What are you actually going for with your writing?
It’s a blunt question, but if you can answer it you’re at the heart of the Author Prospectus and what it can do for you.
We’ve looked at how your writing gives you pleasure, how it’s good for your mental health, how you feel when you complete a well-written piece; we’ve looked at how your writing helps your family or close relationships and maybe even assists your romantic life in some way; we’ve worked out how your writing fits into any income plans you may have, and even how it perhaps forwards a broader cause. With all the other background work you’ve done prior to this point, you’re now in a pretty good position to answer the above question directly.
What exactly are you trying to achieve for a reader with your writing?
This will vary from individual author to individual author and it would be folly to try to indicate what your answer should be: you have a unique set of skills, and though you may be writing in a conventional genre like science fiction or romance or thriller or whatever, you have by now probably fathomed what makes your work slightly different than others in your field; you may write in several genres, but in each case your own talents and viewpoints give your work a particular edge which no one else can duplicate simply because you are you.
So go ahead and answer the question.
When a reader puts down your book, what precisely do you want him or her to think or feel?
Many writers cop out on this question and in so doing lose the potential power that answering it can give them. They say ‘Well, I just write for my own pleasure — I’m not really thinking of readers’ or ‘I just want the reader to have a good time’. But if they can go a stage further and pin down exactly what ‘their own pleasure’ entails, and precisely what they mean by a ‘good time’, they will find that they can take their writing career to whole new levels.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that a writer has established that the thing that they want the reader to experience is something like this: ‘I want my readers to feel uplifted, to get a glimpse of a spiritual world beyond our own, to be able to look around them and see things differently’.
This should be written out in full on a piece of paper.
Below it, the writer should put what he or she thinks should be given in exchange for that — something along the lines of admiration, respect, awe perhaps. Yes, money too, but that will follow if admiration and so forth come first.
Underneath that, the writer should list some of the things he or she hopes to use to achieve that — such as characters and character arcs, settings, plots and so on, all the basic tools of fiction writing. Keep in mind the Four Basic Genres and the Seven Character Archetypes — which of these should the author use to achieve that product at the top of the page?
Next the writer should ask whether or not he or she actually wants this product. This might seem like a silly question, but it leads into the next little bit of self-analysis: if he or she wants to achieve the above effect on a reader, is there anyone in the writer’s environment who doesn’t want this to happen?
This can be a gruelling question: it may be that the writer has people in his or her environment who don’t want him to succeed. Most likely, though, there are people around who just don’t understand the importance of what he or she is trying to do. This may not be their fault: the writer has only just been learning this for themselves, by doing this prospectus process. Taking a look at one’s immediate life in terms of support and lack of support can be eye-opening. Sorting this out may be a matter of re-educating those around the writer, or even re-adjusting friendships.
But once all this is settled, the big question is whether or not the writer can actually get the product listed above. That comes next.