All posts by Erin Unger

What Makes a Best-selling Book: Part 2

Last week I talked about the quest I’ve been on to learn and grow as a writer. It’s been an exciting journey. My latest pit stop was to read Writing the Breakout Novel workbook by Donald Maass. I’m glad I won it at the last conference I went to. It’s been a life-saver for my work.

What an amazing book. It has changed the course of my writing. Let me put a disclaimer in right here. I must warn all Christian writers, it’s quite racy in sections. And, there is explicit language in some of the excerpts.

It’s keeping me thinking late into the night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. I’m thinking about it when I’m eating, even watching television.

So what’s his secret? I’ve read many books on writing but because Mr. Maass has given lots of examples in each chapter, it brings the knowledge to life. Each chapter touches on different aspects of crafting your story, some of which I either never knew or didn’t know exactly how to portrait in my work. And at the end of each chapter there are exercises to help take your current manuscript to the next level.

I’d recommend this book if you’re serious about making your book best-selling quality. But be prepared to work very hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. You’re going to be mutilating and chopping up your baby. It’ll be so worth it, though.

I’m going to be working on my book for the next two months to get ready for conference time. Hope you’ll buy this book and join me.

What Makes a Best-selling Book?


As writers, we all want to create works that move people, challenge our thinking and make our readers continue to ponder our characters long after they put our books down. How does a writer do that? I asked myself the same question for a long time. I went on a quest last year. I checked out books by all the best-selling authors I could find at my library and got to work researching their style and what made their books so great.

Some of them had the worst grammar. One book I read looked like their editor went on vacation until after the book was published. And of course, when you read some secular books, you get the over indulgent racy scenes and language(Yuck!).

So what was it that lends them top honors? Here’s a list of the most noticeable differences between a best-seller and any other book:

  1. Taking the action up a notch
  2. Deep POV
  3. Creating likable characters that had some form of a hero status
  4. Characters who stay true to their character
  5. Characters with huge personal and public stakes

A lot of times writers don’t want to overstate or over do a scene. Yet, it’s such a necessary step to keep our readers reading. Don’t be afraid to move the action in your story up to the next level.

Deep POV can be so hard to portrait when we’re writing. It’s basically taking the words of emotions and turning them into actions so the reader is experiencing it at the same time as the character.

Sorry to say, but if you don’t write a likable character, it can be the best written book and it won’t win any honors. Readers must be able to relate to our characters.

One thing I hate to see is when a character acts contrary to their personality. You never want your readers to say, “They would never do that,” about your protagonist or secondary characters.

One of the best things you can do for your current WIP is raise the personal and public stakes. In other words, if your protagonist was in an accident, double the stakes by killing off her best friend in that same accident and running into your ma’s favorite cow at the same time. Get my drift?

You may have to make a lot of changes to incorporate these, but it’ll be worth your time and effort. Who knows, these tricks of the trade might make you the next best-seller.

Stay tuned to part two of this post on How Donald Maass’ book Writing the Breakout Novel workbook has changed my writing and can do the same for you.

The Writing Jive Ran Away

Have you ever had to drag yourself to your computer when it was time to work on your latest manuscript or critique group work? Didn’t washing the toilet interest you more this morning than turning your computer on? Making a phone call you’ve been dreading suddenly seems like the right thing to do when you’re supposed to be parking yourself in your seat to write.

This is me, right now. Yep, right at this moment…and for the last several months. I whine. I cry. I beg God to help me get to work. Of course it’s all in deep POV, you know. Just happening on the inside.

On the outside, I’m so busy. I’m running everywhere. I’m overloaded with chores and the activities my kids are involved in. On the inside, I know I’m making excuses, filling the time to avoid getting to work.

How I hate this phase. It’s miserable. It sucks the creativity right out of me. I want to get back to writing, I just haven’t made myself do it. Each night I set up a plan of action. Then in the morning, I blow it away with a different agenda.

I’m headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May. If you’ve ever been to one, you know what it takes to be prepared for such an adventure. The trip is paid and my husband took the time off to drive me and to stay down there. Yet, I’m months behind schedule on writing proposals and fine tuning the two manuscripts I want to take. It’s getting scary to me to think how much is left to do.

If only I could get back on track. Pray for me. The going has been tough. For now I’ll try to cling to the verse, 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”