Three Agreements

“In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write.”
J.K. Rowling

Who am I writing for?” It is a fundamental question and it has a fundamental answer: you are writing for yourself.”
William Zinsser

J.K. Rowling is a master of fiction and William Zinsser the author of a popular nonfiction guide, On Writing Well. Yet both of them arrive at the same place when it comes to whether or not you should write with an idealized reader in mind. They both say forget about it and write for yourself. Why? Zinsser probably sums it up best when he says, “…ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not his subject, but who he is.”

What does this mean, exactly? For me, it means that wonderful writing  has an aliveness and a unique energy that jumps off the page and grabs the reader. That energy flows from the writer’s passion for the characters, ideas, and feelings that he or she is bringing to life. That passion is what keeps you reading.

Think about writers you love — the ones who really speak to you in some way. When all is said and done, what attracts you is their distinctive voice and style: how they reveal who they are, what they know, and what they care about through their writing.

Right now, I’m in the throes of completing a YA novel for girls. This is my first major foray into fiction — exciting and scary! I think there are three agreements involved. The first agreement is with my characters: to be true to them as they reveal themselves to me. The second agreement is with myself: to do whatever it takes to write the best book I have in me. The third agreement is with my reader, whoever she may be: to tell a great story and tell it well. If I keep the first two agreements, I believe the third one will take care of itself.

What do you think?

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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3 Responses to Three Agreements

  1. Mike S. says:

    Having read some of J. K. Rowling’s stuff, I believe her when she says she doesn’t think about her readers when she writes.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your note. You’re not alone: not everyone thinks Rowling is all that great a writer, though she’s certainly inventive! Thinking about your reading audience is a tricky issue: if you get too caught up in trying to second guess what readers will find appealing, then you can lose sight of your original vision. In the end, I think it all comes down to respecting your reader by writing the best possible story you can.

      Write on! Karin

  2. Mike S. says:

    Good points. I agree!

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