Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A question for every writer: why do you write?

James Smythe has a cracking blogpost about writing, books sales and crazeballs theories surrounding JK Rowling, Robert Galbraith and all of that. You can read it here, I'll wait. [I mentioned JK Rowling as sizzle to get you to go read, the steak is elsewher.]

I don't know James from a bar of soap [I'm guessing he's less sudsy], but I agree with his point that writers have a want/need to write. Sales are a bonus, born from some combo of hard graft, marketing spend and luck. Very few people have a bestseller.

I'd go a bit further. I believe writers write not just because they need/want/have to - writers also write because they want to be read. To be enjoyed, not endured; to make readers feel and/or think; to make readers want to know what happens next.

It's an issue I've been having lately with screenwriting. You can labour for months on a screenplay, and it gets read by a handful of people - if you're lucky. Your agent, if you have one and they have time. Your trusted readers [every writer needs trusted readers.]

If your script goes into production, then the number of people who reader it might creep up to dozens. But it's intended as a blueprint for the creation of a narrative, like the plans for a building. Most folk only ever see the finished product, not the original blueprints.

So what if JK Rowling's Robert Galbraith hardcover sold less than 500 copies before she got outed as the author? That's probably more people than have read every script I've ever written in nine years. And being read is a fundamental motivation for why I write.

Am I giving up on screenwriting? No. I've got lots of stories I want to tell, and why deny myself what might be the best medium for some of those stories. But I can't help feeling I'd like more people to actually read me. Maybe my itch to write prose is returning.

So, if you're a writer - no matter what might be your preferred media - ask yourself this one simple question: why and for whom do you write?

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