It’s the age-old question: Who do you write for? Yourself or an audience?
There is no answer that is inherently better than the other, though many hold strong opinions. Some say that writing for an audience is selling out. Others day that writing for yourself is great–if you never want to get published. Both perspectives have valid arguments for and against them.
So how do you decide?
What Are Your Goals?
Do you want your work published by a traditional press? Do you want to sell movie rights? Are you trying to make a bestseller list? If so, you may want to consider writing for an audience. Your work has to have mass appeal to reach these lofty goals.
Is writing it cathartic? Does the idea of people reading your thoughts make you uneasy? Is writing your form of self-expression? If so, you may want to write for yourself. Your writing is personal.
Who Are You as a Writer?
When writing for an audience, stories trend towards flatness to attempt wide appeal. When writing for oneself, stories trend to be rich in minutia that would lose a reader. Have an honest conversation with yourself or a trusted friend. What do you trend towards?
Do the opposite. If your writing tends to be really specific to you and your interests, try writing for a wider audience. If normally your writing tends to be a little bland, try writing just for yourself, without thinking about the wider appeal. Indulge a little.
Can You Do Both?
Some writers think “Well, if I’d want to read it, other people would too!” But when you write for yourself, you appeal to your own sense of humor, write what’s fun for you, and go on tangents that no one else will understand.
Perhaps you can write for you, and edit for an audience. But who is your audience? Think about who reads this genre and why. Who are they?
What About Neither?
If you were to go to your local bookstore and hang out at the register, you’d find that the people buying books there are diverse, not just in the traditional ways of race, sex, gender, religion, age, etc., but also in their interests and motivations.
Writers’ Digest suggests creating an ideal reader the way you would create a character. Make them as specific as possible. Know their tastes inside and out. And then test everything out against this fictional ideal reader. This will force your work to have a consistent voice and style. The person you created will be representative of a larger readership.
After considering these questions, the decision is yours. Writing is whatever you make it, so whether you decide to write for yourself, a specific person, a mass audience, or some combination thereof, just go and write.