If I took a poll of writers, I’d bet the vast majority would say they write because they love to. I’m one of them. Writing is a passion for me, a way of caring for myself and having fun.
But that’s not everything there is to it.
Now I’m not talking about making money, though if you’re a professional writer this is certainly a necessary evil.
I’m talking about communication. What does communication need? A speaker, a message, and a hearer.
So what I’m saying is you could have an amazing message, and you can shout it out there, but if no one is listening, you haven’t communicated. Your writing isn’t achieving its full potential.
How do we as writers get our message heard?
When we write, we’re giving something of ourselves to others. And like any good gift, it ought to be something the recipient is going to value.
Think about your writing. You could write any genre—non-fiction or fiction, everything from an epic novel to a blog post—and this still applies. If no one sees value in your writing, they won’t read it.
Here are some ways to take stock of the value in your writing: (I’m talking fiction because that’s what I write, but non-fiction writers can certainly apply some of these)
1. IS THIS SCENE THERE BECAUSE IT DRIVES THE STORY, OR IS IT THERE SIMPLY BECAUSE I LIKE IT?
I’ve had to let go of some of my favourite scenes because they weren’t achieving anything for the book as a whole.
2. DOES THE READER HAVE ENOUGH REASON TO ROOT FOR THIS CHARACTER?
Is he getting too many easy breaks? Does she try hard enough? Are the stakes high enough for the problem to be story-worthy?
3. DO THE THEMES AND PLOT DEVELOPMENTS FLOW NATURALLY OR DO THEY SEEM FORCED?
Sometimes as writers we’re forcing the story to go in a direction it wasn’t meant to. Take a step back and think if this is the case for you.
4. WHAT MIGHT I NEED TO LET GO OF AS AN AUTHOR TO MAKE THIS READ BETTER?
This is sometimes a question of ego—a matter of deciding to serve others instead of ourselves.
5. AM I GIVING ENOUGH OF MYSELF, OR AM I CHEATING MY READERS OUT OF MY DEEPEST EXPERIENCES AND EMOTIONS?
This can be the toughest thing, in writing and in life. But like a relationship, your connection with your readers gets better the more vulnerable you are as an author.
This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea. As you’re writing today, try to think about what you’d want as a reader, and give that to your audience.
And you just might find the old saying is true: it’s better to give than to receive.
Erin is the author of Otherworld and Across the Deep, winner of the 2014 Free Publishing Contest for Fiction. She has also authored several short stories and novellas. She graduated from Redeemer University College and lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband Kevin and four children.
Learn more about Erin: