How Do You Write A Book Worth Reading
A Few Random Thoughts Before We Begin
Over the years I have heard many writers say that they don’t know if they have a book in them. Many others say they want to write a novel but they don’t know how to go about it. Still others, unfortunately, do not think they are good enough to undertake such a task.
I understand all of the above statements. The thought of writing a novel is daunting. It is a huge commitment of time and effort, and there certainly are no tangible rewards promised once you finish.
Still, millions are writing novels at this very moment, and millions more will do the same next year. True, they may never be picked up by an established publisher, but with ebooks now in demand, publishers are not needed.
When I wrote my first novel I had no intention of writing a novel. It began as a writing exercise and then gained momentum until one day I was looking at a finished novel. With that experience under my belt, the thought of writing another book, and then another, did not seem so daunting.
Have my books been a success? To me they have; they represent a huge effort on my part, and they are a living legacy for me as a writer.
I hope those of you who have hesitated to this point will finally decide to write a book. It really is a great experience.
What follows are some random tips that might help you during the writing process. They are in no particular order. They are the result of reflections that I had while thinking about my book-writing experience. I hope they help you in some way.
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A PAGE PER DAY UNTIL FINISHED
Break the novel-writing process down into manageable chunks. If you write a page per day you will have a finished novel in one year. Does that sound doable to you?
You might be thinking that one page is not very much, and I suppose compared to some prolific writers it is not, but remember that you want this book to be your very best. Writing one page of superb prose could very easily take an entire day if excellence is your goal.
DEEPEN YOUR CHARACTERS
Make your characters come alive, and to do that, make them appear to be real people. Think about this: in real life, none of us like shallow people, so why would we want the characters in our book to be shallow? Get inside the head of your character and find out what makes him/her tick. What are their likes and dislikes? What is the psychological profile?
Readers want to connect to characters, and as the writer it is your job to make that possible.
Every chapter of your book has a setting. It takes place somewhere and that somewhere looks like something, right? It is your job to paint the scene so that the reader can picture it in their mind.
The scene should include action, setting, dialogue, new plot information and movement. You are the director of your own private movie. You can see the scene in your mind; now transfer that to your reader through your writing.
A pro's views on novel writing
I believe in being specific when writing. It is not enough to say the lead character took a sip of pop. I want the reader to know that he drank Coke. It is not enough to say the scene took place on a cloudy afternoon downtown. I want the reader to know what the humidity felt like and the decay of the city.
If my character is middle-aged then she is 48 years old. If she has blonde hair then she should have platinum blonde or sun-bleached blonde hair.
Why is this important? Well duh! I want my readers engaged, and the best way to do that is to put my readers inside of the book. I want them walking around inside my words and I want them seeing exactly what I see in my mind. The only way to do that is to constantly be specific in my descriptions.
GO FOR HIGH VOLTAGE
If you want mundane then you should be a monk. Readers do not want mundane. Readers want reality suspended for the time it takes to read your book, and in order to suspend reality I need to give my readers a lesson in high voltage.
When you have finished your book, go back over it and figure out which chapters have a “holy cow” section in them, or a “shock and awe” section. If you have chapters that do not have that sense of electricity then you need to add it in.
Of course there are books that are character studies or love stories or whatever, and in those you will not have tense action, but you can still make sure that every chapter has something memorable in it. I don’t know about you, but for me, memorable is good and mundane is bad.
TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHARACTERS
Are you stuck trying to describe one of your characters? A trick I learned a long time ago was to head outside with my camera and take pictures of interesting-looking people. Then, when I got back to my writing studio, I had a real picture which I used in writing my descriptions. I found that having an actual photograph helped immensely in character descriptions.
Always an interesting interview...Stephen King
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The 1259 Shuttle from Yesterday to Today: William D. Holland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
DEVELOP GREAT ANTAGONISTS
I love bad guys and gals and I suspect all of you do too. The villain we love to hate….that’s who I want in my next book….oh, wait, I do have him. J
I think antagonists are invaluable in any novel, but they are only memorable if we, as writers, give them a great personality that has depth. I have mentioned this one character before but it is worth saying again. Hannibal Lecter is one of the great antagonists in literature and the movies. I mean, the guy was a serial killer….and yet….he was charming and funny and I loved him.
If you can write a novel with a character that dynamic, you have got yourself a winner.
BUILD FROM THE GROUND UP
This falls under the category of do what I say and not what I do, because I cannot follow this rigid lesson when writing. However, many people are architects when it comes to writing a book, and as architects you begin with a vision and then you build from the foundation upwards.
Start with one sentence. Describe your novel in one sentence. Now, describe it in one paragraph.
Now, take each sentence in that paragraph and write a page about it.
Now write the book.
When you have finished writing your book on Day 365, it will be time for the next item on our list.
RE-WRITE, ADD AND PURGE
Let me tell you my process when writing a novel.
I write the bare bones of the novel first. I have it in my head, so I just start writing. Usually, when the entire storyline is completed, I only have about 100 pages. That is when it is time for the second phase of my writing. During this phase I fill in with loving care. I give the characters more depth. I paint the scenes with more detail. I add foreshadowing where needed and I toss in a few plot twists if necessary.
By the time I finish with the second phase my book is at the proper length and then it is time to toss out the sloppy and edit for grammar.
Using my process, the first phase actually only takes about a month to write. The second phase can take two or three months and then the editing and purging can take another month. If I write the way I am capable of writing, I should be able to write a book in six months. Adjust according to your own style and writing speed.
My writing process
And That’s All There Is to It!
I wrote that facetiously by the way. I do not intend to portray the book-writing process as a simple one. It is difficult and it takes a lot of work, but it is also very, very rewarding.
For those who have debated about doing it, I sincerely hope you give it a go. You just might end up with something you can be proud of for the rest of your life.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)