I don’t know if this is a general thing or whether it’s just me, but people seem to be “wired” for novelty. New things (or old things we personally haven’t seen or read yet) interest and excite us in a way that familiar things don’t. As a writer or an artist, it’s important to be aware of this – because it can be very easy to take advantage of.
Yes, everyone has their favourite film, their favourite novel, their favourite painting, their favourite song etc… which they can happily revisit as many times as they want to. But, there’s something inherently fascinating about going out into the internet or going shopping and hoping to find something even better.
So, how can we – as writers and/or artists- take advantage of this in order to both expand and keep your audience. Well, here are three basic ways to do this:
1) Little And Often: If someone is interested in your work, then they are probably going to want to see new examples of it as often as possible. So, especially if you’re drawn to creating shorter projects, it can be a good idea to release smaller or shorter things more often than to release longer things much less often.
Think of it like this, television shows and webcomics often have more devoted fans than film series do (obviously, there are exceptions to this rule). If a TV show is shown every week or a webcomic is updated three times a week, then there is more of an incentive for people to keep returning to it regularly.
Yes, there may be less content in a 45 minute episode of a TV show or a three-panel webcomic than there is in a feature-length film or a full-length graphic novel. But, because new parts of it appear far more often, it’s a lot easier for fans to make looking at it a regular part of their lives.
2) Previews and extracts: Ok, so you’re writing a 400-page novel. This isn’t something that you can complete in a week, a month or even six months. So, how can you put some new content out there quickly in order to make people interested in your work?
Simple. Release a short extract from your novel every once in a while. Yes, you shouldn’t choose a part of your novel that gives away too much of the plot and you should probably save the very best parts of your novel for the finished product. But, if there’s a good part of your novel that is fairly short and reasonably self-contained, then it might be worth thinking about releasing it as an extract or a preview on your website or blog.
Obviously, if you’re planning to publish it professionally (and have already received an advance), then you should probably ask the permission of your publishers first. But, releasing previews of your upcoming work can increase your audience by providing them with a small amount of something new, with the promise of much more new stuff at a later point in time.
Likewise, if you’re working on a large painting which will take several months to complete, then think about releasing things like unused preliminary sketches or small details from the unfinished painting itself. Save the best bits for the finished product, but don’t be afraid to show off a few good parts of the thing that you’re working on.
3) You don’t have to reinvent the wheel: Just because something is new and interesting doesn’t mean that it has to be totally different from everything that has come before it. Yes, if you’ve somehow got a completely original idea – then use it. But, don’t let the lack of a completely original ideas put you off from creating new content that your audience will enjoy.
As I’m sure countless people have said before, there’s no such thing as a totally original idea. Everything has been done before. Nothing is new under the sun.
But, although there may not be many (or any) completely new things in the world, why do we still feel fascinated when we see a film or a read a book that we haven’t seen or read before?
Well, it all comes down to interpretation and presentation. Every creative person interprets and presents whichever ideas they use in their own unique way.
For example, thousands of sci-fi writers might all write stories about the Earth being invaded by aliens, but each of these stories will be interesting because the characters will be different, the exact details of the plot will be slightly different, the settings will be different, the narrative voice in each story will be slightly different, the aliens will be slightly different etc…
At the end of the day, all that “new” content really means is “content which your audience hasn’t seen before”. As long as it’s different in some ways from the other things out there (eg: it isn’t plaigarised), then it’s new.
Sorry that this article was so basic, but I hope it was useful 🙂