Kit Dunsmore asked: How much do you let the idea of audience shape your work? I lost my way on my book trying to get the first chapter written to kick off my story and hook an audience. I wound up writing stuff I’m not sure I’d want to read. So I’d love to hear different viewpoints on how to stay true to your story, your voice, your vision while also trying to produce something someone will want to publish.
The audience is important, of course, but more important is the story itself. A great story will hook an audience and hold its attention without any trouble, so the trick is to use the time honored tools of a storyteller to get your tale on the page. If you have studied pacing and turning points and good plotting tools, it’s easy to stay true to your work. If you get lost, go back to the simplest tools you have: what is my story about? What is the main problem? What is the most important thing that my reader needs to know to begin? And what is the next thing? And the next?
It’s really easy to get lost in details and backstory and advice from well-meaning critique partners and friends and our own desire to Write! The! Best! Book! Of! All! Time! A story begins on the day things are different. It follows a character or a group of characters through a problem, a crisis, a solution, and ending.
If you get lost, go back to basics. Listen to your story, not external advice, and be true to your own idea of what a good story looks like. Believe it or not, there is no one right answer. Your answer might be just as good or better than mine.
Katharine Owens asked: If you could go back, and deliver a message to yourself when you were writing your first book, what would it be?
Keep writing. Whole books, essays, poems, short stories. Keep writing. Fill the well and keep it full by reading, watching movies, devoting yourself to the hobbies you love. Keep writing. Observe everything and everyone, everywhere. Keep writing. Believe in yourself, even when no one else does. Keep writing.
The next book might be The One.
Readers, do you have anything you’d like to add for Kit and Katharine?
photo by Vincent Lock