Who Are You Writing For?

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.

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7 thoughts on “Who Are You Writing For?”

  1. It’s wonderful to know that our comments/reviews (and hopefully not the really awful ones) matter and that you are writing for us. I, for one, really appreciates it! I cannot wait to read more of your stories. So far I’ve finished most of your books (except for Death Lady, Griffin Mage, and the YA books) and all of them are wonderful! I have issues with Winter of Ice and Iron namely how ignorant Kehera was and unsuitable as an heir (I couldn’t see why she would make a good Queen — whereas in Mountain of Kept Memory, Oressa was totally kick-ass and I can see how she’s going to be amazing!) and the seemingly abrupt ending (I wanted more of Innisth!!! He’s totally cool! But I think he got cheated!!! That scene at the end where he was in prison and waiting for Kehera to even come visit him once — I kind of hated both Kehera and her brother – she doesn’t deserve him!) — and if you needn’t worry about some of your audience), I’d totally read MM or MMF.

    Sorry, too long a post! Have a great weekend!

  2. I just write stories because that’s the only way I’ll know what happens next. I feel like a wimp. Didn’t know I was supposed to focus on Why instead of What Happens Next.
    (Though if I get stuck writing, it helps to remember what got me interested in the story in the first place. But that’s motivation not the initial reason for writing.)

    And while I do like all of your stories, I most appreciate that you got me to eat my words, so to speak. I used to swear that I would never ever like a story about shifters. For me they’re right up there with love triangles and sparkly vampires. But the first BD story used shifting as a way to describe developing self control over one’s more negative thoughts and urges and I thought that was kinda cool so I kept reading. Plus, I liked the characters :)

  3. I’ve just finished the death’s lady trilogy and it was wonderful! Now I am excited about Kuomat coming out soon. The trilogy was fresh and exciting. Wonderful characters! I tried to get into the Griffin trilogy but stalled at chapter 9. Not sure if I want to continue for now. I think I will see how I like the YA books. Thanks

  4. Is it possible to include appendixes for some books? Like explanation for differences between get, take, push, pull in Tuyo series. It got so confusing in reading Keraunani. In Death’s lady, Nolas-e vs nolas-ai. A map for that world. If they can be extras on the website that would work as well. Thanks so much!!!

  5. Htet Htet, I don’t read any reviews lower than four stars except completely by accident, so there’s seldom a problem there. I do roll my eyes at negative reviews that catch my eye — the ones like, “Oh, my Kindle broke after downloading this book! Don’t download this book!” I’m quite serious. Tarashana has a review like that.

    Maps are hard! I don’t know how to put a map into a book! I will give that some thought though, because I like maps and would enjoy putting maps into books if I could figure out how to do it. You’re right that I ought to be able to add some kind of “Click here for a glossary of terms” page connected to individual book pages, or something like that. I should definitely think about that.

    I’ve got a suggestion — try the second Griffin Mage book. Each book is quite self-contained and has different point of view characters. In some ways, this trilogy may work best if you start with book two rather than book one. Also, Book two is my personal favorite. That means I’m biased, but I do suspect you might like it better.

    I’m glad you liked the Death’s Lady trilogy! And I’m quite curious to see what you’ll think of the YA titles.

  6. I’m laughing, Evelyn! You can credit Patricia Briggs for the Black Dog series. I was unimpressed by werewolves and vampires, but really enjoyed her Mercy Thompson series and started the Black Dog series because of those. I wanted to use all the same tropes, but spin them in a different way. Also, I thought it would be fun and interesting to declare up front, “No sparkly vampires! Vampires are actually demon-possessed corpses and also they’re all dead!” and go on from there.

  7. I think some of the authors I know use https://vellum.pub. It’s mac only. Here’s an article that might be informative: https://www.creativindie.com/atticus-book-formatting-tool-better-than-scrivener-vellum/

    I do love your interpretation of vampires (they are really scary in a very good way in your story!). I will certainly try Book 2 (did read the reviews and they did point to book 2 being a more accessible one). I am very much impressed and grateful how inclusive your stories are (LGBTQ+ and ethnicity) and as an asian (half burmese and half chinese) I’m looking forward to reading more about Tommy’s inclusion into Dimlioc.

    I totally agree with you that some of the 1 stars are ridiculous. There was one anonymous review today that says “This is a terrible book but I finished it” but with no justification or reasons. I wanted to ask “why in the world did you finish it?” I think they might be book trolls and they are just mean.

    Hope you have a peaceful and productive week!

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