical old men were my target, then yes, he’d be perfect. But as it goes, that’s not my intended audience at all. Also, his overall “Debbie Downer” attitude is not a good fit for me when it comes to my writing process. I love him, but I don’t want him reading my stuff. Besides, whenever I happen to slipup (having a momentary brain cramp) and ask him his opinion on a plot idea I might have, his answers are usually so ridiculous it causes me physical pains (headaches). Okay, he’s not that bad, but I’m telling ya, it ain’t good either. It’s much better having him as an oblivious cheerleader in the background. He can root for me without reading anything I’ve written—just where I want him.
My I.R. is my good friend and writing gal-pal, Diana. She’s not afraid to tell me that horizontal stripes make me look fat—and I LOVE it (in the literary sense). If my characters are flat, she’ll tell me. If my plot twists don’t twist, she’ll call me out on it.
All I know, is that if she didn’t laugh at dialogue that needed laughed at or cringe at a particularly awful scene that was cringe worthy, then I need to go back to the drawing board. Her knowledge and input is as valuable to me as gold. No joke.
There have been several times in which I sent off a chapter of my WIP, thinking I did a pretty good job, *Pats self on the back,*only to have it sent back to me with a preface that says, “Please don’t hate me, but . . .”
Do my feelings get hurt? Yep. Sure I do—but for only a moment. Once I stop and take a look at what she’s saying, I realize that she’s right (Darn you, Diana!). She’s usually 100% correct. Whenever I go back and rework it, I find it’s so much better than the first time.
I have my beta readers. I have my critique group. I wouldn’t know what to do without them and their valuable (very valuable) input. But it is Diana that I makes me do as Stephen King and “. . . wonder what she’ll think when she reads this part.”
Diana is my quality control. She won’t let me make a fool of myself and send out a query letter or manuscript with broccoli in its teeth. She's got my back.
Do you have an Ideal Reader? Tell me all about them. Give 'em a shoutout.