Yesterday, I hosted my first free coaching call: Answers and Encouragement for Writers. A handful of my faithful clients and students joined in–but it’s open to everyone, so come by on the third Thursday of next month and get some momentum for your writing life. (June 18, 5 – 6 p.m. PST)
We talked a lot on the call about literary agent and author Donald Maass’s wonderful book Writing the Breakout Novel. I read it a few weeks ago and found it smart, well-written and, most-importantly, craft-oriented.
Nobody knows what sells novels. When my first novel was published, my agent said this to me. She mentioned that being picked by Oprah sells novels, but nothing else guarantees a hot ticket to success.
Donald Maass’s contention is that word of mouth is the number one way to sell books. This makes sense. If you think about it, even Oprah is just a person with a lot of friends who listen to her opinion.
The great good news is that this means that craft–great storytelling, compelling characters, high stakes, meaningful and resonant times and places, profound themes and strong plots, which is to say escalating conflict–is the key to writing the breakout novel.
How many people follow you on Twitter, who you are Facebook friends with, and whether or not your cousin works for Oprah will do nothing for you if you do not have a great book.
But remember, that’s the good news.
The story, the characters, the tale’s vivid world: these make people talk about a book. And craft is the reason we all got into this crazy stew in the first place, right? Other people’s storytelling drew us to the wonder of books, and somewhere along the line we started wanting to brew some of our own magic.
Think about the books you promote. What was the last book you read that you had to recommend to other people, that you couldn’t stop talking about? Post it here if you would be so generous. We talked about our current book passions on the call yesterday, too, and that pulsing feeling of needing to get my hands on a particular new book inspired me, as a reader and as a writer. It reminded me of the sexy pull of great books. Nothing duty-bound about reading them, buying them, and spreading the word.
It’s a good way to think about our own manuscripts, about how to make them deeper, broader, more powerful. How to make them unforgettable, so that people tell their friends, “You have to read this book.”
What’s the last book you said that about?