To be honest, I’m not sure anyone knows how to write a best seller. There’s no formula. Great writers sell next to nothing. Hack writers hit the New York Times. Or number one on Amazon.
A best seller is a combination of writing, concept, cover, title, marketing, promotion, word of mouth. If an author manages to hit on 80% of them, she might have a best seller.
But one way to advance sales and readership is to make sure you’re writing the best possible book.
Recently I hacked my way through a first draft. I get frustrated with the first round of writing.
Everything sounds corny, the same-ole-same-ole, and I either under write or over write. The scenes usually skim the surface of what’s really going on. I write things like, “she walked through a crowd of her friends, greeting them, air kissing their cheeks.”
It’s because I don’t really know what’s going on yet. I don’t know how much detail I need in the scene.
Sometimes it’s perfectly valid to skim past a detail — like a secondary character’s name. Sometimes we don’t need the color of every dress, the table cloths and velvet curtains. But yea, sometimes we do.
Most of the time we do. Friend and author Susie Warren was reading to me from the Pioneer Woman’s book about how Ree met the Marlboro Man. Here’s a line from Ree Drummond’s book: “…but he was a vision, this Marlboro Man-esque, rugged character across the room. After a few minutes of staring, I inhaled deeply, then stood up. I needed to see his hands.”
What a brilliant transition. “I needed to see his hands.” This is the detail that makes a character, a story, a line stand out.
What do we know about this woman who loves the sight of a Marlboro man? That she wants to see a detail not “on the surface.” Wanting to see his hands speaks to something about her heart, about what she’s looking for. Kind, strong hands. It means something to her.
Another woman might want to hear him speak. One might want to know how he talks about his mother or sisters.
When your protagonist walks into a room of people, give the reader of glimpse of who’s there. Who is he or she looking at? Mom, Dad, his brother Dan and sister Beka. His best friend, Rick, who wouldn’t be here unless Dad had invited him. Ah, now we see there’s an issue. The best friend isn’t such a good best friend. Spend more time on people details than room details unless the room is a character.
Some times when a scene feels slow or stuck to me, it’s usually because I’m missing detail or emotion. On the rewrite, I burrow down and figure out those rich details that make the scene pop.
Details are good. Be as detailed as possible without slowing down the scene, without boring the reader.
Rachel Hauck is on deadline. That is all…
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