In my last post, “Why Writers Write (and should never stop writing)” I talked about the reasons writers write and how important it is to recall and recommit yourself to those reasons especially when you are in the midst of crushing deadlines, stalled novels, the death-valley search for an agent, the inevitable impasse with an editor or the ever-present reality of yet another rejection.
Today, I want to ask you a different question. Who are you writing for? The answer is obvious, right? You’re writing for an audience of readers, your fans, or people you hope will someday be your fans. Maybe you’re writing for an agent you hope to snag, an editor you want to impress, or a prestigious publishing house you have always admired. Or, perhaps you’re writing for a well-defined demographic that fits neatly into your genre, right?
Yes, you’re writing for them but—I’d like to suggest that, as writers, we all write for essentially two audiences—and the first is just as important as the second. The first is an audience of one; you. The first draft of anything you write should be written for you. Ask yourself, did you say what you intended to say? Did you write with clarity? Could you say it better? Did you use active voice? Did you write tight? Does it live up to your expectations? Is it consistent with your goals? In short, does it please you?
I learned as an advertising copywriter and executive speechwriter, if my writing didn’t please me, it typically didn’t please my clients. However, if it did please me, my clients were generally pleased too.
I know what you’re thinking. This may work for advertising copy, but it will never work for a novel. After all, what about all of the first time novelists that submit to an agent what they believe is their best work but they are rejected repeatedly?
Good point. Publishing standards are incredibly high today and historically most new authors are not going to get their first novel published, regardless of their standards. Nevertheless, I stand my ground and I encourage you to always write to please yourself first. Get something on paper you believe in. Then, in subsequent drafts, be sure you give your second audience what they’re looking for.
Your second audience is your agent, editor, publisher and, of course, the reader. While it is crucial to write to this second audience too, you may never get this far unless you first write to please the audience of one.
Your Turn: In your opinion, why is it important to write for yourself?
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