“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare
I want to write a book, but where do I start?
I’ve been asked this question a lot!
For a new writer or even a beginner, that’s an excellent question. And we’re going to explore how I take an idea and turn it into a novel. Keep in mind, every author has their own way of doing this. Some are plotters, and some are pansters but at the end of the day, the idea is turned into a novel just the same. (We'll talk more about plotters and pansters in another post)
You have a brilliant story idea, Right?
Maybe it’s just a one-word sentence, or maybe it’s an entire concept. Write it down! In the case of my Dhellia series, I had entered into a writing contest where four words prompted the first book and then the entire series. Those words were: Hell has found me.
Here are the steps that I take when starting to write a book:
- An idea or concept strikes
- Write down your book idea. Don’t skimp. Write down everything that you think would make a great book or if it’s only a sentence, that’s fine too. Just write it down.
- If you’re a plotter, like me, now is the time to start plotting out your story. Now is an excellent opportunity to determine your main characters, but I’d wait on adding a cast of characters. I usually type out a 3 page (or more) complete synopsis of my story. Many times I will use the three act structure. This structure is often considered the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution.
- DON’T BOG THIS PART DOWN! Writers tend to be heavy on narrative, and thus they put way more than they need to with this part. Keep it simple. Use Bullet points for each process AND give all the DETAILS of the story. Now is not the time to hold back the climax of the story or leave cliffhangers. These are your notes, and they need to be thorough.
- If you’re a panster, which means you like to let the story unfold on its own, that’s perfectly fine, but keep in mind that doing so, will probably take you longer to write. Also, letting the story unfold on its own will usually create more edits to flesh out. I will explain this more later but remember some writers enjoy that process of streamlining their novel over several drafts, so NO ONE WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY.
- Being the kind of Plotter I am might be better understood if we created a special name for it. How about a Plotster. 🙂 That would be a combination of a plotter and a panster. (Yeah that doesn't really work. I will continue to think of a name.) I believe in the power of the characters. They will always dictate the way a story unfolds. However, I like to be one step ahead of them so that when they do take on personalities and decide to make moves that I wasn’t aware that they’d do, I can reformulate the story in my mind as we take this new direction--together! So there is a way to be both.
- Now that you have the entire story laid out in front of you, condensed to three pages and you know your main characters, it’s time to understand those people better. I don’t get into too much detail on this because I do believe that their stories will unfold. However, it’s good to know a little about them.
- Write a paragraph describing your characters. For example:
- Dhellia Hunt is a twenty-one-year-old, red head with a feisty personality. She has one brother, Damien, and she has a desire to live with humans and protect the human race. Dhellia loves rice crispy treats and has a knack for fashion. Unaware of all her powers, she will start to understand them as she continues to grow as a person. In the beginning, she can run fast and for as long as she’d like: days, months even years. She’s strong and knows how to fight.
- Each main character should get a write up like this. And each sub-character should have a small one as well. Those characters who only pop in for a scene or two, don’t need anything at this point.
- Now you’re ready to write! Where should you start?
- You have the multi-page synopsis in front of you. Don’t stress too much over where to launch the story line because the beginning will usually always be tweaked. Just start writing.
How do I know where to end a chapter
- Always end your chapters with a question. Not necessarily a written question but a moment when the reader takes in the last word, and they need to know what happens next. That moment is called a cliffhanger, and it keeps readers turning the pages.
- Don’t mistake a chapter cliffhanger for an end-of-book cliffhanger. Readers usually have a problem being left in the dark on an end-of-book cliffhanger while they have to wait for another book to be released. It’s important to close out your story so any questions in the reader's mind have been satisfied while still leaving a thread that will continue with another book (If you are writing a series). I made this mistake at the beginning of my writing career. I left each book wide open, and it didn’t always go over well, which reflected in my reviews. So bring that story together and give a satisfying ending even if you plan to write another book in the series.
How long should a chapter be?
- There’s nothing that says a chapter has to be a certain length. I know authors who write long, long chapters and others who write small quick chapters. Take into consideration your narrative and what that section’s purpose is in the progression of the story. Many times a mystery thriller or suspense thriller will have shorter chapters. But use your judgment and keep the pace moving forward.
Now, you have a starting point. Take your concept or idea and break it down and if you’d rather have an infographic to follow, I’ve included the steps above and created that in one kind of cool infographic. No more excuses! Start writing now...
Grab your Infographic here
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