This is the latest article from Neil on writing. If you want to create compelling, unputdownable writing. And feel fulfilled by the process, read on below:
If you want to create a book that captures the interest and attention of an audience that is larger than, well, just you, these next two points are crucial.
#2. Assume nobody cares.
When you sit down to write, assume nobody cares about you.
They don’t care about anything you have to say.
They don’t care about your thoughts, problems, emotions, characters, or great ideas.
Your challenge is to assume–to count on–the complete apathy of the reader. And from there, make them interested. From the very first sentence.
The purpose of the first sentence is to transport the reader to the next.
The purpose of the first paragraph is to take the reader to the next.
The purpose of the first chapter is to inspire the reader to the next.
The purpose of the first book is to make the reader wildly enthusiastic for the next.
In the current age of endless readily available media competing for your reader’s mind, you cannot afford to bore them.
If you write from this perspective, and manage to make your subject interesting to someone who may have no interest in the topic, then whatever you write is more than likely to cross the tipping point. Because it’s intrinsically interesting.
It helps to read the first page or two aloud to others, and see if it engages them or not. And if afterward, they make you promise up and down to give them the next pages when they’re complete, you’ve done your job.
Note that “interesting” may mean different things for different books: It could be…
…a story they are hooked on
…ideas that make light bulbs go off in their mind
…characters that are fascinating or enjoyable
…a style of writing that is intrinsically beautiful
…or anything else that leaves the reader wanting more.
#3. Don’t follow an audience. Lead them.
If you’re writing to a following, some experts will tell you to find out what your audience wants and give it to them.
You all probably know by now how I feel about this: Catering to an audience’s taste or to popular trends is a trap.
To paraphrase Joseph Campbell again: The wasteland is living in terms of how things were done before, instead of innovative thinking.
Don’t follow your followers or the public. Inspire them to follow you—wherever you’re going.
All your friends, colleagues, and followers know is what you’ve done before, not what you’re going to do next. So, serving their expectations keeps you chained to the past, and will stifle innovation and your true self.
Don’t be afraid to leave some people behind, or polarize them. As an artist friend of mine once said: If everyone likes what you’re doing, you’re probably not doing anything interesting.
A polarized audience is often a sign of great, interesting work that’s saying something new.
So the big idea behind tip #3 is this: Be fearless. Confidently write what you want to express with no thought of whether it’s acceptable or not to others.
And if this scares you, remember that we are just talking about the writing process right now. At this stage, no one is going to read it but you. So go for it.
And does tip #3 contradict #2?
Only to overthinkers.
Because we all know that being predictable is boring.
Next blog post, we’ll cover what might be the most uncomfortable point in the entire list…