Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Write a Best Seller

For years now, people have sought the magic formula for a best-seller, trying to divine the elements that make up what will hit, and trying to reproduce it. Here's another shot at it.

It is alchemy, trying to turn baser metals into gold.

No one knows what will hit, and many best-sellers are unlikely.
Bridges of Madison County? Head-scratchingly puzzling.
Harry Potter? Turned down many times.
Da Vinci Code? A thousand just like it, with far better writing and plotting, went nowhere.
Twilight? Almost everything similar was written far better. This one hit.
50 Shades of Gray? Someone please explain why women like this!

When I was taking writing classes from Stephen King, he told us of someone who'd tried to analyze best-sellers and write a book with their elements, in hopes of making it big. The result was God's High Table. Yeah, you've never heard of it.

These efforts don't usually hit, because someone conciously trying to write a best-seller is doing it for the money and the ego, not for the story itself. Even these awful hack writers who hit with one were writing what they liked, and their hearts were into it. The fact that dumb stuff occasionally gets popular and goes viral is just a facet of how it is. With over a hundred thousand books a year coming out, a few of them will get a great buzz. And not all of them will be good, so you could say they don't "deserve" it.

Someone asked me why I don't write something like "50 Shades of Gray" to make a lot of money. I said that although rolling around in stable muck might be popular, it wasn't my style. And imitation does not guarantee similar sales.
It ain't a fair game. Ah, well. That's just how it is.

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