Everyone has a story to tell but writing it can seem impossible. As a mom of two who became a self-published author while working as a full time journalist, I’m here to dispel that myth. You can write a book! Writing it – actually getting that story you’ve been thinking about out of your head and into print – is easier than you think and here are five tried and true methods to help you do it.
Choose a genre
Identify where your story fits in terms of genres and read as many similar books as you can. You may know that you want to write for children but there’s a huge difference in content between picture books (for ages 3 to 7) and YA (for ages 12 to 18).
When I decided to write a picture book, I became a consumer of that genre. It was easy with two little ones but I took every opportunity to read picture books including volunteering at the school book fair. I would help students make purchases and then read as many picture books as I could during breaks and downtime. The other hat trick is visiting bookstores. Pop in, peruse the aisles related to your genre and learn as much as you can about similar books that have made it to market.
Planning is a very essential and important part of the process. Consequently, you need to outline your story before you start writing a manuscript. Familiarize yourself with the story arc (see below) and identify key elements of the plot including the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. There are many digital tools that help you do this but I prefer good ol’ pencil and paper. It’s like brain storming and it’s not the type of exercise you do once, set it and forget it. You will need to revisit this plan and tweak it as your idea evolves.
This might seem like a no brainer but character development requires detailed decision making on the front end. It’s more than just naming a figment of your imagination. You need to decide who your characters are, what they think, how they feel, the things they say, how they dress and what they look like. You’ll need to write all of this down so that you have a reference to keep characters consistent throughout the story. Character elements can also be used to drive the plot forward when you’re further along in the process.
I chose to pattern my first main character ever after my oldest son (someone I knew very well), which made this exercise a little less daunting for me. There are resources online to help you create lifelike, well-rounded characters and I like this character questionnaire by masterclass.com.
Just do it
After all the planning and groundwork is done, write it! Actually sit down and write your book. I find that lots of people overthink this part of the process. You might be thinking that you need a perfectly prepped writing space in a quiet corner of your always noisy home to write. Or maybe you’re a laptop and gourmet coffee kind of dreamer who never finds the time to go sit in Starbucks and write. Cancel all of that. If you’ve got a spare 15 minutes before it’s time to cook dinner, use it to write. I wrote my book in small intervals over a two-year period. I’m wishing you a faster process but the point here is to do what you can with the time you have.
Develop a pitch
If your plan is to secure a traditional publishing deal, you’ll need to pitch your story idea to agents. Spend time thinking this through and prepare a concise pitch beforehand. Be sure to identify the audience you’re writing for, convey the central theme of your story and tell them about yourself; successfully pitching yourself as an author is equally as important as selling your story. Also, be sure to research the agent so that you send well targeted, properly formatted pitches.
Good luck and happy writing!