As a writer, I enjoy seeing that enthusiasm. It excites me and actually gets me motivated to do my own writing. As an editor and writing consultant, however, I always preface this discussion on innovation with the need to remember the story. Then after that big, broad statement, I offer three questions to consider:
- Are you really being innovative? A lot of the "innovation" writers work to develop in their stories has already been done. Usually, when a writer proposes some avant-garde structuring or development for their story, I point them toward authors that have done something similar...if not the exact same. Although others might see it differently, for me, writers looking to be "different" need to realize that it's not so much about being different as it is about writing the story that only YOU could write--that's the true innovative part.
- Is the story about your "brilliance" or the actual story? When I read your story, I should not see the innovation first and the story second. There have been times when I have read a story and could actually feel the author tapping my shoulder, shouting, "Did you see that? Look at me, I'm being poetic, deep, and complex here!" I often see something similar to this when writers have a major lesson for readers to learn from having read a story and they hit the reader over the head with overly dramatic scenes that SCREAM the lesson to the reader. In the end, for both cases, I remember more about the heavy-handedness of the author than I do about the characters and the actual story. Writers should work to check their egos at the beginning of an empty page and let the characters and story develop as they need to.
- What does your story need to be its best? This is the central question all writers should consider when writing their story. Readers care about well-developed characters that struggle and battle to obtain whatever it is they are trying to get in the story. They want to be entertained, they want to escape, they want to laugh, cry, think, feel. Now, this doesn't mean you can't be innovative or try new things, but it does mean those things have to be relevant to the story. It means you have to remember the story. Innovation is great. A great story is even better. When we look at the canvas of our story, we should be looking to discern how best to honor that story first. When a story is good, readers will see the effort put into its development without the need to be heavy with innovation.