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Who Are You Writing For?

If you’re a published author, even if you’re a multi-published author, even if you’re making a living off writing, there’s a truth all writers share from beginner to pro: the truth that not everything that flows from your fingertips will, or should, end up being for sale. That is, not everything you write is going to be publishable.

Some of it will merely be practice, some will be experimentation, some will be failed attempts. No matter where you are on the timeline of being an author, it can be frustrating. It’s hard to put a lot of time and work into something that you have to throw out or tuck away in the hopes it will one day flourish or fit into something else. It’s even harder, I think, when you become successful, because there’s a real anxiety to keep producing, keep proving yourself, keep putting out a product for consumption. If you have a bunch of books published and you write a bad one that you have to scrap, it feels like a lot of time, money, and achievement just went down the drain.

This of course begs the question: when you’ve been writing for a long time, and you’re trying to (or have) made a career of it, can you still write for pleasure? That’s not to say writing isn’t a pleasure, or that the books you write for publication don’t give you joy. But at some point you start to think about things like an audience and reader demographics. Who are you writing the story for, and who will buy it? This can stifle creativity and give you a whole new set of worries if you think too much about it, and of course it’s always there in the back of your mind. Will my readers like this? Will an agent like this? Will it sell? Does it fit with the zeitgeist of my genre?

At this stage, does it feel like a waste of time to write some self-indulgent romp that will probably never see the light of day and you have no idea who to market it to even if it did? With the rise of self-publishing, it’s a little easier. Niche markets and experimental genres can more readily find their way into the hands of readers who want them. But it may be hard to step away from what sells to “what a few people will buy.” At some point in a writer’s career you start to think both strategically and creatively, which can turn into a hinderance.

I think it’s important to flex your creative muscles in whatever direction they want to go, and it can open you up to other things, but it’s also difficult and frightening when you’re worried about carving out a spot in the writing world. It’s sad to think that your fun, on the side writing might be taking time away from your ‘real’ writing and could hurt your career. Success gives you a whole new set of worries you weren’t even thinking about when you first started writing. At some point your concern will turn from writing something good to writing the correct thing.

What do you think? Is it hard to play around once you find yourself writing for an audience? Is there a way to do both? Or did I just give you a brand new anxiety? (Sorry!)

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

9 thoughts on “Who Are You Writing For? Leave a comment

  1. I think there are times you want to communicate with a different group of people, and it can be hard to get past the reputation of your current image (especially one that’s successful) to reach said group. That’s why J. K. Rowling did the whole Robert Galbraith thing, so that under a different name, she could reach a different group.

    And, from the sounds of things, this worked to a certain point, but once it was leaked that she was the author, she got more readers–so even if your fanbase isn’t who you think would like something, they might surprise you. I think it just takes good marketing with a clear cover design and summary to state “this book is not going to be like that book” for those who are concerned. The rest is really up to the readers.

    As for writing the right thing, I think that varies based on each writer. What is right for me–what I must write and share with others–can include a wide range of things, some of which some people will like and some they won’t, but it’s a multifaceted thing, not a niche genre with the same message being said over and over again. And to simplify things just to stay safe and popular would surely be to deny the humanity of the writer, for we aren’t “safe” beings, but complex ones with many sides to us.

    These are my thoughts, anyways. 🙂

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    • These are all very good points! That’s a good example with JK Rowling. It’s like Stephen King when he wrote as Richard Bachman to see if he could still sell books on the merit of the writing alone (though mind you, the Bachman books weren’t radically different from the stuff he usually wrote). Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it gave me a lot to think about!

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  2. Well, I’m not a successfull writer, so take this for what it is 😉

    But honestly I think that a mature writer, a writer who’s past the amatourish and beginner’s stage, should always keep in mind that he/she is writing for someone and of course they should have in mind at lest a faint idea of who that reader might be.

    Writing is communication, and communication always requires two sides to it. Yes, you might need to go up a mountain all alone and sing the whole of the Traviata. You can do it, if you want. You may need it, and afterward you may feel better. But that’s the end of it.
    Communication is a different thing. Communication is you wanting to say something that will cause a reaction in someone else, someone who you care about, whose opinion is important to you. It can never be done all alone up on a mountain, it doesn’t work that way.

    Becoming a mature writer, in my opinion, means this: realising that it’s not about YOU, but it’s about US as a community… whatever community you’re talking to.

    Does this have anything to do with success? I don’t think so. But I do think it has a lot to do with what we want to do with our storytelling, how we want to wield it. What we want to achieve with it and what message we want to send out. And so also when we decide to actually communicate and when we just indulge with ourselves.

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  3. Lol, Thanks for sharing 🙂
    I usually write for pleasure and to clear my anxiety plate of feelings, words, and a release. However, I will also write for any audience that relates. I tend to write broad topics as well as small personal ones. Right at this moment though, I find myself trying to actually learn how and get through setting up my 1st Blog appropriately, haha….Happy New Year!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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