Write Your Novel: 5 Tips to Help You Prepare

Write your novel

You’ve been dreaming of penning a story and now have the time to write your novel. You sit down at your computer and stare at the blinking cursor on the blank screen. You know the story concept you want to write but have no idea how to start.

Instinctively, you know that “It was a dark and stormy night” probably isn’t the right beginning. But what is? To ensure that you communicate your concept effectively, you need to prepare to write your novel.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Outline your story idea before you write your novel

A budding writer recently asked me for advice. She was having trouble writing the ending for her book and was stuck. The problem was that she had set off without a plan and then found she’d written her character into a situation she couldn’t resolve. While some people feel that they can write a novel by just typing away with no preparation, that approach can be difficult and frustrating for a new writer.

It is true that magic is created when you’re engrossed in the writing process, but I find that it’s most effective to prepare to write your novel before letting your story flow from your fingertips. I find that when I am properly set up, the process is smoother because I have guideposts and mile markers to help me find my way.

Without a plan you might wind up in a ghost town

Writing without a plan is a bit like taking a road trip by just choosing a compass direction and taking off. It could be a brilliant choice, or you might drive for two hundred miles to discover a small town that doesn’t even have a motel. Sure, it can be an adventure, and I’m sure you’d get something out of it; but if you’d done a little research, you may have found a National Park two hundred miles in a different direction with glorious waterfalls and amazing views. Similarly, outlining before you write will save you from wasted time and words. It will save you from the disappointment of tossing thousands of words later.

There are many ways to outline. One way is to write a rough summary. It’s a bit like sketching the image before you apply paint to the canvas. Just summarize your story in a few pages. Don’t worry about grammar. Do be sure to include all major plot points.

One system for outlining

Another system I like to use involves a journalistic approach to each incident in the book. I like to jot down:

  • The title of the incident
  • The characters who will appear
  • When it took place
  • Where it happened
  • The purpose of this scene in the book

 

For instance, I might create an incident like so:

  • Title: First day of college
  • Who: Theon, George, and Mikey
  • When: Sept 5, 1983
  • Where: North Dorm of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA
  • Purpose: Introduce college setting and show Mikey living away from home for the first time.

Since the outline consists of notes from you to you, the form it takes really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the method helps you to prepare to write your novel.

2. Shape your story

Shape your story with structure as you write your novel

Now that you have a list of incidents or a basic outline of the story, it’s time to shape it into a format that will work. If you’re not familiar with the three-act structure, it’s worth looking into. Once you understand it, review a few of your favorite books and movies and see how they incorporate the three acts into their story. Then consider how your story can fit into that structure.

In addition, it’s time to consider the arcs your characters will follow throughout the story. The main characters need to follow paths that make sense for your book. Although you might decide to work out the details of their journeys as you write your novel, you should have a rough idea of where they’re going and where they’ll end up before you start.

Conflict is a key element for any story. Throughout your book, your main characters should encounter many conflicts and difficulties along the way. These serve to raise the readers’ heart rates as they turn the pages or swipe forward. Suspense and mystery help keep readers interested.

As you take these factors into consideration, your outline or summary may need adjusting. That’s normal. At this phase, your story is a bit like clay that you can mold and squish into the shape you desire. After all, you’re the creator.

3. Get to know your main characters

A great story has strong, believable characters. As you prepare to write your novel, you can get a head start on creating characters that your readers will identify with and cheer for. Start by jotting down notes about your main character. If you feel stuck, imagine that you are interviewing him. Prepare questions ahead of time. It might help to start with a detailed physical description. Then write down basic information about him, such as:

  • Occupation
  • Marriage status
  • Number of children
  • Hobbies
  • Mannerisms

Create fun, realistic characters when you write a novel

After you have an idea of his basic attributes, you might delve into his ideology, general life philosophy, religious preferences, etc. Continue with this exercise until you feel you can answer any question about him with confidence. In other words, you know him inside out. Take the time to get to know each of your other characters in a similar way. When you know your main characters this thoroughly, many of the scenes will write themselves because you know how your people will act in any given circumstance.

If you still feel that your characters are disconnected strangers, imagine putting two characters into a room together. Set up the scene and watch how they interact. Take notes. Observe their mannerisms as well as their dialogue. Write it all down. You’ll learn a lot about them in this way.

Don’t worry about bit players in a scene. Although adding a few words of description can help set the scene, you don’t need to create a biography for the ballroom dancing instructor who appears only on page 39.

4. Build the world

If you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy story, you’ll need to spend some time building your world. This is a lot of fun! The laws of physics might not be the same, nor will the native plants and animals necessarily resemble those of Earth. Consider the history of the races that inhabit your world. What makes them distinctive?

One writing coach suggested to me that it helps to keep the setting somewhat familiar for the reader and change up only a few key things. If everything is completely different, it makes it hard for people to relate easily. They’ll get confused and put the book down. Also, you can wind up spending a lot of time explaining the nuances of the world, which can be boring and pull the reader out of the story.

world building is a key part of writing a bookAs you prepare to write your novel, think of all the aspects of the world that you will need the reader to understand. Sometimes it works to create intricate background stories that delve into the history of the society. Of course, it’s never a good idea to dump this data in a prologue or the first few chapters, as it clogs up the story with a lot of facts.

Some authors enjoy creating detailed maps of their worlds to orient the readers with the layout of the land. You’ll also sometimes find detailed genealogy tables for a family of characters in the book. There are many ways to build a world. Select the ones that work for you and your story.

5. Set yourself up for success

It’s easy to say that you want to write your novel. It’s another matter altogether to create a plan to actually do it. I’m reminded of the “Just Do It” motivational video that circulated a few years ago. There’s some truth in that statement. Sometimes you just need to bypass all the distractions that inevitably will crop up and decide that you’re going to complete your book. However, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.

Find a comfortable spot to write your novel

find a good place to write your novelThis might be your bed or your dining room table. It might be a lawn chair in your back yard. Or it could be a bench at a nearby park. It helps to have a steady and established spot, where you know what to expect in the environment. Comfort is important. Make sure your seat is comfortable, giving you the back support you need.

Your space should be as free from distraction as possible. Definitely don’t put yourself at the center island of your kitchen when the children are all home and running around. You’ll get interrupted in multiple ways. Ideally you have a room where you can close the door (and maybe lock it).

Find your writing time

When I was younger, I did my best work at midnight. Honestly, I couldn’t think with doing anything meaningful before 10am. Nowadays, I like to write in the mornings. I have  three kids and find that I write the best before everyone gets up. 6am is a great time!

I recommend selecting the right time of day for you, then working consistently at that time every day. If you’re serious about writing a book, you’ll need to put in at least one hour. Remember, it takes a while to get into the groove, so giving yourself a 20-minute window will just be an exercise in frustration.

Set realistic targets

Some people might find it more productive to set a word-count writing target each week than a time goal. If you are a daydreamer by nature, time targets won’t help. After all, sitting in front of your laptop building castles in the air for thirty minutes isn’t going to help you write your novel.

So, how many words should you plan to write a day? That really depends on you. You can estimate that 250 words is about a page, so I’d encourage you to write a few pages each day. When I get going (and I’m well set up with an outline), I tend to max out at 5,000 words. After that, it becomes an unintelligible jumble of syllables.

Set a daily, a weekly, and a monthly target. Also, decide on a final deadline for your book. Then make those targets, or better yet, beat them!

 

Being a mother of three children, I’m a planner at heart. I believe that if you really want to write your novel, you need to properly prepare and follow through with the targets you establish. Set yourself up for success and don’t accept failure as an option. If you’re embarking on your first book and want a few tips, please check out my blog or write me for advice. I’m always happy to help!

If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, please check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

How can I best help you?

    How to Find a Theme for Your Memoir

    What is your theme for a memoir?When most people sit down to write their life story, they usually don’t contemplate literary elements. After all, isn’t a memoir simply a series of events that happened in real life? While that’s true, you still need to follow the rules of writing. You must find a theme for your memoir. This theme is the fundamental idea that ties your story together.

    Over the years, I’ve discovered several approaches that might help you find your theme:

    Look for obstacles you have overcome

    Overcoming obstacles to win against all odds is a favorite theme in books and film. Most memoirs involve a triumphant victory over a major life hurdle. This makes for a great theme because the readers can root for you while identifying with the theme as it relates to their own life.

    Perhaps you battled a major illness and came out the other side healthy. Or maybe you had a particularly challenging childhood and found success through forgiveness. Through sharing your experiences and achievements, you can inspire others to take action and make changes in their lives for the better.

    Find lessons you’ve learned

    Your readers might identify with the life lessons you have learned along the road to success. As you write your memoir, you’ll probably reveal a few personal imperfections along the way. If these flaws resolve as your story unfolds, these could become a powerful theme for your memoir.

    For instance, one client of mine realized she’d been a little too trusting of unsavory characters and learned to stand on her own two feet by the end of her book. Other themes that might come from life lessons could include realizing that complacency won’t help you achieve your goals or that sometimes you need to face evil head-on to survive.

    Summarize your story in a few lines

    Ask what is the story about to find your memoir themeA writing mentor once advised me to answer the question What is my story about? before beginning the outlining phase. This direction was incredibly helpful to me as a budding writer because it pointed me in the direction of a good theme for my book.

    This question should always be answered in a few lines, like an elevator pitch. Keep it short and sweet. From this, you can often glean your theme. For instance, if your pitch is about how you managed to escape a suppressive government, your theme might be how perseverance overcomes all odds.

    I find that when I drill down to the core of the meaning of the book, I can find a theme easily.

    Ask for help

    If you’re too close to the story, it can be hard to pick out the theme on your own. In that case, you might try sharing your history with others and get their feedback. Getting that outside perspective can be invaluable to finding the unifying idea.

    In addition, you might discover a few truths that you hadn’t uncovered before. I remember working with an elderly client who had become a successful entrepreneur. After a few in-depth interviews with me, he realized that the teacher he’d idolized as a child was, in fact, a serpent in disguise, denigrating and abusing his students. As we continued to talk, we discovered other destructive people who had caused him difficulties throughout his life. These conversations brought out a powerful theme for his memoir.

     

    Finding a theme for your memoir doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply look for the universal ideas and takeaways you want you reader to receive. Once you have a theme for your memoir, you might just find that the words flow effortlessly as you share your life story with your readers.

    If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

    How May I Help You?

      How to Conquer Writer’s Block

      Writer's block can be frustratingYou stare at a fresh, new document in frustration, but the words just won’t come. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your fingers to perform the chorus of taps you need. You are experiencing something very common for even the most seasoned authors. Writer’s block.

      These two little words evoke fear in the hearts of many brave warrior writers, causing them to spiral down into a swirl of anxiety and self-doubt. It’s a writer’s worst nightmare.

      While some claim that there is no such thing as “writer’s block,” the fact is that if you’re reading this article, you probably feel it’s real and that’s enough for me. Perhaps your well of inspiration has run dry. It isn’t “all in your head” and it isn’t an imagined curse.

      The good news is that there is a remedy.

      How do you conquer writer’s block? Think of writing in terms of flow—a steady, continuous stream of ideas being put into a document. Now, sometimes a flow can get stuck, just like a river can be stopped by a variety of blockades.

      So what is the solution?

      Remove the barrier and get the flow moving again. Start by writing something, anything.

      Write something, anything

      My main remedy for writer’s block is to write.

      writer's block can be handled by priming the pumpIf your creative well is dry, then you may need to prime the pump. Simply flowing words onto paper might just unstick you and pull you out of the stagnant doldrums.

      Find something you can write about very easily and just let yourself go. Don’t think about your current project. Your job is to simply get words out so you can get the river of words flowing again.

      A few ideas

      If you have writer’s block, here are a few suggestions:

      • Compose an old-fashioned letter or an email to a close friend. Share a recent experience you know she’d enjoy. Feel free to wax poetic.
      • Write in a personal journal you know no one will ever see.
      • Pen an article for a blog, sharing advice with your readers about something you know a lot about. If you don’t have a blog, now is a good time to start one.

      Even short pieces can help you get back into the swing of writing. You can write out a detailed to-do list, post messages on your favorite social media sites, jot down notes for your roommate or spouse, etc.

      It really doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you put words on paper. Remember, writers write.

      It’s in their blood.

      It’s in your blood.

      Note: It’s worth mentioning that reading can also help you write. If you’re stuck, try reading a book you really enjoy. You may become inspired!

      Plotters versus pantsers

      I’ve recently learned that in the writing world there are “plotters” and “pantsers.” Yeah, this was news to me, too. These terms describe authors who “plot” out an outline or those who “fly by the seats of their pants” and develop their story as they go.

      In case we haven’t met, Hi, I’m Laura Sherman the Friendly Ghostwriter, a dyed-in-the-wool plotter. I blog a lot about how to outline a book. I can’t even begin to write a short story without a detailed road map of where I’m going. It would be a hot mess. I’d be a hot mess.

      I realize that not everyone is a plotter. Many great writers are pantsers. That’s fine. Some of my best friends are pantsers.

      However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can always switch from one method to the other mid-stream. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your membership card to your team. No, if you are a pantser, you can secretly plot out the rest of the book and see if that helps you steer your way out of your writer’s block. Or, if you are a plotter, you can diverge from your outline to free flow a section just to get your creative juices going.

      Plotters, adjust your outline

      Writer's block can be helped through using a good outlineNow, if you’re a plotter like me and you find that you’re stuck, it could be that the writer’s block you’re experiencing is simply your common sense saying that you’ve headed in the wrong direction. If the words don’t fly off the keyboard, go back and make sure you’re on board with the direction of the story. It can be an easy fix; just make some adjustments to your outline.

      A book can be boiled down to a series of incidents. I often create my outline by listing all the events that will occur in chronological order. However, where an outline can fail is when the purpose of each individual incident isn’t specified or understood.

      With fledgling writers, I’ve found this to be a common problem. They’ve created a spectacular scene, but ultimately discover that it really has no purpose in the book they are creating. It just doesn’t tie into their themes.

      If this happens to me, I toss it from the current project and save it in a file for future use in a different story.

      As a side note, if you find that you’re bored with a scene, but it is vital for your story, just sketch it out and move on. You can spice it up in editing. Your immediate goal is to get a good rough draft under your belt.

      Keep in mind that it’s a first draft

      I’ve seen too many new writers spiral into vortex of self-invalidation regarding their first drafts when they write a book. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for them is to just bang out the first draft and don’t edit.

      Your first draft is the rough draft. The goal is to get your ideas out of your head and onto the page.

      The first draft won’t be perfect.

      It might even be ugly.

      That’s okay.

      Save editing for the editing stage of the process. Don’t edit as you write. The first draft should have tons of typos and errors. Mine always are littered with them.

      You write, you fix, you write, you edit, you write, you go back three pages and re-read it all, maybe even deleting whole paragraphs.

      You sit back and ask, “Is it perfect?”

      No.

      Ack! Now what? Stop writing.

      woman has writer's block because she edits too muchIf this is what’s happening with you, it could explain your “writer’s block.” The above scenario can become very choppy very quickly, because the sequence of actions is confused. You should write, write, write, write the first draft until it is complete. Then, and only then, do you take out the proverbial red pen and edit. Or hire an outside editor to help you. I’ve written an article about the different kinds of editors you might consider hiring. There are quite a few.

      Yes, writing a book calls for a leap of faith. So, close your eyes, let go of any preconceived notions, and just start typing. You’ll be amazed at what may come to you if you just allow yourself to create.

      Can’t find the right word?

      If you’re stuck on finding the exact word or phrase to describe something, don’t obsess over it. Sure, Google the word for synonyms or pull out your trusty thesaurus, but if nothing really works, put down something as a place holder and move on.

      Personally, if a word eludes me, I know it won’t be for long. When I move away from it, it never fails to pop into my mind, sometimes in the shower. It’s kind of the same with recalling names:

      Who was that woman at the party with the cheese plate?

      You know, the one with brown hair and glasses…

      Gladys, no.

      Judy, no.

      Then, a little bit later, while I’m washing the dishes…bam! It comes to me. It was Sarah Jones.

      So, whatever you do, please don’t waste hours staring at the blank screen, trying to retrieve the exact right phrasing now. It will come to you. Later.

      Surround yourself with supportive people

      Don't listen too critics too muchSometimes writer’s block goes deeper than the writing process. Some writers fall prey to their “inner critic,” which is basically the voice inside your head telling you that what you’re doing is not good enough. Being blunt, critics aren’t my favorite class of people.

      If you’re taking on the role of your worst critic, it can paralyze you to the point where you can’t write at all. There is absolutely no benefit to cutting yourself into shreds. Show your inner critic to the door of your mind and ask it to leave.

      One very real cause of writer’s block can derive from peers who discredit your abilities. If you have helpful friends who jokingly tell you, “Hey, Joe, don’t quit your day job!” this can be damaging to you as a writer. The only purpose of such comments is to get you to stop writing. Don’t seek advice from these people. Surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interests at heart, people who want to see you succeed.

      This isn’t to say that constructive criticism isn’t very helpful to a new (or an experienced) writer. Every writer can always improve and grow. I personally LOVE it when some kind soul writes in to tell me I have a typo in a blog article or gives me tips on my writing. It’s quite wonderful!

      When you’re trying to sort out whether someone’s feedback is helpful or not, the trick is to look at the intention behind the comment and really observe how it makes you feel. That will help you figure out where to file the suggestion. If the critique leaves you feeling good about yourself, listen to it. If you feel like you’re a poser who should never write again, toss the advice and the friend.

      Final thoughts

      As a writer you are engaged in one of the most amazing activities in the world: creating. It’s a wonderful and impressive ability that you have!

      Now, that’s not to say that writing isn’t hard work. It has its challenges.

      Writer’s block can be a bump in the road. But rest assured that it is a small bump that can be handled fairly smoothly. With a bit of experimentation, you can find the actions that will help turn things around. And if the remedy works once, it will probably work again. Soon, there will be no stopping you.

      If you need advice or help in the area of writer’s block, please don’t hesitate to email me!

      Additional articles you might find helpful:

      Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

      How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

      What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

      How to Write Great Dialogue

      How Can I Help With Your Writer’s Block?

        Problems Writers Face and Their Solutions

        solutions to problems writers faceHave you been interested in completing a book that has been on the backburner for years? If you don’t do something differently, you’ll be in the same boat in 2035. You really need to fully examine the situation. While it is true that there are numerous problems writers face, the good news is there are good solutions.

        In this article, my goal is to help you complete the first draft of your novel or memoir. I’m not going to address the marketing problems or issues of rejection and criticism.

        Let’s get your book finished first.

        Over the last twenty years, hundreds of authors have written me sharing the main problems writers face. Here are my thoughts on what you can do if you have these challenges.

        I’m too busy to write

        Problem: You have a full time job or are an entrepreneur. You have a great idea for a story but just don’t have the time to write each day. How do you fit in the hundreds of hours you know it will take to complete your book?

        Solution: Well, there are two solutions. One is you just carve out the time and make it work. Reorganize your life to fit in an hour a day to write (this gives you time to get set up and end off). In order to accomplish this, many writers get up a little earlier each day. For me, mornings are an ideal time to write.

        The second solution is to hire someone to help you. You might hire a partner, consultant, or ghostwriter. Whichever option appeals to you, you will need to pay upfront for the help. No one can donate their time for a percentage of the profits from the sale of your book.

        If you’re interested in my help, please feel free to contact me and we’ll arrange for a consultation.

        No end in sight

        no end in sight, a problems writers faceProblem: You’ve been working on this book for years and there is no end in sight. When a writer can’t complete their first draft, the problem almost always is a faulty outline (or a lack of one). There is no roadmap and therefore the author often gets lost. Which way is true north?

        Solution: Stop writing the first draft and create a detailed outline. Structuring your story (or memoir) is key to success. If you need help hitting the beats (or elements) required for good storytelling, please feel free to contact me for a one-hour consultation.

        Need more time to research

        Problem: Research is an integral part of any novel or memoir. The authenticity of the piece is what will compel the reader forward, engrossing them in your story. However, some writers get lost in the research phase and never begin writing. That’s a huge problem.

        Solution: Recognize when you done enough research to properly build the world of your novel or memoir. Your next step is outlining and then you should begin writing your first draft. Understand that as you write, you will naturally continue to research. For me, researching continues through even the editing phase. So don’t feel you need to have all the research done before you begin to write.

        Shiny objects around you

        distractions writers faceProblem: When you sit down to write, it’s very easy to get distracted. Checking email, Facebook, news, etc. are all popular diversions available 24/7. In addition, interruptions from family members and calls from friends can make writing seem impossible. The hour you’ve set aside to write disappears quickly.

        Solution: Allow yourself uninterrupted writing time each day. Find a nook in your home or outside where no one will disturb you. Turn off your internet and cell phone. Without the distractions you should find yourself much more productive.

        Too many potholes

        Problem: You’ve written over 30,000 words, but don’t feel like continuing. You are more than halfway done, but just don’t feel that spark to write anymore. What happened? You’ve gotten off track and need to discover where you took an incorrect turn.

        Solution: If you have a good, detailed outline in hand, revisit it and make sure all your elements are there. Analyze it carefully to see if something doesn’t feel right about the storyline. Contact me if you need a sounding board. I can usually spot the problem within an hour consultation.

        If you don’t have an outline that’s the problem. Writing by the seat of your pants can be fun and thrilling, but one of the hazards inherent in this way of writing is that you can find yourself on a bumpy road that needs some major construction work to fill in potholes. The reason you don’t want to write anymore is probably because the story has a major flaw. Go back and put in the time to outline; the solution should pop into view. Be prepared to do some rewrites.

        I’m bored

        Problem: You’ve been writing your book for years and find the whole story line boring now. You wonder if anyone will actually want to read your book. Finding the time to finish the project gets harder and harder with each passing week or month.

        Solution: Get some feedback. It’s possible that your story (or the main characters within it) have flatlined. If you’d like my input, I’m happy to help. You can hire me on an hourly basis to review your story and give you feedback and advice.

        I just don’t feel like writing today

        being uninspired; problems writers faceProblem: Taking one day off from writing isn’t a red flag, but if you find that you feel uninspired to write day after day, that isn’t a good sign. As I’ve mentioned a few times, make sure you have a good roadmap before you start. However, if your outline is good, but you are uninspired, I have an idea for you.

        Solution: Some writers feel bored and uninspired if they know exactly where the story is going. They don’t feel like continuing because they know all the nuances of the piece. One trick to keep yourself engaged is to leave off at a cliffhanger after each writing session. Don’t conclude the scene but leave it for the next day. Yes, I stole this idea from Scheherazade, who stayed alive night after night by telling her husband parts of an exciting adventure, making sure to leave off before its conclusion. For me, this keeps the process exciting.

        I’m too tired to write

        Problem: You sit down to write but feel exhausted after the day’s events. The kids were screaming over who got the purple dish with the bunny or your boss asked you to stay late to do extra tasks because your coworker was out sick again. These are problems writers face every day and leave one feeling wholly uninterested in writing one’s book.

        Solution: Take the time to take care of yourself. A writer expends calories doing mental exercises like writing (about 60 – 100 calories per hour). You need to eat properly and get enough sleep, or you won’t write well. In addition, make sure you are getting physical exercise. Swimming, running, or even walking will help increase your energy, which will make you a better writer. For me, I love to take a two-mile walk each day. I listen to Audibles, which keeps me doubly inspired.

         

        If you find I’ve missed problems writers face, please feel free to write me. I’m here to help you. And if you’d like a consultation, please fill in the form below so that I can reach out and set up a time to assist you.

        How Can I Help You?

          Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

          Avoid crucial memoir mistakes when writing your bookMemoirs are an extremely popular genre with readers. Why? I think that’s because so many people love to step into the shoes of another person and learn about their world for a few hours. However, it’s important to understand that readers will put your book down if you fall into certain traps and commit basic memoir mistakes.

          If you are new to this genre, your first step should be to really understand what a memoir is and how to structure this kind of book. Really embrace this style of writing and focus on your memoir themes. This will save you a lot of frustration in writing and marketing your book.

          What is a memoir?

          A memoir is a very personal story, told by the author from his or her viewpoint, which shares a certain period in the author’s life. While it can be confused with an autobiography, it actually has a different feel. An autobiography reads more like a biography but is told from the author’s perspective. It typically commences with the author’s birth and spans through their entire life. This book a bit more clinical in style, whereas a memoir is all about emotion.

          Reading memoirs allows us to delve deeply into the lives of people who have done something remarkable in their lives. Perhaps they overcame incredible odds to reach success in some aspect of their life, or they fought an illness and survived, or maybe they lived through an extraordinary moment of history. We can learn so much about others and ourselves through memoirs.

          Popular Types of Memoirs

          Within the memoir genre there are a host of categories to choose from. Of course, there is bound to be some overlap, but here are a few options to consider when writing your memoir:

          Transformational stories

          Stories of transformation can be popular memoir themes

          As a ghostwriter, these are my favorite memoirs to write. These are the stories where the author has overcome some great obstacle in life and wishes to share the details of his or her redemption or recovery. This can encompass overcoming an illness such as cancer, surviving a traumatic childhood to achieve success as an adult, recovering from an addiction, leaving a country with an oppressive government to flourish in a new place, or the classic rags to riches story, which can take many forms.

          Success in business stories

          When you talk to most successful entrepreneurs, you’ll discover they faced numerous daunting obstacles as they climbed the ladder to victory. People in power will often tell you that they failed many times before they figured out how to make it. They wish to share the lessons they learned and their triumph with others, and a memoir is a natural vehicle for their story. This type of memoir is also a favorite of mine (and there is often crossover with the transformational memoir).

          Travel stories

          Some memoirs take the reader on a journey through an exotic land, sharing all the details of that location. These stories usually encompass another theme, so they aren’t only about the new foods the author ate or the striking vistas he or she viewed. Rather, they are usually about a spiritual, emotional, or transformational journey for the author as well.

          Memoir Mistakes

          After talking to hundreds of first-time authors, I’ve discovered there are some common misconceptions about how to write a memoir. If you’re considering writing your life story, you’ll want to avoid these very basic memoir mistakes. Don’t worry, they are easy to sidestep.

          Memoir Mistake Number 1: Focusing on the trivial rather than the big picture

          Do you need help writing a book?

          When you write your memoir, you aren’t recording your life’s trivial events in detail. This is high on the list of memoir mistakes because your readers are not interested in what you ate at each meal or which bus you took to work. Toss most of the trivia and focus on the big picture.

          This is fairly easy to do. Before you begin writing your memoir, ask yourself, “What can the reader learn from reading my story?” You might need to dig deep and really mine for the gold that’s there. The lessons you have learned over the years will form the backbone of your book.

          It might help to zero in on a theme. This will provide focus. There are a wide variety of great memoir themes to choose from. Here are just a few examples:

          • Hard work pays off
          • Self-pity is a trap
          • A positive outlook helps you attain your goals
          • Change can be a good thing
          • Life is too short not to forgive

          When you determine what your book’s theme is, your next step will be to find incidents that illustrate these ideas for your readers. Of course, you wouldn’t want to come out and tell your readers what the theme might be within the pages of your memoir.

          Instead, you should show your readers your message through the incidents of your book. Delve into the emotional sacrifices, mistakes and triumphs to share the journey you took. They’ll get the message!

          Memoir Mistake Number 2: Covering your entire life rather than focusing on a specific time period

          Remember, you’re not writing a school essay or an autobiography. A typical memoir mistake for new authors is to want to start at birth and move forward chronologically. You’re writing a memoir, which will focus on a certain period, one that would fascinate a reader and teach him or her something new about an area of life. It’s a slice of your life, rather than the whole pie.

          Now, it’s worth noting that a memoir is usually not written in diary form. Journaling can be a wonderful and beautiful expression of one’s deepest thoughts, but it usually doesn’t translate directly into a book. For one thing, the target reader of a diary is, well, you; a memoir is usually written for others to read. Having said that, one client recently hired me to help her compile her life story into a book that she could then have and read. If you are the sole target reader, you should write your book the way you would like to read it.

          If you hire a ghostwriter to write your memoir, keep in mind that diaries always have a strong place in the research of a memoir. Having been a professional ghostwriter for twenty years, I can tell you that a client’s diary is a rich source of color when I write a memoir for a client.

          Memoir Mistake Number 3: Not considering the feelings of the real people mentioned in your book

          It's a memoir mistake not to consider the feelings of others when writing your book

          Memoirs are not a good avenue for retribution for past wrongs done to you. Writing a book for revenge is a sharp-edged weapon which can do permanent damage. Besides being a morally questionable action to take, remember that you can open yourself up to lawsuits.

          When you write your memoir, you can’t avoid discussing the lives of the people around you. They will become the main characters in your book. Sure, you can change the attributes a bit—maybe alter the name of the grouchy neighbor or make the schoolteacher a brunette instead of a blond. These minor modifications can go a long way to hide the characters in your book.

          However, it will be impossible to completely conceal certain pivotal people in your life. For instance, your parents or siblings will recognize themselves.

          The safest approach would be to ask all your friends and relatives who might be in your book how they feel about that. If they agree to be featured in your memoir, take the additional step and ask them to sign a release. You can find examples of a legal release online. If any friend or family member refuses to sign, it might be best to keep them out of your memoir.

          The bottom line is that whenever you put something in writing, it becomes permanent. While you might feel fine with airing your family’s dirty laundry today, will you be all right with it two years from now? How about twenty years? To avoid these memoir mistakes, it’s best to write about everyone in a good light now to prevent potential upsets later.

          Memoir Mistake Number 4: Writing for every reader rather than focusing on a specific demographic

          It is a memoir mistake to write for every reader; pick a demographic.

          When I’m working with a first-time author, I’ll ask who the ideal reader might be. Many times a client will say, “all readers.” Writing for “everyone” is high on the list of memoir mistakes because you need to pinpoint a demographic and write to them. The more specific you can get, the better.

          • Consider that you might be at a dinner party. You have a story to share, something amusing that happened to you last year. How would you share that anecdote? I would imagine that you’d tell it differently if you were visiting the White House, seated with dignitaries, than if you were sitting with your bowling buddies or your teenage children. You’d use different vocabulary and your tone would probably change a bit. That’s because you’d want to create the biggest impact with your storytelling; you’d want your audience to receive your communication on a level that they would enjoy.

          So when you write, you need to keep your specific type of reader in mind, as if they were in front of you. Of course, even though you’re writing to that reader, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy your book. You may accidentally discover a new category of reader as you begin to market and sell your book.

           

          When you write your memoir, it can offer your readers a peek into your soul and universe. They will relish this. Memoirs are an important genre of the literary world. Just avoid the common memoir mistakes and you might just make a difference in someone’s life.

          Enjoy the journey!

          Check out these additional resources:

          Write and Publish Your Book

          How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

          Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

           

          How can I help you write your memoir?

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            How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

            Your protagonist needs a powerful character arcBestselling novels and memoirs have believable and memorable characters who carry the reader through the story. Think of your favorite books. Consider the main characters. They probably followed a compelling character arc, which encouraged you to follow them loyally and happily on their adventures.

            What is a character arc?

            A character arc is the journey the character follows through the story. This path usually parallels a traditional three-act structure. As you develop the first act, your reader is introduced to your main characters. The stage is set, a conflict is established, and the main character’s goals are revealed. After that, the protagonist encounters an incident that compels her to begin her journey. This catapults her into the second act, where she follows her personal call to action. Then in the third act, she encounters the climactic confrontation and has her triumphant victory.

            There are four main kinds of character arcs used in literature:

            • Transformational
            • Positive
            • Flat
            • Negative

            Transformational and positive arcs are somewhat similar. At the start of the story the character is in an unfavorable situation, but, by the end of the story he winds up in a far better position. Flat character arcs have no change. The character stays the same throughout the story. This type of arc is usually reserved for superhero-type protagonists, because they don’t need to change. They start out good and end up good. It’s worth noting that often minor characters don’t change much. In a negative arc the character ends up in a worse position than when he started.

            As a ghostwriter, I specialize in transformational or positive character arcs because I feel strongly that these make for a better reading experience. Although stories like Breaking Bad, where the main character becomes a meth dealer to solve his problems, can be very popular, they aren’t my cup of tea. I prefer to stick with uplifting plot lines.

            Positive character arcs

            transformation of a character in a book you writeIf your story has a happy ending, this is probably the character arc you’ll want to choose. A popular example of this would be Harry Potter. He starts his journey as an abused boy, confused by his special abilities. Along the way he blossoms into a confident hero of both the magical and muggle worlds. It’s worth noting that many of the other major characters go through their own arcs.

            If you’re writing a memoir, you are the protagonist of your piece, and your experiences will determine your character arc. Most likely it will be a positive one, otherwise why would you write your book?

            Over the last twenty years I’ve worked on seventeen memoirs. Each one told the story of my client’s fierce battle to overcome nearly impossible odds. These books were successful because the reader believed the characters’ journeys. They could identify with the authors on some level.

            One client shared his story of growing up in an impoverished community which lacked running water and electricity. He had a happy childhood, but there were many challenges and a lot of conflict. As he grew up, he overcame many obstacles. By the end of the book, he found his way to America and became a successful entrepreneur. The story is powerful, riveting, and relatable to many. Not surprisingly, this book is currently being made into a movie.

            A few tips for a successful character arc

            Tip #1: Conflict is key

            You need conflict in your bestselling book!Any story worth reading will start off with a bang (ie: it will throw the protagonist into a heap of trouble early on). Honestly, I always do my best to drop my readers into the deep end of the pool so that they have to tread water to keep up.

            Now, in order to produce this kind of an effect on your reader, you need to create conflict throughout your book. Your main character needs to struggle and fight his way through whatever circumstance life throws at him. Sometimes this conflict can be quiet because perhaps it comes in the form of a disagreement. Or it can be splashy, as the beginning of a war or an invasion. A story without conflict will become a book that collects dust in a forgotten thrift store.

            Tip #2: Develop strong characters

            Your goal is to create a main character your reader will want to follow. This can be difficult if she isn’t well developed. You must introduce your main character to the reader early on and make her intriguing and captivating. Firstly, give her strong characteristics. Then, be clear and certain in your presentation of her attributes and personality.

            I recommend that before you begin writing your first draft, you create bios for each of your major characters. Flesh out their back stories, work out their motivations, and make sure their behaviors are believable. Really understand who they are. Know them just as well as you know your real-life best friends. Once you have realistic three-dimensional characters, you can create compelling arcs for them to follow.

            Tip #3: Show, don’t tell

            Show, don’t tell is a popular phrase among writers. It means that you need to show elements of your story through action rather than through narrative. Keep this in mind as you create your lead character’s transformational arc.

            For instance, how boring would it be if your protagonist announced out of the blue that he planned to turn over a new leaf and stop selling drugs. Where is the conflict and drama? Your character needs a reason to make a change. And you must show that to the reader.

            Tip #4: Determine the correct character arc for your story

            Select the right character arc for your bookBy choice I have never written a book with a negative or flat character arc. But that doesn’t mean that these are not viable options. You will determine the correct path for your character based on your story and the message you wish to impart.

            For instance, if you’re writing a high-action adventure story along the lines of Indiana Jones, it might not work to have your main character undergo too many changes. A flat arc could work. In addition, it’s possible to tell a powerful story with a positive message through a negative arc illustration. The Godfather comes to mind as a good example. Michael Corleone starts out as a good guy, but by the time the door closes at the end of the first movie, you can see that he’s undergone a transformation for the worse.

            Not every character arc needs to see the protagonist through from complete failure to complete success or have a complete one hundred-eighty degree shift in viewpoint. Not every protagonist needs to be an Ebenezer Scrooge who turns from a miserly grump into a philanthropic benefactor by the end. No, the change might be a bit more subtle.

             

            As you work on outlining your book and creating the protagonist for your novel, consider the arc he or she will follow. Choose one that works for the story and the message you wish to write. Create an engaging character and a compelling arc, keeping in mind that you want your readers to relate to and understand them. Using these tips, you will find your readers rooting for your main characters and happily and loyally following them on their adventures.

             

            Seven Steps to Avoid Writing Distractions

            Don't allow distractions from writing to get in your way

            Are you sitting in front of your computer or typewriter, wondering why the words won’t flow? Don’t allow writing distractions to stop you from completing you book.

            If you want to finish your project within a year, you must commit to spending a few hundred hours. That can take forever if you’re piecing together tiny increments of time, spread out over months. If you allow writing distractions to creep in, you’ll find that you will just spend your time reviewing, rather than make forward progress.

            To avoid writing distractions, here are a few tips that might help:

            Step 1: Turn off your Wi-Fi

            Unplugging from the internet will stop you from checking your email, social media feed, or what’s up with your favorite sports team every two minutes. Unless you need the internet to do research, there’s no reason to have your Wi-Fi on. It’s the number one cause of writing distractions for many. You aren’t alone.

            Now, if you need the internet for your word processing program, you can use an app like Freedom, which allows you to block various websites. Sometimes we all need a little help to avoid the temptation of distractions from writing.

            Step 2: Turn off your cell phone

            Cell phones and writing distractions go hand in hand

            When writing, you must give yourself a chunk of time when you won’t be disturbed. When I hear that familiar ping from my cell phone, politely letting me know I have a new text message, it is hard to ignore.

            A ghostwriting client needs me…

            A friend has something important to say…

            My brother has a cute meme to share…

            Remember back to the time before cell phones? We all somehow got along without a barrage of continual communication. Your friends can wait an hour or two while you write.

            My advice is to completely turn your cell phone off while you write. That way you’ll avoid many different forms of writing distractions.

            If you don’t, the temptation to check texts and voice messages might be too great. These interruptions make it difficult to complete a writing task. Even putting the phone on vibrate will interrupt your creative flow. 

            Step 3: Use the tools that are best for you

            You are an artist. There’s no doubt about that. Please don’t be pressured to conform to another writer’s methods. Write in a way that’s most comfortable and productive for you.

            I work best on my laptop using Word. I’ve known writers who prefer working on yellow legal pads, writing long hand. Some like the old fashion feel of a typewriter’s keyboard. 

            There is no “right way” to write.

            The only wrong way is not to write. Whatever works to produce words on a page is correct. 

            Step 4: Find a quiet writing spot

            Avoid distractions from writing

            It’s important that you discover a good, quiet, comfortable place to write. This might be in your car, in a coffee shop, a library, or a nook in your home. Or perhaps you prefer to sit propped up on your bed with lots of pillows for support.

            Find a spot where the distractions are limited. For instance, setting up in the middle of a busy kitchen probably won’t work well.  Likewise, if you walk into a bar where everyone shouts your name upon entry, that might not be the most distraction-free environment for your work.

            If you aren’t sure which spot is best, try different ones. Which locations produce the most number of quality words per hour? 

            Step 5: Eat well, sleep well, take care of yourself

            It’s hard to write well when you’re tired or hungry. Exhaustion and an empty stomach can cause powerful writing distractions. Get a good amount of sleep and eat regular nourishing meals. Keep in mind that while junk food will stop the grumbling in your tummy, it is liable to make you tired, which will result is poor writing. Side note: If you’re fasting, your characters are likely to discuss food more than they should.

            Bottom line, writing is hard work. Take care of yourself. Get a good seven or eight hours of sleep each night.

            It’s worth noting that you do burn calories when you write. Yes, mental activities consumes energy, about fifty calories per hour.

            You might also do some aerobic exercise before writing, as it gets the blood pumping. 

            You know what your body and mind needs! Take good care of yourself and you’ll write a better book.

            Step 6: Prepare ahead of time

            I find that I’m less distracted when I’m well prepared. When the research is completed and I know where I’m going, the words usually flow seamlessly.

            One trick that I’ve learned over the years is to end a writing session mid-scene, especially if I leave off at an exciting cliffhanger. This takes some discipline, as you will probably want to push through and just finish it, but leaving it to the next day will give you something to look forward to. That way, you’ll know exactly what to write, and can embark on the next day’s target with ease.

            If you get carried away and complete the passage, you can still set yourself up for the next day. Put your notes in order and write the first few lines before you end off.

            Step 7: Don’t edit as you write

            After coaching various writers on the craft, I’ve noticed that editing too early is actually a writing distraction. Writers start doubting their ability to write and often stop in the middle of their book. They never pick it back up again.

            While it is fine to review the previous day’s work, don’t fall into the trap of editing before you finish your first draft. I know that can be hard, but remember, you really need to just get words down on paper. As long as you have a good, detailed outline, you’re fine to continue to the completion of that initial draft.

            Editing midway can cause many problems and is usually a complete waste of time. Understand that when you finish your first draft, you’ll be in a different place. You’ll know a lot more about the story, the characters and the plot elements, so that you can do a proper edit. 

            Most writers will do at least some rewrites during the editing phase, so if you start reworking pieces before you complete the first draft, you’re just doubling your work. Just plow forward and plan to correct errors later.

            In conclusion

            Every writer is different and every writer has his or her own process. What works for you might not work for me, and that’s fine. Find the successful actions that help you be as productive as you can be. The best measure of success is progress.

            How many words did you write this week?

            If you need a little help from a ghostwriter, please feel free to email me. We can work together to create your book!

            If you could benefit from my consulting services, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I can assist you on an hourly basis and troubleshoot any problems you might be having.

            Please check out these additional articles and resources:

            Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

            Memoir Themes

            How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

            How Can I Help You?

              Want to Write a Book?

              Want to write a book? Start now!

              As the year progresses, I think about all the potential authors out there who want to write a book. After all, I know that many people long to see their story in print. It’s an ultimate objective for many.

              How are you coming along with your goal?

              As a ghostwriter, I see many people procrastinate when it comes to writing a book. There are many excellent-sounding reasons why their book projects get shoved to the back of the closet.

              What’s the result?

              The books never get written.

              If you have a strong idea for a book, it’s important to write your book NOW. Don’t wait. I can’t emphasize this enough.

              Why do I feel this way?

              Well, here are a few reasons.

              In a year you’ll still be thinking about writing a book.

              If you want to write, schedule it!Think about it.

              Looking into my virtual crystal ball I can see that you have been pondering this book for several years. If you wait and do nothing, several more will pass. Decades even.

              I receive emails on a regular basis from authors who are passionate about writing a book. Beyond any other goal, they want to write. However, they often tell me: “I’m not quite ready to start.”

              Now, I will try to stay in touch with these folks throughout the year, contacting them regularly. My purpose is to help them complete their project. Their reply is often the same.

              “Yes, I want to write a book, but I’m too busy. Now’s just not a good time.”

              The problem is that this business of life will never change. You will always be busy. And whenever “now” is will rarely be a perfect moment to start.

              So what’s the solution?

              Find a way to write your book despite all the difficulties. Yes, you probably have many balls in the air, which you’re currently juggling.

              Find the time anyway.

              You can do it.

              You got this!

              Someone else will write a book very similar to yours.

              People sometimes are very afraid that someone will steal their book idea. That doesn’t happen often and isn’t something to fear. However, other people can come up with a similar idea on their own. That’s not only possible, but likely given all the authors in the world.

              That exciting plot twist that you’ve never seen before will appear in the mind of another author. Or a memoir similar to the one you’ve wanted to share, which you know will become a bestseller, will grace Amazon’s top 10. A different writer will have beaten you to the punch.

              Don’t allow that to happen to you!

              You will continue to think about your unfulfilled goal.

              Girl is sad she isn't writingIf you are anything like me, failure doesn’t sit well. This really hits home when you know you haven’t really tried to do your best to make your dream happen.

              You will continue to spend time thinking and considering your book project, wondering what your book would have looked like on the shelves of your local bookstore. You may even come up with brilliant marketing strategies to sell it. It’s all wasted time and energy if you don’t actually take action and write your book.

              You may want to write a book, but that isn’t enough. You must actually take the steps required to complete the project.

              That nagging feeling won’t go away. Trust me, you won’t be satisfied until you have completed your manuscript.

              You will develop a very bad habit of not writing.

              Habits come in many forms. Some involve doing an action you know you shouldn’t do and some involve not doing anything when you know you need to accomplish a goal.

              Once you develop the habit of not writing, it can become increasingly difficult to write. If you stop and start a lot, that pattern also becomes familiar. It becomes comfortable to you not to write and becomes something you learn to expect and accept.

              Don’t start down that path.

              You know you need to write!

              In order to actually complete your book, you must overcome the additional hurdle of the bad habit that you’ve formed. Authors require discipline to write a full-length book. There are no exceptions. It requires hundreds of hours. You can’t write a book in a week.

              Honestly, some people hire me because I’m a relentless bulldog when it comes to completing projects! Just ask my clients. They hire me because they know by the end of the ghostwriting process, they will have a book in their hands.

              If you want to write a book this year, the trick is to steadily write. If you can’t afford a ghostwriter, you will need to set aside time each and every day to work on your project. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of excuses as to why you don’t have time, energy, or enough pencils. The dog ate your manuscript shouldn’t fly either.

              Develop good writing habits and you will complete your book. If you wish to hire me as your consultant, please email me. I’ll keep you accountable and together we will complete your book!

              Excuses will enter in and plague you.

              If you want to write, don't allow excuses to stop you.Oh, you’ll come up with all sorts of legitimate sounding reasons for why you can’t write one day or the next. “I’m tired.” “There’s a good show on TV.” They sound good and reasonable, but you can’t let that deter you.

              Here’s a tip from your friendly ghostwriter: Treat yourself as if you were your own client.

              Give yourself targets and deadlines and then meet them!

              And finally, writing should be a joy. If it isn’t, something is wrong. If you’ve hit writer’s block, reach out and schedule a one-hour consultation today. I’ll get you writing again!

              If writing is a chore, don’t continue a painful process; the manuscript won’t come out well. Your readers will feel your resentment pouring from the pages. Think of the advice more experience chefs give their protégés: You need to cook with love. Your diners will tell the difference. As an author you need to write from a place of joy. Your readers will thank you for it.

              So, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this article and start writing!

              Additional articles you might find helpful:

              Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

              How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

              Help! I need help writing a book!

              Can I help you?

                Is Your Story Novel Worthy?

                Do you have a novel worthy concept?As you sit down to write a novel, you may become overwhelmed. It’s a lot of work and will take many hours. If this is your first novel, plan to spend hundreds of hours planning, researching, writing, and editing. If you find yourself in doubt as to whether your story is novel worthy, consider the elements of a good book and see if your concept measures up.

                A well fleshed-out protagonist

                To start, it makes sense to focus in on the hero of your story. After all you’ll be spending a lot of words sharing their journey throughout the book.

                Your protagonist should be relatable. That doesn’t mean they need to be likeable (but they often are). To make sure your hero is relatable, you need to do your homework and really get to know the main character inside out. Avoid stereotypes. For instance, not every woman loves to shop, and wealthy people aren’t always snobbish. The list goes on.

                It is wise to invest time creating a character profile. Start by jotting down the hero’s name, age, physical traits, occupation, marital status, etc. Then you can think of the creative, outside-the-box questions that will help you gain a better understanding of who this person really is.

                I recommend that you ask questions as if you were interviewing a live person. Some example probing questions might be:

                • What was your upbringing like?
                • What would you like to improve in your life?
                • What are your passions?
                • What is your five-year career goal?

                Don’t limit yourself

                Ask any questions and come up with the responses. Of course, you need to take notes. Review them and feel free to modify answers as new ones come in. Make sure the answers are consistent. The process is a bit like molding clay.

                Now, it’s important to know that you don’t have to fit in all these details into your novel. Most likely, that would make for a tedious read. Rather, you are simply trying to get to know your protagonist so that you can write about him with reality. For instance, if you know that your main character grew up in the lap of luxury, he would know his way around fine dining. Whereas a man who grew up in the foster system might not know what to do with the two extra forks at a five-star restaurant.

                When you do in-depth research on a character, you’ll discover that you can describe the way he dresses, holds himself, talks to others, and many other traits that will help you create a novel worthy story.

                A properly motivated main character

                properly motivated character is novel worthyWe all have reasons for what we do in life. There is often a common motivating force that drives our actions. Now that you understand them better, it’s time to dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick.

                With a solid purpose in mind, the reader can track with your protagonist’s journey and hopefully root for them to accomplish their goals.

                It’s also worth mentioning that the goals of your protagonist will probably change throughout the story. They might start out with the ambition to become wealthy and own a mansion or two, but by the end of the story, they realize that they need more than possessions in life to be happy. Or perhaps your lead character starts the novel wanting to hold on to a failing marriage, only to realize by the end that the thing she needed to gain was a sense of self-confidence and independence.

                Once you know what motivates your character, their scenes in your novel will align more fully and resonate with your reader.

                Loads and loads of conflict

                novel worthy concepts include conflictThe quantity and quality of conflict is key to determining whether your story is novel worthy.

                Think back to some of your favorite novels. Did things come easy for the protagonist? No. Never. It’s always an uphill battle. Otherwise, the story would be boring.

                Once you’ve identified the hero’s goal, you need to make it hard for them to reach it. And there should be some risk involved. Add in a lot of challenges and gnarly stakes. If your protagonist never has a problem, you don’t really have a story.

                Boy meets girl, boy gets girl is super boring and takes less than a page to write. However, boy meets girl, boy is separated from girl through a series of misunderstandings, tragedies, and misfortunes, could be a good story. Boy overcomes hurdles and battles, as well as internal fire-breathing dragons to win back the affections of girl. Great! Or boy meets girl, boy makes a series of mistakes and loses girl, and then boy turns his life around to fix his flaws and wins back the love of his life. That works.

                Conflict can come in many forms. It doesn’t mean your book needs hand-to-hand combat scenes or full-blown wars. Look over your life. Have you ever had opposition to your goals? Have you ever stood in your own way? Sometimes a person can be their own worst enemy. These are valid conflicts that we can all relate to.

                A good story is filled with conflict, hitting the protagonist with a seemingly never-ending series of one-two punches throughout your novel.

                A creative and unique angle

                Be creativeThe more I study storytelling the more I realize that many stories follow a familiar path. Although there isn’t a specific “formula” that applies to all novels, you do need to follow a structure that works. If you’re new to writing, check out the concept of the three-act structure. It will help guide you.

                One way to tell if your idea is novel worthy is to make sure you have a unique take on the story line you’re tackling. There are many ways to tell a classic tale.

                When working with children, I love to help them flex their creative muscles. Sometimes they are really into a book series and want to use those characters and plot ideas to write their own short story. That’s fine if they want to practice their writing chops by mimicking their favorite author. It isn’t plagiarism but it also wouldn’t qualify to be novel worthy. Even fan fiction includes unique stories with twists the reader hasn’t seen.

                When you’re plotting out your storyline, you can use some of the tried and true structures but try to infuse it with your own creativity. For instance, how many different “Cinderella” books or movies have you read or scene? How about the classic “Romeo and Juliet” tale? These are pretty easy to identify. We know the story, and often even know the ending, but it’s the unique angle that keeps us engaged throughout.

                Go forth and write!

                Once you have these elements down, it’s time to consider your outline. Figure out your beginning, middle and end of the novel worthy story and create the individual incidents that will make up your book. Armed with a detailed outline, write your first draft. Don’t pause to reread over and over, but forge ahead and get your first draft completed. Once done, now you can edit your book.

                If you need help at any stage of the writing process, please feel free to contact me. I enjoy consulting authors as they write their books, helping them conquer the various challenges they are sure to encounter.

                Need help?

                  Tips For Writing Your Memoir

                  Writing your memoirIf you have an interesting story to tell, you might be contemplating writing your memoir. As you sit down to start, most likely you’ll realize it isn’t an easy task. Most likely there will be a lot of emotion behind many of the events that have shaped your life story. Collecting these incidents together for your readers will take strength, time, and patience. Knowing this upfront will help you plan and complete your book.

                  Take a deep breath. You got this!

                  Many people have reached out to me over the last two decades asking advice about how to write their life story. Here are a few tips to get you started:

                  Writing your memoir takes time

                  Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking. For a professional writer, I’d estimate it will take two hundred hours to complete. If you’re new to the process, plan for it to take longer.

                  It’s important not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

                  Eight months to a year is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable to making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

                  Character flaws are key

                  Even if you have lived the life of a hero, you will need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

                  The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life when writing your memoir. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

                  Humor goes a long way

                  When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

                  For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

                  Write and write and write

                  If you’re writing your memoir on your own, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

                  Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

                  Feel free to embellish the details

                  No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

                  For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

                  The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

                  The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

                  Be honest

                  Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

                  Be objective.

                  This might mean that you don’t come out the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

                  One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

                  Read other memoirs

                  Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

                  “Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

                  Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

                  You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

                  With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

                  Don’t edit, just write.

                  Enjoy the experience.

                  Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

                  Additional articles you might find helpful:

                  Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

                  Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

                  How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

                  Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

                  How can I help you?