Never Ignore Your
once read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, an
expert in writing query letters in the late, great Dan
Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What
I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.”
It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet.
But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree, especially
when it comes to creative writing.
authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done
very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing
for Your Audience.” And maybe they followed their
hearts and gathered their audience along the way. When
that’s the case, it is a risk to take a path going
in a different direction from the one an audience expects.
John Grisham did that with A
Painted House and his courtroom drama readers weren’t
much taken with it.
was, though. Very taken.
became a stronger fan of his work. And it’s my
theory that Painted
House was the novel that had been lying inside his
little writers’ soul all the time. That it brought
him pleasure to write it. Maybe that it kept his writing
passion alive. Maybe that brought more readers into
his circle of avid fans.
maybe sticking to your audience’s tastes too long
is also a risk. Or maybe starting out with a project
designed only to please others and not your creative
self would doom you to be a short-lived author. Maybe
an author needs to occasionally open new door and let
the beam of passion light the work they are doing.
do a bit of acting and learned that new actors should
learn to give to the director not what they think he
or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give
what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown
me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly
learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself”
when it came to selecting merchandise for my store.
When I did, I very often brought whatever I bought home
because my customers wouldn’t buy it.
back to writing!
That same balanced note is a good one for writers to
follow, too. They must keep their audience in mind.
As an example, they must trust their audience to be
readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole
lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them.
And certainly authors should do the research necessary
to avoid writing the same book someone else has written.
there is another side of the coin and here it is:
you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do
not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly
with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which
we may then choose to break). But we must love what
we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion.
Keep at it. Keep learning more about both writing and
the publishing industry as a whole. Market your work.
Do all that and an audience will find you. Your audience
will find you.
can do that once and you can do it all over again if
you don’t mind risk. Risk of getting less income
than you’re used to getting with whatever you
wrote when you garnered that first audience. Risk of
teeing off some of your original authors who came to
you with preconceived expectations.
an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two
philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the
author (or beginning writer who still feels uncomfortable
calling herself an “author”) who denies
his or her dream and considers only what she figures
someone else wants of him.