You want to write a novel. You hope that it will sell well; that it will become a bestseller. I just checked, and the first five books on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestsellers’ list this week are all genre fiction: thrillers and crime fiction. These books, as do all books on bestseller lists, include a vital ingredient.
That ingredient is: drama.
Write a novel with drama
To write a novel which sells well, remember DRAMA while you write. Drama keeps readers reading.
Many books which are dramatic are quiet books; they don’t feature billion dollar bank heists and explosions. Pride and Prejudice, for example, which has been selling for 200 years, is a charming novel set primarily in a village in rural England.
So how do you add drama to your novel?
How to write a dramatic novel: write in scenes
Start with these elements:
- A character with a problem he’s determined to solve
- A setting
- A story question
The story question is sometimes referred to as the “dramatic question”, which is misleading. To write a bestselling novel, you need drama on every page.
Check your novel now, and if you’ve written 250 words in which nothing much happens, correct that immediately — add some drama, every if it’s just a little bantering between two characters.
4 tips for writing dramatically
As we’ve said, drama needs to happen on every page of your novel. There are many ways you can do that. These tips will get you thinking.
- No one gets along. Every character in your novel has conflicts with other characters, or has internal conflicts.
- Description is used to reveal character. Again, consider Pride and Prejudice. When Jane Austen describes anything, she does it so that we can learn more about a character. For example, from Chapter 7: “The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just over the way.”
- Focus on scenes. Jane Austen writes in scenes — this may be why she’s sold 20 million copies of Pride and Prejudice — it’s a very dramatic novel.
- You answer the story question, as well many many other questions which you raise along the way by creating open loops.
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