Monday, January 23, 2012

Who do you write for?

I don't write to an audience. Even when I'm typing up this blog and specifically addressing the nebulous "you," I'm writing something that amuses me. I've tried writing in just such a way that many, many people will be impressed, but what came out was bland and uninspired, and it was no fun to put together.

I may ask you for feedback, and I might tweak the site or blog based on suggestions, but I wouldn't alter my content or style based on it. I try to mesh what I'm interested in with what other people might like to read, but, every time I've tried to be deliberately provocative or posted some kind of pageview magnet, it hasn't been worth it. Any bump I might receive from such tactics is temporary at best. While I like it when people read my blogs, all that makes me different from the million other writing blogs out there is my voice.

Hopefully my attempts weren't too transparent. It's not like I get anything out of page views or links or comments. You'd think I do, with how often I check the site stats. (And I thought I was addicted to caffeine . . .)

How does this relate to the wider world of writing and publication? I'm glad you asked, because I could've been off on that tangent for a while.

I think this relates to most writers, especially where trends are concerned. Not writing to trends gets down to a matter of time. By the time a book is written, submitted, edited, formatted for publication, and printed (18 months is a really quick turnaround), most trends have already trickled away, and the book is just a pale imitation.

There are, of course, trends that evolve and stick around. I don't think vampires are going anywhere, but one does have to inject some kind of creativity into the concept.

It seems to me that trends are formed around well-written books about something people haven't read enough of yet. The best way to write to a trend, then, is to be the next one.

Similarly to my discovery about trying to write my blog posts a certain way, too, one can't change one's style or voice to shoehorn it into what you think readers want. When I pick up a book off the shelf, it's that author's voice that captures my interest, that establishes the kind of communication that happens between a reader and author. If that author muffles that voice, tries to bend it to sound like someone else, then there's a barrier there. The real voice is going to leak through eventually, and meanwhile, it sounds inauthentic. Imagine Pavarotti trying to sing like Lady Gaga, and you know what it sounds like when someone's trying too hard to sound like someone else.

In short: be yourself. Sound like yourself. Write what amuses you. Life is too short to be someone else. What will turn readers off can always be fixed in an edit.

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