It can feel intimidating when you know you want to write a book, but have no ideas on how to go about it. Or how to go about it right. I'll tell you there is no perfect answer or perfect formula. Most writers write a little differently, which is why it's creative, its art, not science.
There is a lot of information out there about where you are supposed to begin. That can even feel confusing with so many different kinds of advice So take mine or leave mine. If it works for you wonderful if it isn't right then that is totally okay.
So, what do you do first? It is something any newbie has to wonder. For me getting started is very simple.
Step 1 to writing a book: Write down what you know already
Pull out a pen and paper and jot down everything you know. It can be organized and neat. It can be bullet-pointed. It can be a half-hazard mess. I can be scribbled in marker, pen or crayon. It can be a mind map. It can be on post it notes, 3 by 5 cards, in a notebook, on a word document or even on your notes app on your phone. But before you can build your book you have to have an idea of the pieces are already on the table. Sometimes as you write even more of you idea will form and you'll write more than you think.
It doesn't matter if you are a plotter, a discovery writer, a nice combo of the two. Just seeing what you already have to work with will help you see what you still need. It will help you know what blanks you need to fill in and if you like to write outlines it will help you get a nice outline written up because most of the info should already be scribbled down in some way.
If you are a discovery writer, just seeing what you already know can fuel the creative fire you already have inside. One way or another I have found that writing down what I know as STEP #1 has helped me out a lot and gotten me ready for step 2. Which I won't lie is different for everyone, and sometimes different for every book.
Thanks for reading and happy writing!!
For more tips and fun writing things, check out my instagram at @rockingyourwriting.
Word counts are huge. They matter a lot. I know a lot of us just want to write what we want to write and how ever long it take is however long it takes, and sometimes that is fine. But we can't advertise a novel when it is only 25,000 words long. Or call an 80,000 word book a Novella. It is good to know these terms so we not only can talk about our work correctly, but so that we can also follow general guidelines when getting ready to submit our work. Or if you are self publishing its helps to know the general word counts your audience is expecting too.
So what is the story with word counts anyway? Here is a brief rundown of what you need to know.
Lets give you a list that you can work with when thinking about the length of your story:
I will tell you that if you google this these numbers do shift around so this is just to give you a basic idea. These are general ranges, that will change depending on your genre, for example if you write fantasy you usually are at the top of the range because you need room for world building. Yes there are always exceptions to the rule. I am sure you can think of books that are published that go outside of the norm for the word count requirements but if you are trying to get published it is always a good idea to start inside the rules first.
It also depends on the contest you are entering and the requirements of a publisher. For example you might see the average range for a middle grade book is 20,000 to 50,000 but the publisher you are looking at only wants books above 40,000 words if you submit one at 20,000 words that is a red flag for them. Check if they have word count requirements.
ALWAYS look at the word count requirements for the contest you are entering or the usual word counts that the publisher you are looking at as as well as everything else that they require. You don't want to miss out on an opportunity just because you didn't have the correct word count.
Anyway I hope that quick rundown helps you out!
*word counts were googled and gathered from various locations
Writers need other writers. We really do. For a long time I thought being a writer meant I had to be alone. But that isn't true. We need writer friends who understand how our brain works and how much our stories matter. Only other writers really get that. We need friends who will cheer for us, help us grow, give us feedback, and understand what it's like on this writing journey. I love my wiring friends who help me improve my books and who I can share this journey with. Reach out and find good writing friends and remember writing is not something you have to do all by yourself. It is better with others.
Find writing friends: Online, on social media, at writing conferences, in beta groups, in critique groups, etc. It might take some time to find the right ones but keep searching till you find writing friends that raise you up!
“YOU CAN’T WAIT FOR INSPIRATION, YOU HAVE TO GO AFTER IT WITH A CLUB.” -JACK LONDON
When I was little I used to hear about this thing from writers and artists called a MUSE. The way people talked about it, it felt like some kind of mystical thing, like a sparkly ghost that flew into your brain and shook inspiration into your brain, like pixie dust. It was a fickle creature who showed up when it wanted and people were always wishing for its magic power to visit them. At first I thought I had to wait for this mystical creature but then I decided I didn't want to wait for a muse I wanted to write.
What is a Muse?
I turned to the usual sources to find out. A quick google search came up with this definition. A muse is in Greek or Roman one of the 9 goddesses that presides over art or science.
Okay that's pretty cool. But it didn't match what I'd heard since I was small. So I looked again. This time I just looked for a definition of muse in google. This is what turned up; Muse is a spirit or source that inspires an artist.
Now we are talking. It is something that inspires people. I liked that, but I wasn't sure how much I wanted to trust a google definition, so I turned to my favorite dictionary. Merriam-Webster. www.merriam-webster.com
As usual in dictionaries there wasn't just one simple definition but three. The first under muse was; to become absorbed in thought. (verb) The next was if it was used as a noun.1. A state of deep thought or dreamy abstraction. The next there were also nouns 1.capitalized : any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences 2.a source of inspiration 3. A poet
What I gathered from my quick research was that a Muse wasn't a mystical ghost like creature full of pixie dust. People talked about it like they would a fairy or a dragon or a mystical goddess. What I learned is when people are talking about their muse they are talking more about inspiration. When I first started writing I thought I had to wait for this mystical Muse to show up and bless my life with it's magical dust, but later on I learned if I wanted to write I just had to sit down and do it. If you want to write you can't wait around you have as it says in the quote, go after it! Fight for it.
Sometimes inspiration will hit in the funnest of moments, in the shower, while mowing the lawn, while doing the dishes, or driving your car, from a dream, or from reading other peoples work. Those moments are fantastic, they are special they are amazing but if we only write when those special moments come then we will find it harder to get things done.
If you are someone who needs their muse, or who feels like they must have things set in order to feel inspired to write then make sure you set that up. For some it is a certain kind of music, for others it is quiet. We are all different when it comes to how we like to write and what will help our words flow.
Ways to feel inspired to write without waiting for your muse:
1. Go get some exercise that will get your endorphin going. I know I love to think about backstory while walking or on a treadmill. I will also problem solve when I am moving. I find that for me it really helps.
2. Turn on some music, see if it can help you get in the zone. I know that I have a power song that can help me get moving when I feel sluggish.
3. Do chores that don't require a lot of thought. You can brainstorm while mopping the floor, hand washing dishes or mowing the lawn. It's a great use of your time.
4. Do a 5 minute writing sprint to warm up. You can write about your story or use a random prompt but this is like reaving your engine and getting you ready to write.
5. Read something that inspires you.
6. Watch something that inspires you.
7. Read a motivational quote, that makes you feel like you can do it.
8. Get your favorite snack and a comfy chair, set the feeling you need to write.
9. Challenge yourself. You can't do X until you write X amount of words... etc.
10. Try a writing prompt.
11. Spend some time interviewing one of your characters.
12. If you already have a cover for your book, print it out and post it above your writing space. Make it a goal to see pages under that cover and give yourself a deadline.
13. Read a book about writing. This never fails for me. I get story idea after story idea when I read a writing book.
14. Spend some time on Pinterest finding pictures of your setting or clothing to help you get excited and ready to write. Just don't get lost here and forget to get your words down.
15. Talk on the phone with someone you trust about your story idea. Chances are you'll feel resaved up and ready to write after that kind of conversation.
The tall and short of it is guys is that sometimes we have magical moments where the muse hits us (aka inspiration) and sometimes we have to set the stage ourselves and fight a bit to get the words coming. One way or another you can write. Don't wait around for the time to come to you, make the time to write yourself.
Thanks for reading today's post and happy writing!!
If you can't see it, we can't see it. I know sometimes we can get all excited about the scene we have figured out or the wicked dialogue we have planned, but we have to make sure we ground our reader. We have to show them where they are. What it looks like. We need to paint a picture but do it quickly. Readers now a days don't want to read three pages about the setting but they still want to know what it looks like and where they are. If you don't know what your setting really looks like for that scene, take a moment to close your eyes and see it. We won't need all the details you see but find the most important ones to give us what we need.
For example: If you are writing a scene that takes place in an apartment. What makes that apartment unique? Is it really clean, a pig sty, is it fancy full of modern furniture, or is it full of weird looking glass bottles. It could be a pretty regular apartment but we need to know that too, but then we'd want to know is it big or small? Is there something that stands out about it to help us imagine what you are imagining. If you see a dirty green couch next to a high end glass table, we need to see it too. These details tell us about the character who lives there and gives us a sense of place. We can then properly visualize where they are and what that might mean for the story.
READ, READ, READ and READ some more!As a writer reading is very important. I used to think that I couldn't read and write at the same time and so I was usually only doing one or the other for an extended amount of time. I have since learned that I need to make sure I am trying to do both. For one I miss the other when I am working on one. For two; how can I create books without reading them? Reading and writing go hand in hand. Below are the reasons why you should always Read, even while writing.
WHY READ? Because it will help you grow as a writer!
In your Genre:
Every Genre has different rules, and story beats that readers expect. Without reading in your genre it will be hard for you to know all of those beats and structure that readers expect for that specific genre. Also you can learn what kind of stories are already out there. Sometime a book can help you figure out where you are stuck in your story. And its fun to read the genre that you love so much! I am a multi genre author and I used to think that all stories were created equal, that a suspense, a fantasy and a romance were all created the same way. Then I started learning about story beats and wow there is a difference my friends.
Out of your Genre:
These books can help increase your story sense. They can build your idea of story worlds and open your eyes to new genre's you never thought you would love! I used to only read fantasy and fairy tale, but then I read some paranormal, Regency romance and then contemporary romance. I would never have tried these genre's in the past but now I have learned how much I love all of these different kinds of stories. This broden's your horizons, opens up new possibilities, and opens new stories worlds for you to venture into. You can also learn what you don't like and why.
There is always so much more to learn. After reading many writing books you will discover that a lot of them say the same thing but usually there is always something new in each one. It is great review for the things they say the same and they all have great ah ha moments for the new stuff. I am trying hard to read a bunch this year. I have 5 under my belt since January but I would like to get a few more. Learning and growing your skill is invaluable and sooooo important.
It is important to know what is being published right now. The demand for certain books ebbs and flows like a title wave. The demand for certain books grows until the market is saturated and then publishers and readers are looking for the next best thing. If you are ready to send out a book to an agent or publisher it would be wise to see what is coming out right now or on the coming out soon lists.
Read the classic's. We don't write books like they used to and that is mostly a good thing, we don't like pages and pages of description but try to figure out why the classic's are still read today. What makes them lasting, and how can you translate that aspect into your own writing. I know when I decided that I wanted to write a book with vampires that I had to read Dracula, its just one of those things that have to be done. Still working on that book but hopefully it won't be to long before I can get it written the way I want it.
Read to your kids:
Kids love it when parents read to them. You can totally count a novel read to them as a book read on your own goals. I am loving reading , Ella Enchanted to my oldest girl. We can only read a chapter or s scene a night but its awesome one on one time and the time might be shortchanged but it totally counts.
Your own writing:
After writing your manuscript make sure to try and read it at least once as a reader. See if you are board anywhere or if there is a part that makes you swoon or laugh or cry. Pay attention to how it reads and if it feels like the books that you enjoy so much. If so you are on the right track.
Reading is so important, I hope that you can find time to read even if it is a little bit. If you are having a hard time finding time check out my tips below.
TIPS FOR THOSE WHO DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME TO READ!
1. Read on your phone
2. Read while your kids are watching their favorite movie for the 27th time.
3. Always have a book with you for those times when you randomly need to pass the time.
4. Read in the pick up line, while waiting for the doctor or dentist or other appointments.
5. Go pick up your kids fifteen minutes early so you can get a little reading time.
6. Read while cooking dinner. (I do this all the time! Yes, I have used a hot pad as a bookmark, ha ha)
7. Plan a reading date night with your hubby or boyfriend/girlfriend.
8. Read in the car (if you can handle it. I read and write in the car on longer drives all the time.)
9. Get audio books and listen while doing other house chores, running, showering, or commuting to work.
10. Make a reading goal for the year on goodreads. It so helps to have a place to keep track of the books you've read and the ones you want to read next. I find having a goal on goodreads keeps me picking up books, I don't like seeing myself behind on my reading goals.
11. Read before you go to sleep at night.
12. If you write middle-grade, YA, poems, or picture books and they are appropriate for your kids age groups then read them to your kids. It's good time spent with them and you get your reading in too.
PLEASE REVIEW: If you read a book and liked it please write a review on amazon, goodreads, etc. authors need reviews and we would love to have a review from a reader like you!
Thanks for reading and happy writing!
Cassie M. Shiels