I was asked this week by a filmmaker friend, “what makes you write?”
The question came as he was thinking of writing something autobiographical, so I said simply:
You write because you have something to say or you have some knowledge or creativity to share.
There is no room for Ego between the lines you write
If you are writing solely to satisfy your ego or for exposure and fame you will fall at the first hurdle. The audience you want to reach need to understand why you have put pen to paper in order to buy into your work. They need to know why it matters to you if they read your words and what they will get out of it. It’s that kind of world now.
For me, it matters that my words are read as I want to share my knowledge, experience and passion in my areas of expertise. I write what I know and what I love. Your work needs to reflect that, from research to ideas. I put in the legwork so to speak – I visit, explore, photograph and study so many of the places and I write about. Those I can’t visit, I dig out old handwritten accounts and I talk to people, I learn and absorb the subject matter rather than just paying it lip service.
If the article or story makes someone interested in finding out more, gives them chills or desperate to visit a place, I have done my job. If it comes across like a school text book about me or a home movie of dull holiday pictures, I’m not sure even my mother would like it!
Don’t Recite, Re-ignite
There are those who look at a couple of websites, lift the words straight off of the page, throw in a couple of quote marks and call it an original work. It’s not plagiarism, but it is lazy. It is sampling a song and changing a few bars or copying a painting and changing the colour palette slightly. If you are going to do this, you are not respecting the original creator, your readership or most importantly, yourself.
No one is saying you shouldn’t use the resources at your disposal, just…be creative, be fresh, have your own spin. If it is a ghost story that’s been told a million times, dig deeper, be a storyteller yourself – make it relevant to you and make the words your own. You owe that much to your audience. Show passion, depth and that you understand the words you are writing. That’s how you get buy-in, by lighting a fire in the hearts and minds of your readers.
Winning over hearts and minds
Are your audience going to be moved? Will they be educated? Will they be uplifted? Shocked? Motivated? Any piece of writing should evoke emotion, leave an imprint. Remember, just because something is new to you, doesn’t mean it is new to the audience you are pitching to – fish know how to swim already so don’t market to the aquarium!
In the event those wily fish do decide to read your work, give it energy, embrace the fact it is new to you, use that passion to elevate information that’s been out there for sometime, while acknowledging the fact that there are those who have the knowledge already, you just view it differently. Who knows, you may get to show a few of those fish a new direction to swim!
Fiction is real
If your writing is creative and fictional, remember that to some of your readers it is real. Your characters, your locations, your created emotions should all have an impact and make your audience buy in and believe – convince them they are becoming a part of that world you created while they read. For that to happen you have to believe it first. Whether it is a script, a short story or a full on novel, you have to be in it with both feet and your whole heart.
So if you are going to write fiction, have a plan. Understand why it is you are creating this world, these characters and what you are trying to give your audience. You love vampires? Great, go for it. Yes it’s a topic that has been done to death, but so what? There is a large audience for it and you have passion for it and knowledge on the subject matter. What would you like to see? What do you think has been missing from all your reading and discussions on the subject? There’s your take, your spin. That is what will make you stand out.
Writing should be a pleasure
If you find yourself trying to write a piece of fiction or indeed anything because you think it is trendy and will sell or get you ‘likes’, go and lie down in a dark room until the urge passes. Even if you are writing for a living with social media or advertising, it should be a pleasure. You should want to share knowledge and expertise and enhance and evolve the reader experience.
Generally speaking, books don’t make much in the way of money unless you are J.K Rowling or Stephen King. At most levels, there is a very small profit to be made or a break even scenario. This is why it is so important you should be passionate about what you write. Your reward should be the education and enjoyment of your audience and anything after that is a bonus. If you are simply putting words to page for money, ego or attention, best you nip back into that dark room for another lie down.
The Science Bit
Newton’s Third Law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For this to be true, the two forces need to be of the same type. So if your writing oozes with passion, knowledge and a wish to educate or entertain, that is what your audience will experience. That in turn will create the action of them wanting more and your reaction is to write again with even more energy.