Write for yourself, edit for your audience.
I don’t know if I heard the phrase or if it was something I made up anymore, but it’s something that I live by at this point. It’s what keeps me writing as fearlessly as I can manage.
When I write, I do it selfishly. I write the stories in my head, craft them so that they are exactly to my liking and get the words down on the screen for my own pleasure. I think of pleasing no one but myself when I sit down and write the story for the first time, only creating things that make me happy.
Once I’ve had my fun, that’s when I start to think about my audience. It’s not so much a question of whether or not they’d like something I created. I understand well enough that there is no way to please everyone and there are several people who will hate whatever I do. It’s instead a question of what a general audience might have a problem with.
This, of course, takes extensive looking through what I’ve written from an outsider’s perspective and getting other people to look as well. Do the characters have a personality? Do their actions make sense? Are they acting rationally when they should be irrational? Does this make sense in the context of the universe or the situation? Does this even need to be there?
And so I edit. I remove the things that do not make sense or the things that I doubt the reader has any use for. I make the story good enough for someone other than me to enjoy as well.
I edit for you.
But first, I write for me.