The secret of how to write a bestseller

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Paul Whybrow

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From today's Independent newspaper, yet another article discussing what it takes to write a bestseller:

The secret of how to write a bestseller

There are some great common sense comments made in passing by journalist Andy Martin, but offhand I can't think of any other area of the arts and employment that generates as much advice on 'how to' as writing a book. I'd hazard a guess, that there are more authors making a living lecturing and running writing courses than there are earning a living from their own titles.

Incidentally, Andy Martin recently released a book on how Lee Child writes a Jack Reacher novel:

Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin

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There are some great common sense comments made in passing by journalist Andy Martin, but offhand I can't think of any other area of the arts and employment that generates as much advice on 'how to' as writing a book. I'd hazard a guess, that there are more authors making a living lecturing and running writing courses than there are earning a living from their own titles.

This has made me smile.

I guess that novel writing is perhaps the equivalent of running a marathon, the Tour De France, if you view writing as a sport. And ultimately it is where the real glory lays. Novelists are the ones that have become the legends, the ones that history remembers. Yes, you have Shakespeare but how many other playwrights have genuinely made it into our cultural DNA? Where as we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the likes of Dickens and so on. And they cross national boundaries to an extent that you could argue that the likes of Dickens or King or [insert your choice of non-Anglo authour] are global icons.

Sure, Novelists might not get the money or the girls in the here and now but in terms of legacy, then nothing in the writing world comes close. And that is what ultimately matters.

So everybody wants to write a best seller or rather think that they have it in them. Which I suspect they do. But, like everything else in this modern world of ours, everybody wants the glory but not the gore. And these 'how to books' offer at least a perception that this can be much much easier than it is.

Now to truly wring my writing as sport metaphor until I am draining the last drips out of it, I am strictly the Sunday morning pub footballer. I turn up to play with a hangover, a beer gut, socks that don't match, a kit that needs washing and already desperate for the half-time whistle to blow before the game even kicks off so that I can have a can of beer and a ciggie. Along with knowing that I am never going to grace anything more glamorous than Hackney Marshes on a cold, wet January morning.

But I am still willing to get up and almost give myself a coronary because I love the game. That the worst 90 minutes or so on a pitch that is lumpy with half-bricks and the prospect of some lunatic shattering my shins because that is how he gets his kicks, is still the best way I can spend my time with my clothes on. That when I have hacked my way through yet another match, in which my team gets thumped again and has the worst referee in the world not giving it a single break, the first cup of tea afterwards and the buzz I take with me out of the dressing room makes it all worth while. But I pay the price. And do so willingly.

Books like these, whilst containing nuggets of inspiration and a lot of common sense that has been repackaged for the umpteenth time, are primarily for people who dream of being a writer. Who believe that there is a paint by numbers formula that if they replicate they can make it all the way to Wembley without destroying their knees, or being exposed in the Sunday tabloids due to some sting in a tacky night-club. People not willing to pay the real price. People not willing to put one word in front of another, for hour and after hour, people not willing to then have others rip their efforts to shreds and people not willing to have the courage to put their work out in front of the paying public who probably won't pay much at all.

The Finns have a fantastic word called 'Sisu'. That is what any writer worth their salt needs. Look it up, you will not be disappointed.

There are good books on writing but I am happy to dismiss ANY that claim they can offer you the secret to writing a best seller. If any writer knows that magic formula, they would be writing the best-sellers. In my experience, the only advice that all best selling authours ever offer is the prospect of blood, sweat and tears and desperate plea to not give up the day job. Give me that over anybody who claims different.

Books like these are nothing more than scams. But the world needs scams. Makes it that little bit more interesting and I guess whoever wrote this book is not having to head out for yet another 12 hour shift at a freezing cold airport moving other peoples cars about. So he must know something that I do not. :)
 
Looked up 'Sisu' and was reminded of this quote. “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher.
 
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