Was a question I asked myself during a recent coaching session with friend and fellow writer, Soraya Mokarram. (I have volunteered to be one of her guinea pigs while she sets up her coaching practice.) Itís all very well writing stories for competitions and hitting the send button, I said, but it often feels a hit and miss affair. As if Iím putting a letter in a bottle and casting it into a vast ocean. While itís stimulating to have a deadline and something to write for, I often wonder whoís reading the stories and will they Ďgetí my writing?
Soraya asked me if I wrote letters to anyone, someone that I felt entirely at ease with. I donít write letters anymore, I replied. Well, emails then? As serendipity would have it, I had sent an email off just that morning to a dear friend overseas, giving her a general update on my life; telling her about the gentrification of my neighbourhood and how much I was looking forward to friends coming over to visit. After the coaching session I mulled over what Soraya had said to me and decided to take my first step into blogging, inspired by the email I had sent. http://amsterdamoriole.wordpress.com/ Some of you lovely people have read my first post already and left comments. Thanks so much for your support! Blogging has been on my to-do list for a long time so the coaching has really helped me get on with it and stop procrastinating.
But there remains the tricky question of who my potential fiction-readers are? Iíve been focussing mainly on short stories and flash fiction because these forms strike me as less genre-defined. Especially flash, which is relatively new so that writers can experiment with and reinvent it as it develops. So, even though the competition process feels random, I do feel comfortable with the short fiction form.
Each time I return to my Nanowrimo novels though, I come up against the issue of genre. Iím not writing literary fiction but itís not really genre fiction either. And if it is genre fiction, then which one? Is the public ready for a romance/magic-realism/YA/adult cross-genre? I envy and admire authors who know which genre they fit into. Some writers advise following your instinct and writing whatever you feel the burning need to get down on paper. Others put the emphasis the other way round, advising aspiring novelists to focus on their readership during the writing process.
So on Easter Monday Iím still wondering if the chicken or the egg comes first? Some of my favourite writers; Susan Hill, Deborah Moggach, Kate Atkinson and Julia Gregson have all managed to straddle the literary/genre fiction divide. Iíll just copy them then Ė easy-peasy! If only I could wave a magic wand and make it that simpleÖ
†How much do you focus on your readers? Who are they? Which age group and gender? Do you prefer to write to a brief or follow your muse?