Amelia Robinson

Hey there! I'm a student at the University of Kentucky and an aspiring writer. This blog serves as an outlet for all the things I want to talk about that are writing-related. I'll post some of my writing, too, for your enjoyment and critique. Thank you for stopping by! If you'd like to know more about me, feel free to visit here!

Writing for You vs. Writing for the Readers

Monday, July 8, 2013

So I got a new issue of Writer's Digest in the mail today -- happy day!  The first article I read was in the Inkwell section, an advice short called "One in a Million."  The one sentence teaser read:
Here's why you should be crafting your book with one specific reader in mind--and that reader isn't you.

An intriguing premise, yes?

*here's me reading*

Mr. Kip Langello explains exactly what he says he will.  He outlines the struggles a writer faces when deciding whether or not to write the book they themselves would like to read, or to write the book that is "guaranteed" to sell.  His contention is
writing for yourself is not the answer.
*intrigued, I read on*

He says that if your goal is to publish, then your focus should be outward, on the audience, and not inward.  He concedes that it would be too much to try and write for the kind of readership that visits your local bookstore, so he suggested that the writer with publication in mind should craft an imaginary person that would act as the one who must approve of the story.  Kip Langello's imaginary reader is named Peggy, and he goes into some depth about her and her husband's life, and how he knows her tastes inside and out.

His ultimate point is that if that imaginary reader can accept the reality you've created, then others will too.

As I was reading, I thought to myself, "I can appreciate this," and yet I didn't really.  Why go through the trouble of creating an imaginary reader when that imaginary reader could just as well be you?  Actually, it is you to some degree -- if it's a figment of your imagination, then it will inevitably bend to your subconscious whims and desires.  Why create a separate entity?  Why can't you write for you and still aim to be published?

This is how Christopher Paolini (Eragon) did it.  He wrote the novel he himself would want to read.  And look where he turned out: an international bestselling series, a movie, and global recognition.  Not to mention the slew of literary awards it's garnered.

But as in many arguments, there are many different angles and facets.  As I considered Christopher Paolini's success and how writing for himself worked so well for him, it occurred to me that some authors, like the author of the article, need that sort of disembodiment.

Which made me think of Elizabeth Gilbert.  In her brilliant TED talk, she talks about how in ancient Greece and Rome, your creativity and imagination did not come from you.  It came from this unknowable, unreachable thing.  In Rome, the people called this thing geniuses.  They would live in the walls and boost a person's creativity and imagination in whatever craft they did.  Elizabeth Gilbert points out the psychological construct this is: people separated themselves from the rise or fall of their imagination.  If they sucked, it wasn't entirely their fault.  If they were awesome, they couldn't take all the credit.  So the geniuses were this buffer for the creative minds.  Then when the Renaissance happened, the self became the center of the universe and suddenly people were known to be a genius rather than having a genius.

Kip Langello's article reminded me of that talk because by writing for this mentally constructed reader, it somewhat separates the writer's expectations.  Some may call this objectivity.  I call it unnecessary.  For me, writing something that I myself would enjoy reading is the way to go, because if you can't enjoy the story on some level, why the hell are you writing it?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article! I can see why you would want to write something that would appeal to other people as opposed to just yourself, but I still feel like you need to be invested in your own story. If you're going to take the time to write something, shouldn't it be something you like? I completely agree with your last few sentences.
    - Kritika @ Inspiyered (yup, I made a new writing blog :D)