1. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    Fun for the writer or fun for the reader?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vandor76, May 14, 2014.

    I noticed that many comments here talks about how much fun writing can be (in general) or that writing with a particular technique (like limited 3rd person) is the most comfortable way for the commenter.
    Many do not even mention the reader. Isn't the comfort and fun of the reader also (if not more) important?
    For example if I have an interesting story which is best expressed by seeing into the protagonist's mind but I personally don't like the idea, should I go for my or the reader's comfort?

    My opinion is that if I want fun I can play with ideas or stories in my head and no need to write them down. If I want to share my thoughts, entertain people or earn money by writing a book than I should give first priority to the reader and adopt my writing as needed.

    What is your experience/opinion?
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I'm most likely going to be the exception, but I think what's good for the reader is most important, if you're writing stuff you want published, purchased and read. The 'comfort' of the reader (if you mean not challenging or offending him/her) shouldn't necessarily be the goal, I think, but they call it 'reading for pleasure' for a reason, and your work (fiction, anyway) should be entertaining.
     
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  3. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I think many of us start out writing, primarily, for ourselves, but once we make the decision to share our work with a wider audience, accommodations invariably need to be made. I'm still trying to find a happy medium between what I enjoy and what is likely to please my average reader. (If, indeed, there is such a thing.)

    A good, recent example of this, is that I generally write in third person, because that's what I like to read. On receiving feedback, it appears that I get a greater response from work written in first person, so if that's what the peeps like, that's what I'll give them.

    It's pays to keep in mind you can't please everybody. I would be wary of thinking that what goes on in your head is the 'fun' stuff and that the writing itself is somehow different. Much can be learned by experimenting with different ways of doing things. Write, get feedback and adapt. You might find that you are not as comfy in your rut as you think you are. ;)
     
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  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think you need to make a distinction between techniques that a writer may or may not be comfortable using and techniques that can be generally expected to draw a reader in. The decision about 1st person v. 3rd person, for example, is one that has implications for the writer in terms of what can reasonably be done with each and what is more comfortable given the story (s)he wants to tell. But the vast majority of readers won't care as long as the work is a good read. Decisions about how and when to introduce characters, establish subplots, maintain tension - those go more to the craft of writing, ingredients we include to draw and hold the reader's interest, without which we can't hope to achieve commercial success. As @obsidian_cicatrix said, once you make the decision to seek a wider audience, you need to consider what will hold the reader's interest. But that doesn't mean that you don't make certain choices based on the story you want to tell.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you're not comfortable writing in a certain way, your story won't come out right, and thus won't be a good read, and thus your readers won't like it. What the author likes and finds fun to write can often be synonymous with what the reader likes and finds fun - because only when the author is comfortable and enjoying the process can they truly convey the story, and convey it with excitement and emotion and thus make it a good read.

    Of course you must push against your comfort zones and explore. To that end, if you're uncomfortable with a certain technique, ask yourself if it's because it's not right for the story, or if you simply don't have a good enough grasp of it to use it properly. If the latter, then learn, experiment, and when you have a better grip on it, start on your story.

    As another member has said, I would be careful to think that what's fun is only in your head and somehow the writing is separate from that. Trust me, if you're not having fun when you're writing, it's damn well gonna show. Well, or maybe not, because if you're not having fun, you'd simply never finish. Writing - and since I write novels, I'm thinking primarily with novels - is such an incredible amount of work that there's no way anyone would ever finish if they weren't having fun.

    The trick is not to write for yourself or write for the reader. It's not either or. The trick is: learn to write for yourself AND the reader.
     
  6. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    Different readers prefer different POVs. I would write in the one you prefer, because I don't think it matters overall. For every reader turned off from writing in one POV, another reader will prefer it, and another reader or two won't care.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect most won't care.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm assuming that I'm writing for like-minded readers. That makes writing a lot easier. If your goal is to please millions of people, you're setting yourself up for failure.

    If you don't care about the story, what makes you think the reader will?
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think they would. If I read a story that looked like the author didn't have an ounce of enjoyment writing it, I'll wonder why they even bothered to write it in the first place. Readers can pick up on things like this.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just read an article by Tracy Strauss in the July/August issue of Writers' Digest (0ut already!) that deals with this issue.

    Basically, it says that you can write a first draft only for yourself. Go mad if you want. Write reams of fanciful dialogue, heaps of infodumping, whatever you feel like doing. Pursue plots, have fun with characters. Do whatever gets your creative juices flowing. Have fun.

    However, if you want other people to read what you've written, you'll then need to set up what the article calls 'a dialogue with the reader' during your second draft. This is where you shift gears.

    That doesn't mean you can't tell your own story, but now you need to think about how your story will appear to the reader. This is where you think less about what you want to say, and more about how it's going to be received.

    I don't mean censor your work ...I mean concentrate on your presentation.

    It's creativity, but it's a different kind of creativity. Here's where you take your original vision and make it accessible to other people.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  11. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    Thank you all for your replies

    Seeing the answers I think I wasn't totally clear with my question. It was a general one about how much attention should be given to the readers' needs but some of you replied as if it were about my specific problem with 1st or 3rd person (which was only an example). Sorry for not knowing exactly what I want to ask :oops:

    As I understand there is a consensus here that one should write the way he likes the most (or have experience with) as trying to forcefully write in a style he thinks will get the reader's attention will lead to failure. I can deeply agree with that and this is why I wanted to ask, in the hope that someone will come up with an idea on how to find the balance between writer's fun and readers' pleasure.

    Jannert gave a really good explanation, others shared their great ideas too, thank you very much for that. Please feel free to share how you polish your writing when in the stage of "concentrating on presentation".
     
  12. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    It's not about not liking the story, but not liking to write in 1st person. I wanted to tell an example when the writer knows that the story is better to be written in a style he does not prefer.
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    How do you know it'll be better? One POV isn't inherently better than any other POV. Besides, if you, the writer, don't like writing in a particular way, there's a good chance you'll never actually finish the story because you might lose interest halfway through. Don't worry about your audience, and write the way you want. I can't stress that enough.
     
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  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You misunderstood me. What I mean is that most readers wouldn't care whether the story was written in 1st person or 3rd person, as long as it was written well and was an engaging story.
     
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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you're writing only for your own pleasure, write any way you like...

    if you want to have it published, so many others can read and enjoy what you write, then write with your target market in mind...
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, you asked for it! :eek:

    I can’t speak for other people, but I can speak for myself. This is what I do to get my own novel from first draft to what I want my readers to experience. Other writers will do it differently, and everyone’s method is worth a look, in my opinion.

    I know some writers strive for memorable style in their writing—unique word choice, sentence structure, imagery, metaphors, similes, etc. That is wonderful stuff, and there are many writers I admire who do this very well indeed, and their writing is recognisable for their wonderful use of language. Myself, I strive for invisibility. I want my readers to forget all about me. Once they’re one or two sentences into my story I want them to become totally immersed in it and not notice my style at all. Everything I write has that ultimate goal. I always sacrifice style for story. That’s become my personal ‘style,’ I suppose.

    First - I check my manuscript for clarity.

    Clarity of location and story progression - Nothing annoys me more than being unable to follow a story, and having to backtrack to figure out who’s who and what’s going on. And nothing screws up a writer’s relationship with the reader more than this kind of confusion.

    I try to make sure that all my scenes and chapters are grounded in time and place, and that the readers always know within the first sentence or two where (and when) they are. This is especially important if I'm using multiple points of view, multiple settings and flashbacks. It doesn’t take a lot to orient or re-orient the reader at the start of any scene change. Variations on ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch‘ works a treat.

    Clarity of word choice - I try to make sure that every word means what I want it to mean.

    Clarity of dialogue - I make sure every single speech is attributed to a speaker. That means speech tags, interspersed action, and any other device I can think of. It’s fine to use a few lines of unattributed speech if it’s TOTALLY clear who is speaking. But I try not to ever use more than two speaker changes before attributing dialogue again. And I never ever use unattributed speech if there are more than two people involved in a conversation. It distracts the reader if they have to backtrack to figure out who said what.

    Second - I check my manuscript for continuity errors and other factual errors

    It’s horrendously easy to make these kinds of errors in a long piece, especially if I’ve written it freely without using a timeline or outline or very many notes. I make sure every week has 7 days in it, make sure if I said something happened in 1862 early in the book that it hasn’t suddenly shifted to 1863 near the end. Readers WILL notice. I NEVER knowingly let an error slip through because it’s too much trouble to change it.

    It goes without saying that I also check for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors all through the writing process. It’s easy for these to slip through the net during editing, especially when I'm rejigging sentences and tenses, so I stay on the lookout. I don’t do a specific edit for this kind of thing, but do it constantly. I don’t use a grammar or spellchecker, but I'm sure that can help if you’re not sure of yourself on these grounds. Just realise the electronic checkers won’t catch all mistakes, and they’re only a filter to catch obvious ones.

    Third - I do my best to make my characters believable, likeable, loveable and/or memorable. Ditto my settings. I want my reader to enjoy spending time with these people in these places.

    I consider creating characters, character interactions and settings to be my favourite part of the writing experience. It’s what I enjoy most about reading, and I hope to bring this kind of enjoyment to my own readers. Lots of ways to do it—too many to list here. I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject, and I suggest any writer studies this aspect of the craft as an ongoing activity.

    Fourth - I shape and prune the story

    This is where I pay particular attention to pacing and focus on important detail.

    I try to make sure the reader will go through the story at the proper speed. I try to make sure enough time gets spent where it needs to be spent, and very little time gets spent where it doesn’t. And that the ending comes when and how it should. I want my readers to put the book down and think ah...that couldn’t have ended any other way. I don’t know if I achieve this goal, but it’s what I strive for. This means going back through the manuscript and focusing pointers that will keep the reader on track. I try to make sure the crucial details which may seem unimportant near the start of the story will get remembered during the big finale. I know what I’m writing about, but if the reader misses these pointers the book may fail.

    This kind of edit is something that’s almost impossible to do until after the entire first draft is finished. This is where I discover that certain bits drag, that other bits need to be expanded to make them feel more like ‘real time.’ Sometimes I change chapter order or re-write from a different point of view. Whatever makes the story run more smoothly.

    This often means cutting out diversions, even some entire subplots, scenes and chapters. Many of my favourite bits have vanished during an edit, because they don’t flow into the final storyline the way I thought they would do when I wrote them. (If I really love them I save them 'for later.' And yes, on occasion I've re-used them in a different place in the story!)

    Fifth - Once I’ve done all these edits, I seek feedback.

    This is the first big payoff. This is where I get a feeling for whether or not my story works. I encourage my beta readers to tell me anything that comes to mind as they read. If the story drags in places, if they don’t like certain characters, if certain things confuse them, if certain things make them uncomfortable. If the ending disappoints them. If they can’t even finish the thing at all. Whatever they think, I'd like to know it.

    Readers are great at spotting where I've overused 'favourite' words, phrases and images, too. Then I can do a word search and cut as many instances as possible. If a word calls attention to itself because it's been used too many times, that can be a memorable flaw! Memorable for all the wrong reasons. :oops:

    I pay attention. To every single bit of feedback. These are my readers and they’re the people I want to reach. While I know I won’t please everybody, I do think everybody’s opinion is valid if they bother to read what I’ve written. I can’t imagine seeking publication without taking this step. It’s helpful if the readers are also writers themselves, because they are more able to focus on what might improve the piece. But just plain readers are great as well, as long as they can tell me what they liked or didn’t like.


    I take it from there and continue editing till I'm happy.

    Hope this helps a bit? It’s just my own working method. I’m sure everybody has their own unique take on this process.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  17. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    If I'm writing something that peaks my interest I'm assuming my audience shares that common interest and that's why they've chosen my book from among others. I tend to write what I enjoy reading and try to emulate what I want to feel, receive, think about as a reader, while I'm writing. So in that way, yes, I am address the readers' needs but I'm not placing them above my own preferences as a writer because they're one in the same.
     
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  18. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I think there's a difference between making sure your story is clear and interesting for a reader and not getting to write the story you want to write.

    For example, I'm writing a love story (not sure if it qualifies as a romance) involving a man who's different. Most romance readers might not want to read this book because of that. But, I'm not changing his appearance - the story wouldn't be the same otherwise.

    However, I'm open to cutting anything that drags the story or is unclear. I want the readers who chose my book to enjoy it.
     
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  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Vandor76 - take @jannert's post that begins with...

    ...print it out, and keep it with your writing reference materials. Others may word it differently, and you may find you go in a different order or emphasize a little differently, but this is how to do it. I would only add (because I'm probably somewhat more anal about such things than is Jan), make sure every SPaG error is corrected (which means reviewing whatever passages you alter or add during the editing process) and then making sure that your ms conforms to the submission guidelines of whomever is to receive it (assuming you go the traditional publishing route).
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that's important.

    It'll also help you at the editing stage if you've paid attention to formatting conventions as you wrote your first draft. Conventions such as how to space your ellipses (if you use them), how many line spaces to put between scene changes, etc. I'd consider using indented line returns rather than tabs in your wordprocessing document, maybe use only a single space after every full stop (period) etc. These are all things you may need to change later on, if you don't set them up at the start.
     
  21. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm probably not the consensus here but I believe technique should be decided outside of the readers opinion. I'm not half as interested in the story as how I'll tell it. I don't want anything to sway that.

    The reader is the opposite in a way. They're not as interested in how the story is told as much as how well the story is told. I've been lambasted for using present tense but in a few stories nobody has said boo about it. Story trumped an unfavorable technique.

    When I want to consider the reader the best way to do that is to focus on the characters. They're the main anchor to the reader. Every sin will be forgiven ( or near abouts ) if the characters are amazing.
     
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  22. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @jannert : thank you for the great post, it is a very well collected "post-first-draft" to-do list. I would like to say a separate thank you for your effort to write a long and detailed explanation for a newbie.
    As @EdFromNY suggested I will save it for future reference. You could post this in the articles section as well as I'm sure it would be useful for other aspiring writers.
    If you have a blog I would love to read it.

    @EdFromNY : yes, I will keep it and this will not be the first post from jannert that I save (see the "Does it come before the action?" thread under Setting Development). Your posts are also helpful and always worth reading.
    As a yet unpublished writer I'm afraid I will need to format and then re-format several times according to different submission guidelines.

    @sunsplash : agree, that's why I consider only to write sci-fi and fantasy. Trying to write something else would be boring for me and the result useless for the readers.

    @Renee J : I would never make major changes to a story I want to write, only to attract more readers. However I would make minor changes based on feedback or change the style, the way it is told.

    @peachalulu : it is interesting that you mention present tense as "unfavorable". I do not like it as a reader but I know people who just don't care. A few years ago I stopped reading a book written in 1st person and present tense just because I felt it was presented in an annoying way. It was definitely the style as the story itself was interesting (a chase after a mystical serial killer) and kept me thinking for weeks about who (or what) the murderer was.

    ALL : sorry for my bad english :( This is how a non-native writes after not practicing for 2-3 years. Luckily I write in my native language :)
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Glad you felt I could help. As longer-serving members of this forum will attest, I can foam at the mouth with the best of them! Try making me shut up. Just try! :)

    I wouldn't worry too much about your standard of English, though. I've seen MUCH worse from many native speakers. I think you've got nothing to worry about, as long as somebody who is experienced can go over your MS with you, once you've got it finished, just to pick out any errors that have crept in. You put us 'single language speakers' to shame!

    Speaking of which, a couple of the characters in my novel are native Hungarian speakers ...so I may well ask for YOUR help as crunch time comes, just to make sure I've got the few phrases they use correctly written. I've had to stand on my head trying to get them right. I've been attempting to wrap my brain around Hungarian (The Magyar?) in order to portray it correctly. You might be JUST the resource I've been looking for!
     
  24. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    Just ask and I will be more than happy to help :)
     
  25. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    I think the point is that if a writer enjoys writing their story the reader probably will, too. Good writers put their own emotions into a story and good readers will pick up on the emotion. But if you don't enjoy writing a story or you can't connect with a particular style you can't put that little imprint onto it. So going with what feels right and more comfortable for you is also the way to make it more comfortable for the reader.

    Also, sometimes when I have a great idea for a story which I love and enjoy creating I always want to share it with others. I can tell people I know about it but it never feels enough. When I write I always imagine the day when my stories may be out there, with other people enjoying them just as I have enjoyed other people's stories. Writing is an art and a part of being an artist is wanting to share your art with the world.
     
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