How to Write a Book (For Beginners)

Back to basics. I recently had a request for posts specifically geared towards beginners. For those aspiring writers you have an idea and a dream but aren’t really sure how to take that next step. I’m going be breaking down the writing process step by step. It’s important to understand that everything in this post is a general overview of the process. I don’t want you to get the impression that this is something that can be done overnight or in a hurry because you couldn’t do this overnight.

Each individual step is a process in and of itself. Depending on what type of book you want to write it can be easy or hard. It can take a lot of time and a lot of dedication. These steps will at least give you the general idea of what direction to move in and will hopefully give you the basics that you need to get you started.

Here are the five steps for how to write a novel.
Step number one: come up with an idea. This may seem like the easy part, but in my opinion this is one of the more difficult steps of the process. You have to come up with an idea that has substance. It needs to be something that you could write an entire novel about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with an idea and thought it was brilliant only to discover later that it was problematic that there wasn’t any conflict at the heart of the story or there was no true antagonist or it simply wasn’t compelling enough to write enough words on it.

So how exactly do you come up with these ideas. Well, it’s kind of up to you. Every writer has their own process for coming up with ideas, for some it’s very organic. They just get an idea and it works and they run with it, or others it’s a little bit of inspiration/manipulation. I’m typically inspired by something around me, whether it’s something I see in the world or a feeling that I have and want to explore. Perhaps a song lyric or a painting that really speaks to me. I usually get some sort of basic idea from that and then I think about okay what could be the story here.

If you think about all of the elements that make up a good story, it’s really easy to take your idea and manipulate it into an idea that’s worth writing a novel about. Decide who is your protagonist, who is the antagonist, what’s the conflict of the story, what journey is the character going to go on what are their goals and motivations once you start thinking about all of these and sort of filling in all of the blanks. You should be able to tell if you have a novel worthy story on your hands. If you are finding that you’re struggling to make the pieces fit then, that may not be an idea that you want to continue developing. You just keep being creative and keep thinking what if, what is and then eventually you come up with an idea that you know is what you want to write your story on.

Step number two: planning. Some people consider themselves to be planners when it comes to writing. That basically means that they take their idea and sit down and just write completely by the seat of their pants and that really works for them. That is awesome.
some people are plotters. If you’re just starting out with a writing journey, I really encourage you to consider doing some planning before you start writing. You need to know who your characters are and where your story is going before the first word is even written. Think about it like this, it would be like going to a brand new place that you’ve never been before and trying to navigate that place without the help of a map or a GPS or directions from a local. It could be done, but it would be rather difficult.

When you’re first starting out, you want to make it as easy as you can for yourself. That’s why planning is really important and highly encouraged. I recommend that you do character charts or profiles for each of your main characters and an outline. Your character turns don’t have to be anything fancy, they just have to serve the purpose of allowing you to get to know those characters as if they were real people. You have to get inside their heads, after all and in order to write truly convincing characters you have to know and understand exactly who that character is and what makes them tick. Their fears, their motivations, their goals, their aspirations, their dreams, their likes, their dislikes, etc. This is a step that you do not want to skip. Once you’ve got your characters down, then it’s time to move on to your outline. You have to know exactly where your story is going so it’s a really important step. Stop, sit down, and figure it all out before you just dive right into the writing.

I can recommend Freytag’s pyramid to outline. It is by far one of the most helpful methods that I have found. By using that method the stories feel much more developed and fleshed out and the actual writing of those stories feels a million times easier than when I used to write without it. You need an outline, you’re the writer, it’s your story, and you have to know all of the inner and outer workings of that story before the first word is ever written. Take some time flesh out your characters and your plot and once you’ve done it’s time to start writing.

Step number three: write the first draft. Here’s what you do you put yourself in a chair, put your fingers on that keyboard and you write that story no matter what. Stop letting self-doubt be a distraction or an excuse. Stop trying to make things perfect. Just write your story. First drafts are usually crappy. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good of a writer you are. This is your first draft. You have a place to start editing. Get the bare bones of your story down on paper.

Step number four: celebrate. You just wrote a novel and that is amazing. So many people say they’re going to write a book and never actually accomplished it, but you did. It’s a good idea to take a little time away from the manuscript, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you so while you’re celebrating and recharging your batteries put the manuscript away. When you are ready dive back in with fresh eyes. Once the rest period is over, it’s time to pick up that manuscript and start revising. At this point, you’re not worried about all the little stuff like grammar and mechanics, you’re focused more on the structure of your story, the development of your characters, the advancement of your plot, and so on.

You may find yourself deleting entire sections and chapters. You may find that you need to rewrite a lot of things, you’ll move stuff around and rename things and do a whole lot of changing,. This can be a good thing and is actually part of the process.You get to take your idea and really start chipping away at it until it becomes something that you’re really proud of. This may also a really great time to enlist the help of beta readers and critique partners. Beta readers and critique partners are invaluable when it comes to feedback.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to take that draft you’re revising and really making the story shine. Send it out to people and get the feedback you need to make that story ten times better than it is. A lot of writers consider this step optional.

Step number five: polishing. Once you’re sure the content of your story is a solid as you can make it, then the next step is to go through and make edits. This is where you’re focusing on those little things where you’re looking for grammatical errors and sentence structure issues, you’re removing filter words and changing up dialogue tags, etc.

At this point, you really should not be making any significant content changes, just fixing those tiny little errors and tightening things up. Once you’ve done that, you have a finished and polished novel. Remember no matter how tough things get just keep writing. Don’t give up, you can do it!

How To Create A Great Character

What makes a great character? This is a very open-ended question for which there is no one answer. Your characters have to be likeable. The trait that every good character shares is that they engage the audience in the story that’s being told and by extension of that they are interesting. This is what it comes down to, can you make this character interesting.

Here is a way to create interesting characters. When it comes to creating a strong character there are three qualities that must be addressed: likability, competency, and activity.

Likability: how much will the audience like this character?
Competency: how good are they at what they do?
Activity: how much do they persevere?

Additional questions to ask.
Do they affect the plot or does the plot affect them?
Would you enjoy having a conversation with that character in real life?

Two rules you need to understand:
1) your character must be good in at least one of these areas of likeability, competency or activity.
2) they cannot be good at all 3.

The reason why is when you do that you create a flawless character they have no fundamental character flaws. The lower they rank in these factors, the more numerous and fundamental their flaws. If you have too many flaws, they may cease to be an interesting character.

How To Make The Audience Or Reader Cry

Re read the screenwriter post and have the elements in mind. It will help you in this post to recognize how the elements played out in the stories being compared. It will allow you to see how writing for the movies can be so important for following the story. The most powerful moments in cinema are when we see the characters feel the emotion. If we cannot see the characters showing their grief, then it is hard for us to share that grief alongside.

Up, The Green Mile, and Interstellar. These three films have one thing in common: they could make an audience cry. Let’s analyze why these films can deliver such powerful emotion, to help you apply their traits into your own works.

The opening sequence of “Up” pretty much makes everyone cry.The director manages to bring an audience to tears using nothing but the camera and music. An example of how the camera is used to convey emotion, is in the brief sequence where the audience is shown that the two characters are expecting a baby, but for some reason the child dies. The first shot is wide, bright, and full of colour, but the second shot, where the tragic news is conveyed, is narrow with the harsh, white light, only taking up a small sliver of the screen. The color palette also being far less vibrant, this all in stark contrast with the first shot. The narrow framing of the second shot makes the viewers’ subconscious feel uneasy and claustrophobic. This helps us to empathize with the characters, as the use of the lens is making us feel emotion without us even realizing. There is also a consistency between most of the short transitions, as whenever a shot is changed, the focus of the viewers’ eyes does not move or, if it does, it moves only by a little.

This essentially makes viewing a far more fluid experience and makes it just that little bit easier for the viewer to understand what’s going on. A confused viewer is never going to cry. This technique isn’t just essential in good montage, but also to film in general. Truly, the most powerful shot of the montage is the last one, where he is alone at his wife’s funeral, holding a balloon. Now, why is this such a powerful shot? First, it is a direct call-back to the first shot of the montage — their wedding. The contrast between the two shots is a large part of why it is such a good one. The first is full of color and light. The second is a deep, dark, red. In the second shot, the subject is much smaller in the frame than in the first one. This makes him feel tiny and alone.

If you look beyond the lens and into the actual context, there is also a powerful contrast — In the first shot, Carl has his youth; a large family and a loving wife to live for. And in the second shot, he has nothing. Absolutely… nothing to live for and give his life purpose. It isn’t a coincidence that the montage opens and closes in the exact, same church. And from a very similar angle too. The fact that these two shots are polar opposites, brings the sequence full circle.

To summarize in one word why the sequence is such a sad one, it would be… Injustice. How Carl has been a good person, lived the life without sin. Yet, despite all that, he has had everything taken away from him. And now, through no fault of his own has nothing left to live for.

Now let’s look at “Interstellar”. Midway through the film’s runtime, is a particularly powerful scene.Cooper has been out in space for what is for him only a few months, but due to time dilation, has been 23 years for his family back home. He sits down to watch decade’s worth of videos from his children, as they have grown up without him and both, in their own ways, comes to hate their dad for leaving them.

In terms of cinematography, there is only one thing worth mentioning — how as the emotion in the scene grows. The camera also comes closer to the subject’s face. This is to give the connection between the audience and the subject; much more intimacy. The real tragedy of this scene is not just in how his children (whom he loves), completely have grown to hate him — but because they are justified in doing so. Cooper left Earth to protect his children, but in leaving Earth he has caused a tremendous harm upon them.

In this scene it finally dawns on him how much so. You once told me that when you came back we might be the same age. Today I’m the age you were when you left. So it would be a real good time for you to come back. This right here is the most powerful part. When his daughter, whose face is that of a stranger, reminds him that he just broke the only promise he ever made to his scared and vulnerable daughter. Not only there, but there is also a strong sense of injustice; how the character has been denied the right to ever even see his children grow up. Unfortunately, a large amount of people can empathize with. And all of that, the injustice, the broken promises, how we completely and utterly empathize with the character, all of that adds together to create a powerful scene.

Finally we have “The Green Mile”. One of the characters (John Coffey), has been sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. The guards know that he is innocent, as does the audience; but with no choice, the guards have to execute him anyway. The real kicker in this scene, it’s how John is an extremely likable character. He is kind to everyone around him and despite his massive size is incredibly gentle. Without doubt, the biggest reason why this is such a sad scene is the injustice. The fact an innocent man, who the audience likes immensely is wrongly executed, is the most powerful example of injustice you will ever find on film.

Also, what plays a large role in making this such an emotional scene, is the fact that up until this point it has been a happy film. While there were some sad moments, the vast majority of the movie is lighthearted, dealing with troubles and prisoners in funny ways. The characters finding joy in a simple amuse that comes in and start doing tricks. If you ask me the fact that so much of the film is so happy, is what makes it such a sad one; because the contrast from extremely happy to immensely sad, give so much more of an emotional fall for the viewer. So, the sad moments have a great deal more potency.

Now that we’ve analyzed the three examples, let’s compare them and ask what traits do they all share. Well, it’s a simple one — Injustice. Injustice is an integral part to any sad scene, as if the characters are happy or in any way shape or form, get what they deserve it compromises the sadness that you might be trying to convey. Of course, injustice is only a one small part of what makes a sad moment. A lot of people would argue that you need to be sympathetic towards the characters. But I respectfully disagree. In “Interstellar” Cooper is crying because he has been robbed of his relationship with his daughter. You might be saying I don’t have a daughter.

How can I be sympathetic towards him? And enough, it is sad because Carl has lost his wife. How am I supposed to feel sympathetic towards Carl? Rather than being sympathetic, I would argue it’s far more important to be empathetic towards the character. Creating a sad moment is not easy. There is no formula or single trick you can use to make the audience cry. But, there is one integral thing you need to know before you make that scene a tragic one.

In each of the examples, what is the singular, most powerful shot? The one moment that makes the audience burst out into tears. In “Up” it is this one — Carl mourning over his dead wife alone. In “Interstellar” it is this one — The moment Cooper breaks down crying. In “The Green Mile” it is this one — Please, boss… don’t put that thing over my face. – Don’t put me in the dark. – I’s afraid of the dark. The moment the guard cries giving the final order to kill John Coffey.

The most powerful moments in cinema are when we see the characters feel the emotion. If we cannot see the characters showing their grief, then it is hard for us to share that grief alongside.

25 Mistakes that Peg You as an Amateur Writer

Their are 25 common mistakes that will peg you as an amateur writer:

  • Number one is spelling changes If you spell a name a certain way, make sure it is always spelled that way. Also  with locations and abilities. Be consistent with the capitalization, too.
  • Number two is characters that are similar. Do not have multiple characters with very similar names, similar personality attributes, or that are on same side, either the good side or the bad side in your story.
  • Number three is mistakes in procedures with different professions like Social Work, the Police, the Court System, or Forensic Scientists to name a few. You need to understand how those professions work if you are going to write about them.
  • Number four is mistakes in descriptions of medical problems, medical care, technology, or weapons. Research to make sure you understand what you are describing.
  • Number five is small talk in the dialogue that takes up a lot of space but does not mean anything, or have any relevance.
  • Number six is forgetting to include sensory information like sight, sound, and smell.
  • Number seven is naming the main character after yourself or a slight variation of your name. This will be very apparent when you go to query agents or publishers and it is a big red flag.
  • Number eight is cliches used too frequently. You do not want to rely on cliche phrases.
  • Number nine is using the same sentence construction over and over.
  • Number ten is switching between past and present tense unintentionally. Make sure you know which tense you are writing in.
  • Number eleven is pausing the story every time a character is introduced to provide a laundry list of physical descriptions. One or two descriptions is fine, but the big long paragraph of descriptions is not going to read smoothly.
  • Number twelve is over use of alternative dialog tags. Use these very sparingly.
  • Number thirteen is using more than one or two adjectives to describe a noun.
  • Number fourteen is using more words than is necessary. EX: he lifted his chin slowly and then dropped it back to his chest instead of he nodded.
  • Number fifteen is thesaurus writing. Replacing words constantly with bigger or fancier words to sound more impressive or sophisticated.
  • Number sixteen is constantly repeating the character’s name.
  • Number seventeen is repeating character’s name in dialogue. You do not normally call people by their names in dialogue very often so it can seem unnatural.
  • Number eighteen is repeating the same description over and over.
  • Number nineteen is switching the point of view of your character at random. The point of view of the character should switch because it advances the story. You want to switch smoothly so your reader does not get confused with your story.
  • Number twenty is including mundane details for no reason. The reader does not need to watch your character brush their teeth, get out of the shower or pick their clothes. These descriptions are very rarely interesting.
  • Number twenty one is describing every article of clothing every character is wearing at all times.
  • Number twenty two is using an adverb plus a verb instead of just using a stronger verb. EX: saying he moved quickly instead of he jogged.
  • Number twenty three is overly formal dialogue.
  • Number twenty four is introducing too many characters at the same  time.
  • Number twenty five is writing stage direction instead of action. Nobody needs excessive descriptions.