A story and a sentence walked into a bar together…

They both noticed a woman with long, dark hair and an inviting smile, so they sat at the bar, four stools away from her. She glanced over at their entrance before turning back to her conversation with her friends. Sentence told Story, “Watch this. I’m going to wiggle my perfect construction at her. She won’t be able to resist!”

Story watched as Sentence tried to catch the woman’s eye. The woman and her friends gave Sentence a few polite glances, but they weren’t interested.

When Story had enough, he announced, “My turn!” He walked around Sentence to sit closer to the woman and gave her a nod and a wink. The woman immediately moved down the bar three seats to talk to Story.

“Your characters are amazing! How did you come up with this idea, anyway?” She leaned closer and tilted her head back to tease him with a half smile. “And the twist at the end! I didn’t see that coming, but then it made perfect sense. Please tell me there’s a sequel. Does Jake ever win Kathryn over, and does his father ever forgive him? Is there another mystery to solve?”

Story motioned for another round of drinks and murmured, “I’ll tell you everything if you have a few hours…”

Sentence sulked in his seat. What had he done wrong?

“Sentence” missed the simple fact that readers don’t go into bookstores and online retailers to buy groups of sentences. There aren’t any reviews that read, “This book is full of perfect sentences! Check out the metaphor on page 82. The sentences were so wonderful that I forgot about the story and highlighted the commas and semicolons. This author knows how to vary sentence length! Wonderful!”

Readers often say a novel is well written, and they might mention the imagery or fresh use of language, but that alone won’t win readers. Personally, I don’t want to throw a reader out of the story with a impressive sentence. I want the plot and characters to pull the reader in so she’ll keep reading past her bedtime. Of course, I don’t want poor writing to distract the reader either, but I know the point of the novel is the story.

As an artist, do you want others to see the picture you’re painting or the brushstrokes?

Do you need to write well on a sentence level to write good stories? Yes, of course! But are the sentences more important than the story you’re telling? Not in my opinion. Aren’t authors selling stories, not sentences?

Writing well is very important. I don’t mean to argue that point, but it really bugs me when I hear someone put down a mega bestselling author for their writing. It’s usually on a sentence level: “Look at all the clichés, passive voice, and simple sentences! A fifth grader could write better.” It could be true–the given book might very well be full of sentences that could be written better. Maybe their modifiers don’t line up. Maybe they like using clichés as shortcuts in certain places. Maybe they choose choppy or run on sentences over proper grammar to show the character’s thoughts and emotions. But, if the writing really is that poor, then the author must be doing something else right. And that “something else” really sells copies. Millions of readers are buying those books. Despite what people say, you can’t sell a book month after month on marketing alone. If it’s not a good story, people complain. They won’t tell other people about the book.

Readers want an experience away from their life. They want to get sucked into a great story that makes them forget everything else for a few hours. They want to connect with the character and see the world differently. They want to experience a great story. They want to feel.

So, yes, please learn to write sentences well and play with language. Study English, spelling, and grammar. Create fresh images and strive to be original. Learn how to write well so readers can understand what you’re saying. And if you want to sell that writing, remember your job is to tell a damn good story.

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Blockbuster Books, Broken Down – Plotting with the novel map

Blockbuster Books - workbook and Kindle ebookLearn from mega bestselling novels to build your own breakout plot!

Why start from scratch and reinvent storytelling? Instead, use a 7 point plot outline developed from wildly successful novels.

“Blockbuster Books, Broken Down” is a workbook style guide that reveals the structure and elements in huge bestsellers of the last fifteen years, many of which became movies. By breaking down these books, we can see how successful authors are breaking out by satisfying readers’ needs.

Part 1 deconstructs today’s bestsellers and offers insights and keys to blockbusters and the Blockbuster Novel Map.

Part 2 guides you in creating a breakout idea and developing that into a solid plot with a novel map. Build from the ground up with 7 points to ensure your plot will connect with readers.

Buy the workbook and you can get the Kindle book free through Kindle Matchbook.

Amazon – Kindle ebook and print workbook available

Covers these books and more:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Twilight and The Host by Stephenie Myer

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Maze Runner by James Dashner

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Notebook and Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Includes:

Part 1: Deconstructing Bestsellers

Does Genre Matter?

Hook, High Concept, & HUGE Stakes

Bestselling Qualities

What’s Different About Today’s Blockbusters

The Blockbuster Novel Map

The 7 Point Outline with 3 Act Structure

The Key to Blockbusters

Part 2: Building Your Bestseller

First, Know Thyself

Your Big Idea

The Breakout Idea Checklist

From Idea to Plot

Which Came First: plot or character?

Writing Your Novel

Ways to Improve Your Writing

Make Any Story BIGGER

Writer’s Block: specific cases and how to fix them

Additional Resources

Your Novel Map

Novel Map Worksheet

From Novel Map to Outline

Your Setting/ World

Your Setting Notes

Character Sheets

*This is a hands-on fiction workshop packed with insights, exercises, and worksheets to quickly teach you breakout plotting and novel development.

Amazon – Kindle ebook and print workbook available