Monthly Archives: August 2015

Case Study – The New Writer TRAP That Awaits The Unaware

As readers, we consume a lot of average content.

And sometimes average is perfectly fine, it fills thirty blank minutes of staring at a television or 90-plus minutes of munching popcorn in a dark theater with perfectly reasonable satisfaction, an ROI of our time that doesn’t feel like a ripoff.

Then again, if that’s the case our expectations may not have been all that high in the first place.  Turn on an episode of Broke Girls and you probably know exactly what you’re getting.

It can be like a good hamburger or a cold beer in that regard.  The worst you ever had was… just fine.

But where novels are concerned…

… as new writers we need to understand the nature of the line between average and professionally-competitive, as well as the expectations of established writers versus the rest of us.

It boils down to this: as a new writer, if you turn in an “average” manuscript, the overwhelming odds are you won’t publish it.  Or if you slap it up on Amazon as a self-published author, the odds are just as overwhelming that you will be underwhelmed by the results.

Then again, if your name is John Green or David Baldacci or Nelson Demille, things are quite different.  Because in the real world there will always be a certain percentage of people who consider a story average, even if critics and readers have elevated it to the level of a bestseller. Over a third of the people reviewing The Davinci Code (which sold over 80 million hardcovers) rated it three stars or fewer, which is as average as average gets.

If the goal is to be better than average, then you better understand what that really means.

Today’s case study is a case in point.  

No doubt this author thought his story idea exceeded average. We all do, at first. There’s no explanation for that… and therein resides the trap.

There isn’t a thing wrong with this story idea… other than the observation that there is far too little about it that is anything other than average. The bar it reaches for is somewhere between eye level and the top of one’s head, you don’t even need to reach to get there.

Of course, the author believed this — and thus, this particular level — was just fine.  Ready for submission fine.  Which is the trap we fall into as new authors: our gauge of average versus excellent versus professional isn’t yet ready for the real world of publishing.

This case study is from my Quick Hit Concept/Premise analysis service, which takes a snapshot of your story’s chances in the open market.  Agents, editors and readers look at concept and premise in the very first nanosecond of consideration, and their attention dwells there long enough to make a decision about your story.  A verdict.  Or at least, create context and expectation for everything that follows.

Get this wrong — or in this case, fail to get it right enough – and your chances are dead in the water before the agent or editor will read to the end of your query letter.

Read this case study — The Need for More — and see what average, the complete lack of anything exciting or stimulating, looks like.

Then consider your own story at the concept/premise level, and ask yourself how exciting those agents and editors — who have seen thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of stories in your genre, making them damn hard to surprise and impress — will think.

Is your story concept really fresh and exciting and compelling?

This is something you need to know before you write it, and certainly before you submit it.

Click here to read what I have dubbed: The Need for More.

Feel free to chip in your thoughts, that’s the least we can do for this writer, who was considerate and brave enough to share this with us, no doubt in the hope that someone will help unlock the potential in this idea, an idea he thought was strong enough to compete.


If you’d like your story concept and premise evaluated, click HERE for more information.  It’s only 49 bucks (reading this case study is more than a preview of what you get, it’s the entire Questionnaire itself), and it can save you a year of drafting the wrong story… or at least a story that’s simply not right enough yet.


Filed under Case studies