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What makes a Book a Best Seller?
What are the Rules for Writing Successfully?
“There are three rules for writing a novel...fortunately no one knows what they are”
When asked the question "what motivates us to write " it got me thinking about the above quote found on a window of a shop in Chelsea, London, and the various writing styles that people have and what it might take to make a good book a best seller. And it gave me hope that one day I might just crack the code of success!
Is there a tried and true recipe for success?
Have some found the magic formula while others search their whole writing career to find some measure of success to no avail?
What do classic writers such as Tolstoy, Salinger, F Scott Fitzgerald, C.S Lewis, Anna Sewell, Tolkien, Blyton, Steinbeck, SE Hinton, DH Lawrence, Hemingway and James have that makes a number one hit?
Or more recently modern writers such as Dan Brown, John Grisham, Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowlings, Mathew Riley, Nicholas Evans, Le Carre.
I think to answer these questions some truth can be found in the quote above found on a book shop window. Because if you are an avid reader and read widely it’s not hard to see that a best seller comes in many forms. Fiction, non fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, biographical, poetry, historical and literary among many, and cater for all tastes. On any best seller list the writing style is enormously varied and the authors have won over scores of readers world wide.
It seems obvious then that there are no set “rules” genre, tense or language for writing a successful book as the variety of best sellers from the following Authors show us.
Dan Browns Da Vinci Code - Mystery and Intrigue
Beatrix Potters Peter Rabbit - Classic Children
Nicholas Evans Notebook - Unforgettable Romance
Tolkiens Hobbit - Fantasy
Meyers Twilight - YA Paranormal with a love story twist
And the list goes on...
These are all successful authors with differing writing styles and genres. A dichotomy of style within different genres.
But what do they have in common?
No secret recipe, no set formula just the magic of good story telling.
Most of us would agree the best stories are ones that we are drawn into and can’t put down, page turners where some element of the narrative winds it’s way into our heart and soul and spirit and we are touched beyond expectation and explanation.
So what makes a good novel great... I am no expert but perhaps some of the following elements that I have learned are of significant value in the writing process are worth considering.
1. Commitment. There is more to a best seller than good luck and great story telling and my guess is and I suspect that most of us know that unless a writer is spectacularly gifted in the vein of Stephanie Myer or J K Rowling there definitely must be more to it. Singularly one of the most significant factors to cracking the formula for a successful novel is hard work and effort. Commitment is a must for manuscript development. I think it would be safe to say that most writers beginning a manuscript have no idea of the work involved that has to go into the editing process to produce a polished end product that a publisher will be drawn to, read and hopefully publish. Dedication and commitment are key factors.
All the luck in the world and fantastic story telling definitely helps but without the hard work of editing a manuscript, editing and re editing, a story is just another story with all it’s blemishes and mistakes such as punctuation and spelling, structure and lay out and many other foibles and faults.
2. Passion for writing helps. Passion to write what you love or know helps to make a story unique. Passion to look for and find a fresh take on stories that have already been written. Passion to maintain the authentic nature and voice of your characters and storyline and passion to write about things that you don’t like, believe in or easily deal with for the sake of the story.
3. Resilience. Writers need resilience to continue their craft when facing submission rejection; peer and reader criticism; and working with editors who will inevitably bring change to their manuscript. Writers must be prepared to accept that editors agents and publishers may not be enthralled with their efforts and need to contain their horror and watch and accept that large sections of their manuscript sometimes whole chapters are slashed away and refined making way for a tight polished finished product. 'writers can’t afford to be precious with their work' . An editor or publisher may not like everything you write, the characters in your story, the introduction to the story, or the way it ends. It is difficult to face criticism at any time but even more so when a writer has poured countless hours of their time, effort and passion into a manuscript to be told it's not up to par. It may require effort but it is crucial to a successful outcome to not take their input personally. Remember that their experience and suggestions are vital for yours and your manuscripts development and are to be endorsed wherever possible.
The Writing of a Great Book
What are the Elements that make up a great Book
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How do you write a best-selling novel? Perhaps the answer lies in come commonalities that all great works have.