Who the Heck Are We Writing for Anyway?


The secrets of good writing have been debated again and again and again by writers throughout the blogosphere. One writer says “never use adjectives” and another writer says “adjectives aplenty.” Some writers say “show, never tell” while others argue that both, when used moderately, are fine. But “good writing” according to other writers might be the wrong target to aim for. After all, are other writers going to be reading your book? Maybe yes. Maybe no. So would it really benefit you to write your novel for them?


Who the heck are you writing for?

You’re not writing this book for yourself, or so says a large handful of so-called experts in the field. So don’t write the kind of story you would want to read–that is, unless you plan on being the only person who reads it besides your sister. **cough, cough**

So who the heck are you writing this novel for anyway? The answer is painfully clear–readers! Duh! You, know readers? People who pick up books for fun. Insert one of my favorite strips of dialogue from You’ve Got Mail:

Nelson Fox: Perfect. Keep those West-Side liberal nuts, psudo-intellectuals . . .

Joe Fox: Readers, Dad. They’re called readrs.

Nelson Fox: Don’t do that, son. Don’t romanticize them.

Seriously, don’t romanticize them!

Next question, how do you know what readers want?

There is no simple answer to this question, because the answer varies from person to person. Factors such as gender, age, social status, etc., will also influence what a reader likes or doesn’t like.

Keep in mind, you’re not writing for one particular reader. That would be just as self-defeating as writing for yourself. Try to write a novel that appeals to a broad–yet specific–type of reader.

Find out who you’re target audience is and aim to write a novel they will enjoy. If you don’t know what they want in a book, find out. Hunt them out on reader blogs or in small groups. Create polls, questionnaires, conduct interviews, whatever you need to do to find out what it is they enjoy.

Or just get on Goodreads and/or Amazon and read the reviews. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of readers on there who are nothing shy of brutally honest when it comes to why they did or did not like a book.


Learn from the success and failings of others.

Consider paying attention to those who are successful and not successful in your particular genre. Knowing what works as well as what doesn’t work is crucial to your success.

Anther thing to keep in mind, If you write YA urban fiction, the critiques of an adult Christian fiction book are not going to be helpful to you. Just saying.

In general, all readers enjoy good writing–writing that is clear, energetic, and free of errors. Most importantly, readers enjoy writing that makes things happen clearly and vividly in their minds. It goes beyond grammatically correct, well-structured sentences, to an overall experience. Give readers that and they will love your books!

Hope you enjoyed my insight. Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear. Feel free to leave a comment below. I always enjoy your feedback.


22 thoughts on “Who the Heck Are We Writing for Anyway?

  1. armenpogharian

    I think this is one of those questions that really doesn’t have a single right answer for everyone. Yes it’s important that your story appeals to readers, but it’s equally important that it appeal to you the writer. After all, if you don’t enjoy working on it, you’re unlikely to finish it. Last I checked there aren’t a lot of readers for unfinished novels. My take is that I write something that appeals to me, but I temper that with an understanding (or in some cases a misunderstanding) of my audience. It really comes down to your goals for the book you’re writing.

    • Agreed. We must write books we enjoy or they don’t get done, and if they do get done, they lack heart. But, of course, we have to consider an audience when we plan scenes and play around with writing style. They will be the ones who decide whether or not it really is read-worthy.

  2. It’s true that there’s a lot of differing advice out there, but I still think it’s important to write what you, yourself, like, because if you don’t like what you’re writing, no one else is likely to, either. I know there are no guarantees, but if you write a good story that you love, that love will show through, and others will like it, too.

    • Exactly. We have to write what we love. However, we might be, ourselves, a very niche audience. We tend to run away with darlings and things that we think are awesome that other people would not appreciate. We must always consider the audience when making final decisions about style, scenes, characters, etc. Our books could very well be the ugly baby only we love. Nothing a cute hat can’t fix. Haha.

      • Ha, a cute hat. I like that. I don’t know, though. I’m not completely sold on that. If I make changes to my story because I think someone else will like it better, then it’s not really my story anymore. I’m not being true to how I feel it should be. If my story is the ugly baby, I’m okay with that. But that’s just me. 🙂

      • “If my story is the ugly baby, I’m okay with that.”

        I love it. I suppose if you’re going to love the ugly baby, love it hard! I’m putting a little blush on my ugly baby’s cheeks. Not sure it’s helping. Haha.

        And that’s all I mean is blush. I’m not suggesting reconstruction on the novel, but reader influence throughout. Since I write humor though I often consider if the humor is appropriate for my target audience and if it’s not just a cluster of inside jokes. Sometimes, I would hate to be the only one laughing. haha.

      • That’s a good point. With humor, you would have to think about whether or not anyone else would find it funny. I enjoy reading humorous stories, but I’m not that great at writing them. I’m looking forward to reading yours. 🙂

  3. Great advice. I think for those of us who write genre fiction, it’s so important for us to read books in the area. See what others have done and what’s attracted readers. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for originality–of course we should. But we can’t veer off too much or we’ll lose those readers we so covet.

    Great post!

  4. My motto is: Write the book you’d want to read. If you are passionate about the story, the passion will transfer to your reader. You can’t write something just to please others. That’s called prostitute writing. Haha You make a good point: Study the failures as well as those who succeeded. I think you can learn a lot more from mistakes than examples.

  5. You have to write what you want to write because fads change quickly. Publishing houses always try to look ahead, but by the time you’ve written the book that everyone wants to read the fashion has changed. Just write what you want to read.

    • That’s true. I typically ignore publishing houses . . . maybe I shouldn’t. But I do find the critiques of readers helpful. Some of the things they hate–dang! Of course, some people might love it. So, yeah, gotta be happy with it yourself.

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