Yesterday, I discussed the idea of inviting your readers to take part in the change you describe in your story (read about that here). Before that, I suggested you need to understand who you're writing for.
And now, the only thing left to do is to commit to the writing.
Why is this such a challenge?
In my weekly writers group last night, we explored this idea of being really excited about starting a new project, but then, when that initial energy dissipates and we get into the hard work of writing (middle sections, anyone?), we are often tempted with ditching our WIP and picking up another, more exciting story idea... a shiny object, if you will.
We do this because starting something is more fun than finishing.
We do this because if we don't have to finish, then we don't have to put our story out there and open ourselves up to potential criticism.
We do this because finishing is hard work, and often frustrating, and the Lizard Brain appears telling us we don't really need to finish that stupid story because it sucks anyway and you're a bad person for even thinking you could ever be a writer.
And that's exactly the time when you should stay on track. Ignore the Lizard and commit to finishing your story even though it's hard work, even though it seems to go on forever, even though there are no guarantees anyone will read it (let along like it).
If you're in that place with your story, wondering why you ever started this in the first place, wrestling with the Lizard who implores you to quit, then know this: you are definitely on the right track. The more you feel like quitting, the more powerful you are becoming as a writer.
But only if you stick with it. Commit to finishing. There may not be any prizes when you're done (no guarantees, remember?), but there most definitely aren't any prizes for quitting.
Yesterday, I talked about getting clear on understanding who you're writing for.
Today, let's focus on your message of change to them. For starters, do you even have a message? I'd argue that even if you don't think your story has a message, that that in itself is also a message. One of apathy perhaps. One of disrespect. Now you may not consciously be aware of the Big Theme you're presenting in your story, but it's there. So let's be clear. When you write with intention, with a specific audience in mind, then your message to them must also be clear.
But wait, you say, I'm a romance writer! My message is one of light entertainment and nothing more. No heavy Orwellian ideas here.
Fair enough, but I'd argue there's still a message of change that you're promoting for your audience. Perhaps one as simple and worn as "love conquers all", and that's an honourable message to have. You show your audience, through your work, the importance of this idea and that by adopting it, they too can experience wonderful things.
Wait, you say again, is this a Ghandi "be the change you wish to see in the world" thing? Possibly. But remember, you are not your story. Bob Denver wasn't really Gilligan. Your characters in the story are the ones carrying the message, struggling with its expectations and challenges, overcoming them (or not) and building a new life. Leverage your characters.
Does it matter what kind of change I'm proposing in my story? No. What matters is that you're honest, speaking from the heart, and writing with intention.
Now, go write something amazing!
Who do write for?
What purpose does your story/novel/poem serve?
If you don't the clear answer to that, take some time today to think it through. Otherwise, you may never know if your work is reaching an audience who wants and needs to see it.
Too often, we write without intention because "my story is for everyone" or "I'm just writing this for myself".
Let's move away from that right now. Your story isn't for everyone. Not everyone will give it 5 stars. Don't believe me? Go have a look at The Handmaid's Tale on Amazon and see how many single star reviews there are. And that's okay, because Atwood wasn't writing for them.
Who is your story for?
What do they look like?
Where do they live?
What do they do for a living?
What other things do they read? Watch on TV?
What do they talk about on social media.
Only when you know the answers to these questions can you begin to write with intention. And writing with intention forces us to narrow our target audience, understand the genre we're writing in, and produce better work.
I think it's safe to say that as many as half the writers who come into my novel writing workshops want to write something "totally unique", or "unlike anything else out there."
See, I get it. You are you, and your voice is your voice. Why copy someone else's? I've been asking you for the past couple of weeks to not copy others, right? We don't need any more skilled copiers. We want the real you.
But, we also want reminders. Echoes of stories we're familiar with. Lines that rhyme.
Which means, one of your responsibilities as a writer is to know your genre like a boss. You must become an expert in your field. If, for example, you write in the YA dystopian genre, you'd better know who all the key writers are in that field, what they write about, how long their stories are, viewpoints, etc.
So when someone unfamiliar with your work picks up your book and starts reading, they should know what kind of story this is. If you tell them it's hard science fiction and your readers think it's more like fantasy (because you want it to be unique), then you've got a real problem.
Uniqueness should not apply to the genre. If I'm looking for a cozy mystery, don't give me Fantasy Island because you want to be different.
Uniqueness applies to your voice, which comprises how you jigsaw a story together, how you spin words into fascinating combinations, how you lead the reader to understand the Big Ideas you're presenting. Don't scare off your reader with an unfamiliar take on genre.
Bob Denver played Gilligan on the old Gilligan's Island series. He wasn't actually Gilligan in real life. He didn't really live in a bamboo hut with the Skipper.
Patrick Stewart isn't really Jean-Luc Picard, although we may wish that were the case. No, Stewart is an actor. He played Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's played hundreds if not thousands of other roles.
You are not your novel. You're the writer.
You are not your painting. You're the artist.
If you think Gilligan is an oppressed idiot who couldn't do anything right, Bob Denver wouldn't take that personally. Why? See the first line.
So how come if some random person doesn't like your novel, you feel compelled to take it personally? You are not your novel.
Hi, I'm David. I write science fiction from a Christian worldview that promotes hope. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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