Today I’m writing this for you. Yes, you. Because you are who I write for.
When I first started writing, I thought I was doing it for myself. The goal, I told myself, was to someday be published, but the stories were mine so it didn’t really matter who or what my readers thought.
I was wrong.
Audience 95% of literature. Once it’s been created, it’s out there—out of the author’s control. You only have “control” for that fraction of a moment that you are creating it, but once it is out there—it’s OUT there.
I think this might be why authors sometimes struggle to finish their creations—they are holding on to that last bit of control because they know once they stamp “done” on it, that’s it; it’s all about the audience, baby.
In 1884, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With it he published this author’s note:
“PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”
He knew what would happen when he let go of that manuscript because he had been around the block more than once by that point. Once the manuscript goes to print, it’s about the audience, not about the author.
Huck Finn took about seven years to write, but it has been in the audience’s hands for 130 years.
Likewise, Pride and Prejudice took about a year to write, and 15 years to publish, but has been in the audiences hands for over 200 years (published in 1812).
So unless you are writing in a private journal or diary, if you are writing a story, your audience will, in fact, take over your work.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can affect your perception, not only of the writing that you do, but also of the quality, time, effort and ideas that are generated by your writing and/or adaptions of your writing.
Do you change your story to fit what an audience would expect/know/like? Why/why not?
If someone critiques your work and “gets it wrong,” how do you react?
What does it mean for someone to be “right” or “wrong” about your work?
What exactly does the audience expect of the author?
All of these are questions I am asking you—the reader—my reader. Because in my ideal world, the reader and the writer are friends; they can have an open conversation about the work and the work is in a constant state of flux—ever changing because of this constant conversation we are having.
The story never has to end.