Writing Secrets

The title of today’s post could lure you in like the spam I get in my inbox. Stuff that promises to show me the “secrets of selling a jillion copies,” “getting an agent,” “ridding myself of ugly toenail fungus” or just about anything else. Free webinars, podcasts and booklets clamor for attention, all with promises to reveal secrets. Sorry, but this post is about YOUR secrets.
Writing Tip for Today: In last night’s memoir class (which is enormous, changing the class dynamics in a great way!), we talked about what our readers want, as in the reader saying, “WIIFM” or “What’s In It For Me?” We arrived at some basic properties great writing should offer.

  • Great Writing Is Experiential. Usually accomplished through scene writing, a reader experiences the writer’s world via a character or two, the senses (good old CSD, concrete sensory detail), conflict and resolution of conflict. If you want others to seek out your stuff to read, write it in an experiential or cinematic way.
  • Great Writing Costs the Writer in Emotion. Our goal, no matter what type of writing, should be to elicit an emotional reaction–whether it’s a light bulb of understanding (oh that’s how you make a pbj sandwich!), anger, joy, sorrow or any other emotion you care to name. If the reader can relate or have a deep reaction, you must be willing to write the truth.
  • The Truth Is Often a Secret. Ouch! Your deepest truths are often hidden under layers of social maneuvering. We keep our secrets carefully cloaked in life–for our survival. Yet in writing, a reader is looking to puncture the protective covering and find out if anyone else on earth is hiding the same secrets. Since most of the time our secrets are related to abandonment, shame, sorrow, guilt or embarrassment, it’s usually not hard to find one that readers can connect with. It may take multiple tries, but your writing will improve if you diligently work on writing the truth of your secrets and proving to readers that you’re a lot like them.

What’s the hardest kind of topic to write about for you?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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