The Secret Formula to Writing the Commercially Successful Novel by C.S. Lakin
by Writing Workshops Staff
11 months ago
I’ve been writing novels for more than three decades, and while I have learned a lot about how unpredictable the market is, there are some specific characteristics that have consistently set apart novels that see success. You’d think every informed novel-writer would know what these are.
Here’s the thing:
I critique more than 200 manuscripts a year (95% novels). Even the best ones seem to be missing the key ingredients for a commercial best seller.
Why is that?
Because few writers have learned the specific elements that identify a great novel with great potential. And many of those elements are not what the average fiction writer is taught.
Sure, you need a great plot, an intriguing and fresh premise, terrific characters. And your scenes need to be tight time capsules of “show, don’t tell.”
But a terrific commercially viable novel has so much more. And few books or writing instructors teach what these essential elements are.
The secret to writing a successful novel lies in being able to identify what’s missing in your scenes and using a targeting approach to revising.
Why is this so important? Because if you have a good scene, to make it great, you have to run through the checklist of these 8 essentials to ensure they’re all in place. And some of these 8 essentials may surprise you.
If you missed the opportunity to take my explosively innovative new course on how to write a commercially successful novel, don’t fret. It’s open enrollment time right now for the next session, which starts September 6.
This course is something I’ve never seen any writing instructor offer. Over the last seven months, I’ve beta-tested this with three online groups and nearly 100 writers, and the results have been fantastic.
8 Weeks to Commercial Success
You heard right. For 8 weeks, you’ll be learning all about these 8 essentials for commercial success, but, what’s more—you’ll be applying them, one per week, to your scenes (your current work), and while you’ll be working through the lectures, handouts, sample scenes, and homework on your own, I’ll be meeting with students on Zoom each week to answer questions, share insights from participants, and guide you through the course. (No worries if you can’t make the Zoom; it will be recorded and uploaded onto the weeks’ modules, and you can email me your questions before the session.)
Writers struggle to see places where they need to revise to improve their scenes and make them the best they can be. If you don’t know what you’re missing, you have no way to improve.
The most important thing you will learn is you must identify your genre, study it, and know exactly how best-selling authors in your genre utilize and integrate these 8 elements in their scenes. You want to write horror novels like Stephen King? Then you need to know how many lines per page he shows emotion in his characters and in what way. It’s not unlike a math problem (and okay if you’re not great at math!).
Analysis is the key to success. And you’ll be doing a lot of it in this intensive course.
The 8 Essentials
These are the 8 essentials to commercial success that you will master over these 8 weeks:
1) High Moment and Character Change: You have to know the specific purpose of your scene, build to a key moment at the end (last lines) of your scene, which creates change in your character.
2) Microtension on every page. All points to the secrets and twists to come. What are you not saying simmers under the surface of your scenes. This will make or break your story. Discussion of critical action-reaction cycle.
3) Nuances of deep POV, including unique voices for every character. It’s important to establish character mood, mind-set, and motivation right from the start.
4) Sensory detail. Going beyond five senses, using specific wording to set mood and tone for the scene. What the character processes through her senses should reveal important things about her and not merely convey information.
5) Emotional manipulation—you must know how you want your readers to feel and how to get them there. And you need to masterfully learn how to show emotion in three key ways.
6) High Stakes! High, believable personal and public stakes that ramp up to the climax.
7) Purposeful backstory in the right amounts and the right places.
8) Tight, distilled dialogue. It makes or break a scene. We’ll look at “on the nose” dialogue and discuss dialogue mechanics. Characters rarely say what they mean, but what they need seeps through.
This course begins Monday September 6, 2021.
Enrollment is open NOW: click HERE.
Remember: while the course is only 8 weeks long, you’ll have lifetime access to all the worksheets, handouts, videos, and sample scenes.
Testimonials from students who’ve taken this course:
“Susanne’s 8-Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel is one of the best developed and delivered writing classes I’ve taken. With the depth of an MFA masterclass, but with the real-world guidance that can only come from a seasoned writing and editing professional, Susanne by-passes the well-trod writing advice fluff and provides writers with strategies to craft stories readers will love.” —Sharon Ritchey, Vice President Communications, Women’s Fiction Writers Association
“I loved the 8 Weeks to a successful novel through improved scene writing course. Susanne is a generous and accessible instructor who can analyze a scene the way a skilled mechanic can diagnose and correct a fault in an engine. She has amassed a helpful store of instructional materials and sample readings that vividly show the elements of a powerful scene. The practice I’ve gained in analyzing other writer’s scenes will help me write more visceral scenes in my own novel. Thank you, Susanne!” —Lou Schlesinger
“Susanne Lakin is extremely knowledgeable of industry trends, effective pacing and structure protocols for creating successful commercial novels in today’s environment, and devotes her time, energy and support to her students. I would recommend her course to both beginning and experienced novelists.” —Kendrick Smith
“Out of the many writing courses I’ve taken, this is one of the two best. And I learned as much in these 8 weeks as I learned in 2 years in the other course.” —Richard Thomas Lane
“This course has been tremendously helpful for my development as a writer. I am now equipped with several tools that I can use as I revise my current novel-in-progress. I am working on my first novel attempt and now have far more confidence in my writing and the future of this project!” —Olivia Bedford
“Susanne’s Master Critique Groups show you how to develop and polish every aspect of your scenes. Her wealth of experience and compassionate teaching will help you keep your readers hooked on every page.” —Will Wraxall
“I had hit a brick wall and not written anything in six months. This workshop was a much needed kick in the pants. I found the commitment to submit a scene a week for critiquing, and critiquing two other writers’ scene every week, fleshed out the helpful basics Susanne teaches. What I learned about writing gave me a fresh evaluation of my work and more importantly the motivation and the tools to enjoy writing again.” —Gene Quinones
“I have learned SO much in such a short space of time. It was a big commitment to make, but it was so, so worth it. I won’t ever regret it—at the very least, my writing will be so much better than before. The very best outcome is beyond exciting and I feel far more confident about making that dream a reality.” —Liz Thompson
“As someone who has only really started writing about a year ago, I can say without doubt that this course has made my writing 1,000 times better. Not just simple things like not putting in so many speech tags or formatting. The structure of my novel, the POV, sensory detail. While I had some of these things already, learning what works and what doesn’t has improved my writing. I honestly did not know what to expect when I joined this course, but it has changed my writing and my joy of writing for the better. I cannot thank Susanne enough, and I look forward to continuing to learn from her in the future.” —Joshua Bruce
“The master critique group has been amazing. Since starting this group, my writing skills and grasp of story mechanics have improved exponentially due to Susanne’s guidance and direction as well as input from members of the group. I was stuck writing on my own, and this has given me the push and tools I needed to accomplish my goals.” —Jenny Perry, PhD
“Susanne’s Master Critique Group was very useful for receiving external feedback on my work. I learned a lot by doing this course and improved my ability to critique and see what needs revising in my own work as well. Susanne is a great teacher, full of energy and enthusiasm and can edit a writer’s scene without offending but illuminating where it can be improved. It wasn’t easy but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.” —Samantha Ridgway
While this method is really the “secret” to success, it’s no secret. Highly productive, successful authors infuse their scenes with these 8 essentials, whether they use this method of studying other best sellers or not.
However, whether you are a beginning novelist or have a number of novels published, here’s the thing: you don’t know what you don’t know. And unless someone points out what your weak areas are or where you are missing elements in your scenes, you can’t tell why your scene isn’t working.
I hope you dive into this course. Again, be aware that it starts on September 6, 2021 and runs for 8 weeks. Even if you can’t participate in the weekly Zoom sessions, you can still enroll, access everything with lifetime access, and learn all you need to know about writing a commercially succcessful novel!
Enroll HERE to be on your way to writing a commercial best seller!