The Craft of Writing: Initial Decisions

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Tomorrow I’m heading for Deerfield Beach, Florida to attend Sleuthfest 2016. This is the fourth (or maybe it’s the fifth) Sleuthfest I’ve attended. Each has been a wonderful experience, so I’m looking forward to this one. Next week I’ll try to sum up some of what I learn at the conference.

Meanwhile, so far in these posts about the craft of writing, I’ve talked about formatting, point-of-view, dialogue, and narrative. These are the tools a writer uses to transfer an idea into a readable format, but there are other decisions a writer must make before setting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboards. Some of these decisions will be automatic or subconscious. Others require thought and dedication.

What to write is probably the first decision. For example, if you want to write about your life and the experiences you’ve had, you’re probably going to write a memoir. But wait, what if you experienced something exciting or fascinating, but you don’t want to tell it as it truly happened because some of the participants might be upset? Might even think of suing you. In that case, you might want to write the experience as fiction.

Perhaps you feel strongly about something: the treatment of animals, saving our planet, life after death, etc. Should you write it as non-fiction, presenting your point-of-view with sustaining arguments? Or would you reach a larger audience if you wrapped it in a fictional novel?

Even if you’ve decided what you want to write will be fiction, will it be literary fiction (however that’s defined) or genre fiction (sometimes called commercial fiction). Historical, contemporary, futuristic? For children, young adults, new adults, general?

Besides deciding on the characters, setting, time period, genre, and point-of-view, the writer must decide if the story will be told using the past tense or the present tense. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Some readers are put off by the use of the present tense; others find it more immediate.

And then there’s the market. What type of stories is selling? What isn’t selling? Do you want to write to the market? Some writers will tell you that you need to write for the reader. Others will say you need to write what you like to read, or that you need to write for yourself.

In my opinion, the most important decision a writer needs to make is what he or she wants as a result of the time and effort put into the writing. Is the act of putting one’s thoughts and ideas in a tangible form enough? Does simply writing a poem or an essay or a short story bring you pleasure? Or do you feel the need to share what you’ve written? Is letting a few friends see your work sufficient? Or do you want a larger audience? Do you want to be paid for what you’ve written? Do you want some sort of recognition or acclaim for the work?

Often we put too much pressure on ourselves. Just remember, YOU ARE A WRITER if you write. You may be writing for your own pleasure, as therapy, for a small audience, or so you can make lots of money. If when you’re finished you’re happy, then you’re successful.

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10 Responses to The Craft of Writing: Initial Decisions

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Wonderful information. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful trip!

  2. Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

    Thanks, Melissa. Should be a good conference. I just hope these storms end by tomorrow.

  3. Bonnie Alkema says:

    Hi Maris,
    These blogs have been a great online class. I’ve enjoyed reading them!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Have fun at the Sleuth Fest!!
    Bonnie

  4. Lucy Kubash says:

    This has been an informative series for anyone, pro or beginner. Some of it I learned the hard way! Have fun at Sleuth Fest. I see C.J.Box is the guest speaker. I’ve been meaning to try one of his books, as his main character is a Wyoming game warden. That’s a bit different! Look forward to reading about the conference.

  5. Elorise Holstad says:

    Thanks for posting your valuable insights on the craft, Maris. I do agree with your personal take-away on the most important decision a writer needs to make. After all, unless a writer is able to put down words speedily (that’s not me, sigh), the writer will be living with the work for months, if not years.
    Btw, hope you’re having fun at Sleuth Fest.
    E.

  6. Hope you avoided our snow.