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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Writing the Breakout Novel

Front Cover

Have you ever wanted to write a breakout novel? 

Perhaps you don't know what a breakout novel is. To paraphrase, a novel that sees a sharp, sudden, inexplicable rise in sales, could be considered to be a breakout novel. I feel like I'm pretty safe in saying that most authors would love to see their novels "breakout"!

Early on in my writing I did everything I could to find my way, learning about query letters for the first time, about the many specific requirements that not only publishers, but even many literary agents have and expect to be met before they will even consider an author's work.  Unfortunately the big publishing houses, like many literary agents, seem to enjoy the inherent power that comes with receiving so many requests for publication or in the case of literary agents, representation. It seems that authors, the very ones producing the product around which livelihoods are being made, are often treated with considerable disdain by those who make a living selling those products. But I digress. 

It was in the early days of my writing that I came across a book entitled Writing the Breakout Novel, by New York literary agent Donald Maass. In the novel, Mr, Maass attempts to define what he feels drives novels to suddenly "breakout", causing sales to skyrocket. In a nutshell, Mr. Maas suggests that word of mouth and what's between the two covers help drive a novel towards becoming  a breakout.  While Mr. Maass doesn't pretend to have all of the answers, he does call intention to some key plot elements that should always be present, as well as the importance of having tension on every page of a novel. He is able to draw on his considerable experience and expertise as a literary agent representing fiction writers. 

I found Writing the Breakout Novel to be a great asset in helping me to grow and improve as a novelist. If you're a novelist or if you are considering becoming one, I highly recommend Mr. Maass book and if you can get him, I suspect he'd be an excellent agent as well.

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