define your author's purpose

How to Understand Your Author’s Purpose: 5 Tips for Knowing the Why of Your Words

An author’s purpose helps guide the flow of words, the shaping of those words, and the location where the words are shared. When you take time to understand your unique purpose as an author then you’ll be positioned to make the most of the words you create.

When I started writing, I know I wanted to tell stories as I saw them. The first manuscript I submitted to a major Christian agent at the time didn’t get the response I had hoped to receive. Instead of, “Hey, sign this publishing contract and cash this giant check,” I got the suggestion that I had a good story but the agent wanted to know if I could rewrite the story from a different perspective.

Because I wrote my stories as I saw them, the suspense I had sent in was written from a first-person perspective. Apparently, that wasn’t the way that genre was supposed to be written.

I took the suggestion as law and set about rewriting the story, which ended up changing as the perspective changed. 

Que the Hunger Games.

Others can derail your author's purpose

Not long after I invested in changing how I told my story, the way stories were told was turned upside down. First-person stories became the rage. 

I was ahead of my time but didn’t trust my voice because I wasn’t yet grounded firmly in who I was as a writer. Had I started my writing journey on a firm foundation then I would have been more confident in my voice. It would have been more difficult for someone to sway me to or fro.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to listen to the directions and guidance of those who have gone before or those who have strong roots in the industry. The trick lies in listening and learning from a place of solid footing in your unique place and purpose so you can be bold in living your success

Know Your Purpose vs Knowing Your Author’s Purpose

Your purpose and your author’s purpose will be two different things – although they will be aligned. Your purpose will have an effect on your author’s purpose. And your author’s purpose can begin to run over your unique purpose if you haven’t become rooted in it.

You are unique in all the world and you were placed here in this moment and time on purpose and for a purpose. Your purpose is unique to you and you alone. Only you can fill your purpose.

Discovering purpose means unlocking your design that blends personality, experience, education, gifts, talents, and more. Your purpose weaves together these elements into a you formula that fuels your heartseed (the unique seed planted in you in the beginning of time). 

The more you know your heartseed and the better you understand your formula, the more grounded you become in your purpose design. Once you know your purpose design, you can align that with your author’s purpose – the why of your words. 

What Is Author’s Purpose?

To put it simply, the author’s purpose is the reason for the words. Why are you writing? You need to have a specific reason driving the words you are crafting. It’s also important to have a reader’s intent in mind while you are crafting them.

A confused author’s purpose will distract from the art of the words. It will also lead your readers astray. No matter how finely crafted the prose or expertly designed the format, a confused purpose confuses the reader. Confused readers rarely return. 

The author’s purpose helps you clearly define the why of your words.

What Are Examples of Author’s Purpose?

The 3 main types of author’s purpose are persuasion, information, and entertainment. Ideally, you find a way to fuse all three into your writing, but ultimately there will be one main element that leads the charge. 

1. Persuade

You want to convince the reader of something. There is a series of videos available on Youtube about Lucas the Spider. The author of the videos wrote them with the idea of persuading people to see that spiders aren’t so bad (and in some situations, they can be downright cute). Of course, most of the people who really need to learn about the cuteness of spiders aren’t about to watch anything with the word spiders in the title, but for those who do watch, Lucas can be very persuading.

2. Inform

Provide enlightenment or understanding about a real topic or concern. An information piece educates on a subject. Several years ago, Rush Limbaugh penned some middle-grade books focused on history. Although the stories were fiction, they were written to inform a new generation about the history of the country.

 3. Entertain

Entertain and hold the attention of readers (or watchers). The better you hold the attention the better your entertainment factor. The more you entertain, the more readers hang out with your content or share your content. The witty dialogue will not only keep you coming back for more but will hold you through the breaks. 

Knowing your main author’s purpose will help you drive the words in the right direction but you can get even more focused on the purpose behind your words.

Expanded Author’s Purpose

  • Explain – help the readers understand why it is what it is.
  • Describe – help the reader visualize or experience something.
  • Engage – drive involvement.
  • Satirical – show the absurd by being absurd.
  • Answer – provide the desired information.

The direction you want to lead your readers will be determined by the purpose you’ve given to your words. Purpose will also dictate the method of delivery. And it all starts with your purpose for writing in the first place.

What I Learned As I Unlocked my Author’s Purpose

Or should I say, how I embraced my unique voice in purpose as a writer.

In the beginning, I wrote the stories as I saw them in my head. Someone from a position of authority told me I was wrong, so I changed how I wrote and it changed what I wrote.

As I continued to try to find my footing, I used stories to illustrate points I wanted to make. I read about another guy that did this a lot so I figured it was a better way to share. Someone read one of my stories, took it completely out of context, and from then on I started thinking about how people MIGHT take my stories out of context. It changed how I wrote and changed what I wrote.

Listening to others shifted me from my unique voice into a place of their expectations or demands. It never ends well for the words.

  1. My voice matters. It matters because there is nobody else that has my voice and it matters because I have something to say. Guess what. Your voice matters as well.
  2. Someone likes my voice. There are people out there that no only like what I have to say and the way that I say it but they expectantly wait for the words to arrive. You have fans, too.
  3. Someone doesn’t like my voice. What I have to say and how I say it is not for everyone. But I’m not writing for the ones that don’t like it. You can’t write for the “don’t like it” folks either.
  4. My words have power (and purpose). Every word spoken or written has power. Be invested in using the power for good.
  5. Someone else has written the point I’m trying to make (or some version of the story I’m telling), but nobody has ever written it in my voice. There is nothing new under the sun expect for the unique voice you have to offer. Embrace your voice.

The more I began to learn from my writing experiences, the more confident (and comfortable) I became in my voice. The stronger my voice, the bolder my words and the easier to embrace the author’s purpose for each of my projects.

define your author's purpose

Do you know your purpose? 

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