Censor Yourself

A theatre audience, 18th or 19th century; hand...

A theatre audience, 18th or 19th century; hand-coloured etching Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Museum number: S.384-2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing that is intended for anyone other than the author is a strange phenomenon. It assumes that fanciful notions in the brain can be adequately expressed in text and absorbed by others, and that others will for some reason be interested in these fanciful notions. That in itself is really weird if you think about it, but it gets weirder. Will you offend?  Do you want to?  Do you care if you do?

I subscribe to various blogs, newsletters and magazines that deal with writing and I’m also a member of the London Writers Society. Over the years I have observed the ‘writing for your audience’ debate carry on in various forms with a smug sense of removed comfort. I do not write for my audience, I write for myself. If what I write happens to find an audience, bonus for me.  If not, aw shucks.

I still think this is largely the truth for me, at least when it comes to fiction. I never start a project thinking about the potential audience, but as I near the completion of my manuscript and prepare to hand it over to my beta readers, I have started to think more about this audience question.

The truth is that this manuscript has never had an audience. For four years, I have been the sole member of the crowd, cheering, booing, clapping and writing scathing reviews alternatively.  A long time ago, my critique group saw a few chapters and I think my mom read the first two chapters in their first draft, that’s all. I’m excited for it to have an audience of five people, thrilled, actually, and also nervous.

Part of the work I’m doing before I start sending it to agents and publishers is to read books that are similar to mine, books in the same genre, with the same sort of notions behind them.  I’ve been at that very consciously for the last year and a half or so and it’s inspiring, encouraging and a little scary. What were those authors thinking when they wrote their books? What audience were they writing for, or did they care? I’ve really started thinking about this as I’ve edited my ending.  No one likes a book to have a crappy ending, on the other hand, I personally don’t like endings that are so neat and tidy they’re ludicrous. This is when I started thinking about the people who will read my book, that vague, odd concept of an audience.  How would they want the book to end, what would satisfy them?

I pretty quickly shoved the idea out of my mind, to me it seems like a slippery slope. If I’m writing to satisfy others, vague, non-existent others, I might add, then doesn’t that detract from the whole point of writing in the first place, which is taking weird notions out of my mind and putting them into text so that others can check them out? If I tailor things for these ill-defined people, I seem to be missing a crucial element of what makes writing good in the first place, the intimacy of it. Reading someone else’s honest, passionate words is about as close as you can get to knowing that persons thoughts.

No doubt I will encounter this audience question more and more as my manuscript makes its way to more and more people. All I want to ask other authors now is, who were you writing for? Seems like a very good question that doesn’t have a very satisfying answer.

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About eemoxam

I work at the library and write stuff because books are cool. I like dogs.

Posted on March 29, 2014, in Articles, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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