HOW TO WRITE A BOOK?
HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT BLANK PAGE?
First of all, ask yourself what you want to write a book for. For some people, writing a book is a kind of therapy, and they won’t mind putting their manuscript in a drawer once it’s done. The mere act of writing a book can offer absolute satisfaction to the writer. This type of book is usually like a diary or a memoir, and it does not matter if it does not have a good structure, a varied and extensive vocabulary, or a good ending. The author probably won’t even read it a second time. Or, maybe, yes, when the years have passed, when they feel bored or curious.
Others want to write a book because they feel they have something to tell about a particular topic, which is often the case with non-fiction books. But once they write it, and maybe even publish it, they might not even want to embark on the adventure of writing another book. Perhaps these people are guided by what the Cuban poet José Martí said one day like any other: that “there are three things that every mortal should do to transcend, and go down in history. Plant a tree, have a child and write a book ”.
The truth is that the reason why you want to write a book does not matter too much, but it will help you meet your goal or achieve it sooner.
And, if you know the reason why you want to write a book, you will know if it really is a dream or just a temporary wish. If your reason is that you just want to look important or interesting in people´s eyes, then I would tell you that, for such a superficial reason, I would not waste my time. Because writing is hard. It requires work, perseverance and imagination. So, if you are not willing to invest blood, sweat and tears, forget about the publishing industry.
1. Genre / Theme
What am I going to write about?
The first thing to identify is the genre and topic you are going to write about. What do you want to tell the world? Maybe you have it very clear and you know that you want to write a mystery novel. Or maybe you want to try a romantic adventure! But, if you are not so clear, do a little brainstorming. This is something that very few people do, but it helps a lot to sort the ideas in your head and to make you see what it is that you really want to talk about. Come on! Go ahead; take paper and pen, and start writing the areas or topics or even objects that are of interest to you. Maybe you would like to talk about friendship, family; or maybe you like history, mythology, dogs, mountains, cathedrals, chimneys, biology, or planets. The themes and objects that you can introduce in your work are infinite.
Of course, important advice that you have to listen and assimilate is that there are times when we should not mix too many elements. For example, you want to write a story in which you travel to the future, and in which, in addition, there are aliens, with humanoid superheroes, a love story, and a war… Okay, this sounds a bit like Star Wars, and this series of films has been very successful, but it is the exception that proves the rule. George Lucas put it all together very well, and the story unfolds in several different movies. But for your book, for your first book, you have to understand that you are not George Lucas and that you should focus on one or two topics, at most. Ideally, you should write about a great topic, and mix several elements, but without going overboard. Many unknown authors, in their first novel, want to tell too much because they think that if they don’t, they won’t get the attention of a literary agent or a publishing house. Repeat with me: “No vampires and zombies together, or another similar hodgepodge.”
It’s a good idea to always be aware of what topics are hot. For example, the Goodreads platform is great for knowing what’s going on in the world. However, don’t write about vampires just because that’s what everybody is doing this year. Many publishing houses are tired of imitators, and, if the subject pulls them back, they will not even read the first sentence of your query letter. If you really want to write about vampires, of course, go ahead! But look for an original approach, which no one has ever used.
Some people say that you have to write about what you know, and for a non-fiction book, this is totally true, because how could I write about learning to play the piano if I can’t play it?
However, for a fiction book, you don’t always need to know everything. In fiction, your imagination is your best asset. Of course, the story must always be realistic, and the more you know about the subject you are writing about, the more fluent you will be and the more credible your story will be. But, for your protagonist to be a policeman, you do not need to know everything in advance, although you will have to document yourself until you become an expert on the subject.
What values do I want to convey?
Once you have chosen the topic you want to talk about, think about the message you want to get out to the world. Do you want to show that life is ephemeral and you have to seize the moment? That we should not judge appearances? or, perhaps, that karma exists?
Meditate on the message you want to convey to the reader because that will help you massively to write your story. Some people write for the sake of writing, and although it’s complicated, some books or movies have no message at all, or at least not one worth taking in. Enrich your story with an important message that you want to convey. The stories that sink deep into people are those that hide a great message.
3. Where (Setting)
Where would you like your story to happen? In a particular country? In closed spaces, outdoors? In a combination of both? You may want to create an adventure story that takes place in Vietnam or a mystery that takes place in cloudy London.
In what year does your story take place? Today? A thousand years ago? A hundred? In the future? Or, maybe in a parallel world, at the same time your life is happening?
Perhaps the when is what will give your story that quality that will make it different from the others. Or maybe it’s the where that can radically change your story. We continue brainstorming, so try different alternatives and decide on the most interesting of all. If you are not sure, ask a family member. “Would it be interesting for you if we saw a film set in Patagonia in the 19th century? There is a murder and a mystery to solve! ” If the person you are asking yawns, you may need to change the where or the when, don’t you think?
5. Try to think of a Tag Line for your story
This is the phrase that informs what the story is about but trying to sell it. You usually think about it when the story is finished, but sometimes it helps to think about it before writing it because it forces you to think about why your story is going to be interesting, engaging, and different.
An example of Tag Line could be: “The lonely marine biologist Pete will embark on a journey to Antarctica, to escape his past. What he doesn’t know is that his past will reach him wherever he goes. “
Try to grab the reader’s attention. This phrase is usually put on the cover of the book and we all know how important a cover is, because the exterior does matter, and more than you think.
For my fiction / fantasy novel “Inconscientia” my Tag Line is: “An attempted murder will take young Vera to the wonderful unconscious world, where she becomes conscious.” “Oh, and what will it be like to become conscious in the conscious world? I’ve always wanted to be able to direct my night dreams! And who has tried to kill young Vera and why? I want to read it! ” Don’t you feel like it?
6. Hero / Heroine
Who will be your main character? What is special about this person? It may not have anything special, and that is precisely what you want to show: that to any person, no matter how bland, anything can happen in this life.
You will have to create your character in your imagination as if it were a real person. You should think about all the details of his personality and past experiences, even if they are not going to appear in the story.
7. Antihero / Antiheroin
“The bad guy” is crucial. The villain in your novel is just as important (sometimes even more!) than the hero or heroine. Because it is precisely this villain who makes the protagonist evolve as a person and solve the difficulties that arise along the way.
The secondary characters are really important. They make the story move with agility, and that the protagonist faces conflicts. Give them life.
Think of things that can happen in the novel to make the story flow and make it worthwhile.
Make a list of things that could happen. In a story there are major actions, and other minor actions, but all of these plots are important to tell the whole story.
10. The end
When I think about writing a new novel, almost the first thing that comes to mind is the ending. The surprise that will make my book different and, above all, that it was worth reading. Many times I read boring books and I wait for the end because I think something has to happen, or surprise me in some way, but many times the end is exactly what you expected, which makes the book a fiasco. This even makes me angry, because it has made me waste my time. And time is precious. You could have invested that time doing more productive things. So try to think of a great ending to your story. If you can’t think of anything at the moment, it doesn’t matter, write, that inspiration always comes when you’re working.
Of course, if you want to write, you need to read. And this is the star advice that anyone will give you. But do not read anyone, or do not interpret with this that you have to read Facebook daily, or Instagram posts. Read good writers. Read the classics and those who are succeeding now, too.
Also, watch a lot of movies. Films are visual stories, which, in an hour and a half or two, present you with an introduction, a body and a conclusion. It is incredible how sometimes, in such a short time, so much of a story and its characters are transmitted. Try to make your story more visual, learn from good movies, create dialogues that in three sentences make you meet five characters and the story of their life. Show the reader more than you tell them. It will lighten your story, which is always appreciated. Surely you have heard that of: “The good, if brief, twice good”, right?
In order to learn how to write, there is nothing better than writing. It seems obvious, but how are you going to learn to write a book, if you are not writing it? What are you waiting for to, at least, try?
Something that has helped me enormously to write better and to go more directly the point is to write in different genres (articles, interviews, reports, poetry, short stories, plays, short stories…) Any genre will help you perfect your writing technique.
OK, so, you have already decided the gender; what topics are you going to discuss; the where and when; the great message you want to convey; what heroine or hero will manage to grow thanks to an incredible conflict… But, now answer this question: what is special about this story? Why is it going to be any different? If you can’t answer this question, then give your story another turn or two or three more. Keep searching.
14. Do you want to write a non-fiction book?
To write about a non-literary subject, as I have said, you have to know what you are talking about, of course, and approach the subject in a way in which you tell the editor what particular needs you are going to cover. Think of it like this: what problem are you going to solve with your book? It could be: “Teach to play the guitar with three basic and infallible rules” or “Cook healthy dishes in ten minutes”. One tip: record everything you know about the subject first, as if you were telling a friend about it. This will help you structure your book. Then write down what you have recorded and check that the structure makes sense. Write it in simple language, but in an appropriate style.
15. Shame just to sin! They said in my school when I was a child…
Another important advice that every writer should listen to is that you write without hesitation or shame; write everything you want. If you think that your grandmother or your friend will find what you write wrong, or that they will feel identified, then forget about being a writer. If you have qualms of any kind, your stories will be superficial and not memorable. The authors who have written about murders or rapes probably don´t support this type of behaviour, nor that they have dark and strange souls. Don´t fear what other people will think of you for writing what you have written! Disconnect!
Finally, when you have your plan, your map indicating where you are going, get on your way. No television, Facebook or Instagram, platforms that waste anyone’s time. Stop checking your neighbour and start checking yourself!
Force yourself to write at least two hours a day. Or you can also challenge yourself to write three pages a day. If you succeed, in ninety days you could have the first draft of your manuscript! Then you will have to review it several times, but at least you already have something certain to work with. Consistency and elimination of distractions is the most important thing. It may help to put phrases on the mirror in your room: “You are a writer!” “Cheer up!” “You can do whatever you want!” “Your novel is going to be published very soon!” Think of positive messages and post them on your work table. Visualize a future in which you achieve everything you set your mind to. Works; I assure.
And now, enough of the chatter, and let’s “listen” to the advice of the great Stephen King to finish writing your book:
16. Don’t use verbs in the passive voice, and avoid unnecessary adverbs/words.
17. Don’t obsess over perfect grammar. That is like trying to achieve the impossible. The object of fiction is to make the reader feel part of the story.
18. Turn off the TV. TV is the last thing a writer needs.
19. Read, read, read.“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Reading motivates, inspires.
20. To be a writer you need to read and write. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot.
21. Don’t worry about making others happy. Give truth to your characters, settings and dialogues.
22. Eliminate distractions. Force yourself to follow a certain discipline, and stick with it to the letter.
23. You have three months.The first draft of a book – even a long one – shouldn’t take you more than three months, the length of a season.
24. Write word for word; little by little.The end result is achieved by writing word for word.
25. Keep your own style. Don’t imitate the writers you like. Get inspired by them, but stay true to your style.
26. Stories are relics, part of a pre-existing undiscovered world. The writer’s job is to use his toolbox to extract the story as if it were a fossil.
27. Take a break. You will find that reading your book after six weeks of rest will be a stimulating activity. You will see it with different eyes.
28. Eliminate the boring parts. Even if it means killing a little the writer in you (their ego).
29. Documentation shouldn’t overshadow your story. Research cannot hide the story of your novel but return to it.
30. Write to be happy. Writing is not making money, becoming famous, dating, having sex, or making friends. Writing is creative magic; use it to enrich your life.
31. Show what is written. Think of five different readers who can read your work. Now find five sincere friends you trust to read your work. Take their opinions into account when reviewing your novel.
32. Re-read this post full of valuable tips, from time to time, and you are ready to go and rock it!