"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: What You Should Know About Being a Commercial Author

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What You Should Know About Being a Commercial Author

This week a writer asked me a great question - something I take so much for granted that I realised I don't talk about it much!

The question was simple:

"I love what you teach, Rob, but can you give me the names of any popular novels that exemplify and reflect your teaching?"

Where to start?

First, take a look at the top 100 bestselling novels out there at any one time! All of them contain the elements I teach. All of them.

You name a successful author, and I can tell you exactly what they do that makes them commercial and popular.

Anyone from Jeffrey Archer to Poppy Z Brite.

The Fact Is...

I have made it my business over the last twenty five years to study all kinds of popular fiction - in all kinds of commercial genres: thrillers, romance, mystery, fantasy, horror and science fiction - hence, my expertise and my ability to teach these genres.

I have made similar studies in popular film making - hence, I would have to say, our recent successes is screenplay writing.

And just for good measure, I was a pop star once, which gave me huge access to the art of composing and songwriting techniques.

I'm actually a bit of geek when it comes to popular culture. I know lots of trivia too about films, books and music of the 20th century - so much so that in days gone past I was always the guy chosen to answer those questions in local quiz nights!

More important - the thing that makes me different I would guess - is my ability to not just enjoy art and craftsmanship in fiction, movies and music - but to also be able to assimilate, dissect and understand exactly what goes into creating commercial 'art'.

More than that, I can teach exactly HOW YOU CAN DO IT TOO.

I know this because people tell me all the time - daily, and have done for more years than I care to ponder.

I don't know how I picked up this ability - or what it's really for - I just know that if it is a gift, then I should use it - not only to help further my own 'artistic' career - but to help other people achieve their dreams too.

I like to think that's what I do.

If I thought I wasn't teaching people to become successful, confident and motivated artists, I would stop doing this tomorrow!

There would be no point, would there?


Here's a FREE Breakdown of My BEST Advice

1. Choose the direction you want to go in

This may be the hardest part for many - to know with certainty the genre or the road on which you want to travel. Many artists and writers may spend decades discovering the kind of stories they want to write - and the kind of writer they want to be.

But unless you're some kind of polymath, then specialization is the key to success. Choose one area in which you wish to excel and focus on that alone.

If you're not sure, choose something related to what you love already. If you love romance, write romance, study it, learn the genre requirements and live the life of a romance writer.

Don't fight the genre requirements, God no, not yet, absorb them, understand them and write to show publishers you get it.

This advice is true for any artistic pursuit.

Being different is okay once you're there - but if you don't show people you know what you're doing first, then you're never going to get to the point where you can experiment.

This holds true for all great authors - from Stephen King to JK Rowling, from James Patterson to Patricia Cornwell: they proved they can handle their genre first, then put their own stamp on it.

2. Find Out Everything You Need to Know

Read anything and everything related or connected to that genre or direction you'd like to focus on.

Become an expert on your genre. Study its authors.

Learn how the greats have done it. Work out exactly how writers structure their sentences, their paragraphs, their chapters, their entire novels - it's not that hard to do.

Even if there are authors that you're not crazy about, and yet they are successful and popular, study them too. Work out why their writing is effective to their fans.

3. Constantly Improve Your Technique

Make it a lifelong goal to improve your writing - to get better.

Study the basics often. Study all you can about spelling, grammar, style, writing technique, planning and all of the myriad advice around regarding fiction and creative writing.

You can never hear good advice too many times.

And to think you are above the basics is to kid yourself - there is no such thing as a writer who does not find all of the nuances of writing - including the most trivial - absolutely fascinating.

If you don't, then take up gardening. It will probably be more rewarding for you!

And I've saved the best advice for last:

4. When it comes to telling stories, develop the concept fully.

The modern world of commercial writing is not primarily focussed on creating or even acknowledging good writers. You can be the most fabulous writer in your community BUT if you can't tell a half decent story, you will struggle to become a successful author.

Look at all of the bestselling authors of the 20th and 21st centuries - what do you see?

Not the writers. No, their characters, their worlds, their STORIES are what stand out.

Think about James Bond or Sherlock Holmes. Think about Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code.

It's the concepts that sold these stories to millions of readers.

You don't even have to be a great literary writer.

Once they had a good idea that was well thought out, all of the most successful authors of the last 100 years had to do was immerse themselves so fully into their concepts that they were merely recording their worlds for others to share.

That, my friend, is all you need to 'get' if you really want to be a commercial bestselling author.

That's my best advice (for what it's worth!)

Thanks for letting me rant.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

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