Monday, March 8, 2010

Partnership with Readers

Partnership with Readers
By Judy Vandiver
© 2010 Judy Vandiver

Today’s blog continues from where we left off last week in Philippians.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, (Philippians 1:2-5 NIV)
Paul considered his writing a partnership his readers. He didn’t consider himself better than his target audience. He didn’t write “down” to them. In effect, he was saying, “Hey, we’re all in this life together.” Then he shared what he had learned in order to help someone else.

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it is important to treat your readers with respect. Give them credit for understanding what you write. Don’t over-explain what should be obvious and don’t beat them up with the moral message or theme of your work. When I come across a passage in a book where the author explains to me what they mean, I feel insulted that they didn’t think I was smart enough to “get it.” As an author, if I feel the need to explain something I wrote, perhaps I need to rewrite it.

Another way that authors tend to write down to their readers is with finger pointing. When an author continually tells a reader what “the reader” should do, it can come across as preachy. Be careful of the word “you.” Try substituting “I” or “we” when possible. By pointing out our faults and relating with the reader, we enter into a partnership with them.

Below is an example of how Paul partnered himself with his readers. Notice how he describes his own desires, shortcomings, and thoughts. He then gives advice to the reader, but does so by including himself needy of the instructions he gives them.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:10:16 NIV)
In partnering with our readers, we can help them identify with us, take our message in a non-preachy fashion, and apply spiritual truths that God has laid on our hearts.

Partnership with Readers / © 2010 Judy Vandiver

Monday, March 1, 2010

Taking Aim with Your Words

Taking Aim with Your Words
By Judy Vandiver
©2010 Judy Vandiver 

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: (Philippians 1:1 NIV)

Today’s blog is centered around Paul’s opening words in his letter to the Philippians. Another tip on writing can be found when we study the writing style laid out in Philippians 1:1. Notice that Paul wrote to a specific audience. His target audience was saints in the city of Philippi. While it’s true that over the last twenty centuries many people not from Philippi have been blessed by Paul’s letter, he kept his target audience in his mind as he wrote. By constantly remembering those who would be recipients of his letter, he was able to address specific needs.

It is important as writers for us to identify our target audience, then address the needs of that audience. When we write to one person or group, our writing becomes more personal. It’s a matter of addressing a specific need rather than trying to write one manuscript that is the end-all for the world’s problems. If your target audience is too wide, your words are likely to hit no one at their point of need.

By writing to a target audience and focusing on a particular need, we are able, with God’s help, to craft our words and focus our aim on one specific point of attack by Satan. This is how Paul constructed his letter to the Philippians. He addressed one area of vulnerability at a time. He didn’t try to take Satan out with a world-class explosion. He steadied himself, took aim at one demon at a time, and picked them off like a well-trained sharp-shooter.

Because the saints at Philippi were humans, we identify with their needs. So Paul’s letter continues to reach people and speak to people today. Most of the needs of our target audience are probably universal. While we may write something that appeals to a wider circle than our target audience, it is the writing to individual needs, problems, and attacks that make the writing personal to our readers.

So, choose your audience. Focus on a specific need. Take aim. By narrowing the focus, our words can knock out the enemy on one attack level at a time.

©2010 Judy Vandiver