I want to describe to you a sequence which may help you to reduce to simplicities a set of concepts which is laced with unnecessary complexities. In doing so, I think you may begin to understand what you are engaged in better, and how all the parts of it fit together.
1. The Writer’s Heart
Writers are often asked ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ Of course it drives them crazy, as the truth is that no one really knows. A common assumption is that stories come from the writer’s ‘imagination’, but that’s no answer really as it begs the questions ‘What exactly is the imagination? And where does it get its ideas from?’ So, rather than getting into deep psychological waters, let’s just say that stories come from a writer’s heart, which might be his or her imagination or it might be a combination of observations and impulses to communicate. Suffice it to say, stories appear and move from their point of origin to the next stage.
2. The Writer’s Mind
Here the images and ideas, characters and plots bubbling up from the heart emerge into the consciousness of the writer and get shaped somehow into sequences and scenes which make some kind of sense, using language which others can understand. Sometimes this is a quick and painless process; often it is convoluted and lengthy, as the shape of the story and its details change, ebbing and flowing according to unknown mechanics. At some point, they make it to the next step.
3. Page or screen
Having carved out some kind of story, the writer commits it to a permanent or semi-permanent form and it appears on paper, or, more commonly these days, on a screen. There is often quite a bit of back and forth between this step and the prior step — drafts are changed, manuscripts altered. Then finally, the thing is completed to the point where it is submitted.
In this step, either an independent body — a publisher — or the writer decides that the thing has reached a form in which it can be mass produced, either physically or electronically. So what began a few stages ago as a set of invisible ideas or images gets to the point where it can physically be made available to everyone.
5. Viewing venue
The work then gets shipped to or is displayed in places where it can be seen by others. This is a stage at which many confusions and misunderstandings can enter in, as it’s easy to get the idea that the book needs to be placed ‘everywhere’, i.e. in every possible place, all the time, so that it can progress. The science of marketing — as opposed to the ‘art’ of marketing, which is quite a different thing — responds to this by saying something counter-intuitive at first and seemingly hard for many to grasp: no, don’t try to get the book into every possible venue — concentrate on getting it into the right venues. You wouldn’t book a heavy metal band for a pensioners’ rest home (not normally, anyway), so don’t get the placement of books wrong either. Place them correctly in front of the right audiences — either online or in a bookshop — and they can (and will) flow on to the next stage.
6. The Reader’s Mind
Correctly placed books using well-designed covers and blurbs and following accurate marketing campaigns gather the attention of the right readers. In this way, what emerged from the writer’s heart some time previously has a chance to cross the bridge of the reader’s mind all the way to his or her heart.
7. The Reader’s Heart
Emotional impact, a lasting impression, an impulse to contribute to and participate in the story themselves - these are the things at the end of the line, the target that writers are hoping to strike when they write fiction. If a tale gets this far, chances are it will go further, reaching not just one heart but many.
This simplistic sequence contains much, if not most, of the wisdom which anyone trying to make a successful career as a writer needs to grasp. This is what we will be looking at in some detail — and with many revelations of both a practical and a theoretical nature — in the near future.