If you want your writing to be effective, you need to have a point: a purpose, something specific you’re trying to say, a “Why” behind the writing. This rule applies no matter what you’re crafting – novel, short story, poem, personal essay, op-ed, sales page, website, flash fiction, screenplay. Having a point is what stokes your creative fire, and it’s what gives you the ability to write something that will make people care.
I have written in the past about the magic of clarity:
Clarity brings focus and purpose to your writing. It illuminates the ultimate reason you’re driven to write a thing and it helps you make critical decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Clarity is like a pair of enchanted glasses that filters out everything extraneous so you can hone in on exactly the things you need to tell your story. When you have clarity about your writing, you know what you want to say and you know how you want to say it. Writer’s Block becomes a thing of the past.
Of course, this isn’t always easy.
When I’m writing a short-form piece, I usually start with a handwritten mind map. This helps me to collect and organize my thoughts. I can start to see the pieces, patterns, and possible narrative threads. During this process, I let my mind wander. There are no “wrong” ideas. It all goes into the map. BUT, at the bottom, I write a one-line note that’s labeled So what?
That one line acts as a kind of touchstone. It helps me remember why I started writing a particular piece in the first place, and it helps me stay on course. If I’m feeling like I need an extra boot in the arse, I’ll think of it as my “So what – who cares?” line. Either way, as I’m writing, I refer back to that one line to make sure that what I’m writing ties back to that point.
Closely related to the So what? of a piece is understanding the WIIFM. WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” It’s a phrase we often use in the marketing world to make sure that our content is delivering value to the reader. If the So what? is the reason your write a piece, the WIIFM is the reason your readers read it.
So, no matter what you’re writing today. Ask yourself those two questions: So what? and What’s in it for [my readers]?
Do you have your own tricks for staying on-topic and on-theme in your writing? If so, let’s hear ’em!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.