Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Which I'm Held Accountable

If I says it on the interwebs, then I follow through. Fact. That's half the reason I keep this blog going. I've become a much more prolific writer since I started this baby up, because it keeps my goals in the forefront of my head. Also the routine helps.

So, as promised, a post about audience and writing for yourself and junk.

Back when I was at the conference (yes, another post generated from the conference. I've got at least one more left, too.) There was a discussion on the panel regarding writing for your fans. Lois McMaster Bujold had admitted she'd written her last book because a good friend, whom she owed, straight up asked her for it. Otherwise, everyone pretty much agreed that you shouldn't really write for your fans. Let me 'esplain.

Steve Brust said that he'd had a conversation (and I believe he actually said it was almost knock down drag out fight between the two of them) with Harlan Ellison who stated that as a writer, it's important to be hostile to your fans.

Brust thought this was ludicrous, but he also understood the meaning behind it and kinda agreed. Brust stated that if you write what the fans who are in contact with you ask for, you will disappoint and lose the fans you truly care about.



This goes back to writing for yourself. If you cater to others, it can stifle your creativity. BUT (yes, there is a but) Brust also felt there was a problem with writing just for yourself. He felt if you only write for yourself, it becomes self-indulgent. His solution was to pick a person or two, and write for them. For him, it was typically one of his CPs. He'd write to entertain them.

The last thing he said was, if you worry about your audience, you won't have an audience to worry about because they'll be bored.

I tend to fall in the middle somewhere. I definitely write to entertain myself (otherwise, I get bored and then I wouldn't write) but also I have a few specific people I write for. Twin especially - I often write scenes that I hope will entertain her.

What about you? Do you write for yourself? For someone else? How does it work for you?

30 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

I think it depends on whether you want to be great, or popular. There are some very successful books which may not be great, but were clearly written for the fans of some trend or another.

It would be great if we could accomplish both at once.

Jessica Bell said...

I totally write for myself. It seems to be working for me, so I guess I'm really lucky! :o)

Anne said...

damn straight you write for me! your stuff's practically a commission! (except for that time i ACTUALLY asked for a commission. how's that going for you? :-D) but since we're pretty much the same person, does that mean you're really just writing for yourself?

Summer Frey said...

I write mostly for myself, but I also try to imagine my best friend reading it.

Rain Laaman said...

I've been writing novels since I was 12, and those stories I wrote during my teen years were pure self-indulgence/escapism. I didn't know it at the time, because I'd always had "getting published" in the back of my mind. I still think about those "good old days" and how great it would be to write like that again. But I can't--not if I ever want to get published. I guess it still turns out best if I write mostly for myself, but I have to make it pretty darn creative/exciting/something-that-won't-make-me-bored-when-I-read-it-later.

Tracey L. Bentley said...

I'm like you in that I tend to write for myself. It has to be interesting and entertaining to me or else I'd get bored writing it. However, it's also important to think of a market so it doesn't become too self-indulgent.

Angie Paxton said...

I write for myself, but when I was reading your post, I realized I also write keeping a couple people in my critique group in mind, wondering if they'll be entertained.

Emily Rittel-King said...

I start writing for me then switch somewhere in the middle and begin to think of what other's would like to find in my writing. I think it's normal to try to write for a market, but I never start a story this way.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I write for myself--and my husband because he loves to read my pages :)

BUT, I also write with my CPs in mind and think about the things they might critique, which has made me a stronger writer.

TL Conway said...

I write for myself with the assumption that no one will actually READ my story (*gasp horror*). However, I wrote my most recent MS for my two nephews. By keeping them in mind, it helped keep the story in MG adventure land, exactly where they like to be.

Patti said...

I guess I try to write the story that I think people would like, but more importantly one that I will like.

Hart Johnson said...

I generally don't think AT ALL about readers. If I did, some of the stuff would worry me as too dark, or 'make me blush'... totally can't think about people. Just me and my characters and the story. There is an exception though--the funny stuff. My cozy mysteries have quirks and inside jokes... there are a WHOLE SLEW of rules Cozy Mystery... and so I think that since I have restraints on, I also want to PLAY with it... jokes I know long time friends will appreciate (my first one features a boxers versus briefs argument, for instance, and the quote 'I'm naked!'). These feel lighter and more in my blog voice and less in my novel voice... it just seemed to be the route that made most sense. If I have to follow rules, I will play. It's how I roll.

Lola Sharp said...

I write what feels truest to the characters and the story I'm trying to tell. I try to keep it as organic and 'honest' as possible. It's probably wrong, but I don't think of any audience...I focus on the story, the characters. At least during my first draft.
During revisions I continue to *try* to stay pure to the story but work on cleaning out things that will pull a reader out of the story.

I know, my answer blows.

Huggles,
Lola

Teebore said...

I can totally buy that Harlan Ellison believes that about fans...

I guess I tend to write for myself, at least at first, since I don't have much of an audience to write for yet. So the initial plot/characters are definitely created for me, but once the ball gets rolling its more about staying true to the story and the characters I've setup.

I've definitely had stuff happen to characters that I didn't want to happen, but which needed because the story required it.

And I've also written scenes or bits of dialogue or minor characters that I think you, Hannah or Mrs. Teebore will enjoy, so that's some writing for the fans, I suppose.

Maria Zannini said...

I write what resonates for me and with the hope that it will also resonate with readers.

I think the goal of the writer is not just to share an idea, but to share an experience that is relatable.

Kristin Rae said...

Firstly, I definitely write stories that I want to read, otherwise I don't think I'd enjoy writing at all. And since my critique partners and I are so close, I do often keep their interesting/expectations in mind when I flesh out the details. They are, after all, my readers, and they need to like it too. And chances are, if they like it, so will other people :) Those are my thoughts on it anyway.

Talli Roland said...

Hm... this is a tricky one. I've heard many times you need to write with your audience in mind, but I write mainstream commercial fiction. On the other hand, you can only write how you write. I've tried to do really smushy fiction and it hasn't worked. I can do snark though! It's not to everyone's taste, but it's how it comes out! Luckily, my 'audience' likes it.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Matt - yeah i know what you mean. And i think you can be both as long as your goal isn't just to cater to someone's wishes.

Jessica - i do a lot of writing for myself too. Twin can tell you that i frequently crack myself up

Anne - when the hell am i going to fit that commission in? MAAAYBE try reminding me when i'm done with this draft AND done with my NaNo draft. I probably won't have anything new to start then for awhile. And yeah, we have the same tastes, but there's definitely parts where i'm like "I hope anne likes this because i do"

Summer - self has to come first. Cuz otherwise, what would be the point of writing?

Rain - oh man, don't get me started on my fanfic. So many glorious mary sues! It's hard to go back to that, though, once you reach a certain point in your writing journey. Or at least, it was for me

Tracey - i think keeping a market in mind can help keep the story focused and on track

Angie - me too. I know if they like something, then it's probably a keeper

Emily - i think if you started only because of the market, chances are you'd probably fail. The story would most likely stink.

Sara - ooh good point! I do the same. Yay CPs!

TL - that's an interesting point. I don't know if i've ever really written a story that i didn't think anyone else would read. Even my terrible fanfiction was written with my highschool friends in mind

Patti - i think that's the best of both worlds

Hart - i definitely think humor is one of those things where you have to ask yourself if anyone else will find it funny

Lola - Hah! Before i got to the end of your comment i was like "Lola's a frickin genius!" and then i LOLd at your last comment. I think you speak a very good truth, that we should all remember the nature of the story first and foremost

Teebore - i can't recall a time where something happened to a character that i didn't want/expect to happen. I think it's because i typically have most things planned out ahead of time. So if characters die, i generally know they're going to die right when they pop up in my head

Maria - that's a good point. A very good point

Kristin - i think it definitely matters how close you are to your readers. I think of Twin a lot when i'm writing because we are so close. There's very little separation there for me

Talli - yeah i would never change how i write and stuff like that to try and meet some sort of audience. I would just hope that i could find an audience that appreciates that about me

julie fedderson said...

I write for myself. It's cathartic, and I get to create a whole cast of people in my head who actually talk back to me about stuff when most people just give me strange looks and quietly excuse themselves from my area, lol.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I write for me, but I relied on feedback from my fans to come up with a second book. (It's my story, but I gave everyone what they wanted - a female character.)

Teebore said...

I think it's because i typically have most things planned out ahead of time. So if characters die, i generally know they're going to die right when they pop up in my head

Oh, I have everything planned out (you know me) but there's STILL some stuff that surprised, that happened in spite of the plan.

Lindsay said...

I write for me with the first draft. I like to know what is going to happen. The discovery is what keeps me going ;D

Shelley Sly said...

How interesting... I never thought about whether or not I write for myself or for someone else. I hope that doesn't make me selfish. I definitely stray away from really self-indulgent stories (or else, honestly, I'd be writing for adults instead of children.) I guess I kind of answered my own question there. I try to write for kids, sometimes keeping the kids I know in mind. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Anne said...

don't worry about the commish- i don't actually want you to take time away from actual professional writing for that.
(i used actually too much just there)

Jessie Humphries said...

I actually have one person in mind for my current ms. It is an agent that I met at a conference who reps really cool people and likes certain things. When she was talking, I had an idea that I thought she would like...and I am running with it.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Julie - i'm not one of those writers who talks to her characters. That creeps me out a bit

Alex - and i'm glad you did, because i'm excited for her!

Teebore - i mean, yeah, i get surprised by stuff, but it's not typically bad things happening to characters, if that makes sense

Lindsay - i'm an outliner, so i know generally what's going to happen before i start

Shelley - you're welcome! And yay for this kids!

Anne - i didn't notice. And heck, Break Free is practically a commission

Jessie - ooh interesting. I hope it works out for you!

Teebore said...

it's not typically bad things happening to characters, if that makes sense

Yeah, I guess as I think about, most of my examples aren't of really bad things happening to characters.

Shannon said...

Good question. I write for myself but I also let the story tell itself. I try not to force something I want and just let it happen. I don't usually think of my "audience" per se. Something to chew on. Thanks!

She Ra Princess of Milk said...

ha!! well I wish that blogger had a like button!! Not only do I love this post but I also like alot of the comments... oh well... Im not a "writer" like you but I have my blog and I really struggle with what you wrote about. Mainly because there are certain things I am desperate to talk about right now and cant and I feel stiffled... I dont feel like Im writing for me not because of what Im writing but more what I cant write... does that make sense? anyway Im getting back to it and I try to please myself and Charlie because that is the spirit of my blog but it is hard when your putting yourself out there and want people to read not to be influenced...

Hannah Kincade said...

I agree with Lola. i just kind of let the story carry me. I always intend on writing for any reader out there who likes the kind of stuff I like, which is similar to what Brust was saying. Someone who's not me but likes the same things as me. If I try to write for any particular person, I feel like I'm betraying my writerly instincts.

Also, I'm wishy washy.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...