What readers really want is the story

I’ve been writing a book of memoir-essays for at least three years. The first set seemed pretty good, but the feedback I got from writer friends was lukewarm, so I took that as a sign that they weren’t ready. I went back to them a year later and thanked God for honest friends; the writing was stiff, and I had barely engaged with most of the topics.

So I had another go at it; I think the second draft is what I sent to my agent. She was encouraging but said, “Let’s keep this on the back burner for now.” That was fine; I had other projects in the works, and by then I sensed that the essays might be the toughest projects I’d ever taken on. 

When I approached them for the third or fourth time, I recognized the biggest flaw. I was trying to come to some sort of philosophical closure on matters that were deeply personal. And while the philosophy can be helpful and, when written artfully, satisfying to read, what readers really want is the story.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press