All of us have been told at some point in our lives to keep our audience in mind as we write.
And of course in school that made perfect sense. Think about the people you’re writing to, because that’s what the teachers tell you to do. And then when you’re older and your audience is really your professor’s ego, figure out what they’re looking for in a paper and pander to the best of your ability. This seems so obvious, especially to those of us who have had it drilled into our heads through many years of schooling.
What seems less obvious is what I’m about to discuss (at least, it did to me).
When you write novels/novellas/stories/poetry/whatever, you need to write to your audience.
Long ago when I was first writing fan fiction (two years ago) for the purpose of having people read it I couldn’t get ANYONE interested in my baby (and to be honest it’s a bit of a hard sell even now, but it does have readers now that I’ve revamped it). I couldn’t understand why people didn’t like what I was writing, this story I was so obsessed with.
I decided, as a part of a paper I was already writing for my literature class, to write a fan fiction that was more like what I liked to read than what I liked to write, which was the birth of Two Can Play This Game, the rough beginning of my modern fan fiction life. Since then I’ve done dozens of a variety of pieces, but I don’t think about what I want to write, I think about what I want to read.
That was when I really took off in the fan fiction world, but that didn’t really teach me my lesson.
I had a discussion later with my friend, Meg, and the impression I got from something she said to me (I can’t recall the exact words), was that I should think about my commercial value.
Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t sit very well with the artist in me, and I ended up really annoyed by the whole thing, ranting about it the next time I called my mother.
It’s taken me a year of writing and promoting my own novella and novels and marketing to realize what she meant.
Think about your audience. If you’re writing for you and people like you, write something you’d want to read. If you’re writing a children’s book, write what you would have read as a child.
The second you forget your audience is the second you fail to sell a single book or get picked up on a single query. If you find that you’re writing to your audience and you’re still not finding success (a.k.a. rejection letters), you might just not have found your audience yet. This is especially true in all forms of traditional publishing, where getting off the ground is dependent on picking the right agent to send your letter to, or the right literary journal to submit to.
Write to your audience, find your audience, and never forget that if you wouldn’t read it, you might be hard pressed to find someone else to read it, too.
All the passion in the world can’t please the wrong audience.
And with that, a belated Happy Turkey Day to the Americans in the audience!