C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Writers: Beware of the Investment Gap

If you ask a proud native Portuguese speaker if their language is very different from Spanish, they might say, “Of course, Portuguese is very different! How dare you?” Some slapping and spitting might be involved.

In practice, there are many similarities and Spanish people can often understand Portuguese speakers quite well.

Welcome to the Investment Gap. 

The Investment Gap can hurt you.

An in-depth article on book design will tell you that page 1 has to start on the right. Deeper dives into old-school book design say a blank page should precede each new section. That would look wrong to many eyes but you’ll also notice a ton of praise gets thrown toward these detail-oriented articles — praise of other designers and writers, anyway.

Here’s the thing: most readers don’t even notice, let alone care. That’s not a Knowledge Gap. That’s the Investment Gap. 

We all want our work to appear professional and present our words well. Of course, we do. However, beware of minority opinions from experts who go too deep into what normies don’t give a shit about. Lean hard on your beta reading team. Enthusiastic readers look for story strength. Our fellow writers (and some tyrannical editors) can be too rigid in their opinions about what’s “right.”

Notice I just used quotes around the word “right” without actually quoting anyone? There’s that pesky Investment Gap again. To most people, those quotation marks connote irony. However, I had a professor who said that was a sin punishable by  fingernail extraction. “I wonder what they think that means?” he asked with a sneer. Well, doofus, everybody knows what that means. It’s so common, people make air quotes with their fingers in conversation to let you know they’re being ironic. Try to keep up.

Dr. Laura pretended to be mystified by the word spiritual. That’s weird because rest of us know what spiritual means: you don’t go to church, enjoy chai tea after yoga and have a ravenous appetite for cat versus yarn videos on Facebook.

I used a colon for that short list of nonsense. My Grade 9 history teacher reserved colons for longer lists. Horrors! See? There’s the Investment Gap again. And screw you, Mr. Penny. Only nine items or more, my Irish ass.

What does the Investment Gap mean to you?

Do you want to break into omniscient at the end of a chapter to convey foreshadowing? If you can do it well, go ahead. Beware of blanket bans on writing techniques. Writers sometimes do that to other writers, mistaking personal preference or what they were taught with divine proclamations. Art is more flexible than that. Close the gap between real world practice and theory that doesn’t suit your artistic preferences. Clarity is necessary but straitjackets are for insane asylums.

Cormac McCarthy wrote The Road without quotation marks for dialogue. If that choice makes your skin crawl, your skin is on too tight. The Road is a solid book and I didn’t even notice all that solid text. “But not everyone is Cormac McCarthy!” Cormac McCarthy wasn’t always Cormac McCarthy.

“Don’t ever write in second person POV! That hasn’t been done well since Bright Lights, Big City!” Jay McInerney’s monster hit was published in 1984. That was 34 years ago. Let’s live a little, shall we? (BLBC only gets a 3.8 out of five on Goodreads. That suggests to me there are a lot of rigid writers reviewing books on GR.)

Book lovers don’t mind experimentation as long as it works.

In film, the expression is, “If it plays, it plays.” That’s a useful guideline. Readers are invested in plot and characters and, for them, it’s all about the execution. Stay real. Your thousand true fans won’t use the word participle in a review. Do not cater to outliers. It’s boring.

In a debate about cliffhangers among writers: “Hate ’em!” But it keeps most readers coming back for more. They’ve been trained to accept cliffhangers by many decades of television viewing. If the story grabbed them, they’ll be back to find out what happens next. I finished every season of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul with a mixture of elation and disappointment. Wow, great story! And what? How long do I have to wait for more? 

We tend to be more sensitive to the opinions coming from the loudest people in the room. You remember the mean reviews from people who aren’t your audience. Don’t take hater advice at face value. Don’t listen to a vocal minority at the expense of your story (or your marketing). A lot people find pop-ups on author sites annoying, for instance. That’s an honest reaction but make no mistake: pop-ups work.

A very few old-fashioned folk will get their orthopedic shoes in a twist over the difference between folk and folks. Calm down, Aunt Myrtle. Go back to your crossword and try to use the word dandle in casual conversation. Weirdo.

In short: invest in writing advice that works for you and your readers. Remember the 80/20 rule and put most of your energy where it counts. Don’t trust everything you hear, think or read. Including this.*

*Sentence fragment! Murderize him!**

**Murderize is not a word!***

***I know. (Blows out match.) Your car’s on fire.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is writing another apocalypse series as you read this. His author site has a pop-up to subscribe at AllThatChazz.com. Sorry about your car.


Filed under: publishing

4 Responses

  1. […] via Writers: Beware of the Investment Gap […]

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    “I’m willing to spend an extra ten dollars for an eBook to get good kerning on the title page,” said nobody ever.

  3. acflory says:

    You’ve been quiet too long! Nice rant. 🙂

  4. brentabell says:

    Reblogged this on Our Darkest Fears and commented:
    This made me think abut my work and how I view it. I’ve been going through my head and trying to get myself righted again. What do you think? What types of writing do you like and what makes you run away screaming from it?

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