First off, I'd like to thank Donald Maass for asking this question recently at the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction Writing Conference. Second off, here we go ...
You've just finished your latest novel when your hard drive crashes. Oddly, the back-up's failed as well. A fire consumes the only printed version you had. Your critique partners threw their copies out and, sadly, your mother never read it. In other words, your new masterpiece is completely gone. But wait, your one friend has the only remaining copy. They'll give it to you so long as you answer this question:
Why is this novel important? Why does it matter?
So what's your answer? I'll tell you mine in a little while.
Gary . . .