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The Gifting Writer


By: Deborah Brewer

We sometimes hear of the gifted writer, but what might it mean to be a gifting one? The practice of writing is a gift to ourselves, as we are relieved by catharsis or swept up in the joy of creative flow. But when we write to publish, we also write for the benefit of others, for their entertainment or edification.

British author A. A. Milne wrote The Red House Mystery for his father and published it with the following dedication in 1922.

My dear Father,
Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.

Milne’s mystery, the only one he wrote, is considered a classic example of the genre and, as such, has been a gift to generations of readers and writers alike. His most famous work, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published in 1926.

That Perfect Gift

How can we ensure that our gifts suit their recipients? We may know what and why we write; do we know what and why our readers read? Agents have their wish lists. Readers have their genre expectations. But there are other considerations in making a story a good fit.

What do readers want from fiction? I read to vicariously experience emotion and problem-solving and to spend time with characters I can learn from and admire. I want great storytelling with fun protagonists, a puzzling mystery, and invisible grammar. Laura Yeager, in her Gotham Writers’ online Tool Box article, “What Fiction Readers Want,” lists: escape, laughs and wit, suspense, connection, and more.

Readers want to see themselves in stories and try life on for size. Much of what we get from fiction are the answers to What if I were in such a situation? How would I feel? What would I do? Would I survive? Would I be victorious? As a young teen, I could relate in some ways to the rich, white, thin, smart, able-bodied, American-born Nancy Drew. But it was the stories about the earnest, middle-class, and somewhat socially awkward Trixie Belden that won my heart. It seemed inevitable that Nancy would come out on top, but I needed to know if an earnest but awkward girl like Trixie could make it.

Times have changed since the 1930s and 1940s when the first stories in the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series were published. We now need new heroes to reflect a broad diversity of readers, showing them that they, too, can be victorious.

Presentation Matters

Not everyone is equally concerned with gift wrapping, but there’s something to be said for a giving attitude. Presenting a package with “I didn’t know what to get you, and I didn’t really have the time, so…” doesn’t set up a precious moment of social exchange for success. If we go to the bother of publishing our work, we should do it with generosity.

Follow these tips to prepare a gift any fiction reader would be thrilled to receive.

  • Hone your storytelling craft by taking a class, reading a craft book, trying a new writing technique, participating in a critique group, and reading stories like an editor.
  • Explore others’ points of view by getting to know people with various identities and perspectives or reading blogs, memoirs, and autobiographies. Memoirs are a wealth of firsthand insight into the lives of others. I’ve read about the struggles of caregiving for the chronically ill, a career in prostitution, working on a cruise ship, and more. Almost anything you’d want to write fiction about has already been discussed in a memoir.
  • Reader expectations are important to know. Each genre, Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, etc., has its own conventions that, even if not followed exactly, must be understood in order to give its readers a satisfying experience. Writing for children requires some knowledge of child development and age-appropriate vocabulary. You will find this information readily available online.
  • If you are planning to have your books recorded, study up on best practices for writing audiobook material. In a nutshell, you would do better to write Barbara said, “Thank you.” than “Thank you,” said Barbara, as it’s helpful for listeners to be able to visualize the character before they hear the character’s dialogue. Readers can take their time to absorb written text, but a listener is not only at the mercy of the narrator’s relentless pace but likely a little distracted by driving or exercising, as well.
  • Embrace the benefits of various edits such as developmental editing, line editing, beta reading, sensitivity reading, copy editing, and proofreading.

Happy gifting!


For Further Reading:

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne, 1922, on is a terrific, free online resource for public-domain books.


“What Fiction Readers Want,” by Laura Yeager, from Gotham Writers’ online Tool Box

Deborah Brewer, Headshot

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

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