I hope I do not sound like I am emphasizing some characteristically non-existent facets about true novelists but think about all of the greats: Benjamin Franklin, William Durant, and of course: William Shakespeare. Did you know that in those times, when “Romeo & Juliet” was written by the famous playwright, the language was nowhere near as obscure as it is in the text? Well, to an extent it may have, but most people do not know that Shakespeare used what was called the “iambic pentameter” during each and every section of dialogue. What this means is that, it was more poetry than an actual representation of language. In other words, those watching the play in the 16th century were not whispering to one another: “O, forever more, this play hath sent me high, Galore!” He made up a brand-new syntax, and wrote using it…
To summarize, great writers do not ever worry about structure. They are seduced by the idea of inducing emotion in the reader, and that is why so many famous writers commit suicide: this kind of writing, even today, is above a 6th grade reading level, which is the average of the common and everyday American citizen. Yes, you heard right: 50 percent of adults cannot read a book written higher than a sixth, seventh (maybe eighth) grade reading level. To add to that, 45 million Americans are formally considered illiterate, reading below a 5th grade level. That is one reason why a lot of great books never sell: because they reach the eyes and ears of individuals who do not possess the proper equipment (yeah, let’s call it that…) to understand what you are even talking about.
This is not a bad thing.
Unrecognized & Proud
It means you are going to be an author unrecognized in his or her own time (and in the words of Phoebe from “Friends”: “Oh my God, he’s not even recognized in his own time! I would kill to not be recognized in my own time!”). Just choose your demographic wisely based on education level. You can be as great of a writer as you want to be, or perhaps are just born naturally versed in it. But being good at writing does not necessarily do justice to the act of reading. If you know how to write, that is just one part of the equation.
Is the topic you are writing about worth reading?
And if so, can you prove that before you write it? This is where I introduce the Lean Startup method. The Lean Method was alleged by Eric Ries in September of 2011 when he published what would become an otherworldly bestseller called “The Lean Startup.” The whole point of the Lean Method is to ask the customer what they would want to read, so rather than writing a book that no one will want, you will be able to structure the content of your book based on the initial feedback of “early adopters.”
Lean Startup Method
You start with the idea, and then build upon it with a very, very basic prototype called a “minimum viable product.” In this case, that would be in the form of an outline or a treatment for the book (and maybe a few sample chapters). Then, find around 10-20 people who you feel represent your assumed niche market (I know, I just said not to trust niche markets, but it is not solely useless during the Lean Method process) and discuss your idea for a book with them. Have a 10-point list of questions prepared, and then proceed to discuss for 15 minutes what the early adopter’s opinion is and what they would enjoy. Were they interested?
If not, what would they have enjoyed reading about?
Again, you just have a small segmentation of a book – just enough to pitch, and from there you take the early adopters’ opinions and write in iterations. Looking at my novel, “Port Risk,” if I had used the Lean Method I would have written just enough of a summary to explain the book, perhaps even having a few sample chapters written. I would be able to distinguish this as a book where the most likely individual who would read it is into drug culture, was around in the 1980s during the Cocaine Cowboys drug wars, enjoys a dark and twisted read, and/or is or was a fan of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” (again, as you can see, I used tone, keywords, and a person, place, or thing). This technique will save you a lot of headaches!
[Does the Lean Method seem like a good idea to you? Comment below!]