I just finished reading a fantastic post on how the Internet is affecting YA literature. It was written by the wonderful Hannah Moskowitz over on her blog “Invincible Summer”—which I have only read about two posts on. And that has clearly been my mistake.
The gist of the post is that we writers, or at least those of us with a significant investment in the authosphere, have moved away from writing for readers, and fallen into the trap of writing for writers. As someone whose first significant strides in writing came from the poet’s perspective, I can tell you that one of the greatest criticisms I have ever heard about the poetry community is that poetry is no longer written for everyone, but only for other poets, who have the knowledge, background, and exposure to appreciate the currently popular poems.
We do not want this happening to fiction. We do not want to become a community of people writing only for each other, having lost track of the true purpose of our craft. It’s all good and well to learn and discuss trends, and clichés, and how “proper” books should be written. But we can’t lose site of who we’re writing these books for.
I’m going to ask you now to follow the above link, so that I don’t have to repeat everything Hannah has already so elegantly articulated…
Okay, here goes. I completely agree with Hannah that the YA writing community has moved in the direction she describes. It has not completely lost itself, but it hasn’t stayed completely true to its mission either. And the horrible, terrible, throw up a little in your mouth truth is… The entire authosphere, the entire online writing community, is falling into this trap. I see signs of it everywhere. Writers blog for other writers, sink their valuable writing time into maintaining their status among online peers.
Part of this can be laid at the feet of the aspiring writers who have infiltrated and conquered the author community. Everywhere, we are encouraged to start blogging, to build platforms, to make connections on Facebook and Twitter, and other blogs. But we haven’t published anything. What can we say to readers, who haven’t read us because we’ve given them nothing to read?
And so we build a community amongst ourselves, aimed towards our goals. We share info, support each other, and work to build up everyone’s careers. And it’s wonderful! But it doesn’t really have much to do with our initial reason for joining this community: to create things for other to enjoy. Others who do not write, do not know the difference between submitting to an agent or submitting to a publisher, may not be fast friends with every aspiring and published writer on the web. They do not go to every writing con they can afford, or buy six copies of a book because they want to support their best friend who wrote it. When we take advice, and suggestions, and encouragement from those just like us, we can easily forget who we’re trying to please.
Readers matter. Readers have a voice. Readers may even use that voice. In fact, there are innumerable readers taking part in the authosphere as a whole. But many have neither access to nor interest in the authorial, writerly community with it’s focus on mechanics and mutual support. They want to hear about new books, win ARCs, make recommendations, and read reviews. To those of us who are unpublished, these are not relevant to our main goal. And so we listen more to each other, and less to the readers. And that’s a dangerous road to take.