I like to make things for people, which you might realize if you’ve been following this blog for a while. There’s the quilt I’m working on for my son (and the quilt I gave to my niece a couple of years ago). Last month, I took time away from quilting to do some knitting and make the sweaters I showcased on the blog last week. I’ve made many afghans for friends over the years, and when I was in grad school, I was known to bake birthday cakes occasionally for people in our lab. There’s something very pleasing about giving somebody something that was made just for them, created with them in mind.
That being the case, it should make sense that I create stories and books with someone specific in mind, right?
Certainly other authors do: Stephen King, in On Writing, says he always writes with his wife in mind, and when she smiles as he’s reading, he knows he got it right. John Scalzi has said (for example, here) he writes science fiction with his in-laws in mind because he knows if they enjoy it, others who don’t primarily read SF will as well.
But the middle-grade horror that I wrote for NaNo this year? My son didn’t even like the premise of it and thought it wouldn’t be worth reading.
My husband, when he reads something I’ve sold that’s been posted on-line, invariably seems to sound surprised when he says it’s good. That’s when he comments.
My mom has given me feedback on stories ranging from “I really liked it” to “It certainly was different.”
Clearly, my family members are not my ideal readers, which left me convinced for a long time that I didn’t have anyone particular I wrote for. I just wrote the stories that appealed to me and hoped they would find readers out in the wild.
I still write things because they appeal to me, but I realized around the middle of December that I do have an ideal reader. My friend Bonnie, who has critiqued many a story for me, is the first one I think of when I want to share a snippet of something I’ve just written. When I wanted to know whether The Christmas Tree Farm Murders was ready to go, I asked her whether she would buy it in a store if she didn’t know me. She’s the one I bounce ideas of off, talk through plot problems with, and squee at when I have good news. She’s ideal because she loves my writing but won’t hesitate to tell me when something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work.
I write for me, but she’s my barometer, and for that, I thank her.
Today’s post was inspired by the topic “My ideal reader”– January’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonanno. Be sure to check it out.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on crossing genre lines, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!
I usually write the kind of stories I’d like to read, but that’s not the best strategy. My wife enjoys my writing, but those aren’t the kinds of books she searches out on her own. Some folks in my Forward Motion crit group seem to really like my stories, so I guess I write for readers like them (who are all females, come to think of it).
It’ll be interesting to see if I’m one of your “readers” (using your definition) when you send me your epic fantasy. I’m looking forward to getting it, so don’t forget. 🙂
I’m curious why you don’t think that writing the kind of stories you’d like to read is the best strategy.
I won’t forget. It probably won’t be ready before summer, but I will be sending it along. 🙂
Writing for myself is a good strategy, as long as it’s not for an audience of one. 😉 I’d like to think that the books I like to read fit a broader audience, but that’s TBD at this point.
For example, I liken the end of my first novel like the end of the first Terminator movie with Sarah Connor* driving toward the distant mountains to prepare for the storm. Some of my betas wanted a more definitive ending, I think. Or are not as much of a fan of “Terminator” endings as I am.
Of course, I need to have a book finished (revised) to discover who my ideal readers are. Nothing like putting the cart before the horse to promote procrastination…
*The fact that my main character’s name is Connor is just a coincidence. I never made the Terminator ending connection until a few weeks ago. Once I realized it, though, the endings do (should) have the same feeling of a pause before the pending doom.
Seriously, if you like the ending as it is, keep it. The one thing you really need to do is trust your gut. Stephen King says, “Tie goes to the author.” If only some of your betas don’t like it, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Oh, and I haven’t put nearly the thought into my ideal reader as Alex has.
I write a number of off-the-wall stories, so I’ve never thought about who I’m appealing to. Like you, I’ve come to discover that when I write something I like, my thought is whether my beta will like it.
Hate to be nit-picky, but you forgot to edit your blurb at the end. I do the same thing nearly every month. 🙂
I think there are lots of us who’ve never given it much thought. Dawn’s post sounded on a similar theme. 🙂
Thanks for pointing out my forgetfulness. Fixed!
Aw thanks. *blushes* I love being your reader. I get to read so much good fun stuff 😀
And I love having you as a reader. 😀
I hadn’t thought of it this way, but I too have a specific person in mind. She’s a friend I’ve known since I was six years old. We’ve shared reading tastes for most of our lives and she’s the first to buy my stories and books. The description of my ideal reader over on my website pretty much sums her up perfectly. Funny how I hadn’t realized that…
Heh. You should send her a thank you. 🙂