How to turn a life crisis into a bestselling novel
Okay, so it’s not a bestseller yet, but it’s only been about three and a half weeks since the release of my debut book, Wedlocked: A Novel, and from the amazing response, reviews, diligent marketing, and of course, sales, I’m certain it’s on its way there. Just give me another month (wink).
Turning my biggest life crisis—impulsively marrying into a disastrous and very short-lived marriage—into a funny, engaging novel seems to be resonating with the public. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only dunce out there. And that’s the key to the whole idea. Chances are good that many, many others have experienced similar catastrophes to yours or know someone who has. Either way, they will want to commiserate with you and happily, that means buying your book.
It’s probably not imperative that you transform your crisis into comedy like I did, but if possible, I highly recommend it. Being able to laugh once you get some distance from the dark event is incredibly cathartic for the writer and a great way to entertain readers. Also, note that feelings of exhilaration and immense satisfaction come when you get to rewrite history, punish villains, reward good-dead-doers, and create heroes to save the day. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of the pen!
So, to turn your crisis into a bestselling (or at least well loved) novel, here’s what you have to do. First, start journaling! If possible, start while the crisis is exploding or shortly after. Journaling gets all your raw emotions down on paper. Don’t try to make sense of them. Just write. The journal will be a great source during the actual writing of the book.
Next, give yourself some time to recuperate from the catastrophe. Each person is different so only you will know when you’re ready. I knew when I stopped crying and began fantasizing innovative ways to torture my ex. That’s right. You don’t have to be completely over it, just over it enough to be functionally creative.
Then, start writing and hold nothing back. You’ll want to share every sordid detail, humiliating incident, and colorful thought that went through your head at the time (here’s where the journal comes in very handy). That’s not to say you will use all of this, but it is great raw material to pick through.
Get the whole story down, but not necessarily as it happened. You are a writer creating an alternative universe where things that actually happened can be tweaked, amplified, diminished or cut entirely to make the story better. Now you have the luxury of saying the things you didn’t think to say then. This is your big do-over, so have fun with it! And if you’re having fun, chances are good your readers will be to—and they’ll spread the word. Combine that with a lot of hard marketing, a great publicist and a bit of luck and poof…your calamity is on its way to bestsellerdom!
Bonnie Trachtenberg is the author of Wedlocked: A Novel. She was senior writer and copy chief at Book-of-the-Month Club and has written seven children’s book adaptations. She has also written for three newspapers and penned countless magazine articles. View her websites at http://www.BonnieTrachtenberg.com and http://Wedlockedthenovel.com