A wise man once said: “Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” — Jim Rohn
It’s amazing how true that is!
I’ve been reading a lot of books in the last few years–to scope out the competition, to do book reviews on my blog, and, of course, because I love to read.
There is one trend I have noticed in all of my reading: the greatest authors aren’t necessarily the most unique.
Let me explain:
There are some writers who do whatever they can to make their writing stand out as unique. They use odd punctuation, they make up their own words, or they adopt a writing style that is out of the norm. For example, I rejected a book for review because the punctuation was totally wrong. The author said this:
“As I write in a first person noir voice I follow the KM Weiland/Dwight Swain school of communication over linguistics, however I know that’s not for everyone and completely understand that my work is not to your taste. So while I reject the suggestions based on my own stylistic choice I accept the spirit in which they are offered fully and with sincere gratitude.”
I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I know the basics of correct punctuation and grammar. So when this author said this, all I read was “I want to do my own thing, and I’m right no matter what you say.”
So this person is committed to being unique by writing in a style that stands out from the “norm”–the accepted writing standards used by the average novelist today. Well, unless he is the next Charles Bukowski or Lewis Carroll, I have a feeling his writing is going to be about as successful as an inflatable dart board in a tornado.
Then I read over the works of authors that I love–Michael Sullivan, Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Scott Lynch. Their work is all 100% grammatically correct, with no aberrations or deviations from what is considered “common writing”. The structure of their sentences looks as normal and humdrum as it gets.
But it’s the content of the story that draws you in. It’s the words used to make those ordinary sentences. It’s the deeper issues written in the absolutely normal way.
The human eye naturally detects defects, and those defects become the focus of our attention. I have found that books written in a “unique” style often have me focused on the style itself rather than on what is being said. I can’t focus on the content because of the copy.
As a writer, your goal is to make your structure, grammar, punctuation, and layout as ORDINARY as possible. That’s the only way that people are going to be able to get past how you are saying it in order to focus on what you are trying to say. Doing the “ordinary”–and doing it well–is the key to your success. It is the only way that you (and your writing) will truly become extraordinary.