We’ve become so adept at multi-tasking – bringing up children, sustaining a relationship, running a house, keeping down a job, writing a novel – and that lot’s just for starters. Doing one thing at a time doesn’t really cut the mustard any more, we’ve got to succeed on as many fronts as possible.
Hold this thought in your head next time you sit down to work on your novel or short story. It’s no accident that the mighty BBC’s mission is to educate, inform and entertain. Not just inform. Not just educate. All three in a one-er. I think the same applies in creative writing. If you dash off a good yarn with a cracking plot, you may do very well – there is a place for stories which simply entertain and sometimes it can be a profitable one. However, I suspect that in these hard-pressed times people have got used to looking for added value – that’s what makes them commit to a purchase, or to reading a book – so it might be worth spending some time thinking of how you can add value to the story you are writing.
Here are a few ideas…
- If you set something in the past, make sure your period is well researched and seek out as many illuminating details as you can, so your reader finishes what you have written feeling she has learnt something.
- I suspect that dramas about hospitals and the police do so well on television because people want privileged access to a world that is denied them elsewhere. They want to feel as if they’re on the inside of an exclusive group. Try and make this work to your advantage – set your narrative in an environment that most people wouldn’t normally have access to, so that you can draw them in.
- Make sure your writing is as good as it can be. Of course, its primary function is to tell your story, but if the quality of your prose beguiles the reader at the same time, they are more likely to come back for more.
- You could even weave in recipes, or prizes, or tips for better sex – it’s all been done to great effect before (Like Water for Chocolate, Kit Williams’ Masquerade, the ubiqitious EL James…)
In a bid to multi-task with this blog, I’m not just jotting down a few thoughts for your delight and delectation, I’m giving you a beautiful door as well…