Everything we set out to do in life has a purpose. The purpose of getting in our car in the morning is to go to work. The purpose of going to our children’s sporting events is to show support. The purpose for pushing yourself out of bed for that morning run is to stay healthy (and maybe so you won’t feel so guilty about that candy you ate the other day). Writing is no different. Every time we set out to write a new novel or story, we need to have a purpose- a goal. When you work towards something in particular a certain passion and dedication comes out that you may not even realized you had. The end seems more tangible, something that you can reach rather than just a figment of your imagination.
In a recent article on The Huffington Post blog, Paul Bishop talks about just how simple this goal can be. When you initially think of what a writer’s goal should be our prestigious side comes out. Bestseller lists, writing awards, six-figure publishing deals, and producers wanting to turn your book into the next summer blockbuster movie are just a few things that come into our mind. Yes, all these things would be nice but what about everything else that gets you to that point? What about writing in the moment? What about sitting down and pouring your heart out the page, smashing it to a billion small pieces, and patching the story back together to make the best possible product? What about producing work that you are most proud of?
Goals don’t need to be outrageous. Simple goals are often the most rewarding. The next time you sit down to write, think first about why you set out to write this story in the first place. Was it to bring light to a certain issue? Was it to express the endless creativity that flows through your brain daily? Or was it simply to just produce the best possible work you can at that moment? Keep your goals within a realistic reach and stay true to them. If you end up on the bestseller list, nominated for multiple awards, flush with cash, and collaborating on a movie well then just look at where all those simple goals led you! Success is measured by what you set out to do, not by how famous you have become in the process of doing so.
One of Paul’s ‘successful’ writer friends also gave him some writing advice. I share a lot of advice on this blog so I am sometimes hesitant to overload you with more tips that may or may not be useful. But, his advice is fresh and new. He talks about things we often don’t hear very much about:
Never use a dollar word when a nickel word will do. Don’t use “cacophony” when “loud” makes your point.
Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Short chapters.
Never over describe a room. Pick out one feature and move on.
The same applies to what a character is wearing.
Use dialogue to drive your story.
Cut exposition to an absolute minimum.
Simplify your plotting, then simplify it some more, then some more. If a reader has to backtrack to figure out what was going during their last reading session, you’re doing it wrong.
I really enjoyed his words of advice because he is talking about writing for the masses. You don’t need to use impressive words, create deep imagery, or calculate elaborate sentences to write a bestseller. Readers aren’t looking for that. What they are looking for is accessible and entertaining stories. The best way to write a story geared towards readers is to stick to those simple goals. Focus on writing the best story you can, not about which synonym for ‘loud’ you are going to use. Write on.