Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Being Found: Writing for Your Audience

Factoid: Some people make sticky scar tissue.

I'm raising my hand. I have sticky scar tissue. Some don't. If you're  a non-sticky scar tissue person, get down on your knees and thank Jesus.

Sticky scar tissue is quite pesky as it can adhere to things you don't want it to adhere to and give you bigger problems than what you started with.

(This post is about writing, I promise.)

When the sticky scar tissue happens, a very strong but heartless person must dig around your wound (I have two) and tear apart the scar tissue.

I would rather give birth to a full-grown porcupine, breach!

It hurts.

A lot.

Ice is my friend.

So how is this related to the writing life? Because when you're a writer, everything is related to writing.

I've been, as you know, trying to figure out how an author can give away over 20,000 books, get great reviews, and not sell enough books to cover one month's groceries. A great mystery.

An even greater mystery is what to write next. Commercially speaking, series are golden in the Kindle world. Can I come up with one series idea that makes my heart pitter-patter? Of course not!

I have five great stand-alone ideas. Ugh.

And then I read this:
Listen up: Do not keep the marketplace in your head while you are in a creative mode. Writing with the marketplace in mind is no way to write. Learn your craft, write lots, and when you are ready, the marketplace will be ready.-Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire

She's talking to students, but this is what I needed to hear. My audience will find me. They will. And until they do, I must keep writing better and better books. Stories that are dangerous and embracing at the same time. I can do it!

Here's the tie-in with the scar tissue: Shifting from marketplace thinking to storytelling thinking, which aren't mutual exclusive, I know, but I've gotten out of kilter, putting more emphasis on the marketplace than creativity. And fun. And so, it's time to break up, tear, scrape (all words used in the process of scar tissue taming) away the paralyzing hold that market-driven writing has on me.

It's gonna hurt. But I'll be better storyteller in the end.

We do not have to talk about scar tissue, but we should discuss what motivates us to write. Is it the marketplace? Many authors have made handsome livings doing this. Think Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele. Is it notoriety? You might do better running down Main Street naked. Is it validation? Is it ministry, a calling? Can our calling to write change? Do you ever attend a writers' conference to behold a sea of eager would-be authors and wonder if they aren't all a bit delusional? 


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh! Ouch! So sorry about that mean old scar tissue. Praying you heal up quickly and unsticky.

I really don't think I'm a good one to write "to the market". I've got a bit of a don't-tell-me-what-to-write attitude. I'll write what is on my heart, what seems to whisper around in my head when I'm trying to sleep. And, if my mom is the only one buying it, then, okay. At least I got it out of me.

Writing to market would make me lose my mind.

And, of course we're all a bit delusional. That's what makes us good at what we do.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Yes, that's the ticket. Write your heart and let your audience find you. I hate the question, "who is your audience?" How do I know? I just haven't met them yet. But I know they are out there. Marketing should be the part where we put up the road sign, leave a candle in the window and remove the bushel from this little light of mine. "Hide it under a bushel? No!" My writing is articulated best by John Fischer, "I'm just one old hungry beggar, telling you where I've found bread." You need my bread? You liked the piece I shared? You are my audience.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I cannot say it better than Susie and Cherry did.
Patti, your marketing experience is not wasted! You have learned many things other than, don't think of marketing while being creative. And you have passed them on to us! Thank you, Bless you!

Sharon K. Souza said...

I agree with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, and the others who have commented here. I just can't make myself write to the market. Like you, I've considered a series, but nothing comes to mind. I see what sells well in CBA, and I just can't write it. I'd rather be true to myself as a writer and not sell well, than write for the market and be embarrassed about it. And I would be. I believe there's a huge audience out there for what we write, as we've discussed before. I don't know how to find them ... yet. But I keep trying.

Bonnie Grove said...

A series? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not.

Writing for the market is a term that confuses me. When I go to the bookstore, I find oodles of titles that appeal to me and that, I think, fall into the same categories as what I write. Is that writing for the market? Or is that the market finding these writers?

I've written all kinds of novels (not that you can tell by visiting Amazon, but I have) and the one I'm writing now is nothing like the others yet it is very much organic to me, just like the others.

Can I be super honest? Poke me with a pin honest? It's taken me awhile to learn to write truthfully after I left the CBA. For me, trying to write for the market meant trying to take the stories I have inside of me and spin them into testimony or parables. Writing for that market was, for me, impossible. Learning to write my absolute truest story is taking time, but I'm having a blast.

Patti Hill said...

Just stopping after a 7-hour road trip. Almost home. Just another plane trip and 4-hour road trip. Ugh.

But I wanted to thank you all for your tender and thoughtful responses. Thank you so much.

Latayne C. Scott said...

I hear you, Patti. What a crazy time to be a writer-- all dressed up and nowhere to go.