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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

For whom do you write?

(I wanted that to say ‘who do you write for,’ but I don’t want you to think I don’t know my grammar. Which is a teensy bit ironical, really.)

I was invited to speak to the book club at my local library last night–they were reading Mary Modern–and someone wanted to know if my editor or publisher had asked me to remove the overly political bits, or if I ever considered doing so. She pointed out that I was potentially alienating half of my readership. I replied that my editor had said she expected I would be criticized for it, but she left it up to me. And I decided to keep it, I said, because taking it out would have been disingenuous. Mary Modern was written around the time of the 2004 election; it is a product of that era, and of who I was when I was 23 and 24. (Actually, I remember thinking I ought to follow my own character’s advice–that life is too short for subtlety.) But more importantly, I write to please myself. I write the story I myself would want to read, and if you like it too, then I’m thrilled; and if you don’t like it, well, what can I say–I’m not your circus monkey. (That’s not to say the lady at the book club didn’t have a good point to make; when readers say the novel’s politics ‘take the shine off somewhat,’ I completely get that.)

If you are thinking about your audience as you write, calculating your every word to please, flatter, shock, or elicit any other sort of reaction, then what you are making is not art–it is product.

You write for you.

7 Comments to For whom do you write?

  1. January 21, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Words to live by if I ever heard them.

  2. January 21, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Good to hear. Although I’m not sure this is entirely true for many. Especially in this marketplace.

  3. January 21, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Neil, but I’m not talking about blogging.

  4. JC's Gravatar JC
    January 23, 2011 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Well said. I recently left a critique group because I felt the table was becoming overly obsessed with the predilections of specific editors — literally to the point of writing stories with elements that would appeal to the specific readers of certain magazine slush piles. If you want to make money, there are far more certain and profitable ways to spend your time. You must love what you write, and have the ego to believe what you love is worth sharing with others. If not, you’re probably better suited for a more rational career choice than that of an author.

  5. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    January 23, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Very good point! I think a lot of the hackneyed bestsellers are written for the audience rather than for the author, which is why (in my humble opinion) they stink.

  6. January 23, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Sometimes I think ours is the most irrational of all career choices. :}

  7. January 25, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    These days I write for me. It’s easy because I have no audience. Now that I’m thinking in terms of getting published, I’m befuddled by the need to find an audience. All of which makes me want to go read a good book and hide from the publishing challenges. I can’t wait to find out how this story I’m living turns out.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.