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Step Four: Write

Updated on July 9, 2014

Mystery thrillers take a lot of planning and may be written best by working backwards.

Write On

Once you have an idea, and know where you want to take it with a plan, characters, setting, and plot, as well as the research, start writing! Authors have their own style when it comes to starting their stories. Some writers prefer to start at the very beginning, going until the very end; while some do the opposite and start at the end to work their way back to the beginning. Others prefer to start with a specific scene, whether it is an important aspect of the novel, the original idea, or something to get the action going. Sometimes this depends on the genre of the novel, or the concept itself.

The Hook

Start with action. Readers need to be hooked within the first few chapters, so drop the characters in the middle of a scene and go from there. Try not to add too much background information into the beginning of the story, instead let it come out through character actions and dialogue. A hook happens in the first chapter, something to engage the readers, either with a sentence or a scene. Usually the hook involves action, a constant motion to keep the reading going, flipping the pages and wanting to know more. If there is too much backstory right at the beginning, the action is bogged down and provides too much information for the reader to digest. If there are questions to be answered, quests to take, and a mystery to solve, readers will strap in for the ride.

Keep Going

Try not to edit too much while writing. If authors pause too many times to re-work a passage, they never move forward. Find a good work environment and routine for writing.

Pick a time of day where the mind is motivated and inspired. Some authors prefer the early morning to write, because the mind is just waking up and filled with dreams. Others prefer at night, where they have the most energy. Whatever time of day is best for your writing methods and schedule should be utilized.

Find a place where you feel comfortable. A desk, a park bench, a beach chair, wherever authors feel relaxed. Choose a quiet place where there are no distractions. No TV in the background, no family or friends hovering around, nothing to interrupt the creative flow.

Set up a routine. Authors often have a set of tasks they perform while writing, such as grabbing some tea or coffee (or wine), shutting themselves in their office, organizing their work space by taking out notes, pens and paper, opening up a Word document on the computer, etc. Once a routine is in place, it will be easier to sit back and write. Music can be helpful for inspiration to some, while noise is only a distraction for others, who need silence to think.

Don’t give up! If an author gets hit with the dreaded Writer’s Block disease, the worst thing to do is give up. Perhaps take a break, work on another project, look over story notes and plot, figure out if a character is going on the right path, try to find the cause of the block. Using prompts to get the writing flow going again, answering questions about story, plot, or characters, doing more research, or simply walking away and getting some air can help combat Writer’s Block.

Keep motivated. Set goals, such as word count per day, a time limit, writing to a certain scene, chapter, or page. Goals help authors see ahead, gives them something to work for, like exercising for athletes. Authors should reward themselves when they meet certain goals, such as treating themselves to dinner, spending time with family or friends, whatever it takes to keep themselves motivated for the next goal. Setting deadlines for themselves also aids authors when it comes to the publishing process, where editors and agents will require a certain pacing.

Write Daily

Find the pace: determine the amount of time each day to write. The important thing to remember about writing is to do it on a consistent basis, preferably daily, whenever an author’s schedule allows. If an author writes for about thirty minutes a day, each day, the book is bound to be finished. If there are too many breaks between writing sessions, too much time and space between each written chapter, the plot and story will fall away. If an author has to re-read what she has written in the pages before, it takes time away from the actual writing process.

Sometimes writing every day seems hard, but taking the time to work on plot, character development, research, and other aspects of the novel can benefit the writing process. When the novel is almost complete, authors should seek writing workshops, editors, literary agents, and even publishers to understand where to go next. Having the goal to contact editors and publishers could motivate an author to finish the novel.

However, authors shouldn’t overwork themselves. There should be a time limit, word count, page limit, or some boundary for each writing session. Taking an entire day to write several chapters could be a great way to get ahead in the process, especially when the motivation and inspiration is there, but that leaves a challenge for the next day. Don’t spend all the energy in one session. Of course, if the writing bug ever hits, let the pen fly!

Sample Daily Schedule

Day
Chapter
Words
Total
Day 1
Chapter 1
1,000
1 Chapter, 1,000 words
Day 2
Chapter 2
1,000
2 Chapters, 2,000 words
Day 3
Chapter 3
1,000
3 Chapters, 3,000 words
Day 4
Chapter 4
1,000
4 Chapters, 4,000 words
Keep track of daily writing

Format

Either during the writing process, or after the novel is complete, make sure the manuscript is formatted according to requirements of publishers and editors. There are multiple resources on how to format manuscripts, although each publisher is different and may have specific guidelines they look for. Before submitting their novels, authors need to properly format their work. Some editors and agents will help with formatting, but having something ready to work with is always a good beginning.

The Basic Format Rules are:

  1. Type the document using Times New Roman 12 point font (others use Courier, which is better for plays and screenplays)
  2. 1” margins on all sides of the page
  3. Use Headings for each chapter and center the chapter title 1/3 down the page
  4. Insert page breaks for each new chapter, so every chapter starts on a new page
  5. Indent each paragraph, except for the beginning paragraph of each chapter or new scene
  6. Indicate a new scene with the # symbol, a few *** centered on the page, or a blank line
  7. Double-space, like for academic essays (but don’t add extra spaces between paragraphs)
  8. Add a title page with your name, novel title, and contact information
  9. Use a header with your last name, novel title, and page number (except for the first title page)
  10. At the end of your manuscript, write The End or put the # symbol so publishers know they have the full text

Requirements

Certain genres have requirements of their own, such as word count to determine a full-length novel, a shorter novella, and more. Authors must determine how long they want their book to be, how many chapters, how long each chapter should be, whether it is in parts, whether there will be sequels and prequels, and more. Publishers, editors, and literary agents will have their own requirements, such as genre or word count, so authors should research where they want to send their manuscript once it’s finished.

Novels generally weigh in at about 80,000 words, ranging from 50k-100k. If a novel is 100k or more, editors and publishers are wary to print the novel for various reasons: printing costs, quality of writing, not enough editing done, etc. Each genre has a general word count associated with it as well; fantasy and science-fiction books tend to be longer. The audience is also a factor in word count: middle grade fiction is considerably shorter than adult novels, and Young Adult novels are a bit longer, although not as long as adult novels. Of course, these are just general recommendations, and not exact rules. However, for beginning writers, adhering to these guidelines ensures a better chance of getting published.

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