I received a message from one of my most favoritest peoples today that basically said, “Hey, I want to write a book, where do I start? You said to do an outline, do you have any tips or tricks?”
I began writing out an e-mail to my friend, but then I thought, I bet there’s more people who are just starting out and have no idea where to begin. Why not blog this? I never blog, it’s about damn time, right?
So if you’re out there, and you’re just starting out or don’t know where to begin, this is for you.
1) You don’t have to outline. Some writers successfully write a ton of books by pantsing it (writing by the seat of your pants). I outline because I wrote every day for six years and finished only 3 books, while I started about 20 that went nowhere. Eventually, I figured out that if I don’t have a plan in place for where the story is going to go, it’s going to either a) totally suck or b) I’m never going to finish it.
This is one of the hardest parts of learning to write: figuring out which method works best for YOU. Everyone is different. It can take a long time to figure out what works best, and you might find that what worked for one story, won’t work for another (ho hum).
2) Study story structure. You already have an innate sense of how a story should be laid out from watching movies and reading books, etc. Every story follows a formula, and to write a story that makes sense, it’s important to understand the formula. IF you want to break out of the formula, you should understand it first! Story structure is one of the most important things to learn and one of the most complicated. I like storyfix.com, advancedfictionwriting.com, and writersdigest.com all have great articles, information about writing and craft.
Also, I did a whoooolle years worth of blog posts on story structure from beginning to end http://marewolf.blogspot.com/p/tips-for-writers.html
Most of what I learned was from the websites above, plus I’ve gone to writing conferences, and I checked out and read almost every single book on writing from the library. Seriously. Some of them I read twice. My favorites were Beginnings, Middles, Ends by Nancy Kress, and pretty much anything by James Scott Bell.
There are sooo many things to think about when you’re writing a book. Plot arcs, character arcs, dialogue, theme, etc. You will find that you’ll have this great idea in your head, you can see it all so clearly, then you sit down to write it and what’s in your head doesn’t translate onto paper like you imagined.
3) When you first start drafting, try not to worry so much about all the pieces I just mentioned above (HAHA you like that? I’m feeling a little contradictory right now…LEARN story structure though, it’s important. Writing has two sides, the creative side and the analytical side. Drafting is for creativity, editing is your analytical part).
Remember that your rough draft is your creative flow. It’s supposed to be rough. There’s too many different things to think about, and you’ll get overwhelmed and want to give up (or drink). Anything you write during your first drafting phase can be changed and fixed, and it most likely will be. Just get the words on the page. My first drafts are still crap and I’ve been doing this for years. Books in progress are like babies. They look gross when they’re born, and they change drastically each month until they’re eventually cute.
4) Write every day. Even if it’s only a few words, or if you just need to jot down ideas. If you absolutely need a break from writing, read. Read a lot. Read what sells, read from new writers, read from accomplished writers, figure out what it is specifically you like about certain books and what you hate so you can strengthen your own writing.
5) Don’t give up. Like I said, it took me six years of writing crappy words to finally write something I didn’t want to use as toilet paper. Everyone learns differently and some learn faster than others (hopefully you are faster than me). There’s a common saying among writers that it takes a million words before you start writing anything of value. So if this is really your dream, don’t give up no matter how long it takes.
If you are a writer and you have any tips or advice, please share in the comments!!!