One of my friends recently asked, “Who do you write for?” It was a simple enough question for me to answer and, without any hesitation, I responded, “I write for myself.” The next logical question was, “But, what about the readers and what they might want?”
Ah, that…I had to think harder about that question, particularly since it exposed an issue that came up while editing Duality. It was an internalized battle, but a battle nonetheless, between how I felt when I initially wrote a certain group of chapters, and how I felt when I returned months later to edit them. As a writer, I love that section of the novel. It was challenging and, once done, I was immensely proud of it. As an editor I thought, “You are about to piss people off.”
Though I’m curious as to what the critiques will be when it is professionally edited, I can’t help but be intrigued by the “Write for self” versus the, “Write for readers” debate that seems to be of growing concern for some. As I’ve said, I love to write just for the pure joy of doing it, and this is evidenced by the thousands of pages composed over the years – most of which were only seen by me. Sure, there were short stories and compilations written as gifts for friends, but the bulk of it was for my eyes only and I was mostly okay with that. Mostly.
That I’ve decided to publish a novel now doesn’t mean that I’ve switched from writing with love to write for trade. That others have enjoyed what I’ve shared over the years is a bonus, and something I appreciate. When I say that I was mostly okay with being solely privy to what I wrote, it’s because I love my stories and characters so much that it became more difficult to keep them to myself over time. It’s that deeply-seated joy of crafting a story that makes me – like a chef that cooks a stellar meal – want to share it with others. I mean, they can’t keep eating ALL of the risotto, bisque, and quiche by themselves, right? Of course, my beta readers may ultimately help to open my eyes as to the reality of my point of view. My editor will further that education.
Does it make me selfish, that I write for my own pleasure? That isn’t to say that reader concern is of no consequence. Obviously, you don’t want to turn off your fanbase so that they flee in droves. But, let’s be realistic. There are too many readers with too many likes, dislikes, and demands to even pretend to be able to appease them all. The fact is that, as a writer, you have to be your own biggest fan. If you don’t like it, don’t put it out there. And, if there are those that have issues with your work…well, they’ll manage.
After all, isn’t that what fanfiction is for?