Alright, maybe not the whole public, but a private kind of public. Stephen King refers to this in On Writing, and he mentions it as finally opening up the office door to let the world in.
Who Makes the Cut?
Choosing your ideal reader is a delicate process. Some people say never let friends or family read the first draft of your work. They might believe everything you do is great or not want to hurt your feelings, and you don’t receive honest feedback. Alternatively, they might critique your work harshly, so that’s no help either.
There are exceptions to the rule. For example, King says he writes for his wife, Tabitha. She’s his best critic and always gives him honest feedback, good or bad. When he writes, he thinks about how she’ll react to a certain scene. Will she laugh until she busts a gut? Will she feel scared? Will she smile fondly over certain passages?
I have one person I write for: James. Don’t laugh; he’s my biggest fan and my worst critic. He knows when I’m on a roll and tells me when I’ve broken the boundaries of genius. He’s also not afraid to point at something and ask, “What the hell were you thinking?”
Bonds of Trust
That is what you want in your Ideal Reader. You have to be able to trust the person’s opinion and know that individual has your best interest at heart.
It doesn’t matter if your Ideal Reader happens to be your mom, your brother or your buddy in the next cubicle at the office. As long as you know you can trust the person to give you honest feedback, go for it.
Your Audience of One
Once you have your Ideal Reader in mind, it’s so much easier to write. When I’m writing, whether I’m writing a post here, a bit of gaming on Escaping Reality or a section of our novel, I do the same as King does. I think about what might get a response from my Ideal Reader.
This helps me stay on track and see the story through the eyes of another person. If you write to please the whole world, you’re never going to get that novel of yours to see the light of day.
As the poet John Lydgate* said, “You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
*Sorry folks, Abraham Lincoln can’t take credit for that one.