Identify your audienceThis lesson considers why it is important to identify your audience before you start writing. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing fiction (e.g. short stories or a full-length novel) or non-fiction (e.g. memoir, reference book, travel guide, family history, local history) or articles for magazines, newspapers or the internet, you need to ask yourself who you are writing for.

If you are writing purely for pleasure with no particular audience or goal in mind then maybe this shouldn’t concern you. However, maybe you should think about your potential audience of family and friends who would love to see what on earth you have been getting up to when you finally emerge from your garret!

So, who is going to want to read your story?

By now you should have a theme for your story and a list of things you want to include, but before you start to write, think about who you would like to read your story. No story or book can be for everyone and so it is important to understand who your potential readers are and what they would want/like to read.

How does knowing your audience affect how you write your story?

Knowing your readership will not only affect the style and content of your story but also how formal or informal/relaxed your tone of voice is.

Are you writing for family and friends?

If you are just writing for family and friends, you might choose to adopt a less formal and more personal style of writing simply because you are much more familiar with your audience.

Or do you want to reach a wider audience?

If you want to reach a wider audience, a more personal, chatty style of writing may not be appropriate. Even though you will develop your own unique voice and writing style as you get more experienced as writer, knowing how to adapt your style and content for your potential audience will help to ensure that they will actually read and enjoy your work.

Do you want to write for people living in a particular region or culture?

If you are writing a non-fiction piece about a particular country, region, place or culture, knowing whether you are writing for a local audience or for people visiting (e.g. for a travel guide), you can make some assumptions about how much or how little your readers will know. This will help to determine your content.

Do your readers fall into a specific age group?

Knowing the age group you want to write for is particularly important. For example, the structure, content, writing style and use of language for stories aimed at younger children will be different to stories aimed at young adults/teens and again different to stories written for adults.

If you don’t know how to adapt your writing style, imagine how you would tell your story to a friend or family member as opposed to somebody you have never met before. What would you say differently, what would you leave out, what would you add?

Once you have built up a profile of your reader you can start to think about what you want to include in your story. To help you get started, move on to the Lesson 4 for some tips on how to create an outline.

Back to Lesson 2