Who Do You Write For?

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Writing to an audience

I read a post recently about the importance of identifying your audience or readers when drafting a book. I had heard this before and must admit I didn’t understand it then or now. I mean, basically, we write for readers, don’t we?

But apparently, this is not good enough and could be the reason our books fail to meet our expectations.

Determined to dislodge the penny, I tried to get my head around what the article was trying to tell me. Thinking back to my own writing efforts, none of them had made much of a splash, although (in my humble opinion) they were reasonably well written, so what would make a difference?

Sometimes I turn problems upside down to see them from a different angle. Very often, I can see ways of solving them or at least making them better.

My first book was a challenge for me. I didn’t know if I could write well, if at all, way back then, so I probably wrote it for myself.

To be honest, I think my second book was written for me too. And by the time I started writing the third book, I was floundering. I spent a lot of time chasing how-to articles, searching for helpful ideas and advice and getting nowhere fast.

Around this time, people were talking about muses and how helpful they can be for a writer. Not that said how to get one in the first place.

When I did get what I thought was a muse, he wasn’t what I imagined a muse should be. He was sarcastic, almost rude, making me guess what he meant, but he really made me think.

For some reason, I cannot find the link for the post I wrote on that day, and I would love you to read it…

Call me Sam…

My office is usually a quiet, peaceful place. Unless something goes radically wrong and I am having a rant.

Today was almost such a day, but I was trying hard not to lose it, determined to figure out what I was doing wrong and why my WIP was proving so difficult to get right.

I have to sit with my back to the door, something I wish I could change but the layout of the room doesn’t allow for any change. So when I sensed someone standing behind me, I assumed it to be one of the family.

‘Ma’am, that is surely a crying shame…’

The soft gentle voice of a man, inches from my ear should have alarmed me, but my curiosity had the better of me and I wondered what he was talking about. Although I wasn’t entirely sure if I had imagined it, I answered. ‘Pardon?’

‘I have to say that character is all wrong, you know…’

By now, I knew I wasn’t imagining it, but insanity seemed a better fit. I was also fascinated, so decided to play along and see what happened. ‘How do you mean?’

‘If you will permit me to sit down, I will explain…’

I nodded, aware that I was about to see who my mysterious visitor was. I watched as this white-haired, distinguished and slightly familiar gentleman walked past me to sit in the only other chair in the room. He reminded me of someone, but my brain was stumbling around like an idiot at a genius convention.

He had kindly blue eyes and an enormous, also white moustache, a bit like Albert Einstein, but I was sure it wasn’t him. He sat there, next to me, calmly watching me with an amused expression on his face. I wondered id he, like me, wondered what he was doing here. I decided to ask. ‘I feel as though I should know you, but what are you doing here in my office?’

His bushy white eyebrows were moving slightly, reminding me of caterpillars.

‘Ma’am, I have no idea how I arrived here, but judging from what I just read on your notebook, I must be here to lend a hand, so to speak.’

For the next hour, we talked about my progress as a writer, my WIP and one character in particular. I had been worried about this one, so it was refreshing to have another clearly expert opinion.

‘The problem, Ma’am is this. You have not brought him to life yet. He needs to have a life, smell the coffee, and do normal things like a regular human being. He will die soon anyway…’

‘Where did you read that? And please stop calling me Ma’am, my name is Jaye.’

‘Oh, I didn’t read it, Jaye. The poor chap never eats, so he won’t last long…’

I was embarrassed but had to laugh. My visitor was right. I had been so involved with the plot; I had forgotten to give him a life. My eyes returned to the chapter on the desk in front of me, eager to see with fresh eyes just what a pig’s ear I had made of it all. It occurred to me to thank my visitor for pointing out what had been wrong all along, but when I turned my head in his direction, he had gone and the chair was empty…

I tried to continue working but my brain was busy trying to remember where I had seen the old gentleman before…

The book he helped me with did very well. I remember feeling very differently about this one, once I knew he had been reading it. Every time I sat down to write, I imagined him looking over my shoulder, and I believe it helped. Remembering how I felt back then, the penny begins to move. I think I wrote that book for him, so maybe there is something to this, after all?

Since then, life has thrown everything at us all. Not much time for anything really. Two years on, the virus seems to have lost its teeth and life is struggling to return to normal.

The current WIP, despite a lot of work on my part, is a mess. I don’t know how many times I have almost binned it, but something compels me to keep trying.

I don’t know why my muse left, or how to get him back, but do you think he would lend a hand if I asked him nicely?

Pretty Please?

23 thoughts on “Who Do You Write For?

  1. I do write for myself since I’m the only one who is around while I’m writing. I had a muse a while ago but she said something like “need to find myself,” and haven’t seen her since. As you describe your muse maybe if you put out a glass of gin you might entice him back. Who knows? Couldn’t hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post, Jaye. So much here! I think we start writing for ourselves in a tangled and wandering sort of way. Then little by little, we find our voice as an author (a general consistency in our style, our craft, our pace, descriptions, themes, and mood. Our fans learn what to expect, and those who like our “voice” become our audience. To me, this is our organic audience versus the audience that we decide upon and conform to. I like that.

    Writing is messy business, isn’t it? Not something in our complete control. Stories hang around in the ether, expecting us to wrangle them to the ground, to make something real out of them, often without their cooperation. They’re ornery two-year-old trolls that we need to sculpt into mature princes. No easy task! So, accept the struggle and write. They do grow up eventually.

    And I love your muse! My guess is, he’s around, just waiting for the invite. Sit down with your keyboard, open the door and invite him in. Then type the conversation that ensues. My bet is that it will work! Great post and Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have a muse. I don’t write for anyone specifically. I guess I write what I’d like to read. Writing is something I do, and don’t over-think. If I did that, I would never put a single word down. Call me boring I guess. I really enjoyed reading all the comments as well as your piece. Thanks so much. Have a great June everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mostly I hate my muse. It isn’t gender specific, possibly alien (or from Dorset – I’ve always wondered about Dorset, a sort of Not Devon). It bugs the hell out of me by siding with characters who I’m not interested in writing about or pointing out I haven’t explained something which I was just about to deal with – maybe. I tried sacking it but it staged a picket and I couldn’t write. We went into mediation but it would take it seriously. So I’m stuck with the sod. The only way to stop the noise is to listen and work out what it’s on about. Usually that sorts it. It’s good to know others have similarly fractious relationships with theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I write, now, for my beta reader. I aim, in every chapter I send her, for one specific piece of feedback that tells me I’ve hit my target fair and square: she calls me some version of ‘evil woman,’ because I have tortured (or, occasionally rewarded) the characters in a way that satisfies me – and she sees why I’ve done it, and knows it’s probably necessary, but she doesn’t have to like it.

    It’s such a gift from her. Every once in a while, when my brain is at its worst, that validation is just what I need to not worry that I’ve lost it. I’ve asked her to tell me if I’m slipping.

    Liked by 2 people

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