Dear Fellow Writer,
Three major things to mention this week.
Three major things to mention this week.
1: I played the first gig with my new band, Repeat Offenders.
2: All of my books are currently on 99 cent special! (see below.)
3: Get a FREE copy of my #1 bestseller, The Easy Way to Write a Novel, by clicking HERE.
The ebook will download immediately.
NOTE: You will need a FREE Kindle reader to read the book, so go HERE to install that FIRST, if you don't already have a Kindle reader.
Your Success is My Concern
The Blockbuster Formula
People often ask me if I know of any successful writers who show how they take their first drafts and make them into the highly polished versions you see in the bookstores. I could only think of a couple.
Stephen King in On Writing includes a rough draft of a story beginning and gives the reader an indication of how he goes about editing to make the writing tighter: cutting out words, changing phrases etc., and generally improving the work. All very illuminating.
Incidentally, people were so intrigued by Stephen's spontaneous example that he was forced to turn the piece into a full blown story which became 1408.
Anyway, the only other person I could think of was Ken Follett. I'd read a book once by the famous literary agent, Al Zuckerman, which included various drafts of Ken's work as he edited his manuscripts to a publishable standard. So, I took a look at Ken's website.
On that I found a gem: a masterclass on writing a bestseller. And this is from a man who's had a few, so if anyone knows how it's done, he does!
What I found most intriguing was that Ken seemed to think there was indeed a formula for writing a blockbuster novel.
So, rather than have you wade through books and websites trying to find illusive information, I thought I'd present what Ken says about writing a blockbuster novel - by presenting the formula here.
1. Come up with a scenario whereby two or three central characters are engaged in a life or death struggle to overcome a huge problem, the bigger the better.
2. Think through the scenario and its setting, the characters and their dilemma, and ask yourself, Has this been done before?
If so, discard the idea and go back to 1.
3. Write down 5 to 10 bullet points that will comprise the 'meat' of the story.
4. Expand on the bullet points until you have a 25 to 40 page outline of your story told in the present tense, introducing all of your characters and all of the story in the right sequence.
Each paragraph should represent a significant plot point.
5. Show this outline to anyone and everyone who will read it and make comments: friends, agents, publishers, the man who collects the trash, anyone.
Make note of any comments and adjust the story accordingly.
Ken Follett suggests this process of creating the ultimate novel outline might take anything up to a year to complete.
6. Write the first draft.
Make sure you have a significant 'story turn' every four to six pages. (I told you it was a formula.)
Adhere to this rule - too many story turns too often will confuse the reader, too few and they will get bored.
7. Repeat the process mentioned in point 5 with the first draft.
Make adjustments accordingly.
This should take between 6 months and a year to get right.
The first draft may take a month or two but the rest of the time is spent re-writing to make the novel perfect.
Now, the most important aspect of this formula is that you don't approach it necessarily as a writer.
No, you approach it as a storyteller.
The writing must be crystal clear, only concerned with story.
If there's ever a passage that smacks of 'good writing', you must ruthlessly delete it.
Because, when you're writing a blockbuster, you're not in the business of impressing people with your writing skills.
Your text should 'transparent', totally clear and focused on telling a story.
There should be no barrier between the reader and the story.
There should be no author intruding on the text - and the writing should never 'get in the way' of the characters, their actions and the ultimate resolution of their agendas.
Many writers make the mistake of thinking that merely being a good writer is an end in itself.
It's merely the beginning.
The ability to write well is one thing but the ability to re-write, edit, alter and change everything from the tiniest bit of punctuation to the overall theme of a novel without so much as a sigh is the sign of a true blockbuster novelist.
So, now you know how it's done, go for it!
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