10 Steps To Your Bestseller

For those who love lists, print this out and check off as you complete each item.  Your book is sure to be a winner.  Move over J.K. Rowling!

1.  First you need something to write about.  Pick a topic that interests you–you’ll be with it a long time.

2.  Research your topic.  This could be a long process (for a historical) or short for something set in modern day which only needs the best type of men’s undershorts researched.  Or the way to thread a needle.

3.  Plot, setting, characters, and overall theme come next.  Who are your people, what are they doing, how are they changing, what is their message to those millions of readers soon to beat down your door?

4.  A rough draft takes anywhere from a few weeks (if you’re locking yourself in a room till it’s done) to a year (if you work consistently a few hours a day.)

5.  Make extra digital copies, give one to your sister to hold for you, maybe even print out one copy and then take a holiday.  Go spellunking or rainbow-searching.  Do anything but look at that draft for at least two or three weeks.

6.  Depending on how masochistic you are, this next step is fun or torture: revision.  Now is the time to hone those phrases, check details, re-tune your dialogue ear and just make the manuscript the best you can make it.

7.  Rewrites come next and there may be one or a hundred and one, although for your sake, I hope it’s the former. (Sounds a lot like number 6, doesn’t it?)

8.  Send your baby out to readers.  Not your best friends, unless they understand the process, or your spouse, as that could be the basis of another plot that might not be pleasant. Find people who know about writing and will tell you the truth (but in a constructive way.)

9.  Acting on all the advice, you finally write your final draft.  Don’t let the word final fool you.  I’ve written about six of these for my historical.  The file names are something like msfinal, msfinalpostvictoria, msreallyfinal, msabsolutelyfinalorillkillmyself. You get the drift.

10.  Publish.  This is just one word on purpose.  To make you think it’s as easy as digging into a fresh-off-the-barbecue steak after you’ve prepared it.  In reality, this may be the hardest step but publish traditionally, self-publish, e-publish or do a combination of all three.  Just get it out there for people to read, or what’s the book for?

Can you tell I’m a little tongue-in-cheek this morning?  Do you have something to add to my list?  Please consider leaving a comment below.


19 thoughts on “10 Steps To Your Bestseller

  1. Great tips, Elaine. You have made them easy to follow (though not so easy to fulfill) and keep the process organized. Organized – that’s something I’m not! 🙂 I know I need to be; I plan to be; but it just doesn’t happen. Oh, well, as long as I keep on trying I guess it’s better than nothing.

    I actually started my second novel last year. I just sat at the keyboard and typed – 2, 3 chapters. I didn’t know I was starting a novel, just expressing some inspiration that kept coming. But after reading it over some time later I realized I could make it into a sequel to the first one (still not published – shame on me!). So, I do have my work cut out for me, don’t I?

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I will make a healthy attempt to follow them once I get back into the writing mode – other than my blog posts, that is.


    • Ah, Diane, you are kind. And I love your comment about sometimes just seeing where the writing takes you. Sometimes I cook like that. I open the frig and visit the freezer, pulling out things that inspire me. I end up with a lot of dishes on the go and my family end up with myriad choices that night.
      My writing projects are like that, too. I have 2 memory books for my family, 2 cookbooks for the same loved ones,2 blogs I keep up, a children’s story book for my 2 young grandchildren and, of course, my WIP.
      Didn’t get serious until this last, my historical. Important thing? Just keep going, ok?


      • Oh, how I relate to that! I have 3 blogs, several ‘finished’ manuscripts that need to be revised and/or edited, ideas coming out my ears, 3 websites to create and/or expand so I can flip the domain names, a year of daily inspiration messages that need to be edited and the book that they are based on needs some finishing touches before offering it as a PDF. And then there’s the hub pages that I signed up with and have only posted one story so far after a year. But I don’t have children or grandchildren. Wow! Now I’m too tired relating this to go and do any work. 🙂


      • Oh, you do make me chuckle, Diane. Time to get caught up on just one thing. Just pick one, that’s what I do. But I’m not the preacher on this. I just do the best I can every day. I have a plan each day but don’t always succeed in following it. Do you? Thx for your feedback!


  2. I’m still waiting to read it and your visit here to Guelph so i can show you the sites, especially about the founder who made cannons, cannonballs and other ammunition and sold them to the confederacy during the American Revolution. Waiting…


    • Wow! That sounds good! We’ve got to get there. Any history about the war of 1812?
      By the way my novel is not published yet so will have to put off sending it to you. Hoping soon. Put out positive vibes for me, okay?


  3. Elaine, I have a plan in my head – sometimes – but it seldom works out. That’s probably my biggest problem. If I could only have a few days when I didn’t have to do something else, have interruptions, etc. maybe I could get something done. 🙂 I think I’m at the point where “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” now refers to me.


  4. Concise list, Elaine. I love your lists, because sometimes, breaking a project down into steps, especially a project as large as publication, makes it seem less overwhelming and more doable. If only it were as simple as 1, 2, 3… (4, 5, 6, 982, 43,567… LOL)


  5. I’m a little late in commenting, Elaine, but I can so relate to your article–great list. I’ve lost track of how many final drafts I’ve written. My most difficult challenge has been believing the book is actually finished.


  6. Hey Elaine,

    Wasn’t Algonkian a wonderful experience? I love what you wrote here. So nice to meet you and hope to hear from you soon. Once I bury myself out from under all my writing tasks, I will go on LinkedIn and friend you!



  7. Hi Sally! I hear you. We’re in Hilton Head till the weekend and I feel the work just piling up. Never mind, I needed a holiday. Thanks for connecting here. I look forward to connecting on LinkedIn and via email. We historical nuts must keep together.


  8. Pingback: Saturday Special 11-19-2011 « The Author Chronicles

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