Originally Posted by James_Wilde
Hm. I've made this kind of comment to various people, and, looking back, I have to say that the common factor is that the writing in question is to be found on sites for writers, and usually comes from people who say they write for themselves.
My view is that writing is a communication, and you've got to say something that's understandable. Yes, I write for myself, in the sense that I have to have an interest in the subject - otherwise I'm doing something completely pointless. But I think I have to try and interest other people in what it is I am writing about. If I have to say to someone 'what the hell are you on about?' then a polite way of saying that is to ask them who their target audience is, whom they are writing for.
The usual answer is 'I'm not interested in selling my work' which usually ends the conversation as far as I'm concerned, not because I write for money, but because what they are saying is that they're not interested in communicating. They should write a diary.
PS, I gave up using sites for writers a long time ago now.
I agree that the standard comment "I write for myself" has some short-comings. I use this comment myself because it is true: as I discussed under a separate thread, I don't expect to make money from my writing, so the only justification I can offer for spending the time on it is because it makes me
happy to do so. The important thing that a writer creating under this driving force needs to accept up front is that what they create may not be acceptable to anyone else for exactly this reason.
In "On Writing", Stephen King talks of the first draft being written with the door closed (in private, no one else sees it). For me (and this is only my take on it), this is creating what works for me. Stephen King talks of writing for your Ideal Reader (in his case his wife), this is not something I really consider on my first draft, first of all I want to know if my story works for me.
Stephen King suggests that the second draft should be written with the door open (in public, others can see it). For me this is reviewing the story as an outsider might see it. Will they understand the story? Does it tell the story in a way that works for someone that can't see inside my head? At this point I can probably not argue that I am doing it only "for myself". But I only get to this point if I think what I created for myself is worthy of being shared (even if only in a limited circle).
So yes, I fully agree that - at some point - an external reader needs to be considered. My OP was really about how much you let a particular "target audience" effect what you write (as opposed just to anyone that can read the text). How much do you actively target a specific audience? I can understand doing this if you specifically write for very young or teenage audiences, but for most others I am not so certain. You may write to the tone of the genre (romance, horror, etc.) or effect (fairy-tale, historical, etc), but to a particular audience?