One of our jobs as writers is to ensure we’re saying what we mean to say. That we’re intentional about so many things. Here are some elements we want to be intentional about:
Word choice. The longer we write, the more exacting we are with ourselves. We used to overlook simplistic nouns or verbs, figuring we’d “fix” them or enliven them in our second draft. But the longer we write, the more we concern ourselves with the right word for the situation from the outset. This diligence pays off in the later drafts where we can focus on the big-picture elements. As you’re writing, ask yourself: do my words represent what I’m literally trying to say? If not, rethink and rework them. Editors will help with this, but handing in a strong project upfront saves time and gives your writing an advantage.
Theme and message. Please include well-developed themes and messages in your stories. Feel free to communicate them in clever ways. But, ask yourself: am I conveying the theme I intended to convey? Be intentional about this as well. Also, our goal is to be subtle with our message. Let your readers draw the lessons as they can. Jesus used story to help change lives, but he didn’t explain every detail. He let his listeners (or readers of the Bible) deduce their own takeaway value.
Logical flow. Readers want to make sense out of your story world. They want to lose themselves in the “fantasy” of your fiction. If the story doesn’t progress logically, they can’t. Ask yourself: am I presenting the story in a logical way? Show action first, reaction second. Don’t describe how someone sounded before they spoke. Speech tags should follow speech. Keeping secrets is fine, so long as your readers aren’t totally lost. It’s a tough balancing act, but with practice you’ll be able to retain secrets and readers.
Entertaining. Don’t lose sight of this sometimes overlooked item. We’re not writing non-fiction. We are writing fiction. Fiction entertains. Be intentional about that. Anytime the wording goes toward preachiness, catch yourself and revert to writing fiction. Giving our readers an emotional, entertaining read will make them loyal to us, bringing them back to our novels in the future.
Word count. If you have a word limit for your current project, make each word count. Don’t use “fluff” (i.e. redundancy or too much description, etc.) to fill in the spaces. Also, readers prefer not to wait until the very last page for a resolution to the story question. They may think that’s too rushed.
Genre choice. Do you know what genre you’re writing in? Genre informs story content because it’s rooted in reader expectations. Editors, agents, marketing specialists, publication boards all need to know what genre you’re writing in so they know whom they’re targeting with your novel. Confirm your genre and then write to its norms. A key here is to read extensively in your chosen genre. If you write Christian romance novels, read a multitude of them because that will give you intel you won’t gain elsewhere. While you’re reading, study the elements that make the story work, that make the story flow, that satisfy the reader. Study what’s acceptable in the Christian marketplace (which varies greatly, especially in this genre, from the secular marketplace), etc.
Writing time. You’ve heard it before. Writer’s write. So be intentional about when you’re going to write every day. Writing every day helps writers grow in their craft, find their voice, etc.
Craft study. Give yourself opportunities to study writing craft, through whatever methods: writing conferences, workshops, how-to books, etc. Good writers continue to grow in the craft as long as they’re writing and publishing work.
These are just some areas where intentionality is important. Can you think of others?