Why did you write this book? What it really means when you’re pitching your manuscript
Attention writers: I’ve included a writing task for you at the end of this post. It’ll help you when you have to answer the question about why you wrote the book or how you came up with the idea. So stay reading till the end to find the task that may help you pitch your novel to agents and publishers.
“Why did you write this book?”
This is a question sometimes seen on publishing submission pages. They’ll ask for a reason why you wrote this book, or maybe they’ll ask why you’re qualified to write this book in the case of non-fiction. In the past, when faced with this question I think I’ve rattled off some droll attempt to give the person what I think they want to hear. Not because I’m trying to win any small favours, but because I haven’t really grasped this question.
The funny thing is that I can tell you the reasons why I wrote each of my books.
For example, “Poison in the Pond” was a story first written in the 90s after I’d heard about a horrible attack on Fran Dresher, the woman who starred in “The Nanny”. The attacker had contacted Fran wanting forgiveness, and I was livid at this display of arrogance. I don’t know how Fran Dresher handled this situation, but it fuelled an anger in me to write a story about a woman who is in this situation and how she meets her attacker and how she wishes him to hell, then when her attacker dies, he returns from the grave to seek this forgiveness. I wanted to write this as a horror story because the situation called for it. I’ve never told anyone the reason behind “Poison in the Pond” because I didn’t want to be seen as exploiting a horrible situation.
Until recently, I hadn’t truly understood the reason why agents or publishers ask this question. But I’m glad I’ve finally understood, because last year when I pitched my dystopian novel to a major publisher, I think it was reason why I wrote this novel, combined with a brief overview of the story that piqued her interested. She asked me to submit my manuscript. Better still, she said she would like to see this story published and she hadn’t even read a word.
I won’t divulge the reason behind writing this particular manuscript, suffice to say the reason behind our stories should connect authors to readers. Stories bridge gaps or open them. They soothe or open wounds. They provide lessons or Aha! moments. They provide laughter or tears. The reason behind why we write our stories should turn them from an idea conceived out of thin air into an authority to write this story. It should be the truth, and we shouldn’t be afraid to bare our soul. We ask our characters to do this. We can do this, too.
Your writing task for today is to sit down and write about the true reasons why you wrote your story, without going to point where you’re opening wounds you don’t want exposed, but seek the truth inside the myriad of songs and dances and bells and whistles that you may have written into your blurb. And when you find the reason why you wrote your story, it will help you when readers ask where you got the idea from, because they’re often closely linked.