I’ve been told by many people that they have a great idea for a book but no idea how to turn it into one. Although I am not an expert by any means, I have been writing for about 5 years, and I have gotten amazing feedback on my work and even have a publisher interested in a fantasy book I wrote with my best friend, Caitie. We are currently working on that book in order to send it back to them. I’m also currently writing “The Prism” here on my blog that you can read for free and get an idea of my writing style. My experience in writing is primarily in fantasy and other creative fiction, so my tips will be focused on that genre of writing.
Step 1: Have a General Plot/Theme
Before you can do anything else, you need to know what you are writing about. You don’t need to have a huge, elaborate plan thought out before you start, but you should have a general concept, whether that be of a world, a plot or even a character that you want to center your story around.
If you can’t think of anything, then focus on finding inspiration. I find inspiration in a few different ways. A lot mine comes from my dreams. Pay attention to your dreams. If you have a hard time remembering them, try keeping a journal next to your bed to record them as soon as you wake up. Another way I get inspiration is by going out to busy places and people-watching. I love sitting at Starbucks or going to a busy place and just walking around and taking everything in. Take in your surroundings everywhere you go, and think of a story that could go along with it. There are countless ways to find the inspiration for a story, and what works is different for everyone.
Once you do find your inspiration, then build up the general idea of your story. Again, it doesn’t have to be elaborate.
Step 2: Build Your Plot, Characters and World
This step can be one of the hardest. This is where you come up with the meat of your story. Now is when you need to come up with your plot, your characters and the layout of your world. This doesn’t have to happen in any particular order. Also, don’t worry about naming things yet if you have a hard time coming up with names. I know I do.
Come up with a basic plot. Who or what is the antagonist of the plot, and what are your characters trying to overcome? Next, you need characters. Come up with the main characters that are vital to the story. Don’t worry about side characters, those will come later as you write. Lastly, map out your world. Is it set in today’s society? What are the rules and laws? What do the people look like? Are you in a city? Is it a whole new place altogether? These are things that need to be figured out. You can’t have a story unless you have a place for it to happen in.
Step 3: Expand Your Plot (AKA Storyboarding)
This next step will be your Bible. This is what you will refer to throughout the rest of the writing process of your book. First, you need to decide if this is a standalone book or one in a series. If this is a book in a series, then you need to make some milestones. You need to figure out the beginning and end of the series as a whole. What’s the end goal? Next, you need to determine how much content it will take to get from that beginning to the end, in other words, how many books the series will have. From there, determine a beginning and end point for each book. All of this can change down the line, but you need a place to start. Once you get that figured out, then focus on storyboarding your first book in the series. For those of you who have decided to do a standalone book, this is where you come in too.
Storyboarding is the most important part of your story. I personally use index cards to do my storyboarding. Get a corkboard and some tacks and stick them up as you go. First, tack up the beginning and end of your book. Next, start thinking about important moments that you want to have happen, like conflicts, love interests, plot twists, etc. Place them on your board approximately where you want them to happen in your story. Keep adding these cards until you have a linear story line. Try to have about 50-100 notecards.
Step 4: Naming
Now is the hardest part, for me anyway. Come up with names for EVERYTHING: characters, places, landmarks, cities, countries, etc. Name everything that will have a place in your story. Maybe you already named all your stuff and have all of it in your mind. If so, well, lucky you.
If you’re like me and have a hard time thinking of names, there is one exercise I do that helps me. First, pick a character, place or thing you need to name. Think of it, what it looks like. If it’s a character, think of what their personality is like too. Grab a piece of paper and pen. Write down the first letters that come to your mind, that jump out to you, letters that you could see this person, place or thing starting with. Once you have those letters, then start filling them in with names and words that start with those letters. From there, pick the one that best suits it. The nice thing about this activity is that you will have leftover names that you can use for other things.
Step 5: Final Details
Now you have the core of your story. Before you start actually writing, however, there are a few checks you should do first. Double-check your storyboard. Is everything in order? Is everything named and positioned where you want it? Are there any plot-hole concerns?
If you haven’t already, you need to figure out what style of writing you’re going to use. Will your story be in first or third person? If third person, will it be limited or omniscient? Make sure everything is how you want it to look.
Step 6: Start Writing
This step is easier said than done. Starting that first sentence is a lot of pressure. My advice is to just start writing what you feel. Don’t worry about crafting the perfect first sentence, just break the blank page and write. You can always go back later and fix and reword it.
Another advice of mine is to edit as you go. I made this mistake with my first novel with my best friend, when we just thought we would go back and edit it all when we were done. Well, that turned into a nightmare and a lot more work than it should have been, so my advice is to please EDIT AS YOU GO. Every chapter, every couple pages, edit it. It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means, but read over it to make sure there are no silly mistakes or plot holes that you missed.
Thanks for reading! I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants to be a writer. If you have a passion to tell a story, then tell it. Don’t let ignorance prevent you from expressing yourself. If there is anything I missed that you want to know more about, just comment on the blog or contact me using the contact tab in the menu.
Hasta La Pasta,