Why do you read? To be transported into another world, another time, another set of circumstances? To be entertained? To be frightened out of your mind or to feel deep emotion? To learn something new?
Why do you write? To tell a story? To escape from your Real World? To impart knowledge? To entertain?
I think most writers begin with an overwhelming urge to tell a story, whether it be theirs or someone else’s. They start with a ‘what if’ and move on from there. I know that’s how I started. I’d never completed a novel before (my basement is littered with boxes of quarter-written ideas) – my impetus was to get to those magic words “The End.”
It took me a long, long, long time to achieve that goal. Writing is exhausting, especially the first time around. First drafts are usually awful; mine was about as bad as a first draft can get. I made every mistake in spades. Many times over.
But it’s not over with the first “The End.” During the rewriting process, a good writer will pick over the bones of their work. They’ll tease out the good and round-can the bad. Then they will discover themes and plot twists and parallel story lines and a whole host of other interesting things.
Have you noticed that the best novels have stories and characters that stay with you, long after you’ve finished the book? Every novel has what I call a “takeaway,” or what the reader will discover beyond the initial story. Sometimes the takeaway is blatant. Love conquers all (the romantic takeaway).
Example: I finished “In a Perfect World” by Laura Kasischke, and was immediately moved. So moved, I told everyone about this book. So moved, I even lent it to friends (I never lend books to friends, certainly not favorite books). I still think about the characters, and it’s been years since I’ve read the book. Why? The characters successfully moved beyond their initial circumstances and grew into strong women. Every once in a while, I’ll think about them. Did they survive? Did the world?
The takeaway? Even in the midst of crisis, you can dig deep inside and find strength. (Whether or not the strength is enough, remains to be seen.)
Without going into detail and spoiling the fun, I can give you the takeaway to my novels:
Virtually Yours: Things on the Internet are not as they seem. Friendship ebbs and overflows. Love conquers all. 🙂
Finding Cadence: Once you’ve hit bottom, the only way to go is up (of course, that journey might take some side-trips). People are not what/who they seem to be. Friendship overflows and ebbs. A scarred heart can love again. Or at least see that goal in the future.
When writing, I didn’t consciously put these takeaways into my work. I was too busy birthing these babies to notice what the hell I was doing! It was only after rewriting, editing, and discussing my stories with my ED for life and others did I realize that I was trying to relate something more than the story.
A good story contains a depth that will resonate with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. A finely crafted novel is just that – crafted. Toiled over, worked over, picked over and put back together. Unless you’re very lucky or very smart, you can’t do it in a minute.
Currently editing my next novel, I know that producing it will take a lot of thought.
After all, I’m telling more than just a story.