Why are you writing that Novel?

Why are you writing that Novel?

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a young man, let’s call him Zack, who was working on his 16th novel. He felt despondent. Zack said, “I just can’t seem to get into this one.”

It just so happened that I had read a children’s book the day before from an author who wanted to help children deal with the death of a sibling. This author had experienced tragedy in her own family more than once, and I felt a strong connection to that book. The world needed a book like hers, I felt sure, and I wanted to see it in print!

So I asked Zak, “What about this book makes you want to write it, have to write it?”

He thought and said, “Well, I wanted to keep my novel series coming out, and it seemed like a good idea at first.”

Professional authors sometimes find themselves putting out novels just to make deadlines. Publishers want to have a new book from you every few months. The problem is, as an author you can find yourself just going through the motions.

The novels you crave to write are the books where you feel you have something important to say. These are the books that keep you up at night.

For me, this is a big selling point. When I write a proposal, I use “the Hook, the Cook, and the Book” model for writing the proposal. In other words, I put in a one-line hook, give two or three sentences describing more about it, and briefly talk abut my own writing credentials. But I now add something more.

I now tell the publisher why I felt I needed to write this book. When I do a reading at a bookstore and tell the audience about an upcoming novel, its important to let them know why I’m writing it. I’m hoping to make an emotional connection.

Years ago, I knew a movie producer who had gotten the art of pitching down to a science. I recall him telling me about a silly cartoon he’d love as a kid. He told how he would watch it while waiting for his mom to get home from work. He even told how he felt it “saved my life.” He got choked up as he spoke, and tears streamed down his face. I wondered, “Is this guy nuts, or lying, or does he really feel that deeply about it?” To my surprise, he sold the cartoon movie and turned it into a hit. I’m pretty sure all of his talk was bull-puckey, but he sure sounded authentic.

Being authentic is key. Ask yourself, “What excites me about this book? What longtime interest does it feed? Why am I writing this book in particular?” The answers may surprise you.

As for Zack, when we finished talking about his 16th novel, he said he was going to write a different one. He found that he had better books in him to write.

Figure out your reason for writing. Let your readers know about it. Be genuine.

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