Many writers, especially new ones, talk about how they write for themselves. When we first start out, we might not know if we’ll even be able to finish the project, so it makes sense that we’re writing for ourselves.
We want to get this story out of our head. We want to see if we can write a whole novel. We want to prove to others that we can do it.
I started my first book for myself, primarily because I had this story inside my head that wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote it down. When I begin a project, I’m still that way.
Even the most experienced authors under contract probably still feel a sense of writing for themselves during the drafting phase. If they’re anything like me, they’re just as eager to see how the story turns out as a reader.
But at some point during the writing process, the focus changes to our audience, our potential readers. And I’m not talking about as we get more experienced (or jaded). I mean as the project moves from drafting to editing.
We can still edit for ourselves. Heck, I’m a perfectionist, so I edit things past the point of where most people would notice. But on some level, editing has to be for the reader.
This is why we use beta readers. Our critique partners can help us with the craft, but our beta readers are…well, readers. We need their input to see if readers will interpret our words the way we want them to. We discover that our favorite sections need to be cut because they drag down the pacing too much. We make decisions during the editing phase that cater to our reader.
All our nitpicky choices during editing (“Should I use this word or that word?”) are really about trying to figure out how readers will interpret one option over the other. And then we decide which interpretation most closely matches our intention.
I wonder if this difference is what makes some writers hate editing. Maybe they prefer writing for themselves. Maybe editing to make the words mean what they think it should mean causes them to feel impatient. (I’ve been through the endless revision cycles, so I can understand that impatience.)
But if we want to be successful published authors, we have to edit anyway. This is why we have to listen to our critique partners and beta readers, even when we disagree with their comments. Their confusion or mistaken interpretation tells us that our words aren’t matching our intentions.
I’ve kept myself going through grueling edits by reminding myself that I feel just as giddy at the thought of sharing my work with others as I do during drafting. Oftentimes, that thought makes me more giddy, because at that future-published point, the work would be done. *smile*
Do you write for yourself, your readers, or both? Do you shift your focus during the writing process of a project? If you enjoy one step more than another, is it because of your reason for writing? Do you find it hard to write for others?Pin It