Wednesday 6 July 2011

Writing For Other People

This is a balance, because if you're going to write to be traditionally published then you have to look at the market. A publishing company is never going to take on your book if they don't think that they can sell it.Occasionally books get published that defy the trends, but this is more the exception than the rule. 

Also, if you write in a certain genre you have to be aware of the genre conventions. There is a reason why a person decides to go into a bookshop and go to a certain section. The conventions are not hard, fast rules, but you have to give the reader a certain framework.

Ok, so we've gotten that out of the way. One of the biggest mistake that a rookie writer can make is to write with other people in mind. This can take several forms, but there are two particularly bad forms.

#1: Letting other people's opinions interfere with the plot. When you think properly about writing a book, you realise that if you publish it everyone that you know is a potential reader. Your mother in law, that neighbour down the road who hates your guts, your co-workers.You can't pick certain people and tell them that they can't read it. So a writer starts to think, I better tone down that sex scene, they may think that I'm some sort of nymphomaniac or My character can't talk about how much she dislikes her sister in law, in case my sister in law thinks that I'm saying that I dislike her. Some people probably will think that facets of your character are based on yourself, but you just have to remind them that it is fiction. You have to be true to your characters, and your plot. As long as you're not writing thinly veiled autobiography, you should be fine.

2: Clarifying that your character's opinions are not your own in the main body of the text. If you write about a character that is a racist, people are not going to automatically assume that you are in fact racist. You don't need to do this: " 'Go back to where you came from,' David sneered. Obviously, racism is wrong but David was so full of rage at life that he didn't care about other people and the fact that we are all humans regardless of race."

Your characters are separate from you, and an intelligent reader is well able to separate the attitudes of a character, from that of the author. The above is unnecessary and takes away from the scene itself.

*Do you find it hard to write for yourself and not other people?*
*I'm on holiday, but I'll respond to any comments when I get back*


  1. There was a time when I might have worried about this, but I've become much more stubborn and opinionated with age. The more I write, the more I realize this is my voice and I don't want to allow myself to be silenced by what others may think.

  2. I wondered about that issue that everyone you know would be a potential reader so for some people you'd have to forget to tell them and bask in the relative anonymity of authorship so they wouldn't know what you'd written. LOL! :O)

  3. I completely agree. You can't write for someone else. I had a young woman in my youth group that heard I was writing a book and asked what it was about. She listened to my description and asked if we wanted to go out for coffee so we could discuss it more. The girl then proceeded (while having coffee) to tell me how terrible my idea was and I shouldn't write it. Even though she'd never read a word of it. I didn't change it because of one opinion. I wrote what the character thought. :)

  4. Ha! I almost let someone's opinion get in the way of one of my plots in a major way. Then I realized, "Wait! This is just one person's opinion. I wrote it this way for a reason and I'm leaving it!" Sometimes you have to know when to turn the volume down on all of the voices.

  5. Not letting others' opinions affect my writing is definitely something I need to actively work on. It's difficult, the desire to please everybody -- but it's so true that you need to write first what you want for yourself.

  6. @Sarah: That's fantastic that you've reached that level of creative freedom.
    @Madeleine: Ha! But then if someone discovers you wrote a book, they'll presume you used a pen name precisely to hide the fact that it's based on true facts.
    @Krista: That's really strange...I don't think you should ever tell someone what to write.
    @Emily: So true!
    @Emy: I don't think anyone can work completely without taking opinion into account, it's trying not to let it inhibit you that's the key.