A story is a partnership between the reader and the writer. Stephen King calls it telepathy because it is like an idea moving from one brain to another. It’s the writer’s role to paint a picture with words. It’s the reader’s role to envision the scene by way of imagination. Both are vital to the process.
Come Any Way but Lightly
I love what King says about writing with passion in On Writing:
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we [the reader and the writer] can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.
Lead with Your Heart
You should consider your readers when you pen a novel, but you shouldn’t cater to them. There’s a difference between the two. The nature of communication is that it must follow certain rules to work. It has to be understandable. It has to make sense. It has to accurately portray your ideas. But it doesn’t have to follow every whim and trend out there. It needs to be driven by your own passion. Your story has to come from the depths of yourself, not from what you think people want to read.
When you write, don’t fret so much about genres or target audience. That all comes later, in the marketing phase, but it shouldn’t shape your story. Readers can see through a spiritless story. Even if the writing is flawless, the characters are realistic and the plot is ingenious, if it’s written without passion, people aren’t going to want to read it.
The best stories tug at the reader’s heart because they were birthed clawing their way through the writer’s.
Writing is putting your heart on the line. It’s not easy. It takes guts, like accepting a dare. But have courage. The best story you can write is the one that comes from your passion.
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