How to Write a Book: Part II
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 2nd of a multi-part blog series that explains 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 tying together years of experience, education, and knowledge in this 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.
As in the first blog post in this series, I will burst your bubble upfront and say that very rarely is writing books ever a get-rich-quick scheme. #sorz It takes lots of time and effort - not only in the writing process but even after publishing comes the marketing, publicity, and advertising.
You need passion to make it the entire way through and even after writing the last page of your book. Passion for the art of writing or for the story itself. 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!!! 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. It's helpful to write down your why or find a symbol that represents that why, for those days when writing even one sentence is a struggle. Yes, everyone has those!
As a complete over-simplification, the entire authoring process can be broken down into the following four segments:
Preparation: "Easy Tips to Start Writing A Book"
Writing: "How to Write a Book: Part II"
Editing: not published yet
Publishing: not published yet
You obviously can't do one step without completing the prior step... so no rushing ahead! Each of my next few 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. Be sure to read the post "Easy Tips to Start Writing A Book" to save both time and money in the writing and publication process.
The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense!!
Step 2: The Writing Process
By now you should have a book template downloaded in your targeted publication size, decided some of the sticky grammar points such as 1st- versus 3rd-person, and created a list of chapter outlines with a summary describing what's included within each. You may have even searched for book covers that you like and potentially hired an artist!
Here we go. It's a bright crisp day, your coffee is freshly brewed, and you've made it... you've actually sat down to start writing. So what do you do? (Aside from surfing the internet (a.k.a. "research") and refilling your writing snacks dish again.) There you sit at a blank screen. It's scary but you've made it this far... don't give up! I'm not sure if the actual writing is more difficult than editing or not, but this is where your inherent passion and why can carry you through the dark bleak days... err... I mean the blissful days ahead. *smiley*
Define a Daily Goal: Depending on your goals and deadlines, it's important to have a daily writing goal that works for you. Many professional authors have a minimum daily word count that they try to reach and sometimes even exceed. My personal word count is 2000... sometimes that takes me 3 hours and sometimes that takes me 9 hours, but it's the minimum word count that I strive to write 5 days a week. For more casual or newer authors, you need to set a goal that works for you. Like any other goal, it should be a stretch and require effort, but it should be attainable. If your daily word count is too high and you're not meeting it, discouragement will set in and you'll be less likely to continue. Exercise: Determine a daily word count that fits with your lifestyle. Start off writing 500 words a day and see how that feels. Then maybe bump that number by 250 words in either direction until you find a true daily word count goal... one that's attainable with effort.
Write How You Feel: As creatives, we need to be able to express those deep emotions that are hidden in the catacombs of our memories and hearts. This expression is what draws readers to our work and makes it relatable because every human being has experienced tragedy, love, laughter, anger, depression... you get the gist. So one thing I practice that helps me put more emotion on the page, is to write how I'm feeling that day and use the emotions to add depth to the scene or chapter. While I prefer to use "now" moments in present day, if I'm coming to a scene and am not emotionally there... I will use a memory, putting myself back in that space for a few moments before continuing. Words carry energy, so writing words with the energy you're trying to evoke can only help the overall writing process and the final manuscript. Exercise: Did you just have an amazing date and are completely elated? Think of a happy moment in your book. Maybe you had a fight with your parents or a loved one? Think of a moment that might be sad or angry, and write away those emotions into your characters. Use emotions to your benefit.
Get Creative: Whether your book is non-fiction or fiction, you can get creative in several ways. Look at your overall writing style and word choices, use synonyms to expand the vocabulary and word selection, or even add italics and bold to emphasize character's thoughts. In "A Night at the Monte Carlo" when a word in the characters dialogue is emphasized, it is italicized. Hashtags also help create a sense of humor through the book, and actions are highlighted with asterisks. The main idea here is to be consistent with your writing style so that readers can easily follow and engage with your work. *She smiled cleverly* It's also possible to get creative with your overall outline and chapter/scene order. Shuffle the chapters in various orders a few times, even if you feel 100% sure that it is exactly perfect the way it is... try it. You may be surprised to find a new chapter order that might fit slightly better, or notice a hole in the plot. *gasp* No, I know, surely that's not you! Exercises: Make a writing style guide and keep it handy as you're writing. Decide how to add emphasis, show actions, highlight characters' inner thoughts, etc. There are plenty of creative writing prompts out there to help spark and hone your talents. Google "free creative writing prompts" and try one per day, one per week, etc. Note this doesn't count towards your daily writing goal.
Be Ready to Write: Guaranteed... once you are in the thick of your book, ideas will flow to you and you have to be ready. They will come at opportune times, like when you're actually writing, and they will come at very inopportune times - while you're grocery shopping, at the cinema, etc. One tip I've found useful is to always carry a small notepad and pen for just such a moment. Sure it's possible to use your phone to record the idea but sometimes it's not always socially polite to pull out your phone. Either way, make sure to jot it down so that you remember.
Write! Write! Write! Now comes the work... sit down each day and strive to meet your word goal. There is no right or wrong way, but I'll read through my chapters/scenes and pick one that appeals to me that day and write that portion. Some may write in sequential order. Find the writing process that aligns with you. The important thing is to do it... to write and keep writing. Some days are magical and some aren't. Remember your why and meet me at "The End" with the next blog which is all about editing.
Only 3% of people who want to write a book actually finish it... that can be YOU!
The next blog will focus on Step 3: Editing and once again will include the tips and tricks that I personally use. Subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you're updated on when it's released. Until then, stay safe and healthy my friends!