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Your Writing Project Needs a Purpose Statement

Once and awhile a writing idea will arrive whole and complete. You know the audience youíre writing for, the market and exactly what you want to say. Itís much more usual, however,  to start with an idea that's much to general. The trick is to hone your original thought so you know exactly who you are writing for and what you want to say to them.

How Writing a Purpose Statement Helps

A purpose statement acts as a road map and, if the piece goes awry in the writing, helps get you back on track. The purpose statement is one of the best writing tips there is, because it identifies the ideal reader youíre writing for (which pinpoints the market) and the point of the work. Ideally, a purpose statement should have no more than 10 words. This is true for a short article and for a 500 page book. It looks like this:

The purpose of this (article/book/etc) is: your 10 words here

For example, the purpose of this article is: to show the value of a 10 word purpose statement. Exactly 10 words.

Sound impossible? Iíll go so far as to say if you canít boil your
idea into 10 words or less, youíre not ready to write.

Sure, sometimes you have to do a bit of writing to discover the purpose, but until youíre clear on what youíre writing for whom, youíre still working with the idea itself. Purpose statements also work well when youíre developing queries and proposals.

Letís take travel writing as an example. Like most ideas, writing about travel can take many forms. A travel article could be a personal experience, a review of a resort, tips on saving money or tips on staying safe. It might involve foreign travel, or travel to the next county. Eco-travel, adventure travel, travel by llama, train or RV all could be the focus of an article on travel. Many of these could also be the focus of writing a book about travel. But each has a different reader and a different purpose. And each needs it's own purpose statement.

Tips for Writing a Purpose Statement

Start developing your purpose by asking yourself some questions. Using travel writing as an example, might questions you might ask yourself include:

  • How old is your target reader?
  • Is she a solo traveler or does she prefer groups or have a partner or children?
  • Does he want to travel luxury or is he willing to get dirty?
  • Roughly how much money does she have to spend on a trip?
  • Does he want to experience something unusual and maybe dangerous?
  • Would she rather be surrounded by people like herself or is she delighted with foreigners?
  • How long will the trip last?

These are, of course, just example questions. Youíll have your own versions. When you have the answer to the questions you can come up with a purpose statement for your work. These questions could result in a purpose statement like:

  1. 10 Ways to Save Money While Camping with Your Kids, or
  2. How To Be Truly Pampered This Weekend or,
  3. Get Away Locally on the Cheap, or,
  4. Doing Good While Traveling

Note that only the first takes up the full 10 words. As it happens, each these purposes might also make a good title; that isn't always true; sometimes the title comes later. The point here is the purpose statement which simply sums up exactly the focus your writing will take.

Put your purpose statement at the top of your draft manuscript or query in big bold letters. Read your purpose statement as you begin your rewriting and editing. Let it guide and inform your writing. You'll find both the writing and the marketing much easier.

Write well and often

 

 

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