The Million Dollar Writing Question

Spurred on by the gratification of almost instant virtual
publishing, more and more people are queuing up to
achieve fame as authors or would-be authors. So
much so that many of these "writers" are not even
taking the time to pen a book for themselves but
instead outsource the writing to others.

While this is great for those of us who make our living
freelancing and are happy to ghostwrite, the
proliferation of competition makes it harder for real
writers who take pains to perfect their art to make a

A "writer" who can produce hundreds of books a year
through employing others will obviously seem more
successful in the charts through sheer numbers.

So how do real authors compete?

The answer should be by writing a good book.

What makes a good book?

And that for me is the million dollar question that
stumps so many of us.

Authors  strive day after day to master their craft and
many produce well-written non-fiction books, chock
full of interesting and helpful information. Many more
produce works of fiction in every known genre and
sub-genre. They marshal troops of lifelike characters
with authentic dialogue and face them with plots that
keep their readers turning the pages.

We all know in our hearts what makes a good book,
don't we? And that's what makes the best seller charts
so bewildering. How often have we bought a best
seller and been bitterly disappointed?

How often have we found authors previously unknown
to us and thought they were terrific?  Why don't they
achieve a consistent place in the bestseller charts?

What makes a good book?

Perhaps it is easier to define it by what it is not. For
me, it is not a matter of genre, nor writing style. Not
3D characters nor plot though these are important.

It involves instead a strength of theme and answers
questions I never realized I wanted to ask.

Maybe not all human life is there, but the characters
are an intriguing mix of good and bad, the questions
posed are, like poetry, relevant to all who read it.

What for you makes a good book?

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.


Margaret Fieland said...

A couple of things stand out for me: use of language and integrity of plot. Danielle Steel, for example, is an awesome story teller, but I find a lot of her language annoying {shrug}.

As to the plot thing, this is something I find especially annoying in romances or light fiction: contrived reasons the main characters are not getting together. I've been on a Robyn Carr kick lately, and she does a really nice job on avoiding this trap.

Here's another: I want the book to be as much about the journey as the ending. If I lose interest after flipping to the end and checking it out, then the book fails my edge-of-the-chair, keep-me-hooked test.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

That really makes sense, Margaret. I was in an I-know-what-I-like mood and just could not define what really hooked me. Barbara Cleverly's Joe Sandilands detective series is fascinating in plot, locale and period detail and I was trying to figure out why I thought it better than so many others.
Shall look for Robyn Carr now as I also hate the plots where characters could solve their problems at the start by just speaking to each other lol.

Wendy said...

For me, a good book, in whatever genre, promises a jolly good ride from the beginning and delivers right up to the astonishing end. I like a story that raises questions, like you mentioned, Annie, and follows through with answers that astonish or enlighten. Dick Francis does that for me. I don't like an author asking too many questions in the prose. That's contrived. I do admire an author's clever turn of phrase or use of simile, but often this admiration focuses my attention on the author and takes me outside the story. Margaret, quite often, I flip to the end too. It's interesting to go back and see how the writer arrived at the conculsion I already know.

Karen Cioffi said...

Annie, I missed this post. That really is the million dollar question and I don't think there's a definitive answer.

I think a good book takes you away. It brings you into the story, to other worlds, time periods, lives . . . and I think it's a combination of story elements that does that.

Margaret, I agree that some of the light fiction and romance are overtly contrived. While I don't particularly like complicated, I like a story to unfold naturally.

Wendy, flipping to the end reminds me of the movie "When Harry Met Sally." Harry always read the ending of the story first - in case he died before finishing it. LOL No connection, but it did make me think of that.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Lovely to know you're another Dick Francis fan and we both chose mysteries whose protagonists consider moral values...
Used to be an end-of-the-book reader but gave it up when it too often stopped me reading the book. :-)

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Karen, thanks for summing up so well. hmmm and I'm getting to be of an age when I should be behaving like Harry. Sometimes I read on all night, just in case...

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Annie,
Thanks for posing the question about what constitutes million dollar writing. Writing that has ordinary people in unusual situations told in a way that makes me care about and wonder what happens to them works for me. It's usually a story I can put myself in the character's situation and understand his emotions and his actions, too.

Celebrate you and your gift of writing and editing
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

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