The magic trick to selling your fiction book is that there is no magic trick. There isn’t just one secret to writing a selling manuscript. There are dozens of things a writer needs to learn and do in order to produce a manuscript on which agents, editors and publishers are willing to spend time and money.
It takes time to learn the craft of writing and it isn’t just about good grammar and spelling. There is a long chain of skills a writer must master in order to produce a selling book. But no matter how well someone masters all the technical bits and pieces of writing a work of fiction there is one critical thing that separates the winners from the losers.
I took a weekend course from a top New York agent one time. Near the end of the course he asked a critical question, “Why don’t writers put more emotion into their writing?”
I did not realize it at the time, but he had just handed all of us THE KEY to creating selling fiction. He’d been telling us all weekend (though I don’t know if even he realized this) that tapping into feelings is what sells fiction.
I’ve reached the point where agents and editors write brief notes explaining why they aren’t taking my story instead of just enclosing the form letter with “Does not meet our needs” checked. What they all say are things such as, “I like your story, but I don’t just love it.” “Good story, but it needs more punch.” In other words I’m not engaging their feelings.
I’ve even had a best selling writer bring this up. At a convention when I mentioned getting a manuscript back bleeding red-ink he said, “I know I’m on the right track when that happens. If I stirred that person’s feelings up that much I’ve done something right.” In other words, he had feelings in that manuscript.
So to return to that first agent’s question, “Why don’t more writers put feelings into their work?”
Because, from the time we enter preschool, through every level of school up to, and past PhD level work, we are taught to work logically. The corresponding message is “Don’t let feelings into your work.”
This message of don’t use feelings in your work kills your fiction. People buy fiction for the emotional satisfaction a good story gives them. Pick up the book of any best selling fiction writer and the one thing it will have in common with the book of any other best selling fiction writer is that it engages the reader’s feelings.
Don’t believe me? Go to your library and look at the New York Times Bestseller list. Pick an author who writes in a genre or area you really don’t like. Better yet pick one you absolutely hate and check one of her books out. Read it. Even if you love mystery and hate romance; love romance, but won’t touch horror with a ten-foot pole you will soon realize that the reason that writer is on the NYTBS list is because they grab your feelings and don’t let go of them until the book is finished. This is true even of science fiction, which one would think is the genre fartherest from emotions. It isn’t. Best selling science fiction engages the reader’s feelings.
Having given you THE KEY I will now add, no matter how good the emotional content of your writing, it won’t get past the first reader if you do not follow the nitpicking technical rules. Master the basics of story telling and good basic writing. Know proper manuscript preparation. Read the guidelines and follow them faithfully. If you’ve got those feelings in your story you just may turn into a selling writer.