Posts Tagged With: Bestsellers

Your Name on the NYT List: Secrets of Bestselling Authors

Who doesn’t want to write a bestseller? While no one can tell you exactly how to get onto the New York Times list, we can always ask the people who have already made it. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I’ve been given by bestselling authors I’ve interviewed over the years. Ignore them at your peril:

David Weber, NYT bestselling author of the Honor Harrington series:

First, write what you enjoy reading. You’ll do a much better job working on something that interests and excites you than you will trying to produce something simply because you think it might sell. If you enjoy reading it, so will someone else, which means there ought to be a market for it somewhere. Second, accept that if you’re going to try to do this professionally you either need to become a production writer — which means those 16-hour days — or you need to have a day job. Third, complete something before you start trying to submit your work. An editor is a lot more likely to buy a story or a novel, even if it needs a substantial amount of work, if that story or novel exists as a completed whole.


Kat Richardson, national bestselling author of the Greywalker series:

A writer I know, Blake Charleton, says his rule for writing interesting fiction is not “write what you know” but “write what you fear.” For me it’s often “write what hurt.” It’s all variations of the original adage, but the spin is what makes it compelling. People identify with adversity because most of us have had a dose or two of it, and when we as writers can take those things that hurt, terrify, or trouble us to a favorable conclusion in a story, we connect to readers and satisfy their desire for comfort and order. And it’s also fun to exorcise a few demons sometimes.

Jack Campbell, NYT bestselling author of the Lost Fleet series:

Read and write. Read lots of things, even in areas you don’t normally like, because that’s how you get ideas for stories and how to tell them in different ways, and that’s how you learn what kinds of stories others told.  Write down your own stories, too. Don’t just dream about them, write them down, and when they’re done (and you have to finish most of them so you learn how to finish stories) write some more.

And be prepared for rejection. Lots of rejection. Even veteran writers get shot down a lot. When you do get published whatever you wrote is fair game for anyone to comment on, and it’s pretty safe to say that some of those comments won’t be kind.

Mario Acevedo, NYT bestselling author of the Felix Gomez, Vampire P.I. series:

Be stubborn about writing.  Keep learning and honing your craft.  Hang on to your faith and dreams.  And don’t buy cheap vodka.

How about you? What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Share it here!

Categories: For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Become a Pro Writer — One Hour at a Time!

The more you write, the better you get.  That should go without saying, but discouragement can dim our perceptions, so I’m coming right out and saying it:

Every hour you spend writing makes you a better writer.
 
I talk a lot about the learning curve of your first novel.  If you’re like most people, as you work your way through your first book, you’ll look back every so often and shudder at your earlier chapters.  It’s tempting to go back and try to polish your old writing up to your current level of proficiency.  Don’t do it!  Believe it or not, you can write a novel from beginning to end without stopping in the middle to go back and fix it.  In fact, I recommend you don’t stop.

Make notes instead.  Scrawl in the margins.  Use up a whole pad of yellow sticky notes if you must.  But don’t spend time “fixing” your old pages until you finish the entire book.  Why?  Because by the time you reach the end, you’ll be a better writer than you are now.  So save the “fixing” for later and do it all at once, rather than trying to constantly improve everything all the time.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s number-one bestselling book Outliers, he says that you need to spend 10,000 hours at something to become an expert.  You’d have to do something 20 hours a week for a decade to hit that.  But you know what?  That’s doable, even with a full time day job — if you want it badly enough.

One of his examples is the Beatles, who performed live more than 1,200 times before they made it big.  Bill Gates started programming when he was 13.  Was he a child prodigy — or did he just get an early start and put in massive effort before he became an expert?

Ten thousand hours — as a writer, that works out to a LOT of pages.  You won’t be an expert writer until after you’ve finished several books, so cut yourself some slack.  In the meantime, you can focus on learning the craft of writing.  Every day, you’re getting better.  Remember: you can write a novel — and you will — one hour at a time!

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Behind the Bestseller: Robert Buettner (Part 3)

Meet bestselling author Robert Buettner, a man who’s not afraid to do his research firsthand — even when it involves a real-life main battle tank!  In this segment on You Can Write A Novel, Buettner talks about how ebooks have changed the publishing business, how it feels to read your own reviews and the secret to beating writer’s block.

Plus, as you can see, no book signing is complete without a visit from a ninja ape-man.  Naturally.

Laurence MacNaughton:  By my count, Overkill is your sixth novel. How is your career (and/or the publishing business) different now than when you started? Does the writing get any easier, or do you face a new set of challenges now?

Robert Buettner:  The book biz, like the world in which it operates, has been changing at an ever-accelerating rate. Based on my royalty statements, in the last year “mobile device” proliferation has finally caused e-book unit sales to take off like a firewalled F-16.

Book promotion now appears to be a matter of accumulating Facebook friends, but I remain a social media Luddite. A writing day bares my creative cupboard. I lack the wit surplus to fire off a dozen clever tweets to my followers. I still visit brick-and-mortar stores and autograph their stock. Maybe that’s the authorial equivalent of the last tyrannosaur chasing the last triceratops.

Mechanically, writing’s easier. My word processor manages a lot more proofing and backtracking even compared to what it could even a few years ago, when I started. I research via Google rather than organizing a library safari. I can’t imagine how the great novels were composed longhand, or on a typewriter. I still proof a physical print copy of my manuscripts before I turn them in, but I turn them in electronically now, which is faster, cheaper, and environmentally friendlier.


LM:
Do you ever read your own reviews?

RB:  Every word. It’s probably easier for me than for some authors because my reviews have, so far, fingers crossed, been overwhelmingly positive.

The decline of newspaper and similar print review sources has removed a useful filter from opinion, and that’s a little scary. Today any anonymous source who hasn’t even read the book can say absolutely anything about the book, and that “review” may pop up on Google ahead of more thoughtful commentaries. But so far I’ve rarely been victimized that way.

LM: If you had to pick just one personal quality that separates the would-be writers from the published professionals, what would it be?

RB:  Persistence in the face of rejection. If I could pick a second, it would be willingness to reinvent and relearn one’s craft, sometimes abbreviated “humility.”

LM:  Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? And if so, how do you beat it?

RB:  Barbara Hambly and I were guesting at an SF Con a couple of years ago. Barbara answered that question as well as I’ve heard it answered. Barbara said real “writer’s block” is an exceedingly rare clinical phenomenon.

What most writers call “block” is just a subconscious warning we give ourselves that, “hey, this chapter, this paragraph, this plot line isn’t working.” So we just sit there, dithering.

The fix is simple. Walk back the dog through your work until you encounter the last point where you’re confident that the story was working. Begin again from there. With luck, that point is just a page back. Maybe you lose a whole chapter. Maybe you have to go back to page one. But at least you’re unstuck.

The secret to efficient “block” beating is, I suppose, recognizing it before you’ve sleepwalked ahead through too many worthless pages. It works for me.

LM: Is there any truth to the rumor of an Orphanage movie? 

RB:  Well, the most interesting recent project I’ve been connected with lately is the film adaptation of Orphanage by Olatunde Osunsanmi, the rising director and screenwriter (The Fourth Kind, forthcoming Dark Moon) for Davis Entertainment (Predator, I Robot, Eragon). Thousands of books are optioned for film, but never get to a “treatment,” much less to the director-plus-adapted-screenplay stage where Orphange is already. However, Hollywood is notably longer on dreams than on reality, so Orphanage the Movie remains light years away. Therefore, I hadn’t mentioned it much. But the news popped out in the Hollywood press last October.

It’s totally Tunde’s screenplay. My input has been minimal, and that’s a gross overstatement. But I was flattered that he chose to lift more of the writing direct from the book than is usual in an adapted screenplay.

LM: We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for that!  What else are you working on? 

RB:  Amazon’s Audible.com is releasing the new series as audio books. Overkill’s already available. I’m looking forward to working again with the reader who Audible chooses for Undercurrents. MacLeod Andrews, the young (everybody’s young to me) actor who read Overkill was terrific.

I’m finishing an original short story for the forthcoming John Joseph Adams anthology “Armored.” That story will be loosely set within the Orphanage-Overkill universe.

At the moment, I’m judging the short story finalists in the National Space Society’s Jim Baen Memorial Writing contest. I’m filling in for the venerable David Weber, and following in the footsteps of such notable authors as Mike Resnick and Eric Flint, so that’s pretty cool.

Beyond that, of course, Undercurrents, the sequel to Overkill, is set for release July 5, 2011, and there will be a third book in that series.

Robert Buettner’s ‘blog

Robert Buettner’s website

Baen’s webscription page for Overkill

Amazon’s Overkill page

Amazon’s Undercurrents page

Amazon’s Orphanage page

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