The haunting question every writer must face at some point is the question of whether or not their story is worth the time it takes them to tell it and worth the readers time to discover it. Sadly, this question rarely gets asked until after the story is written. The writer then comes to a critical crux where they must decide whether or not their work, effort, and passion for this story was warranted by the result they received. Does the reader get anything out of it? Is there anything about the story that makes it worth reading? What are they trying to say that is so special others would need to hear it?
Although it is sad that when faced with this question many writers say no, after looking over at my story is not worth telling. However, it is even more sad that many writers, with an obstinance for the work that they put into it, refuse to except that the story is not worth telling and publish it anyway. This pollutes the market with many stories that really have no purpose or point to them and benefit no one.
So then, how do we determine if a story is truly worth telling. More so, how do we accept that a story is not worth telling or see past the blinders of personal preference that would tell us it is?
The first part about deciding if the story is worth telling, and I would strongly encourage this to occur before the story is written, is determining the purpose of the story.
If a writer does not beforehand determine the purpose of the story, they are in fact incurring a detriment upon the persons of the story. The story cannot be successful unless it stirs up with in the reader a desire to do something more. The whole purpose of art is to move the viewers in a way that causes them to both think and act. So what is the purpose of your story?
The second thing, and almost like the first: what is the message of your story? The purpose is the desired affect your story will have, the message is how that effect is brought about. Like all things though, I never mean just the literal story you are writing. For every person who lives, but perhaps only writers will appreciate it, your life is a story: a story you write yourself. It doesn’t take a novelist to figure out what kind of message you’re portraying, what purpose your life leads, and what others would take away from your story.
I struggle recently, though no one ever really sees it, with whether or not my method is contrarian to my message. Does my story stand out so much from the crowd of influence from whence I am coming that it detracts from the message I’m trying to get across? Ultimately, what you have to decide is not what the people you know will think about your story, but what the people who read your story, who need your story will think of your story.
We don’t write for those in our own auras of influence that don’t need to read our stories. We write either for our own pleasure and enjoyment, or for the benefit of the reader. As a Christian, I write moral values, biblical perspective, and gospel messages. Not always overt, not always boisterous and clear, but always I stay true to my convictions, and relate my stories and characters to real people who live real lives. I’m not becoming the world to reach the world, rather I am showing the world where I came from and where they are right now, and how to get out of that situation.
So, is your story worth telling?
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist