5 top tips for writing commercial fiction

What does it take to write a book that sells to a wide audience?

Is there a secret to creating popular, accessible stories?

We’ve curated this selection of writing tips direct from authors who have been featured on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – click the episode number to listen to the full discussion.

1. Write for yourself first

Susannah Hardy, episode 436
“Write what you want to write – the story or the genre you want to write – not what you think might sell. I went through this. I found myself thinking “Why don't I write rural fiction, rural romance? Why don't I write that?” My answer was: “Well, I don’t live in the country. I’m a city girl.” I wanted to write rom com, but people said that it might not do so well here. But eventually [my story] found its place. So,write what you want to write.”

2. Learn about the industry

Sandie Docker, episode 435
“Learn as much about the industry as you can, before you even start querying. Doing courses through the Australian Writers' Centre helped me understand the industry – not just the courses on craft, but the courses on how to write a synopsis, how to pitch your work, what publishers are looking for. Those courses really helped me. I remember when I got called in to Penguin, and had the first meeting with my publisher … I think the fact that I was so knowledgeable about how the industry works made a huge difference, [so much so that] she ended up saying yes to me.”

3. Ask questions

Benjamin Stevenson, episode 373
“Your manuscript must always ask a question. I look for suspense [in every book I read] and it can come in any form. It can be the suspense of what this character will say to that character, or when this character will meet that character, in any type of fiction. But if you don't have suspense on every page of your manuscript, then its readability diminishes.

“So I always make sure that I have enough questions in the manuscript [I’m writing] so that when somebody puts down my book they're still thinking, “when's this going to happen? How's this going happen? Who's that? Where did the money come from? Who is the killer? Will they kiss?” All these questions need to be at the back of every page, even though every page isn't talking about them.”

4. Be Humble

Rose Carlyle, episode 355
“Be humble and realise that you don't really know how to write when you start. If you don't go through the process of thinking, “this is really hard and what I'm writing is bad, and it's no good,” then you're probably not going to get better. If you just think, “oh, this is wonderful. I'm writing great stuff,” you are probably never going to get any better.

“Chris Cleave [said something to me] when I first started writing, and I really listened: “Writer's block is actually your friend because that's the point where you realise that what you're writing is not good enough and can improve. And that's the moment when it does improve – when you get writer's block. So you just have to push through it.”

5. Bring your passion

Fiona Palmer, episode 347
“Write what you're passionate about and what you love, because if you're invested in it, you'll be able to get that across onto the page and then bring people into it.”

If you’re ready to tap into your creativity and discover the world of writing, a great place to start is the course Creative Writing Stage 1.


Author bio

Author Allison Tait smilingAllison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is working on a new novel. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.

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