Are you an aspiring author? Do you ever dream of writing a best selling book and getting all the notoriety and riches that come with it? Wait no more. “How to Write a Bestseller in 40 Days or Less!” by Barbara DeBolt is a complete step by step guide to writing a bestseller in 40 days or less.
Bestsellers as Formula Books
The premise behind the books is that best sellers are nothing more than formula books. A formula book is a book that fits a certain pattern – A happens before B which happens before C but at the same time as D and so on. In fact, if you read a large number of best selling novels in a particular genre – say adventure novels like Clive Cussler and the like, you will notice that they all follow a certain rhythm. You would expect the rhythm of a certain author to be fairly consistent but if you read 10 best selling authors in that genre, you will find that the rhythm/ the pattern of the books by all of them are almost identical.
“How to Write a Bestseller in 40 Days or Less!” walks you through a particular formula used in best sellers for a variety of sizes of books – from 40,000 words up to 625,000 words. It breaks down the books into the specific flows that need to be followed and what percentage of the book should be related to each of these flows. It is an appropriate guide, a recipe if you will, for writing a fictional best seller.
It states that each book should roughly have the following sections (all of which must be presented at exactly the right point in the book and for the appropriate number of pages to give maximum impact.)
- Introduction of characters and the mood of the book
- The main issue/theme of the book – what is going on
- A strong development of the main character and the theme
- Turning point – an event happens to the main character that wraps that character into the theme
- The hero begins to mold himself or herself to the events at hand
- The hero becomes completely committed to solving the issue
- All heck breaks loose – chaos
- The hero gets a grip on all these loose ends and begins to pull them together
- The wind down – loose ends are all tied together and the conclusion is reached – with perhaps hints of left over bits that can be wrapped into a sequel.
Obviously, there is a lot more to writing a best seller than just following this formula but chances are your fiction work won’t become a best seller if it doesn’t follow this formula pretty closely.
How to Proceed
If you are serious about writing a best seller or even just a darn good novel, I’d recommend getting this book and reading it. It is a quick read. Including all the formulas, it is only a bit over 100 pages. After you read it, pick up a best seller and find the formula that most closely matches the length of the book and start reading the book. Make notations on a piece of paper when you identify the elements that are discussed in the book and see how closely they parallel the formula.
Once you have done this exercise, you have begun to internalize the flow of a best seller.
Now do it a few more times with a few more best sellers to really get a strong grip on the formula.
Once you are very comfortable with the formula, you need to start writing. This may sound silly but the best way to get into the flow of best seller writing style is to actually take a few best sellers and write them out by hand. By doing this rather painful but quite effective exercise, you will internalize the style(s) used within the pages – the action words used, the scene transitions from chapter to chapter, the character interactions, the balance of conversation vs description, etc.
These are skills that need to be mastered to bring the formula to life. By taking this “shortcut”, you will have a much higher chance of success than just sitting down and starting to write. In fact, with this formula, you can do the above exercise at the same time you are writing. Since you know how the sections of the book need to break down, you can just work with a portion of several existing best sellers and then work on your own version of that portion of the book and sort of go back and forth until that section is polished. And then, move on to the next section.
Not a quick process
In spite of the premise of the title – writing a best selling book in 40 days – expect it to take longer unless you are already a gifted writer. Writing, like anything else, is a skill that must be mastered, There is a careful balance that must be achieved in the book to bring it and the characters to life and that only comes with practice.
Do I recommend the book?
If you are truly interested in giving it your best shot, the book is a shortcut. All the information presented in the book is already in the best sellers themselves but it takes time and energy to build the roadmap yourself. I give the book a B rating because I don’t believe it stands completely by itself. In other words, I don’t think many people could pick it up and learn how to write a best seller – but I do think it can certainly help.
However, I personally believe you will better integrate the process by taking the longer route of building the roadmap yourself. If I were going to do it, I would choose three best sellers by three different authors in the genre I was interested in and I would handwrite each of the three books and make notations about flow, character style, etc. as I went along for each book. I also would have a long term goal of having a first book written in 12 to 24 months and tackle it as a part time effort so the process and the creative effort stays enjoyable.