Maybe you grew up with a penchant for creative writing and have been tossing around storyline ideas in your head since you were a kid. Or, maybe you’re in retirement and just now taking on writing as a new hobby. Either way, it’s relatively simple to think up creative plot twists and interesting characters in our heads. It’s an however, to put pen to paper and turn those daydreams into a real-life novel. Writer’s block is an incredibly real thing and unless you’re trained to overcome it, simply crafting the first line can be a challenge in and of itself.
Yet, walk into any bookstore and you’ll see shelves upon shelves of best-sellers that someone created from scratch. So, how do these authors transform their ideas into profit-generating books? The good news is it doesn’t take a degree in literature or a huge sum of money to get started. All you need is the right know-how and direction, so today let’s explore the next steps you should take.
1. Resist the urge to start pounding the keyboard.
Many writers think they can sit down at the computer and the words will simply flow out of them into a cohesive and readable story. While some people might be able to achieve this, the reality is that most of us require at least some period of pre-planning. Instead of sitting down and starting to type right away, take some time to gather your thoughts and develop them more fully.
Think about your characters. Who are they? What are they trying to do and what makes them interesting? Then, move on to the setting. Where does the story take place and during what time period is it set? Will your story be a short one or is it long form? What kind of conflict could you introduce and how will your characters work around it?
These are just a handful of the questions you should be able to answer before you start the actual writing process. Then, when you finally are ready to start putting words to your daydream, you’ll be in a much better, more prepared space to do so. You’ll also be less likely to get frustrated during the process, as well.
2. Consider your genre.
If you find yourself getting stuck, take a few pages from your genre’s playbook. For instance, if you’re writing a fantasy novel, think of your favorite fantasy novels to date. What elements did they have that drew you in? Who were some of your favorite characters? While it’s unwise to replicate these storylines, they can be helpful for inspiration and can give you a hint about what makes other authors so successful in this category.
They can also help direct your story and give it a proper flow. You might set out wanting to write an adult romance, for instance, but quickly find that you’d rather write about teenage characters who find themselves and discover more about life through an adolescent love. In this case, you’ll most likely write a young adult novel instead, and understanding as much as you can about that construct can help you navigate the new world.
3. Research details you need.
You can’t write a story that revolves around two characters lost at sea while out SCUBA diving if you don’t know anything about the act of diving itself. That said, immerse yourself in your story setting to understand how to write it best. Doing so will help you integrate key details into the plot that the average person might not know. This will make the story more believable and credible, to boot.
Research what level of detailed knowledge your readers will come to expect from your story or genre. For instance, science fiction fans are often very astute and can easily pick up on an author who doesn’t do his or her due diligence to make sure scientific facts are accurately presented. As you create your fictional world, you can make up many of the rules yourself. However, there are some elements that must be researched to avoid time period anomalies, political inaccuracies, technical errors and more.
4. Publish your book.
When you’re finished with your book, you have two options for publishing. You can either go the self-publishing route or you can submit a proposal to an outside publisher. While you might think that the self publishing costs are too high at first, consider instead how a published manuscript could propel your author career. Even if it means investing some of your personal money in the interim, it could be the jumpstart you need to get your name out there, become recognized in literary circles, and eventually lead you to the publishing contract of your dreams.
If you skip this step and decide to pursue a publishing partnership immediately, you’ll need to create an effective proposal that is brief yet effective. Start with a one-page cover letter, then a two-page description of your book, followed by a table of contents, narrative sample, personal information page a proposed marketing outline as well. There are myriad resources, both online and at the bookstore, that can help you navigate this process.
Write and Read Your New Book with Confidence
After you’ve completed the above steps, you can hold your new book in your hands with confidence, assured that you put everything you could into the project. Rarely is a book perfectly polished when it’s completed. You’ll have to go back and edit, then re-edit to get it where you want it to be. In all, the process can take years to complete, yet any author will tell you that it’s more than worth it when that publishing day arrives. So take your time, brainstorm all you can, and pour your heart onto the page. If there were ever a worthwhile endeavor, writing is it.