I’ve found myself asking this question simply because not all writers seem to have the same opinion on the subject. As for myself, I think my answer is fairly fluid, neither picking one side nor the other.
For me, if I’m not enjoying the story I’m desperately trying to thread together, the chances are, I won’t finish writing the first draft. I wouldn’t say it would be mercilessly thrown on the scrapheap – more tenderly laid aside in a box in the attic for another day. However, the fact remains, if I don’t like the piece it won’t be finished. I suppose it could be said in that case, that I’m writing for myself?
But of course, that isn’t strictly accurate.
A little over a year ago, I decided to tell my friend a story. It was a sort of practice exercise, an experiment if you will – because I was curious about the time it would take to finish the first draft of a novel length piece of work if I really pushed it.
I broke a golden rule along the way – I was firing out on average, a chapter a day. And as I finished it, I’d give it a quick scan through and then email it on its way to my friend. Dum dum duuuum! :p
So she was reading it as a serial rather than a whole novel I suppose. It didn’t go through a proper edit, it was as rough as rough could be. But oddly, it helped a great deal. I finished the first draft in around eight weeks, working at an altogether steady pace, finishing with 105,540 words.
She loved it. Naturally she wanted more, and I thought, why not? I started the second novel on May 24, and typed ‘The End’ all too eagerly on June 12, while operating the same (type a chapter, send a chapter) method.
Now we all know it was a booboo to do that. And I know, when I finally get around to the edit (just for fun) it will probably break her heart to find pieces missing that have been cut away. But won’t it be a joy when she finds the parts that weren’t there before! J
If that isn’t an example of writing with a target audience in mind, I sure as hell don’t know what is!
Personally, the way I feel when I’m constructing a story is, the first draft I write according to what point I want to convey. The reader of course, still lurks in the back of my mind but ultimately, it’s my own thoughts and feelings I’m adhering too.
When it comes to bringing the book to a finished state, cutting bits away and putting it right, it’s very much the audience I’m thinking about during that process. Surely the whole reason to cut anything away in the first place is so the reader doesn’t have to sit through our insane ramblings, that don’t actually need to be there to move the story forward?
I could then argue, that the reason that I write is because I want to. It’s something I enjoy, something that seems to happen in spite of me at times. Even with something as simple and routine as keeping a diary; do we write that in the hope that other people, one day will read it? I certainly don’t – I’d be mortified if anyone read mine!
In conclusion, I think the answer could well be a little bit of both. What do you think?