We write for a lot of reasons – to entertain, to educate, to share our emotions – and for the most part writing is about communicating ideas between people. But sometimes we write for ourselves, to understand ourselves better or vent our feelings.
Both options are fine but if you’re looking to share or publish your work you need to know if you’re writing for an audience of many, or just for yourself.
Here’s 5 clues that you’re writing for yourself:
- You’ve written the first draft and you’re calling it quits.
No one’s first draft is perfect. No one’s. It takes time and effort to turn a first draft into something worth sharing with the world at large. If you’ve enjoyed the writing process and now you’re ready to move on to the next thing, that’s great. But accept that the only audience that work is fit for, is you.
- It begins with ‘Dear Diary…’
Diarising or journaling is great for getting in touch with your feelings, recording important events in your life and venting tension and stress. It’s also let’s you write without censoring yourself. But this very freedom is also what makes a diary or journal private. When you’re angry, upset or in love you are going to say things about other people that you don’t want them to know – things that might not even be true. And that’s fine. But for everyone’s sake, keep it under lock and key (or password protect).
- The main character is basically you…but more so.
I’ve read a lot of fiction written by teenagers which starred them, only without their name. I’ve also written this fiction myself, when I was a teenager. It’s basically a fantasy in which the gorgeous and super nice guy or girl in the school sees how beautiful and special the main character (i.e. you) is and falls in love despite the gorgeous but evil guy or girl (i.e. which ever popular person is making your life difficult) going out of their way to halt the progress of true love.
Go ahead and write these stories, they’re fun and everyone deserves a fantasy. And you’re right, you are awesome. But they often lack the depth that makes a good story because the protagonist is perfect in every way (because obviously, you are perfect in every way), and a perfect person has no reason to grow and change – which is what drives a story.
- You stood on a soapbox while writing.
You’ve got something to say. You’ve got opinions. You’ve got a message to get across. Great. But don’t turn your story into a vehicle for your message. A good story is driven by character and conflict, and while your personal feelings on an issue may naturally filter into your story, if you beat your reader over the head with a message, they’ll stop reading.
- You name names.
Don’t do it. Don’t say nasty things (or things that could be construed as nasty) about people unless they’re true and even then, even then, be sure that you’re willing to bring the wrath of those people down on you. Because while you might think that your neighbor is a puppy-drowning-cat-worshiper, if you write it down, show it to other people and he’s upset about it (although why would he be? Cats are awesome) then he could be within his rights to take legal action against you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do it under any circumstances. I’m say be careful and very, very, sure about what you’re saying. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.