Let's say you're a voracious reader, and over the past couple of months, you've thought you'd like to write a book.
I mean, how hard can it be?
You've found a quiet place to write, and you’re sitting with your laptop on your knees. You’re staring at that blank piece of paper.
An excellent first step is to format your manuscript. You'll want to write in either Times New Roman or Courier using a 10 or 12 sized font.
Why these two fonts?
Because when you go to publish, these are the two fonts accepted by the publishing industry as their standard. As you end sentences, you'll want to use 1 or 2 spaces. For a long time, two spaces was the norm, but over the past 10-15 years, many authors only use one space because it saves on costs for a 400-page novel.
Next, you'll want to format the top, bottom, right, and left parts of your manuscript with one-inch borders. When publishers, editors, and others count words per page, they use an average of 250 words per page. Unless the page is formatted correctly, you'll have more or less than the standard.
How about a title for your work? You’ll want to put the title at the top of page one and Written by: your name below it.
I set up the Header of my manuscripts with the title in caps on the right side. I also insert page numbers in the center on the bottom of the page, starting with page 2.
Now it’s time to start writing.
Genre – which is your favorite? Most authors write in the same genre that they most enjoy reading.
Next, figure out who your main characters are.
Write down the following about each one to start.
Jot down their name, physical description, age, birthdate, character traits, likes, dislikes, education, personality, quirks, etc.
You can make what’s called a Character Bible, which will come in handy if you’re planning to write a series.
Next, start by jotting down what the first 5 to 10 scenes will be about.
1 A woman gets into an elevator, and on the way, up to her friend's condo, it malfunctions. She is scared to death.
2 The woman makes it out of the elevator alive only to find the entire floor filled with smoke. In the distance, flames come out of her friend's condominium.
3 She braves the heat of the flames and goes into her friend’s place, but she can’t find him.
4 She spots the gold, grabs it, and runs all the way down to the parking garage.
5 The woman waits in her car as a police SUV motors past. Once it's gone, she backs out and drives out of the garage into the busy downtown Denver streets.
Once you have a few of your scenes plotted out, cut and paste this text description into each chapter. Now start writing your story. Don't worry about spelling or anything else. Just write your first draft down as it comes to you. I find it best to write in a quiet place away from distractions. I also try not to discuss what I'm writing with anyone until I've finished a couple of drafts of a manuscript. This is because as you write, you'll be in your head, and when you sleep your subconscious continues to work on the story. I read somewhere that if you talk it out with someone, it will not be as fresh when you first write it down.
Also, try to write as fast as you can for the first draft. Figure out when the best time is to write. I often do my best writing in the morning when I first wake up. I'll grab some coffee and a light breakfast before heading to my writing chair. Back when I wrote my first book. I saved up and bought myself a laptop computer. I like the portability of a laptop, but you can write on paper with a pen if you'd like. It's really about what's available and what you prefer. The more you write, the easier it becomes. Also, try to write multiple days in a row. Most bestselling authors write 5-6 days a week. That can be hard to do when you have a commute and a full-time job, but if you’re creative you can find ways to get your writing in every day.
Once you get fifty pages down, it will be time to build an Outline of your work. I like to use Microsoft EXCEL for my outline. I put these headings at the top of my columns:
Chapter Number, Timeline, Main Character, Chapter Action Sequence, Pages (3-5) or whatever pages this scene is over, things I need to include or add, what's been cut, and POV.
What is POV?
Point of View can be a difficult concept for beginning authors to understand. It is basically the narrator's relationship to what's being said in the scene. There is also a POV that the book is written in, such as first person, third person, Omniscient, etc. When you write your first draft, I wouldn't get too worried about what POV you're writing in, because you will most likely end up writing and rewriting the work multiple times.
I wrote 2 books and neither of them was ever read by anyone but me. To this day they sit in the bottom drawer of a desk.
Another way to think of POV in a scene is who is doing the thinking. (John knew what was coming.)
You can't have the scene written in the POV of more than one character. If you do this is called head-hopping, and it makes the story hard for the reader to follow.
I could probably write a whole book about POV, but I leave that to someone else.
Say you’re writing a chapter and you want to have multiple scenes going back and forth between two characters. How do you show this in the manuscript? Most authors separate scenes using a page break.
I use 3 dots in the center of the manuscript after the end of the prior scene. How about punctuation and line spacing? Use tab to space the beginning of each new paragraph by 5 spaces. Use "quotes" around dialog, and who said it.
“I will be back,” Wendy said.
You might want to look at writing books some too. When I first started I went to a college library and read and browsed many of their books on fiction writing.
You'll also want to read all the bestsellers in the genre you decide to write. I've been writing mostly thrillers or mystery thrillers. To study, I've read James Patterson, CJ Box, Nelson, Stephen King, Lee Child, David Baldacci, etc.
Please comment and ask any questions you might have about writing or how to get into writing.