How to Write the Right Idea

This article is in follow up to “How To Find the Right Idea.”

By following the five easy steps from the previous article linked above, you should now have an idea to start writing with. But, now what? How do you begin writing it? Everyone has a different way in which they write, so you don’t have to do the following steps in order. However, it’s essential they are included for your story to be whole.

  • Main Character
  • Point of View
  • Tone
  • Style
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Plots and Subplots
  1. Main Character

    To begin the story, you’ll need to establish who your main character is. With a quick internet search, you can find hundreds of different templates so you won’t forget any minor details.

  2. Point of View

    This is the viewpoint from which you tell the story. You have options between First Person, Second Person, Third Person Limited, and Third Person Omniscient.

  3. Tone

    The tone of your story can be serious, humorous, satirical, passionate, sensitive, zealous, indifferent, caring, caustic, etc. It depends on the material you have decided to work on.

  4. Style

    Style is the choice of words and the use of language, sentence construction, imagery, etc. This is the dialogue between characters, figurative language, personification, similes, hyperboles, puns, etc.

  5. Theme

    This is the main idea that weaves the story. There are different levels to this from explicit, implicit, multiple, and secondary.

  6. Setting

    The setting is the world-building portion of writing. Here is a search for templates. It’s a good idea to take a look at multiple versions to find one you’d like to use or create your own. You’ll be less likely to forget to add details by going this route.

  7. Plots and Subplots

    Plots are the order of events that happen within the story. This can be done in chronological and with flashbacks. The normal pattern of action is as follows: rising action, steady action, suspense, cliffhanger, foreshadowing, climax, coincidence, falling action, and resolution. There are progressive and episodical plots, depending on the length or type of story you’ll be working on.

As said in the previous article, don’t spend too much time dwelling on all of these details and don’t get carried away with the world-building at the beginning. You’ll end up creating too much information to be included within the book and, unless part of a series, it would be a waste of time. There are planners and pantzers in the writing world. Some authors prefer to have an entire outline before starting out while pantzers start with an idea and build the rest as they write. I fall more into the pantzer category on most projects.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them below in the comments.

How to Find the Right Idea

Starting off the top, this is going to be a generic list of five steps that are capable of helping everyone find the right idea in order to begin writing. If you would like to see a longer list or have suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments below.

So, you want to write a book. It’s a daunting task and by deciding you want to make the dedication to this journey, congratulations! You’ve overcome the first step.

Here is the short list we’ll briefly be going over in this article because let’s face it. With work and family, who has time to sit down and read a term paper?

  • Inspiration
  • Browsing, see what everyone else is writing
  • Your Opinion on topics
  • What could be done better
  • Get out and experience to have something to review

 

  1. Inspiration

    Inspiration can be found literally everywhere. You don’t have to leave your house to find it. It can be a video game, a colorful historical item you come across that’s ridiculously over-priced on eBay, the lizard getting mercilessly chased by your graceless cat, etc. The key to inspiration is thinking outside of the box. Let your mind wander and you’ll be amazed to see what you come up with.

  2. Browsing

    Read. The only way you’re going to know what to expect is if you browse other titles in the genre you are aiming for. Pay close attention to how they introduce each element in every book. There is normally what’s called a “best-selling chemistry batch.” Basically, there is a pattern the story follows that draws readers in, giving them what they want and keeping them hooked. This is very useful to learn early on.

  3. Opinion

    Everyone has their own opinion about everything. Mildly use these topics to help form your writing and give it purpose. Base your character’s goals or beliefs off of some of your own to help create a strong, believable character. You won’t need to base them off yourself or others once you get in the practice of doing it, but sometimes its unavoidable.

  4. Improve

    Back to the opinions. When reading other books, there will be always a few things you’ll think could have been done better. Whether it’s introducing the villain earlier on, using a different POV, altering the ending for a better effect, etc. Use these ideas and opinions to improve your own writing and to keep yourself from making the same mistakes. This will help you to stay away from the Mary Sues and status quo everyone at the time is following. You’ll stand out among the crowd.

  5. Experience

    Taking all of the above into consideration, you’ll need to get out of the house and explore your environment. Understand how the layout of your city is planned and research how it works. Look at the layouts of other cities as well for reference, whether modern-day or throughout history. This will help better visualize the setting for your characters. While out and about, you’ll also be experiencing the environment around you. The weather, smells, sights, sounds. My favorite is people watching and seeing how they interact with each other. They are in their natural habitat. Go to local markets, restaurants, anywhere people gather. This will help give an idea of how people interact in the cities you write, no matter the time period.

 

No matter what, you’ll need to do research at some point to do a complete world-building. My personal preference is coming up with the story itself first and then building outwards as the story progresses. World-building is an extensive process and you always end up putting too much work in, creating information that’s never needed or mentioned within the books. Save yourself the time and don’t overdo any of these steps. As you go along and need to fill in more, take the time then to research and create what you need to continue on.

Always double-check your entire work. Keep notes of plots, subplots, location details, character details, etc. as you go along because by keeping track early, you won’t have to read back through to find a character’s appearance or which location is a port city, for example.

If you guys would like more articles related to writing and how-tos on particular topics we haven’t already touched on, please comment below or on the few other how-tos already on the blog. There aren’t many yet, but they have their own category now (Guide to Write) and should be easy to locate on the main page. Let me know how these articles help you or if you go about it by other methods.

To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

As with many of the topics we have already discussed, the decision of having a prologue or not is entirely up to you. Whether it is necessary for your story or not is sometimes another matter entirely. Let’s look at the definition of prologue before we continue.

Prologue (Noun): a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work.

There you have it. A prologue is an introduction to the story.

So, if your story begins in the middle of action or events set into motion by a previous incident (especially if it is years prior), you definitely should provide a prologue. The equivalent of this is running up and hugging someone without an introduction. You’ll either get shoved away or punched in the face, normally. In terms of your story, this is the reader putting the book down and moving along. They lose interest as soon as confusion sets in. To avoid that confusion altogether, you can have a brief introduction before the reader gets immersed into the story.

For a sequel. I believe all sequels should have a mandatory prologue in the beginning to recap the main events of the previous book. The reason for this is because I’m one of those people to go buy a bunch of books, get them home, and realize I have the second book in a series. Sure, I could spend time hunting down the first book while letting the second book collect dust. Or I can read the prologue provided, have a good idea of what’s happening, and thoroughly enjoy the book I selected regardless.

In these situations, just like in customer service, the reader is always right because they are who you want to read this product. You have to tailor it to their expectations, to a certain extent. Which brings up another topic we will discuss at a later date.

Personally when writing, I always include a prologue and an epilogue to my novels because it allows me to show how much time has passed between books, important events that occurred, and gives the reader clarity about what to expect and what is to come. I wouldn’t recommend prologues for shorter stories because it can appear to be a little silly.

Once again, the decision is entirely up to you. Whether you decide to prologue or not to prologue, get back to writing.

Do I Need Chapter Titles?

When you first open a book, you more often than naught find a Chapter List shoved in between the pages before the first official page. The list of chapter names gives you an idea of what is going to happen within the book. Some people prefer this; some people believe it isn’t necessary since the summary on the rear cover should sell it. It honestly depends on what the author wants to do. Here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide for yourself.

Pros

  1. Your reader has an idea of what to expect for the book.
  2. Your book looks organized and professional on first glance.
  3. Some readers memorize the last place they’ve read by chapter number or chapter name. By listing it in the front of the book, the user can skim through the list to find the exact page number with ease.
  4. It’s normally expected. For book clubs, it makes it easier to keep track of where everyone’s progress should be after a certain amount of time. They will not thumb through a book to guesstimate this information for themselves.

Cons

  1. You thought naming the book itself was difficult. Now you have to name each and every chapter without giving away the entire story!
  2. Your reader knows too much about what happens in the book.
  3. You have yet another extra page between the cover and the first official page for the reader to begin the book. Being an extra page, it gets overlooked by some of the average readers who just want to begin reading.
  4. Extra pages also add extra costs to your book overall.

If these aren’t enough to convince you to sway either way, here is another brief article on the topic. Let me know your opinions in the comments!

How to Critique/Edit Your Own Work

First off, understand that the first draft of what you are going to write is most definitely going to cause you to cringe and want to burn it on sight. I would not recommend this since editing it is fairly easy, and there’s no reason to give your neighbors a heart attack with squealing smoke alarms. You will have times when your writing flows as easily as a beautiful river. You will face times when you have to force the writing out. There will be filler words such as “that,” grammar issues, lack of descriptive imagery, characters so shallow you want to cry.

The first step is to just breathe. Once your first draft is completely finished, set it aside. Lock it away if you have to. Don’t look at it for at least a couple of weeks. Give yourself time to catch up on reading, watching movies, and schedule that spa day. You can work on another project, even if it’s the sequel to the first draft you just finished. Whatever you do, do not look at the first draft until two weeks has passed. That’s fourteen days for those that are stubborn. You know who you are.

The second step is to read your draft as though you were someone else. It should be fairly easy now that you’ve set it aside for the past two weeks. Be brutal. Reading from another perspective gives you the opportunity to find the plot holes more easily, the shallow characters who were never mentioned again, and more. Take your time reading it over.

The third step is the grammar. Make sure there are no run-on sentences (average long sentence length should not exceed 25 words), your homonyms (to/too/two) are correctly used, etc. Grammar is essential to making your story readable and enjoyable to readers.

The fourth step is checking the tense throughout the story. This means the past tense, present tense, future tense. If your wording is off, it will be difficult to read and will give readers different ideas than what you’re portraying.

The fifth step is to read the entire story out loud. This can be tiresome, but if you can’t get through the entire draft in a breeze, neither can your readers. If the sentences feel awkward to say, this means they are awkward to read. Definitely go through this step repeatedly until all of those errors are fixed. Normally it’s something that can be resolved by switching a couple of words around or deleting a word.

The sixth step is to read the entire draft with all of the steps above in mind. Fix any lingering issues you see. Make sure to use the spell checker in whatever program you are using to write in.

Hopefully by this time, you have found and edited everything. A word of warning: just when you think everything is perfect and you hit publish, you’ll find errors you overlooked. Don’t panic, don’t pull the book off the shelves in horror. Calmly document all of the errors, update the document, and upload the updated version. There may be a limitless amount of times you have to do this, so just accept your fate.

In conclusion, that is at least five times you need to read your first draft in order to edit it. If you just exclaimed negatively over that fact, this line of work is not for you. If you don’t want to take the time to read over your own work several times, why would anyone else want to take the time to read it?

How Many Characters Are Too Many?

So you’ve started writing your book. When writing our stories, we can sometimes get carried away with ourselves. We overcompensate in some areas and completely skimp over others. This is something that can be fixed with lots of practice and constructive criticism.

You have the main character set in your mind, you’ve added in their cohorts, you have a set enemy and their cohorts. Before you know it, you end up having too many people to keep track of. If you look closely, most of them are either hollow shells or the exact replica of another character. These are the characters you need to remove from the story altogether. If they are absolutely necessary, make them a fleetingly passing nobody character and move on without them.

Here are some things to look at when deciding whether you need the character or not.

  1. Do they have a personality? Are they around enough for their personality to shine out to the readers through their actions? Or do you find yourself calling them “noble, vindictive, or cruel” in the text?
  2. Are they the one who always magically comes to save the day for the other characters, but then continues their way out of the story?
  3. Are they truly necessary? Do they have a purpose besides coming in for a one-liner or lurking around a group of important characters?

These are just a few ways to tell if you have too many characters lingering around. If they don’t accelerate the story, your supporting cast doesn’t need them. If you can delete them without feeling like you’re cutting off an arm, you don’t need them. Point blank. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ll be extremely important in one more scene in Book Four when Book One isn’t even finished. Trust me, the reader will forget they ever even existed by the time that character appears again.

For those who came to this article perhaps looking for an exact number to abide by like a bible, there is no perfect number of characters to have within your cast. There is no precise limit either. As long as you only keep in the characters necessary to write the story, you’ll not only have an easier time writing it, but your readers will have a better time reading it as well.

Do not restrict yourself or your characters on the fairytale ideals of the perfect amount of characters to have in a story. Sit down at the keyboard and just write.

How Long Should a Chapter Be?

A common debate amongst authors is how long should a chapter be? James Patterson has chapters literally one page in length while J.R.R. Tolkien’s are dozens. Both are great authors. Both are infamous. But in the matter of chapter lengths, which one is right? The answer is they both are.

Let’s look at the definition of a chapter before going any further.

Chapter (Noun) – 1. A main division of a book, typically with a number or title. 2. A local branch of a society. 3. The governing body of a religious community, especially a cathedral or a knightly order. 4. A period of time or an episode in a person’s life, a nation’s history, etc.

We know it’s a main division of a book without even having to look at the definition, but look at the last example they give. A period of time or an episode in a person’s life, a nation’s history, etc. This is literally telling you, within the definition itself, that it does not matter how long the length of the chapter is as long as the scene within it is completed. You can still have a cliff-hanger at the end of the chapter, even if it is a page long.

Still not satisfied that the chapter can be any length? Let’s talk about lengthy chapters.

Do you remember seeing those fancy designs in between the text in some books? Those are called divider vectors. They are a visual ending of a scene for the reader. Vectors help to break up longer chapters so the reader is able to find a stopping point, because the reality is we always get interrupted by something while reading. It leaves an easier place to come back to.

Looking back at the definition of chapter again: A period of time or an episode in a person’s life. Your personal life is not cut into perfectly timed portions. An example — you only meant to stay at that Halloween party for two hours, but time whisked away and you found yourself there for five hours. The same goes with writing. One minute your character is behaving themselves and following the script. The next minute, they’re gallivanting across the countryside with a bunch of Dwarves and a wizard.

Do not restrict yourself or your characters on the fairytale ideals of perfect chapter lengths. Of course for young readers, you should make sure the chapters are easily comprehensible. But you still are not limited to a certain word count or a certain page-length for chapters. This is one of the steps that prevents many authors from simply writing.

So, sit down at the keyboard and just write.

Ten Book Marketing Strategies

Sorry for the delay in my blog posts again. I’ve been extremely busy at my day job because all of the snowbirds are coming back to town. I’ve got a really good topic to discuss with you all today. In my Fantasy Writers group on Facebook, a member asked for marketing tips. When I gave them the following suggestions, they claimed it was more work than writing the book itself but “thanks anyway.” If you plan on being a true author, the first thing that you’ll understand is that you can’t just write the book and then be done with it. You have to market that book for the rest of your life in order to make any money from it. Without further ado, here’s the list of suggestions. It’s more effective if you do all of them but, as a beginner or someone with limited time, you can pick and choose what works for you and it will still be very effective.

  1. Personal website. Everyone that I know who is a successful author has their own website. They use it to update their readers on their book releases, deals, and tidbits of information to keep their intrigue until the next book comes out.
2. Blog. In order for your blog to be successful, you need to post at least 1-3 times a week. Anything less will rapidly lose your audience. I’ve been blogging solidly for five and a half years now on this site. That’s more than long enough to figure out that the more you blog, the more traffic and followers you get. When you don’t keep up with it, they lose interest rapidly.
3. Facebook ad/Newspaper ad. Do both of these. Try setting up a $5 ad on Facebook and see how well it does. I assure you that you’ll get at least 30 new Likes and 1-5 book sales. That more than gets you your money back and everyone on Facebook will still be talking about it when the ad goes away (through sharing).
4. Do R&Rs (read and reviews). There are several websites where you can pay to have hundreds of people R&R your book. The cost of this is very small considering that a higher number of reviews will make new readers purchase your books.
5. Have a mailing list. The people who follow you have e-mails. That’s how they see that you’ve made a new blog post or published a new book. With this in mind, set up special announcements directed at them so they know that you care about your readership and don’t just send out mass updates.
6. Advertise daily in Facebook groups designated for advertising. You should always join several groups that allow you to promote once (or more) a day within the group. Most people post all of their links in one post. Don’t do this because it’s overwhelming. I find myself skipping over all of those because it makes the person seem desperate and to be honest, I don’t have time to sort out the links to the sites that I actually use to follow people. No matter what book link you share, always include your author page link. Even if you don’t accumulate any sales, you’ll at least accumulate several Likes.
7. Go to your local book stores and leave business cards/personalized bookmarks. This option is harder for introvert authors or ones that are very busy with the day job and families but there’s no excuse to not do this. Eventually, you have to get out of the house or have a family outing. Stop by a local bookstore, speak to the manager, and just drop off a handful of cards, bookmarks, or flyers.
8. Ask your local bookstores/libraries to host book signings for you. While you’re at that local bookstore or library, ask if they’ll host a book signing for you. Always offer to order and bring copies of your books on your own if they seem dubious about letting you have a signing. It usually convinces them because it costs them no money and you only need a small table in the corner but it gets their store traffic.
9. Hire a marketing business. The most obvious option is just to hire a marketing company. Within your budget, of course!
10. Word of mouth. Word of mouth is the strongest marketing strategy in order to obtain lots of sales. People are more likely to trust their friend that your book is amazing versus believing an advertisement that you clearly paid for.

Some Book Publishing References

(Originally posted on http://www.stevencapps.wordpress.com/)

If you’re like me, most authors are on a budget. In this economy, good jobs are hard to come by and I’m lucky enough to hold a part-time at a tiny post office. It’s still not enough to survive on, but like many others, I manage. With this knowledge of me, you can bet that I try to find the best quality of services at a cheaper cost. This post is to present you with my personal list of references. These are people or places that I have personally used and recommend highly for self-publishing authors. Even though I am a Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Romance author, these references are capable of doing (nearly) every genre. If you have any further questions for me, you can contact me in the comments.

Cover artists:

Bree Vanderland – https://www.facebook.com/Author.Bree

ES Tilton – http://estilton.deviantart.com/

Jo Renehan – https://www.facebook.com/john.renehan1

Premade Covers 4 U – https://www.facebook.com/Premadecovers4u

J Ash B Designs – https://www.facebook.com/Jashbdesigns

SelfPubBookCovers – http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/

Editor:

Angel Thomas – http://covertocoverediting.webs.com/

(The reason for only one editor reference is because I have found no one who is better or equal to Angel’s professionalism.)

Marketing:

Facebook Ads – http://www.facebook.com/

Your Local Newspaper

Create a Blog on WordPress or Blogspot

Create a Website on Webs or Wix.

Publishing Platforms:

Createspace – http://www.createspace.com/

Lulu – http://www.lulu.com/

Amazon KDP – http://kdp.amazon.com/

How to Begin and End a Chapter

Now that we’ve discussed the length of chapters, here’s some basic advice on how to begin and end those chapters.

Hook. From the moment your reader begins to read, they are expecting to be dragged into the world headfirst. In other words, they need something of interest to keep them reading. This happens on the first couple of pages. Whether it’s a question that has to be answered or an action scene, make it brief but do it well before diving into the story.

Line. The middle of the chapter.

Sinker. By this time, you have answered the question or come to a conclusion for the action from the first two pages. Now that you’ve given them some relief, you need to plant another hook to make it impossible to resist continuing on to the next chapter.

By using this process repeatedly throughout your books, you’ll ensure that your readers will be leaving reviews claiming to be “unable to put the book down.”