Your Audience is King. Or Queen. Or Your Main Source of Funding.

Most of the time, writing projects are fun.

And then there are projects that are, well … not …really.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is never just all fun and games. It doesn’t matter how much you love writing, how much you are interested in and excited about a particular story you are writing, you will always struggle at some point or another (unless you are my friend Timewalkerauthor … I am not sure he *ever* struggles with writing anything, or at least it never seems that way :P).

Usually, I am facing one or more (mostly all) of the following issues:

  1. I don’t know how to start or what to write about (happens every time I want to blog)
  2. I started but have no idea how to continue (this is particularly interesting when your characters maneuver themselves in a position that will inevitably get them killed or at least imprisoned for life, which cuts the story rather short)
  3. Not writing enough detail (but it was in my head, so why do I …. oh, wait … readers are not mind-readers)
  4. Writing too much detail (who am I kidding, that never happens to me)
  5. Having to rewrite the intro or the end (never waste too much time on these until you are happy with the rest of the piece)
  6. Wanting to keep a scene/piece which absolutely does not need to be there (just keep it in your “for later use” file)

The aforementioned project was … how shall I put it … excruciating. Which was made worse by the fact that it was something I had to write for work. Like many other projects funded by the U.S. government, ours is required to produce various reports over the lifetime of the contract. This year, one of the topics we are reporting on in our annual report is Knowledge Management (KM), aka my domain at work.

I was pretty sure that this report (or lack of my writing progress … #1 from the list above: check) would either get me fired or make me quit.

Eventually, I managed to buckle down and write. And write. And write.

64 pages later: I am still here! I committed everything we’ve done in the past 2 ½ years, KM-wise, to paper. In great detail (#4: check. Charles, you would be proud of me!).

Of course, I was promptly informed that this is simply too much. I didn’t shoot the messenger, but I certainly felt like it.

Whereas overcoming/dealing with #1 – 6 is hard enough, I can always, always add another item to whatever project I am working on: 7. Having a hard time tailoring content to a specific audience.

Sounds simple. Isn’t. At least not for me. When it comes to describing (and, to a certain extent, justifying) my work, no detail is too small. No screenshot useless. No description too technical. After all, at the end of the day, I am somewhat proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I want people to know!

And here I was worried about not having written too much. Haha … -.-

I’m actually not sure what is worse: Having to add content or cutting content. Luckily, I have a co-worker who’s been writing/editing this particular report for years, so she went through and made suggestions on what to cut (“Really, you want that to go??”), what to summarize (“But, but … my details!”) and what to rephrase (“How’s that too negative, it’s the truth!”) and what to elaborate on (“But I thought too many details … never mind.”).

She’s right, of course. Every audience is different, and content needs to fulfill their needs. So, next time you write something, ask yourself: What message do I want to get across? What is my audience interested in? In the case of this report, our client is probably not interested in how taxonomies are implemented in SharePoint, or how the different parts work together. Rather, they want to know why we use the system, how it makes the project and its work more efficient and effective, and how it can potentially save money. So, after a few revisions, the chapter now consists of 30 pages. All the content is there, but it does paint a picture for one particular audience.

Getting everything on paper was not a waste of time though. In November, I’ll be speaking at the 2017 KMWorld conference in Washington, D.C. My presentation about “SharePoint Development, Successes, & Future Plans at The DHS Program” is part of the conference’s SharePoint Symposium. I don’t have the entire presentation down just yet, but I can already say two things: It won’t be a PowerPoint presentation (Death by PowerPoint anyone?), and the tone will be entirely different than that of the recent report. That does not mean though that it will be easier, of course.

How do you make sure that your content is tailored to an audience? I’d love to hear ideas!

P.S. Even writing a decent blog post about this report was excruciating!

My First Time

First off: Happy New Year to all fellow writers out there! May 2015 be a good, productive, creative and successful year for all of us!PhotoGrid_1421179193829

I spent Christmas and New Year’s with my family in Germany, and despite my best intentions I didn’t do anything but eat and sleep. I didn’t do any revising or writing, or anything else that involved my laptop for that matter. I swear that sometimes I could hear it whimper from my room …

What I did do was read comments regarding the first three chapters of my novel from a very close and good friend of mine … and man did he bash my writing! At least that’s what I thought when I read his email for the first time. I didn’t read it again for a few days because I was really discouraged and was basically pouting and doubting my ability to even get a single sentence right, so I just wanted to throw away my proverbial quill and give up. But then I started reading his comments (and amendments) to my writing, and I realized that he wasn’t trying to be mean at all … it’s just that he is SO far away from my target audience that he just plain did not enjoy my writing style.

Whereas my novel caters to young adults/adults like me who still feel young/mostly women, my friend is a gentleman in his early sixties who enjoys reading books by Clive Cussler … and that is definitely not the type of book I am writing (or could write), nor is it my writing style. My friend made a bunch of changes to my text and writing, and the more I read it, the more I realized that he was trying to turn it into something that could have come from Cussler and similar authors. Which is not to say that I don’t like Clive’s writing … I do, and it’s clearly a successful style. It’s just not mine.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame my friend at all for his rather harsh words, and it was probably a stupid idea of me to give the draft to a person who is clearly not one of the readers I am trying to reach. It was a great learning experience for me though. In general, I don’t deal well with criticism, so that’s definitely something I need to work on. And, to be fair, he did have some good points that I will consider. But it also taught me not to lose faith in myself just because one person does not like my writing. I am sure there will be plenty more, and I should really be able to deal with that.

I would love to hear from you how you deal with criticism and inevitable self-doubt!

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and overall great 2015!

Xo, Aileen