On writing and the invisible audience

I’ve never really had problems with writing and wondering what people think of it. I know that it does trouble some writers a lot; the criticisms of an invisible audience, the second-guessing of what people will think, the reinforcement of your own doubts that it’s not good enough. But usually, I just write. I can shut out the voices for my GreenSky work; I don’t have the invisible reader in my head, and it’s all me. I still get the doubts, but they’re my doubts.

But – due to some unforeseen circumstances – I’ve actually picked up my Dresden work again, and I’ve now got two situations where I’m fighting the voices.

The first is that the whole lot has the potential to be read, and that’s fairly nerve wracking. My Dresden work is a lot more personal than my other writing, and I didn’t really write it with an eye to an outside reader. I’ve been re-reading bits this weekend, but I’ve resisted the urges to change things – mostly because the urges tend towards “delete everything”! I will stress that granting access to it was entirely my choice, and the logical side of my brain is quite happy ; I’m interested to know what the reader will think and I’m jumping at the chance to show a large chunk of what I think is good writing to someone. But it’s still scary!

And the second side of that is that I have started a new story. Previously, I didn’t have the presence of a Reader there…but now, I know someone could potentially critique it. And holy hell is that terrifying! I’d never understood the writer’s problem of criticisms from an invisible audience until now, but I really, really get it. I’ve got a little voice over my shoulder telling me that it’s muddled, makes no sense, is stupid, the characters wouldn’t do that, what on earth are you writing…and it’s made worse by the fact that I character-write so my plot tends to be lacking until I work out the details, which I admit makes for a muddled first draft and usually a muddled second one too! My logical brain thinks I’m stupid for listening, and so far it’s winning; I know it will all work out eventually if I just keep writing. But sometimes it’s like arguing with jelly. You can use logic, philosophy, common sense and simple yelling, but the jelly will still sit there and wobble.

So…for anyone fighting with that invisible audience, listening to criticisms that no-one else would ever think of and even less say; I’m cheerleading for you. Ignore the worries. Drown out the doubts. You have a good story in you! It might take a while to straighten out, but you have to give it a chance. Just get those words on the page, let the characters talk, and write, write, write!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.