How to Write a Book: 12 Foundational Steps

So you want to write a book? Here are 12 good foundational steps that you can follow.
1) Establish your writing space. Decide what you need: solitude? Make sure you find a place where you can have privacy and silence. Set up your equipment and space so you can easily write.
2) Assemble your writing tools. Make a list of all the things you’re going to need: EX: paper clips or a stapler. Have those within arm’s length so you don’t get distracted by having to look for things if you need them.
3) Break the project into as many small pieces as you can. Realize it’s a 4 to 500 page manuscript in the end but that’s made up of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Do one step at a time.
4) Settle on your big idea or storyline.
5) Construct your outline to have some sort of idea where you are going. Outlining ideas are covered in another post for you. Give yourself some direction of where you’re going. Your outline serves you not the other way around. If you find yourself drifting from it, change the outline, don’t change the book.
6) Set a firm writing schedule that includes a definite finish time. The way you do that is figure out roughly how many pages you are going to write for your book, (300, 400, 500,etc) and divide that into the number of days you are giving yourself to write. This may change once you get started and realize how many or how few pages you can write per day. Schedule yourself for the number of pages you can comfortably write. Be determined so you will stay on schedule. It can be adjusted as needed. Only about 1 in 100 writers literally meet their deadlines. If you just meet your finish goal, you set yourself apart from ninety nine out of a hundred writers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re going find the time to write because without a dedicated time schedule you will be distracted by a concert, a ballgame, a favorite TV show or other events in your life.
7) Draw from your own experience and research the details you are using in your content. If you can pull off a compelling first line, it will set the tone for your entire book. Every decision you make in your manuscript should go through the filter of your reader first, not you first, not editor first, not agent first, not reviewer first, or not critic first. Reader first.
8) Fill your story with conflict and tension when it is appropriate for your story line. Readers crave tension and yes this applies to fiction and nonfiction as well. What will keep people turning the pages.
9) Turn off your internal editor while you’re writing your first draft. Most writers I know are perfectionist s and have that inner critic sitting on our shoulder telling us what’s wrong with every word we write. That inner critic is just you or me and that critic needs to be told to shut up now. Always save your editing until the next day at least and the longer you can wait between when you write it and when you edit it the better for the end manuscript.
10) The marathon is in the middle. If there’s any place you want to quit it’s going to be during the middle of your book. We have great ideas to start and we can’t wait to get to that big finish but now we’ve got all those pages in the middle to fill. Keep yourself encouraged as you go through this section.
11) Write a resounding ending. To make sure your ending doesn’t fizzle, you give it the time it deserves. Do whatever it takes to make it work. Try several endings to see what will fit the best with the whole story.
12) Polish your manuscript to the point where you’re happy with every word. If you are going to a publisher they can tell within a few minutes whether your manuscript is going to be worth reading or rejecting.

Beat Writer’s Block: Writing Prompts + Inspiration

Where to get inspiration. How to gather inspiration, how to use inspiration that you see in the world and adapt it to things in your story.

Some writing prompts that might help you get out of writer’s block or just help to inspire you. Some will give you an idea of how to adapt inspiration that you see in the world.

Find music that either speaks to your soul because of the instrument or because of the words. Reading poetry and listening to beautiful poetry at the same time, reading as you sit in a coffee shop can help you start to write.

People watching is so much fun. You can just have your computer there or a notepad and imagine what their lives are like. Make a story for them. This can be a great exercise that will really help you. Writing anything down and not thinking about it so hard will help more thoughts to come and flow freely. You have to be less hard on yourself. Think of the things that matter the most. What motivates people. It is especially important in writing villains or any other type of character. What is their motivation?

Ask yourself some questions like: do you believe? do you believe in fate? do you believe in aliens? do you believe in soulmates? the creation of the universe? life after death? (this doesn’t have to be religious). Just explore really deeper level things that you don’t have answers to and run with it. Say I believe this because or I don’t believe this because and you can write it from your own perspective. Also write from the perspective that you don’t believe in. Explore to expand your mind kind of exercises. Getting into someone else’s head. It can be a stepping stone for understanding the characters you are putting in your story line.

Here are some more writing prompts. You can be inspired by different things like a movie not because of the plot or specifically a character but the feel that it gives you. You can get inspiration from a sentence in the script. That sentence can bring up different questions for you and it can kind of spark something for you. How would you use that sentence to write a different set of experiences for the characters or a different outcome than you saw in the movie.

Pinterest is an amazing place to find poetry or images that can inspire you and give you a story idea. Making up a story on the spot when you see an inspirational picture or hear an inspirational quote or poem is a great way to give your mind a boost with beginning to write. Ask yourself these questions: what happened when the artist or writer created this image or these words? what happened when the shutter closed? what was happening in your artists life in that moment? what made them want to create? what made them snap the picture? (it can be dark, it could be a time of happiness, it could be the last time they took a photo of a loved one before they died). You can take your story to so many different places.

How To Come Up With Story Ideas For Your Book

Some writers ideas randomly come to them and they write them down in a notebook and start creating subplots, weaving everything together to make a well connected story. For other writers coming up with story ideas can actually be really tough. Your story ideas need to be original. Avoid copying other writers and their plot lines.

It is worth brainstorming some new ideas you may be thinking. Determine what makes your story unique and different. It is the spin that you put on all of those little subplots that make the relationships and connections between your characters stand out are actually really important. Add your own twist to the story.

Here are 7 tips for coming up with story ideas for your book.
1) Determine what genre you want to write in.
2) Determine your audience: how old will your readers be EX: children, young adults, new adults, adults.

  • If your main characters are 12 years old and younger that you are technically writing a children’s book.
  • If your characters are ages 13 through 18 think high school age then you are writing a young adult book.
  • If your characters are 19 through 30 think more college age coming into being an adult, then you’re writing a new adult book.
  • If your characters are older than 30 then you are probably writing an adult book.

Remember that by determining your audience you are setting up the tone and the theme for the book you’re going to write.

3) Your book can have more than one theme, just like you can have more than one plot. You can have sub themes, just make sure you have one major theme and one major plot. Then you can add in subplots and sub-themes to keep your story from falling flat.
4) Brainstorm now that you have your genre, target audience, and theme. Most likely you have already had a few ideas that have been floating around in your head that you’ve jotted down in a notebook somewhere. If not that is okay, you can start from scratch. Grab a large piece of paper and write your main theme in the center with a large circle around it. Underneath the theme you can write in smaller letters what challenge your main character is going to have to face and overcome. If you don’t know what challenge yet that is okay. Sometimes it is actually easier to brainstorm how you want your book to end and then work backwards to craft your story. Draw branches out from that main circle like a tree and start writing down any ideas that come to mind for your story, good or bad. Write every idea down on this large sheet of paper even if they don’t make sense at the time you are brainstorming. You may be surprised how later some of those nonsense ideas can actually be added into your story or reworked a little bit to add more depth to your plot or a subplot and it actually ends up really helping you out. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
5) Use resources. The writers idea thesaurus by Fred white gives you endless ideas at your fingertips. It can be fun to open up the writers idea thesaurus to a random page and just read one of the random ideas that’s in that book. Don’t use exactly what’s written on the page but sometimes it can give you a spark of inspiration.
6) Use your ideas to make a rough outline. In another post there is a great way to outline your book ideas.
7) Just begin writing even if it’s terrible, even if your story doesn’t fully make sense to you just yet. The writing process is all about discovering your story. You as the writer take yourself on a journey to discover your story’s potential. You discover your story as you write. The first draft is for your eyes only anyway. Write, have fun and enjoy the process as your story unfolds.

How To Outline Your Books 5-Stage Process

Some writing advice to aspiring authors as well as how to manage your time. Here is an outlining and highlighting process that might help you with your writing. It is best to have some idea as to where your story is going to go. Most people can not just sit down and start writing. Outlines can help you when you write your first book or your first series. As you start to get more comfortable with your writing style and your flow, you can get into your own groove and rhythm. You start to learn what works best for you.

In the beginning, just a very basic outline so you have the beginning, middle and end is helpful. Then some scenes may be thrown in here and there to help you remember your ideas. By no means have every scene or act completely written out and figured out before you write. With a basic outline you can add in, create and just imagine. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Five stage outlining process:
1) a major brain storm of all the story ideas that you have in a notebook, or on the notes function in your phone or on your computer.
With those ideas written down, it is fun to play the what-if game like a) what if this happens b) what if this were to happen. The ideas can be vague in the beginning. Make sure to write them down. Ideas can be for one book or for multiple books. Any character ideas, scene ideas, chapter ideas anything that comes to mind. Write all of it down because if you don’t write it down you may not remember.
2) Try the poster board method. Take a large piece of paper or poster board, divide that poster board up by drawing two lines, then label each section chapter 1 and chapter 2 to begin. If you know the ending before you know anything else, start with chapter 3. Write down how the book is going to end or how you imagined it. Add theme or feelings you want to draw out for the reader. Ideas or characters conflict or the resolution is normally what is happening in chapter 3. Some authors like to work backwards and write down any ideas that might lead up to that you have in chapter 3, plot twists that are happening in chapter 1 or 2 that will bring you to your chapter 3 content.
3) Use index cards to write everything that you wrote down on your poster board. Write down each scene or idea and organize them a little bit more. Add a little more detail if it comes to you or if you have a new idea, write it on a new index card. Place them on the floor or on a table, and start moving them around to where you think they would fit. It will give you an idea as to how the story is going to flow. Refer to the beginning, middle and end you have already written down. This will help you get into the nitty-gritty of your book and all of the things that you want to have happen in your story. Take a picture of it before you pick up the cards. You can pin the cards on the poster board so you can see everything. Add index cards with new ideas into the story. Go ahead and write the first chapter when the whole story is really fresh in your mind.
4) Start to write and see what comes up as you write. Once you have written the first chapter you can go to your outline. Update the outline with the chapters as you go. Update chapter 1. Write chapter 2 then update your outline with the chapter 2 information. Then do it for chapter 3 and so on.
5) Update your outline immediately after writing or as soon as you can.

Using Color
Use the color yellow to highlight where you last left off in your manuscript, also highlight the chapter on your outline so you can remember exactly where you were working on your document.
For things that need to be added in later you can highlight in green.
Highlight in orange when you want to check facts or for accuracy.
Highlight in pink for character or setting details that need to be fleshed out a little bit more. Pink can also be used for a new character or a new setting, region or place.
If you are having a scene or a chapter that you are having a hard time writing about or are not feeling motivated to write, highlight those areas in blue so it reminds you to circle back and either write that chapter, paragraph, or scene over.
Use the same highlighting tool in your outline so it is easier to reference when looking at the outline. You can easily go to your manuscript find the chapter and then find the highlighted area and know exactly where you left off and what you need to do next.

5 Mistakes New Writers Make (and how to avoid them)

Today I wanted to talk about  a common question that I’ve gotten since I started giving writing advice. Strangely enough that has to do with mistakes. Everyone wants to know more than just what to do, they want to know what not to do. Here are my top 5 mistakes that I see beginning writers make. Now these mistakes aren’t just exclusive to beginners, anybody can actually make these mistakes. The first step to correcting it is always to realize what you’re actually doing wrong and then the better you get as a writer the easier it will be to avoid these things.

Number one: Wasted words

A lot of new writers are concerned about writing enough that it qualifies as a substantial novel or they’re concerned about writing enough about every single scene that the reader can picture perfectly in their minds.

Every beginning writer worries about this but I’ve come to realize as most writers do at some point that they have plenty to say there’s no need to over explain a scene. Oftentimes the reader can build an image in their mind with minimal description from you. A huge cause of this is actually excitement for writing.  You’re finally doing it, you’re finally sitting down to write a story that’s been in your mind for who knows how long, but sometimes at the end of a writing session you may find that you’ve written 1,600 words about your character brushing their teeth and picking out their wardrobe. You’re on the right track if you’re excited to be writing, but you need to make sure that you weed out all these extra words in the editing phase to keep yourself from falling in the word emic word trap. You should periodically ask the question is this part really necessary? You should always make sure that each part you write contributes something to the story.

If it’s not developing your character or creating suspense, adding tension or setting the scene then you probably shouldn’t take the time to write it.  Some people might think well, I want people to know exactly what my character is wearing so the scene feels real. For specific questions like this I often find there’s an easy solution available. In regards to clothing, you can always describe the type of clothing the character wears and then you don’t have to talk about it again. For example, you can mention that your main character loves to dress in casual comfy clothes and then you don’t really have to go into specifics anymore. Every time after that that you mentioned them getting dressed you can just say they got dressed. The reader already knows that that person likes a particular type of clothes so they’re probably not going to draw up this crazy off-the-wall image of what your characters wearing. Your readers are pretty smart. Just make sure you don’t shove a bunch of description down your readers throat because really no one wants to read about your character brushing their teeth unless the toothpaste has poison in it.

Number two: Not Enough Voice or I should just say problems with voice.

This is one thing that sometimes takes writers a little while to figure out their own voice. I think two things affect the type of voice that you have     (1 the stories that you tell and then (2 the way that you tell them. When reading a novel this can sometimes be the feel of the novel.Your voice can be brief, eloquent, lyrical, or fast-paced. Every author’s story feels different in some way and this is what you want. Many times writers can be drawn to a particular subject because they’re passionate about it and passion is very important for writers. The way that each person writes that story though, varies greatly depending on the sentence structure, word choice and individual stylistic preferences. Stephen King’s little red riding-hood would sound nothing like Marissa Meyers because they have different voices even though they would both be about a little red writing.

Finding your voice can take time and unfortunately the best way to do that is to continue writing. You can also find your voice through reading. Things you don’t like and in things that you love. Over time you’ll end up incorporating these small things into your own writing and molding your own unique voice. It’s good to be different from one another so you should never try to copy somebody else’s voice. If you’re inspired by someone’s voice that’s a different thing. You might actually find yourself guilty of this after rereading a lot of the same authors books. You can subconsciously adopt their voice. You will discover it  when you reread what you have just written. Because it wasn’t your voice you  were being an impostor.  Don’t steal someone else’s voice because your reader will probably know.

Number three: Lack of conflict or too much.

You need action in a story. If you get to the end of a chapter and nothing has physically happened you are NOT going have this. You don’t need explosions  running in every single chapter but physical things need to occur and oftentimes the best way to do that is through conflict.

Now there can be internal conflicts and there can be external conflict. Each chapter needs at least one of these when I read all about a character’s day and nothing happens it gets really boring I’ve said this before but each word that you choose is precious.  You need to hook your readers and then keep them hooked. A really good way to do that is through conflict. Pretty much, things just need to happen to your character. If you reflect on your own day, sometimes things just don’t go your way in the long run. They may not necessarily be relevant to your story line, but it’s kind of a bonus if they are.

There is such a thing as too much conflict though. A balance must be maintained as with most aspects of writing. You never want your readers to go through unnatural conflict and tenses. A lot of errors that come along with tenses actually have to do with using simple past and past perfect incorrectly.

Here  is a grammar rundown really quickly: just watching simple past is obviously recounting something that happened in the past past perfect. Recounting something that happened leading up to an event that happened in the past past perfect often involves certain key words like already, until, before and sometimes. After for example, I went to pick up my car, but they had already taken the engine apart. That is a past perfect sentence. If you want more examples, I would definitely Google until you get the hang of this. It can get really tricky when you switch from simple past to past perfect and then back to simple past. If you’re already writing in the past tense and a character flashes back to a point further in their past, then you must use past perfect even though technically they’re both in the past.

Most grammar rules can be learned naturally through reading without all the confusion of these explanations, but this one in particular I had to take time to research before I learned all these differences. I could read a sentence and know that something was wrong with it. I just wouldn’t have know what exactly it was. If this sometimes happens to you, then I would take a look at your tenses or see if there’s some other grammatical mistakes in your sentences

Number 5: Always show and not tell.

Sometimes telling is the better option. Show doesn’t ever have to be longer than tell. It just has to make the reader feel. This goes along very much with number 1 which was wasted words. You don’t want to ramble on and on  about something if it can take you just a few words to tell it instead.  Showing is what makes us feel so much more for the characters. You just have to make sure that you don’t use too many words to do the showing. Oftentimes when I find something out of balance in the show area, it has to do with the characters emotions or how they react to something. Typically you should never shy away from putting your reader in the characters seat and describing exactly what they’re feeling, how their gut felt or how their chest felt tight or whatever the case may be or is. If they’re angry during the break-up you should use more than just the words for the emotions. All right so that’s all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this lesson.