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ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Writing a Blockbuster Novel

With all of the options to self-publish, many new authors are learning the joys of writing the blockbuster novel they've always wanted to write. However, especially if you self-publish, the extent of your success as an author is largely determined by the quality of the content and how well you market your work. In self-publishing, you don't have a marketing team and editorial staff advising on what works and what doesn't, so doing your research from the beginning is the best way to avoid wasting time on a novel that doesn't have what it takes to keep your readers interested in reading further.

So how to you write the blockbuster novel? Well, it requires a lot of time, a lot of research and a lot of patience, but beyond that, here are some necessary steps you should take.

Step 1 – Write what you know

This step seems to be the most obvious but isn't always so. It can be difficult to narrow down the subject matter, genre, and core content of the novel you want to write, but the best way to get started is to ask yourself two important questions:

  1. What topic(s) do I know a lot about? (Remember, the more unique, the better)
  2. What genre do I read the most?

Your answers to these two questions will determine the absolute best approach you can take to writing a novel. When you write what you know, there is a certain natural element of authenticity that shows up in your writing that is hard to replicate by someone who doesn't have your unique knowledge and/or experience. Writing within a genre that is comfortable for you is another big plus to make it through the process as painlessly as possible—you know what works (e.g., what has been published already) and you know what that genre's typical audience wants to read.

Step 2 – Use multiple points of view

Some of the best novels ever written used multiple points of view. It creates a more intricate storyline than having an omniscient narrator and it removes the threat of the novelist's voice becoming too overpowering. In reading a story from multiple points of view, we are able to see locations through the eyes of the character rather than having them impersonally described by a narrator. We are also able to see how the characters view each other without obligatory narrator description.

Using multiple points of view also allows the story to move forward easier and at a better pace. You can switch points of view from chapter to chapter (or even within chapters, although this is unusual) and keep the pace strong, while also giving your reader another reason to keep reading. If we've left character A in a precarious situation in chapter 4, then use another point of view for chapter 5, it is likely that the reader will want to keep reading to chapter 6 or chapter 7—whichever chapter brings us back to character A and her predicament.

Step 3 – Outline completely

While it's tempting to jump right in and start writing, it's almost impossible to write a great novel without outlining first. Ask any novelist about the outlining process and he or she will likely tell you that they spent weeks (even months) working on an outline before they ever put pen to paper (or more appropriately in the digital age, finger to keyboard).

You'll find that in the process of outlining, your story might completely change from what you originally intended. That's because when you outline correctly, you'll be able to see all the moving parts with a "bird's eye" view—and this view often shows you were there are holes in your story or plot turns that won't work. Outlining gives you an idea of how the plot will build and what it will build toward, so that you can leave hints along the way through character development or foreshadowing.

Step 4 – End each chapter with a question in your reader's mind

The end of a chapter is arguably the most important part of it—primarily because the way you end it will either discourage or encourage your audience to keep reading. One way to ensure your readers keep turning the page is to end the chapter with a burning question or curiosity that your reader needs to answer.

This part can be done in the outlining process and will also be beneficial for helping you divide up chapters in the most effective way. As you are outlining what will happen, write the question that should be on the reader's mind at the end of each chapter.

"Will [insert character name here] be shot by the man who just entered the room with a gun?"
"Will the girl accept the ring that was just handed to her in a marriage proposal?"
"Will that ticking bomb go off?"

You get the idea…

Step 5 – Don't marry the first few drafts

Speaking of marriage, here's a good rule of thumb for writing your blockbuster novel: don't marry the first few drafts. You'll find that throughout the process of outlining and writing a first draft, the story you originally planned for takes on a life of its own and often goes in entirely different directions than originally planned.

If you get attached to your first draft, you won't give your story the opportunity to take on its own life. When you're absolutely convinced you should keep a plot element or character trait that somehow changes over the course of writing the first draft (or first few drafts), you are limiting your novel. Let the characters develop themselves as you go and be willing to part with them if they aren't working out.

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