“God was satisfied with his own work, and that is fatal.” – Sam Butler
Most people know Stephen King as the author of such horror classics as “Carrie” and “Misery.” In fact, hes also a fineliterary writer, having penned some very moving and well-crafted stories, such as “Stand by Me.”
Recently, he came out with a book about writing itself, titled “On Writing.” Its an excellent read, strongly recommended for the literary buff in you.
But for our purposes here, it is also useful
because Kings explanation of how he writes his novels can be used as a blueprint for anybody who does creative work, including entrepreneurs who drum up new products and marketers who invent new marketing schemes.
King divides his work into three phases:
1. Door Closed
This is the first draft. King locks himself away from the world and tolerates as little distraction as possible. He doesnt want anything to get in his way — including domestic interruptions, outside interests, financial concerns, or (and most importantly, perhaps) criticism. In order to preserve the original creative thought that sparked the books creation, he works quickly, resisting any temptation to go off on a tangent.
2. Door Opened
Once the first draft is completed, King shares it with a small number of trusted readers — usually four or five. Sometimes six. (It is not an accident that these are the optimum numbers for effective meetings. More on that in the future.) In selecting “trustworthy” readers, King looks for people who recognize good writing — and bad writing — when they see it. When they all agree that a particular passage is especially bad, he fixes it. When they all like a passage, he is bolstered. When they display split feelings/opinions, he decides for himself if he is going to make any changes.
3. Go Outside
After hes corrected the first draft, he sets it aside for at least six weeks to give himself some distance from it. Then he lets his door open wide to other comments and criticisms — from folks in the publishing world and also from those who may have a different sense of what good writing is than he does. This exposure gives him the chance to fix any major weaknesses that might still remain and to fix all the smaller (grammatical and other) problems.
I like the simplicity of Kings system. And the idea of gradually exposing a concept to outside critics makes a lot of sense to me. I can see this process working very well for new business ideas, new marketing campaigns, and new product/service ideas.
You start with the spark of an idea and take it as far as you can by yourself. You make notes. You ask questions. You draw up outlines. Sometimes, this process can be completed in a few hours. More often, it lasts weeks. If you find it taking any longer than that, consider yourself stalled and either (1) drop it or (2) take it to the next step, unfinished.
The next step is probably going to be some kind of brainstorming session — by phone or in person — with a limited number of trustworthy people. Since you are talking about a business idea and not a literary manuscript, youll want to get the cooperation of people who understand your business and your market. This session needs to be as open as possible — to generate as many ideas as possible — and you need to be open to change.
If the session works as it should, you will emerge with a good plan that includes both a viable marketing strategy and an economic model that makes sense.
Now, put it aside for a little while. Not as long as Stephen King does. But maybe a week or so to let it “settle.” Then pick it up and look at it again. Does it still make sense? Are you still excited about it? If so, its time to move forward.
Call in your troops and show them the battle plan. Listen to comments but dont let them deter you. Now is the time for small adjustments, not rethinking big ideas. Ready. Fire. Aim.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]