Categorized | For the love of writing

21 Key Traits of Best-selling Fiction: Writer’s Digest

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Alice

Great tips here from the Writer’s Digest team. See original post here.

Do you wonder want readers want? In today’s writing tip, you’ll discover the 21 key traits of best-selling fiction excerpted from The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.

The 21 Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction

  1. Utility (writing about things that people will use in their lives)
  2. Information (facts people must have to place your writing in context)
  3. Substance (the relative value or weight in any piece of writing)
  4. Focus (the power to bring an issue into clear view)
  5. Logic (a coherent system for making your points)
  6. A sense of connection (the stupid power of personal involvement)
  7. A compelling style (writing in a way that engages)
  8. A sense of humor (wit or at least irony)
  9. Simplicity (clarity and focus on a single idea)
  10. Entertainment (the power to get people to enjoy what you write)
  11. A fast pace (the ability to make your writing feel like a quick read)
  12. Imagery (the power to create pictures with words)
  13. Creativity (the ability to invent)
  14. Excitement (writing
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    with energy that infects a reader with your own enthusiasm)

  15. Comfort (writing that imparts a sense of well-being)
  16. Happiness (writing that gives joy)
  17. Truth
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    (or at least fairness)

  18. Writing that provokes (writing to make people think or act)
  19. Active, memorable writing (the poetry in your prose)
  20. A sense of Wow! (the wonder your writing imparts on a reader)
  21. Transcendence (writing that elevates with its heroism, justice, beauty, honor)

To sell your fiction, you must pay attention to the Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction. FYI, the twenty-one traits are arranged in a kind of rough order.

  • Appeals to the intellect. The first five: utility to logic. To you, the writer, they refer to how you research, organize, and structure your story. These are the large-scale mechanics of a novel.
  • Appeals to the emotions. From a sense of connection to excitement. These are the ways you engage a reader to create buzz. Do these things right, and people will talk about your novel, selling it to others.
  • Appeals to the soul. Comfort through transcendence. With these traits you examine whether your writing matters, whether it lasts, whether it elevates you to the next level as a novelist.


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