Andy Hawthorne

Thoughts, stories and ideas

Why Writing for the Reader Sucks

I hate writing for other people because it takes all the fun out of writing anything at all.

You get it hammered in to you when you study writing. Any kind of writing you choose to study.

Write for your reader because nobody wants to read your shit

I say, fuck that. My reader might be me. What about that situation? What if I’m writing a piece for my own gratification?

I’m being an arse. I’m being argumentative for the sake of it. All writers want readers. Writing teachers would say: what’s the point? Writing is communication and that means you need readers.

I do accept that point. Because it’s stating the bleeding obvious. My point is more subtle than that.

Spending time fretting about the reader stifles creativity. And if you stifle creativity, you will miss the concept of the piece. More on that in a minute.

That’s the first point I’m making. Stifled creativity kills writing. And I believe it with every part of my writer soul.

Here’s a sequence of writing events.

  1. Come up with an idea
  2. Think about the reader
  3. Draft the idea
  4. Edit the draft
  5. Worry that the reader won’t like it
  6. Edit the draft
  7. Spoil the original idea…

This sequence makes my point. And it happens a lot. It is too easy to fixate on what you’re supposed to be doing for the reader and then not writing the piece as it should be.

What can you do about it?

You the writer, is who I’m talking to. What can you do about it?

Don’t kill the idea. That’s the first thing. If it’s a good idea and will work as a piece of prose, then write it. Write it to the best of your ability.

Readers will appreciate the effort you’ve made. Or they won’t. Once the piece is out there, there’s not a lot you can do.

But when you are drafting the idea, that’s when the power is all in the writers hands.

For me, writing (almost any writing) is all about the concept. Your big idea needs a concept. The concept is what drives the piece.

Author Dan Brown had a concept for his novels. They are successful novels in spite of dodgy writing in places. The concept was powerful and compelling.

Hit the sweet spot (the concept) and readers will forgive the odd grammatical balls-up. They’ll forgive a clunky structure. Because what you’ve said is interesting. And driven by a concept the reader can buy in to.

To write for your reader protect the idea, build the concept and the readers will come.