Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Goal of Writing

It's September and I'm editing.

Although I recently realized what I'm doing is actually called revising. It's that point in the manuscript where I take the comments of beta readers and Agent Emily and try to incorporate them into a cohesive vision for this book.

It's a lot of redrafting. Moving things around. Changing the direction of certain scenes and characters. At the end of twenty pages my brain feels broken.

This weekend I was talking about writing with my kids. "Do you think it's possible you could write a book that EVERYONE would love?" my daughter asked.

"If EVERYONE loved it, it would probably be kind of a boring book," I told her.

"So what's your goal when you write?"

It's the kind of question I would ordinarily have had to think about, but for some reason, maybe because it was a sunny September morning, we were well-fueled by coffee (me) and doughnuts (them), my answer was immediate.

"I have three goals," I told her.

"The first goal is to keep the reader interested. The second is to create a sense of beauty for the reader. Either in the way the words come together or in the images it builds in their mind. The last one is to give voice to either an emotion or experience that is felt, but unarticulated."

In retrospect, it occurs to me these aren't necessarily the goals I had when I started writing. I'm not sure I had goals at all, other than finishing that first novel. And of course, I now understand that novels one through six all helped build my goals for novel seven.

What are your goals when you write? Are they in constant evolution or have they been a consistent touchstone for whatever you write?

And given the lofty nature of my own goals...please wish me luck in finishing this revision! I think I might need it!!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The best selling book in the world (the Bible) still isn't one everyone loves. Writing such a book would be impossible and as you said, ultimately boring.
I write to entertain. Guess I'm simple.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think my primary goal is to keep the reader turning pages, unable to put the book down. A secondary goal would be to create characters and situations that readers keep thinking about after they close the book. Two responses to my latest book that touched me more than any Kirkus or PW review were 1) fan art by a teen reader and 2) a tweet from an adult reader about one of my characters.

And no, it's impossible to write a book everyone loves. I'm extremely suspicious about books that have only 5 star reviews.

jaybird said...

Best of luck!! My goals overall kind of differ from story to story, but no matter what story I tell, I'd be thrilled if the reader was left feeling like my characters were memorable and really came to life for them.

BTW- those donuts looks AMAZING. :)

T. L. Cooper said...

Johanna, great question and one I think we all need to revisit from time to time as writing can become so much a part of life we can lose our focus on our goals.
I always write with the intention of engaging the reader, connecting with the reader, and provoking thought. And, in doing all these, it is my hope that my words will inspire people in some way that perhaps just might make the world a slightly better place for my having inhabited it.

Hart Johnson said...

I want to make the reader's heart pump: fear, laughter, connection to the characters. And ideally, by the end, I'd like them to feel like they didn't see that coming, but looking back, to think they should have--to me that is perfect plotting--set up perfectly, but not predictably.

Anonymous said...

Johanna, best wishes with your revisions!

Unknown said...

Oh super good luck! I almost always face serious overhaul revisions, but that's cuz I sorta word vomit the first draft. I think my goal is to always just tell a good story, make people forget everything for a little while to live in a story world.
Those kiddies are too cute!

Carol Kilgore said...

I enjoy revising much more than editing. My goal is to tell the story in such a way that the reader experiences what I do in my head. If I do that, the story will keep the reader entertained and wanting to turn pages.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Johanna,

I DO WISH YOU LUCK! It isn't easy when we have to move things around like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. But I know your end result will have all three of your goals present.

Awareness of what is needed is the first step. AND you ARE aware!

ALL the best!

AND your kids are adorable!

Nicki Elson said...

I hope you're having fun with the revisions!

I recently looked back at the bio I have at my website, it's been there since just before the first book was released almost 5 years ago. I stated two goals (keep it real and make the reader feel) and they still stand---though I think I've changed the way I go about trying to accomplish these goals.