how to write a book
#IWSG: Writing Your Book in 5 Easy Steps
Happy New Year, and welcome to 2015. I think this year will be an interesting one for writers. I imagine most of you have made your resolutions for the year, and I hope, if you’re one of those people who have always been threatening to write a book, finally doing it this year will be one of your resolutions.
This is my first post of the year for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group, a dedicated group of bloggers who offer advice, hints, or just anecdotes about the writing life on the first Wednesday of each month. Another of your resolutions should be to consider adding your voice.
For now, though, to my topic of the month, how to get that book written. Here are the steps I follow. This is not the only way, but I offer it for your consideration.
- Outline your book. I’m assuming here that you already know what you want to write about. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, having a rough outline will help you develop a coherent structure. Like me, you might not be a person who works from a detailed outline – and, that’s okay. I rough out the number of chapters and briefly describe what happens in each. As I write, I often make changes (add or subtract chapters, move action from one chapter to another, etc.). This is much easier to do if you have it written down than if you’re trying to keep it all in your mind. This is also the point when I develop character lists (names, biographies, etc.), locales, time frames, key events, etc.
- Do your research. Before you start writing, research the information you want to include in your book. You’ll want to dig up more information than you’ll actually use, but don’t get so involved in research you neglect to do the thing that’s most important – write the darn book.
- Develop a writing schedule. Many would-be writers shy away from tackling book length projects because they feel incapable of creating something so vast as a 60,000 word-plus book. If you make a schedule – say, plan to write 1,500 to 2,000 words a day, it is suddenly not so gargantuan. After all, that’s the equivalent of a magazine article a day, and if you write 2,000 words per day you can complete the project in 30 days. That’s right; you can write a full-length book in a month.
- Write it. When you’ve completed steps 1 – 4, the only thing left to do is write. When you begin, let the creative juices flow. Don’t try to edit or proofread as you write. Get the story down on the page – or on the screen. You’ll want to take some time writing that first chapter. That’s the one that most often determines whether or not readers will keep reading. Take some time to get it right. While writing that first chapter, give a lot of thought to the two most important parts – the first sentence and the last. It’s a good practice to end each writing day by writing the first sentence or two, or even a paragraph, of the following chapter. This helps keep you on track when you pick up the following day.
- After you’re finished writing, let it cool, then edit rigorously. When you write that last sentence, put the book away for a few days. Take walks, start making notes of your next project, grab a camera and take pictures – anything to take your mind off the book you just finished writing. Then, after a few days, go back to page one and read it line-by-line, word-by-word for typos, grammatical errors, or formatting glitches, correcting as you go. When that’s done, go back and read it again for plot, flow, dialogue, and the other things that you look for in a good book.
If this sounds simple, it actually is, and the more you do it, the less intimidating writing a book becomes. It’s said that each of us has a novel inside. Some of us have more than one – and maybe a nonfiction book or two as well. These five simple steps can help you get them out where they belong, in the hands of readers.