Some writers can only produce if they pretend no one will ever read what they’re writing, if the story only exists in a perfect sphere of privacy. I am not one of those writers.
The very first sentence I wrote for my own pleasure was created under the giggling, excited watch of my two best friends at age 14 — a fan fiction of a popular book series, in which our two favorite characters got married.
We shouted, squealed, and collapsed with laughter as I typed, typed, typed our way through the actual ceremony. They went home but I kept writing, exploring the wedding night, the morning after, changing dynamics in the group, and of course the obligatory dramatic pregnancy to top off this first foray into melodramatic writing. Did someone die at the end? Oh, you bet. And I collected my first gratified shrieks of, “You’re so evil!”
I read each chapter to them over the phone as it was written, because I had no floppy disks to transfer the story, and no internet with which to transmit it.
More stories soon followed, each first spoken over the phone, and then posted to FanFiction.net. Soon after I was posting the first chapters of Nameless to FictionPress, and you probably know the story from there.
I never wrote privately. There was — is — always an audience present in my head, commenting, cheering, questioning.
I am lucky in that I’m not shy. I’ve been blessed with self-confidence; I am proud of my work. These invisible commentators are not critics — I do not falter under the weight of my own self-criticism. I am bolstered by this imaginary audience. They say the things to me that my readers have said over the years, expressing their love and support and leaping in excitement with me when something awesome happens.
So you see, reader… I am thinking of you always.
If I open the chapter this way, will you be confused? Here, let me put in a few sentences to orient you to what I’m seeing.
Do you understand who just said that? I don’t want to trip you up even for a moment; let me go back and add in a dialogue tag.
Did that revelation catch your breath? It’s not doing it for me, let me read it with your eyes and see how it flows. Yes, let’s make a paragraph break for added punch. There, now you’ll feel what I feel.
I understand the need of some writers for privacy. But I’m not sure I would want it, or that I would do as good a job if I knew no one else would ever see it, not even the imaginary readers in my mind. If it’s just me, then my standards are lower. I don’t need to write the whole book, because I understand the context of my favorite scenes.
So I need these invisible commentators. I need the ghosts of readers past. You are my encouragement, my motivation, and the very mental space I occupy. I write for you, because of you, and with your needs in mind.
See you this evening,