In the first writing group I was in, there was one guy who swore black and blue that he would never change a word to suit readers. People could either like it or go read something else.
Not exactly a recipe for commercial success, but at the time it threw a spotlight on something I hadn’t thought about too much with my own writing at that stage. Who was I writing for?
I’ve never written with an audience in view – my stories just want to be told – but I enjoy the collaborative element of crafting a story so it works for the reader. It’s why I spend the time editing and editing and editing. It’s why I’m in a critiquing group.
Having said that, when I look at the writer/reader relationship there is still one question that interests me: Can you change your writing too much in an attempt to suit readers?
I think of James Joyce when I ask this question, because there aren’t a lot of readers in the world who’d have encouraged him in creating his dense and difficult works. And he’s not alone.
Maybe the important thing is to actually know who your ‘natural audience’ is, and that way you aren’t trying to be too many things to too many people?