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Writing for Audience Vs Building an Audience for Our Stories



As we work through the logistics of keeping the article pipeline fed, and it's a hungry beast, I thought I'd open a dialog about choosing what we write.

For example, when I started writing for the public, I went to the root of writing FanFiction. Those who immediately scoff, remember that some really prolific authors started out that way, including Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Meyers. In fact, Mercedes Lackey publishes a yearly anthology. For at least 10 years now, she has short stories written by other authors in her world... you know, FanFictions.

I was interested in Harry Potter. When I started, we were in the drought between books 4 and 5 of the Harry Potter series. There was quite the fertile ground of speculation and tropes that still continues to this day, 20 years later. I just finished a reread of my own unfinished Harry Potter FanFiction novel and restarted editing so I can finally finish it after 20 years. I don't want to turn into George R.R. Martin and never finish the book that's mostly done, after all. (Where are you, Winds of Winter?)

Writing a FanFiction, especially a Harry Potter one, gives you a hungry audience ready to beat you over the skull for mistakes. They are driven to reply. If you thrive on interaction, that is a path. Of course, they can be brutal, too, so that's something to bear in mind.

If you are inclined to follow markets, you can figure out what is popular and write something that scratches that itch. Paranormal Romance was huge some time ago, for example. (It might still be, but I'm not paying attention much to larger outside trends). Quirky teens getting laid seems to usually go over well with the Gay Authors' audience. Teens crossed with giants (at least 1 part) seem to be a regular favorite over at Nifty. You can give yourself a leg up on the audience by feeding the beast.

The other path is more challenging but more rewarding. Write something so compelling that you set the trend. In other words, be you. Write a great story, and it'll get noticed. I am always going to write something other than contemporary. While I will complete my Harry Potter story, I don't plan on writing more in the FanFiction genre (and sharing it) going forward. I'm going to continue to wander off into the lands of speculative fiction, be it Science Fiction or Fantasy. 

That's me being me. How do you approach your writing? Has it changed since you started?  Is feeding the audience more important? Or writing what you want?

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I'd don't write fan fiction but I don't scoff at it. I mean, many people love it both reading and writing it. So, nothing to scoff at. You are writing what you enjoy and what your audience does as well. You may not have created the characters but you still need to write them and your story.

I guess I write what I want to. I think the best thing I've written is The Searcher. It's a sweeping adventure/fantasy and I had high hopes for it, but it wasn't well received really. I'm grateful to the people who did read it and a couple have asked for more.  I'd love to go back to that world to write a sequel for them and for me. Give Stravor and Keter their voices again.

Some people seem to be able to write in the same world and the same characters forever, but I don't want to. I like to explore worlds, people and creatures. I like to challenge myself and discover how I can make even the most outlandish idea believable. Will people accept, fairies, goats, and salamanders who talk ... and the answer is yes, they will and they have. I'm grateful to those who let me take them on those adventures.

I've written the real world stories also. Doing that was difficult, because it had to be right and real. The Changes stories were deep, emotional and at times very hard to write but the result was worth all the hours of research and writing.

I think you need to write what is right for you, things that make you feel good, or to give voice to something you need to say.

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I'm an original fiction writer. I do sell ebooks, more in the past than now, and try to keep up on trends but I write what flows for me. If I am not interested in writing it, I don't think it will be interesting for readers to enjoy it. Otherwise I'd write het fiction with female leads. *shudders* 

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How do you approach your writing? Has it changed since you started?  Is feeding the audience more important? Or writing what you want?

I don't think my approach to writing has changed too much since I started.  With anthology stories, I tend to think about exploring/answering questions that pop into my mind... like what happens if we're reincarnated or how would someone handle a false accusation.  I've written a couple of short stories because of readers' requests, but for the most part, I write what I want.  If I tried to write something just to feed a trend, then I think that would show in the writing.

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I got my start writing fanfiction, then inched out into original works after that.  I tried my hand at fanfiction again a few years ago and Christ, it was much more difficult than I remember it being.  Kudos to those who do it.  

I write mostly for myself.  If I write something and it gets a favorable response, then I keep that in mind, but mostly I write what I like.  If I wrote something just to feed the audience, and it wasn't something I was at all interested in, 1) it would suck and I wouldn't have fun, and 2) I think my lack of enthusiasm would show in the finished work.  Neither of those alternatives are acceptable to me.       

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Writing to feed an audience makes me think of the aquarium I used to visit. Hundreds of fish would go into a frenzy swarming around a scuba diver while they pulled chum out of a bucket. It seemed that if the bucket never ran out, the swarm would never end.

When I was much younger, I felt motivated to write even though the vast majority of it never met another pair of eyes other than my own. I didn’t consider that another soul might lay eyes on it. Actually I would have been mortified if they did. I still have a few projects going like that. They’re just not intended for anyone else.

Now that I’m more interested in writing things that I intend to share, I think more about what others might want to see and read. I don’t know if I’d keep writing these without a few fish in the water, so to speak. 

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Of course, it is easier and better to write what you want. When you write sincerely, the audience will obviously like it and read with pleasure.

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44 minutes ago, toyboyy said:

Of course, it is easier and better to write what you want. When you write sincerely, the audience will obviously like it and read with pleasure.

Absolutely... to a point.  But if you love to write Zombie Rabbit Egyptian Robot spaceship stories you will probably find someone that likes it too... but... no matter how well written the potential interest pool of that particular combination is much lower.  You run the risk of upsetting the Zombie Rabbit crowd or the Egyptian Robot crowd or the spaceship people in trying to juggle that combination... no matter how well written or how much love you put into it.

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