Writing is a calling. We may write because we have an important story to tell and cannot rest until it is out in the world. Or we may write because we want to help others who are struggling with similar challenges or traumas in their lives. Writing is connection; it is a way of saying, “I am here and my story matters.” Bringing your unique book into the world can be like launching your child into adulthood. You must finally let go but you also watch carefully and pray that others are kind.
From a more pragmatic point of view, A. A. Milne also noted that “Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.” Writing is one of those human endeavors, like music, dancing, or painting, in which the sublime and the practical often collide.
To be a writer is to be an artist. To be a successful writer is also sometimes to be a businessperson, entrepreneur, marketer, public speaker, and all-around jack of all trades.
Few of us can do all these things well or consistently, without burning out, which is why I love to streamline and share what I have learned through trial and error with other writers. Here are five elements to writing a bestseller that I believe every writer needs to consider.
These five elements do not have to be done in the order I discuss them here. In fact, you will often find yourself jumping back and forth between them during the writing process. However, each element is crucial to the success of your book.
The preparation stage requires a quiet, relaxed environment. I encourage the authors I work with to meditate briefly before this stage. You want to center yourself, relax your breathing, and invite your Muse to come closer and abide with you.
During preparation, you probably already have an idea or a message that you are passionate about exploring and sharing. You have a burning desire to get the word out about an experience or trial or tribulation that has happened to you. If you choose to write fiction, you want to build a world that no one has even seen before and make that world real to your readers.
If you are a niche writer who wants to write about healing or coaching or music or space or nature, or anything else that inspires you, you must marinate in the subject for a long time before you start putting words on paper. Doing the work to become versed in your subject can be challenging but rewarding.
If you write fiction, you should prepare by reading other writers in the area you want to be in, to see how published writers create books that speak clearly and powerfully to the reader. If you’re an entrepreneur, the preparation stage includes reading market research to understand how your book idea compares to other leaders in your field.
At the preparation stage, you become an apprentice of sorts. Like an eager student, you want to absorb every bit of information you can find about your niche and the topic that calls to you to write.
In this stage, as the book continues to marinate, you may start to dream about the topic or receive flashbacks or intuitive hits about the topic even when your mind is elsewhere. Your subconscious will be actively turning over ideas, often without your knowledge, generating insights, questions, and decisions. Incubation is a crucial stage because it can take a significant amount of time and can’t be rushed. You need to trust your incubation process and give it time to flourish.
Once your Muse or Higher Self has decided it is time to move forward, the first classic sign of creativity tends to appear. In the Insight stage, don’t be surprised if you have frequent “A-ha” and “eureka” moments where everything starts to fall into place. Your Muse might also kick you in the side and urge you to “Get on with it!”
The creativity element happens most frequently when you are doing something rote or mindless, such as taking a shower, walking the dog, or sitting in traffic. The previous two elements – preparation and incubation — have been busy moving you along the path to this moment of utter joy and clarity. You feel intensely motivated.
The evaluation process is not always easy for creative people. Writers can be an odd combination of fragility and ego. We may have a hundred different things we want to say but we know we don’t have time to elaborate on all of them, so we pare down our story to a manageable single topic or storyline.
Yet doing so can be hard. Writers from William Faulkner to Steven King have described the evaluation stage as “killing our darlings,” since pruning ideas, paragraphs, and even whole chapters feels awful. Bear in mind, though, that you aren’t really killing them. If you find yourself paring your book frequently, it likely means that you have another book in you. You can save some of your words for later.
In this stage, we also need to evaluate our idea from our Ideal Reader’s perspective, not our own and find those parts of the story that can be deleted without losing the golden thread that ties the book together. Ask yourself, “Is this idea or topic or story an outside-the-box novel idea, or am I beating a dead horse, saying things that have already been said before a thousand times?” Eventually, you will reach the point where you can confidently say, “these are the ideas and stories and quotes that have the most merit so I’m going to use them.”
- Elaboration This stage is where the writing begins. You may find yourself returning to previous stages as your book evolves, but if you have done a thorough job of preparing, incubating, contemplating, and evaluating, you are now ready to write. So, take up your pen (or laptop) and begin.
These five elements are essential to the process, but there is so much more that goes into achieving bestseller status. Truth be told, it can become a bit overwhelming unless you have an experienced helping hand to guide you along the way. That is exactly what we offer with the Deborah King Publishing Services. We help you go through our proven, step-by-step process to go from zero to book launch. And you can learn all about it by clicking here >>