Find the Sweet Spot: How to Decide What to Write by Ezra Barany

2016_09-27-essential-novel-planning-tips_bethezra-baranyMany authors are plotters and think an excellent way to start a book is to outline every scene first, where other authors are pantsers, writing from the seat of their pants, and believe an excellent way to start a book is to put their characters in a situation and write what happens on the fly. The reality is, there are other items to consider first before either plotting or pantsing. In the Venn diagram, you’ll notice three sections. Let’s walk through each section and determine what your sweet spot is.

(This is a lesson from the Plan Your Novel course.)

Circle One: What You Love to Write

This is the most important circle.

You must write what you love because if you hate it or are bored by it, the reader will pick up on it and be bored.

This could be your favorite genre or subgenre, like thriller or romance. It could be a mood, like wry, comical, or dark. It could be a favorite type of character, like female athletes or spies.
DO: What genre, mood, or type of character do you love writing about? Make a note of it now.

Circle Two: “I’ve Got to Read This!”

When readers land on your book’s sales page (on a vendor’s site), it’s important to have something there that will capture their curiosity.

You have your title and book description to grab them.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to show the browsing readers that will lower their risk and raise their desire to buy?”

Consider familiar topics or characters, like retellings of fairy tales. Do you see how having a book be a spin on Snow White could intrigue the browsing reader more than a story about someone we haven’t heard of before named Macy?

Also, offering insights can be compelling, like what it was like to be the first Parisian detective, a New York firefighter during 9/11, a slave in early America.

How about your book?

Figure out what it can have that will get browsing readers to say, “I’ve got to read this book!” Jot it down!

Circle Three: “You’ve Got to Read This!”

Addressing this circle could be the very task that makes or breaks your sales results.

Since most book sales are based on word-of-mouth, the million dollar question to ask yourself is, “What do I need to write to get people talking about my book?”

Good writing craft isn’t enough.

Overall, the answer to the question is, “Anything that will change the readers’ lives.”

I do that by incorporating controversial topics in my story. Maybe the reader will love that I’m preaching to their choir, maybe they’ll despise my claims. Either way, they’ll tell others about what they thought of the book.

If you can find a way to get the readers to change their beliefs or change the way they live their lives, they’ll likely share with their friends how your book made a major impact on their lives.
So what do you think? Come up with ideas for your story that will drive readers to say, “You’ve got to read this!” Brainstorm!


Once you have all your circles filled, what is inside the sweet spot?
What is something that will appeal to readers in the book’s description (your elevator pitch), something that will change their lives, and something you are absolutely, positively excited to write about?

If you’ve filled that sweet spot, then work on that book and get it published. I can’t wait to read it.

Ezra Barany, Book Mentor and author of The Torah CodesEzra Barany is an award-winning novelist and the bestselling author of The Torah Codes and its sequel 36 Righteous. He is also a teacher and mentor at Barany School of Fiction.

  • Hey, Ezra, I love is piece. It’s not good enough for me to write stuff that simply makes me happy. It needs to go somewhere that loves it too. I guess that’s about being a bit business savvy as well, yet simply not forcing myself to do stuff just to suit an audience. Stephen Pressfiledmqrote something along those lines this week too and I didn’t exactly get it. Your Venning diagram hot the spot. Thanks!

  • >