Who do you write for?

I had a conversation with an author a few months ago, and something he said has really stuck in my head. We were discussing his book, and I noted that his big climactic fight really fell flat for me. It was like he’d gotten to the end of the story and then just didn’t care anymore.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Yeah. I just got sick of writing fight scenes, so I did the bare minimum.”

This really, really bothered me. The book was an action piece, and after so action scenes, to end with an action scene that was phoned in seemed to really disrespect the readers.

Then again… For whom was he writing?

And so I bring it up to you: Whom do you write for? I’ve heard it from authors again and again: You need to write for yourself first. This makes a lot of sense to me. You need to write what interests you. You need to convey the stories that you find intriguing or arresting. You need to bring to life characters you yourself find interesting. If you don’t do that, if you just go through the motions, the readers can tell.

Notice what I said there, though: You need to write for yourself first. That does not mean you don’t keep your readers in mind. If you’re writing, you write for you. If you’re publishing, you publish for your readers. That means that if you’ve dedicated yourself to writing an action novel, you owe your readers an amazing finale that includes a great action piece — unless you’re going to pull the rug out from under them and give them something totally unexpected. But you certainly don’t go through the motions and give something half-hearted!

So, yes, write for you. Write your heart out in ink and let it be a testament to what bleeds out of you. When you’re aiming at publishing, though, you’re not publishing for you. You’re publishing it so others can read it, and hopefully even enjoy it! That doesn’t mean you become a sell out. It just means you keep your audience in mind as you edit.

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