Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Always Know Your Audience

Here's a topic that tends to confuse writers. Some say you should write for yourself while others say you should write for your readers while everyone says you should write what you know. I both agree and disagree. Let me explain before I confuse you even more.

When I'm actively writing a story, I'm in the story. I'm living and breathing this story until it fully comes to life. It's not possible for me to write for anyone but myself when I'm in the story. I only have one brain after all. No can be both the writer and the audience.

But, if I don't know who I'm writing for, or at least have a general idea of the kind of people who would enjoy this story, then things could get pretty screwed up. It would be silly for me to write a futuristic post-apocalypse story in the style of an adult novel and then try to sell it as YA fantasy. Not to mention, I'd have a hell of a time trying to get it published.

See, it's not about writing for anyone specific. It's about knowing and truly understanding the genre you're writing. You should always know your audience, but you should also write for yourself.

Truth be told, knowing your audience isn't innate knowledge. It's not like knowing how to flip a burger before you get a job at McDonald's. Creative writing isn't a job, it's a craft. The scary truth is, it takes experience. I know, I know, for authors who are just starting or haven't published anything yet, that can seem like a catch 22. How are you suppose to gain experience in order to gain experience?

What I do, is just talk to people. Friends, family, people I'll meet online, readers I'll encounter. I'm constantly filing away info about likes and dislikes, and how it could relate to the subject I'm writing. I also read all kinds of material, from books, both fiction and nonfiction, to articles, scientific magazines, lots of reading. That's experience. That's writing what you know.

So, I'm getting into Chapter 1. I've found I need to create a new name for a fictional, though plausible, illness. I could make up gibberish or use pig latin, but I know that's not the kind of audience I'll have. So after some discussion and thought, I've decided to rename certain things, using words people are already familiar with, rather than creating a name no one has heard of, because I know my audience :)


  1. I agree with "know your audience." You can write for whoever you want as long as you know who it is! Good points!

  2. Thanks!

    I felt it needed to be said since that's what I'm dealing with right now. I wouldn't be able to go forward with chapter 1 if I didn't recognize my audience.


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