What? You think I’m kidding don’t you? Granted, where I am it’s 0227 and I’m more than just a little loopy off of Nyquil, but I stick by my guns.
I’ve seen mixed quotes. One reads; Write the book YOU want to read, whilst another exclaims (and is backed up by writers); Write for an audience.
Both are great advice. But misleading. At least in my opinion. Which, under every circumstance you are more than willing to dump out the window like the chambermaid with her pot. I’m not good with advice, I don’t think I have any real place in giving any when it comes to writing because I haven’t published anything yet. So, no advice will be given.
No, you know what? This one time, I’m gonna give advice. No, I haven’t published anything yet, but I’ve learned a thing or two in the time that I began treating this writing thing as a serious to-do and not just a way to get out of listening to my Jr. High Algebra teacher.
And maybe that thing or two is worth something, maybe it isn’t. You decide! And just keep in mind that I have a bad cough and Nyquil is running through my system. And that it’s 0238 where I am.
Taking the first quote into mind ‘Write the book you want to read’ is pretty straightforward. There’s no other way to say it, aside from asking someone what their favourite book is and slapping them in the face with said book, then apologising profusely whilst informing them that their favourite book (the one they just got slapped with) is the book whose likeness they should be writing. After all, it is their favourite book, it makes sense that any book they choose to write should follow the same lines as its predecessor.
Yeah, except maybe not so much. I think there’s wiggle room. I mean, isn’t there enough fan fiction out there? I’m not knocking it. I wrote it. I’ll admit to it right here and now. When I was a kid, I was in love with a show called ‘Shin Kidosenki Gundam Wing’ translated “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.” Best. Show. Ever. When I was a kid.
My first writing foray was into Gundam Wing fan fiction, where I entered myself and my friends into the Gundam Wing universe, and wrote a killer superhero story that had us all in stitches. I’m still bummed I lost that story.
Those were the stories I wanted to read because that was the period in my life. I wanted to be the star of something, ergo fan fiction. But stories that want to be read aren’t limited to fan fiction. Say you have this idea for a vampire story, so you write a vampire story. It has all of the correct elements in it. Vampire, girl who falls in love with vampire, adequate amount of moral ambiguity and blood sucking, maybe even a little supernatural hanky panky. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, you have a story.
That YOU want to read.
But what about everyone else? Do they want to read it? After all, an audience of one is all well and good until the conversations in your head become a little one sided. So, take to the editing board and start cutting. At this point you’re writing for an audience. But the audience is fickle. Oh, so very fickle.
I acted when I was a kid. Mum sent me to camps, to summer classes, the whole shebang. She even directed my sister’s and mine’s talent show act when we lived in Amman, Jordan.
I learned many things there. Voice projection, the fourth wall, how to be okay with wearing a pink gingham dress. But mostly, I learned how to ignore the audience. Because the audience freaks you out. The audience judges you. The audience has preconceived notions of how the whole thing is going to turn out and God help you if it doesn’t tun out the right way. So, I ignored the audience. I yelled out my lines not in a squeaky voicem but a strong one because it was so much easier focusing my attention at the light box than the multitude of eyes in front of me.
So, writing for yourself is high handed and one sided. But writing for an audience can potentially be coma inducing. I’ve decided to write for the voices in my head. I write the book the characters want to tell, edit it to become the book I want to read, and then send it out to a potential audience to receive feedback and change it into the book that they will welcome into their homes and onto their shelves. Or e-readers. Whichever comes first.
Maybe I start off writing the book I want to read. God knows it seems that way looking back now with an editor’s eye. But soon, the voices in my head take over and help shape the thing into something they want to keep going. Because the voices in my head are my characters, and after all, it’s their story, innit? Why shouldn’t they get to write it?
If you start out writing for an audience, start out anticipating what they want, you’re already boxing yourseld in to a world with established things in place. That’s no fun. A first draft should ring true for you and no one else. The second and third drafts can be thought of as ‘what will the public think’ because that’s what they’re for. But not first drafts,. First drafts are special.
Write for the voices in your head, my friends. Let your characters do the talking this go around.