1. Malina

    Malina Member

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    Write for myself or for the audience?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Malina, Feb 10, 2017.

    Whoa, first minutes here and I'm starting a second thread.
    I guess it can be a common issue but I'd like to hear what you think about this particular situation.
    I have this friend who proofreads my book and I constantly update her on progress. She's not a pro, we're both in senior year in high school, but I started writing this book years ago and it felt natural for me to go with my drafts to a friend. The habit simply stuck.
    She's pretty critical, which is good I suppose. Only the last time she criticised my writing voice and I'm not sure what to do with it. I use complex sentences, I love word play and giving common phrases new twists. I swear I don't force myself to sound smart, as it sometimes happens, and it's not over the top. It's just my voice. Turns out it's distracting. She said she can't breeze through the chapter because she needs to sometimes pause, and that a common reader gets distracted easily, so they wouldn't pay that much attention and they'd drift off.
    Okay, I can't judge that, it may be true. It's actually highly possible my writing isn't meant for popular books readers. But what, should I force myself to write differently? It even souds wrong. So, should I write for a small niche? I'll never afford publishing books that way. Should I just write for the sake writing and leave all my works in the desk?
    My inner writer screams at the thought of dumbing things down for my book to be an easy read. But my bank account is sobbing, too.
    Where's the "always there" way out?

    PS. I'm not a native English speaker, so I can't offer any examples from my writing, unfortunately, otherwise I'd give some to give you a better feeling.
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Whether you write for yourself or with an audience in mind, you're very unlikely to make any money from it.

    So discounting the financial goal... why do you write? If you want someone else to pay to publish your work, then you have to write work that they can sell. Maybe your natural style will sell, or maybe it won't - impossible to say based on feedback from one teenager. If you're willing to pay to publish your work (and it can be almost free), then do what you like. If you want to be read in large numbers, then write for markets with lots of readers.

    My goal is to be both traditionally published and read by as many people as possible, so I do take my target audience into account. I don't prioritise that above everything: for example, I don't choose to write trends (like vampires, BDSM) that don't interest me, even though it'd make me more likely to sell. Some people talk like you can EITHER stay true to yourself or write to the market, but for most of us it's a false dichotomy. Definitely is for me.
     
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  3. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    I've had a bit of a bad habit of writing what I think people will like to read. I'm trying now to write without considering an audience. I don't know which is most effective, and I certainly don't think less of anyone who writes to sell, but re-reading all the things I've written, I'd say that what I've written without considering an audience is way better. Not because the audience don't have taste or anything. It's just that I've enjoyed writing it more and therefore, I have spent more time and care on it.
     
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  4. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    Also an additionally note: when not considering the audience, I don't unconsciously mimic other people's voices. But some people might be good at writing with an audience in mind and still keeping their own originality :)
     
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  5. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    If I didn't consider the audience I would actually include hardcore sex scenes. >_>

    The porno cut! :eek:
     
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  6. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    First, let me share that I can relate somewhat. I had a childhood where my mother raised me reading King James Bible and Shakespeare. I was given Victor Hugo to read (translated, but unabridged) when I was six

    (I got accused of morbidity by teachers for telling kids who watched the Disney film that in the book Phoebus was a dick who let Esmeralda burn, and that her biological mother actually turnt her in before realizing it was her long lost kidnapped daughter who upon the revelation ended up going to the stake to burn with her {yay touching family reunions} )

    I tend to have an affinity with "classic literature" (I don't think I can actually accurately lump all of them together under that label, but for false simplicity's sake I have) and have an indifference to strong dislike of majority of contemporary prose. I'm not keen on the styles.

    I like the flowery prose & excessive details of Wilde. I love Austen's particular utilization of tell, not show. I like Doyle's common use of "cried," "answered," remarked," "murmured," and "ejaculated" as tags.

    And of course these and countless others informed my own writing in ways uncommon or unpopular for today's style.

    So I can understand not wishing to alter your voice or style just because readers and other authors are partial to the current standard.

    However, I also want to warn that sometimes what we think is just a stylistic issue is our missing an actual flaw in our writing. It's easy to dismiss others by going "they just don't get my narrative voice" when really there actually is an awkwardness or incoherence to our sentences. It's more difficult for us to see these because obviously it makes perfect sense to us who've written it—but we also come with a complete understanding of our intention before words hit the page. Our readers can only grasp and wrestle with what we've put down in ink.

    So when a reader suggests our sentence structures or styles are distracting, it's actually very important we listen to them and consider the validity.

    One of the things I did when I was in junior high and high school was I had an avid-reader friend who loved the same literature as me and wasn't repulsed by stylistic choices—but she also was able to identify and point out legitimate flaws in my writing.

    I did lose her as a beta reader 8 years ago, and my current friend I share stories with is not an avid reader of any style of writing. She loves stories—she just isn't a reader. And my narration has altered to accommodate her. Hardly any flowery prose or uncommon diction, a lot of straight forward simplicity. I didn't fully sacrifice my voice though, just presented another one. What I conceded, I made up in snark, satirical asides, or just an overall irreverent or mocking tone. I found this voice when I wrote a parody of a popular YA book for her, and I enjoy writing with this style as much as my old style.

    So in summation:

    Personal style is fine, but pay heed to all criticisms. Often they are more relevant and apt then we like to give them credence.

    Perhaps find a reader who is more accustomed to your stylistic choices, to help differentiate between issues with your writing and your style.

    Sometimes you make a change—but change doesn't have to be bad or a lack of personal character.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
  7. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Welcome to the site!
    Yes, yes you should. Whenever I find myself asking "Do I write X or Y," the answer has almost always turned out to be "Both" ;)

    Here's the unspoken truth of "writing for your audience:" Your audience want to be surprised. Marvel's Deadpool took the industry by storm, but DC's Suicide Squad failed across the board, and the big reason (though far from the only one) was that they were trying to copy what Deadpool did instead of copying how Deadpool did it. What made Deadpool a success was not just what the movie did, but the fact that it was the only movie trying to do that.

    Deadpool wasn't a "new movie about X," Deadpool was a "new movie about X." Don't copy the result, copy the process of coming up with a new result.

    If you write for what you want to do and not for what everybody else is already doing, then you will create something new, and this will create an audience for you to have retroactively been writing for.

    Don't just show your audience what they already like, they already have that. Show your audience what they are going to like :cool:
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
  8. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    I'd say it's not so black and white. Simpson brings up a good point when he says both. Think of it as a spectrum. A lot of it will also depend on the genre, release language, current trends. It also depends on how you wish the narrator to sound.

    If you are writing from an unintelligent characters point of view and having issues with readers understanding what words mean, they are likely going to get the wrong idea about that character and think they are smarter than you want them to be. From there they may question why they didn't do this, or that, when your cop-out was that they are dumb or ditzy.

    Though... step one is finishing your novel. Don't alter your voice if it's your first novel. Just finish it. Once you've finished your first novel, it's a whole new game. For me, everything got a little easier and I felt I had a little more playing around room in my style. My novel ended up crappy, and only a few friends ever got to read it, but it was finished.
     
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  9. Malina

    Malina Member

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    Thank you all for answering!
    You've all made valid points that I'll think about.
    I can relate to this so much. And that's kind of the problem for me - my beta cares more about the action than language, while I care for them equally. For her complex language is a distraction from the action. But she can still see my flaws in writing. I just can't be sure when she's right and when it's her personal preference. But you got me thinking.
    My MC and narrative voice vary greatly. My friend pointed that out too and I'm beginning to think it's a mistake? MC is pretty smart, but his language is modern and casual. Narrator though is descriptive, supposedly reminds of Dostoevsky's style, while still remaining remotely casual. Honestly, the longer I write, the more I feel like the narrator sounds like a more mature version of my MC. Obviously, our speaking voice sounds different than our writing voice, when we put thought and effort into it. It feels like the MC grew up and wrote everything down. In 3rd pov, for some reason.
    But maybe you're right that I should first finish the whole novel and then edit. I'm at about 50k and having a bit of a mid-book crisis, maybe I shouldn't overthink that now.
    Thank you again for your advices, I'll keep them all in mind. It's really great to hear second hand opinions.
     
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  10. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    That's why I try to get at least 3 or 4 Beta Readers before committing to any one thing ;)

    Do you know any other works where the 3rd-person omniscient narrator's voice was markedly different from that of the character(s)?
     
  11. Malina

    Malina Member

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    Off the top of my head, I can mention just some non-English writers we talked about in class. It's not popular, probably because it's tricky and not everyone likes it. To be fair, most of my characters have their own specific voices and the narrator simply has it's own too; my voice to be exact. Does that make sense?
     
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  12. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Yes. It's not what I do (I prefer 1st person with occasional 3rd-person limited), but I'm told that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did it very well ;) Do you enjoy SciFi?
     
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  13. Malina

    Malina Member

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    Funny you ask, I write mostly sci-fi and modern fantasy ;)
     
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  14. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    When there is dialogue yes, this makes perfect sense to have characters have their own "voice" in the way they talk. However, you are telling things from the narrators either limited or omniscient perspective. As 3rd person, you are the storyteller, and anything other than dialogue should generally speaking, be in your style. Think of it as telling your friends a story about something someone you know did. You will likely quote things they said how they said them, but you won't use that person's vocabulary or punctuation when you are describing the person's actions.

    I'm sure you likely meant dialogue.

    Also, remember that style doesn't mean mono-tone. Just because you suddenly use shorter sentences and a few more semi-colons doesn't mean you are leaving your style. It just means that you are writing in a specific way for the scene, with-in your style of writing. If the reader says it feels like it's no longer the same author at some point, that's when there's a real issue that needs to be fixed.

    ^--- Most times a new writer's style will evolve massively in their first completed works. Think of it as starting to go on runs, and the more you do it, the more you fall into a running form that is natural for you.

    I relate running to writing because both are painful and rewarding.
     
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  15. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Well, running is rewarding at least :D
     
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  16. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    I meant a rewarding feeling, not actual rewards. :p Running makes you healthy... writing makes you... lose sleep/hair/showers. *cough*
     
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  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Like I said :cool:
     
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  18. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    Uh, those two movies were in production at about the same time. SS was done filming around August of 2015, just about three months after Deadpool was filmed. By the time Deadpool hit the theatres, SS was wrapping up production. Roven, Suckle, and Ayer had no idea how successful Deadpool would be while they were finishing up Suicide Squad.

    And what do you think it was that Ayer and team were trying to copy?
     
  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I don't pander to trying to be the next same old bland thing.
    I just write what I enjoy and if it finds an audience then so be
    it. Better to enjoy what you write, even if it is not trying to be
    like every other story out there. Hard to find a good book these
    days (at least for me), because every I find one there are a
    million just like it with very little difference.

    But you can write with passion, or just a market. It is up to you
    to figure out where you fall on that spectrum. Of course to some
    degree if you decide to publish there is a hope that it will sell, but
    there are no guarantees what so ever.

    Good luck with your works. :supersmile:
     
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  20. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    Trying too hard to be edgy, dark, and funny at the same time were the big ones, but now that I look at the dates...
     
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  21. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Don't know if this will help you or not but I wrote a lot of my first book in high school and finished it when I was twenty or so. I thought it was awesome but it was complete dog shit. I was very good at story telling but broke every writing rule in the book. People tried to help me but you couldn't tell me anything at that age. I never thought for a moment that my style wouldn't work for everyone. That anyone with half a brain would fail to understand what I was trying to say. It took me another ten years to put it altogether, but I don't fell bad about it at all. I don't think many people have much to say until they're in their thirties anyway. Simply because you don't know anything about life yet. Don't take it personally but that would be the one thing I would tell an 18 year old me.
     
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  22. A.V.K.

    A.V.K. Member

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    Write for yourself, but like anyone who wants to become better at something, be open to criticism and be willing to improve.
     
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  23. Malina

    Malina Member

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    Yup, that's exactly what I fear. I can't count how many times I've rewritten my novel already, the only thing that hasn't changed from the original version is my main character (though he was a she for a short while). Middle school me didn't care much for LGBQ characters or POC representation or a lot of other stuff like that, but I thought my writing was deep and reflected world problems well. Yikes. I can see now what I couldn't before, but it makes me wonder how much I have still left to see.
     
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  24. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    Write for an audience!
    If you're a storyteller, what else is there? Engage the reader, manipulate their emotions, grab them by the throat!
     
  25. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    You need more than one beta reader. Get a consensus from, say, 10 of them, and you'll have a better idea of how you're doing.

    If your beta can give you a specific example of what she thinks ought to be changed, that's also a help. If she's a fellow writer, ask her to re-write a paragraph or two, just to illustrate how she would have preferred it to be written. It might jog something in you. (OR it might make her realize that your way is actually better.)

    I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting lots of beta readers to look at your work, not just one or two. If there is a problem they all pick up, or a problem most of them pick up, then it probably is a problem. If it's a problem only one person has, it's worth thinking about. But maybe it isn't something you really need to change.

    (I'm presuming here that you do want to reach readers with your work. If you truly aren't worrying about other people's reactions, and your work satisfies you, then just carry on regardless.)

    I seem to have missed something, or I'm picking you up wrongly. Do you WRITE in English? If you do, then as soon as you've been here long enough to satisfy the requirements, then post your work in the workshop. Lots of people will weigh in with opinions, and you'll have more to go on than just one beta's reaction.
     
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