People are always coming up to me on the street and asking, “How do you write a novel?”
I don’t know why they approach me. I guess I just have that ‘successful novelist’ look.
(It’s all about personal grooming. And tweed jackets with elbow patches. Wear one of those to a writing conference and you’ll be beating off the agents. And the ladies. And the lady agents.)
((Then they finish reading my manuscripts and quietly slip away in the pre-dawn hours, unsatiated and bitterly disappointed, before I wake up and can say goodbye. It’s very depressing. One of these days I’ll write a book about it.))
Because I’m tired of total strangers harassing me about the secrets to writing greatness, I’m going to put it all out right here for you.
(OK, I’m not tired of it. But the missus is sick of dinners interrupted, evening walks detoured, child-births missed as I’m chatting up a desperate wannabe writer in the waiting room.)
Writing a novel is a lot like writing a book. It’s also remarkably similar to writing a novella, only longer.
There are a few key things you need to remember when it comes to writing a successful novel:
You have to use letters. Preferably strung together into words. Words of a language that, again preferably, you know. Or at least a language your readers will know.
(Readers are funny that way, not willing to learn a new language just to experience an amazing novel. Lazy bastards. Most of them will download a pirated copy of your e-book too, cause they’re lazy AND cheap. Makes me wonder why I even try.)
A catchy title is also important. No one will bother to look at the letters strung together inside your book if the title is, “Mmm, Cupcakes.” No matter how perfect that title might be for your book about sentient cupcakes hell-bent on domination of the bovine artificial insemination industry, that title sucks ass and will pull the rug out from under your sales.
(Try “Miniaturized Death Cakes of Sexy, Sexy Doom, Coming For You!” instead. As a starter.)
Which brings me to the third thing you need for a successful book. Awesome cover art. Because if your book IS called “Mmm, Cupcakes” but has a photo-realistic picture of a large-breasted woman cupping her bare bosom, head tilted up and eyes rolled back in ecstasy, then “Mmm, Cupcakes” is gonna be a blockbuster.
(At least amongst the 15-23 year old male market demographic.)
The last, and most important item you need, after the letters smooshed together in a familiar language, a catchy title, and awesome cover art, is marketing.
A book is dead in the water if you don’t have marketing. You could write the next War and Peace, but if you don’t market it effectively, your sales will be so bad you’ll actually lose money.
But if you have awesome, kick-ass, spam-all-your-followers-on-twitter-every-ten-seconds marketing, well…with that, you don’t even need a book!
(Also, please, if you write the next War and Peace, keep it brief. Nothing sinks a book faster than the dead weight of too many pages, too many letters. Bleech.)
((You should shoot for novella-length.))
16 September 2011 at 4:04 pm
I agree with all of this insightful advice, except that I’d totally pick up a book called “Mmm, Cupcakes”.
21 September 2011 at 3:27 pm
Well yes, of course *you* would. And truth be told, that frightens me more than you can imagine. 😉