Is Writing a Book on Your Bucket List?
People from all walks of life have thought about writing a book at some point in their lives. If you’re thinking about it, join the club. Happy to have you. There’s plenty of room on the shelf for everyone. Keep in mind that thinking and doing are two different things. Eventually the story rolling around in your head needs to tumble out and find its way to a keyboard. If you’re old-school, pen a paper will do. Either way, the book isn’t going to write itself.
One of the first questions I asked myself when I decided to make my dream a reality was, is my story premise unique? My intent was to author a book that had that little something, something that was special. That certain je ne sais quoi or undefinable element that’s woven seamlessly through the story and possesses the ability to attract even seasoned readers. Does your story premise feature that distinct quality? If you find your story lacks this inimitable component, take a moment to reflect and seek that exclusive factor, to give your book the touch it needs.
Once you’ve established your premise or rough story in your head, it’s time to figure out your genre so you can understand the guidelines and formula for that genre. This includes acceptable word counts, structure, plot, audience, etc. You wouldn’t want to waste your time penning a middle-grade fiction novel that ends up being way above the standard word count. Chances are that agents won’t represent it. If its self-published, readers in that category probably won’t buy it. Are their exceptions? Sure, but why take the chance? The goal is to have success.
Unique story, check. Genre, check. What about an outline? Some love them because outlines can keep an author organized, others hate them because they feel it stifles creativity. I’m someplace in between. I record my ideas on sticky notes, in notebooks, and on my phone, but the storyline is in my head. I like it that way. You decide what works for you.
Do you know your characters? Have you fleshed them out enough? What do they look like? What are their quirks? What are the stakes for your main characters? How do they grow in the course of the story? Some of this you will undoubtedly work out during your writing sessions, however, you should have some sense of who your characters are before tackling story passages and dialogue. What makes them unique and different from other characters in your story?
Is your main setting set? Know your setting or settings. Yes, multiple settings are acceptable, especially when penning fantasy or sci-fi. Think, Game of Thrones series, or Lord of the Rings. Even romance novels can have several settings. At least establish a main setting before you sit down to write.
Is your central plot plotted out? Strive for intrigue with the inciting incident. Build to an exciting climax. Aim for relief, an a-ha moment, or perhaps victory as the action falls. Create a satisfying resolution that allows your protagonist to grow and change. Determine subplots as well, just don’t go overboard.
Lastly, are you disciplined enough and committed to seeing your story through from beginning to end? Are you willing to put yourself and your writing out there? Are you willing to accept constructive criticism and make changes? Perhaps most important, do you have what it takes to take your book from conception to bookshelf? You must consider your answers to these questions because the publishing industry is difficult to break into and there is a definite learning curve in the world of self-publishing or as an indie author.
It’s never too late to visit these questions even if you’ve already begun your writing journey. If you’ve answered some of these questions with honest consideration and you’ve ironed out the basics, best of luck to you, start writing!