Pick up the Pace for a Real Page-Turner

by Jodie Renner, editor & author

Readers of fiction often complain that a book didn’t keep their interest, that the characters, story and/or writing just didn’t grab them. Today’s readers have shorter attention spans and so many more books to choose from. Most of them/us don’t have the time or patience for the lengthy descriptive passages, long, convoluted “literary” sentences, detailed technical explanations, author asides, soap-boxing, or the leisurely pacing of fiction of 100 years ago.

Besides, with TV, movies, and the internet, we don’t need most of the detailed descriptions of locations anymore, unlike early readers who’d perhaps never left their town, and had very few visual images of other locales to draw on. Ditto with detailed technical explanations – if readers want to know more, they can just Google the topic.

While you don’t want your story barreling along at a break-neck speed all the way through – that would be exhausting for the reader – you do want the pace to be generally brisk enough to keep the readers’ interest. As Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

Here are some concrete techniques for accelerating your narrative style at strategic spots to create those tense, fast-paced scenes.

~ Condense setup and backstory.

To increase the pace and overall tension of your story, start by cutting way back on setup and backstory. Instead, open with your protagonist in an intriguing scene with someone important in his life or to the story, with action, dialogue, and tension. Then marble in only the juiciest bits of the character’s background in tantalizing hints as you go along, rather than interrupting the story for paragraphs or pages to fill us in on the character’s life — which effectively eliminates a lot of great opportunities to incite reader curiosity and add intrigue with little hints and enticing innuendos.

~ Include hints at questions, secrets, worries, fears, indecision, or inner turmoil to every scene.

This will keep readers curious and worried, so emotionally engaged and compelled to keep turning the pages.

~ In general, develop a more direct, lean writing style.

Be ruthless with the delete button so your message and the impact of your story won’t get lost in all the clutter of superfluous words and repetitive sentences. I cover lots of specific techniques with examples for cutting down on wordiness in my book,  Fire up Your Fiction.

~ Rewrite, condense, or delete chapters and scenes that drag. 

Do you have slow-moving “filler” scenes, with little or no tension or change? Reduce any essentials from the scene to a paragraph or two, or even just a few sentences, and include it in another scene.

~ Keep chapters and scenes short.

This will help sustain the readers’ interest and keep them turning the pages. James Patterson is a master at short chapters, and his followers seem to really like that. Especially effective for reluctant or busy readers.

~ Start each scene or chapter as late as possible, and end it as early as possible.

Don’t open your chapters with a lengthy lead-up. Every scene and chapter should start with some kind of question, conflict, or intrigue, to arouse the curiosity of the reader and make them compelled to keep reading. And don’t tie up the events in a nice, neat little bow at the end – that will just encourage the reader to close the book rather than to keep reading in anticipation. Instead, end in uncertainty or a new challenge.

~ Limit explaining – Show, don’t tell.

Keep descriptive passages, expository passages, and ruminations, reflections and analyses to a minimum. Critical scenes need to be “shown” in real time, to make them more immediate and compelling, rather than “telling” about them after the fact. Use lots of action, dialogue, reactions, and thoughts. And keep the narration firmly in the viewpoint character’s voice – it’s really his/her thoughts, observations, and reactions to what’s going on.

~ Use summary to get past the boring bits, or skip ahead for effect.

Summarize in a sentence or two a passage of time where nothing much happens, to transition quickly from one critical scene to the next: “Three days later, he was no further ahead.” Skip past all the humdrum details and transition info, like getting from one place to another, and jump straight to the next action scene.

~ Make sure every scene has enough conflict.

In fact, every page should have some tension, even if it’s questioning, mild disagreement, doubts, or resentments simmering under the surface. Remember that conflict and tension are what drive fiction forward and keep readers turning the pages.

~ Every scene needs a change of some kind.

No scene should be static. Throw a wrench in the works, make something unexpected happen. Add new characters, new information, new challenges, new dangers. And the events of the scenes should be changing your protagonist in some way. Change produces questions, anticipation, or anxiety — just what you need to keep reader interest.

~ Use cliff-hangers.

For fast pacing and more tension and intrigue, end most scenes and chapters with unresolved issues, with some kind of twist, revelation, story question, intrigue, challenge, setback or threat. Prolonging the outcome, putting the resolution off to another chapter piques the readers’ curiosity and makes them worry, which keeps them turning the pages.

~ Employ scene cuts or jump cuts.

Create a series of short, unresolved incidents that occur in rapid succession. Stop at a critical moment and jump to a different scene, often at a different time and place, with different characters – perhaps picking up from a scene you cut short earlier. Switch chapters or scenes quickly back and forth between your protagonist and antagonist(s), or from one dicey, uncertain situation to another. And of course, don’t resolve the conflict/problem before you switch to the next one.

~ Use shorter paragraphs and more white space.

Short paragraphs and frequent paragraphing create more white space. The eye moves down the page faster, so the mind does, too. This also increases the tension, which is always a good thing in fiction.

~ Use rapid-fire dialogue, with conflict, confrontations, power struggles, suspicion.

For tense scenes, use short questions, abrupt, oblique or evasive answers, incomplete sentences, one or two-word questions and responses, and little or no description, deliberation or reflection.

~ Use powerful sentences with concrete, sensory words that evoke emotional responses.

Utilize the strongest, most concrete word you can find for the situation. Avoid vague, wishy-washy or abstract words, and unfamiliar terms the reader may have to look up. Concentrate on evocative, to-the-point verbs and nouns, and cut way back on adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.

Also, take out all unnecessary, repetitive words and those wishy-washy, humdrum “filler” words and phrases. And use plenty of sensory details, emotional and physical reactions, and attitude. (For more on this, see Fire up Your Fiction.)

A well-disguised example from my editing:

Before:

Kristen fired him a dirty look, probably because he was doing this in piecemeal and not getting straight to the point as she would have liked him to. Her voice was terse. “Why not?”

After:

Kristen fired him a dirty look as if to say, Cut to the chase. Her voice was terse. “Why not?”

Or just:

Kristen fired him a dirty look. “Why not?”

~ Vary the sentence structure, and shorten sentences for effect at tense moments.

Shorter sentences give a pause, which catches the attention of the reader. At a critical moment, don’t run a bunch of significant ideas together in one long sentence, as they each will be diminished a bit, lost in among all the other ideas presented. You can also go to a new line for the same effect.

For a fast-paced, scary scene, use short, clipped sentences, as opposed to long, meandering, leisurely ones. Sentence fragments are very effective for increasing the tension and pace. Like this. It really works. Especially in dialogue.

For more tips with examples for picking up the pace, check out Jodie’s editor’s guides to writing compelling fiction, Writing a Killer Thriller, Fire up Your Fiction, and Captivate Your Readers.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. Jodie lives in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Website: www.JodieRenner.com; blog: http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/; Facebook. Amazon Author Page.

0

Pick up the Pace for a Real Page-Turner

by Jodie Renner, editor & author

Readers of fiction often complain that a book didn’t keep their interest, that the characters, story and/or writing just didn’t grab them. Today’s readers have shorter attention spans and so many more books to choose from. Most of them/us don’t have the time or patience for the lengthy descriptive passages, long, convoluted “literary” sentences, detailed technical explanations, author asides, soap-boxing, or the leisurely pacing of fiction of 100 years ago.

Besides, with TV, movies, and the internet, we don’t need most of the detailed descriptions of locations anymore, unlike early readers who’d perhaps never left their town, and had very few visual images of other locales to draw on. Ditto with detailed technical explanations – if readers want to know more, they can just Google the topic.

While you don’t want your story barreling along at a break-neck speed all the way through – that would be exhausting for the reader – you do want the pace to be generally brisk enough to keep the readers’ interest. As Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

Here are some concrete techniques for accelerating your narrative style at strategic spots to create those tense, fast-paced scenes.

~ Condense setup and backstory.

To increase the pace and overall tension of your story, start by cutting way back on setup and backstory. Instead, open with your protagonist in an intriguing scene with someone important in his life or to the story, with action, dialogue, and tension. Then marble in only the juiciest bits of the character’s background in tantalizing hints as you go along, rather than interrupting the story for paragraphs or pages to fill us in on the character’s life — which effectively eliminates a lot of great opportunities to incite reader curiosity and add intrigue with little hints and enticing innuendos.

~ Include hints at questions, secrets, worries, fears, indecision, or inner turmoil to every scene.

This will keep readers curious and worried, so emotionally engaged and compelled to keep turning the pages.

~ In general, develop a more direct, lean writing style.


Be ruthless with the delete button so your message and the impact of your story won’t get lost in all the clutter of superfluous words and repetitive sentences. I cover lots of specific techniques with examples for cutting down on wordiness in my book,  Fire up Your Fiction.

~ Rewrite, condense, or delete chapters and scenes that drag. 

Do you have slow-moving “filler” scenes, with little or no tension or change? Reduce any essentials from the scene to a paragraph or two, or even just a few sentences, and include it in another scene.

~ Keep chapters and scenes short.

This will help sustain the readers’ interest and keep them turning the pages. James Patterson is a master at short chapters, and his followers seem to really like that. Especially effective for reluctant or busy readers.

~ Start each scene or chapter as late as possible, and end it as early as possible.

Don’t open your chapters with a lengthy lead-up. Every scene and chapter should start with some kind of question, conflict, or intrigue, to arouse the curiosity of the reader and make them compelled to keep reading. And don’t tie up the events in a nice, neat little bow at the end – that will just encourage the reader to close the book rather than to keep reading in anticipation. Instead, end in uncertainty or a new challenge.

~ Limit explaining – Show, don’t tell.

Keep descriptive passages, expository passages, and ruminations, reflections and analyses to a minimum. Critical scenes need to be “shown” in real time, to make them more immediate and compelling, rather than “telling” about them after the fact. Use lots of action, dialogue, reactions, and thoughts. And keep the narration firmly in the viewpoint character’s voice – it’s really his/her thoughts, observations, and reactions to what’s going on.

~ Use summary to get past the boring bits, or skip ahead for effect.

Summarize in a sentence or two a passage of time where nothing much happens, to transition quickly from one critical scene to the next: “Three days later, he was no further ahead.” Skip past all the humdrum details and transition info, like getting from one place to another, and jump straight to the next action scene.

~ Make sure every scene has enough conflict.

In fact, every page should have some tension, even if it’s questioning, mild disagreement, doubts, or resentments simmering under the surface. Remember that conflict and tension are what drive fiction forward and keep readers turning the pages.

~ Every scene needs a change of some kind.

No scene should be static. Throw a wrench in the works, make something unexpected happen. Add new characters, new information, new challenges, new dangers. And the events of the scenes should be changing your protagonist in some way. Change produces questions, anticipation, or anxiety — just what you need to keep reader interest.

~ Use cliff-hangers.

For fast pacing and more tension and intrigue, end most scenes and chapters with unresolved issues, with some kind of twist, revelation, story question, intrigue, challenge, setback or threat. Prolonging the outcome, putting the resolution off to another chapter piques the readers’ curiosity and makes them worry, which keeps them turning the pages.

~ Employ scene cuts or jump cuts.

Create a series of short, unresolved incidents that occur in rapid succession. Stop at a critical moment and jump to a different scene, often at a different time and place, with different characters – perhaps picking up from a scene you cut short earlier. Switch chapters or scenes quickly back and forth between your protagonist and antagonist(s), or from one dicey, uncertain situation to another. And of course, don’t resolve the conflict/problem before you switch to the next one.

~ Use shorter paragraphs and more white space.

Short paragraphs and frequent paragraphing create more white space. The eye moves down the page faster, so the mind does, too. This also increases the tension, which is always a good thing in fiction.

~ Use rapid-fire dialogue, with conflict, confrontations, power struggles, suspicion.

For tense scenes, use short questions, abrupt, oblique or evasive answers, incomplete sentences, one or two-word questions and responses, and little or no description, deliberation or reflection.

~ Use powerful sentences with concrete, sensory words that evoke emotional responses.

Utilize the strongest, most concrete word you can find for the situation. Avoid vague, wishy-washy or abstract words, and unfamiliar terms the reader may have to look up. Concentrate on evocative, to-the-point verbs and nouns, and cut way back on adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.

Also, take out all unnecessary, repetitive words and those wishy-washy, humdrum “filler” words and phrases. And use plenty of sensory details, emotional and physical reactions, and attitude. (For more on this, see Fire up Your Fiction.)

A well-disguised example from my editing:

Before:

Kristen fired him a dirty look, probably because he was doing this in piecemeal and not getting straight to the point as she would have liked him to. Her voice was terse. “Why not?”

After:

Kristen fired him a dirty look as if to say, Cut to the chase. Her voice was terse. “Why not?”

Or just:

Kristen fired him a dirty look. “Why not?”

~ Vary the sentence structure, and shorten sentences for effect at tense moments.

Shorter sentences give a pause, which catches the attention of the reader. At a critical moment, don’t run a bunch of significant ideas together in one long sentence, as they each will be diminished a bit, lost in among all the other ideas presented. You can also go to a new line for the same effect.

For a fast-paced, scary scene, use short, clipped sentences, as opposed to long, meandering, leisurely ones. Sentence fragments are very effective for increasing the tension and pace. Like this. It really works. Especially in dialogue.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also Captivate_full_w_decalpublished two clickable time-saving e-resources to date: Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. You can find Jodie at www.JodieRenner.com, www.JodieRennerEditing.com, her blog, http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

0

The Wow Factor

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Jim provided a great post yesterday on the reasons people abandon reading a book (mainly because, no surprise, it’s slow and boring!) and ways in which an author can make their own work ‘unputdownable’. Today I want to discuss what propels a book to the next level – what I call the ‘wow’ factor – those elements that take a book to a level where not only can you not put it down but you also can’t help but tell everyone about it. 

This is the essence of ‘word of mouth’ marketing, which can turn a book into an instant bestseller. Think about a book like Fifty Shades of Grey. Although I confess I haven’t actually read it, and no matter what you think about its subject matter or literary merit, there’s no disputing it created a buzz which encouraged millions of people to buy it. For me, the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series have it. But how to define that ‘wow’ factor? Surely if if was that easy, we’d all be bestsellers…but it’s not and yet, it’s the elusive element that every publishing house and indie author longs to create.

For what it’s worth, I think the ‘wow’ factor probably involves a combination of the following:

  • A startling, controversial or shocking take on a conventional topic or genre.  This is what made Fifty Shades of Grey the talk of the town when it was first release. I remember being in a boot camp class and being amazed at how many women were reading it, simply because it was so illicit and controversial (which was really why I didn’t feel in the least compelled to read it!). I think the same can be said for classics such as Lolita and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. If you get people talking about a book because it raises the hackles, insults somebody’s ethics or challenges their notions of propriety it’s probably going to generate buzz (both negative as well as positive). But that is hardly enough (I’m sure there have been thousands of books about controversial topics that have bombed…)
  • An uber-intense relationship between characters that appeals to the inner romantic in us all. Think The Bridges of Madison County or the Twilight series. Despite the writing style (or lack thereof) these books pulled at the heart strings. They managed to capture the yearning for true love and, as anyone whose ever watched The Princess Bride knows, true love conquers all. It’s hard to quantify exactly why these books manage to generate such an overwhelming ‘buzz’ but I think the ‘I will love you forever’  over-the-top romance was addictive.
  • A story that touches our humanity. We’ve all read great satisfying books and recommended them to others but rarely do we rave about a book to strangers, family members and friends unless it something indefinable that captures our heart as well as our attention.  I think if a novel makes people feel good about themselves, or raises our consciousness and humanity we feel compelled to tell others about it. This is certainly what happened to me after I read Schindler’s List and The Alchemist.
  • And finally, a story that totally transcends the ordinary… Which goes to demonstrate how important it is to raise the stakes, take risks and strive to transcend the genre in any book you write.  Think of a book like Life of Pi and you’ll know what I mean.


So what do you think helps create the ‘wow’ factor? What was the last book you couldn’t help talking about with everyone you know? 

0

Puzzling over paragraphs, and other story woes

By Kathryn Lilley

I set a personal record for myself last weekend: I spent the entire weekend–the entire weekend–working on one paragraph. I must have constructed and deconstructed that paragraph a thousand times. By Sunday night I’d whittled and rewritten that sucker until all that remained of it was a grand total of one sentence. One!

At this glacial pace of one sentence every two days, I will not cross the finish line of my manuscript anytime soon. Not good. But I feel like I’m stuck in the mud: I keep developing different ways into the story, then getting unhappy with it, then tearing it up. Hence the endlessly-reworked, bottomless paragraphs. And chapters.

My wheel-spinning is not a total waste–I have tons of pages that will work their way into the story eventually, but right now I feel like I’m playing with a Rubik’s Story-Cube. And I haven’t solved the puzzle yet.

When I described my problem to another writer, her suggestion was to keep going forward with the story without rewriting, and then go back and fix things later.

It’s a good idea, but here’s my problem with that approach: When I’m not happy with my writing, it’s because the elements in the story are wrong. If I write a chapter composed of the wrong elements, it’s like cooking with the wrong ingredients. I would end up with a spoiled dish–a dish that has to be thrown out, not merely reworked.

Maybe it’s time for me to do what I hate the most–write a comprehensive, detailed outline of the entire story. Then all I’d have to worry about is writing the prose itself, not the basic story components.

I heard some sage on the radio the other day–he described a “genius” as someone who persistently examines and reworks a problem until a creative solution is found. If that guy’s correct, I should be getting my Mensa card in the mail any day now.

Have you ever run into this problem, that finding the best path into the story has been unusually difficult? Other than outlining, do you have any good ideas for breaking through this kind of logjam?

0

Have you asked your writing a question today?

Every once in a while I read a story where all the requisite elements for success seem to be in place. Such stories typically contain the following elements:

  • A competent hook
  • Serviceable characters
  • A well-executed plot

And yet sometimes as I’m reading along, I find that my interest wanes (and then dies) after just a few pages. So what exactly has gone wrong?

Here’s one answer: After just a few paragraphs, I cease to give a flying squirrel about the hook, the characters, or the plot. Which means that I don’t care about the story. Which means that the Writer in question is dead as a doornail.

In a past blog post that was circulated by Esquire, writer Darin Strauss said that it helps to apply a “So What?” test to each sentence in a story. To apply such a test, according to Strauss, we can measure each of our sentences against the following criteria: Why should I care about this sentence? How does it reveal character? What difference does it make to the plot? To the story?

When I first heard about Strauss’s sentence test (which he attributed to Lee K. Abbott), it was like an epiphany to me, because when we ask every sentence in our novel “So What?” or “Who cares?”, it helps us to avoid the following writing hazards:

  • Boilerplate character description
  • Rote, unnecessary movements by all characters, especially the main character
  • Go-nowhere dialogue
  • Boring scene description

So here’s my question to you: When you’re writing, do you apply such a test to each and every sentence? Do you go back and root out “filler” sentences during rewrite?

And to take on the challenge, if you don’t mind sharing: What’s the last sentence that you wrote today? Is it important to your story? Why will your reader care about that sentence?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, and more.

0

Sunday Writing School

We’re having another one of our periodic Sunday Writing Schools today at the Kill Zone (See the link to our inaugural school).

Here’s how it works: We post a couple of writing-oriented questions that we’ve collected over the weeks, and do our best to answer them. Readers can post more questions in the comments. Feel free to chime in with your own opinions, including snarky ripostes to our advice. This is basically intended to be a free-for-all exchange of ideas about writing, not a serious-minded Fount of Wisdom.

We’ll just have some fun.

The first question in the mail bag is from Win Scott:

Q: I know some writing books say not to use prologues, but I need to open my story with an event that precedes the main story. This event is also much more dramatic than my first chapter, and it lays the groundwork for everything that comes next. Can I use a prologue in this case?

A. [From Kathryn]: I’ll admit my bias here–I don’t like prologues. I think they’re old fashioned, and you risk turning off screeners if you use them. Readers don’t care when you start your story, so why not make your Prologue your “Chapter One,” and then turn what was your first chapter into a “forward flash” in time? You can add a date-anchor at the beginning of the chapter to orient the reader in time. I’ve seen many thrillers use this technique, and the effect is much more immediate and dynamic than if you use a prologue.

But that’s just my two cents. I’ll let the other Killers chime in.

Here’s a question from Joy F.

Q. What are some methods of getting over writer’s block?

A. [From Joe] Getting the juices flowing can be tough sometimes. We all experience it. Here are a few tips that might help. Try writing the ending first. Consider changing the gender of your character or the point of view. Tell the story or scene from another character’s POV. Just for grins, switch from third person to first or vice versa.

You don’t have to keep the results of these exercises but they might boost your imagination and get you going again.

(If you would like to ask other questions today, feel free to add them in the Comments. We’ll answer them there.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, James Scott Bell, Alexandra Sokoloff, and more.
0

How to write a bestseller

By Kathryn Lilley

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

– W. Somerset Maugham
Bestseller. That’s why we’re all in the blogosphere, isn’t it? We all want to write (or read) a bestseller, we writer-reader-bloggers.

This blog is gifted with multiple bestselling (and modest) authors. Clare, for example, recently hit the IMBA Bestseller list with two of her books at the same time.

But I think everyone wants to learn the secret for vaulting onto the New York Times or USA Today bestseller’s list, and then stick there like Krazy Glue.

So today I set off on a hunt for the magic formula for writing a best seller. Is there one? What exactly does it take to write a breakout novel?

In his excellent book, Writing the Breakout Novel, agent Donald Maass says to write a “breakout” book, you have to open up your story. Make it bigger. Give it higher stakes, a larger theme, one that impacts many more people than you’d find in, say, the population of Cabot Cove. So, I’m assuming that with a few exceptions, most cozy mysteries are not going to be bestsellers. If you do have a “small,” domestic family drama in your story, Maass says, you must find a way to amp up the stakes. Think Grapes of Wrath. It’s a family drama, but man, talk about major stakes.

I ran across an interesting article about how not to write a best seller in the New York Sun, which stated that positive reviews in major review outlets don’t guarantee best sellerdom. The author said that catchy titles do seem to be a plus, however.

Interestingly, I found one reviewer in a British newspaper, The Guardian, who advised would-be best seller writers to avoid putting too much originality and sex into their work. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I don’t know. Is that a British thing? Here’s the article.

As I continued my web browsing, I found an article by Cliff Pickover called How to create an instant bestselling novel. It’s worth reading for the “Bestseller Plan” (You have to scroll down to see it). Pickover’s Bestseller plan refers to a NYT article called How to Manufacture a Best Seller by Michael Maxen. I couldn’t find Maxen’s original article at the NYT site (although I did find some crabby Letters to the Editor from authors who resented the article. Maxen must have skewered their books.). I did follow the link that claims to summarize the major points of Maxen’s article. That article offers up an actual 10-step formula for how to write a best-seller, by God. Generally, it seems to involve creating a hero-expert, a villain-expert, and a team of experts. When the action flags, you’re supposed to kill someone. See what you think.

I also read “Lester Dent’s magical recipe for writing a best seller.” It’s sort of interesting. It seems oriented more toward selling than best selling, though, and calls writers “pulpateers.” I loved his tip about how to fake local color and fool editors about murder weapons, though. That’s the kind of thing that most writers will never confess they do.

So I wish I could tell you I found the absolute formula for writing a best seller. Actually I’d like to hear from you. What do you think makes a book leap to the top of the NYT list? Is there a formula, or a secret? Do you think that to become a best seller, you simply write an excellent story, and accept the rest as a crapshoot? Or do you think that it is all a big fix–that publishers mostly decide who will become the Next Big Thing, by promoting certain books?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.
0

This topic’s HOT, says Google Labs


I went deep into the bowels of the Internet today.

Okay maybe I didn’t go that deep. But I made it down as far as Google Labs. For me that’s like spelunking into the Bat Caves of the Cyber Geeks.

I went there because I was searching for a hot blog topic for today’s post.

You see, I had a really busy weekend. Frankly I was exhausted. I couldn’t think of a dad-blamed thing to write about for today’s post. So I thought, “Hey, you can find anything on the Internet. I’ll just look up something hot.”

So I went to IE (that’s Internet Explorer, for anyone who just left Planet DOS), and typed Hot Topic into the Search box.

And lo and behold, all sorts of links popped up. Including one article called–yes–How to Find Hot Topics to Write About.

The article sent me to a site called Google Labs, where you can select Google Suggest, type in a search phrase, and find out what trends people are currently searching for, all over the world.

So I did a few searches. And the results were a bit disheartening. Here’s a sampling of the results with Google’s “trend temperatures”:

Selena Roberts and A-Rod (Volcanic)

Georgia teaching candidates must prepare for the GACE exam before they are able to accept a position in any public school (On Fire)

Obama Press Conference (Spicy)

Cockapoos (Medium)

Grammy fashion (Mild)















I was hard pressed to turn any of these topics into something writing-oriented, however. But then I stumbled onto Google Suggest’s Search Trends feature, and typed in “How to Write.” That’s when I hit paydirt.

It turns out that in the last twelve months, the most-searched-for article about writing fiction on the Internet was How to write a Bestseller by Maeve Binchy.

Maeve Binchy is one of my personal icons. And this article about her is a gold mine. I feel lucky to have dug it up. It’s…hot.

It turns out that Maeve, who has sold a gazillion bestsellers, has just published a how-to book about how to write bestsellers. It’s called The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club (published by Orion). According to the article by John Spain, the book evolved from a writing course that Maeve contributed to at the National College of Ireland in Dublin.

Aside from fiction, the number one most-searched-for writing article overall was one about how to write…iPhone applications.

No surprise there. Those writers are probably already making a bazillion dollars without writing any books at all. (That’s BAH-zillion, since our zillions are getting inflated these days by TARP economics).

And that thought leaves me cold.

0