I took a video last week of Connor, my 2 1/2 year old son, brushing his teeth. It's about 90 seconds long and follows him through his brushing and spitting, captures him pulling himself up on the counter so he can put his toothbrush away, and sliding over on his belly to borrow McKenna's Cinderella cup to rinse his mouth.
I love this video. It captures so much about his age, about our daily routine. I get teary at the part where he notices his toothpaste is still out and he pauses what he's doing to put it back in the drawer. It's something I imagine I'll cherish even more as the years pass, this snapshot of the efforts Connor once went to for something simple like brushing his teeth.
But I'm his mom. I know this video isn't something that interests anyone but me and my husband. It's so long, I think even the grandparents might find it a bit too tedious.
Our books can be like this too - interesting because it's personal to us - and it took me a very long time to figure that out.
If you're writing something in hopes of catching the eye of an editor, of getting published, you have to ask yourself, "Who will want to read this book and why?"
This can be a very difficult question for a writer to answer, especially when you're in the early stages of your writing journey. I finally found it worked best to think about the books I enjoyed and try to pinpoint what it was - good writing aside - that captured and held my interest. Here are a few random examples:
Memoirs of A Geisha: I liked how it exposed me to a completely different culture and lifestyle. Same goes for several other books on my shelf - Gossip Girl, The Poisonwood Bible, The Help, and The Passion of Mary-Margaret.
This Lullaby: The main character makes this book for me. I love how on the outside she's in-control and is the one who holds her household together. But on the inside she's a complete mess and so needy and tender.
Pride and Prejudice: Part of this was reputation because I knew Darcy and Elizabeth ended up together, yet I could not figure out how that was going to happen.
White Oleander: Not only did I love the main character - so sympathetic, so broken - but I found the peek inside group homes and the foster system fascinating.
(Sidenote: It's also interesting to do this with back cover copy when you're browsing a bookstore. What descriptions are enticing enough that you open the book up to read the first page? Which descriptions make it easy to put a book back on the shelf?)
One thing that I struggled with early on was many of my stories had autobiographical elements to them. I thought it made them extra interesting. And it did ... to me. But most readers don't care if a novel really happened. They care, above all, about reading an interesting story.
This isn't to say you should cut all the stuff in your book that really happened to you, or all the things your friend really did say, just that you should look beyond that when considering what will interest others.
What's a recent book you read and enjoyed? What about it held your interest?
What about the book you're writing? Would it be a story that interests others? Why?