They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so it should stand to reason that the journey toward writing a book would begin with a single word. However, for most writers, the path to writing a book begins long before the first word ever lands on paper and is a multi-step process that can leave them constantly wondering if they are on the right track.
Fortunately, there are a few tried and true methods that authors use to help them finish their writing journey. Whether you’re a “pantster” or not (read on!), you’ll learn a lot from these tips and tricks.
Before you even begin writing your story down, you should ask yourself what your story’s plot is. This can help turn a passing idea, “I want to write about wizards,” into a full-fledged story: “I want to write about a boy wizard who teams up with an unlikely band of misfits to fight a dark wizard who will stop at nothing on his deadly quest for power.”
Having trouble coming up with an idea? To get the juice flowing, we recommend using writing prompts to explore topics you may not have ever considered before.
Your story’s plot should consist of the main events that unfold within it. This is true for both wizard-based stories and nonfiction.
Every plot consists of five things:
- Introduction: Here is where writers typically introduce their main characters, the story’s setting, and the overarching conflict that will take place over the course of the story.
- Let the readers meet your unlikely group of heroes, and make sure they understand just how high the stakes are before sending the heroes out on their quest.
- You want the reader to care about what is going to happen to the heroes on their journey, as much as you want them to care about the journey itself.
- Rising action: In most stories, this is where all of the tension and conflict that you have been building up over the course of your story comes to a head.
- These are the moments that lead up to the final battle, when your protagonist steps in front of the villain.
- All of the roadblocks and obstacles you have thrown at your little band of heroes, including the any small victories you have allowed them, keep them (and their story) moving forward.
- Climax: If you have been building up the tension and excitement over the course of your story, this is the point at which the reader is most invested in what happens next, because what happens next is going to change everything.
- Will the dark wizard fall?
- Or will your favorite character meet a tragic end?
- Falling action: Immediately following the climax, you have your falling action, which is basically your main character or characters resolving all of the larger events from your story.
- Think of it as a clean-up period where you are tying up loose ends or resolving any unresolved issues your characters may have faced.
- Remember that amazing story line you outlined in the third chapter about one of your side characters working toward learning a new skill? Now is a great time for them to show it off since the threat has passed.
- Resolution: This is where you get to send your main character off into the proverbial sunset.
- It is the moment you provide closure for both your character and your reader, letting them know that your journey together is over.
- Did good triumph over evil? Or will your Big Bad skulk off into the shadows and live to fight another day?
Using these five things, you should begin outlining your plot for your novel. Use shorthand, abbreviations, acronyms, placeholders, and bullet points—it’s an outline! The important part is that you start mapping out your characters’ journeys and thinking about how one event will lead to another.
… Or don’t
Does writing an outline sound like torture? Then don’t do it.
Not every writer needs to have a fully fleshed out plot or outline down on paper before they get started. Some people actually do better when they discover the path their story is taking as they are writing it. These people are often called pantsters in the literary world, because they quite literally fly by the seat of their pants.
The good news is that there is no wrong way to write a novel. The only way you can go wrong is by not writing it at all.
Set goals and stick with them
Sure, everything you’ve read says “set goals.” And it probably seems like after coming up with an idea you are really excited about, brainstorming, and plotting it all out (or not), the actual writing would be the easy part. Unfortunately, the actual writing is the part many people struggle with the most.
To avoid falling into that trap, you do need to find a system that works for you and set reasonable goals for yourself. Whether that means setting a daily time limit (like saying you will write for one hour each day) or imposing a word count goal (like saying you will write 1,500 words a day) will be up to you. Just as long as you set reasonable expectations for yourself.
If you have never written for more than 30 minutes at a time, do not set yourself up for failure by scheduling six-hour sessions. Once you find a system that works for you, stick with it.
Find a writing community
When you imagine a writer working tirelessly on their story, you probably immediately conjure images of Ernest Hemingway, hunched over his typewriter, with only a glass of whiskey to keep him company. The reality is that many writers today feel like they do their best work when they have a support system, or a community to talk to.
If you are going the community route, just make sure to find one that is made up of people with similar goals, or who are writing in similar genres. If you are writing books about boy wizards, find a group that focuses on fantasy writing. If you are writing poetry, you will want to skip the fantasy group and see if you can find a group of fellow poets. Getting feedback on ideas and even chapters helps keep writers moving forward without getting stuck in their heads.
No matter how you go about writing your story, just make sure you stick with it. It does not matter how many stories like yours there are in the world, because there is only one you to tell it.