Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh, the Books That You'll Write... - Step Two

So, you've done your research, you've done a lot of reading, you've decided what you want to write and you've gotten into the habit of writing something, even if it's only a grocery list, almost every day. Now you're ready to tackle the book. So, where do you begin?

Depending on what kind of a writer you are, this is either the easiest part or the most difficult. And different writers approach this part differently. Here are some suggestions:

1. Begin with your main characters. Figure out who they are and what their problems are. Get to know them well. 

2. Begin with the conflict. If you're going to write a book people will want to read, there has to be a major problem your characters face. Decide what that problem is, then choose characters who will be on opposing sides.

3. Just start writing. I'm not kidding about this, because while frankly, the idea totally terrifies me (I usually start with method 2, sometimes with method 1, but never with method 3), some excellent New York Times bestselling authors are "seat of the pants" writers. If that sounds more like you than one of the above, go for it. Who am I to argue with success? (In writing, very often you'll have to defend your own method of doing things. Do it. I'm a big believer in finding out what works for you and not letting anyone deter you from that path). 

Once you've gotten yourself started, you'll (if you are a 1 or 2'er) want to plot out the rest of the book in at least a rudimentary fashion to make sure that you have enough material to carry an entire book, that you'll have enough drama to have a major blowup or horrible setback (black moment) near the end and that you can have a satisfying resolution of all the problems. Again, if you're a seat of the pants author, none of this may apply at this point. However, if you're going to actually sell a book, you'll need to learn to plot out your story (write a synopsis) because editors will want to know that your book has a workable beginning, middle and end. 

At this point, some people will begin to do their research. I've written very few books that don't require at least some research. So, decide what areas you may need to know about to finish the book and what's necessary to even begin writing. If there is information you're unclear on and the material is something that's basic to the story (such as the setting or your character's career), you may want to stop and do at least some of the research now. I like to research just enough so that I can feel confident going into the story, set the tone and give the reader an authentic sense of place and character. Sometimes that may require a lot of research, sometimes not so much. At this point, I'll also bookmark websites and note other places where I may find other information I'll need later in the book. As I'm writing the book, I'll research the details on a "need to know" basis. However, this is my way of doing things. If you feel more comfortable getting all of your information together now, you can do that, too. Just remember that doing research can be very alluring and can keep you from writing your book, so don't let yourself get caught in the "research as procrastination" trap.

All right, I think we're ready to begin. You have enough basic information to get your story started. So, take a deep breath and get ready to dive in to the story that will be uniquely yours to tell.

It's exciting, isn't it?  We'll talk more later about the process, but for now, go right ahead and begin. Even if your idea isn't fully formed, get some ideas down on the page, because the page is where everything will come to life…

Until next time, happy writing!
Link to Oh, The Books That You'll Write - Step One

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