Sunday, 4 December 2011

A great big experiment

Today, a volcano erupted in our backyard.

Nothing too big and frightening. It was actually one of those little science experiment volcanoes, the ones where you mix vinegar and bicarb in a bottle and then watch it fizz out and all around. It was pretty fun. The kids thought it was fantastic (and given I'm just a big kid, I guess that counts for me too).

What basically happened was a chemical reaction. Two ingredients, neither particularly volatile, were mixed together and all of a sudden - foom!

Thinking about this little experiment put me in mind of the business of writing and selling books (I know - what doesn't?). I'd love to figure out how to get the same sort of reaction for my writing. I wish I could find a way to combine some simple marketing ideas in such a way that they produce a massive explosion of sales, pushing my books way up into the heights of the Amazon rankings.

Oh well - at least it sounds like a pretty good metaphor. And as regular readers will have figured out by now, there's nothing I like better than a good metaphor. I could go on about how this experiment is a bit like writing in general - how a story is made up of a bunch of different ingredients which combine together to form something exciting and new.

Because, let's face it, writing is really just one big experiment. We never quite know what we're doing as we write. And once it's done, we never know how others will respond to it. That's both the beauty and frustration of it.

Till next time, hope all your writing experiments produce the reaction you want, and don't explode in your face.


  1. When I first started reading this I thought you were going to talk about a Diet Coke and Mentos eruption. Something for next weekend, eh? The thing about these kinds of experiments is that they are predictable so they’re not really experiments, not in that sense. Marketing, on the other hand, is definitely not an exact science. All you have to do is look at the great films that slipped through the cracks (e.g. Blade Runner) only to be discovered later. The thing is, marketing is like journalism; there was a time we believed what we read but nowadays we’re all sceptics. I listen to writers talk online and they’re like the old prospectors, mostly living in a dream world, getting all excited over a single sale or two. Ironically the most effective marketing tool out there is the least expensive—word of mouth—so you might think that would level the playing field but as most of us only know a handful of people who all know each other it can take a while for the news to spiral out our immediate circle. But dream on, Macduff. Dreaming’s free too.

  2. Hey Jim,

    Great comments as always.

    Though I have to say, if I'm conducting a science experiment, no matter how simple, there's always going to be some unpredictability with the outcome.

    Luckily, we didn't blow up the house.

    All the best.