Friday, February 7, 2014

Where to Start

First, I should remind everyone that I am not a published author. I do not have all of the answers and I do not claim to be an expert. The information that I am sharing will be the process that I am taking to write a book, regardless if it is the best methods out there or the "right" way. I think that you will find very quickly that there is no shortcut to writing a book, no magic formula that will allow you to produce it. You have to try different methods of writing and decide which one works best for you. There are a lot of resources out there that can help you and a lot that I use on a daily basis. Just know that each of them has wisdom in one form or another, but you have to try them to determine what is the best.

So, I started this journey and I told everyone my lifelong dream of wanting to write a book. Now what?! Well, since I have been thinking about this for a while, I have been reading and putting together what I felt is the best method for me to write. I can tell you, the theory that I developed did not work. I will explain this a little later. But first, let's talk about the subject and plot of the book. Generally, when you decide to write a book, you already have a great idea or story in your head. If you do not, then I would suggest reading more, watch tv and movies, and think about what inspires you. Whether it is mystery, fantasy, science fiction, or any other genre, you have to connect with it. You cannot expect a reader to connect with your book if you cannot connect with it yourself.

I have a long list of ideas for several books. Fortunately, I know what I want to write for my first novel. So, how do I take that idea and turn it into something useful? This is where the work comes in. Writing a book takes a lot more planning that people think. The plot to a story has many different aspects to it. It is not just telling a good story that makes a novel. You will end up writing the first three chapters and drifting off. Unless you are one of the lucky ones out there, then I have to you say that you suck! The rest of us normal people need a roadmap of sorts.

One resource that I found to be helpful was a website with free information on How to Write a Book. In particular, the section on building a Story Plot was very informative. It is a well written guide for asking yourself questions, laying out the Story Goal, Consequences, Requirements, Forewarnings, Costs, Dividends, Prerequisites, and Pre-Conditions. This allowed me to dive a little deeper in my story and really question the internal and external conflict and motivations of the main characters.

The next step that I started on, which I hinted at earlier, was a detailed outline. I sat down and laid out my book chapter by chapter. I have over 20 pages written with the high level details explaining what will happen. This sounds like a great idea and should be easy when you sit down to write the book, right? Well, this is where the individual preferences come in. I am not the type of person that can detail the whole story out in an outline. I can put down the basics, but when I sat down to write the first chapter I was stuck. I could not get past the second page. Everything I wrote felt like I was trying to force it into the outline and make it nice and neat.

Since this time, I have kept the outline in the background as a reference. I update it based on my writing in order to keep the overall vision there. My focus is on the story, the details, the characters, and the flow of writing. Since I have taken that approach, I have written over 6,000 words in the last two days (in between my normal full time job). The story feels more alive in my head and I do not worry about making everything fit in a certain chapter. Basically, I have learned that my process is to have a basic outline, but let the story tell itself. Don't force it.

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