Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bestsellers


What author doesn’t want to write a bestseller? I bet most of us—if not all of us--dream about fame, fortune and a place on the bestseller list. But how does a book actually get there? First of all, everyone says write a fantastic novel. Ok, you ask, how do I do that? No one knows for sure what exactly pushes a book out front and becomes a blockbuster bestseller! Obviously, the book has something special. Yet it can’t be bottled.

But here’s the good news: bestsellers have common elements. Maybe the next bestseller will be yours.


1.The future bestseller must be entertaining. Delete the boring parts or at least hide them in a file that no one sees but you. I hate to permanently delete, so I don’t. So far I’ve never used those old scenes, but they’re still around if I ever need them.

2.Keep the reader hooked by writing a page-turner, ‘can’t put it down’ book. If you trust your critique partner to give her honest opinion, ask her/him for it and then thank her even after you hear the verdict. Don’t ask you mother or your best friend for total honesty. They won’t want to hurt your feelings, no matter what they think of your book.

3. Write a book that’s movie friendly. It should be fast-paced, and adaptable to the big screen.

4. A reader should be able to condense what the story’s about in 25 words or less. That way we know the story isn’t too confusing or complicated. I know that’s hard even for authors, but if a reader can tell the gist of the story, including the hook, in a few words, then she’ll be able to tell others about it. Word of mouth sells books.

5. What’s the story question? Is it obvious enough for the reader to identify early on in the book? For example: Will Scarlett marry Ashley or will she marry Rhett? (Gone with the Wind. Waving to Julie!) That question follows us throughout the story. Here’s another one. Will the shark come back again? (Jaws) Make the question clear.


6. Develop strong complications not easily overcome. How will Scarlett marry Ashley if he’s engaged to Melanie? A few other major complications—Rhett Butler and of course, the Civil War, followed by the struggle to survive and eventually prosper during Reconstruction.


7. The hero and heroine can’t be wimps. They have deep convictions and resolve and strong passions that rise above most human experience. Their emotional intensity results in courageous and surprising actions. The hero and heroine act decisively, pushing and shoving against obstacles in their paths. Things are difficult, but they move forward without a lot of introspection. They act more than they think.

8. The readers must make an emotional connection to the hero and heroine. Despite all of Scarlett’s flaws, we feel for her as she tries to catch Ashley who’s unattainable and really temperamentally unsuitable.

We give Scarlett grudging respect after she returns to Tara and finds it practically ruined because of those darn Yankees. We want her to fight for the land and for Tara because it’s worth fighting for. No one else has equal courage or determination. The spoiled southern belle is turning into a strong woman. We empathize with her struggles and admire her tenacity, although we’d probably cringe at some the tactic she uses to survive and prosper.


We also empathize with those who suffer, especially when they bring it on themselves. We wonder why Scarlett doesn’t understand she’d be happier with Rhett than Ashley.


9. In a bestseller the hero or heroine at first seems overmatched. He has to summon all his energy, bravery, intelligence and skills in order to survive. Readers like the characters’ commitment to their goal, even if it’s not totally selfless.

10. References to the past (back story) are usually pared down to the essentials. The present is very important. I think Gone with the Wind is an exception in this respect because Scarlett’s mother Ellen has a chapter devoted to her past even though it’s not crucial to the story. I happened to have enjoyed learning about her. But the book was written in 1936 and the writing style was different. Bestsellers now are shorter with less back story and less introspection—not that Scarlett was at all introspective!

11. Bestsellers employ suspense, particularly the threat of physical or psychological danger. The warning signs or threats of dreaded future events are in place early. This suspense gradually accelerates and pulls us along into the story. In the Godfather, the horse’s head appears early, so we knew these people mean business and won’t hesitate to use violence.

12. Action trumps interior monologue. I think this is true even in a romance, although romances have more internalization than action thrillers have.

13. In a bestseller a small story is often told against a sweeping backdrop such as a war. For example, Gone With the Wind is more than a romance. It explores large issues and big themes including war, slavery and women’s empowerment. Scarlett looks out at the world, she doesn’t look into herself. There are two stories—one about a narcissistic, spoiled teenager, and another about a young woman gaining strength through responding to adversity.



These are just a few elements found in most bestsellers. Can you think of any more?

I’m giving away an Advanced Reader’s Copy of A Path toward Love. If you’re interested, please leave your e-mail address.







92 comments:

Tina Pinson said...

Cara,

One day I may be the author of the next bestseller. It could happen. Yep, yep, it could.

I'm cheering myself on here.

I'm going to do a picture book. Those can be riveting without being wordy. And thrilling as well.

Love the Pictures through the post today. And love the cover of your book.

Tina

Helen Gray said...

Pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee.

I guess my dreams are pretty modest. I just want to write books that people would like to read. I'm a simple gal. :)

Helen

Virginia said...

Loved this post!!!

Can I confess... I've never read 'Gone With the Wind'. OR seen the movie. Those dresses. The hats. Ugh.

But this post made me want to revoke my membership in the tiny club of people who have not watched the movie. Hm.

and I'd love a chance at your new book. :)

Virginia said...

Tina! I would buy your book! We probably have 3 book shelves of hardback picture books. Another 2 of paperbacks. Little kids books are the air I breathe until I check in at Seekerville...

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning! Of course you could be the author of the next best seller, Tina! Any of us could--anything is possible. I don't expect to, but that's okay. Margaret Mitchell never thought she'd write the novel of the century.

I'm glad you like my cover. Thanks Thomas Nelson!

Cara Lynn James said...

Helen, it's early, so I really appreciate the coffee. What would Seekerville do without you?

Write a great book and maybe it'll hit the bestseller list. Of course, the satisfaction is in the actual writing.

Cara Lynn James said...

Virginia, have you ever read Gone with the Wind? The writing is a little dated, but the story is great. I could've used tons of books as examples, but I picked one of my favorites.

My daughter never read GWTW and she hasn't seen the movie either. I loved the costumes, but can't imagine how people could wear them in the summer heat. No wonder they used to faint alot!

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, I'd buy your picture book, too. I have two grandsons.

Walt Mussell said...

Tina, I will pre-order your next book to drivable sales, but don't know if that will take it to best seller status.

Never read GWTW, though I have seen the movie a couple of times. Love Melanie. Can't stand Scarlett. Still amazed by jthe real life sory of the actor that played Ashley. He poured hIs fortune into making troop support films for the British during WWII. He was targeted and eventually killed by the Germans.

I'm not certain I can add anything to the list, but as I am studying character- building at the moment (and using Myra's spreadsheet from last week I think it was), I will say that characters are the most important.

Also will add my name to the list.

wmussell(at)hotmail(dot)com

Janet Dean said...

Cara, great list of bestseller must haves! I love GWTW! And who wouldn't want to be a bestseller?

Helen, my first goal was to see if I could write a novel. Once I did, I wanted to get it published. Now that I'm published, having a best seller would be nice. :-) Guess we keep dreaming bigger, one step at a time.

Walt, I love Melanie, love her quiet strength. As nice as she is, she loves Scarlet. How can you not? :-)Your story about the actor who played Ashley is fascinating. I have a book on the life of Margaret Mitchell. She shared some of Scarlet's qualities. :-)

Two more days before my wip wings its way to NYC. Off to polish!

Janet

Glynna Kaye said...

WALT! You should never, never, never have watched GWTW BEFORE reading the book! I actually didn't care that much for the movie and was so thankful I'd read the book and let the author tell me the story from inside of the Scarlett's head first before "Hollywood" did its interpretation.

Rose said...

I'm with Helen, I just hope that I'm writing books that get read and someone likes!

Which brings this question to mind...do you think the author has any idea that they are writing a best seller when they're languishing over every word?

Cara Lynn James said...

Walt, I didn't know that about Lesley Howard, the actor who played Ashley. It's funny they used 2 Brits to play southerners--he and Vivian Leigh.

I think character and plot are equally important. Most people seem to lean toward one or the other.

Cara Lynn James said...

Congratulations on another book, Janet!

Whether or not we ever write a bestseller, it's good to follow the common features they have. Bestsellerdom isn't on my radar, but it would be nice!!!

I liked Melanie way more than Scarlett, but Scarlett was so much more exciting and unpredictable. Melanie turned out to be more courageous than I thought she'd be.

Cara Lynn James said...

Glynna, I loved the book and the movie! I read the book first when I was 12 because my mother really liked it and she didn't read many books. Great summer reading.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Rose! If Margaret Mitchell knew she was writing a bestseller I don't think she' have hidden it away for a long time before she sold it. I don't think she even submitted it herself. Julie would probably know.

pol said...

Good morning Cara, I like reading your books and bestsellers or not they are fantastic. I enjoyed the post today with your excerpts of GWTW, my all time fav movie. Melanie was the sweet one but Scarlett was so full of life and lovable. thanks for sharing today on Seekerville-always learn something when I stop in and see the wonderful authors here...
Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

Debby Giusti said...

Cara,
Loved what you said about keeping the story from being confusing or complicated. Michael Hauge says movies usually involve a simple premise. I'm trying to hone in on that core idea, or story question, to ensure I stay focused as I write. As you so clearly pointed out, the story should be uncomplicated even though the backdrop may be huge, such as the Civil War with GONE WITH THE WIND.

Thanks for confirming a point I need to keep front and center as I plow forward with my WIP.

Debby Giusti said...

We Atlanta folks live and breathe Margaret Mitchell. There's an antebellum home in a neighboring town that one of Margaret's relatives owned. She and her family would visit. I believe it was her uncle who had fought in the Civil War. He told stories from that porch, which planted seeds Margaret later used in her novel.

Also there's a rather modest farmhouse in Jonesboro, which is said to be the Tara Margaret wrote about in GWTW. Hollywood turned the farmhouse into a mansion.

DebH said...

I've never read GWTW and only seen bits and pieces of the movie. Guess I never had much interest when I was younger - I think it was the dresses and Southern Belle thing - I was/am a tomboy more interested in action stuff. (boys were to be conquered to show them i could be just as good as them - heh - never thought i'd want to kiss 'em *double heh*)

i love the list though. Good things to have as goals as I write.

oh, and I'd buy a picture book. my little guy loves them (unfortunately he likes the sound of ripping paper as well - still teaching him about taking CARE of his books - GENTLE!!!!)

love books - love winning them as well... nm8r67 at hotmail dot com

Walt Mussell said...

Janet has another book on the way? There's another thing I need to pre-order. :-)

Carol Moncado said...

Will read through the comments later but how can one NOT wave at Julie after this post ;).

Another printer off-er Cara!

And I'd LOVE a chance to win!

I won't say the thought of a bestseller hasn't crossed my mind, but I'll settle for one that sells well enough to get me another contract ;).

Mary Connealy said...

You know I've been planning to write my Larry Slaughter and the Hunger Twilight seven book series, right?
I've mentioned that?
All I needed was a plot.
I may have come up with it last night. A weird sci-fi-ish notion came to me.
The Velveteen Rabbit and Olivia Newton John inspired it.
That's probably a sign it's wrong, wrong, wrong.

Anonymous said...

Cara Lynn James!! :)
Happy to see you there and I enjoyed the post!
Now you probably have no idea who I am, but I've been looking at your books for a while now and I'm definitely planning to read one of them. Congratulations, your stories sound really good!

Ps: I can not believe there were people who felt empathy for Scarlett. Seriously?

Pss: Julie must be really happy right now.

Thanks for the post! :):)

I would be very HAPPY to win this giveaway!

Ganise

Mary Connealy said...

A really interesting comment someone made to me once about Stephan King. I don't read horror and I have read 2 and 1/4 of Kings books.
But this comment always stayed with me. I said King got famous because he was first. He wrote horror and pushed it way past the envelope of what was acceptable but still managed to hit with it and because he was FIRST, he got really famous, mostly invented the genre...at least in it's modern form.
But whoever I said that to, said the reason King got so famous was his characterization, not his horror. He made us CARE about his characters.
I thought about that and one of the books I read was Carrie. Have any of you read it or seen the movie?
King sets up the character so well that, at the end, in that prom scene, when they pour blood down on her head, remember? And she just goes CRAZY. All the gym doors lock and she brings down FIRE AND BRIMSTONE on everyone. Evil punks and people who have been good to her, too. NO ONE IS SPARED.
And the thing is, King sets that up so well, that even after she does that, we still care about her.
We still root for her and wish she could find a happy life.
And that is genius.
And that makes a bestseller, when you make people understand and care about your characters that deeply.

Audra Harders said...

Mornin' Cara. Great insight into the bestseller.

You hit all the important points that we should keep in our frontal lobe as we write -- whether we want to acknowledge them or not, LOL!

I once critiqued with a gal who absolutely LOVED all her words. When we pointed out a slow part in the ms, or asked her cut out fluff and nonsense, she'd actually POUT -- right there in front of us -- and give us an airy "we'll see."

'Course, nothing ever got cut. She never got published.

Great words of wisdom, Cara. Can't wait to hear JULIE'S take on it, LOL!

Anonymous said...

Ouh, email adress:

ganise_4life@hotmail.com

BTW: Your name is very pretty, Cara!

A wonderful day to Seekerville!

Ganise

Jeanne T said...

Cara,LOVED this post. To be honest, I've never thought I'd be on the best seller's list. If I can get published, if I can pay out my advance, maybe make a little on top in royalties, I'll be thrilled. Of course, that's a ways down the road. :) I gleaned some great info today, and I plan to use this as I'm revising my WIP.

What I keep hearing in the comments is the characterization counts. Definitely working on that with my heroine. :)

WALT--didn't know that about Ashley. What a man he must have been.

JANET--congrats on giving your wip wings to fly to NY soon.

Hanging my head at this confession, but I haven't read GWTW yet. Your post today inspired me to find it and read it. :)I have seen the movie (hanging my head lower at seeing the movie before reading the book).

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, CARA, honey -- you had me at "Scarlett"!!!

LOVED the breakdown you put here for a bestseller and, of course, LOVED the examples from GWTW!! And there is no question that every writer thinks about what it would be like to make the bestseller list at some time, but the longer I write, the more I am feeling like Helen: "I just want to write books that people would like to read." Now, how many people that is, is up to God, which does take the stress off, thank God!! Uh ... most days, that is!!

Fun (and informative!!) post today, Cara -- thanks!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

VIRGINIA, WALT, DEB H AND JEANNE T!!!

I forgive you. But I don't understand you ... get reading!!

WALT, I didn't know that about Leslie Howard, but then I never paid too much attention to him and could never figure out what Scarlett saw in him other than they were opposites and I do believe more often than not, opposites attract.

YAY, PAULA ... you and me, girl -- GWTW sisters!!

And, yes, GANISE ... I'm pretty happy that SOME people like/respect Scarlett!!

Hey, CAROL and CARA ... waving back!!

And, AUDRA ... my take on this is Cara is DEAD ON ... especially when she said "I liked Melanie way more than Scarlett, but Scarlett was so much more exciting and unpredictable." I personally thought Melanie was a little too sickening sweet, but once I saw her courage and strength come out halfway through, she won me over. And Scarlett??? I just flat out love drama, and is there any more dramatic heroine in the world than her???

Hugs,
Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

Glad you enjoyed my books, Paula!

I think writers can learn from the characters of Scarlett and Melanie. Even though Melanie is so much nicer and better than Scarlett, Scarlett is the one who's larger than life. She's so interesting. Our heroine doesn't have to be perfect, but she does have to be heroic--she responds to trouble and takes action.

Cara Lynn James said...

Debby, I agree, sometimes it's hard to stay focussed on the main theme and the story question. I tend to wander.

Tara was really beautiful in the movie, but not as impressive as Twelve Oaks. I've been to Atlanta, but I never saw the GWTW sights.

Mary Connealy said...

btw I meant to mention that Barry Slaughter has a dragon tatoo

Cara Lynn James said...

Carol, another contract is much more important than a bestseller, but it would be great to have both!

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, your mind would be so much fun to explore. Or would it be scary, like Stephen Kings must be?

Is it Larry or Barry Slaughter? How about Jimmy???

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Ganise! I think people like Scarlett for her strength when everything went wrong in her life. She didn't sit around and feel sorry for herself. She saved herself and she saved others too. For once she was dependable and not purely selfish. Her motives were never pure and simple, but the end results worked for herself and her family. We like people who 'rise to the occasion.'

Nancy C said...

Cara, we hear about being able to condense the work to 25 words or so for pitches, etc., but what a great point you made about it being the way one reader can recommend the book to another reader! I have read many, many, many more books based on someone's recommendation than because of advertising or best-sellerdom.

The primary element that will get me to read a bestseller is voice. The book can have great characters, plot ... all the right elements ... and be beautifully written. But if I can't distinguish it from another writer's style/voice I'm not likely to read very far.

So I guess to sell books like I enjoy reading, I'll need a strong voice and some really talkative, pushy readers to promote them ;-)


Nancy C

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Audra! Authors who think all their words are made of gold won't get along with an editor. Editors have the job of fixing the mistakes a writer can't see. That's not always pleasant, but it's usually necessary.

Mary, I've never read a Stephen King book because I don't like horror.

Marianne said...

i am a readaholic, not a writer! But i enjoyed your post, and would love to win your novel.

marianne dot wanham at gmail dot com

Carol Moncado said...

Speaking of next contracts...

OH MY STARS!

Have y'all seen this yet?!

Mary's NEXT book - plus Ruthy is her heroine!

All of Bethany's Spring releases are over on Relzreviewz today.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Cara, love GWTW but not as much as my friend who lives in Marietta and dressed up as Scarlett (the dress on the plate) for her Christmas picture.

Saw the movie on an anniversary re-release to big screen. Read the book. Loved it all. Nothing compares to seeing the wounded soldiers scene in big screen.

Bestsellers must be beach and pool worthy. Have you ever wondered why certain authors release in July? Or does a beach read have a different list? So often beach reads are bestsellers!

Can't wait for your book.

And Virginia, I have got to get you and Mary Curry down South and indoctrinate you.

Walt, you have not such excuse!

Peace, Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

Julie, I thinking loving drama helps you to be a great author. Conflict is hard for a lot of us to write because she love our characters and don't want problems in their lives. I also like to write conflict. I hate it personally.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my, I DO hope nobody is offended?
Scarlett HAD strenghts. She was a very dertermined character for sure. I just sometimes felt like she was pretty mean to others (I read the book).

Well, anyways, GWTW was pretty interesting though.

Blessings,
Ganise

Cara Lynn James said...

Jeanne, if I hear a book is wonderful, I always check it out. Word of mouth is so important. I hate it though when someone starts giving me a scene by scene description. My eyes glaze over and eventually I change the subject.

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, a writer's voice is crucial to me too. I can't actually define it, but I know what I like. Sometimes I read an author because of the way she writes more than the actual content of the book.

Nancy C said...

>>Carol Moncado said...
Have y'all seen this yet?!
Mary's NEXT book - plus Ruthy is her heroine!<<

Ruthy's in Texas! Well ... Ruthy was in Texas, because Mary's story happens in the past. Wonder where the historical markers are ...

Nancy C

Carol Moncado said...

Uh, I just made it far enough down my FB feed to see Mary's post from NINE hours ago... ;)

Still LOVE the cover. Love the heroine! And why, yes, yes it is now preordered ;).

CatMom said...

Enjoyed this post, Cara--and loved the GWTW references. I must admit that's still one of my all-time favorites--mainly because it's set in my beloved south*grin*. Wanted to add that there's also a Gone With the Wind museum (not far from where I live, actually!) so folks who loved that movie/book would enjoy visiting if you get the chance. ~ Thanks again for this post, and please enter me in your drawing. Blessings, Patti Jo
pattijomoore(at)yahoo(dot)com
P.S. And...since GWTW was mentioned, thought I bring a "southern dessert" to share today: Georgia Pecan Praline Coffee Cake---Enjoy! :)

Rikki Andrews said...

I am interested, thank you. rikkiandrews@gmail.com

Rikki Andrews said...

I am interested, thank you. rikkiandrews@gmail.com

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great post, Cara! I love the way you broke it down and gave us the elements of bestsellers. I agree with everything you said! I think I need to go cut some introspection ...

Melanie Dickerson said...

Walt, Leslie Howard, who played Ashley, was also a spy in World War II and died a war hero. It seems like life imitating art after he played The Scarlet Pimpernel, who was a British spy sneaking into France to save French aristocrats from the guillotine.

Jodi Janz said...

What an amazing feat it would be to write a bestseller. So much to learn!!!
I am glad I am not the first to admit I have never read GWTW or seen the movie. Yet, you intrigued me Cara, so maybe I will give it a try.
I have to comment on Cara's response to Nancy ... (Sometimes I read an author because of the way she writes more than the actual content of the book.) I agree with this wholeheartedly! I even have an author that I read sometimes that is the opposite. I love her story but have to choke down the voice. It is a love/hate relationship. (She has great story lines :))
jodi janz at gmail dot com

Mary Connealy said...

It's actually Terry Cotter. (that sounds kinda like a pot doesn't it? Terra Cotta? I don't think that's the direction I want to go)
Mary Swatter
Dairy Blotter
Scary Plotter

This is in it's infancy. There's also a character similar to a Kindle, he's the bad guy.
Sort of

Mary Connealy said...

CAROL! Thanks for the link to my book. This is Swept Away, the first of a New Series called Trouble in Texas.
I love the cover.
And I read the blurb about it on Amazon and this line really made me laugh.

Ruthy prayed for a chance to get away, and then came the raging flood. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke Stone...so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Bethany does such fantastic work.

SmithMom said...

Would love to read the new book!
Smithsinva4@msn.com

Anita S.

Myra Johnson said...

Great info here, Cara! A keeper for sure.

And Walt!! You like my spreadsheets! Yay!!!

Jamie Adams said...

Great post Cara! I'm sure all my books are bestsellers my problem is getting someone to publish them ;)

I'm sorry to say I never read GWTW but did like the movie. The book's always better, I just don't know when I'll ever have time to read it.

I'm excited to see so many new books in the works from my favorite authors!

Myra Johnson said...

Cara said: "I hate it though when someone starts giving me a scene by scene description. My eyes glaze over and eventually I change the subject."

Oh. Totally agree. That's why it's even hard for me to read someone else's synopsis. If it isn't written in a style that really draws me in, I just can't follow it.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Was here earlier and read your list of elements in a bestseller, Cara. Those are only a few! Can't possibly think of anything else I could add to it when looking for a great book. Most bestselling authors spend years in obscurity learning and applying the craft. A lot to aim for as I learn, write and revise endlessly.I'd be grateful as a published novelist knowing I did my very best to deliver a well written and entertaining story. Enjoyed Love on a Dime. Consider me in for your latest. Thank you.
Pat
patjeannedavis[at]verizon[dot]net

Susan Anne Mason said...

What a fun post! LOVE Gone with the Wind! Love Scarlett & Rhett and Melly! Despised Ashley - thought he was a wimp!

Love the movie with the costumes and scenery. That wounded soldier scene on the big screen is breath-taking! A must see!! Although I must admit I made up my own ending in my head. Couldn't handle Rhett giving up on Scarlett. LOL!

Love to be in the draw!

Cheers,
Sue
sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks, Marianne, I'm glad you liked the blog today.

Hi, Julie! I can't imagine putting a picture of myself on a plate (I guess I could be Scarlett's grandmother!) but I think Julie Lessman should do it! What an interesting idea.

Cara Lynn James said...

Patti Jo, thanks for the Pecan Praline Coffee cake. It's delicious.

Hi, Rikki! Thanks for coming to Seekerville.

Cara Lynn James said...

Melanie, I always put in too much introspection and my editor always cuts a lot of it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel was one of my favorite books and movies. Now I read Lauren Willig's historicals which are similar.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jodi, I think it goes to show readers enjoy books for a variety of reasons--sometimes for voice, or character, or story, or genre. I like many different kinds of books, but some I won't even pick up. Like horror.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Anita! Thanks for stopping by.

Myra, I often have trouble following synopsis (what's the plural?). Just give me a 2 paragraph blurb. That's enough to catch my interest. Or not.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jamie, I have to laugh. GWTW is probably the longest book I've ever read, although several have seemed even longer. It's well worth the time, if you have it.

Cara Lynn James said...

Pat, I think most of us would be happy to turn in a well written book. If we did our best we'd be satisfied. But unfortunately, publishers want a very marketable book that sells lots of copies!

Cara Lynn James said...

Susan, I guess we have to call GWTW a love story more than a romance since romances have happy endings. I wonder who came up with that?

Scarlett changed in many ways and developed in a strong woman, but emotionally I think she stayed a spoiled belle. She wouldn't get Rhett until she grew up and appreciated him. At least that's my take.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cara, I have read this through twice. Excellent points.

The next step is to figure out who is going to play me, the famous author,in the A & E Biography.

Mary Connealy said...

What you said about imagining the movie made me think of reading Jurassic Park. I could just SEE that movie. The characters moved and leapt and rolled and dove all over. I knew when I read it that Michael Crighton had a hit movie on his hands.
I try and write mine like that, too (okay, the comparisons to Jurassic Park are minimal, I get it) but I want action, even is smaller, comedy scenes I want something to be going on. Sometimes, yes, someone just sits talking but usually that's WRONG.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I think there also has to be a timeless quality about a best seller. It defies trends and remains a keeper tweny years later.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, I think you can play yourself or maybe your beautiful daughter. Can she act as well as dance?

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, I agree about action instead of a lot of talking. But cowboys are easier to kick into action than a bunch of American socialites who talk, talk, talk. And dance and drink tea. They just weren't as active as laborers and cowboys. But I try to keep my characters moving.

Mary Curry said...

Cara, I love this post.

I'm sitting on Amtrak reading this and I laughed out loud at this -

"not that Scarlett was at all introspective!"

I guess it's hard to be introspective when you put off everything to think about it tomorrow.

As a writer, my favorite Margaret Mitchell anecdote was how she delivered the book to her prospective editor at his hotel and in manila envelopes - one per chapter. He had to buy a suitcase to carry them all back to NY!

I never write my chapters in order and I've always felt justified knowing that Margaret didn't either.


Virginia and Jeanne, I've probably read GWTW enough times to make up for both of you.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, too bad the days of delivering your manuscript any way you please are now over!

Jennifer Thompson said...

Mary is cracking me up!

Unfortunately, not all bestsellers have good writing. I had heard that 50 Shades of Grey had terrible writing and grammar and punctuation. But guess some people can overlook that stuff...and NO I did not read it to find out. I will just take other people's word for it.

Janet Evanovich said that the first book she wrote in the Stephanie Plum series was geared to selling it for a movie. She said she knew that if she wanted it to go to the big screen, that she needed to have things blowing up.

She sold the movie rights in the '90s for $1 million.

Mary, don't forget to add some ancient gods and maybe a wimpy kid or two...

Leslie Basil Payne said...

Thanks for helping me better understand GWTW. I guess living right near the Mason-Dixon line makes my Civil War Southern Character understanding a bit fuzzy. :0)
If my WIP becomes a best seller, I'll be sure to thank you!
lifewithpayne@gmail.com

Mary Connealy said...

Ancient Gods and wimpy kids, CHECK.

And maybe a vampire.

And zombies.

Although isn't that all kind of UNDERSTOOD. I didn't need to mention it.

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Cara! And some good points. I definitely want to write a bestseller someday! How exciting would that be??

Anonymous said...

I have seen GWTW and recently bought a DVD of it...have not read the book although I am a GA lady and love the history of it. I would love to win your book, Cara. I really enjoyed Love on a Dime, Love on Assignment, and Love By the Book!
Jackie S.
jackie.smith[at]dishmail[dot]net

Cara Lynn James said...

Jennifer, Stephanie Plum certainly got it right! I think it helps if the writing is very visual. I could sure use a million dollars and I'm sure most of us (all of us) could put it to good use.

Cara Lynn James said...

Leslie, when your blog becomes a bestseller give a plug to Seekerville! We'd appreciate the publicity.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jackie, I'm so glad you liked my books. That makes me smile!

Missy, let's both write a bestseller. I'm ready.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary Curry, you don't write your chapters in order? Funny you should say this, on my last msc I was stuck on a scene and had to give myself permission to write a scene I did know inside and out. Give myself permission. I am THAT anal.

Cindy W. said...

I absolutely loved your post Cara. The references (and pictures) of Gone With the Wind added so much. Thank you.

I would love to be entered into your drawing for your book.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Samantha Kuiper said...

Gone With the Wind is a classic piece. Thank you for your post!
I would love to be entered in to win your book!
samanthaakuiper(at)gmail(dot)com

Janet Kerr said...

There seems to be a lot that goes in writing a bestseller. I guess sometimes the author does not know it will become one until publication!
Jan

Cindy Regnier said...

I have loved Gone With the Wind since I saw the movie at age 10 then immediately read the book (really). I don't have dreams of writing an epic like that. I think my dreams are more modest like touch a reader's heart or inspire someone in some way. Whatever brings the glory to God.

llmarmalade said...

I would like to write a best seller just like anyone but I am afraid that my "bad" tendency are to literary snobbery. I thuink we need to write the sort of books that we are best at and forget the best seller list. Even by the 30' GWTW was a long book and therefore a surprising bestseller. I have always wondered if books with sad ending sell well? My novella I am editing has a sad ending but I have heard that they are unpopular in the Christian market. Oh well, I am not going to change it.
llmarmalade@yahoo.com

marybelle said...

GONE WITH THE WIND is such an amazing read for many reasons. I must re-read it & soon I think.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Sarah said...

Enter me!
God Bless!
Sarah Richmond
Blanch,N.C.
sarahrichmond.12@gmail.com