I loved this recent post from Jeff Goins, The Wrong Reasons to Write. Goins makes a lot of good and interesting points here–the difficulty in writing for just money or fame, in particular–but what really has stuck with me about this post was the bit at the end about making the reader the focus of your writing. In his points to consider at the bottom, Goins first asks, “What if instead of making it about you, you focused on others?”
At first I thought this didn’t apply to me, a romance writer. If you’re writing nonfiction, the idea of focusing on others in your art makes perfect sense. People who blog for writers should be focused on providing content that is helpful to those writers. Journalists writing articles on unknown people, events, or causes are focused on others too, in increasing awareness and sometimes aiding others.
But fiction writers like me? Is this even relevant?
Yes, I think it is. In his second point, Goins writes, “What if you made the reader the hero, helping her feel understood in a way that she’s never felt before?” This single statement has begun to change how I write romance–and how I view my storytelling.
It feels like we’re raised to think art is about the artist–about telling my story, expressing myself, pouring my emotions onto the page. I think this is what kept me from writing, especially writing fiction, for so many years. It felt selfish. Why should I be writing down all the sexy stories in my head when I could be spending my time in a soup kitchen somewhere?
But art doesn’t have to be selfish, and never really has been. And to see writing as other-focused can have a big impact on our writing and sense of calling as writers.
Since reading Goins’ post, I’ve tried to think of the current romance I’m drafting as a story where the future reader is the heroine. I’ve been asking myself, How can I amp up the romance, the sexual tension for the reader, the heroine of my story? Does she really want all that description on page two? Does she need a funny line here to lighten the mood? How can I connect her to this story of forgiveness and acceptance in ways that make her relate and feel more at peace with those issues in her own life?
Perhaps it’s no volunteering at a soup kitchen, but this shift has made me see my own calling as a writer in a more positive way–and I imagine this will have even more positive ramifications down the road.