Who Do You Write For?

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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?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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34 Responses to Who Do You Write For?

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    I think you have to write for yourself on one level or you will lose your authenticity. But you have to write for your readers too… that’s a matter of respect. And for the story that wants to be written…
    I doubt if ignoring any of the people or reasons you ‘could’ be writing for will ever do more than lose you more than it gains.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The terrifying triad of audience balance. I think the ignoring part can come into play a few times. Mostly when an author is getting conflicting demands and responses. You’re going to lose in that scenario no matter what.

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      • Sue Vincent says:

        Yes, I think you are. You may get away with it for a while too… but once you give in to any one pressure,you risk losing the integrity of the writer’s voice…and without that, you may as well not write.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think it has to be that drastic, but I’m thinking of long series. If there’s something you’re building towards and a large number of people are saying they hope it isn’t that then you need to at least step back. There might be something you presented in a better light by accident or you were so focused on what you wanted that you forgot the rest. In those cases, listening to the audience can help. Even if you keep the original idea, you can find a way to make it more acceptable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sue Vincent says:

        There is nothing wrong with listening to your readership, but I have seen good writers sell their souls for a quick hit and lose themselves in the process.

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      • Not sure what you mean by a quick hit. I was thinking about criticism of a story that has already been presented.

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      • Sue Vincent says:

        I know a writer who changed the stories so much in response to input from readers that the whole thing collapsed on her, and she didn’t know where to take the tale… she never wrote again afterwards.

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      • There is a limit. I nearly did that with my first book when too many critics gave their opinion. I tried to follow all of them. So, I guess it’s best to see if any of the things work instead of tossing all suggestions out.

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      • Sue Vincent says:

        I am all for exploring ideas… but remembering whose story we are writing 😉

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  2. L. Marie says:

    I write with an audience in mind. But I picture myself in that audience as well.

    Sometimes you wind up writing the book people didn’t know they needed.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I write for myself. I publish because I believe art in all its forms – stories, poetry, music, or any other artform – should be shared, and because somewhere out there is an audience made up of people who will want to read it as much as I want to write it.

    Of course, self-doubt is a regular visitor who constantly reminds me how small of an audience I so far have, and asks if I’m sure I’m doing the right thing. The thing is though, if I don’t write for myself I won’t enjoy the experience, and if I don’t enjoy the experience of writing it how can I expect people to enjoy the experience of reading it?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A very thought-provoking post, Charles. When I first started I had in mind the idea of writing so my kids would have something of me after I was gone. That quickly gave way to a very selfish notion of writing for myself. I have since continued putting together stories that I found interesting and fun to write. I don’t have the skill or fortitude to try and craft a story that would appeal to a broad base of readers. I’m destined to remain obscure but happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I want to write.. get this.. Entertaining Stories. That’s why I named my blog that. One of the things that’s important to me is that I also entertain myself. I don’t think this topic leads to a single spice, but more of a melded stew for an answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Charles, Excellent post. I’ve been pondering these thoughts a lot lately. I have a few motivations. First, I write for myself so the voices in my head will have an outlet to speak. Second, I do it for my youngest daughter. My writing inspired her to write her own children’s book when she was 9 and she still likes the creative writing process. Third, it’s a kind of immortality. My grandchildren and great grandchildren can someday say that they have a grandfather (great grandfather) that wrote books, even if they are the only ones that read them. Of course, I’d love some degree of commercial success. As the prospect of retiring looms in the next 10 years or so, it would be nice to have some income, but I’m not counting on that at this point. I’m going to share your post on my blog as well. Your insight is always valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog titled: Who Do You Write For? Pop on over to his blog and let him know your motivation.

    Like

  8. After reading the genre for 50 years, I get tired of the most common tropes, which are very militaristic and patriarchal. Like systemic racism, the assumption is that all problems can be solved through violence. Although I’ve written such stories myself in the past, what I’m writing now is the stories I can’t find on the shelves. Independent people finding clever, non-violent solutions to their problems.
    So I definitely write for myself. However, I still find the “who do you write for” question useful because it helps me decide who I’m going to market to, after the book is self-published.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Part of the challenge is that most people who read fantasy want to see the big battles, especially with magic. There’s a sense of spectacle that it’s almost expected. I think people will enjoy books that don’t use fighting as the solution, but there is an uphill battle. My opinion is rather skewed though because I write action adventure with a lot of fight scenes.

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