Writing is for Readers

As the editor for Ergofiction magazine, one of my current responsibilities is to ‘commission’ and coordinate guest posts for our Saturday slots. The topics covered are rather diverse, but as long as they are directed at readers and relate to online fiction, we’re good!

Directed at readers? you ask.

Yes: Ergofiction is an ezine for readers and fans of (free) online fiction. Therefore it makes sense to write directly to these people. Yet a stumbling block I often run into is that writers submit ideas or posts that are not written for readers, but for other writers, such as advice on how to start writing an online serial, or detailed descriptions on craft. And a quick glance through my favourite author blogs turns up posts on writing tips and tricks, editing rants, discussions on the publishing process, and other similar topics.

As a writer, I find these topics interesting. And of course most writers are avid readers. But not all readers are avid writers. Shouldn’t we be writing to them? After all — as the Year Zero motto says — writing is for readers.

When we’re writing fiction, that seems obvious. Of course we’re writing for readers! Who else would read that dystopian erotic alien thriller? But when it comes to non-fiction, there is that little old stumbling block: what in the world do readers want to hear about, other than our stories?

It’s something I must give a lot of thought to as I hunt around for guest posts. What do you think?

Active in the online fiction community and interested in writing a guest post for Ergofiction? Please drop me a line with your ideas.

13 thoughts on “Writing is for Readers

    • Oops, wrong post. Well, all the same. They look fun to make.

      Actually, more seriously… that’s the problem with a writer writing a guest post… it’s either heavily self-promotional (“let’s talk about a subject I know a lot about, which coincidentally connects to my series”) or it’s more general-interest, but authors are generally obsessed with writing, so it sticks to that centre of gravity. If someone came to EF and wrote a guest post about penguins out of the blue, you’d wonder what was wrong with them. There’s got to be a compromise in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is :)

      One thing I think John Scalzi does well on this front is his “Big Idea” feature, where he invites an author to talk about some big, hefty concept behind their work. It’s self-promotional, but I think a lot of people read them because it’s interesting to see how a writer thinks.

      Which is to say… there’s a difference between writing about writing, and writing about the nuts and bolts of writing. Readers are interested in the artistic process, but not necessarily what word processor is best for weblit.

      I think that makes some sense. If it doesn’t, I’m sure you’ll tell me :)

      • I think an article about penguins is JUST what EF needs!

        In other topics, you hit the nail on the head: what I meant is that a lot of writers really focus on the nuts and bolts, which is of little interest to readers.

        But you’d think authors — especially as they’re trying to sell to readers — would pay a little more attention to what interests their audience. Of course, some do, but not all.

        • Ah, but you see, most writers, fearful of looking like self-promotional fools who are abusing the guest posting rights they’ve been granted, will by default shy away from the things they should be selling, in favour of writing something they think will be useful to many. If you want them to write about their work, you need to explicitly tell them to write about a theme of their work, so they feel comfortable doing so.

          My recent guest posts for EF and Novelr (coming soon) are just like that… they’re more nuts-and-bolts because nobody told me it was okay to write about me. If you did… well, that’d be a whole other can of worms right there.

          • “I didn’t tell you because in your specific case, you’re boring and no one wants to hear about you. So there. :-D”

            Aw shucks, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!

  1. You raise a very interesting point, and I like Scalzi’s idea (thanks, MCM!) about writing about a “big idea”.

    It is hard, as a writer, to write something other than stories that is aimed at readers. I shall have to mull further on this.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Anna.

  2. Yes, that’s just the dilemma I’ve been having, and I thought I got some good advice on my post. I like the distinction you made, between talking about writing, and talking about the nut and bolts of writing. I’m not sure I’ve got a handle on what I’m supposed to be writing about yet, except that I need to RELAX, like Frankie says, and not over-think so much. (If I stopped over-thinking, would my friends even recognize me?)

    I’m really intrigued by this dystopian erotic alien thriller, btw.

    • Haha, I was worried someone would be interested in it. Sadly it is but a mere plot bunny in my head which I take out in times of desperate boredom! It’s based in the same world as Feeling Blue. :-)

      I definitely find that my readers are interested in hearing about the writing process, how I came up with characters, etc. But as for the nuts-and-bolts stuff, well… Obviously that’s only of interest to writers, and probably not even to all writers, either!

      I guess what I try to do is to think what *I* would like to read about from my fave authors. Also whenever I see fun blog posts I enjoy, I copy the idea. :-D

      • Copy! Good plan.

        What I want to read from writers I like is usually more books. I usually don’t even watch special features on DVDs. (Am lame as a fangirl, probly.)

        I have a friend who hates the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” I don’t really mind that one, but, having done a few Q&As since Hush Money came out, I realize that it’s much easier to answer more specific questions like, “Where did you get the idea for this book/series/character…?”

        It just doesn’t usually occur to me to ask myself those kinds of questions. And you’d think, as much as I talk to myself, we pretty much would have covered all topics by now.

        • I like the personal stories. Like Merrilee Faber’s blog about her daily going-ons — she seems so thoughtful and clever! I tend to just be silly and am thus afraid of posting the silliness.

          Plus all my book reviews go over on quillsandzebras, so… Perhaps an analysis of Spike will be forthcoming, ha!

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