But before we get to that, here’s a snippet of info about the author:
Nikki Logan is the President of the Romance Writers of Australia (Inc). She writes nature-based romance for Harlequin Enterprises and Entangled Publishing and has published sixteen books in addition to her craft book ‘The Chemistry of Reading’. Visit her at: http://www.nikkilogan.com.au
Louise: I’ve attended Nikki’s seminar on The Chemistry of Reading at the Romance Writers of Australia conference and found it fascinating (must-hear info for writers) and am thoroughly looking forward to attending Writefest in May to revisit the info. But without further ado, here’s Nikki…
WriteFest 2013 – The Chemistry of Reading (Nikki Logan)
I write full-time in the world’s most commercial of commercial fiction genres, romance. But I cling to my two-day-a-week ‘day job’ to make sure the basic bills get paid because, more than most, I know the difference between writing full time and writing for a living.
To make a living, commercial fiction writers need to build a following large enough to guarantee repeat readership. They need to be prolific, consistent and visible if they want to hold—and grow—their readership but above all they need to engage and excite readers. Readers are fickle and easily swayed by the next good looking book that buys them a drink, and so the mechanism that bonds a reader and an author’s work together needs to be much deeper than just a conscious ‘reader loyalty’.
Ideally, it needs to be cell deep.
The key to that level of cellular-engagement is arousal.
In 2011, I was asked to present in the romance stream of SwanCon/NatCon50. I planned a short examination of the different ways readers can be aroused by fiction. The visceral arousal of a good thriller, the emotional arousal of a romance, the intellectual arousal of a mystery/intrigue novel, the sensual arousal of erotic fiction or the creative arousal of an interplanetary fantasy.
As I got deeper into my topic, I realised that I was only telling part of the story. Before I could look at the technical aspects of how to increase the arousal of your readers, I had to examine why you would want to. And before why, it was important to understand what you were trying to achieve. What was it that happened, chemically and biologically, in the body that fuelled engagement and fed arousal.
And what I found was fascinating. A world of mirror-neurons, insatiability, and experiential ranking, and some of the most ancient, base functions of our bodies being utilised in the commission of one of our most modern, cerebral ones—reading.
And so my workshop ‘Arousing your Reader’ became ‘The Chemistry of Reading’.
I hunted the internet for papers and websites and books relating to the body’s physical response to reading, pulled what I could together, chewed it up and regurgitated it first into a presentation and then into a how-to book – ‘The Chemistry of Reading: Arousing your Reader’. The book seeks to help us understand how reading impacts on the human brain and how to make the most of that knowledge to enrich and empower your own writing.
In essence, how to have someone sitting up in bed at 2am on the morning of an important meeting ‘finishing the damn book’.
Your damn book.
At WriteFest I’ll be presenting a live 90-min version of this workshop (and the how-to) and taking participants through some practical workshop examples to show the theory in action on a couple of commercial blockbusters. Come along if you’re interested in how you can, as a writer, exploit the basic biology of the reading experience.
But if you can’t make it (or if you can’t choose between awesome WriteFest sessions), check out The Chemistry of Reading: Arousing your Reader instead. It’ll be the best $2.99 you’ll ever spend on your writing.
Louise: Thanks Nikki. I’m looking forward to catching up with you over the Writefest weekend. If anyone has any questions for Nikki about her book or about Writefest, please drop them into the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
And if you’re interested in other Workshop Wednesday topics, the full list is here.