Who are you writing for?

I write for myself, first and foremost. I figure if I entertain myself, then none of the time I spend writing is wasted or lost. It’s one of the ways I justify all the time I put into sitting in front of my keyboard, or hovering over a notepad.

Second, I write for my readership, or fans. I think about who my audience is. Do you?

When I write mystery, I know that I must put in clever details that will get them thinking, “Is this something important?”

When I write romance, I know that I must provide an emotional attachment, reasons to get sucked into the life of my characters. This is really true no matter what genre I write, but I learned it from writing and reading romances. What do you learn when you read? Do you read with an eye to the question of “What is great or awful here? What should I try to take from this and apply to my stories?” OR NOT.

When I write science fiction, I know that I must provide the details of science that are well based in fact. SF fans are brilliant at figuring out the holes in your science fiction theories, equipment, and futuristic toys. But this idea is true no matter what genre you write, too. Make sure you know how a gun works. Or the engine if your hero has to mechanic on something. Or whatever.

When I write historical, I know that I must do my homework. I can’t write about, say, England circa 1600, without having a clue as to who was in the aristocracy of the time, especially the monarchy. And flavor details like terminology are really important.

When I write fantasy, creative details, like description of the world, or paranormal are ultra important. I have to set the scene with interesting bits of info that readers won’t skip over. Huh. Ideally, I would do that in any genre. Huh?

Readers of different genre will keen in on different details and skip over others. A Great American Novel should have such a perfect balance of emotional suction and intrigue, and details so finely put together that anyone who picked up your book, no matter what genre they normally prefer, would fall in love with your characters and story IF THEY ONLY READ A LITTLE BIT. You know, they would get so involved that they couldn’t put it down. Even if it wasn’t really their cup of tea.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all we wrote was so good that any audience would love it? Think about the details of your genre, and the details your audience will want to clue into. That’s all I’m saying.

I ask people all the time to explain to me “Why do YOU think a reader would like this opening or ending?” And “How can you make this appeal to my dad, a plumber, my friend, a hotel night clerk, and me, a housewife?” Is there something that you can add that will draw us ALL in?

Or will you stomp your foot and say, “But I don’t want plumbers and night clerks reading my stuff. I just want housewives who are bored!” Or what? Asking yourself why your stuff would appeal to your targeted readership might help you hone it a little better.

Recently, I wrote an opening for a science fiction story. A novel. My critique group liked it, but said it didn’t snag them as an opening scene. They are not sf readers. It was too tekky. The next week, I brought an opening that had a total romance feel. Too emotional, not enough action, they said. But, the romance readers liked it. Next, I brought an opening with a murder on the first page. Well, an exploding shuttle. The mystery fans liked that best. Last week, I took another opening. It had problems too.

What I learned is:

a) The audience wasn’t really appropriate for measuring the specific genre appeal. It needed work if I wanted it to go into a mainstream audience.

b) I can slant any story to any readership, if I am so inclined.

c) I learned something about my characters and my action by letting a wide scale critique group check out my story pieces.

d) In the end, I am the one that has to decide which way I want to go with my story. I take their suggestions and narrow in on where I want to go with my work, but I can’t let their negative comments affect whether or not I finish something. Take the constructive, eliminate, and let go of the stuff that doesn’t help you. Their opinions are directed by their personal preferences.

In the end, my best advice is:

Write what you want to write. There IS an audience out there for everything. You can’t be the only one in the whole world that likes what you like.

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