The Ideal Reader

I can’t let go of my first (finished) novel. I guess I should say “draft of my first (finished) novel” but I don’t want the signifier to be even clunkier than the signified. I stuck a fork in it two weeks ago and ever since then I’ve been worrying about the revision process, which has tentatively been set to begin a month from today. My manuscript is not in my usual genre and even though I thought it began with a good premise, I worry that it won’t be half as awesome as I want it to be.

When told about my anxiousness, my writing buddy today suggested that I should find  my “ideal reader.” This mystical being, she said, is a personified version of the audience for the book. They are the reader for whom my book is written. Who is buying my book right now in some mystical part of my subconscious? The answer, of course, is I.R.

I cloak this “ideal reader” in mystery because I haven’t found my ideal reader. My writing buddy is lucky; her ideal reader actually exists and provides manuscript critique upon request. Mine is floating out there somewhere. I.R. is my Great White Buffalo.

More than a critique partner, the ideal reader’s job is to be the voice that says whether a piece of writing works. I.R., from what I can tell, is sortof like you, the author, if you were the reader instead of the inventor of the story. I.R. cuts through the anxiety and gets to the heart of the matter: is it good? I really hope my I.R. unicorn says yes.

A question for you: Is your ideal reader a real person? Or are they (like mine) invisible?

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7 thoughts on “The Ideal Reader

  1. L.G.Smith says:

    I imagine my IR is someone like myself, a woman who enjoys adventure type stories set in fantastic locations. I had a man who writes and reads westerns help critique part of my novel, though, and he enjoyed it. So I don't know what that says about my IR. I never imagined men reading my novel when I wrote it. 🙂

  2. Neurotic Workaholic says:

    My ideal reader would be someone who can relate to the situations that I wrote about. Even if she or he hadn't actually experienced those things, there would still be something about those situations that they could recognize. It would also be nice if my reader was at least slightly neurotic, since my characters often tend to be neurotic too.

  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    I'm fortunate enough to have a small group of trusted and dependable critique readers, who offer opinions from a variety of perspectives. But, at the end of the day, my "ideal reader" isn't any of them so much as it is me. I'm writing for people who like to read the same things I do, so if I can please myself with what I've written, I know I've made a good start.

  4. Anna says:

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I hope my I.R. has eclectic tastes like me. It will make our relationship much more enjoyable.

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