On Writing What Interests You

The biggest mistake I see new writers making is writing about what is “popular.” People get confused when they hear the advice that they should only write about what is going to get the most clicks, or some variation of this advice.

I personally don’t believe that. Every writer should start in the exact same place: writing about what interests them the most. You can spend a year writing about productivity and mindfulness and morning routines, because those are extremely popular topics online right now. But if you don’t care about any of these things, you’re going to be miserable. And as a result, you become much more likely to quit within your first year of trying to break into writing professionally.

Everyone is interested in different things – some a variety of things, which can make it difficult to pick just one niche to establish a presence in. You’re not the only one with a particular interest though – your niche is called a niche because other people are interested in reading what you have to say about a common interest. It may be a very small niche – but size doesn’t matter. Quality does.

Not everyone is going to think everything you write is interesting. You have to write about your interests – why would you waste your time writing about things that don’t matter to you? – but you might love writing about the moon, while half of your potential readers couldn’t care less about anything having to do with space.

When people say you have to write about what people want to read, they don’t mean there are things you’re not allowed to write about. They’re talking about making important considerations like audience and purpose. You should always consider your audience before writing about something you think is cool. I am interested in writing about biology, but I do not write about that here, because that’s not what you’re here for (at least, I don’t think so).

This doesn’t mean I can’t write about that subject at all, ever. Just not in this place, for these people. It’s a completely different niche.

When you write about what you’re interested in, you’re more productive, you might find it easier to focus, and you’ll just be happier overall. Starting out, your own level of interest relates directly to your dedication and the quality/quantity of your work. That is much more important than how many clicks you get. Gathering a faithful, interested audience – people who will stick around, share your writing and interact with you – is the key to growth and success in writing.

Write what you love. Stick with it. Your “people” will find you. They will change your life. Stop writing about what you think other people will care about and produce the content you want to – then reach out to those who will want to engage with it. THAT is how it’s done. If your heart’s not in it, no one else will stick around, either.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

What You Want to Write About vs. What Other People Want to Read

What do people want from you?


You have been told time and again that writing for a specific audience is the key to writing content that resonates with a certain group of people. But what happens when you want to write about something no one else wants to read about?

Here’s the truth: SOMEONE wants to read about it. They just haven’t found you yet.

Do you ever feel like you can never seem to produce content people actually care about? Does that ever affect what you write about, or how often you write? Let’s take a closer look at how much ‘writing to please’ really doesn’t matter like you thought it does.

What do people want?

Even I am guilty of still asking this question, so don’t feel embarrassed for scratching your head when this comes up. My involvement with the Internet  Creator’s Guild has completely changed my perspective in the past few months, however. Worrying about what your audience wants to read is only part of the equation. Probably the most important variable when you’re writing something is to start with what matters to you.

In reality, what matters more than trying to please every member of your audience is making sure you are creating content you personally care about. Yes, of course you don’t want to give people what they don’t want. Everyone struggles with this, especially early on. But you also don’t want to unenthusiastically give people what they want, either. Readers can tell when your heart’s not in it. They don’t want your halfhearted effort – not the ones who truly respect and enjoy your content for what it is, anyway.

Those who resonate with you will stick with you

You already know (especially if you’re a long-time reader, or have been brave enough to venture through my archives)  that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. I have a loose background in journalism. I approach content creation with the philosophy that any topic I approach should look at both sides, facts, and a mix of opinions that have actual substance. So to me, writing something just because I think people will like it seems kind of ridiculous, and completely pointless.

Whatever you have to say, whatever you’re writing about, of course there are going to be people who don’t agree or don’t really care for a specific topic or opinion. But there are, as you can probably guess, two sides to this. Because there are also going to be people who DO care, who DO find what you’re saying relatable, who WILL stick with you and continuously read what you have to say. Passion is what beckons a following, not an obsessive eagerness to please every single person who happens upon your content.

Is there such thing as balance here?

Yes and no. There is a way to write about what you want to write about and still create content that draws people in. If you do this long enough, you’ll figure out that people don’t always show up because of WHAT you are writing about. They show up because they are genuinely interested in your writing, and what you have to say. In some cases, they’ll actually want to have conversations with you … which is pretty cool. The internet, if you’re lucky enough to be able to create your own pocket of positivity and intellectual discussion amid the noise, is awesome.

So I suppose the question we should really be asking is: how do people want content presented to them?

  • Your audience wants to be talked about. They care about themselves … so talking about yourself in passing is okay, but they don’t want to read about you. Your life might be totally awesome, but honestly, people who don’t know you don’t really care.
  • They like bullet points. And big bold headings.
  • They want to be told what to do and why. Actionable content is the best most effective content.
  • Therefore, if you’re writing fiction, gosh darn it, give people a reason to read it.
  • They want to be given a chance to respond. They want their voices to be heard, too. Calls to action. Use them.
  • If you’re writing about current events or something science-y (that’s a word now), be insightful. Facts are boring. Give those facts context. Give examples. Tell a story. All those things you learned in school, they weren’t all for nothing.

The bottom line: If you want people to resonate with what you are publishing, put in all the effort you can to write and structure it well. Let your passion for a specific topic drive you forward. Be relatable and conversational. And don’t try to please people. They don’t like that. Your audience wants to be challenged. They truly are interested in your point of view. Don’t worry if people don’t “like” you. Like what you’re doing, and you will over time gain an audience of people who really like that you like what you’re doing.

How do you balance writing what you are interested in with writing about what other people are interested in? What have you found to be the hardest part about this?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

People Who “Don’t Read” Aren’t Worth Your Time

Q: How do you convince non-readers they need to read books?


How do you get people to read who claim they “don’t read”?

I have struggled with this question for a long time. As someone who grew up reading dozens of books every year, it has always amazed me that my younger brother just isn’t a reader. He’s a great student and writer when he puts effort into things, but the only time I’ve really seen or heard him read or talk about a book he was reading was when he took a nine-hour flight to Europe and bought a book at the airport to give himself something to do.

In the back of my mind, I have always wondered if it’s possible to write a book so intriguing, so inspiring and appetizing, that someone like my brother, who never reads for fun, would pick it up and read it anyway.

Earlier this week, I finally figured out the answer to this question.

Q: How do you convince non-readers they need to read books?

A: You don’t.

As writers, it isn’t our job to convince people to start reading. Not exactly. It’s our job to write good stories, with round plots and characters and relatable conflicts and exaggerated actions and consequences. It’s our job to read books written by other writers and show our support for them. It’s our job to show, not tell, how meaningful reading is to thought, opinion and existence.

This all started when a frustrated Facebook user commented on an article with a vague headline something to the effect of, “Nobody reads articles anymore. They read headlines.” I responded, with no chill as always, “I read articles all the time (smiling emoji).” It made me feel better, but it didn’t change anything. That person is still going to whine about not wanting to read anything on her own time. It’s a similar idea with books. I can talk all I want about how much I love to read fiction. That doesn’t solve the problem.

Do you know what else doesn’t solve the problem? Thinking a story we write is going to instead. We all want our stories to matter. We all want them to have a huge impact on the world. It’s a completely normal aspiration. And it might have great influence on people who already love to read. It isn’t necessarily the same case for people who already don’t.

Nothing you write is going to make people who “don’t read” suddenly want to start reading. That doesn’t mean you don’t have an amazing story to tell or that it isn’t well-written. You can’t waste your time, resources and energy on people who aren’t interested.

Your main focus should always hover over your audience. Your target audience might be teenagers, but instead of focusing on all teens, you should instead focus only on teens who read. This might seem a little backwards, but stick with us, it makes sense.

I don’t know why people don’t read. It is something I will never understand. But that doesn’t mean I can, or should, or do, spend all my time running around begging people to read if they don’t want to read. People are influenced by their friends and acquaintances much more than they are by authority figures (it’s a marketing thing – see, school does teach you stuff you never thought would be useful). So people who don’t usually read aren’t going to rush to buy my new book if/when it gets published. However, their friends who read might say, “This book is amazing!” And they might reply, “Oh, I don’t really read, but everyone’s talking about it. Maybe I’ll give it a try.”

(That’s not to say anything I publish will ever be that amazing; I haven’t even finished writing my current novel yet, and judging by the first draft, I’m not sure how far in the process I’ll get.)

You have to let the story do the talking. You have to live the life of a bibliophile and live it proud. But don’t waste time trying to bring non-readers away from the dark side. Let your book-loving audience carry that urgent need to read everywhere they go. And keep on writing.

Image courtesy of Marketa/Flickr.

Your Audience Has a Problem. They Need Your Help

The best way to ignore your audience’s needs is to give them content that doesn’t help them.


Every person who views content online has their own reasons for it. A lot of times, your readers will have a problem they’re trying to solve. You might be helping them more than you know. Here’s how you can do this with more effectiveness, and confidence, too.

There are only a few reasons people view online content

The best way to ignore your audience’s needs is to give them content that doesn’t help them. To understand that, you have to first understand why people view content online, whether it be reading blogs or magazines or other websites, watching videos, listening to audio, viewing photos, etc.

People often want to be entertained. Or they want to read something they can relate to (which is why BuzzFeed has nailed those listicles so well). Or they have a question or a problem, and they’re on the hunt for a useful, actionable answer or solution, whether that be in the form of information or straightforward advice, with step-by-step instructions (preferably in bullet points or bolded subheadings, so they don’t have to read the whole article. Not bitter or anything).

What you have to say actually matters

At times it can feel like you write a lot of general how-tos and the like, which can’t possibly help every single person the same way. It feels like what you’re writing really doesn’t matter that much. But to the readers who are served or reassured or entertained, it might mean the world.

They need you. Maybe not you, specifically, but the advice you have to give. You may not be an expert, but if you’re writing about it, you must know something. That’s good enough for them. They just need someone to understand them, to put into words what they’re thinking. Someone to offer a solution they haven’t heard before, or to reinforce what they’ve already been told but maybe aren’t quite sure they believe.

Here’s the best way to be helpful

You don’t know the majority of the people that will stumble upon your work. You don’t know their specific circumstances nor can you give anything other than general advice to your entire audience as a whole (in most cases). So how in the world are you supposed to be helpful, knowing these things?

You have to close your eyes and picture the person who might click on the piece you’re writing. What do they need to hear? What, deep down, are they truly hoping to learn or what truth do they need to have reinforced? Or do they just need to get away from it all for a little while, with a good old-fashioned distraction? The kind of content you put out will determine, in general, what need you will usually expect to fulfill.

Picture that one person and use that to guide you. This means you won’t be able to cater to everyone’s specific situation individually, but that’s to be expected. They’ll get more specific in a comment if they want to, and that’s totally valid. A lot of times, it’s up to you to bring up the subject, to give your audience something to work with. It’s okay if they take it into their own hands and build off of it, in a good way. You want that. It means you’re doing something helpful, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Even if you only ever help one person, it’s worth it. Don’t you think?

Image courtesy of clin-edge.com.

How to Show Your YA Readers You Respect Their Intelligence


(For the purpose of this post, if you don’t have any readers yet, imagine you have them. A lot of then.)

Your readers are smart. When they’re searching for books to read outside of school, they want to read stories that are entertaining, intriguing and mentally stimulating. Every reader has different genre and style preferences, but when it comes to reading, everyone has one major thing in common: they do not want to be narrated down to, intellectually speaking.

If you want your YA readers to respect you and your work, you have to respect them, too. They’ll be quick to turn away from books written by authors who avoid storylines, themes and even language they don’t think a teenager can handle (think of Twilight or The Hunger Games, books a lot of people liked, but who many bashed for their over-simplicity in some areas).

Here’s how to write the stories you want, while simultaneously showing your readers you respect and value their intelligence.

Don’t give them straight answers

Readers don’t need all the answers to figure out what’s written between the lines. Not only do writers need to leave some questions unanswered (no matter how many might complain – you can’t please everyone), but writers also don’t need to answer all raised questions straightaway.

Smart readers, remember? They will either figure it out on their own – or, even better – they might actually start a discussion about it with other people who have read the same story to help fill in the gaps.

Make your story deep and complex

Subconsciously, writers sometimes shy away from certain story elements. This happens for a lot of reasons: sometimes it’s a personal thing, or a writer decides the particular theme or event is better suited for a different story. But sometimes, without realizing it, we put a certain idea to bed because we’re not sure if it’s right for our audience.

Of course you’re going to avoid going too deep if your story is geared toward younger readers, but here’s the thing about YA’s main audience – young teenagers: they are hungry for intellectual stimulation. (My brother is 16. The thing he hates most about school is not feeling like his teachers are challenging him enough – he does not want to sit there at his desk feeling dumb.) The best thing you can do for this audience is to go as deep and complex as you need to in order for the story to have its full effect. Don’t think your readers can’t handle it. They need to be given the chance to handle it before anyone should be able to decide to take it away from them.

Create smart, relatable characters

Not every character you create should be genius-smart, but don’t make them intellectually dull, either. Think realistically here. Not everyone has the same “intellectual gifts.” Someone who’s not great at math might be really good at figuring out how computers work regardless. Everyone expresses intelligence in their own way, whether it be through reading or science or pop culture (yes, it counts). Your characters should reflect that.

Readers need to believe the time they’re spending on a book has value, and if the characters they’re getting to know just don’t give them any personality to look up to or appreciate, it’s going to hurt a lot more than it helps.

Writing is about those reading the words just as much as it is about the person writing them. Treat your readers like the smart, innovative people they are. Make them feel represented and appreciated. Crush stereotypes. Give them the voice they feel they don’t have. That’s the kind of book, and author, they are looking for. We want people to read more. We have to pay attention to their needs first.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

[DISCUSSION] If No One Else Ever Read What You Wrote, Would You Still Write?


When first asked this question alongside hundreds of other writers, probably in a forum somewhere or in a Tumblr thread, I was convinced I knew the answer for sure. Of course I would still write: writing is my life.

But as I learned more about how to separate my different writing styles to fit different audiences and genres of writing, I realized quickly that as much as I would love for others to read what I was writing, no one really was. No one really is now, either. Yet I keep writing. I keep waking up every morning telling myself, “You’re going to write today,” and I always do.

I keep writing, even when no one is reading. Does that mean, if it were guaranteed no one would ever read a single word I wrote ever again, that I would keep writing anyway?

Lately, it’s difficult to say for sure. There is a small flame of satisfaction that burns inside every writer when they get a hit on their website or a compliment in a forum. A comment on an article, good or not so good, at least means someone is reading. That’s often better than nothing. After all, don’t we always write for an audience regardless of where our words are going to end up?

It gets tiring after awhile, writing and writing and writing without feedback or any indicator at all that someone’s paying attention. But as exhausting as it does become day after day, I don’t think writing without a foreseeable audience should be enough to make us stop writing if we’re attached enough to our craft.

Can it be proven that just because no one is reading your work, the universe is telling you that your work isn’t good enough to be read?

No, of course not. And maybe there are writers out there who don’t want anyone to read their work, and go out of their way to make sure it doesn’t happen.

I’m not one of those people, though sometimes I wish I were. I journal every day, though, and that’s my one chance to write only for myself, probably about things I would prefer not to share with an audience. I use that as my private outlet.

But I have my public outlets too—this site and other random places I’ve published articles and blog posts, for the sake of developing my skills and showcasing that I can write anywhere, about anything, that I’m not just stuck in one place writing about the same things over and over again.

If I didn’t have those things, if I only had my journal and kept a blog set to private and never tried publishing anywhere else, would that be enough?

Writing is as much a part of me as any of the tissues and organs (and awesome, DFTBA) that make up my existence. Once, at a point in my life I wouldn’t revisit if you paid the rest of my student loans and future tuition, I stopped journaling. And back then, that and the blog I kept that had an average of 2.5 readers at any given point in time, was all I had.

I wonder, sometimes still, if I stopped writing because I was miserable or became miserable because I stopped writing.

I like to think I’ll never stop writing, even if people stop reading. Which is likely: I’m not always very confident that what I’m putting out there is necessarily helpful to my intended audience all the time, and where audiences are concerned, if they’re not benefiting from the material, they stop seeking it out.

You’re still learning, with every piece of writing you develop, even if you keep it to yourself. You don’t need someone else to be there to critique it or comment on it or share it. Those things only help; they’re not necessary. But I don’t think I would be where I am today, working toward a professional writing career, if I had just one day decided to keep everything to myself.

I don’t write to get noticed, I don’t write for the sake of writing something for the fun of it. I do write to help people, communicate messages and (hopefully) start conversations. So I’ll end this rant with a question. And I think you already know what I’m going to ask.

If no one else ever read what you wrote, would you still write?

Would you still play with words?

Would it still be worth it to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or should I say, read your words. Go on. Compose your words of wisdom, as the comment box politely requests. Don’t be shy. I’m not a robot. I really will read what you have to say.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

We Shouldn’t Try to Make Every Reader Happy


 Book discussions would be awfully short and less fulfilling if everyone had the exact same reaction to every story.

As a reader, you want to dive into stories that pull you away from the present and into someone else’s world. As a writer, you want to give your readers that privilege. Often, though, it becomes tempting to want to shape your story in such a way that pleases anyone and everyone who might pick it up.

The problem with this? You can’t please everyone. You shouldn’t even try. And there are some pretty amazing reasons why.

Everyone reads for different reasons 

While reading always allows for a temporary escape, not everyone picks up a book—or the same types of books—for identical reasons. Some prefer light, easy “beach reads” to fill the small interval of time between evening and bedtime. Some read to learn—yes, even when it’s not required. Some like fluffy romance novels. Some need a good mystery, maybe with or without a happy ending, to satisfy their literary hunger.

It’s just not possible to meet every single person’s needs in one story, or even a collection of them. Some people will just flat-out hate your writing style for virtually no reason. Some will love your writing style, also for no reason in particular. Some can’t resist a cliché love triangle, while others … well, you get the idea.

But everyone’s varying purposes for reading is actually, it turns out, a good thing.

Disagreement encourages discussion

When a reader disagrees with a writer, or two readers or two writers disagree with one another, it doesn’t always mean it will lead to comment wars (the bad kind) online. One of our goals as writers should be to prompt discussion. To do that, you have to write things that stimulate thought and emotion enough to drive someone to put your book down and start a conversation.

Back to our first point, though: if everyone always agreed, or reacted the same way to every story, there wouldn’t be much left to say. Books don’t always have to give answers: they should ask questions instead, through characters’ own thoughts and actions and major plot points.

If you want someone to discuss your story, and/or the events that occur within its pages, you’re going to have to cover things not everyone agrees on. But that shouldn’t stop you. In fact, you can use it as a motivator.

We don’t always write to satisfy 

It’s as simple as that, really. Though stories, plays, books and more have the ability to entertain and inform, it’s rare we do it with the inference that what we’re constructing won’t be both praised and torn apart when readers get their hands on it.

Just like everyone reads for different reasons, everyone writes for different reasons, too. While it’s important to keep your audience in mind, you should use what you know about your potential readers to pick and choose the ideas that suit them.

This does NOT mean you should only write what they’ll like or dislike. It means you can, by interacting with them, tune in to what they care about, and use that knowledge to challenge their beliefs, put their brains to work and get them talking—and in some cases, even persuading them to take action and initiate even small changes in their real-world lives.

If someone appears unhappy with something you’ve written, they’ll probably voice their opinions. That’s good for those readers who might otherwise hesitate to express their thoughts. It’s a cycle, you see. Someone reads a book. They react. If they’re dissatisfied because your story has opened their eyes to something they never noticed before, maybe they’ll write something about it. Someone else will read what they have to say. Maybe they’ll pick up your story as a result, to see what it’s all about.

Never forget, fellow writers: we touch lives. Even the lives of people we never meet.

Don’t worry about making them happy. They’re reading. They’re thinking. Let that be enough.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Take “I Want to Be a Writer” Three Steps Further


If you’re reading this, you might be a writer. And if you are, you’ve most likely written at least a few articles, poems, pieces of stories or scenes of a script at some point in time.

You know you’re a writer. But do you know why?

A common mistake many writers make is declaring proudly, “I want to be a writer.” Okay. So do hundreds of thousands of other people in your time zone alone. So you want to be a writer: that’s a nice start. To succeed in the field, and to achieve your [very broad] dream of becoming a writer, you need to take “I want to be a writer” to the next level.

You need a purpose; a mission. You need a good reason to write—a reason that makes you stand out from all the other “I want to be a writers” in this world. A reason that has a specific audience in mind, who in turn will have a good reason to pick up your work.

Here are three steps you can take to define why you write, who you want to write for, and what you want them to gain by reading your work.

Step 1: Reflect On Past Projects

If you’ve been writing for a long time, this isn’t so hard. If most of the writing you’ve done has been assigned by a teacher or boss, this step is still possible: you just have to read between the lines, to see the underlying messages you tend to pass along in the work you produce.

Whether it’s a paper you wrote for school or even something you wrote about in your journal, reflecting on the topics you’ve written about in the past can help you get a clearer picture of what you’re most passionate about, or an issue you want to work to resolve.

This brings us to step two.

Step 2: List Out What Bothers You

We see tweets all the time about all the frustrating things humans encounter on a daily basis. We know what bothers us, and we often don’t hesitate to hop right onto social media to talk about it.

You can use the power of words, really through any medium, to “speak out” against things that get on your nerves. Start by listing out those things. Even if it’s that person in the quiet car on the train talking on the phone. This will give you a list of things to choose from, to get you thinking on a deeper level about messages you want to communicate.

Let’s say you settle on how 80 percent of the news you read and listen to is negative. It bugs you. You wish the media focused much more of its energy on positive stories, and bringing attention to people who are spending their lives making the world a better place to live.

Now, move on to step three.

Step 3: Declare Your Mission

From the issue you picked out in step two, you can now think of ways you can use writing to send a different message across. Sticking with our previous example, after some thought, you might come up with a declaration similar to this: 

“I want to promote the good news of the world and create an outlet for anyone to discuss better ways to make positive differences in society.” 

Notice how this mission statement, of sorts, includes what you want to do (promote good news), whom you want to involve (anyone interested in discussing good news) and what you want that audience to gain from this new outlet (sharing ideas).

You could start a blog that focuses on positive news, or write posts on Facebook or Twitter that highlight stories you see on social media. In this case, you’ve turned an issue you care about into a statement of purpose. You’ve defined what you want to write about, and who you hope will read and take something away from it.

Now, go. Figure out your purpose. Write about it. Share your declarations in comments, if you like. Wanting to be a writer is acceptable. Knowing how you want to use your passion for writing to make a difference in the world is exceptional.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Grasp Your Audience Like You’re Writing a Super Bowl Commercial

super bowl

There’s only one day a year we don’t hate commercial breaks. Football fans and non-fans alike chatter through the game and hush the room at the first sign of a brief advertisement hiatus. “Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads of [Insert Year Here]” articles pop up online before the game even ends.

Why are we so obsessed with 120-second intervals of marketing binge sessions? Because, once a year, there is hope of finding a commercial we’ll never forget. Continue reading “How to Grasp Your Audience Like You’re Writing a Super Bowl Commercial”