Writing Fiction That Sells Part One – Developing a Compelling Plot

February 1998
by Connie Shelton, Intrigue Press

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They say everyone has a novel in them. Judging by the number of submissions that come across my desk at Intrigue Press, I’m beginning to believe it. Unfortunately, many of these aren’t necessarily publishable, nor do they show any potential for sales. As the writer or the publisher of a novel, you need to know: what makes a novel saleable? You know a good novel when you read one-you can’t put it down. How does a writer create that un-put-downable story? Whether you categorize your novel as romance, mystery, science fiction, western, or something more general like a coming-of-age book, there are certain elements that must be there to keep the reader turning the pages. A writing teacher once broke it down into three basic elements: (1) Someone the reader likes (2) reaches an important goal (3) by overcoming obstacles. That’s all there is to it! Your job is to make the protagonist likable (or empathetic) enough, the goal important enough, and the hero’s obstacles challenging enough.

Working with Ideas

So where do the ideas come from? Look around you. Life truly is stranger than fiction, and ideas can come to you at any time from anywhere. In my third Charlie Parker mystery, Partnerships Can Kill, the entire plot idea blossomed from a ten-second item I caught on the local news. I have no idea how the real story turned out (we moved from that state several months later and I never heard any more about the story), but I had already made up a cast of characters, a backg…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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