Easy Tips to Start Writing a Book
Updated: Apr 19
Many people have the inspiration within them to share their story or knowledge and write a book, envisioning that it'll reach the vast corners of the earth and make a meaningful impact on mankind. This post is the first of a multi-part blog series that will explain the nitty-gritty aspects of the writing process for anyone who is looking to craft a novel and get it published.
As someone who has written multiple screenplays and books (both non-fiction and fiction), I'm attempting to tie together years of experience, education, and knowledge in this short blog series, to help future authors also attain that sense of satisfaction that comes with writing "The End" after months (or sometimes years) of effort. :-)
Firstly, I will burst your bubble upfront... rarely is writing books ever a get-rich-quick scheme. #sorz Oh how I wish it were!! It takes lots of time and effort - not only in the writing process but even after publishing comes the marketing, publicity, and advertising. What you need before you start is passion... either for the art of writing or for the story.
If you have the passion to write or a story that is burning inside of you that needs to be told, you. can. do. it!!! Need help? Also consider why you want to write the story... this is part of the passion that keeps you going and the motivation that drives your ambition through the entire writing and publishing process. Follow the steps in these next few blogs, and you'll be well on your way to writing your first (or next!) book.
As a complete over-simplification, the entire authoring process can be broken down into the following four segments:
You obviously can't do one step without completing the prior step... so no rushing ahead! Each of my next posts will focus on one of these segments, breaking it down into easy step-by-step tasks that aspiring authors can complete. These are the same exact steps that I take when working on new books, and I will share all of the shortcuts I use... I promise. Writing is a transformative experience as you create and write the story, and hopefully for the readers. Writing is my passion and I'm happy to help others write the best story they can.
Step 1: Preparation
As tempting as it may be to jump ahead to Step 2 and just put that pen to paper and start scribbling or typing away... preparation is a key factor to having a solid draft to present to publishers.
Why are writers are cold so often? It's because they're surrounded by drafts!
Preparing to write can be FUN! This is where you get to dream about what your finished product will look like... with your name in print in a font 14 pt. at the bottom of the cover! In each of the following preparation tasks, there are several decisions that if they're made upfront will save you time and money on the backend. Read through these preparation steps to get ready to write and consider various options or alternatives for each of the following.
Preparing the Product: What happens if you start writing using your favorite word processing program (think Google Docs or MS Word), and complete your whole book in the standard 8 1/2 x 11" page formatting... and then you realize that your book should be 4 5/8 x 8 1/4"? Headaches... that's what happens. Typesetting headaches. In this step, have fun envisioning the final product(s) of your book. What size is it and does is look like? Be creative and think of different titles and cover ideas. Will it be available only in print, or Kindle too? Do you want to have an audible version? Start by researching books in your genre and note the following things: * What is their typical size... 5x7", 6x8", etc. * What colors and fonts are used in the covers? Exercises: Download a book template that matches the targeted size of your book. Templates are usually available by doing an internet search. Starting off using a template will make future typesetting changes easier and also helps you track how many pages your book will be. Think 1 page on the computer = 1 printed page. This will also help gauge printing costs later. Find multiple examples of book covers that you like and hire a book cover artist - yes, it's a thing! People buy books based on the covers and you want to be sure to give your book the best shot it can have.
Preparing to Write: Before you begin to write there are a few technicalities of grammar to think about. Decide verb tense (past, present, or future) of your story and the 'voice' that you want to write in (first-person or third-person are the most common). When it comes to first or third person, and verb tense - nothing is right or wrong/better or worse. It's just a question of your personal writing style. First-person example: "I walked down the broken cement sidewalk towards the eclectic coffee shop. After waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity, I finally ordered my usual morning coffee." Third-person example: "Claire walked down the broken cement sidewalk towards the eclectic coffee shop. After waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity, she finally ordered her usual morning coffee." Exercise: Take a part of your story idea and write at least one complete page using each voice to determine what feels the most comfortable for your writing style and the story itself.
Preparing the Story: Decide if your book be non-fiction (true stories like a biography or informational fact-based) or will it be fiction (imaginary creative storytelling). If your story is based on a true story of another person, make sure you have the rights to their story. Research copyright laws. To be considered a "novel", the story goal is a minimum of 40,000 words. Research some of your favorite book's word counts, or average word counts within your genre. Anything less than 40,000 words is considered a novella, and the pricing will be lower - this can be good in some circumstances and not-so-good in others. Exercise: Craft a list of chapters that will be in your book and include a one page description or summary of what happens in each one. This outline will help you to organize and address any issues, before you start writing. Non-fiction: These chapters should be logically grouped chucks of information. Once your list of chapters is created, shuffle the chapters around multiple times - even if you already think you have the best order. Fiction: The chapters should be natural breaking points in the story line. Personally I try to follow the traditional 3-act structure which I feel is very nicely described in Blake Snyder's book, "Save the Cat". What happens if you set your story in outer space, or the wild west, or the 1800s versus current day. This is your chance to play and imagine and dream. Try different variations of your storyline.
With a chapter outline crafted, a book template downloaded, once you've nailed down the tone/voice of your project... you are ready to begin! These are keys to starting your book and will help you later in the process too. So go ahead and brew some coffee (a writer's life blood in my opinion) and get started on these preparation tasks.
The next blog will focus on Step 2: Writing with all of the tips and tricks that I personally use. I'll also cover daily writing goals (think word counts), and writing structure/organization. Subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you're updated on when it's released. Until then, stay safe and healthy my friends!