Watered down writing

By: Al Kalar

I once reviewed a manuscript by a fellow who has some very good thoughts on our energy problem. But it’s boooooring!

What happened?

He let his “backers” water it down to pabulum. It seems they have an agenda that doesn’t fit with what he discovered in his research, so they kept after him to “tone it down”. When he finished, it still didn’t fit all of their pre-conceived notions, so they dropped him and his project.

I suggested that he go back and re-write the thing the way he really sees it. Then I suggested he go one step further and be downright controversial.

You see, a well-reasoned and scholarly study on a subject may go over as a white paper in a scientific trade publication, but it won’t sell to the people who buy most of the books. However, if his opening paragraph is “in your face”, it will create controversy and the “buzz” needed to get noticed. It will also make better reading. This is especially important if you don’t have a “household name”.

Love you or hate you, you’ll at least get noticed. Wrestler “Georgeous George” Brent and boxer Cassius Clay (later Mohammed Ali) both understood this and made millions with the technique.

Al Gore was able to sell “An Inconvenient Truth” in spite of the fact that he has no scientific credentials, because everyone knows who he is. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

So, if you want to write on a subject and you think you have something to say that’s important, remember two things:

  1. don’t create a “me too” book, and
  2. be controversial or outrageous enough to be noticed.

I’m not saying you should stray from the truth as you see it, but don’t turn your ideas into pabulum. No one wants to eat verbal pabulum; they want red meat.

Will controversy work or will it turn off readers?


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