No. 2 in a series of posts designed to give an overview of self-publishing.
It’s a beautiful moment. You’re sitting there, thinking about ideas or memories, and all of a sudden it comes together and you say: “I think I shall write books!” (if you’re anything like Jo March).
The revelation is easy. So is all of the excitement and inspiration. But then comes the hard part.
How does one actually write a book?
Well…it’s quite a long and complicated answer, one that I couldn’t cover entirely in one post, or two, or three. But I do claim to know a thing or two about writing a book. I’ve published two books of my own – albeit short ones – and I’ve written many more books, scripts, and all kinds of other stories besides for clients in my freelance writing business. Not to mention all those poor, dusty, unpublished books I have sitting around in my laptop’s old files!
If I’ve learned anything about writing a book, it’s that it’s not as hard as everyone makes it seem. Even this post will probably make it look difficult with all the steps involved, but my aim is to break this down for you so it makes sense. It certainly takes lots of effort if you want to write a good book, but as long as you keep at it and stay dedicated, you’ll find it comes together fairly quickly. It helps even more if you’ve already had lots of practice writing!
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the basics of what it takes to write a book.
1. An Idea
This is pretty obvious. If you want to write a book, it all starts with an idea. Fiction or non-fiction? Memoir or self-help? Fantasy or sci-fi? It’s important to pinpoint exactly what your idea is, which will help with the following steps. It may not come to you all at once, but that’s okay. That’s what outlining is for! (Even if it’s very basic outlining, like I do!)
Just a few things about that good ol’ idea of yours. First of all, you have to believe in it. If you don’t love this idea and believe in it with every fibre of your being, chances are either a) you’re not going to finish the book at all or b) the finished product will be soulless and forced.
Secondly, it needs to be original. If you truly want to write a meaningful story that readers will love, your idea needs to be something that will attract them not just once, but keep them coming back to your book for the rest of their lives. It needs to be amazing enough that they want to tell everyone they know about it.
Sometimes an idea doesn’t start out original, and that’s okay, too. You may find your own special twist while you’re outlining or writing. But find that original element to your story, and you’re already making good headway.
2. Writing Practice
As I talked about in my previous post on self-publishing, a book is not the time to practise your writing. A book is the time to showcase all the writing you’ve already practised.
If you come up with an idea and you’re still a new writer, don’t panic! You can still write your book, but I highly recommend getting in some practice first. Start a blog. Submit short stories to magazines. Join a writing group on Discord or Facebook or wherever.
It’s very tempting to want to jumpstart your writing career with a book, but I can almost guarantee you that it won’t go over well. You want your book to be your best work, not your practice . Take the time to practise and gain knowledge, and you’ll reap the rewards from your book.
3. Identify Genre and Audience
Now that you’ve had your practice, you’re ready to begin writing, right?
Many people don’t think about their audience when starting to write a book, but it’s so important, especially if you’re planning on self-publishing! If you don’t know who you’re writing for, how do you know what to write? You’re going to write an adult epic fantasy novel very differently than you’ll write a middle-grade fantasy adventure.
So, who are you writing your book for? What other books would your ideal reader enjoy? What kind of reader are you? That’s a great starting point to pinpoint your audience!
This is actually a newer concept to me as well, but one that I’ve now found invaluable. For example, in order to find beta readers for a book I’m publishing in the coming months (check out my newsletter if you’re interested!), I’ve been looking for people in my target audience: “Readers who enjoy the whimsicality and wittiness of The Chronicles of Narnia but also love the grittiness and strong female leads in books like The Hunger Games and Divergent.”
Just from this description, you can see that I’m targeting young adults with the mention of popular YA novels. However, I’m specifically pinpointing those who enjoy whimsical fairytales and the writing style of C.S. Lewis. I didn’t think about my audience until after the book was written, but now that I’m doing the rewrites, it’s been extremely helpful! It would have saved me quite a bit of time if I would have thought about my audience from the very beginning.
In conclusion: know who you’re writing for.
Once you have your idea and your audience and you’ve practised your writing enough to know that you possess the skill to write a book, it’s time to do some research. Read books in your genre, especially ones that are comparable to your book. Read good books. Know what good writing looks like. Know the tropes to use with your genre and target audience.
Read articles, too, or even blog posts (like this one!) about how to write a book or about other people’s experiences writing books. Make sure you feel confident in the venture you’re about to undertake!
Finally, we’re getting to some kind of writing! Before you really start to write your book, you should have some kind of plan in place. If you’re a plotter, go ahead and plot your heart out! By this time, you should know what kind of outline works best for you (which is why you do your research before this stage!), or if you’re a pantser, you’ve figured out some different methods that help you get started.
But even if you are a pantser, I encourage you to have something. Even if you end up entirely deviating from your plot, it’s a good idea to know where you’re going. As a hardcore pantser myself who can’t write outlines that have any more than one sentence per chapter/section, I like to have just a few integral parts of the story figured out – or at least planned, because they might change as I write!
- Main character’s arc
Even as a pantser, it’s important to know the heart of your story. The details come to me as I write, but I try to figure out at least these four things in advance.
6. At Last…Write!
And now that you’re fully equipped, it’s time to start writing your book! But this means more than just putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Writing a book means setting aside intentional time to work on it. At the beginning, you may want to sit there and write nonstop! But likely, there will come a time (usually in the middle) where it starts to become a chore. You start to try and push your writing time aside in favour of something else.
Don’t let this stop you! Remember how I said to be invested in your idea from the beginning? This is where that dedication comes in. Remind yourself of why you loved this idea in the first place. Write some short stories with your main character(s).
Even more importantly, have a routine. Set aside a certain time a few days a week that is reserved for only working on your book. That way, you have no choice but to do it!
The key to writing a book is perseverance. If you keep going, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
This isn’t the end! After writing the book, there’s a lot more left to do. Look out for my next blog post on the editing process!
If you’re writing a fiction book and you want some more detailed advice on how to write a book, I encourage you to sign up for my monthly newsletter! It will give you access to my free writing guidebook, The 10 Lost Elements of Storytelling, and every month you’ll be provided with some awesome resources to enhance your writing.
And until next time, happy writing!
Thanks to my wonderful supporters on Ko-fi, I’m able to purchase a 3-year membership to the Florida Writer’s Association, which will really help me grow my skills as a writer and an indie author! THANK YOU! Want to join in on the action? Check out my Ko-fi, where you can read my ongoing story The Chosen Two! Don’t worry, it’s free, and donations are entirely optional!
I’m also looking for beta readers for a project I’m looking to publish! Interested? Subscribe to my newsletter to find out more!