You may describe a character , for instance, who never appears in the story directly but who influences another character. Set up a table or chart and write down all the characters that have a special meaning in the story. Use your notebook to write a lot about them. This helps you visualize and think about them more and even learn about your own character more.
You always have something to refer to when you run out of immediate ideas. An outline will help you define the arc of your narrative—the beginning, development of plot and characters, the setting up of all the events leading to the big conflict or climax, and then the resolution and ending.
The beginning of the story is often the hardest part depending on who you are—if you want it to be. The best thing to do is start as broadly as possible. Say, for example, you want to write a mystery novel, and you're a fan of World War II. The beauty of this is that both categories are very broad, but simply by putting them together, you instantly narrow the field of possibilities.
You now have, at the very least, a time period, and a focus. Something mysterious happened during WWII. Try to focus it a little more. Is it personal, or is it sweeping? WWII was certainly both. For the sake of example, say it's personal, one soldier's story. When does it take place? This is one of those decision points you will come to right away. Say it actually takes place now, which leads to the next question, "How now?
To move right along, lay out the beginning scenario: Your main character finds a journal—his grandfather's journal from WWII. This is a revelation, because Grandpa never made it home from the war, but nobody knows what happened. Perhaps, in this journal, your hero will uncover the answer.
You now have several key questions answered, right out of the gate: You don't know "why," yet. That is one of the things you must discover.
Again, this must be uncovered through asking yourself questions. Start with the obvious. In this case, you have already created two characters—a young man and his grandfather. You can determine characteristics of both simply by the setting, and expand your characters in the process. Grandfather would likely have been married, so there would be a grandmother in the picture. There's a generation between grandpa and the young man, so there would be one of his parents who is also Grandpa's son or daughter.
See how easy that is? Continue along in this fashion, extending from one character to all the others that they may interact with. Before long, it's possible that you'll have too many characters and interactions. This is good, especially in a mystery.
You may have need of "red shirts," like the hapless, disposable ensigns from the original Star Trek! In the process of developing your characters, you will likely ask yourself the same question your readers will soon be asking: Use these questions to develop the story. You know, for your story, that the young man wants to find out what happened to Grandpa.
Since all he has is the journal to go on, he reads it, and discovers Grandpa's story that lead him from his small town in Kentucky and his pregnant wife grandma!
He never makes it home. Knowing these things, you see questions and a pattern emerge: Events take place in "today's" time, and also during WWII: As the journal is read, the date is As the grandson explores, it's today. To add some action to the mystery, the young man must do something.
Since Grandpa isn't coming home, send the young man to Germany to find him—dead or alive. Where was Grandma in all this? Continue along this process of creating the arc, but at this point you could even hazard a tentative ending: Then all you need to do is write down everything in the middle!
Now that you've created the basic story minus all the words , sketch your outline as a timeline, with each character's milestone events laid out on their own line. There will be times when two or more characters intersect, and where some disappear altogether. Just draw a line where those events happen. This too will give you something to kickstart your muse when she falters. If you find your plot goes nowhere, and nothing you can do will help it—back up to where it last made sense, and try something else.
Your story is not required to do anything you tell it to do in the outline. Sometimes, the story has other ideas where it wants to go. Wherever you are in the process, the muse may beckon you elsewhere. Follow her—this is part of the joy of writing. Write out the name of each chapter for your book and decide what you're going to put into it, that way you'll always know where you're going with the story.
Writing about your characters at the start, too, can be helpful down the road. You can use bullet points. Know the elements of a good novel. If you want to be a successful writer, think twice about taking creative writing as a course in college unless you've already done so ; instead, take English Literature.
You have to know how to read with discernment and a critical eye before you write anything. Sentence structure, character distinction, plot formation, and character personality development all fall into place if you know how to read critically before you write.
The setting of a book is the time, place, and circumstances in which a story takes place. You don't need state this outright, of course. Like a painter might do, you create a picture in the mind of your reader by painting around the subject. Write out your plot. This will give you a starting point to anchor your story. Nothing fancy, just a general idea of what goes on. Halfway through the book, look over the original plot you wrote down.
It'll be amazing how your perception of your book may have changed. You can change your book to match the original plot or scrap the plot and go with what you've written. You could even integrate and mix the two——whatever you want. Remember this is your book! This is the best part. If you're having trouble starting, skip to the conflict of the story, and go from there. Once you feel comfortable with your writing, you can add the setting. You'll probably change loads of things in the story, because the great thing about writing a book is you can let your imagination run wild.
The only thing you have to remember is that you have to enjoy the process, or your book will probably end up in a cylindrical metal container flecked with deep brick-colored oxidation and peeling shards of turquoise latex pigment namely, a rusty old trash bin. Remember that your notebook should only be used for planning! It is best to type up your story so you can create multiple copies of it, easily remove mistakes, and pitch it to publishers.
Pick something you know, or want to know—about. Your nonfiction book could be information about a place where the reader might be vacationing, or information on a place in general.
It could be about today's society, or a contemporary or historical leader or person of interest. The only caveat for true non-fiction is that it be factual. As much as they may know, every expert has at least one new thing to learn!
You can never know too much about a subject. If you are having trouble or reach a stumbling block, try these things: Sometimes it will take a bit of digging to narrow things down, but let the search engines of the world help you in your knowledge quest. Follow not just the main articles, but the referenced articles as well.
Leave questions on forums and other places in case anyone can help you resolve them. Read another non-fiction book about, or related to your subject. The author may see things from a different perspective, and may have some information you were not aware of, which you will duly confirm from an independent source before including it in your story, right? Have one say something that makes the other storm out. Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced.
Thrust people into conflict with each other. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this. Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end. Many of us are perfectionists and find it hard to get a first draft written—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.
Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days. Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.
Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. This chore is about creating. Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works. I alternate creating and revising.
The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.
Compartmentalize your writing vs. Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle. The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last. If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.
For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged. Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.
It still is for me—every time. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it. This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud , the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor.
Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of further consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. For my full list and how to use them, click here. Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.
Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves. Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers. There are many helpful mentors online. I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild.
Want to save this definitive guide to read later? Click here or below to download a handy PDF version: Struggling with knowing how to write a book? Tell me in the comments and feel free to ask questions. Before you go, be sure to grab my FREE guide: How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps. Just tell me where to send it: But what if you knew exactly: My goal here is to offer you that plan. Assemble your writing tools. Break the project into small pieces.
Settle on your BIG idea. Set a firm writing schedule. Establish a sacred deadline. Start calling yourself a writer. Find your writing voice. Write a compelling opener. Fill your story with conflict and tension. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle. Write a resounding ending. Become a ferocious self-editor.
Want to download this step guide so you can read it whenever you wish? Establish your writing space. What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do. And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.
Real writers can write anywhere. Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it. So, what else do you need? Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed. How to Start Writing a Book 3. An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a tim e. Try to get your mind off your book as a or-so-page monstrosity.
So keep it simple. To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer. Go for the big concept book. Run it past loved ones and others you trust. Does it raise eyebrows? Thank you so much for the recommendation Kathi! I have found that to be exactly the case with the book I am writing now.
The good news is that it is the hardest part. The words just fly see how I did that? Fasten your seatbelt Penguin Books. Yes, each of us has to find our own way, exploring and experimenting. I started out with Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, began daily writing for a half hour, then a JC course in creative writing thinking I wanted to be a nature writer. Came out of the course a poet. Dabbled in that for years, continuing to read anything and everything about writing, nature writing and then memoir.
Suddenly my ten year old inner child began writing her memoir. Loving playing with that, and interestingly, the latest version is written as poetry. I continue my half hour daily writing and another memoir seems to be appearing on the pages.
I would be lost without my writing! Keep up your explorations and experiments — but never forget to walk the dog my dogs and I are helping walk him for you now so you are off the hook on that one. I love this Jan! Amy Poehler has a great quote about this very thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. Maybe it will turn into a novel. Maybe I need to write this just to get one essay out of it. Hello Marian, I just happened to read how you started writing and it really kept me glued to it until i was through it.
I wish I could write a book too. I would try your tricks and ways mentioned in it. I had not thought of reading my favorite authors and using them as a launching off point, but I do the same thing when I listen to music and try to emulate my favorites when I start trying to write songs! Thanks for the tip! Marian, Thanks for sharing the difficult details about getting started. I think learning from every writer, regardless of how published or accomplished is incredibly important.
I once had a professor comment on a story that to really flourish, I should explore every technique of story telling until I found the one that fit the most. What it basically is have a large calendar near your writing station.
Thanks again for sharing. I really appreciate the honesty about your difficulties and strategies — it can be really motivating to know that in this solitary action we take, there are others doing the same! Thank you, Marian, for your very helpful and practical advice. I found the answer to a stumbling block I had. So much so that it slowed down my writing. I found a very simple device that has solved the problem. I chose another name for myself and wrote in the third person.
I was amazed at how much more smoothly my woods flowed when I was not aware I was speaking about my own experiences. I like that idea Bettye. I found I was having the same issue and even stopped working with my book coach and did not pitch an editor who was considering me for a column. However, having had some essays published recently has helped. My issues boiled down to fear. It is your life out there for the world to judge. Handling a few internet trolls is going to help me deal with criticism when my book is published.
Bettye I like your idea of a pen name and writing in as the third person. I too have found it difficult to write my story and found that I stumbled on my words even though I had already done a lot of work and wrote out the main outline Scrivener. I will try your idea and see what happens. I am also working on a memoir.
We have the same game plan, so I hope you are right! It is a great example of a memoir, IMO. Good luck getting onto Modern Love and your future book release!
OMG I submitted to the same anthology! I wish we had known about each other sooner otherwise we could have formed our own little EPL writing circle.
Hey Marian, I just love the way you pen down your first masterpiece! You see I am quite into writing a book for a really long time, but have always abstained!! I guess post reading this write-up, I feel quite inspired and that hitch of what and how exactly should I structure my story is beginning to vanish.
You taught us a really tricky yet helpful technique of how to frame in Step 3. Must say, a really helpful one! Best of luck with your own story!
I think Neil and Bettye are on to something. I have long been a fan of fiction and have never really considered a memoir but I definitely think that creating distance is a good start—it definitely can help with the objectivity.
As far as whether to start in the beginning, middle in media res or end depends on the impact you want to have on the reader. Part of the reason I love to write is that it connects me with old emotions and helps me process and write them as honestly as possible. I love this advice and will definitely be using it from now on! I also agree about writing as if the memoir were fiction.
The only memoirs I truly love are the ones that I would never know were memoirs. I want to get sucked into a story and I think too often writers who focus solely on personal narrative and non-fiction get caught up in the facts too much. So who knows, maybe this memoir will turn into a novel!
You can literally do it however you want. I also tend to ramble on and loose my focus. I feel like if I do have to read on how to write, I will never write. I might just go with the flow and write cold turkey.
I figured since I never read a novel, that I cannot copy from anyone and whatever I write will be coming from me, mine, pulling from way back God knows where.
Then I will leave the the rest up to the editors. I mean, I see some crazy stuff out there and the Authors are doing well. Good luck and happy writing. Bernadine, I wish you all the best on your writing journey! I encourage you to think of it at this point as journaling for your own self-discovery, rather than as professional writing to be read by others.
It is too easy, I believe, for many writers to adopt definitions of success and failure that are appropriate to a different type of writing from the one they are doing.
Not reading a single novel not one????? If your book accomplishes that, it will be a success, by the right definition. But until then, you are right that getting too hung up on reading about writing can get in the way of actually doing the writing. Listen to your story after you begin writing and it will tell you how it wants to be written.
Cause i still dont know where to start honestly. Vinecia, start with a catchy title and begin writing in the middle of the story. As you write, the story will tell you how it begins and how it ends.
How to Start Writing a Book: Two problems promptly ugh, adverb, sorry presented themselves: My first attempt was horrible. I started writing about the day Tom not his real name, of course and I met.
What tumbled out was a list of actions: Copy someone else What I wanted to know was how to write well. So what if I just copied someone else?
I felt instant relief. I took it story by story, memory by memory. Create a to-do list and use helpful tools At the beginning, I was using Evernote to create a new note for every memory. Doing this has given me two surprising benefits:
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Aug 08, · How to Write a Book. Anyone with a story to tell can write a book, either for their own enjoyment or to publish for all to see and buy. Then all you need to do is write down everything in the middle! Consider writing along with a friend, have them help you write, or if they are writing a book, write your book when they are. 86%(). How to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word. March 31, By Microsoft packed a surprising number of tools into it's word processing application that simplify your writing task and help you create a book you'll be proud to share with the world. Regardless of the type of book you're writing, you'll probably need to search for specific.
Many aspiring writers need help writing a book. For first-time authors the task of writing two hundred pages can seem mammoth, a lot harder than it appeared when they first started the project. Do you need help refining your ideas for your book? Can you crystalize your book’s message, theme, and/or relevancy? Are you clear on what your book will be about, why it’s unique, and its benefits to your readers?