I am teaching a class called Drama Writing this fall, and once again it will be a first for me. I will be teaching both stage writing and screenwriting in that class. Today I had the opportunity to read through the introduction of my textbook for stage writing. The author tells of a rejection slip that he received that included a sentence that has made a difference in his career as a writer. It read: “As good as your play is, we find nothing in it that compels us to produce it.” (Emphasis mine–and his)
Compel is a powerful word, one that writers should get used to. To me it conjured up several thoughts.
First, the odds are against writers, especially when they submit their project for publication by someone else. It’s not enough to be good, or even great. It has to stand out, head and shoulders above the competition. And believe me, there’s a lot of competition. And it has to compel the publisher to get the book or story out there into the hands of readers. Do you understand the word compel? Websters defines it as: “to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly.” In other words, you are taking the choice out of the publishers hands. The manuscript is not only good, it is so powerful that they have no choice but to publish it.
Second, as a writer, you need to be compelled to write it. It all goes back to the message. Do you have a message you feel compelled to share with the world? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
2 Corinthians 5: 13-14 says: “If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” God loves us, and because of that, we are compelled as Christians to love others. In this same way, because we share in the good news of salvation–the chance to live forever–we should be compelled to share that good news with others.
You don’t have to be a believing Christian to be a good writer; in fact, I wish more Christian writers wrote at the level of many of their non-believing colleagues. But being a Christian–someone whose life has been changed by the work of the Holy Spirit–gives us something significant to write about.
And that should be compelling enough.