I’ve just completed a nice writing exercise suggested by editor Andrew Wille.
Without looking back, summarise your draft in under 100 words. Then 50 words. Then 20. What does your instinct tell you is its intention: not only your intention, but the intention of the writing? Use this to craft a mission statement to evaluate your book.
I rattled off 500 words and then, with great difficulty, refined this down to 50:
A suffragette and a soldier find unexpected happiness together only to be torn apart by war. Battered by grief but supported by the courage and tenacity of other women, the suffragette undertakes a dangerous mission for her country before being forced into a desperate race against time to save her lover’s life.
Distilling this down to twenty words was even harder. What is the essence of my story when stripped of all sub-plots and secondary characters?
Two unlikely lovers are torn apart by war. Only her courage and determination in the face of tragedy will reunite them.
And then it hit me: this is a romantic thriller. After two years of trying to convince myself otherwise (such is the literary snobbery where romance is concerned), I’ve now accepted the inevitable. I’m writing a love story. Yep. A love story.
And my mission statement? (Who’d have imagined a book needed a mission statement, eh?)
To celebrate love in its many guises and tell of the honour and courage that can exist amidst the horrors of war.
It was like cropping a photograph on my iPhone or pruning a rose ready for the summer. For the first time (after twelve months of intermittent editing; how embarrassing!), I understand what really matters in my story.