Who is this for?
That question is asked frequently during critiques in my writer’s group.
It’s an important question, and I feel writers should always let it hover in the back of their minds when creating a story.
There’s a saying that “the first draft is for the author, the second for the editor, and the final for the reader”. While I feel there is truth to that, in some ways, a writer should always have an audience in mind. Even if that audience is just themselves.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re writing for practice or possibly therapeutic reasons and no one else will ever see it, then by all means just scribble away!
However, if your goal includes critique, publication, and eventually sale, you need to think about your target audience. I’m not telling you “write to market” because that is gross and sales-y and generally ineffective. I will tell you that it’s important to ask yourself some simple questions about who your story is for
- What genre am I writing for?
- If it’s a large one (like fantasy or romance) is it part of a sub-genre?
- What age range is my audience? Kids, young adults, or grown ups?
- You can use a Flesch Kincaid Readability tool on your writing to check if its at the proper “grade level” for your audience
- Does it contain (and hopefully play with) specific genre tropes and expectations that my audience expects?
- You know, like hobbits and stuff…
- Does it contain themes, imagery, or subject matter that is either inappropriate or too complex for my audience?
- My writing is full of gore and violence. I’m never going to be mistaken for a YA author.
- If my story were on a shelf in a bookstore, who would pick it up?
- “Everybody” isn’t an acceptable answer. Sorry.
If you’ve never given any thought to this, you may want to, since knowing your intended audience can help you shape your work in subtle ways that will help it appeal to them. That’s not to say you should compromise your creativity, but it’s been my experience as a writer and reader that the most successful projects set out with a clear message, and understanding of who they are meant for.