Writing A Novel That Sells
by Marie E. Bast
Does anyone really know how to write a best seller?
Not really, not unless they have a crystal ball that will let them peer into the minds and hearts of the readers. I’m not talking about established bestselling authors who have large followings like Nora Roberts, John Grisham, or James Patterson. I’m talking about you and me when we’re just starting our career.
How do we find that special story or niche market, that little pocket or style of writing which will appeal to the reader? Is it even possible to peer into the minds and hearts of the reader and capture that story they are craving to read, or maybe they don’t even know they are craving to read it yet? However, are we off base here? Aren’t writing and selling two different sides of the writer’s coin?
Yes, they are different sides of the writer’s craft, but they are both required. In today’s market place with millions of books and thousands of writers, marketing is just as important as writing. So here’s what I did. I started out by researching the different genres and learned that the Amish novel genre was very popular. Then I researched the different publishers to see what they were currently accepting. I leaned that Harlequin’s Love Inspired line was looking for Amish. I loved to visit the Amish, in fact, I only live 64-miles from the Amish. So I wrote and edited my first Amish novel, The Amish Baker, for 18 months. I sent it out to my critique group and edited it again. I entered it in the Harlequin’s Love Inspired Amish blitz where they were asking for writers to send in manuscripts. Mine was selected for publishing. When it first released, it hit the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. My second Amish book, The Amish Marriage Bargain, was on The Publishers Weekly bestseller list for three-consecutives weeks when it released.
Here are four valuable steps that will speed you down the road to success.
Plan your strategy early for marketing
Before you even start to write, plan your marketing strategy. It’ll pay off when you are ready to publish. Start with building your social media. I can’t stress this enough. Followers, friends, and relatives will be anxious to share the news of your forth-coming book. In addition, don’t make your social media just about you. Socialize. What does your followers like? Maybe share recipes, vacation spots, adorable animals and the cute things they do, etc. Socializing helps you grow your followers.
Learn the craft of writing—well
Really learn the craft of writing. Let me repeat that. Learn the craft of writing. Study hard. Read the best sellers and dissect them. What propelled those books to stardom? Was it the writing, or the amount of research the author included, maybe it was a unique style, or a subject matter they presented in a different way; for instance, the heroine was locked in an attic, or was held against her will in an insane asylum, or a man disguised as a woman trying to hire into a nanny’s position. Attend writer’s conferences, join writer’s organizations, take workshops, or classes. Study, study, study the craft. Here are my go-to resource books: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks; Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson; Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass; The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass; from the inside…Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck; Deep and Wide by Susan May Warren. There are numerous books out there to help you learn the craft of writing.
You have the tools now write
Write every day. Submit to magazines, newspapers, blogs, to anthologies, even write short posts on social media. This might help you find your niche. Join critiques groups and let them read your work and give you feedback. Enter contests that give back critiques and feedback, these are invaluable for honing your writing. Many contests have agents and editors that review the finalists’ writing. Even if you don’t win, they give great pointers and feedback. Learn from your mistakes, I did.
It all comes down to this
Where do you go from here? Your writing needs to be unique, and it needs conflict, tension, maybe deception or betrayal if it fits the plotting, and it needs discovery. What will the reader discover about themselves, about human nature, about the world around them or the storyworld you have plunged them into? What’s going to make your story an exciting, enjoyable book that the reader cannot put down? Lastly—without feeling, writing becomes two-dimensional. When they close the book, make that last page sing with some kind of emotion to make the reader remember it.
How to judge if a book has a Plot 2 Good 2 Forget
1) You can’t put the book down.
2) The donut in the kitchen is still there calling your name.
3) You say to yourself, just one more chapter before a bathroom break.
4) Six o’clock. “Honey, let’s go out and eat tonight, I didn’t have time to cook.”
5) You love to hate the antagonist.
6) Can’t wait to see if the protagonist figures out what the antagonist has done.
7) The hero and heroine get together after battling overwhelming obstacles.
8) You wake up in the middle of the night and grab the book to read one more chapter.
9) You mention the book in the PTA newsletter.
10) The story haunts you while you’re at work; you pick up KFC on the way home.
11) You don’t have a desire to check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
12) While your husband tells you about his day, your mind drifts back to storyworld.
13) You discuss the plot at work, on your blog, and with friends.
14) You check Amazon to see if the author has a new book out before you finish this book.
Writing with Feeling
By Marie E. Bast
If you’re a golfer, you know that if your stance feels right, your hands are placed properly on the club, your swing has a good arc and carry through, and your contact with the ball hits in the sweet spot, you’re ball will launch beautifully into the air. It’s the same with bowling. When you’re ball hits in the pocket at the proper place and speed, it’s a strike.
What does all this mean to a writer?
For your writing to hit the pocket, or the heart of a reader, it must show feeling. Your writing is that ball sailing across the page toward the pocket. That doesn’t mean just thinking of a good chapter-opening hook or a chapter-closing hook. It means the whole chapter needs to grab the reader and not let them go.
What does that look like, or better yet, feel like?
It means your chapters need to be constructed with the right emotion (swing) that can dance the words across the page in such a way that it holds the reader’s attention until the very end of the story. Those words must create interest, they must promise excitement through tension and passion, and they must call the reader to action, which is namely, to keep on reading.
It is if you keep your reader in mind as you write. Here are ten steps to help you construct that perfect story.
- Make sure your story flows logically. Simply put, follow the cause and effect method. Don’t have her jump off a building if she hasn’t climbed to the top yet.
- In golfing, before the golfer hits the ball, he has to be able to imagine the line and aim toward the flag at the hole. Likewise, the writer has to plan what each chapter needs to contain in order to build a successful story that will carry the reader’s interest to the end.
- For a story to have depth, the hero needs a backstory that adds complications to their life, affects their decisions, and interferes with the choices they make. What’s your hero and heroine’s backstory? Sprinkle it throughout the story. As the story develops, the reader needs to understand why the hero acts the way he does.
- Reveal character mood through scenery and action, through clothing and habits.
- Paint the story with powerful verbs and descriptive nouns. Don’t just say he got in his car. Show it. He wiped a smudge from his pristine Jaguar before he lowered himself onto the buttery-soft seat. His hand didn’t touch hers; it caressed hers. His love didn’t just warm her, it wrapped around her heart.
- Punch up your story with hooks and a compelling emotional journey for your hero/heroine that will draw in the reader and mesmerize them until the end of the story.
- Conflict should follow your hero/heroine like a puppy. A problem, new twist, unknown information should cling to each chapter and plague the character. Love, happiness, the solution to solving the mystery or catching the killer in a thriller, should always flea ahead of the hero/heroine just out of arm’s reach. Make them suffer. Don’t give them what they want. Make it a journey to chase that dream.
- Storytelling thrives on tension, emotion, and passion and that translates to a hunger for the reader to stick with the story until it ends.
- Keep the readers guessing. Make the story unique and fresh. Paint the story with coloring that will interest, excite, and draw the reader’s core curiosity. It’s human nature for a human to be curious. It’s how electricity, the automobile, and the airplane were invented and why the caveman ventured out of his cave. They were curious. The reader, too, wants to see if the heroine and her love interest get together, if they extinguish the fire in time, if the plane lands safely, and if the hero gets what he wants after struggling all the way through the story.
- Tip: The best story-building tool that I found is the book Story Engineering: Mastering The 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks.
5 Reasons a Writer Should Take Time to Refresh
As writers, we are dedicated to our craft. Day and night, when an inspiration hits, we’ll stop eating, climb out of bed, or excuse ourselves from friends to jot something down. We write for hours and days on end to meet a deadline and finish a novel.
We have to write; it’s what we do. And if we aren’t writing, we are thinking about writing, or researching, or outlining, or plotting.
But don’t forget to take timeout for you. Even just a short break can give those creative juices time to refresh, replenish, and rev up the imagination for the next long stint at writing. Just like rest and recovery after exercise is important, breaks after writing is important to the writer. And here’s the reasons why…
- It helps you maintain a better mental balance.
- Short breaks give you time for short bursts of exercise. Studies show that 15-20 minutes of exercise helps you burn fat, stay healthy, and increase endorphins.
- That means, it can reduce stress and tension, re-energize your thinking, and add to mental alertness.
- Short bursts of exercise can give you an ‘endorphin rush’ and that is the reason why it makes you feel good. If writing has you uptight, take a break and go for a walk, run, exercise, or just talking with a friend can give you an endorphin rush. And what does that do? Endorphins can enhance pleasure and rev up the thinking and creativity process.
- The bottom-line: take enough time away from writing to re-energize body, mind, and writing.