There are so many types of books on the market today, it can be difficult to start from scratch with no idea of what to write about and progress to a full-sized book. But, by following a few steps, you may have an easier time getting that book underway.
- Decide what to write about. The old saying about writing what you know is still true today. Your writing will be much more effective if it concerns something that you have knowledge about, or something that you are interested in and can research. Having an interest in the subject means that you will not get bored writing about it after the first few chapters. Choose a subject that fills you with passion; you will bring a depth to the writing that would not be there if the subject carried no interest for you. It might help to make a list of all of your interests and hobbies, and brainstorm possible book ideas from that list.
- Choose a fiction or non-fiction format. If you want to write a novel, you will be writing fiction.
- Fiction is often though to be the most creative form of writing, as it is largely made up by the writer. A fiction writer, to a varying degree, uses his or her imagination to create the setting (which doesn't have to be a real place), characters (which can be as normal or as weird as the writer chooses) and plot (realistic or something outlandish -- it is all up to the writer). A work of non-fiction is based on actual facts and events. The people in the book are real people and they must be depicted accurately.
- Non-fiction still has room for creativity, however; even facts can be subjective, and writers can get creative in the way they present the facts. "Creative non-fiction" is a very popular genre in which facts are used to make a story that reads like a work of fiction. Other forms of non-fiction include biographies, memoirs, cookbooks, technical books, and textbooks. Each of these has its own standard for form and levels of research needed.
- Choose a genre. Even after you have made the decision between fiction and non-fiction, and you know what your story will be about, you still must pick a genre to place it in. A fiction story about bats could be made into a horror story, a children's story, a fantasy story, etc. When you define the genre, the general plot may become clearer to you.
- Make an outline. Once you know the genre, you can begin to form an outline. This will be the way the book begins, the major plot points of the book, the major characters, and what the end holds in store for the reader. If you have an outline to guide you, it is much easier to begin writing the actual book.
- Make a clear beginning, middle, climax and ending. Your book, even if it is non-fiction, will need all of these elements to some degree. There will be exceptions to this, such as a hard-science book or a textbook. Otherwise, there should be a beginning to introduce the reader to the setting and characters, a slow build-up of plot or information, and then a climactic point near the end. The ending comes as the main plot points have been resolved and the action slows.
- Brainstorm to overcome writer's block. Writer's block is a problem only if you let it stand between you and the completion of your book. Instead of allowing it to do this, use it as a time to generate new ideas. If you are stuck for a plot point or another element of the book, brainstorm some ideas on paper, letting your imagination have free reign. Some writers like to take a break from the book for a few days and come back to it with a fresh attitude. I have found brainstorming to be more effective. If you find that you've hit a snag in the writing process, use the time productively instead of throwing it away to frustration.
- Edit your book. Go over the book several times with an eye for continuity, grammar and spelling. Make any changes that would improve the book.
Writing books is an ancient form of expression, but it has not gotten any easier over the years. In addition to all of the steps above, writing a full-length book calls for diligence, self-discipline and hard work. Please visit our "Writing & Poetry" section for more genre-specific advice on writing books..