Five Easy Steps To A Best Seller

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Author Brown was cross-examined for three days

London's Da Vinci Code copyright trial — a suspenseful thriller itself — continues to pack in the crowds. Last week, Dan Brown was in the dock to defend what he calls the "completely fanciful" case brought by Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who claim he lifted the "whole architecture" of his massive best seller from their 1982 nonfiction book. His 69-page witness statement is littered with tips on how to write a blockbuster. Here's a handful:

1. Be disciplined.
"My routine begins at around 4 a.m. every morning, when there are no distractions," says Brown, who also breaks every hour for "push-ups, sit-ups and some quick stretches. I find this helps keep the blood (and ideas) flowing."

2. Pick a "big idea" with a gray area.
"The first step is to select a theme that [you] find particularly intriguing ... The ideal topic has no clear right and wrong, no definite good and evil, and makes for great debate." In this case, the provocative "Jesus was married" conspiracy theory might have created too much debate.

3. Location, location, location.

Brown initially wanted to stage a Masonic romp in Nova Scotia, but it lacked sufficient drama. Instead, a 1998 personal tour of a concealed passageway beneath the Vatican — "used by early Popes to escape in event of enemy attack" — inspired Brown to opt for Old Europe.

4. Keep chapters snappy.
"I have a short attention span," Brown told a packed courtroom, "and I write short chapters for that reason." (Chapter 27 is only 1 1/2 pages long.)

5. Marry well.
Not only did Blythe Brown secure her husband's first book deal, she also did much of the work behind The Da Vinci Code. "She was reading entire books, highlighting exciting ideas and urging me to read the material myself," admits Brown, who sometimes found the extent of her research "frustrating."