Friday, February 5, 2010

How to be Great 3

I meant to post this two days ago, but then things got quite busy and, well, you know how it is.

At any rate, today I'm going to show you Jim Collins' method for finding that golden concept, the one that is both simple and consistent. The one that can make a company (or a book) Great. He actually has a nifty diagram.

Truth is, I could leave it there. My interpretations of this diagram, and how it relates to writing is just my opinion. You may see it differently. That said, however, I'll tell you what struck me about this.

Disclaimer: I'm using this diagram to find a concept for a novel that could bring success, as in commercial success. Let it be said, loud and clear, that commercial success is NOT the only purpose, or the best purpose, or even my own personal purpose for writing. But I don't think I'm far off from thinking that it is a goal for many of us. And with that in mind, it can help to think about our writing from a commercial viewpoint. We good? Good. Moving on . . .

What are you passionate about?

This one's easy. When choosing what to write, it has to be something that we love. We shouldn't just write the vampire book because vampire books are in. Right? Right. Without our passion involved in the process, it won't go far. Passion! It's the easiest thing to focus on, and for most of us, our favorite thing to focus on.

What drives your economic engine?

Does this one seem in conflict with the first? I think some people would sneer at the idea of having your "economic engine" in mind when it comes to writing. I feel that way from time to time myself. However, if we are looking at writing as a business, meaning we want to sell our work, we have to have it in mind.

So in order to determine what drives one's economic engine when it comes to writing, I think we need to study the market. And I DON'T mean writing to trends. I mean knowing what kind of ideas are more commercially viable than others. Because let's face it, we all have a few ideas that we love, but deep down, we know they'd be a tough sell. Like my idea about the reincarnated young man who comes back in the womb of his lover. Yeah . . . I'm thinking that one would be a challenge.

Similarly, if you know your market, you know when an idea has good commercial potential. You can just tell. And if you feel that you don't have that skill, I think you should try to hone it.

What can you be the best in the world at?

This one is the hardest of all. I don't think I could be the best in the world at anything. So I'm sunk? Well, not quite. The way I interpreted this is knowing yourself and being realistic with your personal talents. I have this killer idea for a literary novel, but I KNOW that I don't have the skill to write it yet. It's simple as that.

I think finding your niche can be tough because we writers tend to either think we ROCK at everything or that we SUCK at everything. Sometimes we jump back and forth between the two. So obviously, it can help to have some outside opinions. Get some beta readers. Post some of your work online maybe. Try short stories in the genres you're considering. Overall, if you stay brutally realistic with yourself (remember the Stockdale Paradox?) it should be clear to you where your talent is.

I'm posting this diagram again, because I want to emphasize the point of this entire Hedgehog Concept. That golden idea is one that has overlaps of all three circles. We need to include our passions with what we know we can write best with what we know has commercial potential. And remember, you may decide to stay solidly in the Passion circle, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm just giving those of you that want to sell their stories one perspective for finding potential commercial success.

Because, let's face it, like it or not, publication is a business. Writing doesn't have to be, but publication is.

So, seeing as how this post is already quite long, I'm going to post again soon with my wrap-up/closing thoughts on Good to Great .


Tere Kirkland said...

This is a very thought provoking post. I feel like my work is somewhere in the blue area, o thanks for the reassurance!

Jessie Oliveros said...

You mean you write for commercial appeal? What kind of person are you? I mean, I only write for myself and that's it.

I am not sure the Giant Apocolypse would be economically viable, but you actually may have something with that very disturbing birthing-your-lover idea.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a really informative and interesting post. I'm bookmarking it so I can read through it again later. :)

Renee Collins said...

Tere-Good! I've gone through and analyzed my ideas to see where they fall in the diagram.

Jessie-It's true, I am a shameless sellout. ;)

Also, whaddaya mean my Giant Apocolypse idea won't sell?!?!?!

Shannon-Glad you like it! I can't take any credit, really. It's all Jim Collins. :)

Jill Wheeler said...

Ha! I'd like to read about the man reincarnated in the womb of his lover. Creeeepy.

Good thoughts! I definitely consider the commercial viability of ideas when picking what to write about.

giddymomof6 said...

This is such an awesome post!
Thank you! And I needed this today, you have no idea!


Candice said...

Why didn't I consider market trends before writing a Chick Lit, Superhero story with young twenty somethings. Seriously, I don't know if anyone will buy it because I didn't consider the genre/marketability problem. I just wrote the story. I needed this post one year ago. :) Live and learn.

Kasie West said...

So awesome. I love the diagram. I'm going to find that blue circle and write the world's best book. :) I love the reminder to write what we love. Sometimes I forget to do that.

Natalie said...

So interesting Renee. I think we need to remember that our ideas are unlimited. Just because we have one idea that we love but isn't salable, doesn't mean we can't think of something else that we'll love and will be super salable. We have to be willing to try new things. :)