There are two main skills involved in writing a bestselling novel.
Have you ever thought about that?
All authors have both but most are heavy on one and light on the other. It is the rare author (almost always a BestSelling Author) that is a master of both skills.
The good news is that once you know these two skills, you can go about intentionally developing them every day.
The two most important skills for writing a novel
- Writing ability
In my humble opinion, the better you get at these two skills, the better author you’ll become and the better experience you’ll produce for the reader.
Let me be clear, I have not mastered either of these skills, much less both of them. I do my best to improve in both areas every day, and over the last 20 years that I’ve been writing, I can see a marked improvement.
I think that is as much as any of us can hope for….
How to Master the Two Most Important Skills for Writing a Novel
As you likely already know, these two skills are really categories that host numerous sub-skills.
In other words, both writing and storytelling are not single skills but each a set of many interrelated skills.
How to Write Like A Bestselling Author
If I was forced at gun point to rapidly teach somebody how to write, I would share the following three strategies:
Therefore, I believe great writing is a combination of writing that is clear, concise and compelling.
One of the issues with any writing, of course, is that people often think that they are being clear or concise or compelling while others passionately disagree.
Sometimes the author is right and sometimes they are dead wrong.
Either way, the author loses.
Writing is subjective but (thankfully) there are plenty of guidelines and best practices.
Here are a few of them.
Clear As Mud
Clarity, to me, is about doing all (or most of) the work for the reader. Clarity is being specific – as if explaining something to a three-year-old.
Clarity is organized, precise and comprehensive. Clarity leaves out nothing. Clarity often includes pictures or video. Clarity anticipates and answers all possible questions.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
How To Write Very Very Very Concise Without Repetition or Saying More Words Than Absolutely Necessary
Concise writing is writing with short words and sentences. It is saying what you want to say as simply and quickly as possible and then shutting up (at least in literary terms).
While clarity is about comprehension, conciseness is about time and economy of space on the page.
I Compel Thee
Compelling writing is writing that gets attention, that is personal (as appropriate) and memorable. Writing in a compelling manner is about style over substance.
Depending on what you are writing and to whom, a compelling style can (and often does) involve figurative language in the form of analogies and metaphors.
There is much more that can be said about each quality of great writing.
However, this post is a good place to start in the development of your craft.
How to Blow People Away with Your Storytelling
When I say storytelling, I’m talking about the structure and narrative elements of plot and setting and character.
The best way to improve your storytelling is to become a student of story.
Like most things, storytelling is both simple and complex. The more you understand story and the elements of a compelling narrative, the better storyteller you’ll be.
I’m convinced that most people don’t have as good a grasp of story as they might imagine. A good question to ask yourself is, “What is story?”
Take a moment to think about your definition of story. If you had to define story, what would you say?
(Bonus points for answering out loud in a British accent)
My favorite definition of story is from screenwriter, William C. Martell.
Story is when an external conflict forces a character to resolve an internal conflict – William C. Martell
If you keep that definition straight, and execute it on the page, you will become a master storyteller.
Every character, setting and scene should be about the external and internal conflict. How the character resolves those conflicts IS the story.
Here’s a quick summary:
Clear, Concise and Compelling Writing + Characters Forced by an External Conflict to Face and Resolve an Internal Conflict = Bestseller Writing