Write what you know
Write for yourself
The “write what you know” part has never been an issue for me. While I love fantasy and the freedom it gives you; the story still has to be somewhat believable or no one will accept the premise and, thereby, the story. Therefore, writing what I know (or can at least research) is always the best course.
However, for the longest time I struggled with the “write for yourself” part of it. I mean, I didn’t need the story written down if I was writing for myself. I could picture the story in loving detail in my own mind, so why spend time scribbling it down unless I was planning on sharing it with someone else? And thus my dilemma. If I’m writing for someone else, then who? And if I’m not writing for someone else, then why bother?
It was very frustrating. So, I went through all those reasons of why write (it down). Why be a writer (of stories)? Fame…I don’t care if I’m famous; in fact, I prefer my privacy. Glamour…writing isn’t glamorous, it’s hard work. Riches…well, that one still grabs me. Sure, I’d like to be rich, or at least rich enough to quit my day job and do nothing but write and read stories. But then the stories become just another job. You have to create the stories to make sure the money machine keeps churning out the dough.
No, the real reason I decided to write the stories down was for those lonely, geeky kids whose only friends are those they meet between the covers of the books they read. This was a reality I knew very well. These lonely, geeky kids I saw in my mind’s eye were very much like me when I was young. (So, in a way, I guess, I was writing for myself.)
I was the kid whose best friends were the Hardy Boys, Ann of Green Gables, and every character that every piloted a space ship designed by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, or Andre Norton. My friends lived in the local public library, and every week I would invite a half-dozen or so of them to my house. They would take me on the most wondrous adventures, and it would no longer matter if I wasn’t invited to some classmate’s birthday party, or if I wasn’t asked to participate in the games at recess. It didn’t matter because I was solving mysteries, stopping spies from taking over the country, or saving the world from some technological catastrophe.
Therefore, when I decided that I needed to share my stories, these were the people I had in mind as my audience. The kids who prefer (or need) to find their way through childhood and young adulthood by reading books. The kids whose imaginations can’t be contained inside of movies, but rather need to explore worlds of their own visualization but with the help of a good story and one or more characters they can relate to.
Once I figured this out, I realized I was writing for myself…just not in the way I initially thought or understood their statement to mean. It took me a bit of pondering and soul searching, but I really think I’m a better writer because of it.
I think every wannabe-author needs to take a look at those two questions. Then they need to really look inside themselves for the answers. Be honest with yourself; it’s not easy, but I think once you figure out why you really want to write stories and books, you’re ready to be a real author and not just a writer.