Here's a question I get asked all the time: “I want to write a book. What do I do?”
My first instinctual answer to this question is, “First write the book. Then get back to me.” But that’s not nice. That’s not what an aspiring writer wants to hear.
Let’s be clear; an aspiring writer is not a person who hasn’t been published yet. An aspiring writer is someone who hasn’t written anything yet. Once you’ve begun to put your ideas on paper and have done this for a consistent period with the intent to show it to the world, you are a writer.
Many unpublished writers suffer from Imposter Syndrome. They feel foolish using the label of Writer because the public hasn’t yet seen the proof. But that’s wrong. That’s the same as saying a person who studies ballet intensely for months or years isn’t a dancer yet because they haven’t showcased their hard work on stage. If you write, you’re a writer. Period.
So, you want to write a book. What do you do?
Here’s my polite answer regarding writing fiction:
- 1. Form your idea from beginning to end inside your head. You don’t have to know it scene-for-scene, but you should have a good idea of what happens in the beginning, middle and end. This process can take days or months. But remember that any of these ideas can change once you’ve started writing and they often do.
- 2. Read other work in your intended genre. Don’t do this because you intend to copy another author’s style or story. Do it so you become familiar with reader expectations. It’s the only way to maintain the reader’s attention.
- 3. Draft a timeline. Ugh! This part is like homework. Some people will tell you to make an outline. That word gives me anxiety. It sounds too much like an assignment in school. So I make a timeline of events that serves as a roadmap for my story. It saves me so much time when I sit down to write. All I have to do is look at where I am on the map and start the next scene. It also means that I don’t have to write the story linear from beginning to end. I can skip to a scene that I’ve already fleshed out in my head before I started writing. Trust me, this step is worth it. I recommend finding timeline examples for your genre. I use an inexpensive software called Plottr which offers a package of timeline templates for a small additional fee.
- 4. Write your words. This is one of the easiest parts. I know, it’s hard. Some days it seems impossible. The words don’t always flow out of your fingertips the way they do in the movies. But compared to what you have to do after the first draft is written, this step is a piece of cake. That’s my own opinion, anyway.
That’s it? For now, yes. That’s basically how you write a fiction book. Next time I’ll share with you my favorite tool for putting my words together. And no, it’s not Word.