Whether you win or lose

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I was listening to sports radio on my way to the coffee shop this morning. The guys sitting in for Mike and Mike were talking about the football season.

Your team plays about once a week during the four months from September to December. There’s a different rhythm to the season depending on whether you’re a fan, player, or coach.

On the radio this morning coach Herm Edwards said that fans have that whole week to relive the game while a coach needs to spend the week preparing for the team they’re going to face on Sunday.

Football players and coaches need to win games. They need to move on. They can’t get involved in the speculation, predictions, and analysis on sports radio. Fans need to fill up the weeks between games. That can’t be the main thing that the players and coaches think about.

What about you and your reader? Your goals are different and yet in some ways they are more aligned. A reader will tend to spend a great deal less time reading your book than you spent writing it. If a reader is meant to read a book in a few hours they can’t feel the year it took you to write it.

In football, your fans only win if the team they are rooting for wins. In a book, the author doesn’t win unless the readers do.

You need to have a strong picture of your reader and you need to understand how they are going to relate to the words you put on the page. You aren’t tilting against the technology you are describing. You don’t win when you’ve put everything down on the page. In a book on computer programming, the author wins when the reader smiles at something you’ve written because now they understand something they didn’t before.

Different genres of books have different metrics for winning but they all are keyed off of your reader and whether or not they are winning. It’s not whether you win or lose— it’s whether or not the reader does.