Today I am writing a bit of theory on quality in writing. Just my opinion mixed with some theory picked up over the years.
Writing a novel can be viewed from a number of perspectives, but I like to believe that quality is intrinsic to the entire process. Whether writing for your own pleasure or writing for the pleasure of others, an author wants to achieve something that meets their goals. Quality has had a few definitions, such as “fitness for use” from a customer perspective and “Conformance to requirements” from the producer’s perspective. For the purpose of this post, let’s simply define quality as the degree to which the author’s goals are met.
Some years ago my friend Lee Styger came up with the idea of the Quality Triangle. Here’s a link to one of the papers he wrote on the subject (this one has the extended triangle in it) and below is a diagram he used in his paper on the subject:
Figure 1: Quality Triangle – copyright Lee Styger
He went on to say that a product producer or service provider should:
- Begin by defining the customer first
- Develop operational cost down strategies
- Develop customer value up strategies
- Balance risk and reward between cost reduction and customer value strategies
- Continue (always) the basic analysis
So what is a novelist to take away from this? I will apply these to my own venture in order to explore the question.
In my case I have identified my audience as other readers of science fiction and fantasy. But let’s face it, they can be a pretty diverse bunch. So what niche in this market am I aiming at?
I have never been a believer in simplistic stories. That’s not to say that I cannot enjoy them, but when I think of stories I imagine a huge complex panorama of people and events leading to some critical moment. I guess this goes back to my first degree and studying the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire. Hence my story was complex from the very beginning.
Now I am having second thoughts. Is this what the bulk of my customers want? Should this entire story be in one book or should it be across several? If I take any of the elements out of the story arc then I feel that it will be a lesser work. So I am pondering retaining the elements but breaking the story up into chunks (each their own book) that follow one or two particular people for a particular event. Each story will be self-contained, albeit they will all be linked and have over-lapping moments. And I think that this might suit the greater mass of my potential readership.
Operational costs down
Splitting my existing writing into independent books will cost me in effort and initial expenditure.
My writing tool is Scrivener, so that should accommodate such a split with minimal effort there. It will come down to my writing skills in splitting up the story.
OK – assuming I follow this path then I will have to construct a new cover picture to insert in the cover of the first book. That means picking a dramatic scene to visualise (that’s my style). I always like to think along the old pulp fiction lines. Then spending a week or three on creating the picture.
If I do this then I will have to come up with a different name for the first novel – something misleading but descriptive nonetheless. Then I will have to go back to my designer. I might save this design bit for the very end, when the first novel is ready. This way I won’t be paying for change after change while my thoughts juggle too and fro.
Customer value up
I think that by reducing the number of perspectives per novel that each one will be easier to follow and enjoy. I will also try to make each novel self contained while still addressing an overall story arc.
Balance risk and reward between cost reduction and customer value strategies
So this strategy will definitely raise my costs and that is frustrating because many self-published novels sink into oblivion and so I could be throwing money away on a pipe dream. That is my risk. But if my belief is correct and my strategy makes my books more attractive to my niche market then I may recover the costs. Let’s face it, I am doing this whole social media thing (Blog / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn) that is supposed to be a grand approach.
Continue (always) the basic analysis
I guess that as this is my first novel then I need to continuously learn through the process and prepare for the next novel regardless of the outcome. Succeed or fail I will follow this novel with a post implementation review to identify lessons learnt.
So here I am, doing my best to think about writing as a quality venture. Should you? If you hope to sell you novel, then I see no reason why you should not approach it thus because it focuses upon what your customer wants and your won management of costs. Seems sensible to me.