Well, not literally. I don’t care what any writer tells you, published or not, we all write for the same audience – ourselves. Mostly to get the words out of our heads so they can stop feeding that annoying, screeching monkey of a conscience and give us some peace and quiet. We write to get the stories out, to clear space in our brains so other stories can come in and sit for a while. Some writers like to visit with their stories longer than others, but we’re all writing just to keep ourselves sane.
At some point, though, we have to look to who we’re going to share that writing with. It may start with friends and family, but at some point we have to figure out who, among the countless billions out there, stands the best chance of enjoying what we wrote.
For a long time, I thought my audience would be adults. Why not? By all accounts I’m an adult. My kids think I’m one, anyway, and the state of California treats me like one. I read adult books (not those adult books.)(prude.). Why wouldn’t what I write be for adults?
Then I wrote A Scent of Roses and all of that changed. I don’t want to say I was timid in the writing – I wasn’t – but despite being a full grown adult with all my adult credentials, I found the end product of my muse to be more appropriate to New Adult than full adult. (New Adult is a category of books, post YA, pre-adult, that allows for more mature content without being 50 Shades of Peuce mature). In other words, PG-13 vs NC-17. There are certainly moments in Roses where you have to be an adult to read them, but by and large its just a fun thriller (with a strong Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Exorcist vibe).
Why do I bring this up? Right now I’m working on short stories largely – both writing new ones and polishing old ones, sending them out and working on the next one. But last night I had a short bout of sleeplessness. I took a shower. I made my lunch for today. I wrote 1000 words in a short story. Then I sat down and did some plotting for a novel that’s been kicking around in my head.
I’ve had this character – Niki Hunter – strolling through my head, kicking ass and doing magic for a few years now. I like her. She’s awesome, both fragile (in the sense that there are limits to her powers, and when she reaches them she’s burned out and likes to hide in a bottle to dull the chaos and pain of it all) and killer (Buffy-esque)(but from the good seasons). There’s a world and plots and turmoils and Writs of Blood and the whole nine yards. What there isn’t is a finished novel.
It’s not from a lack of trying. I’ve even had novels that started off as unrelated, only to end with her walking and taking over all of the action. The problem has been finding satisfactory finishes. But rather than continue to rehash old attempts, I wanted to start fresh.
And this is where target audience comes into the discussion. (I know you were thinking I’d forgotten about it.) I started wondering, what if rather than aiming for an adult audience with all of the implications that that carries (word counts, context, etc.), what if I just aimed for that New Adult audience from the start? It means cleaning things up a little (I’m no saint), but as soon as the key was turned in that lock I filled pages in my notebook with initial plot points and dialog snippets. I think because in some ways, this was the audience that best suit my writing to begin with. Maybe that makes me a dull person.
Of course, this is all talk, just me discussing what’s rambling around in my head. I intend to continue writing short stories while I plan out this novel (I won’t call it outlining – viva la pants!). But that’s where my brain is right now. The Edward Gorey picture at the top of the page? Not a coincidence. I’ve been thinking a lot about Gorey’s work, and the books its appeared in, lately.
And in other news, the rejection list continues to mount even as the number of stories released to the wild increases. When will it end? NEVER.
- Author Tip: Is Short Story Writing Something You Should Do? (michellerenegoodhew.com)
- Why We Should Dare to Write Terribly (ryanlanz.com)
- Writer (reed.co.uk)
- Graham Swift: ‘As human beings we’re all short-story enthusiasts’ (theguardian.com)