I’ve been reading books on the craft and business of writing lately. One of the authors I’ve been reading is Susan Kaye Quinn, a successful, indie-published writer who creates YA fiction (and also writes a few craft-related books on the side). In particular, in her book, 10 Step Self-Publishing Boot Camp, she suggests that writers create a Mission Statement.
The basic idea is that the act of crafting a Mission Statement forces you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing. It’s something you can revisit each year and modify as needed if your goals change. But it also becomes a metric by which activities can be measured: Does this task that I’m contemplating further my mission?
So, here’s my Mission Statement.
As a writer, I want…
- To create compelling heroes who, through no fault of their own, are underdogs and are forced to evolve, because these are the types of heroes that inspire me.
- To create stories about crimes, because people will always be people and somewhere, whether it’s a fantasy realm or a far-off planet, there will be evildoers who need to be brought to justice.
- To craft genre-bending mash-ups with twists and turns that defy expectations, liberally infused with humor but still deeply rooted in the realm of drama, not outright comedy.
- To continually seek out new ways to improve my craft.
- To be a leader and member of a supportive writing community.
- To create a body of works that reaches a large number of readers and explores the reaches of my creativity.
That’s it. Six bullets.
The first three are focused on what I want to write. I like mash-ups. I like mystery/crime stories set in exotic SF or Fantasy settings. I like stories with humor, twists, surprises, as well as sudden violence tempered with emotional moments.
This tells me that I’m going to have a harder time really establishing my brand than other writers who may just stick to one narrowly focused niche. Because my brand is “hard to define, cross-genre mash-up crime stories.” So be it. But it also means that my stories won’t be just like everybody else’s stories.
I’m OK with that. It seems to have worked well for people like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and others.
The fourth bullet is about always striving to improve my craft. Yes, absolutely. I want to write stories that move people, not just solely entertain them. To do that, I need to keep pushing my limits as a writer.
The fifth bullet is about being part of a supportive writer community. The way I see it, a rising tide lifts all boats. Help others if you want help yourself. In giving to others, I receive far more. And it’s fun, too.
The sixth bullet is about a writing career. I don’t want to be that “one and done” writer, the one who only ever writes one novel… I want to create a body of works that are worth people’s time.
Now you’ve seen my Mission Statement. I hope it makes sense. It does to me. I think Susan Kaye Quinn was right—it is a good exercise to find out exactly what you’re striving to do as a writer.