How often do you hear someone say he wants to write a book? Or, perhaps that’s you saying it! As my world is writing and book editing, someone tells me this literally every day. So if you’re writing a book for the first time, what 6 simple tasks do you do first?
Let’s Begin with the 6 Main Things:
1). First off, decide what you’re writing.
I know, that sounds like a no-brainer, right? You have a story and characters and the book’s going to be about . . .
Now, that’s all well and good that you have your people already percolating in your head, and you have an idea of what their story is. Good!
But let’s take that a step further—what genre will your story be in? By zeroing-in on that before you begin, you’ll save yourself countless heartaches in revision.
Hint: Focus on what sort of books you love to read. That’s most likely where the writer you will fit!
2). Research and read in your genre.
Okay, so you know what you like in a book, so that’s the genre you’re aiming for. You’ve already been reading (yeah!), so you know the gist of what lands there.
Now, check the other specs:
Word count is paramount.
Voice and tone.
Explicit vs. implied sex and violence.
Endings as happily-ever-after, partially tied up, or open-ended.
Other specs are not as simple, such as how much paranormal in Paranormal Romance? Or how much magic in Magical Realism? And how many shoot-out scenes in a Traditional Western? Dig to find what the audience is reading (i.e., what sells, which is what agents and editors are looking for).
Hint: Follow your heart, write what you love, and learn the specs.
3). Start keeping a notebook and write down thoughts as they come.
As any writer having been in the trenches can tell you, great thoughts pop into your head at inopportune times. Driving on the freeway. In the shower. At 3 AM wakened from a dead sleep.
And no more fateful words followed that fabulous thought or idea than: “I’ll remember this later.” You might. But you’ll doubtfully remember all of it, or even most. And you’ve just lost true inspiration to the others.
Hint: Write it down at the time.
4). Devise an outline.
Especially if you’re penning nonfiction (but many novelists use this as well), and especially if you’re writing a book for the first time (although multi-published authors routinely do this), create an outline.
An outline provides you not only with a framework for fashioning your story, but it’ll show you up front where the storyline holes are. Where you’re deviating from the genre (see #2!). That saves you, again, a ton of revisions down the road.
And, it has the benefit of instilling confidence, as you know where you’re going, which frees your creativity to soar.
Hint: You don’t have to stick to it. This is for your benefit, not to be a constriction.
5). Carve out a writing schedule.
“Oh,” folks tell me, “I want to write a book so I know I’ll do it.”
And five years later, they still haven’t started. Or, they did begin, and then x, y, z got in the way, and, well, they sort of lost the thread of the narrative and . . .
Time is one thing all writers and even successful authors deal with every day. So many life issues seem to conspire against a writer. And trust me—everything on the planet will jump up to usurp your creative time.
But it won’t if you analytically look at your life and fashion a schedule. Then you can identify the block of hours you can carve out every day (yes, every day. Okay, you can take weekends off J), when you’re most likely to be undisturbed. The family is away or asleep. Your day job is done and the boss isn’t likely to call. Etc.
Hint: There’s a reason so many write at midnight or 4 AM.
6). Sit your butt down and begin it. Commit to it.
In book editing, the biggest issue I see with folks wanting to write is this one. They’ve planned, scheduled, researched, outlined, even kept a notebook.
Worst of all, they talk about writing all the time—what their books are going to be about, what will happen, etc., etc.
The thing is, they never quite get down to the actual writing . . .
Hint: Sit there every day and write—even if it’s only a sentence or paragraph.
Writing a book for the first time—or even for the 20th—just isn’t for the faint of heart.
Yes, that blank page can be daunting. Face it.
Yes, you might write crap. Write it anyway.
Yes, you very well might get bogged down. Keep at it.
Your friends and family might think you’re insane. Let them.
Because one of the most satisfying feelings in the world is to type: