Skip to main content

Do You Write for Yourself or Your Readers? #IWSG

Do you write for yourself or your readers?

Readers make a book what it is–no question about it. The story and characters that take shape within a writer’s imagination find form within that of the reader. Readers bring their own thought processes to a story, their own worldviews. They project themselves into the writer’s world, and in some ways, this turns into a very intimate yet totally impersonal meeting of the minds, across time and space.

As an author, I confess to thinking more about the people inside my head than those without. People turn into characters. Places, into settings. Anecdotes turn into stories. Sometimes I’m not sure my memories of the people I met are made of are reality or imagination. I keep making stories up–all the time.

Writing them, for me at least, is an intensely private act, laid bare to the public at some point.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group question for this month deals with this very topic : When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

There are no right or wrong answers to this question, only different ones.

In my case, writing the first draft is always for myself.  The second is for one or two readers. These days, those readers are my agent and editor. The third is where the general readers come in. And from there onwards, readers remain a priority. While writing the drafts though, the story remains one I’d like to tell. I tweak and re-tweak the structure and the language to ensure that my readers are able to experience the story the way I’d imagined it.

This was more or less the process for The Blue Bar, and the early response from readers so far has been heartening as I work on the sequel. If you have the time and enthusiasm, you can scroll below for links to pre-order or click here. (It is at 2580 Want to Reads on Goodreads, and has had several wonderful early reviews.)

For The Blue Bar sequel, I’m a tad nervous about reader feedback, because the topics I deal with are volatile, both within India and without. I can’t let that stop me, though. The story has its own life and its own trajectory, and I can’t let my fear shape it. So again–the characters will take precedence in the first few drafts, and readers in the later ones.

When you write a story, do you think of your own world, or the readers? Would you sacrifice originality for your readers? As a reader, do you wonder about the author when reading a story?


Today is the first Wednesday of the month post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Founded by the Ninja writing female charactersCap’n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without being judged. This is a wonderful group–if you aren’t a part of it, I urge you to join in!

The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

 


My own crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out this October with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
If you liked this post, you can receive posts in your inbox, or keep updated in my writing by clicking on any or all of the following buttons:
GET CURATED PUBLISHING RESOURCES  SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG   JOIN DAILY(W)RITE ON FB  FOLLOW ON BOOKBUB

Save

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

53 Comments

  • The characters take precedence in my stories, as well. I confess to not thinking as much about the reader while following where the characters lead. I always feel nervous when I publish a new book, wondering if readers will like it. I think that’s universal. I like that you don’t let fear stop you from writing the story you need to write.

  • J.S. Paillyj says:

    The progression from writing just for yourself to thinking more and more about your readers makes sense to me. In the initial phases, writing is a very personal thing, but if you’re writing for publication, then at some point you have to switch over to considering how readers will react.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing (haven’t read Blue Bar yet, there is a delay with Amazon)!!.. do not be concerned about your writing.. you do wonderful work and sharing your thoughts in an effort to help others makes you a role model for all.. continue to let your fingers to the walking and your heart do the talking and you won’t go wrong…. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

  • Your well thought out answer strikes a chord with me. I do the same. The first draft is a purge, but as I edit, I think of the reader and look for ways to pull them deeper into the story and hopefully eliminate anyone having any regret that they spent hard-earned money on my story.

  • yvettecarol says:

    Wow, that’s a really great way of putting it, that the characters take precedence first, and then the readers. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. And, I know exactly what you mean about thinking about characters more than folk around you. When I’m fully immersed in writing the first draft of a story, every conversation I have, everything I watch or read, I’m thinking, ooh, my character could do that or think that, or, that’s an interesting thought process to include in my story!

  • Congratulations on your new release! Love the cover. I really like your concept of the first draft being for you, and subsequent drafts being for the readers. Well said!

  • Yvonne V says:

    Thanks for sharing your process!
    You asked a question in my blog comments about open rates of newsletters — I found this and hope it helps. https://writersrelief.medium.com/how-to-improve-your-newsletter-open-rate-6cfd015f0313

    • DamyantiB says:

      Hi Yvonne, I just went through the link you sent me and I think I’ve got what I was missing now. Thank you so much 🙂

  • Olga Godim says:

    Great answer to this month’s question. Personally, I write for myself. I love the people in my head, my imaginary characters, much more than I like the real-life readers. Maybe that’s why I’m not a bestseller. :))

  • Hi, Damyanti. I am so impressed for what you have accomplished as a writer. You are true fighter for justice, informing the world of the atrocities of life for women in India. You should be proud of what you are doing and continue. You are strong person to stand up to your fear and continue with your writing journey. All the best with your next book. We all have faith in you!

  • Congrats on starting the sequel and for having the courage to be daring in the topic. I have your first book on my TBR.

  • literarylad says:

    Are we giving readers what they want? Or are we giving them what they’re familiar with; what they’ve been sold before? I think it’s the same with pop music; the industry determine what they think listeners want, and then brainwash them with it until they don’t know anything else. Frankly, I’m sick of hearing agents mouthing off about what they’re looking for at the moment. It shouldn’t be their job to determine what form the art takes – just to identify, and promote talent. We should all develop our own way of writing, whether or not it fits in with what an agent is ‘looking for’. Isn’t that what the best writers have done in the past. Readers can then choose what they like.

    • DamyantiB says:

      I do agree with you to a certain level. However, I think I’ve been blessed to get an agent that is understanding of the craft and its importance. The essence is always intact, and I look at it more as an add-on.

  • I’m looking forward to reading Blue Bar. I’m encouraged by your perseverance to write a story with potential push back because of the subject matter. Write into your fears. You’re doing good work.

  • Natasha says:

    I guess while putting together a book it’s important to start off by writing for oneself and then take the reader into account.

    When I write on my blog I have noticed I mostly write for myself and sometimes if it’s an issue that needs to be spoken about, I write for myself and my readers.

    I guess we all start off by writing for ourselves and then there comes a time when factoring the reader is as pertinent as factoring oneself. 🙂

    Happy week ahead, dear D. <3

  • debscarey says:

    I’d never considered it as a process before, because – for me – it hasn’t been that yet, as I’m still at the stage of writing for myself. With my co-written piece, which has been out for edit, the feedback has been both useful and caused a lot of re-thinking. So, I’m only on that step, and can see from the way you’ve articulated it, that there are many steps yet to go. This is a really helpful way to think about the process for a novice, so thank you very much.

    • DamyantiB says:

      I’m so glad this helped you. Sometimes it can get overwhelming, I’m not going to lie. Just trust your gut.

  • I like your writing process and how it progresses.

  • Glad you continue to tackle the difficult subjects. Without that, people and communities can’t grow and advance society for the better.

  • It’s a great process for creating story. And as long as it works for you, go for it!

    Yes, readers bring their own baggage to any story. This is why we need to be clear when writing our stories, so the reader has a chance to see what WE are trying to say with story. Great post! Thanks for sharing, Damyanti!

  • That sounds like a wonderful way to work.
    And yes, each and every reader brings something of themselves to the work – and will take away something different.

    • DamyantiB says:

      We all have our voices and yes it needs to be strong enough for the readers to listen. But there are parts you do incorporate for the readers who are willing to enter the world you created. Thank you, Sue.

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    That’s a great process! I like the idea of writing each draft with an eye to a particular audience – great tip!

  • Congratulations on your book!
    I get caught up in the characters and their storyline, but I have been thinking more of specific readership these days. I think it’s kind of funny that the book I wrote with a specific readership in mind has had the widest spread interest – not necessarily in big numbers, but those who like it are spread out in age range and culture even though I wrote it with a specific age range and background in mind.

    • DamyantiB says:

      Thank you so much, Tyrean. Yes, they do have a certain power of spreading the word about the world we’ve created.

  • Loni Townsend says:

    I think you’ve got a good system, and your success shows it! I’ve seen your work splashed across my visits and in my feeds. Keep it up, and I hope you find an even wider audience with your subsequent volumes.

  • vishalbheeroo says:

    “n my case, writing the first draft is always for myself. The second is for one or two readers. These days, those readers are my agent and editor. The third is where the general readers come in,” that’s great writing advice. I think that can get tricky though would prioritize myself and the biggest challenge is once one build a fan base, for instance a growing rom com readers genre, how do they go about?

    • DamyantiB says:

      I think the best we could do is build strong, relatable characters. In my opinion, characters sometimes end up writing the story for you 😀

  • That interesting–the three edits–for yourself, a few people, and then readers. You have me thinking. It certainly works for your books, Damyanti!

  • Denise says:

    I write a story for the story, because it’s something I need to say. Readers (if there are any) don’t factor into the equation at all for me – other than a hope that they enjoy reading what I’ve written.

    • DamyantiB says:

      I’m so glad that works out for you, Denise 🙂 There are days when I do write for myself and then there are others when I’m editing and polishing with readers in mind.

  • Sonia Dogra says:

    It’s always good to know about the perspective of a seasoned writer like you, Damyanti. Gives a new dimension to your own writing. Thanks for sharing.

    • DamyantiB says:

      Gosh, that’s huge praise Sonia! Thank you so much, that means a lot to me. I’m glad you found this useful 😀

  • setinthepast says:

    Both.

  • That’s a smart way to work through the process. You have to begin with you because otherwise the story will never get written.

  • rxena77 says:

    I wrote my 2 1895 Egyptian fantasies for two good friends, Inger and D.G. Hudson, I drew in what I knew they would enjoy, but my interpretation of the historical figures were my own, including Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Nicola Tesla. I had great fun doing it, and I think my friends enjoyed the books. High sales on your new book! I will buy a copy, of course. 🙂

    • DamyantiB says:

      Wow, that’s awesome! We need to use our own perspectives as a foundation/ baseline and then have fun with other perspectives 🙂 Thank you so much!

%d bloggers like this: