Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breaking Out

Lyda Morehouse and I were talking about what makes a break-out writer.

I have some sense of what makes a mid-list writer: competent writing skills, reasonable production, the ability to listen to advice from agents and editors -- who may not always be right, but do have some idea of what's commercial. It's how they make their living, after all.

But I have not a clue what enables a writer to break out. Luck is part of the answer, I think. Another part is help from a publisher. Books tend to do better if they are promoted.

The agent Donald Maass gives classes on how to write break-out, bestselling novels. So he may know. There are apparently people who study the market and do write sucessful books. But more people try to do this than actually succeed.

I have been reading Diana Wynne Jones YA and midschool novels. She is a fine writer with a wonderful imagination and sense of humor. Her books are special. I wish I could be as successful (and funny and charming) as she is.

But I am pretty sure she was helped by the Harry Potter craze, though she was selling before that. I noticed it was easier to find her books in bookstores after Harry Potter, when midschool shelves filled with fantasy. And the one book of hers I can always find is Howl's Moving Castle, which was made into a movie by Miyazaki.

So, a lot of talent, a unique voice, steady production, and two pieces of luck.


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