Writing Mini-Lessons: The Rule of So What?
"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."
~ Robert Frost
Writing is a multi-faceted, complex process. It is not enough simply to begin writing to experience the process. Your writing must matter to you. The best writing helps you learn more about yourself, allowing you to mine the depths of your own life. That level of honesty and authenticity engages both the writer and the reader.
As you write, you must not only relate events and conversations, but also what the experience means to you, its importance in your life, the SO WHAT? at the center of the story. SO WHAT? is a shorthand phrase that helps you easily remember and employ the literary techniques of theme, purpose, motif, guiding principle, central idea, and motivation. The Rule of So What? is a great technique to know for first drafts, but it is also an important consideration in revision. Once your thoughts and ideas are down on paper, ask yourself, "Okay, so this and this and this occurred: SO WHAT? What’s the point?" If you don’t know, revise until you do, or save the piece for another day. Be diligent in employing The Rule of So What? in your writing.
The Rule of So What?
- Good writing in every genre answers the question SO WHAT? Good writing has a purpose, a point, a reason it was written.
- The good writer looks for and finds the meanings, the significances, the implications in the subject he or she has chosen.
- Sometimes the SO WHAT? is subtle and implicit. Sometimes it’s explicitly stated. But always a good reader finds something to think about because a good writer found something to think about.
- Robert Frost wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." If you don’t find the deep meanings in your life or your characters’ lives, your readers won’t find meanings in their own.
- A good writer often discovers the SO WHAT? through the thinking of the writing process. But even with hard thinking, some topics may not have a SO WHAT? These pieces can be abandoned or put on hold.