Many people want to write a book, but the thought of writing 300-something pages of a complete story that people will enjoy can seem so daunting. There has to be a more straightforward writing process, right?
This fear is especially true when you don’t have much if any, experience writing.
Where do I start? How do I turn my idea into a novel?
If this sounds like you, keep reading to find out how to write a book in manageable, less-stressful steps.
A free PDF checklist printable is available to download below!
Find Your Idea
I’m guessing, since you’re reading this, you already have an idea for a book, so I’ll keep this brief. The first step in any writing process is to think of an idea.
If you struggle to come up with ideas, there are a few things you can do, so you’ll always have some backups.
Write Down Your Dreams
Keep track of any exciting dreams by writing them down as soon as you wake up. I’ve been doing this for years, and I have written many stories based on dreams I’ve had.
Use Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are an excellent way to spark your imagination. There are writing apps that will generate titles, first sentences, and more, leading you to come up with an incredible story idea.
If you are looking for some writing prompts, you can check out this post for some of my own writing prompts.
Flush Out Your Idea
Next, in the writing process, you want to write a summary or synopsis of your story. If you can, write pages of information like the main plot and character ideas.
The more information you come up with now, the easier the rest will be.
For example, having an idea like a story about a woman who becomes a superhero requires much more work in writing the outline than an idea like a story about a young woman who runs away from her past life and falls into the ocean only to discover she has the ability to breathe underwater.
Make sense? The more you know about how you want the storyline to play out, the easier it will be to outline and draft it during the next steps of the writing process.
Create Your Story Bible
You don’t need to have a ton of information to start your story bible; even just a working title is enough. It’s important to set up a place to keep all of your story’s details right away.
Don’t worry about perfecting anything right now; just get down all of your ideas and leave it at that.
As your story begins to take form, be sure to add all of the details such as world rules, point-of-view, character details, etc.
The outline is where the majority of your time should be spent on. The more detail and information you add to it, the better.
Though an outline is less stressful than a whole book, it can still seem like a lot to decide on and plan out. This is why it’s essential to break everything down into easier-to-handle parts.
Create the protagonist, antagonist, and inner and outer goal. First, add the basics, then go back and add as much information as you can. This is the best time to write about your characters’ personalities, appearances, quirks, etc. Once you know who your characters are, you will be able to place them in the plot easily and know how they will react to what’s happening.
Also, write down the protagonist’s inner goal (what they hope to achieve in themselves by the end of the story (such as to be confident)) and their outer goal (what the story’s about (like winning a race)).
Now we begin to create the story structure. Using this five-step structure is essential for creating a story that progresses at a proper pace. For a more detailed explanation of each step, I recommend checking out this post.
Write a summary of what will occur in the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
It’s okay if you just want to write the basics in a sentence or two if you don’t know exactly how you want your story to progress, but it’s important to have an idea of the direction your story will go.
This is not set-in-stone, and more likely than not, you will end up changing one or more steps, but having a starting point will ensure your story comes together correctly and stays consistent.
If you have no idea how your story will end and you start writing, by the time you get to chapter ten, the whole beginning may not make sense–you may end up with a completely different story.
Eventually, your outline should contain notes on how many chapters you’ll have, what each will be about, and the main plot points.
When writing the outline, take your time; don’t rush it. Hurrying through will only make the writing process more difficult.
If you get bored of working on the outline, take what you have and write a chapter. If you’re stuck on the inciting incident but have five pages of detail for the resolution, write it. Then, come back to the outline.
Remember to update the outline with any changes you make when drafting or revising.
This is the step where your story begins to take shape–you finally get to write! Even with the detailed outline, it can be daunting to write a whole story, so it’s beneficial to break it down; choose a section and write.
There’s no need to write from beginning to end in order; in fact, many people find it easier to start anywhere besides the beginning as that’s often the most challenging part.
The most pressure is placed on the first chapter, first page, first sentence even, as you need to draw in the reader. So, by starting elsewhere, you will be able to write with less pressure.
Don’t stress about making everything perfect the first run-around. Getting something down will help keep your ideas flowing and allow you to get further. You want to get your story written down first and then go back and revise later.
If you worry too much about each sentence being ideal, you won’t get far and will only end up stressing more than necessary.
If instead, you write what you feel as it comes, you will not only save time but will also find your writing not to be as bad as you thought. Or, you’ll at least have a better idea of how to edit it once you go back to revise.
Before the actual revision step, you’ll want to clean up the writing. Earlier, you were just getting the story written down, and now, with the story entirely written, you’ll want to clean it up.
By this, I mean changing sentence structures, finding better words to use, things like those.
I can tell you, from years of experience, it’s much easier to perfect sentences once you have everything else written as you have a clearer idea of the theme, voice, tone of your story–all things that impact your writing style.
Revising is probably the second most time-consuming step in the writing process because you will need to revise repeatedly and over a long period.
In between each revision, you will want to step back from your writing for a few days or even weeks, as this will help you gain a new, fresh perspective. Most likely, each time you come back to it, you will find something to edit that you missed before.
This is also the time to get someone else’s feedback. You want to choose someone who will give you constructive criticism and be honest. The last thing you want is a “yes man.”
The final part of the revision process is to re-read everything. This is your last chance to find any mistakes, inconsistencies, spelling errors, etc.
Once you have everything revised and reviewed, you’re nearly done! The only thing left is to add in the preface, foreword, acknowledgments, and an about the author page.
This is also the time to create a cover, whether you plan to make it yourself or have someone else design it.
And now, you have a book! You can use this guide for anything fiction-related, such as a novel, screenplay, script, etc. It will also work for non-fiction, although you may have to tweak it a little.
Now you’re ready to write! Let me know if you found this post helpful, and be sure to share it with all the writers in your life.
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- Writing Prompts for Adults
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- What You Must Know Before Writing Fiction