Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Do You Write For The Reader or Should You Write For Yourself?

As usual, I won’t write a post that claims ultimate wisdom. My goal is to share ideas that get you thinking and, hopefully, sharing what you think in the Comments :-)

Should a writer write for the reader?

Who is the reader?

What value is there in writing what you consider necessary in spite of what readers may think?

Some writers will tell you to do research about your potential readers and find out what they want when they read. This is fairly straightforward if your goal is to produce books that fit into an accepted genre. If you write cross-genre or your writing is actually creating a new genre, the only reader you can consult is yourself and, possibly, that weird group of people who actually understand what you’re up to :-)

The value in writing what’s necessary, in spite of potential reader turn-off, is helping elevate the conversation our Human Family is engaged in. Some of the most enduring reads are books that were first misunderstood by the general public but trumpeted valiantly by those who saw the Value. Some things in life are worth fighting against horrendous odds to achieve higher ends…

I’m tempted to pull a little rant here about the formulaic method of writing that caters to formulaic readers, all spiraling into a slush fund of wasted resources–pimping your talent to make a buck. Oops, I did let a bit of rant slip, didn’t I :-)

There are honest writers who create within and give value to a niche market of readers. Plus, with all the burgeoning opportunities for self-promotion and publishing, these dedicated artists can reach their dreams of sharing their unique perspectives.

My personal solution for this seemingly contradictory situation of choosing either the reader or yourself as the motivating impulse for why you’d spend so much time alone creating something that might reach a large audience is:

Read as widely and deeply as you possibly can. Read till you’re bored and then read more. Absorb as much of our Human Family’s hopes and dreams and challenges and fears and dangers and failures and quirks as you possibly can–absorb it into what you could call your internal Meta-Reader.

Then, when you sit down to create, let that Meta-Reader decide what is absolutely necessary to write………
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16 responses to “Do You Write For The Reader or Should You Write For Yourself?

  1. Shalon January 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Hi Alexander,
    Wow, I really loved your solution for this deep conundrum that all writers face; it’s very original to say, “develop a meta-reader.” It’s great! I agree whole-heartedly.

    I think the point is not whether you are writing for yourself or for others, because, ultimately, there is no way to write for yourself–the very act of writing is a communal–and your idea of the meta-reader crystalizes this for me. To me the meta-reader is the part of you that is always deep in discussion with everything that you’ve ever heard or read, everyone you’ve ever met.

    thanks for the inspiring post!


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      Shalon!, good to see ya again :-)

      Absolutely *Love* what you wrote:

      “…ultimately, there is no way to write for yourself–the very act of writing is a communal….the meta-reader is the part of you that is always deep in discussion with everything that you’ve ever heard or read, everyone you’ve ever met.”

      Yep. You are wise :-)


  2. Karla Telega January 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    There is value to genre fiction, because there are a lot of genre readers. What the readers want is important. That said, I don’t think there’s any rule that you deviate from the formula at your own peril. Rigidly choosing to write for yourself can be its own kind of tyranny – being locked into your message. There’s so much room for individuality while staying connected to the reader, I don’t understand why there has to be an argument at all.


  3. cmmarcum January 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

    This is deep. Yes, I do have ‘fun’ pieces and ‘serious’ pieces and sometimes I’ll take up a dare from my writing group. I can tell that you have dedicated yourself to a novel—a little bit like being married, isn’t it? Poor fellow. :)

    Me? I’m fickle with my short stories and mixed genre. Does that make me wicked? I hope so!

    As to formula, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. There is, of course, the big circle: beginning, middle and end. Inside that geometric design are the action-reaction-internalization units. And of course, sequencing, unless you’re really good at flashback and flash forward.

    Why must we write this way? Not because some college professor says so, but because that’s the way the human brain is wired, that’s the most logical form, and that’s the way things happen in reality. Is that what you’re talking about, or have I misunderstood the blog????

    As to writing for myself or the reader….well, I write. Will someone else like it? Only the wild wind knows, but it does make it hard to pick out a publisher. Whahaha!


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2011 at 12:38 am

      I’ll have you know that I’m Happily married to my book!! :-)

      As far as formulaic writing, I didn’t mean the natural organizational principles of fiction which you indicated, even though those can sometimes be altered to good effect… It’s more like those TV shows that have no originality, that are oh, so predictable. You can watch them and know just what will happen and God help the people who continue to watch them and think they’re seeing something of worth…

      Hey, if the Wild Wind is the only power that knows who you write for, I think you’re doing it just right — Whoot


      • cmmarcum January 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm

        Oh, I see what’s your saying. Now I feel like a dumbwad.

        Yes, the re-hashing of old plots and the re-make of old movies is boring. I’m afraid that you are right. Publishers and editors don’t like to take a risk with anything new. All that’s on TV is cop shows and (so-called) reality shows. Movies offer old plots with new special effects.

        I once saw Aliens 4, where two of the characters were watching television. Basically, it was just one commercial after another. One character looks at the other character and says, “This is a really good show.” The other character agrees.

        I guess, this is where we are headed. :(


        • Alexander M Zoltai January 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm

          I fear we are headed for that :-( In fact, many sci-fi novels, which can often be extremely predictive, have scenes with high-tech ads floating and screaming in profusion.

          Still, extremism precedes moderation and decay is meant to feed future seeds………


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  5. Haley Whitehall (@HaleyWhitehall) September 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I always write for myself. I’ve read several professional authors say that if they write a story they do not enjoy no one else either. So if I enjoy the story I write I’m sure it will find an audience. If not, the writing was fun and not a chore ;)


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