Is it possible to write a well-crafted, complex, meaningful literary novel that’s also a page-turner and commercial success—even a blockbuster? James Joyce Scholar, Susan Sutliff Brown thinks so.
We met Brown at the San Miguel Writers Conference last February, where she presented to a standing room only crowd her approach to transcending the polarity between literary and commercial fiction.
In Brown’s most popular workshop, James Joyce Meets Judith Krantz, writers are challenged to create a fresh new genre—the literary blockbuster—which merges the goals and devices of serious fiction with those that keep readers up all night.
Speaking later, we agreed that a literary contest aimed at bridging the long-standing divide between these two literary worlds would be a fascinating experiment. Thus, Inkubate’s 2012 Literary Blockbuster Challenge was born.
Brown remains motivated by a key development—the discovery of the blockbuster formula in James W. Hall’s new release: Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers.
“Creative writing professor James W. Hall has discovered and published the formula common to mega-blockbusters. In a study of bestsellers from Peyton Place, Gone with the Wind, and To Kill a Mockingbird, to Valley of the Dolls, The Godfather, Jaws, and The Da Vinci Code, Hall has identified twelve ingredients common to these strikingly different bestsellers.”
Without compromising content or style, Brown encourages writers to add Hall’s blockbuster “code” to their unpublished literary manuscript. “They’ll want to read Hall’s book, of course, but they’ll also see references to his code in Parts II and III of the PDF guide I created to help writers transform their manuscripts into marketable works of fiction.”
Are you the writer who will bridge the long-standing gap and write something philosophically meaningful that readers will want to take to the beach? If so, “a literary blockbuster is within reach and there are a number of ways to begin,” says Brown.
- Dust off that beautifully written literary novel you haven’t sold and add the ingredients that make it a page-turner.
- Confront the hero of your whodunit with an emotional abyss that causes a character change even as the mystery is resolved.
- Write an entirely new novel that combines the formulas of literary and commercial fiction.
Ready to get started? Need a skilled literary coach? Dive into Susan Brown’s Blockbuster Guide.
And feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues!
You can hear Brown speak in person at the 2013 San Miguel Writers Conference. While there, you can also savor the expertise of many other Inkubate friends, including Ray Bradbury’s goddaughter and presenter, Elizabeth Eve King, award-winning Children’s book author, Dianna Hutts Aston, PEN Mexico's President and contest judge, Jennnifer Clement, and every writer’s favorite literary agent, Oakland-based Andy Ross. You may want to contact Andy now to set up a manuscript review during the San Miguel Writers Conference.