In last week’s blog I admitted that my books aren’t selling. So I’m going to go back to basics with my writing, to see how I could improve that before looking more closely at marketing etc. The idea being that if I know I have a good product I can then go ahead and sell with confidence. Also, you never know if I make some changes, improve, get it right, I might just attract the attention of an agent and publisher. Anyway, I decided that I’d give a masterclass by a best-selling thriller writer a go. What had I got to lose? I also said I’d let you know how it goes.
Well, I’ve started. Do I think it will make a difference, yes. I haven’t done any formal writing training in the past. I read Stephen Kings book, a few other works on writing and trawled numerous writing blogs (see my resources page) and then just got on with it. So hearing in detail from a successful author how he goes about his business is interesting if nothing else. At first I thought, is this going to be some sort of formula for writing a successful book? (we’ve all seen those). Well, it is and it isn’t. He doesn’t give you a line by line formula as such but he does tell you what he thinks goes into a successful book. And yes, some of it may end up sounding a bit formulaic, but as he says himself he’s not writing War and Peace, he’s writing commercial thrillers.
Bottom line – it’s about the story (as I’m sure most of us have heard many times), you have to have a good story and then tell it in an exciting and engaging way. You don’t have to be a great ‘writer’ but you do need to be a good story teller. After all, we’ve all heard about books that have sold millions where the actual writing is not that great. So what have they done? They’ve told a story people want to read. What he’s getting across is how to make a good story a story that grabs people and makes them want to read it.
So I have a new idea for a book, I mentioned it last week. I have 35,000 words and then wrote myself into a dead end. However, I still think there is a good story there worth pursuing. It’s a bit of a departure from my science fiction. It’s set in present day Northumberland (where I grew up) and starts with a missing girl and a policeman. However, being me it can’t be that simple and yes there is a supernatural/magical element running through it.
So now, following the advice given I am writing a detailed outline, start to finish (something I have threatened to do for years, but never completed). That includes every scene (chapter) the ideas and thoughts characters etc. that go into it. I have rearranged parts of the story, thrown out bits that I thought I liked (but don’t seem to work), added in new parts and characters where I think they are needed. I’m getting excited about it again. The temptation for me is now to rush into the writing. However, I’m keeping to the advice given. I will go over the plan a number of times. I will flesh it out and see where I can add more interest, twists to the plot. I will work on my characters some more and get to know them. And then when I think I’ve got the story right I’ll start writing again.
I’m enjoying the process. It seems to be providing me with new tools to help develop my stories in a way that is more likely to appeal to readers. If I follow this advice I feel I will be more in control of my writing, more confident perhaps. It is also encouraging that from what I’m hearing I am also doing somethings right. Will it help me sell more books? I don’t know, but it might give me a better chance of doing so. And, as I said last time what have I got to lose other than that several hundred thousandth place on Amazon. Will this work for everyone, again I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted.
As always comments are welcome