Former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.
I am committed and devoted to the idea of helping myself and other writers improve the quality of self-published content. This topic offers many opportunities to learn more about all the aspects, agony, and awesomeness that self-publishing can be as I write to help myself and other writers. Because magic happens when quality content meets quality self-publishing. So. If this article is about quality in terms of ideas and writing and self-publishing, why are you seeing, below, a picture of a cute ladybug? Because. Just as gardeners welcome ladybugs—since these tiny little red beetles devour the most problematic of plant pests—as self-publishers, we have to be gardeners of our writing. We must not shun, and we must welcome editing, rethinking, and rewriting, and we have to be eager and ready to devour any and all writing pests or problems that could possibly take down the quality of our content.
There are many who believe all self-published content is of poor quality. Do you think this is true? Do I think this is true? Of course not. But self-publishing is frowned upon by many people in both academic and non-academic settings. Even though times and ideas about self-publishing are changing (as many self-published authors’ books are becoming best sellers), there are still a lot of people who believe self-published writers are people who simply cannot write well enough or produce content that is of high enough quality to be published any other way. They feel that if it were not for self-publishing, those of us who self-publish would not be published at all. Of course, this not true. Lots of self-published content is of the highest quality, and there are many traditionally published authors who also self-publish some of their content. Yet, all self-published content still suffers from the myth/belief that if it’s self-published, it cannot be of high or even good quality.
Quality Writing and Self-Publishing Content
Writing this article, I could have presented topics on anything related to writing and self-publishing, but I chose to place the focus here on the quality of ideas and content for self-publishing. In this article, I will be encouraging new self-publishing novel writers/authors to take “quality” seriously when preparing ideas and content intended for self-publishing. By focusing on and committing to quality, you will become a continuous learner. And, by continuing to learn as you write and as you grow into becoming the best self-publishing writer that you can be, your work will always stand out, in a good way.
I will be using this and future articles to become part of the driving force that I believe is needed to help new self-publishing novelists change at least some “naysayer” beliefs about all self-published content. It might always be true that some self-published content will always be of poor quality, but that does not and should not mean all self-published content will always be of poor quality.
Quality Ideas and Self-Publishing Content
As a self-publishing writer/author, where do you begin in your quest for creating quality content? For me the answer is to always begin at the beginning. That means I begin at the idea stage, since the heart and soul of any form of written communication is the idea upon which it is based. Ideas are what will drive creation and/or development of theme/subject, as well as development of content.
So. How do you know when you have a good idea? There are probably millions of things I could mention or talk about here and each thing would probably be something that might help you determine whether or not you have a good idea or a good topic to write about. But, even though there might be millions of things to consider when it comes to what constitutes a good idea, for me, there are about six or maybe seven “most important things” I need to consider. Following are five main considerations I explore as I am developing an idea or writing a story. Before deciding whether I want to spend my precious and rare “spare time” fleshing out a particular idea, what I decide to write about must be able to “pass” the test of the considerations included below:
1. The idea must be about something important to me. The idea that serves as the foundation of my topic/subject must be something important to me. Something I can see myself spending hours, days, weeks, months, or even years—if that what it takes, doing the research and the writing that is needed to begin and to complete the writing project. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a fiction or non-fiction book, an article, or something else. The idea must make me want to spend time thinking about it, working with it, fleshing it out, and turning it into something I believe prospective readers will want to read.
2. Writing on a particular idea must offer an opportunity for me to learn more about other topics that interest me. I am a lifelong, continuous learner. I am also a "generalist." That means I'm interested in just about everything (not everything, but many, many things). Therefore, for me, an idea is good if it will give me the chance to learn about one primary thing that I’m interested in while also helping me learn about other things I want to know about while I attempt to solve some type of problem that will help/benefit a lot of people. Take this article, for instance. I decided that the topic of quality in self-publishing is so important to me—as a new self-publishing writer and author, that I can see myself spending whatever amount of time it takes to do what I can to increase my own knowledge while helping other self-publishing writers and authors. I decided that I will provide, through this post, some of my personal experiences, as well as help, advice, and useful information I've found on other sites. It is my ultimate goal to provide inspiration for self-publishing writers and authors who intend to hold their content to higher standards when it comes to considerations about quality.
3. Before choosing an idea, I must feel that the idea is one I am uniquely qualified to write about. It must resonate with me, for many different reasons. Maybe it is an idea that is linked to some experience or adventure from my life, or from the life of someone I know. Or, it might be a topic I learned about that struck a chord somewhere deep in my soul. The bottom line is, I must feel “close” to the idea, and it must “speak to me.” It must say to me that I have to write about it, for one or more reasons. For example, I am now beginning the writing of Yellow, the seventh novel in a collection I call “Color of Love.” I chose this name for the series/collection because I decided that each romantic and dramatic story in the ten-book collection would be color-coded in the title of each book. First of all, I am a black woman and I am always in awe of the many beautiful and rich skin colors and tones associated with the magnificent and resplendent African diaspora. And, since many of my stories take a look at black people and how they see skin color privileges, problems, and stigmas realized in their everyday lives (as they exists in the U.S. and abroad), I wanted to place emphasis on color by giving each and every one of these ten books a very "colorful" title.
4. It is important for me to understand why I feel I'm the best person to write about a particular idea. When I am writing a book or a novel, in order to be inspired to write every day as I work to start and to finish my project, I must feel I have something to say about the idea I've chosen. Either I have a unique perspective on the topic, or I know I will be able to write about the topic in a way that no one else has written about it. That is what enables me to turn an idea that might be old, into something new.
5. The primary idea for my novel or short story must be one that I can express, clearly, in just one sentence. The primary idea for a novel or short story is also called a "theme." No, I don't think you'll have to go back to eleventh-grade English class to learn to appreciate and to utilize the idea of "theme." Why? Because you want to write a novel (or a short story), and that novel or short story must be about something. And, the something that your story is about? That is your story's theme.
Think about it. Is the essence of your story about the upside or the downside of loneliness? The destruction of beauty? The dangers of arrogance? The evils of racism? The heartbreak of betrayal? Motherhood? Fatherhood? Or something else? All of these are themes, and all, as the theme of a novel or short story, could be clearly expressed in just one sentence. Why is it good to be able to express what your story is about in just one sentence? The answer is focus. You will need to be able to focus on a main theme in order to present a compelling argument about theme through the telling of your story. With that said, once I know what my story is about, it becomes much easier for me to find ways my characters and my plot will connect to my theme, in both subtle and direct ways.
Other ideas I allow to become the foundation of my books, or grist for my muses, are inspired by physical and personal challenges that I have either faced in my life, or that are faced by people I know or have read about. I've found that I do not have to have had personal experience with something that is important to me in order to write about it, but I do have to feel I can “identify” with the primary aspects of the idea. If I cannot, then the idea simply will not resonate with me. And if an idea does not resonate with me, I feel I am not uniquely qualified to write about it.
Other Considerations for Self-Publishing Content and Quality
When I feel inspired to write about a particular topic or theme, I look for opportunities to tell other people about it, so that I can learn from their reactions. If speaking face to face (online or in person), I like to see if a person's eyes will light up, or if their face will perk up, after they hear my idea, or after I share with them the title of my book. As I said earlier, I am now working on completing Yellow (this is a shortened version of the actual title), the seventh of my ten-book "Color of Love" collection of romantic/dramatic novels. Without revealing too much of my idea, I will say that the theme of this novel has to do with darkness and lightness, and what it can mean in the world we live in.
Although I feel inspired and uniquely qualified to write the novel I'm writing, I am always interested to know what other people might think about the theme I've chosen. So, just several days ago, I told a friend about my interest in the theme, and I also gave him a brief summary of my story. The reaction I got from him, to say the least, made me feel I'd chosen a great topic to write about that would be of interest to the audience I'd chosen for my book, and before we finished our conversation, he was offering me ideas about different avenues I might choose to explore as I continue to write the novel. And, when he asked me a question about my story that I did not know how to answer, I saw that as my chance to improve what might be a weak area in my plot. Still, his excitement after hearing about my novel inspired me. It fueled my imagination with new ideas that I am going to include in Yellow, through my plot and through the use of different characters.
Another important consideration for me, as I work to improve the quality of novels or short stories that I write and self-publish, is that I am always on the lookout for flaws or problems with the idea I've chosen. Why? So that I can make improvements. Whether it is flaws in reasoning, confusing details, a poorly or inadequately developed character, plot pacing, sentence or story structure, anything that might be interfering with the clarity of the novel or short story I'm working on, well, I want to spot it, and I want to fix it. Once I am able to find and to fix what I see as big problems, I find it becomes easier for me to stop procrastinating, to spot other, smaller problem, and to continue meeting my daily writing goals. Spotting and fixing problems with my story energizes and excites me, and that makes me eager to get back to crafting and creating my story.
Later, after I have finished my first draft, as I am being a good "gardening ladybug" about editing and about revising what I have written, I usually discover new hope for my work. As I am preparing to work on the second draft, and as I am conducting what I believe to be the final hours of research on a particular self-publishing project, I feel invigorated. All this work leaves me feeling pumped up, enlightened, and ready to tackle the rest of my project. When I am sure I have learned something I did not already know, after I have found and fixed problems with plot and characters and story structure (and this all comes before I finish the first draft), well, that's when I feel ... when I know ... I have become a better writer.
Be sure to read many of the other articles I've published on this site for more on the top of self-publishing quality, novel writing, and other writing topics that I hope will help you become the best writer and self-publishing author/gardener that you can be. As always, I’m interested in your ideas about writing, self-publishing, and about how you know if/when you have a good idea. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section underneath this post.
Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on September 21, 2020:
Hi FlourishAnyway! So good to see and to hear from you. Thanks so much for your visit and your comments. I think you are right! Most writers just write, and, while many, or maybe even most, might go through the same thought processes I go through, they might not think about them (if that makes sense!), consciously. They might not think about or articulate these things. Still, after going through all my thought processes, I think, ultimately, I follow the thinking of George Orwell who said we write because of "the desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity."
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 21, 2020:
Your list seems to make sense. Many writer are not able to articulate these things. They don’t know why they write about the things that they do. They just do.
Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on September 11, 2020:
Thank you Hertha David, for reading and for your comment. Glad you enjoyed reading it--I really enjoyed writing it.
Hertha David from Windhoek, Namibia on September 11, 2020:
Great article ❤️