Writing To Your Audience

oh, hai! I sort of forgot this was Saturday… I’ve had first weekend, you see, and now I’m working on second weekend. It’s blissful, and I was all focused on family and not thinking about writing at all. Well, except for Thanksgiving morning where a friend inadvertently gave me a story prompt and I had to sit down and write a little flash fiction before I could get on with making the feast from scratch. I really love to cook. Oddly, more than I love eating it. Don’t get me wrong, that was a lovely meal. But it was more about seeing my family sitting here at the table enjoying the food, laughing, and talking than it was about my own plate.

Which is what I was thinking about with this post. An important part of writing is knowing your audience. Here on this blog, my audience is mostly writers. So, for instance, when I wrote a couple of weeks back about reading for science, I was writing for authors, not scientists, and tailored my links and recommendations accordingly. I know very well, being one of you as well as a scientist, that not all authors have the background to read journals, the money to do so, or even the access to a library that will allow them to read for free. If you were doing research for something other than fiction, you’d need to do that… but for fiction, and with the time/energy/health budget some of you have? It might not be physically possible. So I wrote to that.

Fiction has an audience, as well. It’s where genre comes in handy for the reader. They might want softer, gentler, science fiction or fantasy where the action is slower or near non-existent. Or they might prefer fierce space battles and relentless action in their reading. Knowing how to sift through the onslaught of books by using also-bots or categories will get them to what they want to read, faster. For us who are writing, though?

We aren’t writing for the readers.

I know, I know, that’s blasphemy! But it’s not, really. I mean, sure, some authors are writing to what they see as the hot new trends. If a genre is selling like hotcakes, they write stuff fast and tailored to that audience. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, but it’s a short-sighted approach to writing. You will burn out if all you are chasing is the money, or the ‘little orange tag’ on Amazon. It will become a job, and you will get bored, and it will show in your books. And then? Well, you’ll always have some readers. I was joking with my First Reader the other day, as I was looking at his bookshelf of L’Amour’s, that I could choose any of them, because… “They’re all good?” He filled in. “Or interchangeable” I said, grabbing one and heading for my hot soaking bath. That’s not really true, only in some of his later books? It is. He was popular, and would re-write shorter, earlier works, to fill the demand for novels as he was a hot commodity.

So who are you writing for?

You. You’re writing to make you happy. If you aren’t, why are you doing this? It’s not like this is a steady job you can just plod away at, get a paycheck at the end of the week, and have a nice relaxing weekend away from (much less two weekends! I’m enjoying my 4 day weekend away from Science, can you tell?). Writing will push you to your mental limits, and it will nag at you day and night. So if it’s not fun, why on earth would you inflict this on yourself? Write to the only audience that matters. You. If there are readers out there who also enjoy what you write – and there are. I can’t tell you how many, or even how to reliably find them, but I can tell you that humans aren’t as unique as they think they are. There will be a market for your stuff, and in the age of the world wide web, you have a chance of finding them. Then? They will ask you for more, please? With that cute big-eyed puppy look. And you’ll write for them, too, because it makes you happy and fulfilled.

But first, write for yourself.


  1. This! Yes, if I didn’t enjoy what I was writing, I’d something else–probably read stuff I did enjoy 10 hours a day–instead.

    I’ve even developed a liking for editing. Fixing the awkward dialog tags, smoothing the transitions between scenes. Adding a bit here and there, removing other things.

    It’s fun.

  2. — You’re writing to make you happy. —

    (chuckle) Well, yes. Sometimes. But sometimes indirectly only.

    I’m currently trying to transform a decent novelette into a full-length novel. I’m most decidedly not doing it to make myself happy. In fact, the effort has come near to persuading me to give up writing fiction. I’m doing it because a legion of readers who love that novelette have demanded a novel founded on it…and I, fool that I am, decided that it would be easier to placate them than to hold them off any longer.

    Yes, write to make yourself happy…but be quite clear in your mind about what you mean by that, and be sober in your estimate of how likely you are to attain that end.

  3. Since, despite swearing off NaNoWriMo this year, I managed to finish a 49K word story/novella/whatever, I write because if I didn’t Bad Things might happen. Like, oh, taking my frustrations with life out on innocent plants (“Was that supposed to be a topiary Shoggoth?”). 🙂

    Seriously, I have to tell stories. If I can’t do it in a professional venue (stories with footnotes,) or elsewhere, I’d probably explode. Or talk to myself a lot more than I already do. (Why did I leave that in the car? Why did I think that was a good idea?)

  4. “So who are you writing for? You. You’re writing to make you happy.”

    Better believe it. Publishing to date has been one of those “I’ll get to it” things.

    I write to see what my characters are doing this week. What new trouble has brewed up to ruin their lazy Sunday morning?

  5. I think I write because I like creating scenarios and settings. Doing the research to make sure that what I write passes the it’s stupid test, then I’m golden.

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