Who said that? Oh, it was me. I know, I say it every year. If only saying it made it true! So, how does one go about writing a bestseller?First off, don’t tie your imminent success to projected book sales. Instead, set out to write a really great story. Realistically, we have very little control over whether or not our stories become bestsellers or not. But what we can control, is crafting a story so compelling, so evocative and so poignant, that people can’t resist buying it, and publishers can’t resist promoting it (see: Hunger Games).Two Truths:First Truth: Writing several chapters that follow each other in a consecutive order is easy.Second Truth: Writing an entire novel-length story where the chapters are cohesive and build upon each other, where the story follows an arc, the character grows and fulfills their biggest desire, (or not) in a compelling, yet realistic way (with plot-twists) told in a style that is completely original and at once familiar, is really REALLY hard!Oh, we knew that already. Well, sometimes we need reminding.So, let’s take smaller bites. I’m going to outline a model of writing that works for me. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a guide for thinking about measurable progress in very concrete terms. We’ll lay it out for the calendar year of 2013, since we’re all going to write bestsellers this year, I mean, really great stories. Keep in mind, this is the macro, and that each time-frame can be further sub-divided into even smaller micro bites. Yum, let’s get started.January: Dream. Think about your story and your main character’s journey. What does she want? What is this story about? How is it relevant? Who are you writing it for? What do you hope to accomplish with this story?February: Plot. Hopefully, this will be done with the help of trusted friends and critique partners. Sketch your story in a way that works for you. One of my writing partners uses one of those tri-fold science project boards and divides it into three acts with color-coded Post-Its that list the major plot points. The boards are amazing! For me, I usually make an outline or write one sentence for each chapter “This is where our hero is called to action. This is where our hero realizes that what she thought she wanted is not at all what she wanted.” Yes, it’s that dry.March-April: Fast and Dirty. Writing, you guys, come on. Don’t worry about making it pretty or flowing or award-winning. Just get it out. You will most likely change every word later, some words several times over. The most important thing is to write it.May: Give it to someone else, get their comments, which should include significant changes as it is first-draft work. Wrestle with self-doubt, consider deleting the story (don’t do it!), and then, get over it.June-July: Rewrite for plot; fix your beginning, middle and end. Make sure you like your ending, and that it works for your story. It should be unexpected, and yet, it is the inevitable conclusion to the story you’ve so meticulously laid out, one that is unexpected, yet congruent with page 1. Working backwards sometimes helps.August: Rewrite. For emotion, voice, dialogue, transitions. Fix grammar, spelling, echoes, melodrama, etc.September: Give it to your original person and also to someone new. Take both of their comments graciously. Wine and chocolate help. Incorporate those comments that you are in agreement with, but remain true to your story.October: Polish. Blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease are an amazing concoction.November: Write your abbreviated and extended synopsis and query letter (if seeking an agent); book a writing conference and pay for a formal critique. Take advantage of connections you have and cultivate new ones. If you’re self-publishing, do your homework! Research your avenues of publication and initiate the process.December: Relax. Take a shower, walk the dog, and congratulate yourself on writing a really great story, regardless of the outcome.So, what do you say? Is it do-able? Does it make sense? Are you pumped and ready? Then let’s all write bestsellers, I mean, really great stories in 2013!
Laura Lascarso's debut YA novel Counting Backwards (Atheneum) is available in stores now. Visit her on the web at www.lauralascarso.com