Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Saturday, February 12, 2011

School of Hard Knocks: Writing Goals

Writing Goals

No matter what you’re doing, you’ll accomplish it more efficiently if you know your goals up front. This series of blogs about writing blurts out just about everything I’ve learned over the years and after you decide on what you want to write, the next most important thing is to decide your goals. (Okay, maybe the next thing is to get a cute little laptop and a skin to make it look really snazzy and encourage you to write. But I digress.)

Many folks want to write for their own pleasure or the pleasure of their family and friends. They are the lucky ones as they don’t have to worry about placing their own desires and needs second and those of the readers, first. But if you want to write professionally, then your goals change. Your writing must change to accommodate that goal.

You must put your readers, first.

That statement usually causes a lot of puzzled glances. But here’s the thing: when you write for yourself, if you want to veer off and suddenly add a completely unrelated incident about a blue cat in a tree, it’s not a problem. It’s fun, freaky and you can have a blast doing it. When you write professionally, however, you have to keep in mind your readers and reader expectations.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you love mysteries and have decided to become a mystery writer. This means that as you write, you have to remember what mystery readers want from your story. They want a mystery and they want that mystery resolved. If the resolution of that mystery doesn’t have anything to do with blue cats, and blue cats don’t serve to illustrate something about one (or more) characters that relates to the mystery, then I’m sorry. No blue cats allowed. It doesn’t matter what you want. It matters that you meet your reader’s expectation if you plan of being successful. And getting published.

Naturally, all bets are off you decide in the end that you’d rather write for yourself, self-publish, and not worry about selling any copies. That’s perfectly legitimate and a fun thing to do. However, even for self-published authors, I urge you to think about this: if you want someone to buy your book—and pay their hard-earned money for it—isn’t it a matter of honor that you write a cohesive, good novel? And that it is actually worth the money they pay? Do you want to make people wish they’d never heard of you? That you’re a terrible writer? Sadly, they may think you’re a terrible writer no matter how good your book is, but I’ve drifted off topic. The point is that writing a novel means developing enough intestinal fortitude to think of the reader first, think of the reader’s expectations, and give them the best darn experience you can for their money.


vp chandler said...

Thanks for posting. It's always good to start the day with inspiration!

Amy said...

Thank you--I appreciate it and agree. There is so much doom-and-gloom that we need to have a few positive things to think about!

rbooth43 said...

As a reader, I agree with your comment to think of the reader first, think of the reader’s expectations, and give them the best darn experience you can for their money. When a book keeps me spell-bound to the end, or inspired and intrigued, I am hooked. Lilly Gayle's OUT OF THE DARKNESS did just that for me!