My good friend, a critique-group partner, and talented writer of literary fiction—Kali VanBaale—recently penned a blog post: Who Do I Write For? I found Kali’s response fascinating. She picked a single person: a fellow writer and voracious reader with an honest editorial voice. Her piece got me thinking…
Who do I write for?
I write both YA and women’s fiction from a female character’s perspective. Additionally, my books have romance elements. With these things in mind, I imagine a fair response is that I write for women and teen readers who like a good love story. I haven’t narrowed things down much, have I?
I suspect this is because I’ve described a market, not a reader.
It’s best, I’m convinced, to leave the genre, shelving and overall “market” questions to publishers and booksellers.
For my part, the writer’s perspective—this particular writer’s perspective—the honest answer to the question is—me. I write for me: past, present, and future. I write for the sixteen-year-old girl who had ambitions and dreams and insecurities and doubts—and was at a crossroads. I also write for the adult woman who still has hopes and goals and misgivings and fears—but with a little perspective.
There is an adage in the writing world: write what you know. If you ask me, this is lousy advice. And potentially boring. I’ve always written what I like to read.
I’m currently writing my seventh novel, one of which has and three of which will see publication. When writing a book, I’m fueled and preoccupied (often to distraction, but that’s another topic). If I had to distill the essence of this zeal to a single concept, I would contend that it’s enjoyment. Once I’m into a story, the process is fun. I want to know what happens next, because I often don’t. It’s still evolving, and I’m both designing and delighting in the experience.
I know there are authors with much loftier goals. I recently had the honor of hearing Gary D. Schmidt talk about who he writes for. He spoke passionately of writing for disenfranchised kids. I think this is wonderful and commendable. Having witnessed his emotional connection to his faith and his compassion, I’d suggest he derives great pleasure in doing so. Again, the enjoyment thing.
Another interesting aspect of Kali’s blog was her MFA instructor’s suggestion that it’s worth pondering the relationship between readership and censorship. With a perceived audience in mind, are you losing any part of your story to pleasing them? Does your intended audience bolster you? Or silence you? Hmmm. Another angle to this worthwhile topic.
Having explored the question and having come to a shameless answer, it is, at any rate, the truth. The only way I know to write an engaging story and to keep the reader turning the page is to write the kind of book I would read myself. Writing is a journey; I honestly do enjoy the ride. When a reader is enthusiastic about my book, I invariably reply, “Thank you. It was fun to write.”
So who do you write for?