Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Why Did You Write That?

Over the weekend, I had the chance to present two workshops. One of the things that came up during both were questions over why agents and editors pass on projects. Now, as you know, I have talked a lot about the need for authors to do their research and know who their writing is designed for, and more importantly, why they are writing to that editor or agent. But there is another issue, and that does have to do with the quality of the author's writing. 

One of the participants didn't understand why their "beta-readers" loved their stories and yet, editors and agents were constantly passing on their projects. We all pointed out, as presenters that in so many cases, the writing simply was not strong. The response from their "beta-readers" was often coming from people who might be at the same level of writing (beginner level) or were likely family and friends who would always lean on the side of liking your stories instead of telling you what was really wrong. 

When I am working with writers, I often ask them why they are taking a particular approach in their writing. Why did they write it in 1st and not 3rd person? Why they used a prologue? Why they had their character act in a certain way? Why did they use that trope? In so many of these cases, their answers all stem around the same concept. They thought that was "what writers were supposed to do."


When we write a story, the approach we take has to fit with the story and what we are trying to accomplish. But, more importantly, we have to know why we are using that approach and the effect it will have on the story and the reader. For example, if we see a lot of New Adult Stories (18-23 year old characters) being written in 1st person, does that mean all stories should be written that way? No. The story dictates the approach.

I often bring this up when I am teaching academic writing. I fully understand junior high, high school, and English 101 courses have students write in a specific style. "For this assignment you will write a cause and effect paper..." But, in the real world, we select a topic that we will write about, and the topic, the thesis, and our goal of the writing will dictate if it is a cause and effect, compare and contrast, argument, etc. The same goes for our writing. 

For a lot of authors out there, they attend a workshop, read a blog, read a new technique book, or even hear from a fellow author about an approach they felt was 100% successful. With that in mind, they force that into their story. What they have failed to understand is that approach worked in that other authors story, and it does not mean it is right for their story. 

If you want to be a successful writer, you have to know why you do the things you do in your stories. You have to not just know of a technique to use, but why you would use it, if it works in your story and what the impact would be. If you don't know this yet, it is time to keep learning and not the time to start submitting to editors and agents. 

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