Writing a bestseller – how to make it happen

booksautumnLife. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? You never stop learning. With more than 20 years in publishing and with 7 books written, I thought I knew about writing books, so when approached by Hodder to write a book, enticingly titled Write a Bestseller, I was delighted.

What could be easier, I thought, than writing about novel writing, after all, I mentor writers’ every day, connect with agents and publishers most days of the week and run Britain’s biggest writers’ club. I also used to commission non-fiction so every box was ticked, or so I thought.

What I’d forgotten about is the pure and simple fact that knowing what I wanted to write and knowing how to write are not the same as actually getting the WRITING DONE. The deadline was tight from the outset but then I got to the point where I had just six months to write 90,000 words. I was in a panic, often to be found in Bushy park at 5am muttering about it to the trees and the deer. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t get the book written either.

All the years of writing, publishing and agenting expertise didn’t help because I was waiting for inspiration and the right mood to strike instead of just sitting down to it and treating it like a job.  I also realised that as most writing is done alone, you can waste a lot of time just mulling over what you’re writing, not sure whether it is any good. So I applied the mentoring advice I always give to clients to draw up a plan to get it done AND got some editorial feedback from trusted colleagues so that I knew I was on the right track. Within 4 months I had the book written!

What did this insight mean for how I could help writers?

Well firstly I wrote a recipe for a bestseller which in the writing phase looks like this:

Good hook or concept + great story + zeitgeisty or timeless in appeal

+ good-enough writing + fits genre conventions or creates a new one that works

+ plausible and interesting characters + good setting + universal themes = Bestseller.

Not every bestseller has all  of these but they do contain at least a handful of these. Tick all of these and you’ll be well on your way.  There’s loads more in the publishing and promoting phase which I will share in a another blog but this is enough to be going on with.

Then, in addition to the creative and industry stuff I help with, I realised that what writers are also desperate for industry advice, accountability and a place to write and receive feedback as they worked.

With my new-found awarness of writers’ pain I set up all sorts of ways to help writers get their books started, completed and published, including workshops and write with an agent sessions in London, skype sessions globally and writers’ retreats in Bali.

So how about you? Are you going to make the commitment to find out if the book you’re toying with can get written?

I’ve felt your pain and I am here to help so if you feel you can’t crack on alone, do arrange a chat with me to find out how I can help. Email laura@londonwritersclub.com now.

Here’s to productive writing.

Jacq Burns


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