An editorial in the New York Times (March 1, 1998) was entitled, How To Manufacture a Best-Seller. It told the story of John Baldwin, a 53-year-old carpenter and a would-be writer, who had struggled for years to make a living from writing. He determined to become famous and rich overnight by writing a best-selling medical thriller. He studied five or six best thrillers. After 7 years' research he found 10 steps to producing a best-selling medical novel. He honed it with some Hollywood writers and agents, and here is the 10-step formula he used:
The hero is an expert.
The villain is an expert.
You must watch all the villain's activities over his shoulder.
The hero has a team of experts behind him, working in various fields.
Two or more on the team must fall in love.
Two or more on the team must die.
The villain must turn his attention from his initial goal to the team.
The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group.
If the story bogs down, just kill somebody.
George R.R. Martin must have read this article!