WHO’S READY TO WRITE SOME BOOKS???

Starting today, we’re going to go step-by-step through the process of writing a book, finishing by the end of the year. If you want to be an author, but aren’t sure how to do it, this is for you.

I’ll cover both fiction and nonfiction, but place a bit more emphasis on fiction, since in my experience it has a greater tendency to go astray.

Each week will cover a topic relevant to where you’re at in the writing process, and will also give you a target word count to help you stay on track.

LET’S DO THIS THING!

*Nonfiction*

The first step in writing a book is having an idea (also adorably known as a “plot bunny”) for a book. For nonfiction writers, this is a topic that fills three criteria:

A. You’re passionate about it.
B. You know a lot about it.
C. You want to tell other people about it.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog to write a nonfiction book, you already know your topic. If that’s you, skip to step three. If not, then here’s your challenge for this week:

1. Sit down for one hour and think about why you want to write a book. Is it to lend credibility to your business? Is it to use as a marketing tool? Is it just something you’ve always wanted to do?

2. Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, think of a topic that fills those three criteria that I mentioned earlier. What do you know that you passionately want to share with others? Is it your worldview? Your experience in a particular field? Something that happened to you?

3. Write down your target audience–the people with whom you want to share your topic. (Don’t say “everybody.”) Is it mothers? Fathers? Athletes? Teachers? Businesspeople? Children? Teens? People who share your religion? People who share your hobbies? Be as specific as possible.

4. Write down what you want the reader to feel and/or do by the time they finish reading your book. Do you want them to hire you? Do you want them to adopt your worldview? Do you want them to take up a new hobby? Do you want them to feel inspired and encouraged?

5. Make a list of at least twenty things about your chosen topic that you want to cover in your book. Don’t put them in any particular order, and don’t censor yourself. They can be big-picture ideas, small-picture ideas, or a mix of both. Just write them down. You can do this all at once, or keep a list on your desk and add to it as you have ideas throughout the week. This list will serve as your starting point for making your book outline next week.

5. Have questions? Share them in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

*Fiction*

Maybe you’re one of those people who has the entire book mapped out in your head and your characters fully developed and you know exactly how you want to handle every single part of the story with no blank spots whatsoever. (If so, the rest of us are jealous of you.)

If you’re like me at the start of a writing project, you have something a little less refined. Maybe it’s one scene. Maybe it’s a setting. Maybe it’s a character. Maybe it’s as small as a line of dialogue. (I just finished reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and apparently Victor Hugo got the idea for the whole thing from a single word–fate–that he found carved into the stones of the cathedral.)

Whatever plot bunny is running around in your head, the first step in turning it into a book is to capture it and learn more about it. Sit down for an hour and answer these questions:

1. Where and when does your story take place? Is it in the modern day, the past, or someplace fictional? Where in that setting is the story happening? Write this down, and then write down one word to describe the overall feeling you want the reader to have about that place: familiar, creepy, magical, welcoming, hostile, amusing, etc.

2. Who lives there? Write down any characters you have in mind. If you don’t have any yet, write down a general description of the type of people who inhabit this world and try to find one particular person who would be interesting to follow around.

3. What is happening to those people that makes them worth a story? Think of one crucial event that changes your characters in a significant way. It can be a choice they make, a fact they discover, or something that happens to them. This is the beginning of your plot and the reason you are writing about these particular characters in this particular setting at this particular time.

4. What does that crucial event cause the characters to try to do?

5. What stands in their way of accomplishing that goal?

6. Do they succeed?

Congrats! You’ve just created a basic story outline! Hang onto it; we’ll add more details next week!

Have questions? Share them in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

*This Week’s Word Count*
Nonfiction: 0
Fiction: 0

What? No actual writing this week? Nope! Planning first! Get those ideas down on paper, guys! You can make this happen!

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2 thoughts on “BIYC: Capturing Plot Bunnies

  1. I actually do have the whole book mapped out in my head, but my characters still have a terrible habit of all of a sudden doing other things that what I planned for them. Argh!

    So I definitely need someone that can help me keep them (or maybe rather me?) on a leash. Count me in as a follower. 😉

    1. Great issue to bring up, Cay! Sometimes when characters do that, it ends up resulting in a small side arc that you can integrate within your pre-existing outline, which is fantastic. Other times the characters want to wander waaaay off topic and write a completely different book. This usually happens when the characters have been getting all (or almost all) of their development from the story itself, instead of having well-defined personalities from the very start.

      One way to avoid that is to give the characters three-dimensional back-stories before starting to write. These back-stories give you a set of tools to use to tweak and nudge them in the direction you want them to go. (For example, if you need a normally timid character to venture off alone, and you know he has a deep fear of wasps, you can have some wasps chase him.)

      We’ll talk some more about character development a little later this month, and of course if you encounter this problem during your writing, I’m here to help!

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