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How to Write a Bestseller

by Karen Osman

​​Karen Osman is a best-selling novelist and writing coach. The Good Mother (Oct 2017) and The Home (Sept 2018), were both bestsellers. Her third book, The Perfect Lie, was published in August 2019 and she is currently working on her fourth novel.

In July 2020, Karen launched her signature online writing course, Kick Start Your Book With Karen, designed for budding authors to help write their books. She also offers a six-month one-to-one coaching programme as well as running an online platform where aspiring and published authors can give and receive helpful advice and encouragement. It's also a community for readers who love sharing their book recommendations and discovering and interacting with new authors.

How to Write a Bestseller

Between 2016 and 2019, I wrote three novels, two of which went on to be bestsellers (The Good Mother and The Home), all while looking after a toddler and running a business. I also gave birth to my second child. Was it easy? No, and I don’t recommend attempting to write a book with so much going on! However, I wanted to illustrate that the busier we become, the less time there is for procrastination (the nemesis of any writer!) Each day, I knew I only had a 90-minute window to write while my baby slept and boy, did I make the most of it. I’m not the only one - I know of one author who wrote her book each day in the car while waiting for her children at school pick-up time.

So, if you’ve been thinking about putting pen to paper, here are some of my best writing techniques, based on what I’ve learnt during those chaotic, but creative, three years.

Write What You Know

I always recommend writing what you know for first-time authors, simply because it’s so much easier and quicker. There’s little or no extensive research which saves a considerable amount of time. The other reason I recommend writing what you know is that your emotions will seep through into your manuscript giving your work more depth. I wrote The Good Mother (a novel with strong themes of motherhood as you might have guessed from the title) when I was pregnant and I truly believe part of the reason it went on to win an award and become a bestseller was because I had experienced the full gamut of emotions that such an experience brings and I was able to transfer that to my writing.

Create An Outline

While you may feel that you want to dive straight into writing, preparing an outline beforehand will pay dividends later. It will give you the chance to iron out any plot-holes because there is nothing worse than writing 40,000 words only to realise the ending doesn’t work (trust me, I’ve been there!) It will also act as your writing roadmap so during every writing session, you spend time writing rather than wondering what to write. This becomes even more important when motivation starts to ebb away and you’re reliant on discipline.

Understand Basic Story-Telling Principles

While we often think of writing as an innate talent rather than something to be learnt, there is a science to the craft. Take time to understand the elements of story-telling and narrative structures. Make sure you understand reader expectations of your genre. If you’re writing a thriller, readers want that edge-of-the seat experience, so it’s imperative you know how to create that fast-pace and tension in your writing. Even if you’re writing non-fiction, you still need to include story-telling in your manuscript, otherwise your book is simply a collection of facts. Learn as much as you can - join a writing group or take a free online writing class.

Write First, Edit Later

Less than 3% of people finish writing their book. That means 97% of people had an idea for a book, started writing, but gave up. To be part of the 3%, your goal is to get that first draft out of your head and down on paper. It won’t be perfect (in fact, most first drafts are usually rubbish!) but if you start editing and perfecting as you’re writing, it will act as a major distraction and prevent you from getting to the end. In addition, we use different areas of our brain for writing and editing, and continually switching between the two is tiring. Write your first draft and edit later.

Engage A Professional Editor

If you’re lucky enough to secure a traditional publishing contract, an editor is part of the package. If you’re self-publishing, hiring an experienced editor is a worthwhile investment. Their expertise is absolutely invaluable; they understand the market, know what readers are looking for, and have experience of what works and what doesn’t, taking your book to the next level.

For more writing techniques and tips, sign up for Karen’s FREE online masterclass, 5 Steps To Start Writing Your Book Today.

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