Most writers are perfectionists, and that’s good. It means we like to produce excellent quality writing.
Most writers are perfectionists, and that’s bad. It means we’re never done.
The art of being a writer is to balance that good perfectionism against the bad perfectionism.
There’s a way to do that. It’s a method that has become wildly popular in the world of entrepreneurs.
The idea is to rapidly create something called a “Minimum Viable Product” and release it to the world.
But you don’t stop there. Once you’ve released it, you continue to improve it. Forever.
Let’s elaborate on all that.
What’s a Minimum Viable Product?
A Minimum Viable Product is three things:
A Minimum Viable Product is a product. It’s something useful to the world. Twitter is a product. An author website is a product. A blog post is a product.
A Minimum Viable Product is viable. It actually works. It’s not something half-baked that you just throw out there. It does one thing and it does it pretty well. Twitter lets people communicate in little snippets to a list of followers. An author website tells the world about an author and their books. A blog post puts out one idea.
A Minimum Viable Product is minimal. It doesn’t try to be all that it could possibly be. It’s the smallest possible version that can be released. When Twitter was first released, it didn’t have all possible features. Not yet. That came later. When you create an author website, it doesn’t have to be packed with 500 pages of content. Not yet. That might come later. When you write a blog post, it’s not a whole book. It’s one post, 500 to 1000 words. More words will come later.
To summarize, a Minimum Viable Product is a useful product that actually works pretty well, but it’s not as perfect or complete as it will be someday.
Why Release a Minimum Viable Product?
The reason you release a Minimum Viable Product and not a maximal perfect product is because the fastest way to achieve a maximal perfect product is to release new versions of a product rapidly.
You should of course make your Minimum Viable Product reasonably good (you want it to be viable), but you don’t have to make it as big as you can (you want it to be minimal), and you can’t possibly make it perfect on the first try.
And why release it rapidly? Because then you can start testing it. Does anyone actually want it? What do people like about it? What do people dislike? What could you do better in the next release? What’s missing that you should add next?
When you release a Minimum Viable Product rapidly, you now have incentive to improve it, because now you’re hearing from actual users. And they may well have ideas for making it better that you never thought of.
What Does a Minimum Viable Product Have to Do With Novelists?
Novelists create many different kinds of things that could be released rapidly as a Minimum Viable Product. Here are a few examples:
- A scene to show to your critique group
- A synopsis to take to a writing conference
- A proposal to show to agents and editors
- A first draft to show to your critique buddy
- A second draft to show to your editor
- A final draft to hand off to your proofreader
- An author website
- An author newsletter
- A landing page for an email signup form
- A marketing plan
- An advertising campaign
Nobody will ever get any of these perfect on the first try. You should absolutely do your best to make it as good as you can. But you should also recognize that small is beautiful and fast is better than perfect.
Create a Minimum Viable Product—one that works but is small. Get it out to the appropriate audience. Ask for feedback. Don’t feel hurt to learn it’s not exactly right yet. Try again and make it better next time. When you hear that it’s good, add more to it. Write another scene. Or another synopsis. Or another proposal. Or another draft. Add pages to your website. Send out your newsletter regularly. Build out your marketing plan to be more advanced. Create more ads.
Build. Release. Get feedback. Improve. And then do it all over again.
It may occur to you that each step in my popular Snowflake Method is a Minimum Viable Product for the next step. And you’re absolutely right, although I didn’t realize that when I created the Snowflake Method.
An Example Video Course I Loved Watching
If you’d like to see a Minimum Viable Product created in real-time, let me refer you to a short video course. It’ll show you how to create a Minimum Viable Product that most authors will need at some point in their life—a landing page to gather signups for an email newsletter.
I thought I understood Minimum Viable Products before I watched this video. And I did, mostly. But watching the video reinforced the ideas in my brain, and it helped me see how the idea of a Minimum Viable Product applies to practically everything I do as a writer.
The video is part of a whole set of video courses called “Thrive University.”
As you might guess, the people at Thrive University don’t create free courses out of the goodness of their hearts. They sell an amazingly powerful set of marketing tools, which they call “Thrive Suite.” I recently bought Thrive Suite for myself and I’m incredibly excited to finally have all the tools I’ve been wanting for the last 20 years for building my website into a dynamite marketing machine.
After I bought the tools, I decided to become an affiliate. In simple terms, that means that if I refer someone who buys Thrive Suite, I get an affiliate commission.
I’ve been using Thrive Suite for several weeks now, and I love, love, love it. But Thrive Suite is a story for another day.
For the moment, I recommend that you just watch this short video course on building a landing page as a Minimum Viable Product. The course is absolutely free, and I expect it’ll revolutionize your thinking.
See if you agree. Click here to go to the “RAPID Landing Page Building” course on Thrive University. (affiliate link)
And have fun!
Harald Johnson says
Excellent post! And I love MVPs. I created my author website (with its email-subscribe landing page) before I wrote a single word of my first novella. And I wrote that MVP novella to start a process that now includes four novellas and three novels with a fourth on the way.
So here’s to MVPs!
Randy Ingermanson says
Hi Harald: Well said! MVPs make your life a lot easier.