Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Most Important Part of Writing

When I give workshops, I’m sometimes asked: What matters most in writing? What will help a writer sell?

It’s the emotional and/or intellectual pay-off that we offer writers. By that, I mean do we give readers a reason to care? Will they laugh or cry and feel a strong connection to the story? Do we give our readers something to think about? Do we offer some new idea or insight or way to approach a situation or challenge?

If we do none of these things, then it doesn’t matter how technically perfect our writing may be, the odds are we won’t sell or if we do that readers won’t keep looking for our books.

Think about the last book you read that you love. What is it you remember? What makes you want to read it all over again? Do you see what I mean about emotional and/or intellectual pay-off?

Don’t get me wrong. I love research. I love coming up with interesting plots. It’s how we put it all together that matters. And making our characters so real that readers feel an emotional resonance with them. Or maybe our book will focus on an idea so fascinating that it’s the star rather than the characters. We hit the jackpot if both are true.

If you have a manuscript and it's not selling, maybe ask yourself what the emotional and/or intellectual pay-off is for the reader. If there isn't one, that may be your problem. If there is a solid pay-off, then odds are you're targeting the wrong market or you may need to wait a bit for the market to want what you've written.

Isn’t writing a great career?

Until next time,