OK, so let’s say that you have been carefully following this series on writing an Author Prospectus and have thoroughly done every preceding step in earlier articles.
Most writers who reach this point are writing in volume. They are either blazing through their latest novel, or churning out short story after short story, and achieving a fair degree of acceptances — mainly because they now have a much better idea of what it is that they do best and who their audiences are.
What do they run into at this point?
They can generate volume, but it isn’t always of the best quality. That might not matter to any great degree if they are getting published regularly — not every piece that is accepted has to be a masterpiece, after all. But if we are aiming for a viable career in terms of income, we should address this.
There are two broad reasons why this may be occurring:
1. Blind spots.
The writer is able to create fiction more or less at will, and happily — but the dips in quality reflect areas of life which he or she can’t see clearly.
For example, let’s say a writer pours out short stories to do with romantic comedy — tales of benighted couples ending up in comic situations which exacerbate their differences in a humorous way, though everything works out OK in the end. This writer can pen one of these tales in a day and more often than not it gets accepted and published — a pretty ideal situation, you might think. But out of every five stories written, say, one bombs out. The writer can’t quite see why that particular story was rejected when it was very similar to others which get accepted.
But perhaps the plot line was too predictable, or the characters too shallow, or the style too tame — something which the writer can’t pinpoint for themselves, but which lets them down on occasion. It's usually not a point of craft, though, but a blind spot about human nature or life which means that some of the stories they create just don't ring quite 'true' for readers.
The remedy for this can be an interesting course of action in itself. I call it the ‘Archetype Review’ and it involves looking at one’s personal life rather than one’s writing.
It’s possible to scan one’s own life in terms of the Seven Archetypes and spot which zone or area of living is holding one back from full success. I’ll write more about that soon, but for now rest assured that such a review is designed to reveal and deal with ‘blind spots’ in a person’s writing which can cause quality of output to suffer. After such a procedure, writers can feel suddenly and extraordinarily revitalised about their writing (and other aspects of their lives) because their output as writers and their experiences as human beings are, after all, intimately related.
2. Lack of Knowledge.
By far the most common reason, though, for quality to suffer at this stage is that the writer simply doesn’t know fully what he or she is doing when crafting a piece of fiction.
It turns out, as you can read in my book How Stories Really Work, that all successful fiction uses a series of fundamental building blocks when constructing a narrative. Master authors use these throughout the ages, knowingly or unknowingly, and it is possible to break down any story using these fundamentals so that its operations are no longer a mystery. Correspondingly, it’s possible to learn these simple basics quite easily, so that a piece of fiction of any length, kind or form may be better understood and then reshaped to work more effectively for audiences.
These skills, as I say, can be easily learned. Writers new to these ideas may require help in spotting exactly how they apply precisely to a particular piece of work, which may need external input — but the principles are so clear and obvious that most writers pick up very quickly what they need to do to improve a story, and why the improvement works.
Here’s the thing though: if you try and learn these principles prior to all the other steps in this Author Prospectus procedure, you’ll be operating over the top of a great deal of confusion and uncertainty — with the result that your understanding of the principles will be hindered and your attempt to improve ineffective. Only when you have gradually raised your comprehension of what you are doing and for whom you are doing it, by fully accomplishing the earlier exercises, will this knowledge click into place and prove powerful.
At this stage an expert in the principles contained in How Stories Really Work can be useful for observing what the writer doesn't know that he or she needs to know.
Once you get through this stage, you will have reached a pinnacle: you will be able to generate works of fiction in volume which maintain a high level of quality. Keep that up, and you will achieve viability: your income as a writer will have reached sufficient levels for you to be able to truthfully call yourself a professional writer.
And that’s what this Author Prospectus is all about.