According to Stephen King, the most frightening moment is always the start, and after that, things would get better. This reflects his experiences of writing various books throughout his career.
Being a writer and writing for pleasure are the dreams that many have. But how many have had the courage or willpower to achieve the same? Writing a book is not a mere process of spitting words and then trying to make sense of it. It is a process where the author finds his way out of a complex maze.
This article is inspired by the writer Jerry Jenkins who has elaborately talked about the process of writing a book. So let’s dive in and see how to write a book like a pro.
1. Speed not Quality
Often people mistake these two attributes when it comes to writing. The process of finding an idea, developing it, and trying to finish it before a deadline makes one think that it is the speed that matters ultimately. This is a wrong notion. Sacrificing quality for speed would automatically ruin the book whether fiction or non-fiction. In the end, it is not how fast you have done it but what you have put in it.
2. Establishing your writing space
Jerry Jenkins found his writing space on a couch with a table in front of him. He says that for a writer anywhere he is comfortable can become his writing space. It could be a room full of clattering and dust or it could be a space decorated with flowers. Most of the writers prefer a place where there are no distractions, where they can easily forget themselves in the world of writing. Words flow when your mind is at peace. But again this is not necessarily the case with everyone. Today there are hundreds of things that can make a writer take his mind off from writing. This prevents him from giving his best.
“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by social media”, this shows how technology can ruin a work in the same way it helps.
All one needs to do is find his comfort space, a place where he would feel relaxed or at home. Solitude can be the best seed for writing.
3. Assembling the writing tools
Your tools for writing are the materialistic things that matter. Your chair is one of the tools for writing. The position you choose to sit in can determine the extent of time that you take to write. You can choose your equipment based on your comfort. They are your companions till the end of the work. So, do make a list of requirements before you set on your journey.
4. Breaking the project into small pieces
Eating an elephant is not easy. One bite at a time should be the right way to do it. Here, the elephant is your work and each bite is the piece that you break your work into. There are various ways to do it. From paragraphs to sections, a book whether fiction or non-fiction can be divided into small fragments. This will give the writer an idea as to what to write when, how to proceed, and how much time would be roughly needed to finish the work.
5. Finding a big idea
The idea of your book plays the most important role. It acts as the essence of the whole work. And therefore, the idea needs to be big enough for the writer to carry it from the beginning till the end without losing the interesting elements that make the reader continue reading the work. A big idea is something that the author finds expanding each time he shares it with his close friends or his spouse. Thus the author realizes the potential of the idea on which he could base the whole work.
A big idea ensures that the piece of work doesn’t get limited to 20 to 30 pages. Otherwise, the author might get stuck after some time that he began to feel hopeless. A big idea would automatically make a writer create a work that is voluminous enough to be called a book and not as a mere blog or article.
6. Outline writing
An outline or a framework is a basic necessity when it comes to writing a book. An outline saying what to include when can be noted down by the author before starting the work. The same would also be asked by the editor or agent when a writer initially approaches them with his creation. Thus outline gives an idea not just to the writer but also to other important people when it comes to publishing the book.
An outline can be intimidating at times, as the author may find on the course of his work that he is deviating from the set outline. There is nothing wrong with altering the outline according to his whims but once it is set he needs to stay vigilant enough to follow what has been decided.
7. A firm schedule
Jenkins opines that only one in a hundred writers can finish his work within the given time limit. The reason being a proper schedule. A schedule ought to consist of the days and even hours needed to complete a set piece of work. This will help the author to stay on track.
A firm schedule would also demand some sacrifices from the side of the writer. He might have to give up his music lessons or his leisure time with his family to make sure that his creation gets completed at the right time, with him getting plenty of time to analyze the same. Jenkins himself takes the help of his computer and creates a color-coded timetable to be followed for all of his works. This, he says can help as the writer easily gets to understand when he or she is running behind the schedule.
8. Conduct your research for writing the book
Any piece of writing needs its research. Thorough research means the more accurate the book would be. Research plays a vital role as misinformation will not be tolerated by the readers and can lead to many problems after the book is published especially for non-fiction.
Priority shall always be for the story and not the research. It is how he expresses the thoughts based on the information of his research that ultimately makes the book worth reading.
9. Reader-first opener
The reader-first opener is the very first line or first few lines that give the reader the hint as to how the book would be. And due to this reason, these lines need to be as compelling and interesting as they can be. It can be a dialogue or a thought of a character that catches the reader off guard. For non-fiction, the words can be some interesting fact that would want the reader to continue reading. A boring, mundane fact or dialogue will only make the reader feel regret for giving an attempt to read the work.
These lines set the tone for the content of the whole book. They can be expressed in poetic, philosophical, dramatic, or as a surprise to the reader. The lines therefore should be able to awaken the inquisitive side of the reader. It is the reader who matters the most, not the editor, the publisher, or the reviewer. What a reader thinks of the work reflects how well the author has done his work.
10. Conflict and tension
A story will feel void without conflict and tension creating elements. These are the parts that carry the novel or the book forward. If the story goes without any change in pace the reader might lose interest in between and that would put the efforts of the author in vain.
11. Turn off the inner editor
It is human nature to criticize oneself for what one is doing. A writer is no different. He continuously will try to edit himself as the words flow. This according to Jenkins can be very detrimental to the process of writing. This tendency of editing oneself when the writing happens needs to be completely turned off. He can put it off at least for one day. By doing so you are allowing yourself to read and analyze the work in a mindset of a reader to some extent.
12. Marathon of the middle
In the process, there comes a time when every author regrets the time he decided to do the work. An author faces this challenge usually in the middle of the work. For some, it might be extremely difficult when he squeezes his brain to come with stuff for this part. He will have a clear idea as to how the ending should be and will also be satisfied with how he set off the work too, but, it is midway that he faces the demon. The ones who can defeat him smoothly are only a few.
All writers ought to wake up the warriors in them and survive this part to reach their destination. The danger here is that some tend to merely stuff words to finish these few pages which would never help in the long run. This could ruin the story easily.
13. Write a resounding ending
There are certain novels whose ending stays within the reader’s mind and this is how every ending should aspire to be. The effect the ending has can stay with the reader for quite some time or in certain cases it lingers forever. This is unequivocally the best accolade for an author.
14. Being a ferocious self-editor
Ultimately, you need to be the best editor there is for your work. There are ways to do the editing through other means like paying an editor but what one ought to remember is that no one knows your work better than its creator. Therefore, it is best to do the editing by oneself and polish it to perfection and then give it to the editors or publishers. The work should satisfy the writer before he hands it to another person for examination.
You might be thinking what a difficult task it is. Right, that can’t be denied. But for a passionate writer, this would be the smoothest thing that he can do. There will be a lot of obstacles he has to face throughout the process. Hell would be nothing for a writer when compared to the hardships he has to go through to bring his thoughts to a paper and make a story out of it. But, in the end, when the journey is over, he will be the happiest person in the world. Won’t he?