This is a question that I ask a lot and see many people answering without hesitation. At least it appears that way. It’s hard to figure out for myself. There’s always multiple factors that I think about. The list can include:
- Publish or Not
- Career or Hobby
- My sense of self-worth as an author
- How other books are doing
- Support of others when idea is presented
- Can I maintain interest in the story
- My main genre or experimental
All of this will help determine if I’m writing for myself or others. Even then, I can never answer the question perfectly. Maybe I’m in the middle? As much as I write for myself, I truly want others to enjoy my stories. I’ve said for a while that I wish I could get enough author success that it pays the bills and allows me to be a full-timer. That means, I have to write for others and not only myself. Yes, I have to enjoy what I’m doing because one can tell if the author isn’t really into it. Still, I have yet to write anything that I want to keep to myself, so there is a part of me that is targeting an audience.
People come up with interesting solutions. The one I could never do is writing what people are reading even if it’s not my area of interest. This suggestion has been thrown my way since college. Maybe I’m not a good enough author to be able to write any story, but it would come out empty. The characters would be flat and I would simply be writing in the hopes of getting enough of a loyal base that I can write what I really want. Yet, I still wouldn’t be able to guarantee that they’d stay when I jump. You could start as romance to get a reputation and then your fans never support you when you finally jump to science fiction like you wanted. Then, all of your writing for others instead of yourself has gone to waste. Hate to say it, but readers are fickle these days. Why take the risk?
Writing for myself only has the same issues. This is what I keep running into with Bedlam stories. I really enjoy writing these, but they never sell or garner much blog attention outside of the teasers. So, this would be almost entirely to scratch my Rated-R itch, which some would say is good. It takes away from the stories that I will really publish and hope others will read like War of Nytefall and Tales of the Slumberlord. I have Ichabod Brooks too, but I haven’t decided if I want to send him to blog limbo or publish. Seems whenever I post a full story on the blog, it’s basically there to stay, which makes sense. People see those as freebies that I wrote for myself and they don’t take it seriously.
I think I’ll be fighting with this question until the day I die. Being in the middle is probably where I fall and might stay there forever. Maybe that’s the ideal for an author, but it means almost constant confusion. You don’t always have the clearest sense of where you’re aiming. Is this scene for yourself or your audience? An editor and beta readers can help here, but that can see everything you personally enjoy is removed. That turns your story into one written solely for others and kills the balance. Yeah, I’m just going in circles here because I keep thinking of the pros and cons. An endless, eternal loop that feeds doubt, anxiety, and despair. Such is the life of an author.
Who do you write for?