Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Secret to Being a Bestseller

This is no gimmick. I'm not going to trick you by saying, "Write a good book." Because yes, that's important. Yes, that is CRUCIAL. You need the good plot, good characters, and good writing--it's essential. But, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say you've done all this, because I know you all are great writers.

There is one thing, however, that writers completely FAIL to comprehend at times.


Every major bestseller has broken at least one of the 'unbreakable' rules of writing. And yet, breaking the rules I listed below did not detract from their stories.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (yes, I'm American. No, I don't like Sorcerer's Stone better)? Big word count and starts off with a flashback.

The Da Vinci Code? PLEASE! If there was a bigger violation of "Show, don't tell," I'd like to see it with all the info-dumps in that book.

Tale of Two Cities? Main character dies in the end, and POV shift at the end (And yet, the ending scene is the most beautifully written scene, in my opinion, of all literature (as far as I've read). I LOVVEEEE it. I reread it to this day).

Animal Farm? ...... Seriously? The main characters are PIGS! (In both senses of the word.)

Hunger Games? Written in first person present tense, which was not all that common back then.

Catcher in the Rye? SOOO MUCH internal monologue and ongoing narrative. No plot.

YET, each one of these rule breaks were so WONDERFULLY done!! Tale of Two Cities is the best selling novel, if I remember correctly, of all time; Harry Potter is the best selling series of all time; Catcher in the Rye... it's Catcher in the Rye. It's awesome. And it sells like crazy.

The thing is, writers get so scared of breaking the rules that they don't do it. The thing to realize is, that rules are made to sort out the mediocre. Most people can't write a tight 120K novel. Most can't pull off a main character's death. Most don't have the awesome voice to pull off a load of internal monologue. That's why there are rules--to sort them out. But if they can do all this stuff well, boy, NOTHING will stop them.

If you write within the rules, then you are SET. You will sell loads, and you will get a huge fan base.

But, if you pull off breaking a rule or two, and you do it AMAZINGLY,  you will be on your way towards JK Rowling and Dickens. (On your way. Maybe not at ;)) Do what comes natural to your story, even if it breaks the rules.

Rules help, loads. So please, KNOW THE RULES BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM! I broke tons of rules in my book, and now, in revisions, I'm going back and fixing them. The rules help. Yet, I still have one big rule that I broke. Don't fix something just because the rules mandate it. Don't fix something that makes the story unnatural. Fix it because critique partners have issues with it (get yourself one if you don't have these awesome people). Fix it because YOU know that it is wrong. Don't fix it if you don't understand why.

Rules are in place for the average writer. Many writers can excel at mediocrity. But only a few can be good at difficulty, and once you are, you've reached bestseller status. (Keep in mind the disclaimer at the top of this post.)

"The Secret of Being JK Rowling," "The Secrets of Creativity," "The Secret to Marketing," and many more are coming. Don't forget to suscribe so you don't miss the posts!

So what about you? What rules have you been panicking about that you've broken?


  1. I certainly don't think you HAVE to break a rule to sell a million books, but I do agree, those people who break those rules do it remarkably well. ;)

    Also agree--write what needs to be written. Maybe you'll have a harder time getting your book out there because of it--God knows I did--but it's so much more worth it to have someone love your story for what it is, than what they think it should be.

    1. I wish I could print out that last paragraph and frame it. I think that's what I, and many others forget when we go through revisions and agent panic. The bottom line is, that it's your book, and your story. You shouldn't change the heart of it because of what others say.

  2. This is gold. Too many people get so hung up on rules, they forget that its is their own book and their own characters which are being strangulated unnecessarily!

    I will go to war with the 'ly's!

    1. Thanks so much! And I agree, the rules help, loads, such as the 'ly's' one, hehe :) But if a writer only goes by the rules, the book gets suffocated

  3. Hey, I broke a MAJOR rule:

    Don't finish your first, debut novel on a cliffhanger.

    Know what? I DID. Do I know it's so wrong? Most definitely. Do I care? Hell naw. Will I change it? More than likely not.

    When I started planning and writing my story, I never set out to write a stand alone with series potential. I set out to write a series. Period. My story BEGGED me to write the ending the way I did. That is what naturally flowed from the rest of the story. It ends on a high, yet 'this is only the beginning' type of note. The story is far, far bigger than anything one book could contain.

    That said, I was well aware of the rule when I started out. I just chose to ignore it, because the story told me too.

    Yet, I've always kind of felt shame because I did that, even though I knew, in my heart of hearts, THAT was how the book should have ended. And it did. Yet I felt bad because I 'didn't follow the rules' and I'm scared it may bite me in the end.

    No one knows what will be the next big thing. Who knows, maybe my little cliffhanger debut novel will be the next rule breaker.

    1. Exactly! No one knows what the next big thing is. And it's good, because if your book's ending came naturally, and that's the way it should have been, MAYBE it needs to be a cliffhanger. You never know. That's why going based off of the rules too much is not that great of an idea.

  4. I love flashbacks, and I love dreams, so I write about them. Heck, my mc has flashbacks she can only access THROUGH dreams. I know that's one of the big "dont's", but I love the subconscious.

    1. The subconscious is soo interesting. My sister loves psychology, so she tells me some stuff that makes a lot of sense, but things I would never have though of. It's really interesting.