howtostartwritingabookWriting a book is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever do. We won’t sugarcoat it: it takes serious determination, patience and hard work to finish a book. Talent? That’s not nearly as important as you think. In fact, with courses like this, you can write a book in just 30 days.

Every writer develops her own way of writing a book. Some like to pump out hundreds of pages of rough drafts, others deliberate over each and every word put to paper. As you develop a taste for writing, you will soon discover a method that works for you. But for absolute beginners, this blog post should serve as a good starting point.

Step by Step Guide to Start Writing a Book

Step 1: Pick a Genre

Take a quick glance at your bookshelf. What do you see? Mills and Boons historical romances? Charles Bukowski’s Dirty Realism? Paperbacks straight from the NYT Bestsellers list? Anne Rice vampire rip-offs? The complete Dune and Foundation series?

Picking a genre is the first step in writing a book. Don’t base this choice on what genres sell best, but what you like to read. A hardcore sci-fi fan writing a ‘new adult’ novel is only going to produce a shoddy book – if she finishes it at all.

In other words, write for yourself, not the market. Stephen King puts it best:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

Step 2: Start from the End

Endings are the hardest part of any story. Don’t take our word for it; just ask any writer buddy of yours. Most beginners start out strong but find themselves flummoxed by the time the ending draws near. It doesn’t help that the ending is also the thing that stays longest with readers.

So before you put a single word to paper, figure out how your story ends. Not how it begins – that can be redrawn and revised indefinitely – how it closes. Work your way backwards. How does the character(s) reach his/her ultimate fate? What are the catalysts that lead to the close? What was their origin? And so on. Your plots will sound much more plausible and you’ll avoid the dreaded Deus Ex Machina that plagues so much fiction.

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Step 3: Create Your Characters

Characters, not plots, are the soul of good writing. You don’t recall the story from Henry V; you recall Falstaff. The plot of Catcher in the Rye is mostly superfluous. It’s Holden Caulfield who holds your attention. Same with Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch, and Hercule Poirot. Characters stay with readers for generations, the stories are mostly forgotten.

This is why you must draw out your characters before you start writing the book. These tips should help:

Step 4: Make an Outline

Once you have your characters firmly in place, start creating an outline of the plot. This is meant to serve as a very rough guideline to hold the plot in place. You don’t have to follow it word for word; feel free to improvise while you write.

Chiefly, the outline should:

Step 5: Write the First Draft

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”

 -Ernest Hemingway

The first draft is where you discover the story by yourself.

As you write, you’ll find characters and plots growing in directions you’d never thought possible. The outlines you wrote earlier will often be discarded as you experiment with characters, plots, styles and forms. This is a place for you to break the mold and push yourself creatively. Don’t bother being perfect; the faster you can jot down ideas on paper, the better. Eventually, this rough collection of thoughts, ideas, and plotlines will come together into a comprehensible book – after due editing and countless revisions of course. For now, focus on writing – anything.

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Step 6: Get Yourself a Drink

Now that you’re done with the first draft, head over to the nearest watering hole and grab yourself a drink. You’ve earned it.

Step 7: Rewrite

This is the part where most writers fail. Slinging out a rough draft is easy enough; turning that incomprehensible mess into something readers would want to read takes time, patience and practice.

Ideally, you should give yourself a few months between first draft and first rewrite. This gives you the creative distance necessary to analyze the writing dispassionately.

Ask sharp, pertinent questions – does the plot make sense? Are the characters convincible? Is the pace too slow? Too fast? Is the writing crisp and creative enough? Is the story fun to read?

The first rewrite should take you considerably longer than the first draft. Don’t worry about getting every word right – you’ll take care of that during editing. For now, focus on pulling the rough ideas in the draft into a narrative that actually makes sense.

Step 8: Edit

“Write Drunk; Edit Sober”

– Ernest Hemingway

Done with the first rewrite? Don’t start partying yet. There is still lots of work to be done.

Editing is the opposite of creative writing. Instead of spinning beautiful metaphors and creating lush imagery, you have to actually delete linguistic flourishes. The amazing adverb you found after an hour’s search in the thesaurus? Gone. Those long-winded, poetic asides? Deleted.

This is where, as Stephen King puts it, you  must “kill your darlings”.

To make this murder slightly easier, follow these tips:

Step 9: Party!

Congratulations – you’ve now written your very first book. This is the time to hit the clubs and party hard. Then wake up next morning and start working on your second book!

Ready to publish? Try this step by step guide to writing and publishing your book.

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