Keeping our focus

Tom Colvin has an interesting post on his Becoming a Writer Seriously blog. Called “Writing For an Audience of One,” the post suggests that instead of trying to write for the masses, to write for “success,” we instead aim to write passionately for an audience of one. Think of that one person who would be interested in what we have to say, and write for him/her (even if they are fictional).

It’s an interesting idea, and one that writers who are juggling other jobs as well as families can embrace.

All us of write with the hope of one day publishing. We walk into bookstores and dream of the day when our books are on the shelves. There’s nothing wrong with that, absolutely nothing, but focusing on that can stop us doing what we should be doing–writing.

Sitting in front of a blank page on a screen or a notebook is daunting if we’re thinking, “This has to be good. I have to write a good story. I have to write something everybody wants to read. I want to be the next J.K. Rowling!” I promise you, J.K. Rowling didn’t imagine the kind of success she would have when she started writing the first Harry Potter book.

No. Instead, when we sit in front of our empty page, we should be thinking, “I have a story I want to tell.” It doesn’t matter if it’s commercial or niche in its subject matter. It should be something we’re passionate about, something we will enjoy. Because before it can be published, before it can sit on bookstore shelves, it has to be written.

I lived in Los Angeles for a while, and there, I figured, when in Rome… So I did screenwriting. At numerous seminars, I heard agents, producers, etc., advise their audience to write what they are passionate about, not to write for the market. I have since heard the same thing echoed at children’s book writing seminars.

As I heard at one screenwriting seminar — and as you know from seeing what kinds of movies are in multiplexes — when one studio has a hit on one type of movie, that subject is suddenly what every producer in town is looking for. When Lord of the Rings surprised all the studios who rejected it and grossed millions upon millions, all the producers were calling agents saying, “Send me fantasy scripts.” So any screenwriter who had a fantasy script at the time, was in the perfect position to cash in.

It’s the same with books.

The problem is, that subject is then quickly saturated in the market, and the buyers are looking for something new. So, if when Lord of the Rings came out, or when Harry Potter came out, you decided, I’m going to write a fantasy book and cash in, by the time you’re done, the market has moved on.

Of course I’m not saying you should ignore what’s going on in the market. It’s always good to see what’s selling and what’s getting the best reviews.

But while you’re writing, while you’re trying to fit in a couple pages between laundry and making breakfast, focus on writing for that audience of one — you. Tell the story you want to tell. The rest will come later.

Write On!



2 Responses

  1. Tom Colvin says:

    Samantha, you’ve written a beautiful elaboration on the theme. And even though I wrote the original post, I’ve really needed someone else to push theidea forward. You see, I’m rather stuck in my own writing. Your post today may help unstick me, a least for this week.

    I have two imminent deadlines, long articles about history with rigorous academic requirements. And I keep putting those assignments off, turning instead to blog and to another recent project that moves forward with small spurts of energy.

    You’ve reminded me: just tell the story. I can go back later and deal with the academic niceties, such as document citation. And such…


  2. Thanks, Tom. That was the idea for the this blog, to help encourage writers, myself included, to keep going even when the garden needs watering (as mine did this morning and our new hose didn’t want to lock into the sprinkler — eating into my morning writing time) and inspiration seems as elusive as a butterfly. I’m glad the post helped.

    Also check out my Filling Our Ponds post. Sometimes we need to do something completely different to find our way back to what we’re writing, be it fiction or nonfiction.

    Good luck with yout article deadlines. Let me know how you did.

    And thanks for your original post, which inspired mine. I will put you on my blogroll.

What do you think?