From Writer Unboxed, this post: Who Are You Writing For?
This post is by Julie Carrick Dalton, by the way. Her first book is Waiting for the Night Song. That’s a good title. The book sounds too tense for me and not necessarily my thing anyway. Here’s part of the description from Amazon: Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface? So, right, that is intrinsically a tension-filled story.
But even if I’m not sure I’d like her book, this post definitely made me stop and think.
Here’s how this post approaches the question of who the author is writing for:
What do I, as an author, owe to myself? What do I owe to my publisher? To my readers?
I think about this often as I promote my debut novel, Waiting for the Night Song, while simultaneously revising my forthcoming novel, The Last Beekeeper, and drafting what will hopefully become my third novel.
To whom do I owe what?
So this is a different direction than I sort of expected. It went from “Who am I writing for?” to “What do I owe to other people when I write?” in the blink of an eye, but I don’t really feel like those are the same questions. The post then winds up answering what I think is a different question: Who owns the story?
It belonged to my readers.
Every reader who invests time and money in reading my book owns a piece of the story.
I think that’s right, but I also think it doesn’t answer the question of whom you’re writing that book for in the first place. After reading the book, every reader owns a piece of the story — that’s true — and has a valid take on the story — also true — but that doesn’t mean the author wrote the book for every single one of those readers to begin with. That’s impossible considering that readers will have varying experiences when reading the book.
Here’s my answer to the original question:
A) I’m writing it for myself.
B) I’m writing it for very specific readers. I’m aiming to write a story that those specific readers will love as much as I love it.
Who are those specific readers?
They are the readers who were so pleased by a previous book of mine that they took time to write me a full page or more — sometimes quite a bit more — of detailed comments about the story. Those letters matter to me. They matter a lot.
Particularly when I think of the next book in a series, it’s with those letters in mind, those comments, those specific readers. I’m writing for myself and for them. In some cases, that means: I’m writing for myself and for you, because commenters here are often the people who have written me a letter like that.
I hope everyone else enjoys the story too. But if you have ever written me a long, detailed letter about a book, and I’m working on a sequel, you can bet that I am specifically writing it for you as well as for myself. I hope that doesn’t sound corny, because it’s quite true.