How to Write a Novel, Memoir or How-to Book

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After talking to countless people over the years, I truly believe that every person has at least one story to share. Do you? Perhaps you have an account of a memorable trip trudging through the Amazon rainforest with only a backpack. Or maybe your family immigrated to America a decade ago and found success through hard work. Or perhaps you wish to chronicle your meteoric rise in eCommerce in a how-to book. Then again, you might just want to let yourself escape into a rollicking adventure yarn set in a far-off galaxy. Whether fact or fiction, it is begging to be told.

In writing.

Within the pages of a book.

Now, how do you get the ideas out of your head and onto the page?

Create detailed notes

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Record your initial ideas for your book in a notebook or on your computer. Don’t worry about formatting, grammar or spelling at this phase. Simply put your thoughts down.

Personally, I always have multiple Word documents open when I’m starting a book: character biographies (useful for memoirs and novels), incidents for an outline, research topics, etc.

Memoir

Now, if you’re writing a memoir, I’d suggest jotting down everything you can remember about the places you’ve been, the people you interacted with, and the key events of your life. Close your eyes and see what images you can find, listen for the speech patterns of the people around you, smell the odors, taste the foods, and feel the textures. Write them all down. These details will help bring your memories to life.

Novel

If you’re creating a fictional world, let your imagination run free. The more vividly you conceptualize the characters and settings, the clearer your readers will be able so see them. It still helps to create notes, so you don’t lose your ideas.

Collect sources for research

Whether you’re writing a how-to book, a memoir, or a novel, you need to do research. Even if you’re an expert on the subject, you’ll need to delve into details. Every writer becomes a researcher! There has never been a book that I could write without doing extensive study.

Today, research is easy through search engines, but sometimes you might need the help of a library. In those cases, you’ll need to take good notes and jot down the names of the books you use, along with the page numbers, so you can find the information again or reference it later.

How-to book

When I’m writing a how-to book, and I’m forming my outline (or Table of Contents), I find it helpful to copy links into the document under the subsection when I find a particularly helpful resource. Trust me, weeks later, it will be hard to find that source again. Good notes save a lot of time.

Fiction

Research is a fundamental element for fiction writing as well. Your writing must always be authentic. So, if you’re writing about the Amazon rainforest, and you’ve never been, you’ll need to read dozens of references to be able to describe the environment accurately. If you have visited the spot, you’ll still need to collect information about the history, vegetation, and the wildlife of the area. Your experiences will form the story, but research is invaluable to fill in the gaps.

Determine your reader and messages

Before you can begin writing, you must figure out who your reader will be. As I have mentioned a few times in previous blog articles, your readers can’t be “everyone.” It’s too general and vague. Be specific. Your reader might be teenage boys who are interested in soccer or retired women interested in a ornithology. You can see how the communication would be much different for these two categories of readers!

Next you’ll need to hone in on the messages you wish to communicate. Do you want people to learn that hard work and personal integrity can overcome obstacles and lead to success? Or maybe you want to share how patience and loyalty are the basis for long-lasting relationships? Being clear about your message will help you align the action of your story.

Be true to yourself

Most of us speak differently than we write. I’ve noticed that some people can wax formal when they have a pen in their hand! They take out contractions completely and dust off their finest vocabulary in an attempt to impress. The reader doesn’t care about any of that. They are looking for your voice in your writing, not that of your eleventh grade English teacher. Be yourself.

Take the next step

Now that you have thorough notes and research sources, you are ready to begin carving out your outline. Then you can write your book. Carve out the time and avoid distractions! For more information on the next steps to take, you will find many articles about writing on my blog. I hope they help!

If you would like the help of a ghostwriter to put your book together, please reach out to me (whether it be for a novel, memoir or how-to book). The research and notes you’ve created will not go to waste. After all, ghostwriters will need good notes to help create your vision. Please contact me if you are interested in going this route.

Laura Sherman (119 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.