It is good to listen to our audience, and taking advice is always useful, whether that is from a single reader or a roomful of expectant hopefuls. As I may have mentioned, writing is a solitary and often isolating preoccupation, so it is essential to maintain contact with people in the real world outside. Without that grounding, our work, and our whole world, can come adrift.
But…. we mustn’t listen so hard to our audience – unless we are a paid writer of text for a company brochure or publicity machine – that we become bendy like spaghetti.
For a first-time fiction author, the temptation is to listen and incorporate all changes, ideas, thoughts and suggestions, in the hope that doing so will make our work more appealing and marketable. But our energy creates our work, and if we listen too closely to what others might suggest – do we run the risk that we give up writing all together?
Who are we writing for? Ourselves, first of all. The first stage of any creative project must be free of self-consciousness. It must be free to fly and fart in the face of critics and friends alike, blissfully shielded from concerns about marketability, reader appeal or plot holes. That kind of energy is what makes writing a joy, a privilege and a rare pleasure, and while in the midst of creative frenzy, we have to feel free to say, ‘Go away, I’m not finished yet.’
That initial process is taking me far longer than I thought it would. With my rational mind, I calculated a year is enough time to get a book down and dusted. But, creatively, especially as I work best with several projects on the go at once, I’m finding that two years is about my minimum. The longer time-frame, paradoxically, allows me to work more freely, not worried about time scales and deadlines. And in all that time, we are really writing for ourselves, first – because that – selfish? – motivation keeps the voice alive, allows it to anchor and refine, before other people get a look in.
Thanks for reading.