Have a purpose

Why are you writing THAT story?

Why did you choose THAT style?

Why should readers care about THIS subject?

These are questions that all writers must answer if we want editors to publish us and others to read our words. Our stories and writings must have purpose.

Purpose means understanding why you are writing that story or essay or poem or article in the way you are writing it.

One of my favorite writing prompts for students and workshop participants is Letter to an Inanimate Object. Why? Because it forces writers comfortable with conventional boundaries to push beyond them, use their imaginations, and write something both fanciful and true. This prompt challenges as it teaches. Good prompt. That’s why I use it in every workshop and in every advanced writing class. See? Purpose.

With my creative nonfiction writing, I currently have a piece under consideration called “Fishing for Truth.” I chose the style because I wanted to experiment with putting two seemingly unlike things in conversation with each other via an extended metaphor. I also wanted to challenge myself to tell this story in a less conventional way. Further, the discoveries I unveil through this piece might be educational or at least interesting to a wide range of readers including fellow teachers, students of all ages, writers, and anglers. Purpose.

We have to know why we are writing the piece we are writing. Purpose guides every decision from which scenes and anecdotes to include to the descriptions and dialogue (if any). Purpose guides structure and organization, title creation, and even where to send the piece once it is finished.

Without purpose, your readers will start reading and wonder, “Why is she writing this? Why did she start with that scene? Why did she include that vignette? Why is this the subject?” And if you haven’t answered those questions with a clear underlying purpose, your readers will check out, tune out, switch web pages, put the magazine or book down, move on.

Purpose is necessary to guide our writerly choices and it is an essential component to keeping any reader’s attention.

So, what’s your purpose? 🙂

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