Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who Do You Write For?

Been gone for a couple of days.  Very, very tired, and a little sick, and overall very blah.  Happy New Year to you, too.

An online friend wrote something to me today that, paraphrased, said: "When you write something inspirational, please let me know..." and so on.  Very nice person, offered to have me on her site as a guest writer, and so on.  But this got me thinking.  Should writers write what they want, what they feel?  Or should they write what they hear will sell?

My writing, for those who've gone to the site to check it out, tends to be a bit dark.  Okay, it's very dark.  Okay, my better half's right--it's straight out depressing and horrifying, if not somewhat interesting.  I am, after all, writing a concentration camp novel, an apocalyptic novel, and the finished novel is about murder and mayhem.  So, okay, no happy/smiley here.  Even my blog, I'm told, could use a touch of the light.

Should I write something happy/smiley?  Or should I write what comes?  Or, maybe more to the point, should what comes be more happy/smiley?  Now were talking personal psyche and psychology.  I'm not that bad, or sad, or horrifying, I assure you.  Stephen King isn't a complete psycho, despite his stories, and a lot of people actually wouldn't be traced back to their characters or stories if they weren't attached by name or fame.

Though it has been pointed out to me (many times) that Brad Foster and I are essentially the same.  I don't have shots of Dewar's at nine a.m., and he doesn't have my job (which WOULD make many people have shots of Dewar's at nine a.m.), but I admit that he and I are alike in...spirit.  Mood.  I am much more pleasant.  And I don't carry a gun.  We both have somewhat the same attitude towards society, though he's darker, and I suppose the dead-end alley effects both of us, though he more than I.  Hmmm...

But I digress.  Not, "What to write?" but, I guess, "What to write like?"  I don't know about everyone else, but my answer to that has always been that I can't write what I don't want to write.  If forced to write something light, fluffy and amusing, I'm not sure I could do it.  Foster is very funny, I'm told (and I agree), but admittedly he's not in a life-of-the-party kind of way.  If you like your dose of reality with a heavy touch of sarcasm and slight exaggeration, he's your guy.  Cursing does end with inspiration, though that's born out of a hole in Hell to begin with.  There was nowhere to go but up, mood-wise.

But what to write like?  This is to be continued, but I also have to point out that the question applies to blog entries themselves.  A couple of rules of thumb for blogs is that the entries should stick to mostly one theme or subject (mine kinda don't) and the entries should be just a few paragraphs, certainly no more than 4 or 5 (many of mine are much longer than that).  The stats bore this out: The longer blogs are read (much) less frequently.  In fact, they tend to be skipped, just like long paragraphs of description.  So one frame of thought is, "Don't do that because your readers don't like it."  And another is: "I'll write what I want, and those who like it enough will read it."  Guess which one I favor?

Bottom line, I suppose, is: Who do you write for?  If I wrote for my readers, I'd write more light and fluffy, and my entries would fall under the same category (and, no, not just mental), and they'd be much shorter.

And so--I write for me.


  1. As it should be. As in my last comment, about the Lost Symbol...I think that when authors become mainstream (ie, try to copy what they wrote which was successful), everyone (with sense) understand that that is exactly what happens. This usually happens after they have a huge success (Ahem, I mean sell lots of copies). When you write, you should write what feels right...what comes naturally. No one wants to read something that was forced, it will read fake, and it will be. That is why there is a little thing called editing, invented to revise your work afterward and change a few things. But write the first draft exactly how you want it. The mood will stay (relatively) the same then, and you can take out or add in things to perfect it.

    ...those are my thoughts anyway. Goodness, never think those thoughts again. Why would you ever think of writing what other want. If you want to do that, work for a newspaper or something. Not with creative writing. Go read a Steven King novel :-) it will boost your self-confidence.

    p.s.--There is an audience for every type of book. Don't let publishers (who are pretty much in it for the money...or most of them)make you think any differently.

  2. Having a blog has made me think about this question as well.

    First and foremost I write for myself. Writing is cathartic, and it also helps me process events, and better understand perspectives. Writing helps me think.

    However now that I have an "audience" I sometimes think about whether or not what I am writing will "interest the readership" I have accumulated.

    I certainly try to keep to a general theme-- Nepal, Neapali culture, my life in a Nepali-fied world, reactions of my family to my interest in Nepal, Nepal in the news, etc. Sometimes I write about things happening in my own life-- international education stuff at work, etc, or on rare occasions I will outright rant about something. I know certain readers will read certain things-- such as the people just interested in Nepal who like my culture posts but could care less about family things, or the American-desi relationship people who LOVE hearing about family drama because they can totally relate. I try to mix it up so as not to bore, but it does make me pause and think. I'm certainly aware I'm not just writing for "me" anymore.

    I, too, suffer from the "long-posts" syndrome (even "long-comment" syndrome!). I like to think my posts are interesting enough to keep people engaged to the end, but I know a lot of people probably skip stuff. I like seeing posts that are a bit short and too the point, but I'll also admit that if my choice is between a short stupid post or a lengthy engaging one, I'll go for the longer one any day.

    Last but not least, your stuff might be dark, but dark stuff is interesting. I'm often told the books I read are always "depressing"-- over Christmas I read Jon Krakauer's book on Pat Tillman (a great read, but I love Krakauer, so I'm probably biased) and now I'm reading that copy of Black Hawk Down I've had on my shelf since I found an advanced readers addition when I worked at a bookstore in the early 2000s. I'll happily give you other recs if you want to learn more about the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda, FGM in various parts of Africa or Apartheid (all dark subjects indeed). On a side note, I've watched a few really interesting documentaries recently on North Korea, so if you know of any books let me know!

    I guess I should sign off before YOUR readers start thinking I'M weird ;)