Start the Book You Always Meant to Write
You Have a Story Inside You
We each have a tale to tell. Life happens to all of us and we react in different ways. Your story is unique. No-one else sees the world in quite the same way as you. There is a book inside your head (and mine too) just waiting to be written.
To get started on writing your story you need three things; motivation, time and serendipity. Without the desire and motivation to share your story, your book will not get off the starting blocks. You can make time to write if you really want to, no matter how buy a life you lead. As for serendipity? Well, that is beyond anyone's power to control.
What it Takes to Write a Successful Book
For starters, you need to have:
- An interesting and original idea (if you’re writing fiction).
- Or something special to say (if you’re working on a non-fiction subject).
- You must be able to write clearly and use words effectively.
- You must be able to organize your life to give yourself enough time to write
To achieve success as an author you also need:
- a LOT of patience
- a willingness to ask for and respond to positive and negative feedback
- an ability to carry out methodical research
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice Even successful writers sometimes need help with editing and proofreading. There are professional editors who offer these services in return for a fee. There are also self-help writing groups who provide mutual support for nil cost (or almost free). Members give each other constructive feedback to help their fellow writers develop. Look out for writers’ groups active in your area or start one yourself if Craigslist (or similar) has none listed.
Write about feelings you've felt, experiences you've had, and all the while try and marry them to a tight, original storyline.— Harriet Evans (author)
Have you found the book within you yet?
Grab Your Reader from the Start
Your book needs to have a strong opening that grabs the reader and makes them want to know more. This is as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction. The first line often raises a question of some sort, although it may not be phrased as a question.
For example: ‘I’ve had enough’, said Sarah, before slamming the door shut behind her.’
Your reader will now have the following questions buzzing in their mind.
What has Sarah had enough of?
Who is she?
Who’s she talking to?
Where’s she going?
These questions are the “hook and bait” that will reel in the fish (your readers). If done well, the opening paragraph can land a sizable catch of loyal readers. These fish will provide you with several meals (maybe a small income and some repeat fans for your future published work).
Ian McEwan on Finding the Confidence to Write
Think About the Language You Use
Don’t use the same words repeatedly. If you’re an avid reader and enjoy books from a variety of genre, you’ll find your knowledge of alternative words increases naturally. Many writers find that using a thesaurus is a quick way and easy way to increase their vocabulary. A thesaurus has thousands of antonyms and synonyms.
For example, can you find a better way to describe what’s happening? Instead of saying “she walked into the room”, choose a verb that describes how she walked. Here are some alternatives:
- she crept into the room (she was trying not to wake the children)
- she sashayed into the room (she was feeling good because it was her birthday and she was in her evening gown)
- she padded into the room (it was 7am, she’d just got up and was wearing slippers)
Changing the verb alters the picture you create in your reader’s mind.
Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.— Virginia Woolf
366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach
If you need some help to progress your writing career, I recommend your read by Christina Katz. This coaching book does what it says on the cover. It contains a writing related tip for every day of the year. 366 tips may seem a large volume of advice to digest, but the book is divided into four parts. Each part relates to the four seasons (or stages) of a writer’s career. The Writer's Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach
It is arranged in short chapters that are easy to dip into and out of without losing the thread of the narrative. I find reading a few pages of the workout make an ideal five minutes’ break from day-to-day chores. You can switch off from your busy day and digest tips and anecdotes that help motivate you to be a more focused and productive writer.
Set one short-term goal you can accomplish this week, and start walking bravely towards it. Forget the future; leave behind evidence that you hit your short-term goal this week instead.— Christina Katz
Prepare for Being a Writer Like an Athlete in Training
To complete a marathon, a runner trains hard to achieve strength and endurance. As a writer, you must learn to overcome rejection and be resilient. As you progress, you learn to improve your writing skills and how to connect with readers.
To test your readiness for the big race, try a 5 minute, 500-word sprint.
- You need a fresh sheet of paper (or blank computer screen) and a timer.
- Sit down somewhere you will not be interrupted and set the timer for 5 minutes.
- Pretend you are writing an email or short letter to your best friend about your recent weekend away.
- Write solidly for the whole 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter if it's garbage, just write down a stream of consciousness.
- Describe in minute detail what you saw and where you went. Write about who you were with and who you missed. Write and keep writing until the buzzer sounds.
- Then stop. You will have written about 500 words and should feel slightly elated.
- Give yourself a pat on the back, you have achieved all that in just 5 minutes!
Think how much more you could write if you really concentrated on your craft for a few hours a day?