How Do I Write a Book?

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How do I write a book?Over the last twenty years many people have reached out to me asking for help writing their books. They each have a dream of seeing their book on the shelves of the local brick and mortar bookstore.

“How do I write a book?” they ask.

Is there an easy answer?

No.

Is there a special ten-step program you can follow?

No.

Honestly, the reason people pay me to ghostwrite their novels, memoirs, and business books is that I have experience. I have been writing books for others for the last two decades. Prior to that, I wrote a lot (short stories, novels, etc.).

After interviewing several successful authors I discovered one truth that remained constant. When it comes to gaining experience it requires a roll-up-your-sleeves mentality.

Learning to write takes hard work and dedication.

Please understand that any author who has made it in this industry has written hundreds of thousands of words. Now, I haven’t counted the words I’ve written, but I can safely say it is well over a million.

I can share with you that there was a moment in time when I realized I’d found my written voice. That’s when I felt confident helping others find their voices. That’s when I became a ghostwriter.

So, how do you write a book?

Let’s explore that subject.

 

Read

 

If you don’t enjoy reading, writing will not come easy. To become an exceptional writer, you must read a lot. Now, this doesn’t mean you must like all genres. You can specialize.

For instance, if you enjoy writing science fiction, read science fiction. I’d even suggest that you dive into the subgenres you like and explore those. Here are just a few:

  • Space Opera
  • First Contact
  • Dystopian
  • Steampunk

 

In truth, there are dozens of categories. Research it on your own and find the subgenres that most interest you. Then read popular books in that area.

Find your target readership

If you have a good how-to nonfiction book in mind, read a few chapters of several different books to find the style you most enjoy. If you can determine your reader, it will become easier to hone in on the style. For instance, some authors write for the novice in the area. These writers are careful to define all the terms they use and write with a familiar (almost conversational) tone. Other authors might be writing to PhD graduates and know what these readers know about the subject. The vocabulary used would throw the average reader off but would be appropriate for their book. In addition, the tone will be formal.

Whoever your reader might be, pick books to study that appeal to that readership.

One trick is to read the book twice. Read it the first time to enjoy it. Then skim through it again to pick up style points. Pay attention to how the author communicated their ideas to you. Pick it apart and study the nuances. If you’re reading fiction, study the ways the author developed each character, set up the scenes, and described the locations.

Even if you didn’t like the book, you can still learn from it. Why didn’t you enjoy reading it? What would you do differently?

Ultimately, if you want to be a great author, you need to be a prolific reader.

 

Outline

 

There are some authors who simply refuse to outline their books. These are few and far between in the professional world, but they exist. I’m not sure how they write successfully, but if this is your first book, I honestly wouldn’t recommend writing by the seat of your pants.

Outlines can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pick one that resonates with you. The idea is to sketch the book in a way that shows the beginning, middle and end of your story. And if you’re writing a how-to book, you can flesh out your ideas with a good table of contents.

For fiction and memoirs, I’d recommend that you pick up a few books on story structure. Learn about the three-act structure. Once you start exploring this subject, you’ll discover that all books follow a pattern. The good news is that you can learn what that is and apply it to your project.

Follow that successful pattern.

 

Break up your story into incidents

 

If you’re writing a novel or a memoir, it’s time to take that outline and break your story up into individual incidents. Follow the outline you laid out and specify the events that will take place. Keep your goals in mind and make sure the incidents illustrate them. For instance, during the set up phase of your story, pick out incidents that show the main character living their life prior to the catalyst (also known as the inciting incident). Take your time introducing important supporting characters, the protagonist’s way of life (and thought process), their environment, etc.

I’ve noticed that new writers tend to want to rush through incidents. Recently I read a memoir written by a first-time author, where the main character was raped as a young teen. The author devoted three paragraphs to this incident. The result was that I had no emotional connection to the incident; the impact wasn’t there. It read like a news report.

It’s important to develop the incidents fully and perhaps give a bit of forewarning to the ones that should deliver an upper cut blow.

When contemplating how to write a book, please keep in mind that the reader needs to be brought along on the journey. They must be as invested as you are in the story and characters.

 

When to hire some help

 

If you’re reading this and are thinking that you still don’t know how to write a book, I hear you. As I said, this isn’t an easy subject and there really isn’t a fast shortcut to hard-won experience.

As a ghostwriter I love to help others complete their book projects. You can hire me as consultant/coach or a ghostwriter. What’s the difference? As a coach, I’ll help you write your own book. You will write and I will guide you. As a ghostwriter, I will interview you and do all the research and then write the book for you. You’ll be the author, and no one will know that I wrote the book. It will be our secret (backed up by an iron clad written contract).

These days anyone can self-publish a book. However, readers can be hard critics. If you don’t follow the rules of writing, they will not be forgiving and will leave one-star reviews. It’s hard to recover from that.

If you’d like to chat about your project, please feel free to reach out to me anytime!

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