Being a writer is a lot like being someone with a product to sell. I know that sounds like selling out, and I can hear you thinking to yourself, “I am an artist, I’m not selling anything”. But that’s not true, you are selling your STORY no matter how niche, literary or mainstream your stories are.
Selling is just another word for communication, you have an idea and you want to transmit it to another person. You formulate a plan of action as to how you are going to transmit this information in the most entertaining and human way possible. And you execute the plan with awesome precision and talent. Simple, right?
In practice it’s a little more complicated than that. How do you decide what your story should say, and how do you figure out how to say it?
Creative people unwittingly obey a law of marketing which states communication should be Authentic, Brave/Bold and Congruent/Consistent, or ABC. Now this sounds very dry and technical but let me break it down for you.
You can write a story about anything but you choose certain styles, genres, settings etc. Why do you choose those things? Are they genres you are familiar with and have passion for? Are you a dyed in the wool Young Adult author because you love Young Adult books? Are you a spy novelist because you LOVE spy novels? Have you read 30 or 40 books in this genre for your own pleasure and know it inside out? OR are you just thinking you kinda wanna be a writer and spy or YA novels are doing really well at the moment and hey how hard can it be? You see the difference there is authenticity. You can’t fake authenticity BY DEFINITION. The story must be yours to tell. You must have passion for the subject matter and have something to say or the result will be dry, lifeless and just plain not very good.
Brave or Bold
Are you going out on a limb? Is your faith in your grasp of the genre so complete that you know someone can relate to what your saying? Do you even care if anyone else likes what you are doing but you are going to do it anyway because you are so damn fired up about it? Fortune favours the bold and with good reason, the bold take RISKS. People who are sure of their own mind, know what they want and take risks are successful. People who kinda sorta know what they want, but but play it safe are not successful. How can you get anywhere unless you know where you want to go? People who don’t know what they want are effectively getting into a cab and saying “drive” without any directions. It’s expensive and a waste of time. Bravery is eye catching and compelling and forces you to do things nobody else would do.
Congruency and Consistency
This is almost a given if you have the first two things, but you have to police it. Enforce consistency in all areas of your writing, both in execution and ideas. If you start out writing a sci-fi novel but decide halfway that you’d like it to be more of a police prcedural, then you have just lost any potential editors, readers and mostly yourself. You have to have vision but it has to be a consistent vision. Know where you are going and make sure that you get there. Edit all the inconsistency of tone and direction out of your work. Make it all match. But more than that make sure your aims and ideas FIT. This is a difficult concept, but in the planning stages or your story did it all feel somehow “right”. Did it seem like the ideas were coming from nowhere? The reason is you were tapping into a deep part of your subconscious which stores all your ideas and links those ideas together. The more ideas you pull from your subconscious that are linked, the more you get which fit with the overall feel of the story. It’s like visiting a library and pulling out a few books on science and the librarian says “oh you like science huh? Well check these out” and pulls a load you didn’t even know about. Ideas stick together. If you don’t have a clear vision of what your story means then why would anyone else? If you story seems to be pulling in different directions you need to remove anything which is going in the wrong direction. Before you can do that you need to know what the right direction is.
Make sure you try these ideas out in your work and you’ll see they will help you become a more vibrant, focused and genuine writer. I have many techniques to help you get answers to these questions and I’ll share these in future blogs and teaching materials, but for now practice being authentic, brave and consistent and that alone will make you better than the vast majority of good writers who want to be great.
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That’s it, many thanks and see you next time.