Who Do You Write For?

This weekend I spoke on a panel at TAAFI (Toronto Animation Arts Festival International) about Writing for Animation, and it got me thinking about who writers write for. For example, as a screenwriter I write for the people who hire me (story editors, producers, broadcasters) and through them there’s a lot of focus on writing for the target audience. When I began writing novels, people assumed the reason was because I wanted to write “for myself” instead of “for someone else.”

RETRO PHOTO: young Heather writing for herself in her journal.
Retro pic: young Heather writes for herself in journal.

It’s true that I was itching to write characters and worlds that I created, rather than ones created by others. And when I started coming up with book premises, I was drunk on the freedom. I had so many ideas! And for so many genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, horror, comedy, historical, etc. What did I want to write? The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to write YA, but what genre of YA was undecided, so I threw everything at the board, combined genres, turned realistic fiction into fantasy and back again, just experimenting over and over…

Until I was completely overwhelmed and longed for the days when I had a story editor to tell me, “That one! That’s the best idea.”

Yet if I was writing for myself, why did it matter which idea was “the best”? Just write something! For fun. For me. I remember what that’s like – it’s how I wrote in high school. I never gave my stories to anyone else to read. I simply wrote because I liked to create. But later my reason for writing changed: instead of a cathartic hobby, it became about connecting with others.

I wanted to write stories that would challenge how people saw themselves and the world. I also wanted to make people laugh, cry, cringe and scream. I wanted to entertain them while moving them.

So I’m never truly writing just for myself. I always think about my target audience: Who will read my book? What do I have to say to them? How will this story impact their lives? I write because I want to connect, the way my favorite books connect with me.

In conclusion, I’m not writing novels because I’m tired of writing for other people. I always write for other people. The real reason I want to write books is because the teen market for TV is very small, making the likelihood of getting my stories to my audience very slim. Whereas YA lit is a huge market – many genres, many readers – so I have a better chance of sharing my stories. And if I’m lucky, maybe my novels will be turned into a TV series or film one day.

Who do you write for? Yourself? Others? The market? Your kids?


Up next from Heather… I read a disappointing book this past weekend, so it’s time for another Reading For Writers 101 lesson: Character Change Can’t Come Out Of Nowhere!

For more posts from Heather, click here.


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

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