You know, I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders quite frequently, “Tell me again – why exactly am I doing this?”

And I don’t mean that in a self-defeatist, ‘writing is sooo danged HARD’ way, although I certainly have those moments occasionally. What I mean is, I like to step back and imagine the end result of all this work I’m doing. Not daydreaming about seeing my book in print and climbing the bestseller list – although that’s plenty fun, too – I mean, thinking about the people who will eventually buy it and read it and what it will mean to them.

In the grand scheme of things, it might not mean much to them at all – and I’m okay with that.

I don’t know, sometimes I feel there’s an assumption that a writer must want to impart some Grand Message to the world. What if I don’t? What if I just want to tell a good story and entertain? Make a reader laugh, sigh, and occasionally blush? If my book entertains someone through a transoceanic plane flight, or keeps her mind pleasantly occupied while she’s in a hospital waiting room, or just makes her feel like cuddling up to her significant other – I’ll feel like all my work was worthwhile.

That doesn’t mean I’m out to write pure fluff. (Or impure fluff, for that matter. *g*) A compelling story has to have real drama and go for the gut. As I keep writing and learning, my biggest goal is to make the reader feel emotionally engaged with my characters and desperate to see them get their happy ending. That can’t be accomplished by shying away from complex themes and difficult questions.

But it’s perfectly okay with me if no one ever puts down my book and thinks, “Wow – that story changed my life.” I’ll feel really happy and successful if people put it down and think, “Wow – that story made my life a bit more fun.” And the highest compliment I could imagine is for someone to say, “Wow – I want to read that again.”

Although, I must admit – it’s tempting to imagine that some CM-ish genius will put down my book and say, “Wow – the Dog Biscuit Gods just gave me the cure for cancer.”

How about you? What’s your goal in writing, beyond getting published, beyond commercial success? What do you hope a reader will take away from your books?

(And thanks to Sara Lindsey for the graphic!)

11 comments to “So what are we doing here, anyway?”

  1. Ericka Scott
    · June 3rd, 2007 at 12:30 pm · Link

    My goal is to simply entertain. I’ll leave the “grand message works” to the Dog Biscuit Gods. . . oh, and the literary writers.

  2. Alice Audrey
    · June 4th, 2007 at 7:09 am · Link

    I don’t mean to be meaningful, just fun, but sometimes it works it’s way in anyway.


  3. CM
    · June 4th, 2007 at 8:32 am · Link

    Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. Right now, I’m just trying to actually write a book. 🙂 I’ll leave changing the world for someone else.

  4. terrio
    · June 4th, 2007 at 9:07 am · Link

    I just want to tug on a heart string or two. I want the reader to *sigh* and say, I really enjoyed reading that and I’m glad I did.

    That’s all.

  5. beverley
    · June 4th, 2007 at 9:27 am · Link

    I’m just looking for them to enjoy by books. One day I might write something deep with this message but not right now. Right now if they learn something new that would be great, but I’d like them to enjoy the emotional roller coaster and HEA.

  6. Lindsey
    · June 4th, 2007 at 2:23 pm · Link

    Ang Lee said about directing Sense and Sensibility (and I paraphrase): “I want this film to break people’s hearts so badly that they’re still recovering from it two months later.” Not that I want to break hearts per se, but I love the idea of creating something that continues to resonate emotionally even after the reading experience ends.

    Our post-enlightenment, post-modern society can be very ambivalent about the power of emotion, so I love that romance is a space for embracing it.

  7. Blah Blah Biddy Blog
    · June 4th, 2007 at 3:03 pm · Link

    I’m with Ericka and Alice-I just want what I write to be fun for someone else to read.

    I firmly believe that Shakespeare did not sit down at his quill and parchment and think, tapping the quill studiously against his lower lip, “what I really need here is a Christ symbol”. Nor do I think Hemingway deliberately decided to insert a microcosm hither, thither and yon.

    My teachers always hated that opinion, but I figure that the authors wrote what they wanted and the critics dissected it later.


  8. Lynne Simpson
    · June 4th, 2007 at 4:40 pm · Link

    Same here, mostly: I want my work to make sense to someone else and entertain them for a while. The best comments I ever received on a contest critique were from an editor judge, who completely GOT where I was going with my characters. I’m still happy about that.

    These days, I’m focusing less on getting published and more on making sure *I* like my writing again. To paraphrase an old saying, “If the author ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 🙂

  9. Tessa Dare
    · June 4th, 2007 at 7:37 pm · Link

    Thanks for your comments, everybody! Sounds like I’m not alone. Which is good. I hate to feel alone. *g*

    Lindsey, that’s a great quote. I do hope that my characters stick with people after they’ve finished the book. And I loooove S&S, so Ang Lee must have done something right!

    Lynne, I think you have just the right idea. You have to like what you’re writing, or the spark just won’t be there.

    gotta start thinking about TMI Tuesday…. *evil grin*

  10. Kelly Krysten
    · June 5th, 2007 at 4:17 pm · Link

    It’s so interesting to read why others write. When I write it’s to amuse I also write because I’m fairly tempermental if I don’t get an artisitc release.
    Oh, Tessa I see you’re at 200 pages now in the new WIP, congrats!

  11. lacey kaye
    · June 5th, 2007 at 7:43 pm · Link

    Recently my own beliefs have started creeping into my novel. Weird. Anyway, I’m not out to convince people I’m right or weird or anything, but if it makes them think I’ll be amazed. But you said it best–“I want to read that again.”