Recently, I read The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. And even though it’s a tool hijacked by Amway recruiters, it has some solid principles of good business strategies that I’ve always personally stood by. But what about the writing itself? Not so great. While it’s a world I don’t plan on entering, it got me to think about writing, and how if you want to use writing as a business (aka, make money with it) some of the ideas translate well to quality writing.
They have 5 laws of “Stratospheric Success”, which I’ll draw from to make “The Laws of Stratospheric Novel Writing”(No aliens required). To keep it simple, I’ll only use three. And like many laws, you break it, you buy it.
As easy as this sounds, it’s one a lot of people have a hard time following. As a youngling, I was one of them. I remember writing stories growing up and being obsessed with the Flesch reading ease test and the grading level it gave in Word. But since this isn’t actual people, but a program (and an old one at the time), it’s not like it could actually read or interpret my words. So how do they do it? With MATH!
206.835 – (1.015 x Average words per sentence) – (84.6 x Average syllables per word) = Readability Ease
And for grade level,
0.39 x Average words per sentence +11.8 x Average syllables per word -15.59
So obvious, how could I miss it? 206.835, of course! Using MATH to figure out if words make sense! I wonder if the reverse is true…?
∫0x = Wow! It is!
And trying to adjust my writing to increase my grade level to make me feel smarter did no favors to the writing. Phrases like “As soon as he had a grand enough inferno initiated” for starting a campfire doesn’t do much good for he, the fire, or the reader.
This is often the case when authors try to write to please someone else. And whether that someone else is your friends, publishers, or an imaginary audience, changing to try to fit someone else’s ideals usually means lower quality for everyone. And if you don’t believe me, agent Chip MacGregor touched up on this in a recent blog post.
2. Take constructive criticism
This is mostly for trying to get your work published, since if you’re writing for fun or for yourself, who cares what anyone else says? Giant pizza-cats planning to turn the universe into a litter box from within the sun’s core? Sure.
But for query letters, competitions, and the like, if you want someone to look at it and they have an idea to improve it, it could be for the best. Of course, some people will find problems in everything, even Jack Black’s best song in the world. So when that happens, look back at number 1; are they trying to change the story to something that’s no longer yours? You might be better off ignoring it. But if they genuinely want to help you make your story better, keep the advice in mind.
While it’s true that a solid way to get better at your own writing is to read, there’s another reason for that. You want people to read your work, right? Other people want the same! Wow! What a coincidence!
Reading other authors helps in a lot of ways. It helps them feel valued. Or get a bigger paycheck. But it also helps you. You can get positive inspiration–things that you’ll want to add to your own writing–or negative inspiration–things you definitely don’t want in your own writing–that will improve your writing either way. Plus it can give your Netflix queue a break.