There’s no magic bullet when it comes to writing.
I know there are literally millions of websites and courses and master classes out there, insisting that they can tell you exactly how to write best-seller/award-winning/luminous prose, but Reader: they lie.
MFA Writing programs notwithstanding, no one honestly knows how to do any of that.
Some writers know (or at least they think they know) how it works for *them*.
It might not work for you. In fact, it almost certainly will not work for you.
First, because there’s almost a 90% chance that the writer who hit the top of the hit list on their very first venture into the world of writing just got a mysterious, unrepeatable stroke of luck. They hit the right editor, at the right magazine, at the right moment, or they queried a book agent on a slow day of a slow week, or someone at a national TV show wanted a “small town success story” for some reason and the writer’s sister’s best friend from high school mentioned their name.
Secondly, and even more importantly, what works for one writer, in terms of subject, or plot, or theme, or genre, might be all wrong for millions of other writers.
I mean, romance writers sell a kajillion more books than I do, but I couldn’t write a straight romance if my life depended on it. My heart’s not in it, and readers, dog love ‘em, would sense that on page one.
I’m not saying you don’t learn stuff from those MFA programs, or the expensive master classes, or even from a website listicle. There are things that can be taught, and you definitely should go out and learn them. Like most endeavours, it’s very important to know the rules before you break them.
But there’s no formula. Computer programmers keep telling us there is, but I haven’t seen any evidence that making sure you use certain words in certain percentages that mimic all the NYTimes Top Ten novels for the last decade will result in anything more than crap.
It’s not the words. It’s how you – specifically you – use them.
It’s not the story you tell. It’s how you – again, specifically you – tell it.
And, perhaps paradoxically, it isn’t merely what you bring to the novel, but also what the reader(s) bring. Fiction is not a monologue.
There is no way to predict any of this, and far less of any magic charm telling you how any current zeitgeist will play into the equation.
There is one thing that all really successful writers do uniformly, though, and it’s not a big secret.
They write the very best book they possibly can, with as much love, commitment, and sincerity as they can possibly give.
It’s as easy as that.