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Books That Have Timers (by design)

I’ve written three books that have what I call “timers” in the design. And by that I mean I intentionally wrote them before the public was ready to read them, with the expectation that someday they would be ready. That day seems to have arrived. Here’s why.

God’s Debris: Atheism is at an all-time high in the United States. People are looking for a new way to understand their reality that can include both God and science without conflict. I wrote this book in 2001. The book’s time is now. 

The Religion War: This book imagines a future in which a Caliphate is formed in the Middle East and the terrorist weapon of choice is small drones. ISIS is weaponizing small drones now. I wrote this book in 2004. I figured we would be in this position about now.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: If you are puzzled by the irrationality of humans, especially in an election year, this book can help sort it out. I introduce the concept of humans as Moist Robots, a first step to understanding The Persuasion Filter that accurately predicted Trump’s win more than a year before it happened.

To better understand the idea of a timer, notice how reviews for How to Fail have gone from very good to spectacular in three years. The big idea I introduce in the book, about using systems instead of goals, has seeped into the public consciousness and now you see it all over the place. (Usually without attribution.) You’re also seeing the Talent Stack idea all over. Now that people have been primed, the reviews are showing a different kind of appreciation for the material compared to when it first came out. When the book was published, the ideas were too much of a brain-stretch for some people. That has changed in three years. (I can be persuasive. And patient.)

I don’t write all of my books with timers. My biggest seller – The Dilbert Principle – was written to reflect the current times in the mid-90s, and people bought it for that reason. They related to it immediately. 

The book I’m writing now will also be written without a timer. The new one comes out in October. It’s about the Persuasion Filter, with lots of lessons on persuasion wrapped around my experience of predicting the election. 

Anyway, the point of this blog (aside from mentioning my books) is that a writer has to pick a target “time” for a book. Sometimes you know the public is not ready. Sometimes you are trying to match their current mood. It is important to decide which way you are trying to go.

If you’re a new writer, write for the current market, and the current public consciousness. That’s where the money is. I was already a successful writer before publishing God’s Debris and the other two books that have timers. Don’t write books with timers if you have no mechanism to get them noticed later. First, get famous by telling people what they are ready to hear because they already think it is true. They just want to see you explain it better than they are thinking it. Hypnotists call that pacing (matching the subject in any way). Later, when people believe you think and feel the same way they do, you can lead.

The Day You Became a Better Writer (2nd Look)

One of my blog posts from 2007 has been making the rounds on social media this week. (Thank you, Naval Ravikant.) I take that as a signal that I should re-post it here in case you missed it the first time.

And now a second look…

The Day You Became A Better Writer

I went from being a bad writer to a good writer after taking a one-day course in “business writing.” I couldn’t believe how simple it was. I’ll tell you the main tricks here so you don’t have to waste a day in class.

Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.

Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences.

Humor writing is a lot like business writing. It needs to be simple. The main difference is in the choice of words. For humor, don’t say “drink” when you can say “swill.”

Your first sentence needs to grab the reader. Go back and read my first sentence to this post. I rewrote it a dozen times. It makes you curious. That’s the key.

Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers aren’t as smart as you’d think.

Learn how brains organize ideas. Readers comprehend “the boy hit the ball” quicker than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Both sentences mean the same, but it’s easier to imagine the object (the boy) before the action (the hitting). All brains work that way. (Notice I didn’t say, “That is the way all brains work”?)

That’s it. You just learned 80% of the rules of good writing. You’re welcome.

Scott

If you want to see persuasive writing that uses this simple style, read God’s Debris or How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Those books do not include what I call the “humor layer,” so you can see the cake without the frosting in those examples.