Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What is Your Goal as a Writer?

Simple enough question, but I'm guessing there will be wildly different answers.

What is the ultimate goal of your writing? To pass the time? To find fame and fortune? To change the world? To leave something behind? So scholars in the future can debate the meaning behind your work? To scratch an itch?

What end result do you have in mind when you put pen to paper (or fingers to laptop)?


Erik said...

To change the world, which is to say that I think I either have a way of looking at the world that makes more sense or I think I can start a discussion around an alternative viewpoint that will improve things.

There's also therapy; I write many things that may become a memoir simply to deal with what I've been through.

Mostly, however, I want people to realize that things don't necessarily make sense as they are arranged now and a little bit of thought and effort could change that.

MRasey said...

I tell stories I want to read and hope someone else will like them too. At least in novel length. Short fiction I use to experiment with themes and other craft elements.


no-bull-steve said...

I'll stick with what Stephen King said. "What makes you think I have a choice?"

Heidi the Hick said...

What is my goal as a writer?

-to get all those pesky voices out of my head so I can have a shred of mental peace.

-get the stories I love to tell into other people's heads (mwa ha ha ha)

-be somewhat financially compensated for telling these stories, so that I can afford to feed my kids and my animals, and not have to run a cash register ever again.

-break the silence

I also have to echo what's been said previously... I have to write. I know what happens if I don't. But, I do want to get paid for it and I don't think that cheapens it any. My career goal is to write novels that sell.

kmfrontain said...

My motivations are often different, one novel to the next, but one motivation threads all: I write for entertainment. I enjoy the worlds and characters I create. Then I put my stories out there to see if anyone else will enjoy them. I know I've succeeded when someone buys my entire series on the same day. When I stop enjoying the process, I don't write. So there it is. I can only have one true goal as a writer: personal entertainment.

Kathryn Harris said...

Ooh, this is a fun one.
My very first goal I set for my own writing was to create such a strong connection between my reader and my heroine that when the heroine experienced tragedy, the reader would feel her pain and cry, too.

Ulysses said...

That's actually a couple of questions.

What is my goal as a writer?
To finish my current WIP, sell it, and start the next.

Why? Self-validation, I guess. I'd like to be able to point to my work on the shelf and say: I can do this. I can do it well. Well enough that someone paid to read it. Well enough to get paid for writing it. Maybe not well enough to get paid MUCH, but well enough to get paid SOME.

Why do I write?
Ultimately, I have to quote the old adage: it's easier than not writing.

What is the goal of my writing?
I want my writing to tell a good story. I think my imagination is a fun place, and it'd be great to have other people enjoy it too.
I doubt my writing will change the world, but I hope it will entertain some small portion of it.

iwrite4rx said...

When I was going through a difficult time with three kids--two with special needs--I stumbled across a series (fiction) that pulled me out of my life and made me cry, laugh, believe in romance, realize it was okay to have troubles, etc. I wanted to do the same for someone else. That's why I started writing fiction. (I'm a medical writer by trade.) I am hitherto unpublished, with queries and partial out. Anytime I get discouraged, I remember the true reason for what I'm trying to accomplish--to reach out to someone else and distract them from their struggles, if only for a moment.

mlh said...

I write to write. Fame and fortune would be nice, but I don't think it would matter much if future scholars debate its meaning when I'm six feet in the ground.

Perhaps I write to prove myself, like ulysses said. To show people that I can not only write, but I can do it well.

Or at least I can try to do it well.

Ulysses said...

Woody Allen said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying."

Stew said...

To scratch an itch. I've always loved to write. Being published is icing on the cake; knowing I could do something I love, do it well enough and hone the craft enough to be recognized as successful by having it published is the ultimate dream for me. I will write anyway, keep working at making it better, hopefully grow as a writer and continue churning out work. That's my goal - to just keep getting better at something I love. If I submit and get published somewhere along the line I'd consider it a blessing to have an audience for my hobby - I'd love for the hobby to become a career. It doesn't have to in order for me to be happy doing it.

Melanie Avila said...

I used to write when I was younger and when life dropped me in Mexico without a job I decided to use that time productively.

At first my goal was to write a full-length book. Now that my memoir is with betas my goal is to write my first novel. I'm only a few thousand words in but I like the change of pace/voice/whatever.

Of course ultimately 'd love to be published, but these smaller goals give me satisfaction as well.

Anonymous said...

1. To write something I'd enjoy reading myself.

2. To use the English language in a way that marries meaning with aesthetics.

JustOpenAVein said...

To Ulysses: I gotta say, if writing is easier than not writing, you're doing something wrong!

Jessica said...

I started writing again (after a long hiatus) after my oldest child was born and I made the decision to be a stay-at-home-mom. I needed a hobby and I wanted it to be something that engaged me intellectually. I wanted to keep my mind from turning to mush amidst the day-to-day diaper changes and musical toys.

I write historicals and so spend a lot of time doing research. So I have twice as much fun, doing both the writing, which I love, and the research, which I really do enjoy.

Sure, it would be nice to touch someone someday with my writing. And it would be wonderful to make money from my writing (not working, any amount of money is a lot to me!). But, when it comes down to it, I write because I enjoy it. Writing gives me just as much an escape as reading does.

Ryan Field said...

What is your goal as a writer?

Ultimately, it's all about entertaining the reader and the people buying the books.

150 said...

To make my sister laugh, cry, or go "OH SNAP."

justopenavein said...

I have a small bone to pick: I hate it when writers say they write because they "have" to. This is such a cliche, and it's clearly not true. You HAVE TO eat and breathe. If you're lucky you CAN write because you've been given an education and you live a life that allows freedom of choice. I write because I choose to, even though it's often difficult. So do you.

Emily said...

To eventually have my own fandom. :)

Gypsy Soul said...

Why?: To briefly quiet the voices in my head.

My goal is to tell a great story. To have a reader fall in love with my characters the same way I did.

Furious D said...

I have many reasons...

1. I write to tell the stories I would like to see.

2. I have no other marketable skills.

3. I simply have to.

Erik said...


I agree with you completely. Saying "I have to write" is a rather trite attempt at being witty, and I am led to the conclusion that it means the person is embarrassed or otherwise put out by the honest answer.

If there is such an impulse, I would say it is because writing is a type of therapy, which jessica and I are the only ones to cop to.

I am stating this case rather bluntly because I do believe that a person who is not particularly honest with themselves is unlikely to make a good writer. Yes, I am saying this from experience, because I know what it means to fake it - "it" being writing, life, and so on.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Sell a bunch of books. Period. That means I've achieved all my other goals for writing.

brenda said...

My goal as a writer is way different than why I write. Why I write changes from day to day...obsession with a character or story, need to prove something, idea that is busting into my head, wanting to have people read my words etc. etc. Goal right now is to take my writing to a higher level. That involves not only getting into print but putting together a website, making contacts and working at the first steps of marketing. That also involves maintaining enough writerly energy to achieve those goals

beth said...

I want to make a living doing what I love...writing. Which means: publication + audience. Is that so much to ask?

Of course, I am reminded on one of Nathan's other posts, about playing the "If only..." game. If only I had publication + audience...then If only I had fame + fortune...then If only I had more fame + fortune that Stephen King and JK Rowling combined...

Mary said...

To entertain!

beth said...

justopenavein: here, here!

Helen said...

To get the damn stories out of my head so I can stop thinking about them all the time. :/

My more fanciful goal is to one day be able to make a living at writing. Hey, no one ever said dreams were realistic...

Will Entrekin said...

To tell a good story well.

Of course, "good" and "well" are the operative and dynamic words (while story is the functional one).

Adaora A. said...

To Scratch an itch

To change the way people think

To write words that will touch people the way my favorite books have touched me (cheesy but it's true).

I would love to entertain people.

I also agree with MLH in that I would obviously love awards (who wouldn't), but at the end of the day I just love writing.

It's definetly fingers to laptop. I type much better - and much faster - then I write longhand.

Morgan Dempsey said...

To have fun.

I just like to write. Have for a really long time. I only recently put something out there for publishing, and it's just a short story, and I only really submitted it because, well, I wrote to the contest's prompt, so why not? I've always been too shy beforehand. I'm not going to change the world or write the Next Great Novel, because I'm not really trying to. I don't have any "goals" for it. It's something I do because I can't spend my entire life coding.

I just like putting words on paper. It's fun.

Heidi the Hick said...

I know today's topic is "what is your writing goal" and not "WHY do you write" but I'm puzzled that some of us have such scorn for the statement "I have to write."

Well, I really do. Seriously. I just said that I have a career goal of being paid to write novels. But dude. I know what happens if I don't write. I get bad-crazy. (I'm not kidding about this.) In an earlier comment I said that one of my writing goals is to get the pesky voices out of my head. I'm not kidding, and there are a few other commenters who have said this too.

I don't necessarily count it as therapy (I have drugs and pshrinks and heavy metal and god for that) , but it is necessary. I live everyday with stories and characters. I don't know where they come from and I don't care. I just know that they need to come out of me. I can crowd up my brain quite well without all those imaginary people in there. They have got to come out on the page!!!

My responsibility then, is to learn to write well so that I can tell these stories. I guess if I'm honest I'll admit that I have to put my ego aside and make it a goal to be a better writer. I can always improve.

Sorry for taking it off topic. Please go on with Nathan's topic which is "What is your Goal as a writer?"

Tara said...

I write to calm the voices in my head. OKay, I realize that sounds a little hokey, but seriously, I can't go to sleep at night without turning the light on like five times to jot something else down. It's quite a curse actually.

Keri Ford said...

justopenavein said...
I have a small bone to pick: I hate it when writers say they write because they "have" to. This is such a cliche, and it's clearly not true. You HAVE TO eat and breathe.

sorry, but I must disagree. If I don't write down the thoughts in my head do you know what happens? I don't sleep because what's in my head keeps rolling around nonstop, jumping from one thing to another in a massive circle until it's one in the morning and my mind hasn't shut down for several hours. Think of it like Restless Leg Syndrome, only for the brain (and yes, I have RLS, so I can make that comparision). Without putting those thoughts to paper I end up with a sleep-deprived headache and the next day I'm feeling pretty darn crappy, on top of the sluggish feeling, my mind has yet to shut down the characters I've thought of. So you see, I have to write, because a person HAS TO REST along with eating and breathing.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...


And I write because I have to.

It's really that simple. And complex; that yes answered all the questions you asked.

bunnygirl said...

I write because I enjoy exploring my fictional worlds and hanging out with my imaginary friends. :-)

I write to share my stories with others, although this is a secondary goal.

What I don't do is write for money. I already have a pretty good job. Writing is my play time and the hours I have are limited. I could query my novels more aggressively, submit short fiction to more markets, and basically do a lot more to promote myself, but then I'd have no time to write.

My goal is to tell the best stories I possibly can about the people and places in my head. If other people read them and like them, great. If I can find someone to pay me for them without compromising my other hobbies and commitments, even better. But getting the stories into pixels remains the most important thing. The rest is extra.

shegilesx said...

To make children happy. The times I've smiled when reading a book as a child are priceless. Otherwise I didn't have a lot to smile about at that time.

Anonymous said...

First--I love writing, and it's something I will always do.

The rest/the goal--to tell the stories and just maybe I can make people love my characters as much as I do... which means selling, of course.

And justopenavein/erik
May your muse be kinder to you.
the I have to write, is not cliché, nor is it trite. Why do people working in the same field/craft feel a need to belittle those around them, because that is what your response does.

I 'have' to write my characters stories. It is a choice I make, yes, and it is something I love--it is my chosen art form. But if I want a decent nights sleep, there are some days that I 'have' to write. Everyone is an individual, so how dare you harp on what they deem necessity. You cannot speak for those you do not know, we all come from different life experiences.


Christopher M. Park said...

My own personal character has been heavily influenced by the works I read as a child and a young man. Books have a way of reflecting and crystallizing real life, and our favorite characters are often foils to ourselves.

I write not so much to change the world (though that would be nice), but to hopefully help others shape themselves into the people they want to be. As my favorite authors helped shape me into who I wanted to be.

On the other hand, one of the main reasons I write is to simply provoke a response. If I can make people laugh, or cry, or look at something in a new way, I've been successful. Novels are entertainment, education, and sometimes even catharsis. For the author as well as the reader.


Erik said...


> But if I want a decent nights sleep, there are some days that I 'have' to write.

In other words, it is theraputic. That is my point.

I apologize if I offended you, but I strongly urge you to understand what it is that you are trying to get from this particular kind of therapy. We all have our needs, but to truly live life is to understand those needs implicitly. I don't see how it can be any other way, and I don't see how someone can write that doesn't have that sense of life.

Perhaps you think I am being mean again, and I'm sorry if that's the case. But to be a writer is to ask someone to let you inside of their head for a while. To me, that's an awesome responsibility. I don't want to feed them something that isn't true, and I think I can tell when people are trying to feed me something that isn't personally true.

I take this rather seriously, I realize. You can dismiss me as an arrogant SOB and I won't mind. But I'm not trying to be mean, not at all. Many of us feel a need to write - but where does that need come from? What is that inside of us that needs to do this? I think that question needs to be answered to make the most of it. Our readers demand a lot from us, so why not?

Precie said...

1) Because I can. (Growing up, I always thought "Who do you think you are? What could you possibly write that would interest other people?" Now those questions don't stop me.)

2) Because I love words. I love playing with words, I love putting words together, I love finding "le mot jus."

3) I love learning. I love learning to write better every day...and I love researching.

4) I'd love to have a novel (or more) published some day. Even if I couldn't, though, I think I'd still write...because now I can.

Jay Montville said...

I want people I don't know to voluntarily pay money to read my stories and (ideally) enjoy them.

That's it. Money? Great. Fame? Sure, why not. Personal entertainment value? Of course! But I want someone to go into a bookstore or onto a website and think "oh, that looks like a good one!" and pick it up. That's my ultimate goal.

justopenavein said...

Tiffany, Keri, etc:
I sure didn't mean to offend anyone. We can disagree about the semantics of "I have to," and what it means. I respect your feeling that writing is a necessity to you. To me, saying "I choose to" has more power. That's just me.

Is it a cliche? Well, I hear it an awful lot. BUT I have no desire to belittle anyone, least of all writers.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

I see your point Erik. But I don't think many people want to get into the philosophical/psychoanalytical reasonings for the wherefores and whys... writing is an art form. I've been an artist in some shape or form all my life. It's an expression of ones self... some people like to speak louder than others... and written published words speak to thousands if not more.

I see where you are going with therapeutic means of expression, but some people just write because it just is.

It is what we are. I'm done ranting. *g*


shadesong said...

Depends which project! With the fiction,it's generally that the story is in my head and it must come out,or it'll just keep building up...

The epilepsy memoir,I write because there is no book out there for people who've just been diagnosed and are dealing with anti-seizure-med hell.

Ulysses said...

Interesting point. Do I have to write? That depends (to paraphrase Clinton) on your definition of "have to".

Is it necessary to my survival? No, of course not.

Yet writing is easier for me than not writing. When I write, I face all the obvious problems: word choice, story decisions, generalized fear of blank pages. These, however, are problems with which I believe I can deal.

When I don't write for a while, I face a whole new set of problems. I get restless. I get depressed. I start berating myself for not scribbling so much as a line. I start wondering if all there is to me is my day job, which a large section of the Indian subcontinent can apparently do with greater efficiency for lesser cost. I have much more trouble dealing with these problems.

Is this a sign of mental illness? Is writing therapy? Maybe. I'm not a psychologist. I just know a comprehensive list of successful authors would turn up enough symptoms of obsessive compulsiveness (eg: alcoholism, addiction) to make you wonder if it's a prerequisite ("You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!"). So if I'm not entirely balanced, at least I have a lot of company.

Do I have a choice? Yes. Everyone has the freedom to choose the consequences. It's just that the consequences of writing are easier for me to bear than the consequences of not writing.

The "writing is easier than not writing" quote is not mine. I stole it unattributed because I haven't been able to find the original author. It may be trite, but I consider it a shorthand way of saying all of the above, and believe it to describe my point of view about as accurately as any six words could. Your mileage may vary. If it is dishonest, then we must add "delusional" to my list of illnesses above and write off my comments as the ravings of a madman.

I'm okay with that.

Anonymous said...

I write so that I can waste all my free time trying to get an agent and reading their blogs and posting on their blogs and going to the post office and updating my self-promotional website and swimming in futility while navigating this god-and-lucifer-forsaken business whoops there goes my life sure was fun writing.

Katie said...

For the satisfaction of it. Yes, I want to share my stories with anyone who might be interested, it would be fabulous is my stories made some money, I'd love to see my book on a bookstore shelf, and it would be fabulous if my story impacted someone. But that's not why I write. I do it, because when I'm not satisfied with a story that someone else has written, my imagination turns to writing one that DOES satisfy me. And when I can go back and read the words I've written, and get lost in a story that I know inside-and-out... it's immensely satisfying.

Anonymous said...

My goal as a writer?

Mastery of craft.

My goal is to learn to control a novel like William Golding, turn out the prose of Charles Frazier, and plot like Dickens.

I know, I know ... can't be done. But I think you aim high, and maybe if you miss the mark somewhat, you're still doing pretty good.

As far as everything else goes (publication, validation, therapy, pecs like Hugh Jackman), I think if I remain focused on mastery of my craft, it will follow if it is meant to be. Except maybe the pecs part ...


Guy Stewart said...

Wow. Much said above. Makes you think...I write for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it IS theraputic. Sometimes I see n image so clearly in my mind and it looks so cool that I want try and paint the same picture in words so I can both go back again after the mind image fades and invite other people into the image and play with me.

Sometimes I just like to write to "escape" the mundane world - and then I send the stuff out because I think there are other people who might enjoy escaping to a place similar to the one I imagined...

Sam Hranac said...

To leave something behind? To scratch an itch?

Something like that - and a lot like others have said. There are stories and people in my head and they want to come out.

MelodyO said...

What's the ultimate goal of my writing? To make my reader miss her bus.

If I can manage to pull her that far into the world I created, I will be well pleased indeed.

Mary Paddock said...

I write because I have something to say or a story to tell. I want to do it well. I want to get paid money for doing it.

I've been telling stories on paper since I was a third grader, when the little boy next to me told me my picture of a horse looked like a lizard. I kicked him in the shins and wrote a caption underneath the picture explaining why the horse looked the way it did (it involved magic. Some things never change). Before I knew it, all my pictures had captions and then all my captions turned into sentences with pictures. And then it was paragraphs and no pictures.

It's an innate impulse at this stage and I'd write even if I thought there was no chance of being published. I'd probably be like one of those little old ladies who crochet scarves and sweaters for all her relatives and when she runs out of relatives, she starts crocheting booties for her cats. For some of us,the drive to create goes on past the point of sensibility.

However, given my druthers, I'd rather write for real people. My cats are terrible critics.

Sophie W. said...

I just like writing books. I would write even if there was zero chance of getting published. It's fun.

We'll see if this attitude lasts into my twenties. Or thirties.

Anonymous said...

Well, the truth is I'm innocent. But into my head pops these characters and they are VERY bossy.

I would have chosen to be a dancer,BUT NO!

The characters go chitty-chatty-chitty-chatty and have all these stories they need me to write.

Man oh man, I take dictation until I need a neck rub and a glass of
juice (or something).

Tsk tsk tsk.

Pesky critters.

(oh, yeah, and for therapy and because I have to, too.)

annathepiper said...

Hi, new reader chiming in. ^_^

Like a lot of the previous commenters, I write because in no small part I feel like I have to. I was stressing out once about not getting writing work done, and a friend, trying to help, told me "Y'know, you don't have to write every day."

Which strikes me rather like telling me "Y'know, you don't have to breathe."

I love the entire process of telling a story--and of shaping it from start to finish until it's ready to be shared with someone. I too feel very testy and stressed if I don't feel like I'm making progress on this on a daily basis.

Now, part of that stress is tied up in the goal part of this question--which is to say, I want to write novels that people will buy and enjoy. I have no illusions that it'll bring me fame and fortune, especially since I'm writing SF/F and the likelihood of fame and fortune from that is pretty darned small. ;)

But I'd be happy with "moderately well known" and "comfortably well off", perhaps. Enough that I could write as a primary profession, and spend more time outside, even if it's with my laptop, banging on a novel.

Marissa Scott said...

I choose to write because I want to share my stories with others, hopefully entertaining them in the process. For me, it's as simple as that. :-)

Laurel Amberdine said...

Because I want to make some lovely agent with fabulous taste wealthy?

No, no, wait. Not the suck up answer. Hang on.

Honestly, though I fear this sounds completely dweebish and arrogant... I have seen, experienced, and learned some things I think are wonderful and unique enough that I'd like to share them.

But lecturing about philosophy, religion, and physics is no fun, and doesn't work anyway.

My only hope is through art, and being a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy, I think that medium is best for what I'd like to accomplish.

Don't know if I'll ever manage to blow some reader's head open with the wonder of the universe, but it's worth trying. And at the least, when I can make someone happy and give them an entertaining pastime I'm satisfied.

Josephine Damian said...

To entertain. Bestsellerdom or bust. Make big bucks. Get a film deal for my novel, write the screenplay myself so that one day I can stand at a podium and say, "First, I'd like to thank the academy for voting for me, and next, I'd like to thank my agent....."

Bonnie said...

I suppose I don't absolutely have to write. I don't absolutely have to eat, either. But people who choose not to eat are called "anorexic." I don't know what the equivalent word for choosing not to write would be, but I know that when I do it, something in my soul starves to death.

Anonymous said...

Writers go around with bad hair from scratching their heads and saggy butts from sitting at their desk all day,

so WHO ARE those pretty people who stand in for the (real) writers for their book jacket pictures and where can I hire one, ???
and looking in the mirror, SOON! (YIKES!)


(iamjustposing, acting ,inthe closet...
-hopeful look that you
will believe my sorry story-
ok, busted,
saggy butt and all,

Lawrence said...

I write because I have to -- I don't really know why -- I've always been working on one thing or another. I love it and it's a compulsion.

And given I'm compelled to write, I want to do it as well as I'm able, and create something other people will enjoy.

superwench83 said...

I write because I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. From the time I was old enough to read, it's what I've loved more than anything else. I can't explain beyond that. I can explain the reasons that I work so hard to master the craft versus just writing without care for that sort of thing, and I can explain why I want to publish the things I write. But the reason I love to write isn't something I can put into words so easily.

Regarding the "I have to write" debate.... I've got to say that I never understood people who say that. Not saying that they don't "have" to, just saying that I don't understand it. I mean, writing well is hard. I love the art of improving my craft, but it takes effort. Much as I like to write, I also like to sleep, but I force myself to get up early and stay up late so I can get my writing done. Being a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes even spend money I could definitely find other uses for to pay a babysitter to watch my kids while I go out and get some writing done. Someone said that for them, writing is easier than not writing, and I'm not saying that's not true for them, but I really don't get that. Not writing is much easier for me. But I'm happier when I'm writing every day, even though finding that time to write is sometimes a challenge. So I do it.

Anonymous said...

I want to hold in my hands a book I created.

SFWriter said...

My goal?
To tell a darn good story.

Because I have all these stories in my head, and it would be a pity to let them go to waste.

And also for most of the reasons everybody already stated. It is therapy, and it is necessary, it is what I am, it is, essentially, a way of life.

Anonymous said...

To find a way to stop.

Anonymous said...

cant spell
cant punctuate
cant parse
simile challenged

but on with the story!!

there's gotta be a good reason somewhere
or maybe even a really bad one

(running away to hide anonymously in Nathan's blog from men in white jackets?)

Jessica said...

I write because I love to write, or course. But I do fantasize about middle schoolers reading my books, loving them, recommending them to others. If a handful of kids who usually hate to read make it through my entire book, I will have made pretty heavy impact.

Mark Terry said...

Reading these comments confirms what I've often thought, that the majority of aspiring novelists have some sort of ill-defined obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In my case, OCD aside, I make a living as a freelance writer. The majority of that writing is writing market research reports about the clinical laboratory business. It pays well, I set my own hours, I'm having fun. But it's work.

Writing novels is a lot more fun. Although I make good money writing business reports, it's finite, whereas, at least in theory, having a hot novel can make you rich (in theory).

So, from a practical point of view, I'd like to see a larger portion of my freelance writing income derive from the things I most like to write.

From the philosophical POV, and disregarding the potential diagnosis of some free-floating form of OCD, I want to write novels because it's fun to write novels. I mean, I just like to make shit up. It'd be nice to get paid for it.

Just_Me said...

My end goal is to get the story on paper (or harddrive) and perfect it. The stories are always there in my head, I want to remember them in my old age so I write them down.

If I get published and am able to share my work and the worlds I create with more than just my friends and family that will be wonderful, but I don't write for the mass public or to follow a trend or because I intend to be the next Terry Pratchett or Orson Scott Card.

And, like others have said, at some point the writing takes over. I don't have a choice in the matter. The characters take over, they want a voice, they want to live.

Cory said...

I enjoy writing. I like thinking of characters and plots, weaving them all together, creating worlds and rules. I like playing with words.

Of course, I notice that I only say that I enjoy writing when I'm not actually writing. ("I hate writing. I love having written.")

My goal? To finish my stories, to be glad with them, and yes, eventually, to get published (though I imagine this being years off, if ever). It'd be nice if they were somewhat successful, but that's more because I like validation than because I want the money/to be famous/etc.

Sneak Thief said...


To make a buck or two.

It's that simple.

2readornot said...

I agree (with above) -- I write because this will be one of my only chances (with small children at home) -- and I want to make some money. Doesn't need to be a ton -- just a nice, little, supplemental income doing something I truly enjoy. Is that too much to ask? :)

Tammie said...

Okay this is gonna sound weird and I don't want to sound rude but I never understood the "to write something I'd enjoy reading"

I enjoy reading horror, but I can't write it. I enjoy reading about politics but to write in depth about it sounds boring.

I write to tell a certain story and to maybe make sense of things but the main reason I write is to entertain someone.

Neptoon said...


I come from a culture where stories are traditionally passed down by word of mouth. Not enough of my people put their words down on paper.

I write because I can. I write humor and satire because otherwise the stories that need telling become too sad.

Plus I like making folks laugh.

My goal is to be published so some kid on the rez might someday read the tale and say,"hey, I can do that."

Cam said...

With both my fiction and non-fiction, I write because I can't stop myself! I also write to make people think, laugh, respond, react; to create excitement, frustration or anger even. Fame and fortune wouldn't be bad either.

AmandaKMorgan said...

That one wonderful day Spencer and Heidi will allow me to write their official biographies....

But really, I want a lot of things. For people to pluck my book off the shelf, going, "This looks good." To hold the book in my hands and fan the pages to get that lovely book smell. For a kid to stay up reading it, long after she's supposed to be asleep...and, someday, to make the NYT bestseller list. I wouldn't complain if Oprah called me up to chit chat, either.

Michael said...

To tell a story.

Anonymous said...

so i can go out similieing

Other Lisa said...

I love to write, even when I hate it. I'd call it a compulsion. I definitely get cranky when I go a long time without a project.

I write as a way to make sense of the world, and then to change it.

I want to sell what I write and have a real, sustainable career.

Anonymous said...

so I can marry Ulysses!

(smooch smooch)

because I have to!

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Quite simply....

To be read.

Writer Babs said...

Well, right now I'm at the "finish something" stage, but I think in the end, I would like to be able to say I make my living writing stories, because that's what I love to do.

I know that most authors can't make money as a full time writer, but hey, I can dream.

Anonymous said...

Is it wrong to say I write because I want to be paid? It must be, because I'm posting this under Anon.

And also, selfishly, sometimes I read other people's books and they are such crap, I think, dear heaven, I know I can do better than that.

Loquacious Me said...

I want to let others enjoy the places and people that live inside my head as much as I do.

Getting paid would be nice too, but really it's more of an added bonus.

Jeff said...

To have a fabulous lunch with my publisher...what else is there?

Gabrielle said...

Mmm... Good question, Nathan.

I write, really, because I can't do anything else. It's like a creative compulsion. If I go a week without writing and I feel OK, then I know I've been writing my head off and should take a longer break... because most of the time, I go crazy without putting finger to keyboard.

But the great thing about writing is that it also lets me use my competitive, business side. I want to make it big. I plan on making it big.

That's why I write.

Yuri said...

When people ask me that I usually tell them "Imagine that you have a $10,000 gift certificate. Suppose you don't get around to use it so it gets expired. Imagine how that would make you feel. This should give you some idea about how I'd feel if I didn't find time to write."

There’s a reason why so many people on this thread say something along these lines. If you know you have it in you, you can’t ignore it. You HAVE to write. Everything else is secondary.

C.J. said...

to eventually give someone the same feeling i got when i first read 'a moveable feast.' listening to music, viewing paintings, reading books... i think one owes a debt for those experiences.

oh and nathan - thanks for the reply re: novellas. hmmm... al jefferson, writing career, al jefferson, writing career... would you take telfair instead?

Belindas said...

To see if I can create people and a world as complex and believable as this one. And it's fun!

SherylAdairVv said...

I want to write books that people stay up till 4am reading,just to read one more and then one more chapter. I want to take them to another world.

A little bit of income wouldn't hurt either.

Carol Burge said...

My goal is simple. I have a favorite book that I first read when I was a teenager (some thirty years ago).

This book has stayed with me. I've re-read it hundreds of times and I've bought numerous copies throughout the years.

This is the book that inspired me to write all these years later. I just love it. I love the characters, the plot, everything about it. And that's where your question comes in.

If I could have one person, just one person, feel this way about my book, I'd be happy, and I'd be satisfied.

Of course I'd love to hit the NY Times Bestseller list, too. :)

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

LindaBudz said...

My mystery writing teacher always used to say, "I hate writing, but I love having written."

I can't wait to someday hold the finished product in my hand. And to see some kid on the metro holding it.

Elissa M said...

Stories constantly float around in my head. I have to write them down. In that sense, there is no goal. Yet, I now have the urge to share my stories and characters, so the goal is to write a novel engaging enough to induce a publisher to publish and readers to read. The hope is there will be enough readers to justify publication of further novels. Still if the goal is not met, the writing will continue because the stories will keep coming.

Emily Ryan-Davis said...

I probably have many reasons that vary from day to day, but the constant motivation is a little extra money and a little extra popularity.

I'm shallow. :)

Jordyn said...

Ooh 95 comments already. Looks like I'm coming into this You Tell Me a bit late, but that being said...
my goal? Ultimately to be able to support myself through writing but really I'd be happy just being able to walk into a B&N or Borders and see my books shelved.

Linda said...

Wow, great responses here. I feel as if we're in a salon - I'd really love to meet all of you and keep discussing... I write because I am compelled to do so. The medical term is hypergraphia and simply, for me, a switch turned on not too long ago and so I write. And if I miss my pre-dawn session, I become irritable, almost like withdrawal from an addiction.

My goal as a writer? To make you, the reader, weep when my characters despair; cry when they are insanely happy; and to walk away from my story understanding a little bit more of the world around you and, perhaps, yourself. Peace...

Bob Jones said...

To get better.

Linda said...

Carolburge -

I'm fascinated - what was the book?

For me, the formative book was BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN by Glendon Swarthout. 'In that place the wind prevailed...' If I could ever write a book that moved me as much as his, I'd die happy. Peace...

midnight oil said...

I have these worlds, people, and stories deep in my soul. I need/ have to exercise these things. I don’t have to write them to exercise them, but what a waste that would be.

If I ever publish, I do hope to reach at least one other soul.

Jan said...

I think it's a combination of to scratch an itch and to change the world ... I write about serious issues: abuse, sexual predators, family relationships via romantic suspense fiction.

So I guess it's almost a form of therapy too - since some of my characters take on some of my experiences. So it is a way to release things I or my children have been through.

crapshooter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
crapshooter said...

To be able to quit my detestable day job.

serenity said...

I was going to say that I have to and that Erik is mean for saying that's not true. But he's right; that doesn't fully answer the question.

I'm afraid I want to change the world. God knows why I ever thought I could (my mother, for starters) or why I haven't learned yet that I can't.

Taylor K. said...

For a number of reasons. Primarily, I'd have to say I hope to entertain others with my writing. This is essentially what I have to do if I ever want to make any money doing this, after all, and I love anything that allows me to never work in retail again.

Stephanie Zvan said...

I've always told myself stories. Sometime in early adulthood, I realized it would be more healthy if I limited my characters to people I didn't know. Not too long after that, I noticed how much I was spending on art supplies to scratch my creative itches. I started writing instead. When I realized I wasn't going to stop, I decided to get good at it.

My most immediate goal in writing is always to free up space in my head. If I don't, it gets very crowded in here. My current short-term goal is to get the first book off to agents and start on the second. My long-term goal is to get good enough to do justice to this involved, delicate idea I've got. I suspect that's at least a couple more books out.

If you want to talk about persistent, thematic-type goals, then according to my stories, I apparently want to tell the world that it just isn't that simple.

K.R.Stewart said...

At first, I began to write just to see if I could tell a story like the kinds I like to read. Could I create my own world with my own characters and actually finish it, and have it be something I was proud of, in the end?

Now that that novel is finished, I find myself unable to leave the world alone. I've written a sequel, even, and my mind won't let it go, beginning to plan for yet another story in the series.

In short:

1) I feel as if there is one epic tale within me that simply must be fleshed out into a tale I would enjoy reading.

2) I would like to share this story with others who would appreciate it.

cactusbeetroot said...

Well, I write because it's just the way I am.

Heidi the Hick said...

Can't stop thinking about this! Fascinating reading comments!

Honestly I do have another writing goal and it's kind of embarrassing. But here goes:

I want someone to read my book(s) and tell someone else that it was amazing and Heidi is an excellent writer.

Arrrggghhh the curse of ego!

pjd said...

I'm with LindaBudz and bunnygirl.

If I'm totally honest with myself, and I usually am because I'm a very bad liar and I can see right through me, I'd have to say I write because ultimately I want people to like me. I want them to think I'm witty and clever. I want that feeling that the 8-year-old gets when he brings home a spelling test with 100% on it and leaves it somewhere visible so Dad can discover it and gush about how smart he is.

Since I have very few other discernible skills, writing is the best way I have of achieving that feeling. (Are you reading, Dad?)

Julie Weathers said...

As a journalist, I used to think the AQHA Sprint Award. The trophy goes with my decor.

As a novelist, I enjoy my stories. I love it when the characters come to life and tell me to just get out of the way and take notes. I want to be able to share these worlds with others. I want to introduce them to fairy dragons and enchanted, poetry-spouting jars and the erotic dancer who wants to be a spy for a beautiful elf he is smitten with and the accident-prone wizard and... Well, you get the idea.

Best of all possible worlds would be to write for a living as well as living to write.


Michele Lee said...

I write because I like to create. I like to work at something, to refine it, to identify and meet and surpass the challenges. I like looking back, at this story I've told and feeling that it's just right.

Now, I see to publish 1) because I think I'm good enough and 2) because I'd like to build a career that brings in a dependable (if not useful) contribution to my family. And by dependable I don't mean on time, I mean I want a career with regular sales/contracts. I want to be dependable and valuable enough that publishing picks me.

Anonymous said...

Somerset Maugham wrote a short story about a man who decided to write, and he had everything in place to do it, he took time off, found a peaceful spot, but before he got down to the actual writing he decided to read and read and read some more, until he was incredibly well informed, then died before he ever got around to writing. I read the story some time ago and thought it incredibly sad.

I feel different from most of the others who have commented. I’ve only recently decided that I need to write. I have gone through a lot of my life avoiding writing. I’ve read lots, but with university papers (yes I studied English Lit) I sweated every word, not sweat like perspiration dripping either, more that I struggled. I always felt everyone else said everything so much better. I love other people's words, but writing doesn’t come easily to me.

So, why me now? At this stage in my life I need to find my voice. It might be a form of ‘therapy’ that many use to explain why they write. But it’s not that I have to get something off my chest. Writers and readers all the time talk about voice and I feel I have lived my life and come to realize I haven't got one. So I am writing for me, to find my own voice. To find me in my head and learn to listen to me better, before it’s too late.

mkcbunny said...

To write a book that I am proud of.

Polenth said...

For non-fiction, I couldn't find the information I wanted about dragon mythology. So I went and found it and put it online. My main motivation was wanting to make it available to other people. I won't get fame or fortune from it (unless something really strange happens).

I write fiction for fun. It'd be nice to be published, but I don't think it's a good idea to obsess over stuff like that. It'd stop being fun if I did.

Odo fitz Gilbert said...


I'm not one of those people who frame my work in "goals". I suppose that I would like to tell stories and have people read them and like them well enough to buy/read the next one. (Poul Anderson once said, "I'm competing for beer money. If I write a story that makes someone give up a six-pack -- I've been successful."

I've been *telling* stories to people for more than 20 years. Putting it down on paper has been new, within the last three years. It is, in part a way of reaching out.

I think I have something real to say about adventure, adventurers, champions, and how things really work. I think I can make people feel how it must feel to be in one of those adventures -- and I'd like them to feel it.

I wouldn't mind a little fame and adulation, but I realize that is unlikely, even if I get my work published.

I have stories in my head. I want to share them as widely as I can.

t.sheridan said...

Milan Kundera writes in The Curtain, his essay on writing called “The Power of the Pointless,” of the “everyday” as “the trivial circumstances [that] stamp some personal event with inimitable singularity that dates it and makes it unforgettable.” He continues saying, “the novel alone [can] reveal the immense, mysterious power of the pointless.”
Ultimately, my goal as a writer is to write rich compelling stories that convey the magic in the mundane and the magnificence in ordinary life, to reveal the wonder in everyday life.

Rahmama said...

Writing is self-imposed sweet torture.

Writing is my right-brain escape. When I can see the dancer whirling clockwise, then my right brain has kicked in and I am free to let the ideas come to me.

Writing is therapy for my soul. Too much structure and control makes me efficient, but grumpy.

Writing is play. My characters are fun to play with. Sometimes I feel like a kid again playing with dolls. The more I work with them, the more real they become.

Glad to see I'm not alone in this venture.
To see the right-brain, left brain whirling dancer test, copy and paste link:,21985,22556281-661,00.html

Phil said...


I have simple tastes.

Suzanne Nam said...

ever since i was a kid, i loved reading and, as i got older, i grew to love how simple words on a page sometimes capture the truth of life better than life itself. one day i thought:

hey, i can do that, too.

fast forward a couple of decades... my non-fiction writing pays the bills and is gratifying in its own way, but it's not enough. and so i write fiction because there are things i want to express and i want to express them artfully. it's not that important that anyone reads what i write. the act of writing well is, when it happens, satisfying enough.

Anonymous said...

My goal in writing is to stay sane. Like others in this thread, I *have* to write. If I don't, I develop severe insomnia followed by flu-like symptoms (fever, aches) and gradually a suicidal depression.

My best guess is that it's at root a kind of sleep disorder.

Re-writing is different. I do that because it's fun and interesting, much like gardening or learning languages.


Charlotte said...

My goal as a writer is to open hearts. I want people to see each other with compassion and know that no matter how different another may seem, we are all human.

Also, if I don't write I do things like eat too much, shop too much and shout at people. And that's not good.

Alex Fayle said...

Because I'm only happy when I'm writing. Earning from my writing is of course a goal. I've given myself 20 years to develop a decent writing career (back catalogue earnings and no [or little] trouble getting each new book or short story published).


Kris Stanhope said...

I write because I really want to make someone feel the same way I do when I read an outstanding book. I want my book to make someone laugh or cry out loud.

I would also love to walk into a bookstore and see someone taking my book off the shelf, smiling as they glance through it, then reading it as they walk to the counter to buy it.

Parker Haynes said...

Why do I write? Damned if I know! Just because I do.

I grew up in a house full of books, had a wonderful dad who usually had (and was reading): a book in the bedroom, a book in the living room, a book in the bathroom, a book in the car, a book at work. I was fortunate, indeed. He taught me the love of the written word. As a young man, I thought I wanted to write, but that thing called life (and paying my way through it) got in the way.

Now, in my sixty-fifth year, with a body too worn and broken to do much else, I write. Sure, money and fame would be fun, but my greatest fun is the challenge. Meanwhile, I best get out of this crazy and wonderful world of blogs and continue the hundredth (well, it seems like that many) edit of my WIP.

PS You guys and gals are fun! Thanks, Nathan, for providing this space for a community of interesting and thoughtful folks.

Aimless Writer said...

I want to entertain, tell my stories, and write more stories. And I want to do this full time. Because writing is bliss. Ideas come into my head and I have to write them down. If I don't write I go a bit crazy. (Just ask my husband :) I can't remember a time when I didn't write.
So, I'd like to keep writing and get paid for it so I don't need any other day job.

Philip M said...

It's exercise for the mind. Once I finish a piece, I have to move on to the next, even if it's writing to a stranger's blog.

Anonymous said...

On AI last night, Paula said something to one of the female singers... that she was "relevent." That made me think of this post.

I think all writers want to be relevent, or have their words be.

Colorado Writer said...

Is it bad to say it out loud?
I want to write a book a year and win a Newbery medal. In the end, I'd like a wonderful career like Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary

Skye said...

I write because it takes the ideas rattling around inside me like a box of marbles out where I can play with them. I like to study each individually and invent pattern games with as many as I can. Writing lets me share my best games. And it quiets the rattle.

meredith-wood said...

My goal as a writer.

I imagine my first goals are simple ones. I live with the worry I'll lose my eye sight. Truly, I do. So, I have a goal of keeping my eyes healthy. I live with the fear of being overtaken by arthritis like my grandmother, so I take my vitamins and eat healthy and pray.

Then there are the more complex ones. I enjoy plotting my stories more than writing them, but I do like writing for an audience. The best way to get an audience is through publication, but once I do publish, I will still have the same goal. I want to continue to widen my audience range. Why? The more readers I have the more encouraged I am to write.

Ello said...

I loved reading everyone's comments. And I saw alot that said writing is therapy. For me, writing fulfills a need to the storeies that plays like movies in my head. If I don't write them down, I'm afraid one day the movies will stop playing and I will wither away to dust from boredom.

TonyTee said...

If you do a Google search for the exact phrase, "I write because I have to" you get 47,800 hits.

Ulysses said...

Hurray for OCD!

Sam Hranac said...

I lost track of those who touched on this already. But put me down for a desire to connect with fellow humans as well. I spent some time in theater, and the desire to move my audience is also a part of my writing.

Kate said...

I write for my own sanity and because I believe it's my vocation. I hope to get published because I want to wake people up to see the world in a different way--to see that the common assumptions of our culture do not lead either to individual happiness or to the betterment of society. I want to help people believe in redemption, forgiveness, and the fact that their lives have worth and meaning. The world can only be changed one person at a time.

Anonymous said...

Writing is such a personal experience and our own motivations may vary. Sooner or later someone is bound to nitpick another's stance on the matter. I say, if that individual wishes to declare to the world that writing is a deep rooted passion of theirs and they feel an innate force compelling them to make it a career choice, so be it.

Tom Burchfield said...

A little late to this, but . . .

to read the kinds of stories I'm not reading.

to try and make sense out of things.

To create, with words, worlds that my readers and I can walk around in.

Compulsion and a certain generous misery that soaks my soul when I don't.

Fortune, though not necessarily fame as I like to stop in at my local bar where I can be just another customer.

Anonymous said...

tom, you are very cool...

jan said...

For my fiction: to entertain young people. To create a place they can go for a while when they need to get out of the "real" world. To encourage people think and ask questions.

For my nonfiction: to justify the time I spend chasing interesting bits of research by turning them into publishable entertaining useful bits.

In all writing -- to communicate and make a connection with people I cannot see and speak with.

jan said...

Oh...forgot my last always know that what I wrote today was the best thing I can do now, but not the best thing I'll do tomorrow.

elena said...

must avoid the surrender to dead air

bucketgirl said...

I write in the hope that someday someone will read my work and find a true and human thing that makes them realize that they are not alone.

Indu Nair said...

I write because literature is my religion, it is my way of connecting to the self.

As as Yann Martel put it, "Literature makes one existentially thicker" and I experience this all the time when I read.

My Goal as a writer is to communicate with readers the same way so many authors have communicated with me through their books, helping me realise a little more about life and the self and this incredible world.

Erin Miller said...

My goal as a writer is to meet Nathan Bransford. I want to write a novel worthy of a decent query letter, to write a query letter worthy of Mr. Bransford's attention, and to submit a full that Mr. Bransford will want to sell to a great publisher. This will hopefully result in lunch and a contract and a sunny vacation in CA. And while I'm waiting for that to happen, I keep writing, because Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." I will meet you one day, Nathan Bransford. I plan on it.

If I didn't want to sell my work, I wouldn't be reading agent blogs.


Anonymous said...

To write stories.
I would have thought that to be self-explanitory and am suprised there are other answers.

danceluvr said...

My goal as a writer? To be read.

Why I write the fiction that I write? Because it's the life I'd like to have had.

Mssr.Jay said...

My goal as a writer is to write, and improve my writing. that's it. If I can become better by tomorrow than I am today, I'm happy. Now, I'd very much like to get an agent, a publisher, and have my work read and enjoyed by a wide audience, but When I sit down at my keyboard I'm not really thinking about that. I just want to write.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have a goal as a writer. I write because I have to. When I finished my first novel I felt a sense of relief that it was done and now I had the time to start novel number two.

The story ideas keep filling my head and I have to write them down. If I can make some money in the process, that's good and if sombody enjoys reading it, even better.

Paul Phillips

southernbelfry said...


I want to be a good writer. I enjoy developing my craft, honing, polishing, refining. I could work on the same ms forever and not get anything else done but like an artist, I'm learning when to lay down my brush and say, "It's finished."

I want to inspire people, to make them want to reach, to make their lives a little better, to make them think.

TJ said...

What is my goal as a writer?

There are so many goals I have as a young writer. I want my readers to find refuge in the worlds my books create, speaking as I tend to stick with fantasy. I want them to find what I found at an early age. Writing as a refuge of self expression as a creative outlet for your soul. I also have to quote Stephen king on this one. I don't have a choice whether to write or not, it was something I was born to do, crafted for this career. Without the fortune and fame, I will be doing the same things I am now, writing and reading. I guess what I am saying is my goal as a writer is to inspire young people to find their love of reading. To show them, that imagination and a little luck can take you far. All I’m waiting on is the luck part of that merger.

There was also another opinion risen I would like to call attention to. I do not chose to write, because I use it for income, I’m a 17 year old girl in the process of writing a 30 000 word novel, I write, because I love it. I didn’t have to start writing, I did it, because it came naturally, it was what I did as a child it is what I would like to do. I wrote a children’s book at the age of 6, on display in my school library still and in city hall library, because I love it. I love letting the voices in my head wreak havoc on my notepad. I love that my characters haunt my dreams with new ideas, until I come to writing them down. So, yes I write, because I HAVE to and simply, I LOVE writing.

I write, for children like myself and for those who are not. I guess in short, my goal as a writer is to not only entertain, but to share the things I love and to invoke that in others.

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