This was a hard question. It’s completely subjective. The hardest part for me might be your strength. That’s why the writing community exists, and it needs to. Authors need to help each other with our own expertise.
I wrote my first book with my (30-year) best friend. But when she got cancer and died, I couldn’t pick it up anymore. I know I will one day, but not yet. Then I wrote a novella that I published on Wattpad, but I didn’t have many followers, so it sits there, marinating. After that, I had a dream of one scene and ended up creating my debut novel in two and a half weeks. I wrote the sequel in the next two and a half weeks and the third book in the trilogy took me about a year to write. It still needs a ton of editing before it’s released next year.
I queried my list and got an agent who signed me with a small publisher. The Key of F came out in the spring of 2018, The Queen’s Heart releases next month, and The Final Rescue will come out in 2020.
I tried something new with my writing and thought I should write in a different style rather than the common style I know (that works). I wanted to do something new, not what was expected. The marketing has been completely up to me and it has been hard to keep up my social media, my blog, my newsletter, entering contests, emailing book reviewers and bloggers, getting my video trailer made, and sharing, all while working on the next book releasing, and my current WIP.
I wrote an apocalyptic book last year, in my regular style, but I wasn’t in love with it, so I moved on. Then I wrote a science fiction book, but it still needs one more subplot woven in. But the thing is, I knew these books were good, but they weren’t going to be bestsellers.
Was the writing okay? Yes. Were they original? Yes. Were they engaging? My betas said yes. But did they have a dynamic, involved, twisty plot that would make them a best seller? No. It is extremely hard to have passion for and market a book that even the writer knows isn’t going to blow audiences away. So I said, STOP.
Stop floundering. Stop grasping. Stop scraping. It’s time to write a book that I know is going to be a bestseller. No more trying to do it another way. I know what publishers are looking for. I know what agents are looking for. It will be hard, but I know how to do it. I decided it’s time to not only answer everyone else’s questions the right way, but to pay attention to my own advice.
I am plotting my next novel now. One I will not shelve. One that will show me once and for all if I can do this. I’m tired of wasting my time telling other people how to do it right, and doggy paddling in the ocean of marketing and small press publishing, barely keeping my own head above water.
I have learned this: It doesn’t matter how hard you market, it doesn’t matter how well you write, if you don’t have the bones of a bestseller, you are gluing feathers on a lizard, hoping it will pass for a duck. I’m a fan of the seven-step method. Start at the beginning. Before you ever write, make a plan. Decide who your characters are, what is their status quo? Then figure out what their weakness is, what do they need to feel complete? Who are they? They need to have a surface problem that they are trying to solve, while their needs are intrinsic to their mental state. What’s missing in their lives that must be gained?
Your main character needs to have a desire, different from their need. they may not know what they need, but they DO know what they desire. It is the cause of their journey. The opponent is the person or situation (it could be the character themselves) that is in opposition of the MC meeting their goal.
Speaking of a goal, the character needs to make a plan. And you need to make three developments, or problems that come their way. Throw mud on them, throw hot lava on them, throw them into the fire. The problems should stem from the MC trying to fix the first one and they get incrementally worse until the climax. And a few surprises don’t hurt. After your battle, whether it be inner or epic, you need to give us a view of the new “normal,” springing from some kind of self-realization that the MC has learned.
If there’s magic, you need to have a system. Magic should have a price for the user. You must build the world they live in. Make maps to help yourself. Write character sheets. There are several methods you can use to create your story, such as, the Snowflake Method, the 30-Day Method, the 5-Step Method, Write From the Middle Method, the 5-Draft Method, the Novel Factory Method and more. Just Google “methods for plotting a novel” for more ideas.
If you have done your research, planned your book enough to realize the items listed above, and you have writing skill, you will have a great book. And great books get published. In a sea of “good” writing, the “great” books stand out. They get requests for more. Then they get an agent and a publisher complete with a marketing department. If this is your dream, you need to start from the beginning.
“But I’m a Pantser,” you say. “I just write what comes to me. Planning is against my writer’s religion.” Fine. Write what you want. Not every method is going to work for every author. Some people choose not to outline at all. See this controversial article: https://nybookeditors.com/2013/09/outlining/
The comments section is full of angry outliners who call the idea of writing a novel without a plan, ludicrous. You already know what I think. Tell me your stance in the comments.
So, the hardest part of publishing for me has been learning what I know and realizing that I’m not doing what I know works. I don’t know how this journey will work out for me, but stay tuned… I have a map drawn and characters forming, some named and some not. I’ve made the magic system. Things still need tweaking and I’d like to weave in a subplot or two. My line so far is: A Sand Princess finds her true strength, and it isn’t being brave, like she thought.
Does that grab you at all? Let me know in the comments.
And keep writing!