Writing for a demographic – or yourself

I stumbled upon this quote on the internet from J Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5) the other day, conerning the demographic for which he writes.

Just dialed in here…demographics are a dirty word where I come from. Basically, I write the story that I would like to see as a viewer. If my tastes reflect that of others, folks watch; if not, not.

This is how I’ve always written, all the way back to when I began in animation. “This would be a cool story.” And that’s the be-all and end-all of it. Same with everything else.

Back a few years ago, I was looking for a particular kind of horror novel. Couldn’t quite find what I wanted. So I sat down and *wrote* it, wrote the novel I wanted to read. Finished it, and shoved it in the closet for, I think, about two years. One day, my agent suggested I really should write a novel someday. Reluctantly, I dragged it out of the closet. Gave it to her. She gave it to a NY editor, who sold it to the first editor who got it. It really wasn’t written for anyone else but me; had it stayed in the closet forever, it would’ve accomplished that task.

I take that approach with everything I write; if I wouldn’t watch it, I won’t write it. So, basically, my demographic is me.

jms

I began to think that I am pretty much the same. The demographic that I write for is myself, and it has never occured to me to be any different. Of course as an ameteur hobbyist I have that luxury. I wonder, are there professional writers out there that target a demographic because it is likely to be succesful – such as “I’m going to write a book for teens because they are selling very well at the moment.”

I wouldn’t necessary blame somebody for this, because as a professional writer they have to make a living, but I think that would suck a lot of the joy and creativity out of the process.

It seems to me that if you are not writing something that you would read yourself then you’re not being true to yourself as a writer.

Thoughts anyone?

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About Adam David Collings

Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction who works as a software engineer during the day. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam is currently working on a science fiction novel.
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4 Responses to Writing for a demographic – or yourself

  1. Your poll doesn’t give enough options. I write for many reasons. In one of the books on writing I’ve read, it says you should write for 3 reasons to build a writing career:

    Write to get published (anywhere just for the writing credit)
    Write to earn a living (target sources for whom you have a knack for writing or can do the required research)
    Write what you love (and hope that someday it gets published after it’s polished)

    If I am doing a work for hire, I am writing what my employer wants me to write. I am currently negotiating writing ads for a jewelry company. I can do this because I really appreciate good jewelry.
    I enter writing contests because I feel I can write something in the style or genre they require. It’s fun for me and it’s great writing experience.
    The writing career I would love to build is writing children’s picture books. I am now beginning to send out manuscripts to publishers.

    I love reading and writing children’s stories. My blog at http://TheWriteChris.blogspot.com features weekly interviews with authors who share their writing successes and tips to encourage other writers.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this Chris – I found them quite insightful actually.

    You seem to have found a good balance between the two extremes that I was seeing.
    After reading your approach I agree that my poll leaves no room for middle ground.

  3. Hi, this is an interesting question. I write f or a demographic of which I am a part–Christian women. But I don’t write specifically for myself. I like to try to engage people in ideas and get a dialogue going (haven’t been too sucessful in that yet). Seems to me that if I write for myself, I’m merely talking to myself or into the wind.
    Thanks for listening, er…reading.

    • Thanks for stopping by Barbara. I think Joe Straczynski’s comment is probably more applicable to fiction, than non fiction – but either way, if “writing for ourself” means that we are inward focussed and not trying to say anything to others then we’ve missed the point. The purpose of writing is to be read – to say something worth saying.

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