“Writing for the Audience”

Someone brought this up with me at work after I told him I sold a story to Nocturnal Lyrics. This guy (who I will identify as “L”) asked me what I think about when I write. I said, “Basically just the story details. What do you mean, anyway?” L clarified that what he was asking is, “Who do you write for? I mean, you HAVE to write for the audience because if you write for yourself instead of writing what people like, then there won’t be an audience for it.”

That has to be the dumbest, fake, mindless sheep type of mentality I’ve ever encountered in my life. Then again, the guy has been a state worker for a long time, so he is used to doing what he’s told instead of thinking outside the box. (In fact, the supervisors at my job HATE when people do that. Their mentality is: “Hey, you aren’t being paid to think!”)

At any rate, my take on writing is the polar opposite of him. When I sit down, I try writing something that pleases ME…something that *I* feel is high quality. Does that make me selfish? Maybe, but then again the act of writing itself is kind of selfish. I mean, you are basically saying to everyone else in your life: “It’s time to leave me alone. I’m writing. This is time for ME.”

Not only that, but then there is the whole fake part of it. A true writer should write whatever is inside of them, NOT what everyone else is doing. Right now thanks to Stephanie Meyer there is an explosion of vampire literature, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Anne Rice stopped writing. I personally can’t STAND vampires (except for the badass punk rock vampire in the John Skipp-Craig Spector book THE LIGHT AT THE END) but, according to this guy’s logic, I should write a vampire novel just because I won’t make any sales otherwise. I have the same mentality about writing that local musician Kev Brock has about music: I don’t care if it makes me a millionaire…I write for the love of it. Props to Kev for being one of the only musicians in the area who has that mindset. (There are others, but I don’t want to veer off-topic.)

Another thing: he says “write for your audience.” Here’s the great thing: I have no audience yet! How can you make that statement to someone anyway? The only time an author should even CONSIDER writing for the audience is if they have a series of books, like TWILIGHT or HARRY POTTER, where they know the readers are invested in certain characters. But even then, if J.K. Rowling had decided that Potter had to die in book seven along with Voldemort, I sure as hell wouldn’t have held it against her. If your gut tells you that a certain character should die off, then you should listen to it.

Last but not least, we come to the fact that what’s popular is always changing. Right now it’s vampire fiction. So let’s say I want to jump on Stephanie Meyer’s coattails and I sit down to crank out a vampire novel. First I have to write the first draft. Then I have to edit it down. After that I need to do research and get the names of book publishers and literary agents that (1) handle vampire fiction and (2) are willing to work with unpublished novelists. Naturally this means having to follow their submission guidelines, which would mean writing a query letter first and asking them if they want to see some or all of the novel. At this point I would have to wait for a reply (and I have seen them take MONTHS to get back to queries) before I could send in anything. (Even then, most of the letters will come back saying they aren’t interested.) The point is that by the time I found someone to accept the vampire novel (if I even did, because it’s getting harder and harder to get that first novel published), the genre would no longer be popular.

Anyway, that is my rant about writing from the heart versus writing from the wallet. Now it’s time to go off to work.


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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