Friday, July 13, 2007

Getting Big, Cold, and Creative

In a recent article by Seth Godin, titled Small Before Big, he discusses scalability in terms of business growth. His main point is that bigger isn't always better when it comes to a business model. Indeed, if you work on being better first, then bigger should come more easily - after the fact.

I mention this, not only because I have a strong appreciation for Seth's business sense, but also because much of his advice can also be applied to other areas of interest. In today's post, we'll talk about how this applies to writing, using Seth's words, and applying them to my friend, and writer, John Smolens.

I met John when I was a student at Northern Michigan University. He was teaching a few writing workshops. One of the things I liked most about his teaching style was that he shared his works in progress with the rest of the workshop. This approach created a closeness , showing that, just because he was a publishing writer, he still saw the value of workshops in improving writing. One semester, he brought in a short story he was writing; the working title was "Cold".

I was immediately impressed. True to the workshop, however, John solicited as much advice as he could. People spoke about what character attributes they liked and when certain actions just didn't seem quite right to them. John was a pro. He scribbled copious notes, and thanked his class for their help.

Months later, John hosted a reading. At the reading, he finally unveiled "Cold". The reading went very well. I mean, it went well in that kind of way that leaves the whole room speechless. Comparing the pre-workshop version to the live reading, I noticed several changes. And I must admit, the second version was better.

To Seth's point, John went out of his way to make his story as good as it could be. This led to the next step: getting bigger. John, building off the success of the story, continued with it, turning it into a novel. To my knowledge, Cold: A Novel, is John's most well-received book. I'm sure it was a result of the care put into making it great before making it as visible as possible.

When you are working on a story, solicit input from others you trust. After this step - and only when you feel your work is as good as it can be - then consider moving to the next step of increasing the scope and scale of your work. The Internet makes it easier to reach a bigger audience, but if your product isn't as good as it can be, you will be shorting yourself ... and your readers.

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