Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Four Ways a Mission Statement Helps a Writer by Diana Flegal

I ask my clients to write a mission statement for each book they plan to write. Whether they are writing fiction or nonfiction, they should know and be able to state exactly what it is they want the reader to get from their novel or nonfiction (the take-away value), and why they are the best one to write this title.

One: Writing a mission statement will help you set the vision and reflect on the how of writing the book. Why is it valuable and why is it important to you to write it.

Example: Since King Steven writes thrillers that make you leave the light on at night and his mission is: to scare the begeebies out of his readers and keep them turning the page; he must write believable characters, and convince the reader of the possibility this scary thing could happen in their small town.

Example: A true event happened to you that you would like to include in your novel. But when it is on the page, it sounds UN- believable. Delete the 'little darling'.

Two: A mission statement helps you answer the question, am I qualified to write this book?.

Example: King Steven has a proven track record of having written very scary stories. I can want to scare the wits out of a reader, but if I have a hard time remembering the plot of a good joke, it is not realistic for me. Just sayin'. Scratch that mission and chew my pencil a little longer.

I would like to teach Haitian women how to take better care of their babies. I had a newborn that turned into a toddler with me when I lived there. But it has been 20 plus years since then. Worthy goal, but it would be better if I referred women to those currently there offering these services.

I want to help writers realize their goals. Idea: Write a blog about the value of a mission statement. I teach about this at writers conferences, and have seen the effectiveness of this with my clients. BINGO. Checkmark.

Three: A mission statement will keep you on task and help you evaluate your progress

Example: You want to write a contemporary romance that takes place in Pittsburgh, Pa. The young hero is the son of a retired steel worker. In researching the mills to portray the setting the young man grew up in, you see this:  Iron and steel were Pittsburgh's main industries for nearly a century and a half. The mills along the rivers churned out their products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It can be said that steel from Pittsburgh mills practically built America. From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, steel from Pittsburgh found its way to all corners of the developing nation.

Wow, who knew? You get distracted and begin to make the book all about Pittsburgh's influence in the building of America. Your romance is forgotten UNTIL you go back and read the mission statement: I want to write a romance that showcases two diverse people coming together and realizing that love can supersede prejudice and insecurity. AND you are back on track. By the way: An editor that acquires historical fiction told me research should be the window dressing and the story the window. :-) Keep that in mind and just sprinkle your research in your story to set an authentic placing of your plot, but don't let it overshadow it.

Four: A mission statement will provide incentive to actually write the book  

Writing down your goals is a proven way to realize them. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, found that we are 42 percent more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down.

I had a goal to share four of the strongest reasons I ask writers to write out a mission statement. Hope this is helpful.

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