I’ve read numerous books on writing, characters, characterization, novelization, and the list goes on. The goal? Isn’t it obvious? I want to be a better writer. There is a common theme to all these books on writing.
Know your audience.
Certainly, you should. However, I think many of us take this to mean, write what’s popular, if you want your work to get noticed. Maybe, we think it means write what’s not popular so we stand out. I don’t think this is the message that needs to be conveyed. I think, and bear with me here, that we should not just know our audience, but we must become the audience.
As a reader, I certainly don’t want to read something written for Science Fiction fans, or Fantasy fans, or fans of gritty-dark realistic horror. Life is not that generic. Do I write these kinds of stories? Do I read them? Yes. I read the stories in these genres. However, I can tell when the author is not being sincere. When the author is writing to the audience, instead of experiencing the story with them. Instead of saying Know your Audience. I think the message should be:
Write a story worth reading.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Write a story worth reading, then worry if it is something you can profit from. Never the other way around. Fall in love with your art, before you expect anyone else to fall in love with your art.
Do you think that Picaso created a piece while thinking of who would buy it? Do you think that JRR Tolkien wrote his books in hopes of becoming rich beyond measure? CS Lewis? Shakespeare? You might argue that they had. You might be right. I don’t think so, though.
I think that each of the artists of the past wrote or painted, what was in their hearts and minds. They told the story they wanted to read. Did others want to read those stories too? You bet. However, that is the perk of being a good writer, other people will want to read your stories because of genre, because of the writing, or because Amazon told them it was something they may like.
Let go of yourself.
I cannot stress this enough. As a writer, I get so caught up in my identity as a writer. Who am I? is the question I ask all the time. After watching a TED Talk with my wife last night, I realized that seeking my passion has been blinding me from seeing it.
What is my passion? What do I want to write about? Who am I? Who should I be? What am I passionate about? Are all questions that need to be tossed aside once you start writing. Letting go of yourself and pouring out on the page is all that matters.
With NaNoWriMo being here, I find that this sort of letting go is easier. I have a daily word count I want to reach, so I stop worrying about how much I am writing, or how much description I am putting in. I’ve stopped worrying about who am I writing this story to? Instead, I am sitting down in front of the computer, living the story as it flows from my fingertips into the keys and on to my screen.
Write something worth reading, then decide if it is something you want to share. Will I have to edit this novel? Yeah, I will. I’ll have to go back and make sure I’ve properly set up the foreshadowing and backstory, I’ll have to check my grammar and sentence structure. I’ll have to check my characters and characterization.
This is a first draft, but it will be a story worth reading, even if it were never revised. Because the story itself is what matters, not the package, not the audience I should be writing to, and not the genre — the story.
Until next time folks.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,