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Keep Readers Reading

We live in an age of distractions.

Pay attention.

That’s better. I’ve got you for maybe a minute. A minute before you click on a link that takes you somewhere more interesting for another 30 seconds or so.

If you read books on a tablet, or on an Internet-enabled e-reader, you’re probably finding that your attention wanders now and then. An article in The New York Times – go read it but come back when you’re done – shows how today’s readers, as much as they love their e-books, are also easily drawn away from them.

But that’s to be expected. Who watches anything, let alone reads anything, with total concentration? Even if you’re on a plane trying to get to the end of whatever you’ve brought onboard to help you pass the hours in the cattle car, you’re interrupted by announcements, passengers, flight attendants. No one is left alone to concentrate.

But as one reader said in the article, these distractions have, in fact, made her a more discriminating reader. She’s bought many more e-books than physical books, but tends to leave many of them half-read. She is less guilty about putting a book down if it doesn’t hold her interest.

And why doesn’t something hold her interest?

Well, the same reason it might not hold yours: the distraction isn’t because you have the concentration of a puppy. The problem is the writer who’s not compelling you to “turn” the e-page on your tablet.

The fault lies neither with you, nor with your reading device. It’s the material.

If you’re writing a book, chances are that you’re also developing a platform for your ideas, so that you can develop, build and communicate with your audience.

Your audience will tell you, as you write your book, what works or what doesn’t, what holds its attention or what leads it to click on a YouTube link that a friend sent.

Books aren’t written by committee (or at least they shouldn’t be, since committees are responsible for many of the ills of the entertainment world), but your audience can help keep you on track, and prevent you from being a half-read author who lost a reader’s limited attention in favor of a video of a dancing kitten.

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2 Responses to “Keep Readers Reading”

  1. Andrea Reindl March 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Ah so very true Bob. I do find that it’s nice to just focus every so often :) Surprisingly when I block out distractions I tend to plunk through work rather efficiently.

  2. Anonymous March 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    A dancing kitten?! Where? It’s true. There are so many distractions. Without a little discrimination we’d all get swallowed up in overwhelm. Like you said, it’s vital to keep things interesting and relevant. As soon as you drift into boring, your reader is off chasing dancing kittens 🙂

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