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This blog was featured on 08/17/2019
Sandra Brown on Diligence & Her Successful Writing Formula
Written by
She Writes
August 2019
Written by
She Writes
August 2019

Sandra Brown is the notorious author of 70 New York Times bestsellers, with more than 80 million copies of her books in print worldwide, translated into 34 languages.

This month she releases Outfox, a psychological thriller about FBI agent Drex Easton's hunt for a ruthless conman-turned-serial killer.

“All I do is entertain. I try to entertain others by sending them into another world for a few hours. When I see my books read on the beach, the pages dabbed with suntan lotion, then I feel as if I’ve done my job,” she told Texas Monthly.

On Process

Brown begins her stories with an idea, but like most writers experience, not all ideas pan out.

“Sometimes ideas come from current events or topics of discussion. Other times a character will just step out of my subconscious and introduce himself,” she told Huffington Post.

Brown writes one novel each year, and within that time, she compiles four drafts:

“I write my first draft to get the story down. Then I go through it and make a list of everything that requires research. I do all I can before I begin the second draft, so that the information I’ve gleaned can be incorporated into that draft. But often, I’m inserting new information right up until the final (usually fourth) draft is finished. From start to finish approximately six to nine months. Once the manuscript is complete, edited by myself and my publisher, then typeset, I still have to proof it.”

This excerpt was originally published on Sandra Brown’s website, inside her Writer’s Toolbox where she addresses reader questions. Read the full post here.

Brown’s remarkable ability to produce one book every year is largely due to the diligence of her writing schedule.

She told Texas Monthly in an interview that she gets to the office by 9:30, meets with her staff, and then heads upstairs to write on her computer. She doesn’t eat any breakfast or lunch. At 2:30, when she stops writing to read her mail, she might have a cup of tea and an apple or perhaps a handful of walnuts. Then it’s back to writing until 6pm. Mid-year, she tries to finish a 10- to 15-page outline for her next book. She finishes a first draft of the book by the middle of September and a second draft by the end of January.

From there, she turns in her final draft to Simon & Schuster on March 1. “Not a day later,” she says. By May, when the book is finished, ready to be released by August, she starts working on the outline for the next one.

On Her Formula

Brown’s success is also credited to the effective formula she applies to each book. Her methodology involves specific types of conflict, settings, and motivators.

She begins writing each book by listing out its “Essential Elements.”

1. A “co-dependent” hero or heroine.

“What I mean by that is that they are bound together by a common problem,” she explained. “The heroine, for instance, is accused of murder, and the hero is a police detective trying to decide whether she did the murder. ”

2. Next, the hero and heroine must “share space.” As she put it, “they must be in each other’s company, sometimes reluctantly, to solve their common problem.”

3. The hero and heroine must develop a “mutual desire,” but that desire always has to be forbidden.

Her formula continues with several additional “Essential Element,” of course, including the really mind-blowing sex to never occur until the latter part of the book. “Anticipation,” she said, “is everything.”

Excerpts about Brown’s formula were originally published on Texas Monthly. Read the full interview here.

On Challenges

Don’t let life get in the way, Brown advises to aspiring writers. For her, this was something that put her commitment to writing to the test when she experienced a loss in her family.

“I had lost a parent,” she said in an interview with Huffington Post, “And I still managed to deliver my books on time. The challenge was knowing how to compartmentalize so that there was a professional and a personal me. I needed to know when to compartmentalize and how to prioritize things.”

On Advice

Read all the time and read everything, Brown advises to aspiring writers. She also comments that if you are not enjoying it, read it to understand why you are not enjoying it.

“What did the author miss? What did the author not do or do that you don’t like or are responding to? And then read the books that you love and ask what did the author accomplish that you would like to do.”

She also recommends that writers determine their strengths and find their niche early on in the writing process.

“It is very important for the writers to have their own voice, their own trademarks, something that when someone buys the book, they know more or less what they are going to get. I think it’s important for young writers to figure this out exactly. It doesn’t mean they can’t branch out and try different things, but the way in which you write has to ring true, so that the audience will come to you.”

This excerpt was originally published on Huffington Post. Read the full post here.

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  • Barbra Cohn

    I admire Sandra Brown's self-discipline, but I wonder this: If she ate a healthy diet wouldn't she be able to do even more---writing or enjoying her life? Starving oneself is not exactly good for the body or brain. (P.S. I'm a health writer.)

  • Muffy Wilson

    I enjoyed this immensely and found Sandra Brown's self-discipline daunting. I think having a special place one writes, as in Sandra's case her office, is in large part the secret to her success in compartmentalizing personal and professional lives. With an office in my home, it is clearly a huge obstacle to overcoming the ever calling personal life.

  • Hyba Revising

    Her self-discipline is commendable! I aspire to write a book a year. I've tried this with limited success within the past year, but I'm happy to have had the experience! Next time, I'll try to double-down and really stick to my timeline goals! Very inspirational and motivational article! Thanks for sharing.