Thursday, July 2, 2015

Writing for Others (Update 7.2.14)

An oft repeated piece of advice is to first write what you love. Don't worry about where you'll sell it or which readership or if the fans will like it - write for yourself first.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if you don't love it then staring down the blank screen day after day to finish a story/novel/whatever will be a tedious business. Secondly, if you don't love it your readers will be able to tell. Passion for your story absolutely translates onto the page. So does boredom.

After I had my first story published (a little piece of flash about the aftermath of an argument between a husband and wife that wanders into suggestive territory) I quickly realized that writing for myself was the first step, but at some point I would have to deal with what the readers think. (Just a hint, for that particular story the words "softcore porn" showed up in the comments.) It was around that time I settled on another personal rule.

I do not write for those who don't like what I write.

I've gotten a few weird looks over that one, but the fact is that there are certain things you will find over and over in my work. If you don't like those things... chances are you are not the reader I meant the story for. And that's fine. I write what I like, for myself first. That anyone else likes (or even loves) what I put on the page is icing on the cake.

But there is a point in digging into the words that it gets difficult to remember that I'm not writing in a vacuum. The whole point of putting these stories on paper is to share them. If I wanted to keep them all to myself my head would be pretty crowded, but I'd have a lot more free time on my hands. But I write to share the things I enjoy.

A few weeks ago a friend introduced me to The Hillywood Show. I was absolutely delighted with their parodies. Not only are they very loving recreations of various creative entities, but they're funny. Even if you (like me) are only slightly familiar with the particulars of specific fandoms.

And then, yesterday, I discovered the reaction videos*. And I quickly realized that these videos were almost even better than the original parodies. Why? Because for folks who are creative, having fans who are genuinely excited about the content you produce is a kind of satisfaction all its own**.

I've spent the first half of this year digging on various projects. (The not-yet-finished Southern Gothic Horror novel. The OGN script. A novella that turned into an unfinished novel. A super-secret project for a different pen name. And some other stuff.) All of which are things I love. But what I love most about them is the fact that at some point I will get to share them with folks who are equally excited about the story and characters.

This is the value of remembering that while we write first for ourselves, we are also writing for our fans. Somewhere out there is someone who will be as excited as you are about that killer scene in the middle act. Someone who will laugh as hard as you do at that joke the MC made. Someone who will cry when that character you both loved dies.

We write for the folks who love our work.
We write for the fans.
Because we're fans too. 

*So, I didn't know this was even a thing. Kind of like unboxing videos. Only these are folks watching various shows or videos and recording their first reactions.

**Personally, I also appreciate the satisfaction of being paid for my work. But having happy fans is obviously in contention for the top spot.


Tyro Vogel said...

Hey there. I absolutely agree; I'd say this is ESPECIALLY true when writing is your livelihood, and you ghostwrite 15k novellas for [not nearly enough $$$] a pop, if you DON'T like what you're doing it can get so tedious that it's barely worth it. But if you concentrate on writing what you love, on making it as awesome as you possibly can, then you will be doubly satisfied when you're finished. You've done something cool, and, even if you don't have your name on it, you've gotten more practice AND you got paid.

But writing for somebody who doesn't appreciate your work, whether they pay you or not, is an exercise in futility.

Happy writing!


A.G. Carpenter said...

Tyro: Yes, absolutely. I've discovered that the things I love to write about are things (some) folks love to read about and I am both more productive and more satisfied when I make myself happy first. Otherwise it becomes an endless spiral of second guessing every plot element and twist and character choice against the unknown standard of folks who might not like certain things.

There is an intense satisfaction in finding the ones who are in synch with your creative output though. It's the icing on the cake after finishing a story and putting it out there.

I hope you get plenty of opportunities to experience some of that satisfaction as well. :)