There is an avalanche of messages about the way to writing success on the internet. You invest tons of time and money via trial and error to determine which way is right for you. It would help if there was a single tool you could use to make your choices and decisions, wouldn’t it? That tool exists. It’s called intention.
Writing with intention gives you and the words you write, a clear purpose, power, and drive. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a just starting your writing journey, infusing intention in your writing can significantly enhance its impact. It allows you to set up yourself and your business for success.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”— Henry David Thoreau
It’s almost a cliché to ask a writer if they know their why. However, knowing why you write gives you clarity. You are far more likely to succeed if most of your writing and business decisions are made with that clarity.
What is your why? What moves you to write the stories you write? What is the message? Are you writing for fun? For profit? For entertainment?
Don’t judge yours or others reasons for writing. Your why is neither good nor bad. It simply is.
Writing is a long-term commitment. It takes time to discover who you are as a writer, learn how to express your message and stories in the most accessible ways, and to learn to manage your writing life.
Your why also defines your business.
There are different strategies to use for each why. For each strategy, there are a myriad of possible tactics to use. Unless you know your why, how can you choose your best strategies? Take time to figure out your why.
You are aware of your why, now it’s time to discover your core message. It doesn’t matter if your core message is love endures or life is an adventure or any other message. You may have two or three core messages. There is no right or wrong message. However, if you have more than three, look deeper at those messages. Pare them down to the most basic two or three.
Explore your message through the theme(s) of your stories. Use language that reinforces your message. Choose a genre and story structure that supports your message and guides your reader to the intended take away.
Awareness of your core message allows you to craft your stories, your words, with purpose.
Intentional fiction allows you to tailor characters and situations that challenge your themes and messages. Give your characters purposes, motivations, actions, and reactions that are coherent. Your message will give your stories a depth and purpose that will be authentic and will connect with your audience. Create protagonists and antagonists, of course. But remember to craft supporting characters and spear carriers who add different perspectives. Even your settings and recurrent images or motifs can be part of the story argument.
Through this exploration, you clarify and expand your own understanding of your message. But you are not the only one who benefits from this. Through your characters, you allow your readers to clarify their own thoughts and connect with the themes, the messages, and the conflicts.
To read with intention means you intentionally choose the books you read. Read deeply in your genre, yes, but also read outside your genre. With your why and your message in mind, choose to read fiction and nonfiction that both support and challenge those ideas of yours. Explore your curiosity.
Intention also means you protect your time and your mind. Know what books you will not read and under what circumstances you will not finish reading any book you started.
Choose your work environment. Granted, because of time, money, or space, you may not have the best choices, but think about your environment. Would music, or a scented candle, or a better chair give you an environment that works for you? When you consider how to change or improve your workspace, prioritize those things that help you the most. This post explores ways your environment can increase creativity.
The more ergonomic choices will help you work longer and more efficiently. But is longer hours sitting in a chair your goal? Keep in mind what your core message(s) are. What environment will support your efforts to express that message?
Guided by intention, you also practice intentional improvement. You study the craft to improve your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Choose to read craft books that will help you explore new techniques or structure that will help you express your message. Deliberately seek qualified sources to teach you. Find multiple sources so you can choose the path and methods that work for you.
Is there a writer or work you admire? Examine its story structure. Study the author’s word choices, sentence structure, and pacing. Copy passages so you experience those choices word-by-word. Save favorite descriptions for later inspiration.
Focused practice of new techniques and styles of writing becomes a natural extension of your decision making. How do you practice writing? Write a poem in different styles. Rewrite one of your paragraphs in the style of a writer you’ve studied. Practice twisting clichés into something more original.
If you intend to sell your books, there are choices to make. Should you choose traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, or independent publishing? What will you charge? Will you sell on your website? In person? Do your research. Get the information you need to make you decisions. Successful businesses require intentional decisions.
Use your why, your message, and your core beliefs to set up a business you want and will work on for a long time. Define that business. Will you choose to expand? How will you do that? Write a business plan. It doesn’t need to be a formal one, but you’ll need a formal plan in some situations.
You’ll need to research the how your country defines business. Do you need a license? Do you need to pay taxes?
If you are like many writers, marketing confounds you. Intentional writing means doing research and discovering which type of marketing is most likely to work for your books. It also means learning enough to avoid scams and schemes that promise quick money or success.
Use intention to craft an emotional appeal to readers based on your core message (the one your book explores).
You get to choose when and what to be intentional about. Discovery writing (also known as pantsing), a first draft, can be an intentional choice. Intentional discovery writers may choose pay for a developmental editor to help you clean up that draft. Or you could intentionally learn to write a clean first draft.
Self-care isn’t optional if you intend to make writing a long-term habit or career. There may be mental or physical health challenges, but you can choose to maintain the best mental and physical health you can. Self-care includes joy, spontaneity, exercise, and all the other aspects of self-care.
Choose to give yourself inspiration days, relationship-building days, days for spiritual reflection, and days to “veg out.” Your creative mind and spirit need intentional care.
Remember, intention isn’t a bad word. It’s a choice. You use intentional choices every day when you take this route instead of that one to the department store or on a trip. Each day you decide how you’ll use your time, your energy, and your attention. Make your decisions intentional.
Some of you are proud of always making instinctual (pantser) decisions. If you decide pantsing is best for you, that is an intention. If your instincts are based on an internalized why and message, it can be successful. But instincts are often based on internalized messaging from others. Dare to make intentional decisions. That's where your path to success lies. It's where your power lies.
With intentional decision-making, you define your business, your writing, and what success means to you. Lean into your why and your messages. Lean into your power.
What is one intentional decision you made in the past? Is there an intentional decision you’ve made for the future?
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Lynette M. Burrows is an author, blogger, creativity advocate, and Yorkie wrangler. She survived moving seventeen times between kindergarten and her high school graduation. This alone makes her uniquely qualified to write an adventure or two.
Her Fellowship series is a takes “chillingly realistic” alternate history in 1961 Fellowship America where autogyros fly and following the rules isn’t optional. Books one and two, My Soul to Keep, and If I Should Die, are available everywhere books are sold online. Book three, And When I Wake, is scheduled to be published in 2024.
Lynette lives in the land of OZ. She is a certifiable chocoholic and coffee lover. When she’s not blogging or writing or researching her next book, she avoids housework and plays with her two Yorkshire terriers. You can find Lynette online on Facebook, or on Mastodon @LynetteMBurrows@wandering.shop or on her website.
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