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Best Advice for Writing a Book

Another writer posted about how difficult it is to get started on writing her novel. It IS difficult, but I have some tips you may find very helpful, not just for writing a book, but for writing anything, from an article to a term paper.

1. Get it All Out. That's right, cough it up! Sit down and start writing. Do not, I repeat NOT, worry about the quality of your writing on your rough draft. The point is to get the writing produced. You have all the time in the world (okay, all the time until it's due, anyway) to go back and polish things up. I mean, it's called a rough draft for a reason, right? Trust me, if you don't agonize over every word coming out of you, you're going to be so much more productive and relaxed. I'm not an awesome typist, and I normally have to go back through and correct a lot of typos, but when I am doing a rough draft, I just type like a bat outta h-e-double-hockey sticks and let the chips fall where they may. I can go back and mop up the typos later!

2. You Don't Have to Do It in Order. Wait, what? You mean I don't have to start on Page One and write a comprehensive novel from beginning to end, developing a coherent plotline and fleshing out characters along the way? Um, no. Not really. See, normally when you have an idea for a novel, what you really have is a concept, an idea about what some of the characters are like, and you can picture some scenes in your mind. Write THAT. Write out your idea. Write out descriptions of your characters--physical descriptions, family history, whatever seems relevant. Some of this work you may use in the body of the story, and some maybe you'll just use for reference or inspiration. Either way, it's certainly not time wasted. Also, go ahead and write out those scenes that are so vivid in your mind, as well. You can figure out what order they go in and add all the relevant linking passages and transitions later.

This advice works not just for creative writing, but for expository writing, as well. If you are working on a term paper, for example, you can write separate paragraphs as you research different facets of your subject and string 'em together into a cohesive framework later. This makes things a lot less daunting--instead of seeing the project as one massive undertaking, understand that you can break it down into much smaller, more manageable bits, as with any task that seems monumental (I discussed this in my post, here ), which leads me to my third piece of advice:

3. Break It Up. Okay, so a 30,000-word novel sounds daunting. How does Stephen King write 600-page books when you pale at the thought of churning out the industry standard, which is about 360? He writes them the SAME WAY YOU WILL: one word at a time. Words become sentences, sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs become pages, chapters, and--hey! how did that happen?--a whole dang book! So make yourself do a little bit, even if you're scared or uninspired. Just promise yourself to write a few sentences. Maybe ONE paragraph. What will probably happen is that you will keep writing, getting several pages done, or at least several paragraphs. If not--if you only get that ONE paragraph written--well, then, you not only kept your promise, but you also got one more paragraph than you had before. Try again tomorrow--you know you're gonna get at least another paragraph, but probably more. If you write only a page a day, there's your novel, in one year.

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antoniowestley wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:44 PM

Well I'm sure Stephen got enough money to help get himself some ghost writers to help him build a 600 page book so writers shouldn't be discouraged by this. However, I do agree with this post and your facts because the worst thing a writer can do is try to be a perfectionist when they are trying to just put a story down on paper. This is what editing is for

bestwriter wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:53 PM

I have yet to start and hope to one day. Your tips are great. Just jotting down thoughts no matter in what order as a first step sounds good.

AliCanary wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:55 PM

Yep, people who have to make every single thing that lands on the page a perfect, polished gem are just asking for trouble. I don't think that he has ghost writers, because a lot of his stuff is so obsessively personal. Maybe he should hire some, because I got tired of reading the same old, tired stuff... :-o

AliCanary wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:56 PM

Thanks! Yeah, sometimes I have just a scene in my head, fully formed, and it's useful to get it down, even though it may not necessarily be the very next scene in the book.

luisga814 wrote on March 5, 2015, 6:56 PM

Wow great. Although, I published a book already but in a form of non fiction but i used first person point of view. It is all about reading. It took me nearly seven years to complete. I am trying my luck with television or film scripts.

AliCanary wrote on March 5, 2015, 7:03 PM

Congratulations! It's a lot of work. Good luck with your future endeavours.

wolfgirl569 wrote on March 5, 2015, 7:17 PM

Very good way to write. I like your ideas for doing it. Makes me want to try doing one now.

allen0187 wrote on March 5, 2015, 7:22 PM

These are great tips AliCanary . Very specific and in depth. Thank you for sharing these tips.

luisga814 wrote on March 5, 2015, 8:21 PM

thanks and i am looking forward to write a novel also but if i can find time. Actually, i started already two years ago but stopped.

MelissaE wrote on March 5, 2015, 8:24 PM

Perfect tips. I'm a procrastinator when it comes to writing my novels or short story. I just get bored.

alexdg1 wrote on March 5, 2015, 8:58 PM

I don't think Steve-O has a team ghost writers, either.

msiduri wrote on March 5, 2015, 9:35 PM

I believe it was Hemingway who said, "Write drunk. Edit sober."

Kungfu123 wrote on March 5, 2015, 11:54 PM

It's too tough for me to write a novel.

crowntower wrote on March 6, 2015, 3:10 AM

I always write what's in my head regardless if it is the first part, climax or ending of the story just like on your number 2 advice. I think the first hindrances a writer that has that stop them from writing is that, they think they can't do it and they don't know how to start it. In some of the tweet of Joel... he said there that we don't need to always tel ourselves that we need more training, we just need to shake out was in our head and start with it. God bless.

CalmGemini wrote on March 6, 2015, 2:45 PM

We may have come across these tips somewhere or other,we read them and forget them.But the way you have presented ,we feel this is something which can be done.As wolfgirl1569 says" it makes me want to write one now" .Fantastic post.

FreyaYuki wrote on March 6, 2015, 4:59 PM

Good tips. I do 1 a lot too. Just write and write, draft your story and never mind the errors and mistakes because you can just fix it all up later on. As for 2 - yeah, agree with writing the character descriptions and other such info. When it comes to the main story though, I find that I just have to do it chronologically. I might draft the other scenes but I can't write them properly/fully unless I'm doing it chronologically. Guess this depends on people and how they do things. Definitely yes on 3 because, of course, you can't finish it all in one day, right? LOL. Some even do NaNoWriMo. I just try to write at least a set number of words per day.

Last Edited: March 6, 2015, 5:02 PM

GemOfAGirl wrote on March 8, 2015, 12:30 PM

Good tips. Now if only I could actually execute them properly! emoticon :grin:

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on March 16, 2015, 1:14 PM

Nothing kills my inspiration like getting stuck on the details. On my rough drafts, I try to keep the two separate. I try to do my research, lay out my descriptions, and nail down the details in separate sessions from narrative writing, which goes best when the inspiration hits. When it's time to grab the gun from the secret hiding place, if I stop to figure out how to build the secret hiding place, how to get into it, what kind of gun to put there, and what ammo it needs, the gun is never going to be up the bad guy's nose by the time it needs to be.