Writing for an Audience

I went to Dragon*Con in 2011 and met my hero and literary idol, Mercedes Lackey.

Well. As well as you can ‘meet’ someone who signs your book and helps you take a selfie. I remember the first time I saw her. She was in a “Women of Science Fiction” panel with Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon and several other lovely ladies whose names just aren’t coming to my mind right now. She was on the end of the panel and had been invited to introduce herself and tell about what she wrote. She leaned forward and said, “Hello, my name is Mercedes and I write books.” Seeing as she has produced a podcast series, written numerous short stories, over a hundred novels and worked with some of the greatest spec fiction writers of my generation, I feel that she has a gift for the understatement.

She and the other talented writers were doing the usual things that writers do at these panels: They were giving advice and telling stories from their own experiences. I remember they spoke about different styles of writing, who works best in silence (Hamilton) and who needs a busy house (Kenyon). The normal things were asked: Where do you get your inspiration? and Do you have advice for new writers?

Mrs. Lackey’s words have resonated with me since.

Writers. Write. They don’t talk about writing. They put their ass in the chair and they put one word in front of the other and ignore the blinking middle finger on an empty document page.

It’s taken me years to really internalize that advice, ignore the distractions that come with school, jobs and life in general and make that time to put fingers to keyboard and let out the voices in my head in a coherent form. And writers do write, as I’ve repeated and will repeat multiple times on this platform. But once you get past the process of developing the habits and discipline to get those words on the page, you have to ask yourself, ‘Who am I writing for?’

The obvious answer is: I am writing for myself. After all, I’m the one who has to deal with the words that come out of my fingers. I’m the one who has to look at the pages of re-writes. I’m the one who has to delve into character backgrounds and decide who is going to shoot who when my protag finally uncovers his or her dangerous plot. So my next question is, “What do I like to read?”

I like to read romance, science fiction, folklore, fantasy and adventure stories. Since those are the stories I like to read, those are the stories I am going to write. In short, I’m writing for people like me, who enjoy the things I enjoy and want to hear about cool stuff in that area of study. Writers can be arrogant that way. We put our words out into the world and are in many ways searching for those who agree and want to share our heads. It’s why almost all the writers I know are so nice to their fans. It’s not a matter of simply appreciating the people who liked your book, but it’s also appreciating the people who are similar to you. Those readers who go into the work you put out and see themselves in it. When you write for an audience, write for yourself.

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