Thanks to everyone who has managed to stay with me through this series, and who have thrown in their two cents. I do think my points have been misunderstood on occasion. My whole focus is on knowing your audience. I’m not saying that using words like argent or lavender is pretentious. Far from it. I’m saying that some audiences will care and others won’t. I’m not indicating that one of those audiences is somehow better than the other, only that they are different. And I’m not saying that there isn’t a market for fine writing. I sure hope there is. I’m saying that different kinds of writing are directed toward different audiences. I’m not trying to indicate that one of those audiences is somehow superior to another. Anyway, here are my closing thoughts on the topic, though such thoughts are always subject to revision.
First, a writer doesn’t have to pick one audience to write for. They may write different things for different audiences. Jack London wrote work directed at the most literate of readers and also churned out potboilers to make money. And, a writer may in fact write for more than one audience at the same time. I think a lot of writers write for readers but also find they have to please themselves first. And, as several folks have pointed out, the readers we writers have the most experience with is ourselves, so if we’re writing for “readers” we often use ourselves as a model. We could easily have two audiences, which don’t have to be incompatible.
Second, writers can, over time, change the audience they are directing work toward. When I wrote Swords of Talera it really was for myself. Although in the back of my mind I had some thoughts about becoming a published author, I never gave a single thought to audience in the first go through of that book. I wrote it purely and simply because it was fun for me and I wanted to know what happened next. As a result, it rambled. When I rewrote it in an attempt to published it, I took out the rambling parts and tried to focus primarily on the story, because I felt that was what the reader wanted. My main audience was no longer myself, although I still wanted to please myself too.
When I wrote Cold in the Light, I tried to keep the “reader” in mind every step of the way as far as story and action went, but I personally adore beautiful language so I tried to keep the prose at a little bit of an elevated level, both for myself and for my writer peers. But I’ll tell you honestly that when I wrote that book I wanted readers, as many as I could possible get. (I didn’t get nearly as many as I wanted.)
Wings over Talera was a hybrid. I wrote the first chapters right after finishing “Swords,” and it was still written solely for myself. But after “Swords” was serialized and I went to finish “Wings,” I tried to keep in mind the readers from the magazine who had liked “Swords.” I wanted those same readers to be happy with the new book. I knew that readers outside of fantasy probably wouldn't care.
Witch of Talera was written, from the first, for readers, the same folks who had enjoyed the previous ones in the series. Of course, I wanted to please myself as well, but I wanted, needed perhaps, to hear people tell me they really liked that book. I’ll tell you, for me, it is truly a great feeling to hear someone say they spent some of their precious time reading a story that I’ve written, and that they liked it. And I’d much rather have that than have a critic discuss the deeper meaning of my prose. The most wondrous gift that any book could give me as a kid was to fire my imagination. And that’s exactly the gift I’d like to give to others.
So who do I write for? Not for critics at all. And not so much for peers, except for the fact that I am one of those peers. I have to please myself in any writing project, or else I can’t go forward. But because I really want to be “read,” I can’t say that I’m writing primarily for myself. My main audience is the kind of reader who likes to read the same stuff I do. And I’d like to have a lot of them. Unfortunately, many readers just aren’t going to like the genres I like so I limit my potential audience by that very fact. Any time you select an audience there are likely to be tradeoffs. In writing, I don’t think you can have it all.
So, some of you have already answered the question of who you write for, but if you’d like to share feel free. And even if you don’t want to tell me, I think you should always tell yourself.