Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Did You Write That?

Or, a better question, what was your purpose in writing that?  I didn't think it made a snazzy blog post title, though. 

My every-other-Tuesday night critique group has had a solid core of writers who have been meeting for several years now.  But we still suffer from lack of information each time someone reads.  We limit ourselves to no more than 5 pages.  It can be any five pages, and often comes from the middle of a chapter, somewhere in the middle of someone's book.  This leads to a lot of repeat comments such as, Why did so and so do this? or Who was that?  What is point of that?  Why is he in the scene? and on and on.  If we'd been able to read what came before, or after, these questions would surely have been answered.

Even though we most always offer some form of setup before reading, these questions still arise.  So last night, our esteemed leader instituted a new rule.  Before reading, tell the group the purpose of your piece.  What do you want to accomplish with it.

This got me thinking about writing in general. If we have a purpose before we write something, be it a novel, a short story, a poem - whatever - it seems we can write a more focused piece.  This is not to say we need to know all the details beforehand.  That would certainly make it less fun.  But I do believe our writing can improve.  Even if we don't know where we are going, it will be so much more helpful to know why left.

This may seem obvious and maybe some have approached their writing like this all along.  I have not.  At least not always.  From now on, I'm going to try to.


Ted Cross said...

I began my novel simply wanting to write what I wanted to read, since no one was publishing what I most wanted to read. As I went along, though, I couldn't help but add in all sorts of different ideas and 'purposes' behind things. The story would have felt so flat without making it mean more.

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