How To Write A Book: Advice From A Million Selling AuthorAug 24, 2023
How to Become a Writer: Crafting Your First Book
I remember when I first got the urge to write a book. I was completely clueless. All I had was this relentless nagging in the back of my head that wouldn’t go away. I was working long hours and had four children at home, so I didn’t have the time or money to take writing courses. I didn’t think to look online. I’m showing my age here, but when I was young you had to go to physical buildings to learn (oh how I loved the eighties). Anyway, I had a fantastic idea for a novel, but wasn’t sure how to write. I mean, how did you structure the thing, and what were the rules - were there even rules?
This is why I enjoy helping aspiring authors, because it was all so overwhelming at the time, and I wish there was someone to metaphorically take me by the hand. In this guide, I'll walk you through the journey of becoming a writer, providing practical tips and insights on how to write a book. If you like what I have to say, then kick off your shoes, subscribe for updates and hang around.
Embrace Your Passion
Becoming a writer starts with embracing your passion for storytelling. If you feel a compelling urge to write (or that nagging at the back of your brain) that's the first sign you're on the right track. It’s tempting to stay in your comfort zone but don’t let those doubts or fears hold you back.
Find Your Writing Niche
There are lots of genres to choose from. Do you fancy fiction or non-fiction? Do you want to know how to write a children's book or an epic fantasy saga? Understanding your niche helps you focus your efforts. As a police detective, I found it easy to turn to crime – so to speak! The saying is old but it’s so true – write what you love to read. I enjoy twists that keep me turning the page. Make a list of the type of books that you like to read. Of course, nothing is set in stone but if you want to be a successful author, consistency is everything.
Establish a Writing Routine
Speaking of consistency… set aside dedicated time each day to write. It doesn't have to be hours; even 15-30 minutes can make a significant difference. No excuses. I still write in the train, at my hairdressers, anywhere I can grab some time. How long have you spent on your phone today, or looking at TV? Why not put your precious time to good use instead? (Yes, I know I sound like a mother but you’ve got to admit, I have a point.)
Learn the Basics
This is a little obvious, but it’s worth being mindful of your grammar, punctuation, and style. But there’s no need to panic just yet. You will get better as you write so don’t stress about it too much, but using a grammar checker and learning from your mistakes will help. A good understanding of grammar will make your writing clear, engaging and much nicer to read. I’m talking manuscript level folks, by the time this book reaches publication it needs to be edited to perfection.
Join Writing Communities
A community of like-minded writers can be incredibly supportive. Online forums, local writing groups, and social media can be great places to connect. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been one to share my work in groups, because writing is so very subjective. Equally, family and friends will always say it’s great. If you can stretch to it, it’s totally worth using a reputable freelance editor to review your work when you’ve finished with it. While I’m guarded about losing hours of your time on social media, it’s a great place to make lasting relationships with people who are writing a book too. I met my writing bestie, author Mel Sherratt, at London Book Fair. Her friendship has been invaluable.
Write, Write, and Write Some More
There’s no easy way around this. Writing practice is essential. Keep a diary, write in a journal, make tonnes of observations about everyday life. Spark those brain synapses and get creative. Write as much as you can and don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles and genres. Write a lot and read a lot. Write short stories. Write poems. Make up agony aunt letters (for your eyes only) involving the people you work with. It’s fun and your brain will thank you for it.
I’ll say it again, reading books, especially in the genre you want to write, helps you understand what resonates with readers. It also enhances your vocabulary and understanding of storytelling techniques. You’ll also enjoy feeling a little smug when you know you can write better. ☺️
Consider Writing Courses
There are countless courses available online (cough cough) and in-person on how to write a book, character development, plot structure, and more. Investing in education can boost your skills and confidence. In the last few years I’ve spent thousands of pounds on education. I’m not kidding. Courses are food for my soul. Now I love digital learning and (ahem) I recommend learning from the best. (Seriously, sign up to my site for updates on my courses, folks.)
I’m a bit ‘meh’ about feedback in the early days of writing. I was such a fragile petal in the beginning. I paid (very cheaply) for some feedback and it was so blooming harsh that I put my manuscript in a drawer and didn’t touch it for a year. Seriously! If it wasn’t for my husband nagging me to finish my book, I’m not sure I would have continued. So I speak with great authority in my courses when I say that I understand how hard it can be to put yourself out there in the early days. Constructive criticism does help you grow as a writer, but when you’re starting out, just write and enjoy living in a fictional world. When you’ve cobbled an actual book together (go you!) then we’ll talk about feedback.
Write, Revise, Repeat
When I write now, I plot my book, I visualise my characters and go deep into setting. But when I started out I was more of a pantser. I think there’s a lot to be said for that in the early days. Because your first writing is practice writing. I know, I can hear you cry that you want to get that book out. But think about it, no deadlines, no editors to worry about, this is the most fun you’ll have writing a book. Enjoy the beauty of putting a story together that delights and entertains you. You’ll learn so much. Your first draft won’t be perfect. But there’s lots of time later for revising and polishing your writing until it shines.
The end…or the beginning
What? We’ve reached the end already? But I have so much more to say. Never fear, there’s another part to this blog. Remember I mentioned the overwhelm? That’s the last thing you need. So buy yourself a swanky new notebook (I love an A4 Pukka Pad,) grab a pen that feels nice on paper and enjoy mapping out the type of book that you’d like to read. We’ll cover the rest of the ins and outs of how to write a good book in time to come. Also, don’t forget to grab my fantastic freebie, my author writing planner to keep a track of your word count.
**Disclaimer:** This blog post includes my personal advice on how to write a book. Specific strategies and results may vary based on individual circumstances and efforts.
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