Dec 18, 2011

Writing a best seller

Do you long to see your name on the cover of a book, but don’t know where to start? For one thing, you don’t get all the answers in one spot, and you don’t get to know it all in a day. Writing is a process. It evolves slowly and undulates over time. You are in it for the deliciousness of words, for the turn of a phrase, for the telling of a tale that will take you into uncharted territory. You can teach someone how to construct a sentence, but you can’t instill in him that magic that comes naturally from the pen. It is the right brain at work and if he hasn’t got it in him, all the teaching in the world won’t make his writing special. Yes, there is the one-time novelist who has a great story to tell, tells it with the help of a ghostwriter, makes a truck load of money and afterwards falls between two cracks and disappears. Is he a writer? I don’t know.

The writing process

The writer’s intention when contemplating writing a book starts with an agonizing need from some place deep within to tell a story that will take the reader by the neck and hold him captive until the last line in the book. The writers who persevere and hone their craft by writing and reading know that it is a process and take time with their work and are always writing things down. They are not in a hurry. They want to get their characters just right. They want to work on their sub plots. There are many ways to skin a cat so to speak, and true writers find time to write, even if it means parking for forty minutes at the waterfront or the beach, watching the sun sink into the ocean and scribbling a few notes down. One can learn much about the art of writing by reading and writing and rewriting. I teach a short creative writing course over three Saturdays on different aspects of writing and small groups of five or six or seven students make it an easy process.

Honing your craft as a writer

Always read aloud what you have written to hear the rhythm on your ear. You will know when the rhythm is out and you need a comma to pause. If you are serious about writing a book, just get down to business and start to write. Writing is about writing and rewriting as stated before, and you will start at the beginning many times and throw out stuff at the end of the day. That’s all part of the process and a test for you. Publishers want stories that are unique, that have not been told before. They want stories that take the reader into another world. They want interesting characters and villains and heroes and a protagonist that keeps you curled up on the couch.

Writers also need other writers to mingle with for an exchange of ideas and to discuss anything new they have learned. A good book to get is Writing the Natural Way. It is not a book you read through in one sitting, but rather slowly, doing the exercises, and absorbing everything. Writers tend to read these books over and over so as not to miss or forget something they have read. They are earnest about their craft, they want to improve and write that big novel. Here is the opening paragraph of the award-winning novel Confessions of a Gambler. 

“The first thing I have to confess is that I’m a Muslim woman. I’m forty-nine. I wear two scarves; an under-scarf, and a medorah. I’ve raised all my sons with the Word of God. When you pass me on the street, you won’t even glance my way. I’m one of those robed women who appear to be going nowhere.”

The Muslim protagonist in this story confesses her sins and tells a tale you will not easily forget. The book and movie is available in bookstores and at

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