Who do we write for? Ourselves or to please others?
That turns out to be an even harder question to answer than I thought. I mean, on the surface of it I appear to be just writing for myself. With the exception of brief snippets on WriMo sites, I don't share my drafts with anyone. Look a little deeper, though, and you'd uncover a characteristic in common with all beginning authors - that conviction that what I've written isn't good enough to share.
I let a few people read my 2010 NaNoWriMo 'novel', unedited except for a pass with the spellchecker. The comments from the people who read it were exactly what I expected. It read like... well, like there were huge gaps in which 'important but not critical to the main plot' events had taken place. Imagine picking up a 3 or 4 book series somewhere and condensing it down to about 75k and you'll understand the effect I'm talking about.
Had I been more ambitious and just written the first 1/3 of my idea as that 75k NaNo-novel, then gone on to write 2 more 75k novels to finish off the story, it would have been a whole different situation when it came to letting people read it. I might have been told things like the fact that I'd carelessly left out an important section of the back-story (how the magical object was created). On the other hand, if I'd written it as the trilogy I think it deserves to be I would probably have ended up including that information somewhere along the line.
Er... off-topic much, Siana?
Back to the question of who I write for. Myself,obviously - I write the kind of people and events I'd like to be able to read about. Or so I imagine - my current reading list is all murder mysteries and classics from the Gutenberg library. I also love spy thrillers, action/adventure and the odd dash of horror, but there isn't really a lot of 'science fantasy' on my bookshelves, real or virtual. Maybe what I write gives me enough of that.
I also write for an audience, though. Most of the time my audience consists of fellow WriMo participants. There's a certain thrill in using a personal progress thread to introduce just enough of my characters that I can post a snippet and have people care about it. So far I haven't reached the point of begging for beta-readers, but there's a reason for that. It's a bad reason, but it's a reason. I hold my completed drafts close to my heart in spite of all their faults. When I know the inconsistencies, when I know so many things that definitely could be fixed, when I know I fell far short of my vision in a particular section... what do I gain by exposing these mistakes to anyone else?
Actually writing that down makes me feel a bit pathetic. "Go to the hardware, buy a bag of cement and harden up, girl," is what my inner critic is saying. To which I timidly make reference to the fact that there are no chapter breaks for me to be able to provide the first couple of chapters to someone. Maybe I'll mention that it would take a VERY kind beta to take on a 200-and-something-k draft that the author has already admitted makes no sense. The Inner Critic (I call her Stella, after the evil ex-girlfriend of one of my characters) won't take my replies kindly - she'll just say that if I don't think it's good enough to share then I have no reason to be wasting so much time over it.
My Inner Critic is not a nice person. I certainly don't write for her.
I think I write for that non-existent figure known as the Ideal Reader. If my story isn't ready for the Ideal Reader, I hide it. I should be brave enough to get the feedback of friends and family in my quest to please Ideal Reader, but that would require bravery.