Become a Better Writer in the Next 15 Seconds Without Missing Genre Rules
A strategy to improve your writing without compromising your art
When we start writing we’re wide-eyed and cat-tailed. We want to leave a special stamp on the world — to write like no writer’s written before. As we learn more about our craft, those early dreams get smashed a little. We find out our first ideas weren’t so much novel, but terrible.
Sometimes we stop writing.
We think there’s no room for us. The man must have control of the book market. There’s no way the world will notice our work the way we want to write it.
Well, there’s room for everyone.
In fact, the smaller your genre, the bigger the chance you’ll make a name for yourself. While it’s important to develop your own writing voice, you do need to remember why we write… and if we write commercially/publicly, we don’t write for ourselves.
We write for the reader.
So, here we’ve got a reader with these interests, and we’re on the other side with our own interests — some wild story about a rabbit, a toaster, and three aliens.
How do we end up with a story that stays true to ourselves (and our craft), but pleases the reader, simultaneously? How do we publish something we feel proud of while sticking to genre conventions enough that readers will buy it? How to we keep ourselves from selling-out?
There’s a 15-second fix. Keep reading for the answer.
The 15-second fix
Whether you’ve got a new idea with little more than a couple notes, or you’ve pits-deep in a manuscript, this little trick will improve your writing and help prove to yourself this story didn’t sell-out, even if your book/story/article meets the expectations of your genre.
Plant Easter eggs.
Easter eggs are gamer-speak for little hidden gems the game-maker hides inside the walls of a game. I am not a gamer, so I’m sure this explanation makes me sound like an old tool. Nonetheless, we’ll use these to make ourselves feel better about our commercial fiction.
Most of them have little purpose, but to make the die-hard fans even die-harder. Easter eggs are enhancements — little tidbits, that, if you miss them, they won’t harm the story. But if you find them they make you smile and appreciate the author/game designer even more.
While these game eggs are made for the player, as writers, we’ll use these eggs for ourselves.
If we want to write commercial fiction we can’t army-crawl too far under the fence of literature. With literature, there are fewer rules, little structure, and smaller audiences. This is the place writers go when they want to become the next Hemingway, Camus, or Burroughs.
Literature is pure art. Those who win become famous forever. But the stakes are high and 99% of these writers don’t win, save for tiny pockets of fans. I love literature. I’d prefer to read literature over most commercial fiction (I know, I’m a hypocrite). But if we want to be commercial writers, literature is the worst place to start (IMHO).
So, how do we appeal to our inner-artist, while placing our book in the more-structured world of commercial writing?
We Easter egg the hell out of our stories.
How I use eggs
I use Easter eggs for myself. My readers wouldn’t find 99% of them. I’ll use a birthday for an address. Maybe an anniversary for a section of a technical manual. Perhaps a cell number for an important day of the month.
A character name might represent someone important to me.
Something on the wall, an odd-painted truck, or a billboard for a fictitious mattress company all could have deep, personal meaning to me.
When I pepper the work with all these hidden secrets I feel like I’m writing a story layered atop the main story. I add these eggs for me. I don’t share them with readers often.
You can drop these eggs too.
I get a lot of email replies from clients who ask how they can possibly stick to their genre conventions without feeling like a dime-store hustler.
Easter eggs fill the void.
These tokens become your window into the art of literature, while stiff-arming your story withing the lanes of your genre. The framework of genre is not your enemy, but I do understand the wanderlust towards that next, great, famous novel you always wanted to write.
Go write that one too — just don’t show it to anyone.
The bunny will be good to you
Use the walls of genre convention to help you become a better writer. I know that inner-artist inside you will have a hissy-fit every time you try to conform to the Hero’s Journey.
But we love to read this stuff.
And your job is to write for your readers.
Keep that inner-artist in check and happy, while conforming to the tropes in your genre. You’ll sell a lot of books while keeping your little Picasso happy — simultaneously.
Drop lots of eggs.
Don’t tell anyone.
Every time you see that book on your shelf you’ll know they’re in there.
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Now is a better time to start a list than tomorrow.
If you build your tribe now, you’ll have a pre-built, rabid audience ready when you launch your next book (or re-launch your last books). This should be a list you own (instead of relying on social media or some other big-business platform). Tap the link below. Enroll in my Tribe 1K indie email masterclass. I’ll show you how to get your first 1,000 subscribers (and your next 1,000) without spending one hot nickel on ads.
We’re waiting for you.
August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make work that sells and how to sell more of that work once it’s created. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.