June 28, 2008

Adding Value

By J Sherer

Last post I asked all the readers to consider the question: why would anyone want to read my work? As a business must consider how to add value to its customers, so too does the writer. As a business chooses a core strategy, so too can the writer.

Let’s dig a little deeper. First, take the concept of added value. What options exist for adding value? Here are a few (I’d love to hear your thoughts as well):
  • Provide entertainment
  • Provoke thought
  • Relate common experiences or emotions
  • Develop an understanding or teach
  • Inspire (or maybe depress)
  • Offer social commentary
  • Express creativity
There’s a variety of ways to add value. Those are just a few. To compare, businesses add value through: excellent customer service, cutting-edge products, reliable service, etc. Either way you look at it, the writer/business is providing a product that is consumed by a given audience.

Many works of art include several levels of value-added material. The writer might provide entertainment while simultaneously provoking thought and offering social commentary. The key is to strategically choose your main focus. Don’t choose too many, because you will dilute your purpose. Let’s use a popular writer as an example.

Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and Congo, writes first and foremost to entertain, but he also weaves in scientific facts and things he has learned about his subject. His strategy? Primarily to entertain, but in a way that heightens the readers knowledge.

When defining your core strategy, answer two questions:
  1. How can my writing add value to my readers?
  2. How do I want my readers to respond to my work?
These are two simple questions with millions of possibilities. Start at a very high level. Prioritize your answers. Maybe you want to provoke a new thought process with your readers, but is that more important than entertaining them? Don’t get too detailed just yet, that will come soon enough.

In the next post I’ll walk through this exercise in detail to show you how it works at a functional level. In the meantime, answer questions one and two (and if you feel up to it, post your answers in a comment).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting thing about Michael Crichton lately is that he seems to have swapped the priority of his two strategies mentioned in the post (provide entertainment and impart knowledge). His last two books have been a bit more like 500-page essays with a story woven in to illustrate a point. They're still interesting reading and you can tell he cares a lot about the subject, but the stories themselves aren't nearly on the same level as his earlier ones such as Jurassic Park or Sphere.

This seems to be a perfect example of how the priority you give your core strategies can affect the tone of your finished work.