Posted by: Jodi | June 3, 2010

Who is your Audience?

Image from Disney/Pixar's Wall-E

Wow, what a wild ride.  I had no idea that a little blog like mine would ever grace the front page of WordPress. I’m still in shock.

The dear Captain of the Axiom from Wall-E pictured here captures my feelings about this whole experience.  The ship is the blog and I’m hanging on for the ride of my life.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

First things first, a thank you is in order for all you who subscribed – I hope I live up to your expectations and provide the entertaining and insightful posts you crave.  Also a big thanks to everyone who left comments, I have had a wonderful time reading everyone’s thoughts on the use of adverbs in writing.

Now to today’s topic – writing for an audience.

When writing do you know who you are writing for?  Stephen King talks about this in detail in his writing memoir “On Writing” which I recently reviewed.  He pictures a perfect fan and writes for her.  He knows what will make her laugh and what will shock her.  He makes an effort to create a story that this imaginary person will love.  If she loves it, chances are lots of other people will also.

When writing this blog, my audience is other writers.  I search for topics that writers might find useful, motivational, or at least humorous.  Whenever I find advice or tools that help me improve my writing then I share it here.

When writing fiction my audience changes.  I gear my current work in progress towards adults who love epic fantasy but tire of the same story reinvented over and over.  My goal is to sell my book to these people – lots and lots of these people.

There are those who say, “I write for myself,” but want to publish their fiction.  There is one major flaw to this audience of one – it blinds the writer.   When they write, the imagery exists in their heads and struggles to reach the page.  Their readers don’t have access to these images and therefore lose the flavor and vitality of the story.  It makes for frustrating reading.

The take home lesson – write for someone.  See the story through their eyes.  Make it come alive!

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Responses

  1. In my opinion, people who claim to be a writers yet claim to “write for themselves” are hedging their bets. If they claim no larger audience, how can they feel failure?

    • They don’t – that’s the beauty of it.

      There is a marked difference between writing for oneself and staying true to oneself in writing. The first should only be done for personal writing, the second should be evident in every line we create.

  2. Audience is something I should probably pay more attention to. I don’t write creatively – my blog (in fact my entire writing experience) consists of book reviews, essays on writing and criticism.
    Then again…perhaps the word ‘reviews’ miss-represents what I’m doing, as – in terms of audience – I tend to assume that whoever is reading my book review has also read the book in question. This saves me the arduous task of plot and character explanations and otherwise filling my blog entries with utterly bland and uninspiring exposition.

    Hence why the term ‘review’ may not be appropriate…maybe ‘discussion’ would be more fitting, as I’m not encouraging my audience (if I even have such a thing…) to either read or avoid the books I write about. Also, I’m not facile enough to assume that my random musings on literature are significant enough to effect the reading choices of anybody.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going with this…I just thought I’d share my own thoughts on any potential audience I might have – my book “reviews” are for people to either agree or disagree with; and I have no missguided notions that I’m informing the reading habits of people.

    Ummmm…thanks.

    • Reviews are one of those things that can be done a dozen different ways, there is no right or wrong. They can have brief plot summaries, critique the materials pros and cons, and tell other readers if the book is worth their time. I like reading reviews to see how other people respond to a written work. It gives me ideas I can use in my own writing.

  3. Writing for one’s self is similar to literary masturbation: it feel good for a while but ultimately you’re gonna want someone else involved.

    • I could not agree with you more, John. However, there really is something to be said about writing for yourself. If you’re not your average hack, you can create incredible art this way, unrestrained by conventional wisdom or philistine readers. Sometimes getting sucked into writing for others can warp your own original ideas or lead you to copy hackneyed techniques or plot turns, in my opinion.

  4. I don’t buy into the ‘writing for myself’ claim. If that is the case, why blog at all in a public forum, why not just save onto a hard drive somewhere? We all want our writing validated by readers.

  5. Great post, Jo!

    As writers, we need to be true to our inner voice when putting pen to paper. Otherwise, our writing is apt to feel forced, like we are prostituting ourselves for an imagined audience.

    As John, Rik, and Cindy note, there’s no long term benefit in writing solely for oneself ~ but if we write what we love, chances are that someone else will love it too:

    “When we are enjoying the journey, we stop worrying about finding our intended audience ~ we trust that our intended audience will find us.”

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/our-field-of-dreams/

    Write on!

  6. Whether you write for yourself or others depends on your goals. Is the piece you are writing a way of one day revealing yourself to your children, to record your feelings and frustrations or is the purpose to earn money or to persuade people to your point of view? There are so many reasons for writing and these reasons will dictate whom you select as your audience.

  7. @ nrhatch: AMEN! But, in a way, AMEN to all the responses. The reasons for writing and/or blogging are many, and I believe all are equally valid; however I do believe in writing for oneself while at the same time desiring a larger audience! I am aware that the type of blogging I do is not the sort that the majority of people who read blogs prefer. I do, however, treasure every comment I get, because it only spurs me on to explore my own feelings even more. That being stated, however, I must admit that I wish I had more comments! Writing for oneself is a two-edged sword: you either slice in the direction of self-satisfaction, or cut to pleasing a wider audience, and thereby getting more fuel for searching for self-satisfaction! Which way to go? It depends…how is that for “hedging my bets, Ric :-D?” And, BTW I feel failure on a regular basis, whether anyone else reads what I write or not; personal improvement is always the goal, and I am either successful or unsuccessful in that quest, in varying degrees of both. The tips in “My Literary Quest” are always greeted with enthusiasm and accepted with gratitude. They help remind me to give my varied but few stream-readers a paddle!

    • Thanks, Paula!

      My guiding principle of life (and writing) . . .

      Don’t worry about what the world wants from you, worry about what makes you come more alive. Because what the world really needs are people who are more alive. ~ Lawrence Le Shan

      And, now, I’m off to check out your blog!

  8. I’ve just posted a review of a play on my blog, and it got me thinking about audience…of course, considering the audience of plays is a-whole-nother kettle of fish.
    I wonder if any dramatists ever ‘write for themselves’ as people here are putting it…

  9. BTW: I forgot to mention . . . that graphic is too perfect for this post!

    Spot on!

    • The kiddos have been watching Wall-E everyday this week. I can’t get it out of my head.

  10. A comment posted earlier included this quote… “When we are enjoying the journey, we stop worrying about finding our intended audience ~ we trust that our intended audience will find us.” As a novice blogger I’ve started the journey writing ‘for myself’ but am aware that with every post I am discovering my audience, and with any luck my audience will find me as well. Thanks for a great post and congratulations!

  11. I think in different ways depending on the kind of writing I am doing. For example, when I write a blog, I try to write something that will reflect my playful personality but also entertain, but when I am alone writing a short story or a novel, then, I sort of forget there is an ‘outside’ audience and write for me. I’m my toughest critic (guess all writers can relate to that) and so if what I am writing starts to bore me, then I know it’s time to change something.

  12. […] Who is your Audience? – A discussion on writing for the world vs writing for oneself […]


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