My last post dealt with why I write as a response to a prompt from the Blogging 101 class I’m taking at Blogging University. Today, I’m still dealing with that topic, though from a somewhat different perspective. Today’s post also has its genesis in a comment posted by one of my classmates at Blogging 101. That comment essentially posed the question that I suspect most of us who are blogging ask ourselves frequently: “How do I expand my audience?”
As a complete novice in blogging, I am not going to presume to offer any advice to anyone in answer to that question. There are many folks out there far more expert than I who can and do address the question of marketing one’s writing. However, the question itself, combined with my previous post on why I write, led me to the question I asked myself which leads directly to this post. That question is simply “For whom do I write?”
When that question finally clarified itself in my mind, I was quite startled. It was a question I had never previously considered though I have been scribbling stories of one kind or another for some years now. “Who do I want/expect is going to read what I write?”
Once the full import of that question settled in my thoughts, I was mind-blown.
My first unthinking response was “Anybody! Everybody!” Then I began to actually consider the question. The next answer to the question reflected back to why I write. In my last post I wrote, “I feel better when I write. And I’m just selfish enough to choose to ‘feel better’ as often and as much as I can.” From this, the logical conclusion is that I write for myself.
But, if that is the case, then why did I invest the hours I spent working on the Writers’ Platform Challenge? That Platform Challenge was designed to teach writers how to get their name out in front of the reading public, thereby developing the beginnings of an audience. This blog is a direct result of that month-long class in expanding my platform as a writer. If I am writing solely for my own benefit why do I keep submitting story after story to various contests, magazines, etc., hoping to be published? And why does each rejection send me back to my writing trying to figure out how to make it better in the hope that perhaps the next submission will win the prize or be accepted for publication?
Ergo, I do not write solely for myself. I write for an audience. An audience I am struggling to find. Who is that audience? And, how do I find them? The more I thought about this completely new (for me!) thought, the more I realized that it is a question that any writer should consider at some point in their writing.
It does not matter whether the answer to the question “For whom do I write?” is for yourself, or whether you are slaving away on that novel you hope to see published. I suspect, though I do not know — even for myself — that being aware of just who is your desired audience will help to clarify your writing. But it does seem to me that clarification has to help.
If your goal is to publish a Young Adult fantasy novel, you need not polish your prose to reflect the literary standards of The New Yorker. If you are writing a blog devoted to family life or cooking, Erma Bombeck is probably a better role model than Virginia Woolf. If you are writing a memoir or biography that will appeal primarily to family and friends, extensive footnotes and long bibliographies are unnecessary. On the other hand, if you are writing the definitive biography of a prominent politician, you may want to read some of the work of Stephen Ambrose or Doris Kearns.
As I am writing this post, I am clarifying for myself an answer to the question of for whom do I write. In my fiction, I am writing for publication. My expected/desired audience are those who read in the genres in which I write. Different genres appeal to different audiences and my writing in those genres needs to reflect the tastes of those varying audiences. Here, in this blog, my expected/desired audience are other writers, frequently bloggers themselves, and my writing here needs to address their expectations.
Writing is a form of communication. An on-going conversation between the writer and the audience, even when the audience is just the writer himself. The writing should reflect the audience. And, in the final analysis, a writer always needs to address the expectations of his or her audience, whether that audience is the general reading public, a select group interested in a particular topic, or the writer himself. You need always to remember your audience.