Monday, December 7, 2009

How do you write an expat bestseller?

Toma Haines, an American writer and entrepreneur living in Berlin, sent me this link about writing an expat bestseller a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it in case, like me, you're working on a book about life abroad. While some of the information in the article seems a bit obvious, I think the most important point is that the book you're writing (or wanting to write) must have a universal take-away. Of course, it also helps (at least with a memoir), if you went through a lot of crazy stuff and changed as a person because of it.

I recently took a memoir writing class (through and we spent a lot of time trying to nail down the theme for our books. Sometimes this is tough to do because the theme may not be obvious right away. But once you do have the theme, it can help you decide which scenes should go in the book and which should come out.

But I think it's important to realize that you can write the book first and then go back and try to decipher the theme as you revise. In any case, I prefer not to analyze theme to death like was done in high school English, but rather let it show itself to me. Just a personal choice.

While the odds of publishing a book are tough, as best-selling expat writer Maya Frost told us last week, it's best to believe that you and your book will succeed.

Are you working on a book? If so, are you paying attention to the theme as you write it? Or worrying about it later?


  1. Thanks for the mention! It was fun seeing my name pop up on your site! I agree with your advice regarding theme - for me, the 1st and most important thing is to write and everything else will follow, operating along the lines of the "if you build it, they will come" school of life!
    ~ Toma Haines (The Antiques Diva)

  2. That's a good line. And yes, I agree that getting stuff actually down on paper is point number one. Too much debating over theme can lead to nothing on paper. And that's not good either.

  3. I've had some difficulty finding a theme in my memoir about spending a year living in [very] rural Korea, so I'm going with the "write a lot, edit a lot" method.

  4. I think that if you write a lot, a theme will hopefully emerge on its own. A memoir about Korea sounds interesting. I'd love to learn more about that country.

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