Bestsellers Can Help You (Writing Tip #48)

Sometimes bestselling books, even those you have never finished reading, can help you out in your writing process.

I'm working on a project that is a short novel that spans many years. Even after spending a lot of time on the story treatment, figuring out how to tell the story and how to go back and forth in time, I got a little stuck. I had divided the book into sections but they weren't working for me. It was a little confusing to the reader simply because there was a lot of jumping around. There wasn't any way for the reader to get his bearings.

So I started to check out some of the shorter novels I have to see how they might be broken up. Yes, many stories are as simple as Chapter One, Chapter Two, and so on. But James Patterson's love story, Suzanne's Diary For Nicholas, didn't have chapter numbers. Instead, the parts of this book are divided by the character name.

This was extremely helpful to me. Since the story I'm working on has letters in it, Patterson's novel was also a nice example of a popular novel that featured a story full of letters (or diary entries). I decided to change my sections into parts titled by a character name. This way, the reader knows what's going on when the jump happens. "Oh, we're in Natalie's story again, cool."

I love being vague and mysterious but you have to provide some road signs and directions to readers. Otherwise they'll decide to take another route.

If you get stuck, see how the bestsellers do it. Whether it's the structure of a novel or the length of a chapter or simply the mechanics of the story-telling, a bestselling author is obviously doing something right. They're connecting with readers, which is what you want to do with your story.

Your story might be completely different than the book you're looking at for ideas. Doesn't mean you still can learn something from it.

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