I love the idea of four! Four elements in nature, the four humors of old, four score and seven years ago, my doggie has four legs.When developing a piece of writing, a writer might consider four aspects that come into play, at the onset or eventually.
- Audience – Who is the audience for the material?
- Concept – What is the vision of the piece, its message?
- Form – How is the message of the piece presented? As a poem, in novel form? Furthermore, within the larger categories of form, what specific genre and styles are used?
- Format – If published or presented, what is the packaging? Hard-cover printed book, e-book, online post, etc.
A writer may decide the first aspect to which she relates is concept, asking herself what is the truth she’s seeking and message she’s delivering in creating a piece. For an editor, or from a publisher’s standpoint, the paramount question is, practically, about audience. Who’s going to buy the thing so we can all get paid?
Writing can become an effective team effort as the writer drives the form but then a designer lends creative muscle to conceive a design or layout. Furthermore, certainly in traditional publishing mileaux, the editor along with a sales and marketing team is going to have input regarding who the audience is and how to target that audience; a production person is going to take over at latter stages to help create the published format and manage printing. To me, one role of editing is to nurture the creative effort of the author while working to also keep the four aspects in synch. Whether there’s an editor involved or whether the writer is working solo across the life of the project and performing multiple roles, it’s useful to consider which of the four aspects are driving the project at any given moment.
Is any aspect more or less important than its companions? That could launch a long discussion, but I think it’s valuable for every writer to weigh for themselves and for each project. Audience may not factor into a private diary, yet for that diary there is minimally an audience of one, its author. Toward the other extreme, a writer who has a platform in a non-writing arena may be inspired by an existing audience to create a piece for that well-loved audience.
For the writer, which of the four aspects should be considered first? That question can change depending on the project and the style of the writer. If an author is writing for a series, the form and format are established with book one and the audience may be as well. I tend to think visually, so form frequently influences my concept as much as the other way around.
I like to compare the four aspects of writing to the four elements in nature that seem sometimes to rage against each other yet ultimately cooperate to produce the most viable result. Thoughtfully balancing the influences and roles of each aspect can help a writer make effective decisions about the material, understanding that competing agendas may happen but compromise is possible. After every fire, which cleans up the ground, we can only wish for rain. Eventually the rain comes and the air smells so sweet after.
xo Laurel Leigh