We all have books that have stayed with us long after we read the last page. Some of the books are heartbreaking, hilarious, or full of twists and turns that kept us on the edges of our seats until the very end. Many, however, have stuck with us because they inspired us, and likely continue to do so even today.
When we talk about inspiration, we’re not necessarily talking about a self-help book that inspires you to lose weight or end a relationship or change careers. It’s about a book that makes readers’ hearts soar. Books can inspire you to make big changes in your life, like the aforementioned weight loss, but they can also lead you to see the world in a different way.
When I read The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, I had never been to Vietnam before, nor had I ever thought of adding that particular country to my bucket list. However, her writing made the country sound mysterious and intoxicating, and within a few months I found myself sailing along Ha Long Bay on a junk boat, just like on the book cover. It was a transformative trip.
When I read One Day by David Nicholls, the line (spoiler alert!) “Then Emma dies, and everything that she thought or felt vanishes and is gone forever,” my philosophy of life changed. While I still believe in leaving a legacy in the form of the world hopefully being in a better place than when I arrived in it, I was inspired to live in the here and now, to live life to its fullest and to do the best I can with the gift that has been given to me.
Perhaps you were inspired by Atticus Finch’s worldview in To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers caused you to want to go out and help others less fortunate than you. And possibly you decided never to get married after reading Gone Girl. Or, very likely, a particular book inspired you to become a writer yourself (The Prince of Tides always remains a source of inspiration for me).
No matter the genre, it is the author’s responsibility is to entertain the reader. Some authors also educate. Some challenge. But the very best inspire. And that is what you as authors should endeavor to do – there is no better way to attract dedicated fans. Those fans will not only help you financially by buying your future books, but they will also carry on your legacy to their loved ones.
Every sentence you write doesn’t have to sing and every word choice does not need to be agonized over. While you should have a writing style all your own, it is important to think big picture about your book. What is the message or theme? Are you accurately expressing it? Does the world you’ve created feel authentic? Are your characters making their ways along their respective journeys?
If you are writing a memoir or a self-help book, it can’t just be about the hardships you’ve endured – the story needs to be written in a way that makes readers see that they, too, can make it through bad times.
You can never bank on how a particular reader will react to what you’ve written; you can only hope that your story will stay with them into the future. I always encourage authors to remember why they started writing in the first place – was it really to make money? Or was it to lose yourself (and your reader) under the spell of language? More than likely it was the latter, and that is what will help you inspire your readers, page after page.