Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who is the reader of "Punk Rock Saved my Ass?"

Toss out all the drafts I wrote for the back-cover copy in my last post. They were all tripe, mostly because I wasn't thinking about WHO the book is for. Thank you Tony and Annie for reminding me of that. Before I can write an engaging, compelling, back-cover copy for the anthology, I need to remember who I started the project for. Visualize the person I'm trying to reach: what does he look like? How old is he? What does he believe in and fight for?

The anthology idea first came to me as I was listening to my husband talk about how punk music saved his life. He was a depressed, overweight kid growing up in the South, feeling cut-off and alienated from everyone around him. Then he met some kids at school who listened to punk and taught him how to make his own t-shirts, and suddenly he realized he wasn't such a freak after all. Yeah, he was different, but so were a lot of people. No longer feeling alone, he overcame his depression, graduated high school, and moved to California where he could be as freaky as he wanted to be.

I realized there must be other people who were as empowered by punk rock as he, so I cruised the net looking for books on the subject. Most of the books were about dead musicians and addicts; none shared honest stories from ordinary people who's lives were positively transformed by punk rock. So I decided to create one. I put out a call for submissions and over a span of two years people sent me their stories. The process has been exhilarating and aggravating because the project became far more complicated than I had imagined. The stories and writers were also more complicated. The project grew as each author helped shape the overall book. But throughout the entire process I tried to keep a single reader clear in my mind: an overweight teen-aged boy who doesn't fit in anywhere and thinks he's too much of a freak to ever be happy. That imaginary reader helped me decide which stories would be included and in what order.

At the beginning of any writing project, every writer needs to ask herself, "Who am I writing this book for?" Keep that person in mind as you create the manuscript, revise it, edit it, and hone it into the finished, polished book. Your imaginary reader will guide you as you write and can help you as you try to reach your audience.

So now as I try to write the copy for the back cover I will keep that boy in mind. What does he need to hear to find this book?


Tina Haapala said...

Great food for thought. OyOyOy! (sorry, my only connection to punk was late, a Ramones show in the early 90's).
Coming back to the audience is very important when we go astray.

Anonymous said...

Very thought-provoking post. I know most of the readers of my book (if it ever gets published) will be interested/fascinated, or perhaps involved with the paranormal, but I would like to think I could reach out to those who aren't. Maybe encourage them to keep an open mind. Thanks for the interesting post.

CJ xx