Do I do it for me or my audience?

There seems to be a great divide among authors whether they write for themselves or to an audience.  I’ve spoken to many authors who claim they will never write for an audience.  They write because they love to write and it doesn’t matter who or if anyone wants to read it.  Over the years I’ve found that, as a rule, these authors are not in the business to make money.  They don’t long to be on the top of the best-seller lists.  They don’t care if there are action figures made of their characters.  In fact, I’ve found that an overwhelming majority of these intellectual authors find it disgusting that other writers would even consider selling out their craft to become commercialized.  Many authors feel this need to please a target audience has lowered the bar for what should be, first and foremost, fantastic writing.  In essence, many of them believe commercial fiction writers are hugely responsible for the ‘dumbing down’ of our society.

On the other hand, commercialized writers have a completely different look on the  matter.  They are marketers, whether they want to agree with that or not.  They study their audience, they know what their audience likes, and they write accordingly.  They see and study other authors in their genre, reading everything they can to see what formulas work.  I have found from talking to these types of authors that many of them long for the action figures (they make money).   They live for the idea that someone may want to make  a video game or movie from their book and they keep that in mind as they develop and unravel scenes, create characters and define tension and plot.  They don’t see their writing as ‘dumbing down’ anything, but rather giving the audience what they want and crave.  Does this for make bad writing?  Sometimes, but  not always.

If you ask me, it’s all subjective.  I’ve read books that I thought were horrible and didn’t know how the author found anyone to publish the thing.  However, someone else I knew read the book and found it to be the most fantastic piece of literature they ever laid their eyes on. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one such example.  I hated it.  I couldn’t get anywhere near to the middle to ‘wait for the exciting stuff to happen’.  I was so bored and just couldn’t muddle through.  Other people loved it, and now it is a movie.  Was Stiegg Larsson thinking movie deal when he wrote it?  I’m not sure.  I doubt it, but many will now lump him into the commercialized author category because it is now a movie.

My advice to any aspiring author…write from your heart.  If your heart leads you down the path where you just want to write and you don’t care if anyone reads it, then go for it.  If all you can think about is writing a best-selling book with eventual movie rights, go for it.

I personally fall in between the two.  I write because I love it.  Writing is as important to me as breathing.  To go more than a few hours without writing something is torture to my soul.  It’s insane.  My main dream is to be published.  Period.  Just knowing I have a published novel out there in the universe where other people can read it would just make me feel all gooey inside.  But don’t get me wrong.  I would LOVE it if a big movie studio came to me and said, “We want to make a film out of your novel, and by the way, we’ll need to make video games and action figures to be released 3 months before the movie.”  Can someone say SWEET!

Would accepting such a deal make me a sellout?  *shakes head*  I think it would make me a savvy businesswoman.  I mean, come on.  Let’s face it.  I don’t care what anyone thinks about Stephenie Meyer.  She wrote a series of books from her heart that gripped the hearts of young girls all over the world.  The Twilight series may not have been intellectual or exquisitely written, but they did touch the pulse of the world.  She wrote something she was passionate about, and that passion came through in the books.  She knew her audience, she knew herself, and wrote accordingly.  Pretty dang smart if you ask me.  Does that make her a commercialized writer?  I don’t think so.  She had a passion, got off her bum and wrote her heart out. She got lucky, filled a void, and became a very wealthy woman because of it.  The same can be said for J.K. Rowling.  The Harry Potter series is the most lucrative set of books, EVER.  Heck, there’s even a theme park devoted to the stories.  No one else in the world can claim that.

So, I’ll continue to write from my heart and pray and believe I will be one of the .005 percent of authors who break into the top 100.  I truly believe In the Shadow of the Dragon King is a great novel and would be purely spectacular as a film.  And just between you and me, I would really love to have Trog and Einar action figures. That would make me squeal with delight.  🙂

As Yoda said, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  I plan to ‘do’ and I strongly suggest you do the same.  Follow your dreams, no matter what they are.  Let others think as they will.  You only have one person to please in the end, and that’s you.  Make it count.

So what kind of writer are you?

6 thoughts on “Do I do it for me or my audience?

  1. I write what’s in my head. If I don’t, I’ll go certifiably insane. My demented head takes over, and I go with it. So… I write for myself…

    Then I EDIT for the market. The market is out there, and we all have to deal with it.


  2. What a great post – thanks! I write entirely for me – I have to love writing and love reading it afterwards (If I don’t, then I know there’s something wrong!) I then have to hope that if I love it, perhaps someone else out there will, too. One way or another, you have to write from the heart.


  3. Great post, Jenny! I ‘do’. 🙂 I write for me. I write what I love in a way I like it. Some love that. Others hate it (as seen by the reviews of my book). I don’t care because I stick to the people who loved it. They saw what I saw. Not everyone will. 🙂


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