You want to write a bestseller. Be honest with me.
Nobody who seriously sets out to write a book thinks: Ah, an average piece of art is fine with me!
No, all of us want to crack the bestseller-code, discover that one formula that will get our books to the top.
But in reality, there is no formula. If there was, writing a bestseller would be a piece of cake. BUT – before you click away, disappointed – there IS one unfair advantage that bestselling authors have over others. At least according to bestselling author Ted Dekker.
Why do you write this story?
First, let me ask you this question: Why do you write your story?
Seriously. Have you ever pondered on this question? Whether you are writing or aspiring to write a fiction or non-fiction book, have you ever stopped to wonder: Why?
There can be countless reasons for writing: self-expression, passion, life experience, a strong argument …
But is there a right answer to this question?
Well, Ted Dekker claims that there is only one reason he calls “the unfair advantage” that will take you to the bestseller list. And for all I know, he might be right.
The author’s journey
Ted Dekker’s books are amazing – that’s my unbiased opinion. He is one of my all time favorite authors, the two Caleb-books, Blessed Child & A Man Called Blessed being on the top of the list.
Dekker wrote his first two novels over the course of three years, but the interesting thing about them was that he also rewrote both of them from scratch, and got published only two years and three novels later.
In the two first videos of his writing course, he explains how he came to the realization of the “unfair advantage” and understood why the first versions of his two novels did not work and have been constantly rejected.
Now, he has written over 30 novels and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies.
But what is this “unfair advantage” that apparently took him from writing average stories to climbing the bestseller list?
Honestly, it might be apparent, but as I heard him elaborating on this, it blew my mind.
Transformational fiction as a principle
Dekker argues that every story we write has to be about “transformation”.
But what kind of transformation is he talking about here?
First, the transformation of the character.
Your main character cannot remain the same by the end of the book. He starts out with a question he needs to have answered, a goal and a quest, but by the end of your book, something has to change about him, his outlook on life, his character, and his decisions.
But most of us knew that already, right? Not all writers implement that principle, but we are roughly familiar with it. Everybody is talking about the character arc.
Still, I think that we can easily get lost in the details of character arcs once we dive in. This is why “transformation” is such a simple yet important principle to guide us. Our readers are looking to be changed. They want their minds blown and their hearts touched while they embark on the journey with us.
But this principle raises several tough questions.
You’ve got your character, and she has a problem.
You know she needs transformation. But
- How will she get from point A to point B?
- How do you make the transformation real and believable?
- Where is even point B?
Do we need to be physiology experts to get this right?
Dekker presents an even stronger solution.
YOU are the key person
Let’s come back to the question we asked at the beginning: Why do you write this story?
There is a right answer to that. One that will set you free from the pressure of being published, pleasing everybody, even the pressure of writing a bestseller.
There is a second transformation that needs to take place in your story. Yours.
You, the author, need to be transformed along with your own book.
Dekker always sets out write his books with a problem he himself struggles with. When he wrote “Water Walker”, he had an inner struggle on the issue of “healing”. While plotting and writing his book, he set out to find a solution. An answer for himself and his characters. He was changed along with his characters.
YOU are the first reader of your book. The first one to live this adventure. The first one whose life might be changed along with the characters. And this is the key to authenticity.
Many authors refrain from a drastic transformation in their fiction because they don’t want to sound preachy or intrusive.
But if you write to change your own life, the change will bleed onto the page.
Why do you write your story? The answer is: To change your own life.
You will become the greatest beneficiary of your story. It will not be about publishing anymore. It’ll be about the transformation of the truth. And the blood of your transformation that is captured on the pages will inevitably transform your reader.
The map of transformation
Dekker also painted a short map of transformation which is largely based on the three act structure.
For this, you have to see the transformation clearly in your mind. You have to know the destination.
is where your character begins his journey.
2. The Inciting Event
marks a terrible, irrevocable event in the character’s quest and the real beginning of your story.
3. Series of challenges and solutions
come throughout the second act, where you character experiences successes and setbacks.
4. The dramatic turning point
is where the protagonist awakens to a point of seeing things in a new way – an epiphany of sorts.
5. The climax
is the execution of what the protagonist learned.
6. The wrap-up
is the last scene of how the world turned out to be after his decision.
7. The celebration
of the victory is an essential part that cannot be forgotten to create a satisfying experience and transformation.
Do you have the unfair advantage?
Yet so many miss this.
I was challenged when I heard about this unfair advantage, asking myself if there WAS a change that was occurring inside my heart while I wrote my novel.
Examine yourself. Is your heart following the map of transformation as well as your characters?
This is why it’s so essential to be more than “just” a writer. We need to be adventurers, philosophers, experience the world, meet people, confront ourselves with issues of life and ask uncomfortable questions.If you write to change your own life, the change will bleed onto the page. Click To Tweet
Start your journey
This amazing principle is one of the reasons why I am not only blogging on writing but also on creative lifestyle. I believe that we need to be both skilled storytellers and creative and adventurous people to succeed.
To write a bestseller, we need to master the skills (the road of transformation) as well as the lifestyle that will change us and lead us towards a person who CAN write a bestseller (the personal transformation).
Start living your story now, and subscribe for the first courageous steps that will lead you into your adventure quest!
PS. If you haven’t yet, read Ted Dekker’s books. Seriously. I’m not paid any money to say this, I just love his books!