Decoding the Writer’s Platform: Why

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 14, 2015

While working on the next post in this series, a client shared with me their logic model for a re-brand. Because they are a large organization, re-branding is a huge undertaking. It’s more of a refresh to update their look and clarify their internal and external brand experience. I manage a couple of their media projects so I get to see the evolution of their process.

Any time we build or revise what we have built, it takes clarity.

One area where a writer can be clear, is why you write. It’s a part of your branding and can lead to community engagement, credibility and be the reason your audience reads what you have to express.

My client shared a TEDtalk video that is one of the best explanations as to why “why” matters. Think of this as a sidebar to what we are discussing in this writer’s platform series. Take five minutes to better understand the power of why:

So how can you have an inspired writer’s platform? Begin with why you write. Not what you write or how, but why. Is that a part of your blog? Your bio? Is it part of what you share in your community? People are going to connect with why.

I’m intrigued by the application of this idea to a writer’s platform. I look at my own bio and read what and how. Why do I write? That is a question we all need to answer with clarity. What do you think?

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  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Wow. Wrapping my brain around that talk. Brilliant, really. But how do we do this? How do we, as writers, answer this?

    Most writers will say they love writing or they have to write… Okay, not most. Me. I will say that. Do I have a “real” why? O_o

    It’s a question I’ve asked my children about authors they are reading. Why did he or she write this book? Is the author trying to teach you something? Make you laugh? Scare you? What is the author’s purpose? But this is different. Or is it?

    • Charli Mills

      Me, too! Knowing why we write can help with our author branding, but I had thought of it as leading our “pitch.” I’m thinking this is why I struggle with my synopses — I focus on what. I’m rethinking why…

      I think we each do have a “real” why, but it’s o innate that it can be hard to define. For me, I write to understand, explore and find meaning. But that’s fairly common, too. However, it’s good place to start.

      And it’s completely natural for us to wonder why an author wrote this story. Again, it’s the power of literature to be a living thing between writers and readers. Shivers! 😀

  2. Let's CUT the Crap!

    I have seen this TedTalk a couple weeks ago, but in this instance will need to have a good think. Thanks for tying it into this post. *scratches head*

    • Charli Mills

      Retail marketing is light years ahead of publishing when it comes to analyzing “why” people buy. Of course, we want to know why people read. So…why seems a good starting point!

  3. AJ

    Well I don’t know. Crap. I am going to have to chew on this “why” for a bit. Such a good question and one I was not prepared for.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m intrigued and stumped by it all at once! I know why I wrote my first novel, but I’ve never connected that to the pitch for why someone would read it. Carrot Ranch is the result of why I write, but then I look at my bio and none of that is in it! Much for us all to chew on…one little word might make a big shift in how we present our writing platform.

  4. ChristineR

    OMGosh, Charli, thinking cap on. How can I articulate the ‘why’ into words? I’ve also been thinking of the ‘why’ for my characters’ actions. They all must have a why. [Sigh] And now, so must I. Thanks for the thought-provoking video.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, good! I got everyone thinking because I watched the video and thought about how to apply it to platform and got excited. It’s not fully gelled, but my wheels are turning! And yes — why do character’s do what they do? I think if we can capture those answers we will have stronger platforms and even stories!

  5. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Once again you have the old grey matter whirring away. The Ted talk was persuasive and I tend to agree with what he said. I also agree with Sarah that this is probably something that as writers we need to think about. I have several reasons why I write. Some I consider noble others I do not. I guess the overriding why is having the passion and wanting to infuse an audience with that passion. But then I think you would have to break down passion even further. I will think on.

    • Charli Mills

      True. I think breaking it down further is the challenge. Yet it could make a huge difference in how we present our books to those we think would read it. We are all thinking now! 🙂

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Yes I think that it could be quite a different presentation if we go from that angle. I think the why shows the passion. I’m working on it.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m working on it, too! 🙂

  6. Norah

    Thanks Charli. It is an interesting thought, tying this ‘business’ concept into writing. I have heard a similar talk, his words sounded very familiar, but not this particular one. I thought answering the why would have been easy for you. I’m surprised you say you don’t have it in your bio. I haven’t checked though. I will check my own to see if it is there. It maybe isn’t at the moment, but I will have to make sure it is on my website. Thanks for giving me more to think about. And act one. Great guidance.

    • Charli Mills

      Carrot Ranch itself is the answer to why I write, but my bio doesn’t reflect my inner journey, only the external one. I think retail business has long explored the psychology behind sales and it can have some worthwhile nuggets. It struck me that I struggle to explain “what” my novel is about so I’m thinking through why I wrote it.

      • Norah

        That’s very interesting, struggling with the what. Is this the one I saw you and tallypendragon having a ‘blurb’ discussion about on Facebook. I didn’t chime in. I thought my contribution may be too late.

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, that’s what I’m struggling with, Norah. I did make changes and I wrote out a full synopsis which I’m distributing, but it doesn’t feel compelling enough, yet. And I haven’t received any interest…

  7. Annecdotist

    I’m really not sure about this one, and wondering if there might be cultural differences here between the Brits and the Americans especially. When I worked in health care, I think we did have a sense of WHY but we weren’t in competition with other organisations to do so. When commercial organisations – like Apple – talk about their WHY, as if there is a noble purpose beyond making money for their shareholders, I’m extremely suspicious.
    When publishing a novel, or any other kind of book, there is an expectation for writers to come up with an entertaining answer to the question of why did you write this? I recognise the need for this, even as I’m struggling with it for my own novel. And that’s only one small part of the writer’s platform. Overall, many of us write to please ourselves, but is that what the reader wants? I don’t think anyone wants to read the work of a narcissist. Perhaps we need to know why for ourselves but not necessarily to share with readers?
    So I just checked on my about page
    and found “Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself” – is that suspiciously close to why?
    Thanks for raising this interesting area – I wonder where it will take us.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Anne, your bio came top of mind to me when I thought of this. And I can certainly understand your suspicion because American retail hires psychologists and anthropologists to dig into why people buy and of course, how to manipulate that. I’m not into the manipulation at all and I’m a huge skeptic when it comes to most marketing campaigns. I even taught my kids to dismantle advertising to see the manipulation. Yet, I’m completely fascinated with the reasons behind shopper habits and understanding that can help connect the right readers to the books they would enjoy. I’m already thinking why might help me write a better book synopsis and add some depth to my own bio. Thanks for your feedback!

      • Annecdotist

        No, I don’t see you as manipulative at all, and I agree that the psychology behind marketing (such as the well-documented evidence that we are influenced by how the product is shelved even when we think we are buying on the basis of quality or whatever) is fascinating. And it’s important for us to understand it in order to use it in what we consider to be ethical ways.
        Interestingly, I attended a workshop at the weekend on authors and the media – I still haven’t got my head round what I learnt from it but it’s coming a bit closer to your why. I also remembered that WHY was one of the questions in the writing process blog hop in which I tagged you!
        and also interesting that you thought about my bio even before I did – am clearly resisting something here!

      • Charli Mills

        When you digest your weekend course, you’ll have to share a bit more. I’m curious about the media links. Reviews and that sort of media or social media? Ah…the unearthed blog hop I forgot…if it goes by long enough it feels as if I did respond. 😉

  8. mj6969

    This was absolutely fascinating. 5 minutes and my head is screwed up – not unusual – but at least it has me thinking – and wondering – and considering – and thinking – seriously? I have to take myself seriously? LOL – yeah, I do take myself seriously – but nothing more beyond “just write” at the moment – which means I need to consider it from a broader, yet more intimate perspective.

    Great post 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I believe writers evolve, that we never stop because we do something that innately pushes us to develop greater awareness of others, ourselves and the world we interact in. And “why” makes us look at that process which can be muddy, but it can help us gain clarity.

      • mj6969

        I couldn’t agree with you more – except – laughing at myself – it’s the simple moments – like “why” that suddenly trip you up and take you – meaning me – outside of my process and think – Huh? What?

        Crazy how we can be so oblivious to the smallest of perhaps the most important detail(s) – yet so filled with observation and awareness enough to create – well – hopefully – not wanting to sound egotistical.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, that is certainly a “writer’s irony” — we can answer the greater whys of the world, but why we write? 🙂

  9. Sacha Black

    Sorry been away a couple weeks – but looks like I came back at just the right time with a wonderful post in this series – that TED talk was A.M.A.Z.E. My eyes sort of bugged out when he did the apple explanation. I was like ‘Sh*t – man got a point!’ ha! I know why I write, because I have to, its a need – like breathing, and if I dont, my brain ends up full and busy, and needs emptying of all the characters chitter chatter. I write because I adore stories, and magical worlds and love… did I just admit that? I do love love, and every story I write will have some element of love in it. Anne’s point is interesting, I hadnt really considered the narcissism behind apples why. Perhaps its true, but I like the thought that the why IS important, and it gives me hope. Why is our purpose. Its the reason the hero fights on in a story – why – to save the human race of course!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I agree that why is our purpose, and I know it can help define our branding. But like you, I feel so passionate for the broad sense of collecting stories and crafting words, how to explain why? But I’m beginning to see that as we narrow our stories (to a book) understanding why might help craft reasons for others to read. In the meantime — carry on and save the human race one word at a time!

      • Sacha Black

        Haha save the human race one word at a time! Love that. Maybe that’s your why…. You’re saving us all ????. On a serious note tho you are totally right of course purpose gives branding ???? and meaning to it too.

      • Charli Mills

        We’re all in this story together! ;-D

  10. Sherri

    My head is buzzing too after watching the video and reading all the great comments and your replies here…what a great point you raise here Charli. Why indeed do we write? This is the intrinsic question I torment myself with so many times as I keep pressing on with the first draft of my memoir as I ask myself: Why am I writing this in the first place? What is the purpose of it? I come back to the same answer over and over: I feel a burning passion to tell this particular story (as you know) and have done for over 30 years. So passion drives me, but then I think, ‘Who will actually read it?” So then I come back to the ‘Why’? Why do I think anyone will read it, in fact why am I writing at all, other than for passion and the love of writing and the life-blood need to write and keep telling those stories, to share with others and make a difference, somehow? But what difference? I suppose that is tied up in the ‘Why’ isn’t it? Do I come back to my reason for writing once again as in my About page – weaving stories from the past, to make sense of the present and give hope for the future? But that isn’t in my bio. As with most here, I am going to have to have a long think about this. So much food for thought and a lot of chewing must be had. Thanks for sharing another wonderfully provoking post 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I hope you share with us your recent discovery of why! Keep on writing into that passion. What moves you will move others and therein lies your meaning.

      • Sherri

        Ahh Charli, you are so kind and a wonderful encourager and yes, I will share 🙂


  1. Why do you do what you do? | Twisted Writers - […] last question had me going back mentally in time to a post that Charli did a few weeks (months?)…
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