Striking the Right Balance

Lynnette Bonner asks what we hope to accomplish with our writing.

The idea for this writing came from a post by Athol Dickson on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog.

Mr. Dickson said that as writers we need to decide what we want to accomplish with our writing. To delight our readers? Write an excellently crafted piece? Or quickly slap something together that works?

If you think of those as the points on a triangle with your piece falling somewhere in the middle, where do you want to land? While I agree with Mr. Dickson’s three points I felt there were more points to consider, especially for Christian writing.

As writers, we have to decide what we want to accomplish with our writing. You can’t be all and do all. You can’t please everyone.

So I hope Mr. Dickson will not be offended if I expand on his analogy.

 In my amateur drawing of a Star of David. I left the three areas Mr. Dickson mentioned, because I felt they were valid points. But I added Spiritual Message, Thought Provoking, and Inspiring.

Let’s take a moment to talk about these, so you can decide what the right balance is for your body of work.


Entertaining: All writing should be entertaining – even nonfiction. If you don’t entertain your readers you will lose them. However a piece about nuclear power plants is going to be less entertaining to most than a humor column.

 Spiritual Message: As a Christian writer, there is probably a spiritual message you want to get across. How you lean toward that point will be determined by what balance you want to strike.

Thought Provoking: You can give a spiritual message without making your reader think. When I’m made to think for myself, I learn the most – not when I’m spoon-fed a message.

Quickly Written: If writing a book, you are going to spend a lot more time than if writing a blog post.

Inspiring: Thought Provoking and Inspiring are not the same. Someone who is inspired will take action. Do you have an action you want your readers to take? Inspire them!

Well Crafted: There is a link between time spent on a piece and quality of the writing. Time spent educating ourselves also affects the quality of our craft. Too technical with grammar and writing rules and your piece might end up drier than a desert stone.

Where do you want your writing to fall? If something leans heavily toward the Entertainment sector, it will be further from the Inspiring and Thought Provoking sectors.  

Not to say that a Thought Provoking piece can’t be entertaining, but sometimes you have to give something up to gain something else.

Look at some things you’ve written. Where do they fall in the Star of David? You can probably balance between about three points, but trying to incorporate more, unless you are an excellent master of your craft, will make the piece feel bulky.

I’m sure there could be even more points – any thoughts on that?

This post appeared November 9, 2009 on Author Culture.  Used by kind permission.

Lynnette writes from the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her husband and four children. She loves to hear from readers and writers alike. Her first novel, ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS, debuted summer 2009.  Lynnette has been a member of NCWA since May of 2008.

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2 thoughts on “Striking the Right Balance

  1. Lynette…Great analysis. I’m sure Mr Dickson will like where you’ve carried his concept. I find that my place on your star is heavily dependent on my audience. If I’m writing or speaking to friends in the faith my spiritual message is a bigger part of the message. But even with something directed to a secular group that spiritual element is part of it because I’d like those people to someday be brothers and sisters in the faith. We’re called to be fishers of men, not hunters.


  2. Dennis, So true. Each piece we write can be focused on different areas. And the points on this star could actually be rearranged in any number of ways so that your writing could lean towards any combination of the points. Generally about 3 emphasis are about all you can fit into a piece. (Of course there are always exceptions.)

    Chip MacGregor had an interesting article on his blog today about crossing over into writing for secular markets and why that often is so hard to do. Sometimes we are predisposed to write certain ways simply from the “cultural” perspective we start off from.


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