Now Is the Right Time To Write A Book

write a novel for your readersDo you have a burning desire to write a book this year?

You’re not alone!

I believe that everyone has at least one book within them. Whether they wish to share a story idea that’s been simmering for years, sage business advice to help others succeed, a personal life story that just needs to be told, or a family history project that is time sensitive.

As a ghostwriter of twenty years, I’ve worked with many clients in each of the above categories. I love them all because each genre has its own particular challenges and its own rewards. And although they are all unique, each book project requires the same elements and preparation.

If you follow the steps in this article, you will avoid the common problems people face, which can cause writer’s block and cause them to fail in their goal to complete their books.

Get ready…

Before you can really get started on a book, you need to prepare yourself for the project. I believe the reason most people never complete their books is that they don’t set themselves up properly from the get-go.

Make a firm decision to write a book

Make the firm decision to write a book—no matter what. This decision will help you stay on track in the face of distractions. Give yourself a final deadline and target dates along the way for milestones to complete. That will help you finish your book.

Find the time

The best way to complete your book is to make regular progress. Find a time of the day when you won’t be disturbed. This may be early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after all of your other responsibilities are done.

If you can only carve out a few hours a week on the weekends, that’s a good place to start. Just know that you might find you lose some time in reacquainting yourself with the material if you allow too many days to pass between writing sessions.

See if you can find even a little time to write every day. You’ll soon be immersed in creating your book and may even find extra time to work on it.

Find a place

writers need a good, dedicated spaceFind a dedicated writing space. Somewhere around your home, with a door you can close, would be most convenient. I know some writers who are inspired by the great outdoors and settle down near a lake or in a meadow. They don’t even mind the occasional visits from beetles and spiders.

It doesn’t matter where you set up, as long as you can write without distraction.

Experiment, and find your place.

State your purpose

Over the years, my clients have voiced a variety of different purposes for writing their books. Many writers yearn to see their names on the cover of their books. As an author, I understand; I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your creation in print.

Beyond that, there are authors who crave financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom in order to help. Some simply wish to complete their books for the benefit of their loved ones.

Be clear about your purpose right from the beginning. It will allow you to better determine what direction you will take.

Determine your readership

One of the biggest errors you can make as an author is to fail to identify your readership. You can’t write a book to everyone. Trust me, you’ll fail. No, you need to target your words to a specific demographic.

It’s important to figure this out early, because the voice and style of your book will depend on the readers you wish to entertain or educate. After all, wouldn’t you write a how-to book for experts in your niche market differently than you would a science fiction novel aimed at a young adult audience?

Consider your themes

Share the good and the bad when writing your book with your ghostwriterSimply put, the theme of your book is the glue that ties everything together. This idea often conveys a universal truth, such as Love, War, Forgiveness, Courage, Friendship or Faith.

For example, I think we can all agree that J.R.R Tolkien communicated courage beautifully in The Hobbit, as did J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter. Friendship was another theme in both these works.

Keep in mind a book’s theme is rarely stated outright. It’s more subtle. It’s a takeaway the reader will experience and consider for years to come when you express your viewpoint of the world and the human condition through your characters’ beliefs, actions, experiences and conversations.

Get set…

Now that you’re fully set up to write a book, it’s time to organize your thoughts. A lot of first-time writers fall on their faces when they just begin to write without a strategy. After all, if you were to bake a wedding cake for your best friend, you’d probably do a little research and at least follow a recipe.

Create detailed notes

It is so helpful to jot down detailed notes before you begin to write a book. Get these ideas out of your head and onto paper. This process will help you envision your story and get the creative juices flowing.

I have found an effective way to collect notes is to create an idea folder. This could be a word processing document or a notebook. Any thought you have about your book should be recorded in this folder. Don’t worry about the order, grammar, spelling or anything else.

Just let your ideas flow.

Have fun with it.

Remember to research

Photos are good research tools for your bookResearch is crucial for any book project. If you’re writing a memoir or recording your family’s history, you’ll need to provide accurate details as to time, location, appearance of the historic events. This also holds true if your novel is set in a past era.

Fortunately, you have many resources available to you for research. Many writers use the internet and the library, but don’t forget the treasure trove of information within the minds of your family members. Many of them lived through the decades past and can share experiences with you.

As you gather information, add it to your notes file. Be sure to always record your sources, so you can refer back to them.

Your story will take place in a location. If it is a real place, use the information from your memory or research to paint it accurately. If you are writing fiction and setting your story in an imaginary place, I recommend that you do some world building. World building consists of fully fleshing out the universe which your characters occupy. This includes the geography, history, scientific laws and developments, culture and customs of the inhabitants, etc. By having a crystal-clear idea of what these are, your story will flow, and your readers will happily come along on the adventure.

Know your characters

Regardless of your genre, you will probably have a cast of characters in your book. Even most business books include personal anecdotes that involve friends and family. These characters all need to be developed.

I find it helpful to create character biographies. Here I list each person who will be featured in the book and jot down their name, birth date and various other attributes that will help me write realistically about them. Some things to consider might be:

  • physical appearance
  • clothing style
  • speech patterns
  • mannerisms or habits
  • hobbies

Go…

At this point you have an excellent, solid foundation in place; you are well set up for success. Now it’s time to pull together all your notes and research into a cohesive plan. Then you can begin to write.

Create an outline

Ghostwriters create an outline by asking who, what, and whereAn outline allows you to organize your notes to create a good flow for your book. I am a big fan of outlining. It’s a road map that allows me to know the direction I’m going with my book. Without an outline it’s very easy to take a wrong turn and wind up in a dead end.

If you’re writing a novel or memoir, consider putting all the incidents in chronological order. That’s usually the best plan. Of course, you can opt to indulge in the occasional flashback, but don’t overdo it.

Your outline can take any form that works for you. After all, it is for your eyes only and is purely a tool to help you organize the content of your book.

When writing a business book, I suggest that you create a table of contents along with subheads. Jot down descriptions or bullet points under each to remind you about the content you wish to share.

For a novel or memoir, I prefer to use a different system. I create a large incident list which answers the following questions:

  • Who is in the scene?
  • Where does it takes place?
  • When did it happened?
  • What happened in the incident?
  • What is the purpose of the scene in your book?

Note: The last point is by far the most important aspect of this process. After all, if a scene has no purpose, it will just land on the editing room floor at the end of the project.

Write your first draft

Once the outline is completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now it’s time to get words on paper.

New writers often edit as they crank out the first draft. Try to avoid doing that. Just get the rough draft completed. I know, it won’t be great. That’s OK! You’ll fine tune your manuscript during the editing phase.

So just sit down and write…

And write…

And write.

If you’re writing a memoir, and find yourself sharing personal stories, be as detailed as possible so that you can help the reader feel as if he were right there with you. To do this, close your eyes and see the colors, hear the speech patterns, smell the odors, taste the food, and feel the textures in each incident.

The same goes for a novel. Use your senses when you’re telling the story. Draw on personal experience if possible. If not, use your world building notes to help guide you.

If you’re penning a how-to book, be sure to give step-by-step, detailed instructions for your reader. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the subject. Imagine what questions he may have as he tries to do the steps, or any difficulties he may run into, and address them accordingly.

Edit your first draft

Edit your bookAfter completing your first draft, it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week to take a breather from the project.

The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. It can happen that you switch gears on a subject mid-writing. In that case, you’ll need to go back and make adjustments.

You will also pick up on issues with flow as you read it through. Some scenes will flow right into the next, while other transitions will be choppy. This is the time to fix that.

While doing this you may spot typos. Sure, fix them, but this isn’t the time to focus on grammar or punctuation. Instead, make sure the story sings. By the time you finish this phase, you may find that you’ve altered and rearranged the words so much that fixing typos doesn’t make sense.

Once you’ve worked out the major kinks, you can review your manuscript for errors in grammar and punctuation. I’d recommend hiring one or two editors to look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s always good to have a detached person review your work.

With these steps for how to write a book, you should be ready to start. Regardless of the decade and what is going on in the world at the time, there’s no time like the present to begin. If you have any questions or would like some help, please contact me. My greatest joy is in helping others achieve their dream of sharing their story in a book.

 

Author Bio: Laura Sherman (aka the Friendly Ghostwriter) has been helping authors write their stories for twenty years. When she’s not busy building worlds for her clients, she homeschools three children as the family travels the country in her RV.

 

World Building: One Step At a Time

World Building in Star Angel by David McDanielAre you interested in world building?

Today I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from author, David G McDaniel. Dave writes in the sci-fi genre, with two book series to his credit.

His latest, a pentalogy (5 books), is the young adult series, Star Angel. Star Angel follows a girl on modern Earth and a boy from another world as they’re thrown into a fight for their lives, only to discover they may both be connected to events in the distant past far more epic than either can imagine.

As with any sci-fi or fantasy story, David faced a certain amount of world building in order to create Star Angel. Any time imaginary worlds are used as settings, when advanced technologies are introduced, when fictional races and governments become the backdrop, the author must build a new universe of rules

As the complexity of the story increases, more world building is required.

World building lays critical elements of your fictional world, which then gives you a strong framework on which to hang the rest of the story. I asked Dave to share his thoughts and experiences, when it comes to this important foundation of the story.

Happily he agreed to be my guest…

Hello & Welcome

Thanks to the Friendly Ghostwriter for having me. And thanks for the introduction! Laura, you’re awesome (insert smiley emoji here). Today, as mentioned, I’d like to talk a little about world building.

Most sci-fi and Fantasy writers do world building, some more than others, and in fact there have been heated debates about how much is needed.

I recently watched a video interview with George RR Martin, the author of “The Song of Ice and Fire” (Game of Thrones) where he was talking about the degree to which he builds out the underlying foundation — the world, the universe — for his characters and stories. He mentioned that there was another author (can’t recall his name) who was of the opinion that world building was overrated.

Martin was (rightly, I believe) disputing that view, pointing out the fact that the other guy’s stories had major slips in continuity. If memory serves, the other author believed the story was all that mattered and the rest was a waste of time.

In his opinion, the story would take care of itself.

I couldn’t disagree more.

World Building

World building for a science fiction bookWorld building is important. I can tell you from experience the story does not take care of itself, and without a clear idea of how everything fits, your characters end up living in a vague space with no real definition and, consequently, no guidelines for their actions.

Imagine a game (your story) played with no field, no rules, no setting, no guidelines — no world, basically. With you just making it up as you go along.

What kind of game would that be?

An unsatisfying one, that’s for sure.

With no creation of a world, your reader will feel disconnected from the story. They will be left with the feeling that anything could change on a whim at any moment.

But, you might be wondering, isn’t that what a story is? Something that could change at any moment?

Well, a story, yes. Of course and absolutely. But not the world. You don’t wing it, merrily making it up as you go, when it comes to the world. If you do, your readers will never be able to become fully invested in the story you’re trying to tell. That approach can create a sort of low-level vertigo with your audience.

Like life, a story needs a setting in which to exist.

My First Rodeo

I’ll admit to you that with my first series (not Star Angel, but one called the Saga of Ages) I had to stop early on and take the time to flesh out the full history and universe in which my characters were playing. I just kept getting hung up on all sorts of details.

This was my first time writing a series. Every time I tried to advance the story, I found that I kept going back to figure out the elements of the world that were influencing the actions of my characters. Finally, I realized what I had to do.

There needed to be something consistent to hang it all together.

That was my epiphany. My big realization. Instead of dreaming up the universe as I went, I needed to put the story on pause, go back and create the elements of the world first.

Duh.

Once that realization hit me I felt a profound sense of relief.

By the time I was done, the write-up of my world turned out to be 60 pages. I had sketches, pictures, references, galactic maps and more. I covered everything from past races to current governments, along with the framework and mechanics that made everything click.

When I wrote Star Angel I knew to begin the process with a lot of research about that world I created an historical timeline from 100,000 years before the stories take place, along with write-ups for all major events. I call it the “Star Angel Companion”.

No one will probably ever read it.

Earth is easier

Using Earth for World Building is easyAt the end of the day world building is a selfless thing. You’re doing it to save everyone’s sanity, not least of all your own. It helps. Greatly.

Especially in a fictional world.

Writers of stories in a modern or historical setting have it a bit easier, as their “world” is pre-built for them. Stories that take place right here on Earth, in the “real” world, have our entire existence to draw from. It’s the world we know. For instance, we all know the details of World War I. It’s there for anyone to access, and we all know exactly how it shaped our modern world and how it might lead to any character motivations.

That’s a huge advantage for any author and his readers. Everyone knows the world we live in.

This isn’t always the case if you’re creating a fictional universe. Depending on how “fictional” your universe is (is it a slightly alternate version of Earth? Or is it Star Wars fictional?), you may not be able to draw much from our shared reality at all.

That means you must craft your own.

A Few Ideas

For your story to work you need to at least have the basic elements defined. If you don’t your characters will be swimming in an ocean with no direction and no land.

World building is important. Did I say that already?

Here are some components you might consider taking the time to define for your story:

  • Maps
  • Historical data
  • Beliefs
  • Legends and prophecies
  • Races and their cultures
  • Lineages and hierarchies
  • The physics of the planet
  • Rules of magic (and other fantastic knowledge)
  • Languages
  • Technologies
  • Governments

Now, keep in mind, you may never use many of these factors in your story. But when you do, because you’ve got it all laid out, interconnected, it becomes very easy to write and your readers can easily lose themselves in what’s really important.

The story.

It’s Your Universe

Stan Lee, of Marvel fame, once said:

“The best way to rule a universe is to create it.”

Great quote. Great dude. Great message.

Take the time to flesh out your world, your back stories, your historical motivations and all else that shapes the universe in which your characters live. This can be work, no doubt. But the reward will become clear the further you forge into your story, when you see how easily things hang together, how well the pieces fit, and how much what your characters are doing makes sense.

Doing so ensures continuity. It removes distractions for the reader. And, if you take the time early on, it most definitely makes it easier in the long run for you, the writer.

Thanks again for having me.

As always, keep writing!

If you’d like to learn more about writing a book, here are some articles for you to read:

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

Now Is the Right Time to Write a Book

 

 

How to Fight Writer’s Block

Fighting writer's block

Do you have writer’s block? People sometimes stare at a blank page or computer screen and can’t seem to get the words out no matter how hard they try. Has this happened to you?

Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. This is a common situation. The good news is, there are solutions.

Outline your ideas

If you can’t make forward progress on your book, it could be that you’re not ready to write the next section. Personally I cannot write any substantial piece without outlining first. Make sure you know where you’re heading. It could be that the “block” 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 flow of the story.

If you started your book without an outline and can’t seem to continue, go back a step and put together an outline immediately. It will help. You may discover the last few chapters weren’t meant to be. That’s okay. Scrap them and start afresh from the point where you feel the story worked. Then follow the path of your outline and things should straighten out.

Force yourself to write something, anything

Ghostwriters have words flying from their typewriter and charge by the wordIf you’ve outlined and know where you’re going, but just don’t “feel like writing,” then you may need to prime the pump. Just like with a dry water pump (which needs to be “primed” with water to get started), you may benefit from simply flowing words onto paper.

Here are some ideas:

  • Write emails to your friends
  • Make a to-do list for the next day
  • Write in a journal (or create one if you haven’t already)
  • Start a blog
  • Write posts on your favorite social media site
  • Write an old-fashion letter to a family member

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

Work on a completely different project

If you are anything like me, you have multiple writing projects going at the same time. I usually work with a few clients, who require books of different genres. Also, as a hobby I write haiku and science fiction short stories. Having different projects working at the same time keeps me on my toes. I like it that way.

If you’re stuck in the middle of a novel, try writing a nonfiction piece. If you are working on a technical report and are experiencing writer’s block, take a break and write dialogue between two co-workers. Create a scene, which might turn into a short story.

When you feel you’re doing well again, switch back to the original project and get writing again.

Surround yourself with supportive people

Writers flourish through constructive feedbackWriter’s block can be a symptom of invalidation from peers. If you have “helpful” friends who jokingly tell you “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 good 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 even an experienced) writer. We 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!

Look at the intention behind the comment and how it makes you feel. That will help guide you where to file the suggestion. Do they compliment your work, while gently pointing out errors? Or do they slam you at every turn?

Please check out my article on feedback versus criticism for more information.

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!

Write and Publish a Book

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter