Twisted sex, serial killers, female victims, and creepiness: the formula for a successful book

Lots of docs are wanting to write

But find that the time is too tight

     If they had what it took

     To author a book

They’d be at it all of the night.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  While my one-year, thirty-mile non-compete clause runs out I’m having adventures and writing about them.  I’ve worked in Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost point in the United States), I went to the American Academy of Family Practice Annual Scientific Assembly in Denver, and I took a week to visit a suddenly stricken friend.

I’m at a conference in New England for doctors who want to be writers.

I was expecting to run into physicians burning out and casting around for something else to do.  Instead most of the attendees have great imaginations.  A few want to write but haven’t; I suspect that they won’t.

I have written six novels so far; I’m working on a seventh, and only one is a medical thriller.  None have been published, and I don’t have an agent.  I had an agent at one time; I sent him a total of 21 copies of the novel he agreed to represent, and when he asked for more I stopped corresponding with him.  That was back before email made letters obsolete and cell phones made long distance calls free.

I have learned so far that you can say “he said” or “she said” as many times as you want, but if you use any synonym you’d better have a darned good reason.  Minimize your adverbs.  Always have your hand on your heart when you write, if your emotions don’t come through your audience will soon get bored.  Women buy seventy-five percent of the books in this country, and most of them like stories about twisted sex, serial killers, and female victims.  Creepiness sells.  Most people feel like they’re outsiders.  Show, don’t tell your readers.  Don’t name a character who appears only once.  Traditional publishing has a limited life expectancy; ebooks will dominate the future, are vastly easier to publish and much cheaper to buy.  Preceding publication of your book with a strong social network, especially Facebook will greatly increase your sales.

Much of the above makes sense but I didn’t know about the gender gap in sales and plot preference.

When Bethany and I lived in Wyoming we counted a real author, Win Blevins, as a friend.  At the time we knew him he had 18 books in print.  He told me that the people who should write are the ones who have to write; few people make a living by writing. 

I’ve been talking with some docs who want to be writers but they don’t love writing.  Or even if they do love writing, they don’t love it enough to have made time for it. 

I think people need to do what they love and what they’re good at.  When they find something that fits both criteria they enrich the world and they enrich their own life.  But they also need to know when enough is enough.  No matter how much you love something, you can always burn out.


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One Response to “Twisted sex, serial killers, female victims, and creepiness: the formula for a successful book”

  1. Denise Says:


    I have been enjoying your blog for a while now. I think you are right about doing what you love. It is a great blessing to get paid for it.

    I think most people who blog love to write and many are of the “have to write” variety. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me at a younger age to pursue it professionally. I think I was distracted by parental input and limited role models.

    One of my blog friends, Mel, is an extremely successful blogger and she has been published twice … one fiction title and one non-fiction. She has a series of posts listed in her side bar about “How To Get A Book Published.” She was getting the question from friends and readers so often that she decided to answer everyone at once, once and for all. It’s worthwhile for anyone who wants to publish, I think … just in case it’s of interest:

    (Her blog began as a way to document her struggles with infertility … thus the title … but the blog and the woman are much more than that single topic)


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