What’s your vision?

Do you know what your book is about? Do you have goals and firm ideas of what you want to accomplish with the story? Do you have a strong vision for your story?

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning about writing is how important it is to know what story you’re trying to tell, and keeping that story foremost in all your storyish thoughts. Because once your story is out of your brain and onto virtual paper, other people are going to start having Opinions about it: critique partners, agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers, people who’ve never read it but saw the cover and know someone who knows someone who has read it and has Opinions . . .

With the first groups, you’ll be able to choose who reads your story. Crit partners, agents, editors — whether those people read your story is all under your control. Sometimes all of these people will share your vision for the story and feel as passionately about it as you. Other times, they’ll have a different vision, similar or different or opposite yours, and you still get to decide what to do. With these people, you can try to make them see your vision, see if theirs will ever line up with yours, and work together to come up with something you’re both happy about.

And sometimes it won’t work out. I know writers who’ve turned down agents and editors because their visions for the story didn’t align, and probably never would. I also know writers who accepted offers in spite of differing visions; sometimes this was a good move, and other times they regret it.

I’m of the mind it’s important to work with people who share and respect your vision, because once your story is on the shelves, you don’t get to choose who reads it.

Kristin Cashore recently had a great blog post in which she said, “People will confuse their expectations with your intentions and with the quality of your work. This will happen. So you need to keep hold of what your own expectations/goals were.”

This really struck me. Sometimes I’ll read a book, expecting it to be one thing, and get something completely different instead. Often I’m happy with what the story; occasionally I’m unsatisfied and disappointed. Either reaction is a valid one. I come to every story I read lugging my own baggage of my mood and life experiences and other books I’ve read.

The same goes for readers and reviewers of my books, of my friends’ books, of books I love and think everyone should love too…It’s important to remember that the time of knowing every single person who reads the story has passed. Different people will want different things from every story. They will expect different things from every story, and while it might be nice if readers could set aside expectations every time they start a new book, that’s unreasonable. And it’s not going to happen.

From where I’m sitting now, it seems the best an author can do is to know what they want from the story, and be satisfied with and proud of what they’ve created.

Every time you complete a draft, look back at your hopes and dreams for the story. Did you stay true to your vision? Are you pleased with what you’ve done? Because when you turn in your final-for-real-you-never-get-to-change-it-again draft, well, that’s it. It’s final for real. You never get to change it again.

Once it’s out there, there’s no going back. People will have opinions on it. Sometimes they won’t share your vision. Sometimes they will want to read a different story than the story you wanted to tell.

But don’t be disheartened, because sometimes you will get a reader who perfectly sees what you did and wanted to do, and the book was everything they hoped it would be.

Either way, know your story. Know your goals and hopes and vision. What matters is that you write the story you want to write.


13 Responses to What’s your vision?

  1. Temre Beltz Sep 6 2012 at 9:18 am #

    I loved this post so much. It’s such a wise and great reminder of how our stories are being prepared to be shared from the first moment that we start writing on that blank page. Sometimes it seems that it will take years (and it usually does 🙂 ), for our work to ever “make it,” but it’s all a result of the work that we have put in beforehand, and that includes truly knowing the story we want to tell (even if that changes a bit a long the way). Because the sentences, paragraph structure, and even characters may fall away or be added in, but all of this is usually part of a combined effort to make the vision of the story stronger, more clear, and more powerful. Thank you so much for this. I think knowing the vision of the story (and feeling peace that it is indeed there when the story is ready to be shared) is one of the greatest joys of being a writer.

    • jodimeadows Sep 6 2012 at 10:03 am #

      I need the reminder sometimes (maybe a lot) too, and I figured I couldn’t be alone in that. 🙂


  2. Lenore Appelhans Sep 6 2012 at 10:14 am #

    I think having a vision before you start writing also helps keep you in line and helps you avoid writing aimlessly. I don’t outline per se, but having a strong vision for the story was what saved me during the drafting process.

    • jodimeadows Sep 6 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      I agree. If you know what you want to accomplish, it’s easier not to wander off.

  3. Alexa (Loves Books) Sep 6 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I absolutely adore this post, because I feel like it’s the simplest of truths and one that writers should always remember. As long as you’ve managed to execute what you felt your vision for your book was, you’ll probably be happy in spite of other people’s reactions to it.

    • jodimeadows Sep 6 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      It’s *hard* to remember sometimes, especially when feedback is all over the place. But it’s sooo so important.

  4. Marc Vun Kannon Sep 6 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    What? I’m supposed to know what the book’s about before I start? Hell, sometimes I don’tknow what it’s about after I finish!
    I completely agree that it’s helpful as a tool to bring the book to market, but it’s not something I’ve ever done.

    • jodimeadows Sep 6 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      When you start writing a story, why are you writing it? Isn’t there some spark that inspired you to write the story in the first place? Maybe it’s not fully developed when you start — or even finish — a manuscript, but there must be something that made you sit down and start typing.

      I’m not suggesting people write detailed outlines or synopses, but even if it’s not conscious, there’s a seed of inspiration, a vision of what the story will be one day, that inspires people to slave over the keyboard for months.

      • Marc Vun Kannon Sep 6 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        I always start with characters, regardless of whatever the initial prompt is for the story. Everything I write is basically spinning out the internal logic of the characters as they react to the circumstances of the story. What are the circumstances? No idea. Those occur to me only when I get there. My first novel had the most, since I had some dreams to build off of. All the other stories I’ve done, not so much.
        I wrote my last novel after I saw a book titled ‘Blood Moon’. The first thing that came to mind was that it was about a werewolf attack on a lunar colony. It wasn’t, but it sounded like the kind of story I’d like to read so I decided to write my own. It started out as a mystery’horror, but I quickly realized I couldn’t write mystery or horror. The only thing that kept the story going was the characters. I had two chapters full of people I really liked, I wasn’t going to let them go simply because I had nothing else to work with. I basically wrote the book just following them around, no plot, no theme, no ending except one I knew wouldn’t work. I couldn’t query the damn thing, I had no way to describe it. It was two weeks after I finished it before I realized what it was about. It doesn’t help.

        • jodimeadows Sep 6 2012 at 1:47 pm #

          It seems to me you don’t agree with my idea that visions — even vague, undeveloped ideas of visions — come along with the compulsion to write a story, and that’s fine. I’m not telling you that it must be part of your process, because there are as many different processes as there are writers. The point of this post is this: Regardless of when you discover what your story is about, having a vision for it is important not only for marketing the story appropriately, but to keep yourself sane when you start getting reviews and reactions. If you tell a story you’re proud of, and it does everything you want it to do, then it’s easier to let go of comments from people who clearly wanted to read another kind of story.

          • Marc Vun Kannon Sep 9 2012 at 4:11 pm #

            Actually, I agree completely. Not having a vision is great for originality, but it sucks for almost everything else! Without a vision I can’t describe the story, so I can’t get the story in front of the right eyes for the worldwide distribution and multi-million dollar film deal it deserves.

  5. JQTrotter Sep 6 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    This is a great reminder and I think pretty encouraging for the writer. Sometimes those who are hoping to get somewhere (like a literary agents, an editor, a publishing house, etc) and they’ll be willing to compromise their dreams/hopes to get there. But… once you turn in that final draft, there’s no turning back. And it’s the writer’s name that’s on the book and the reader will see it as their vision/story and not really think about how it might have changed because of a lit agent or editor. Sometimes it is helpful to change a story once you get another person’s POV (like a critic partner’s) because it will help strengthen the story. Other times, it can derail your hopes/expectations for your own story.

    • jodimeadows Sep 7 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Yep. Only the author can make the call whether other people’s feedback will help or hurt the book in the long run. The best comments will help you get your book closer to what you hoped it would be!

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