How to write a book: step-by-step instructions
Many and many have told about how to write a book. Think at least of Aristotle and his followers of later eras, not to mention a huge number of modern authors. Reading these studies is a must for the aspiring author. But reading wise books requires free time, which a city dweller often simply does not have.
We offer a way out: we have gathered in one place comprehensive information on how to write a book, and access to it is open to all.
Where to start? To be fair, let’s say – wherever your heart desires. It would be boring to talk about the obligation of the plan and following the technology, but the fact is that literature is an area of absolute freedom, so it absolutely does not matter where the author will start and how he will write: even backwards, the main thing is to have the result. In fiction, of course, there are necessary, solid elements, without which a work, especially a genre work, simply will not happen: for example, the plot, characters, composition. But which way the author will go to this work is absolutely unimportant. So let’s throw in a disclaimer: everything you read below is only an extract from the experience of thousands of writers who have won international fame, it is a sampling of studies by literary critics and philologists, which can facilitate the work on the text, to lift the veil on the world of literature.
But you can do things your own way and achieve just as much success. The fact is that a single, approved, unmistakable formula for a bestseller simply does not exist. And if someone says otherwise – he’s lying. There are features that unite the stories that have become popular, and this is what we will talk about. But we should not forget that in the world of fiction, the author always has the right to creative rebellion and experimentation. But it is important for all experimenters to know: without learning the theory and the basics, rebellion ceases to be rebellion.
Let’s go. Let’s write a book.
First of all, let us define the concept of the book. By the book will be understood a novel – a work of large form, exceeding the volume of the classic story. The novel is one main storyline and several secondary (there may be only one line or two equally important main lines), it is several characters, it is quite a long chain of events and a long time interval – it is a book, which is interesting to dive into. The average novel averages 10-15 author’s pages. One author’s page equals 40,000 characters with spaces, which means a novel is 400,000 to 600,000 characters with spaces (or more). Since bookstore observations suggest that readers buy books of seven hundred pages more readily than three hundred, it pays to focus on the largest possible length. Although, of course, we understand that volume is of secondary importance, the main thing – the content. For example, “The Gambler” by Dostoevsky, “Running on Waves” by Green, “Catcher in the Rye” by Salinger, “Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald, “Oh Wonderful New World” by Huxley – very short novels, but the small volume absolutely does not detract from their value, does not deprive the depth and not prevent them from being classics.
Dealing with reader expectations
We begin with a little theoretical preparation. And first we find out what the reader expects from a novel. Professionals say that it is unwise and even shameful to be guided by the tastes and demands of the public, but the reader has certain, fairly legitimate expectations of the book he picks up. You, being a reader, also share them. These are not just expectations – they are basic, conventional demands that the reader makes of the fiction text. And the text simply has to meet them, otherwise the book can never become a bestseller.
Learning from professional writers
By the way, it would be interesting to know how internationally renowned writers worked and wrote, what they said about their literary experience. Each advice is valuable in its own way, it makes sense to listen to them and take them on board, to find in the recommendations of professionals something that can encourage you and give you faith in yourself. After all, if they were able to, you can, and the main thing to move persistently toward the goal, that is, to collect the necessary material and work on the manuscript.
Determine the timeframe
Now let’s define the time frame for the work. If this is the first book, it’s likely to take several months. There are, of course, authors who can write a novel in two weeks, such as Chuck Palahniq, who legend has created a draft of “Fight Club” in fourteen days. The modern urban dweller, burdened by work and family obligations, is also capable of such feats, but it is better to set aside several months for the creation of the novel – so psychologically easier to get to work. Although the results of NaNoWriMo (derived from NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month) – a motivational project in which you have to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month – show that even contemporary authors, under strict time constraints, can write a great novel in thirty days.
Mastering blind typing and software for writers
At about this stage, if you haven’t managed to do it earlier, you can start mastering the blind typing technique – a mandatory working tool for a novice author, for whom the ability to type quickly, without being distracted by such trifles as finding the letter “g” or a question mark, is an indispensable condition for successful work on a manuscript. You can learn to type blindly in a week if you practice for three to four hours a day. If you shorten your practice time, you can master this extremely useful tool in two to three weeks.
At the same time, you can decide on the software, that is, computer programs and applications that you will use while working. There are many innovations that can make working with text more entertaining. But many writers still use word or notepad, which are even programs that don’t distract with a complicated interface and allow you to move easily through the text. However, it’s a matter of taste; the main thing for a writer is to write, and how and where is a secondary matter.
Working on the plot
Working on your story can begin with clarifying the idea, followed by the phase of planning the text and working on the manuscript as a whole, because in addition to putting letters into words and words into sentences from the author is required the ability to observe, analyze, modify, without regretting what is already written and more.
Conception is the original intent. What the author has in mind, what he wants to write about. Intent is realized throughout the narrative, and sometimes it is exhausted in the first chapters, taking the author into a different storyline. This also happens. The presence of the plot suggests that the author’s mind has ripened plot for the novel. But it also happens: there is an idea in the form of vague ideas, but the plot, a well-thought-out story is not.
Developing a plot
First, let’s understand what a plot is. The word “plot” comes from the French “sujet” and literally means “subject.” In literature and drama, a plot is a series of events (a sequence of scenes, episodes, acts) occurring in a work of fiction. It is a story, the events of which are told by the author in a certain sequence. If you have a plot, consider that the job is half done, you just need to find the courage to put the story on paper. But it often happens to authors (even the great and famous ones): they have an idea, an idea they want to put into a text, but the plot, the story itself, is missing.
Many scholars, philologists, and practicing writers have studied the structure of works of fiction, as we have said. The fact is that history is a deeply technological phenomenon, that is, there are known, well-researched and tried ways to create a plot literally on the spot. Think about what drives the hero? Why, for example, does Ivan the Tsarevich go to rescue Tzarevna the Frog from the captivity of Koschei the Immortal? Because he realized that he was not married to a talking reptile, but to a beauty with paranormal powers, and he wants his wife back. And someone else wants to get rich, and a third wants to achieve world fame, and a fourth wants to come home from the war. It is the hero’s desire that becomes the driving force that sets up the main plot lines. You can learn more about how to come up with a plot for a novel from our texts.
Speaking of the need for plot, many may argue that this is not necessary, citing the bright, impressive characters who often pull the entire story through their unique exclusivity. Indeed, there is an opinion that heroes are sometimes as important as the plot, and that thinking through the hero’s line can begin the narrative.
Heroes are the engines of the story, and a novel is unthinkable without them. Often the hero really becomes the locomotive that pulls the entire composition of the story, because the reader becomes interested in reading about the created character. This is especially true of books devoted specifically to the hero’s personality: The Incredible Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Lewis Stephenson, Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking novels, etc. Wherever a particular person is at the center of the narrative, it is he, this character can be considered the linchpin on which the entire book rests.
Planning the novel
So back to the concept: we will start from the idea that the basic idea formed in the author’s head, now all that’s left is to transfer it to paper and distribute it a little. Manage the idea will help planning, about which there are two opposing views. Jürgen Wolf, in his book The Literary Workshop, writes: “There are two opposing views on planning. The first is that you have to think carefully about the whole plot before you put pen to paper for the first word. The second is that if you know everything about your book beforehand, it will become predictable and it will be uninteresting to write it.
For example, an ardent advocate of planning was Edgar Poe, who argued, “It is perfectly clear that any plot worthy of the name should be carefully developed before the denouement. Stephen King, however, does not find the prospect of starting to write from scratch daunting: he admits that he knows almost nothing about his characters and plot when he begins work on a novel, which does not prevent him from creating bestsellers year after year.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, speaking of planning, expresses the curious idea that in his youth a writer can easily do without a plan, functioning on pure adrenaline and enthusiasm, but for further literary activity, you need the ability to work with composition:
“When I wrote my first stories, I had a general idea for the mood of the book, but I let myself rely on chance. The best advice I ever got was this. When you’re young, when streams of inspiration descend upon you, it’s perfectly possible to work this way. But I was told that if I didn’t learn writing technique, then I’d have problems: inspiration would go away, and technique to compensate would be lacking. If I hadn’t realized this in time, I wouldn’t be able to make composition plans for my books now. Composition is a purely technical problem, and if you don’t learn it in time, you’ll never master it again.”
Working through the composition
Note, Marquez is not so much talking about planning as he is about working out the composition. After all, it is the composition that is the plan of the work. Therefore, in our opinion, the plan (at least an approximate one) will help the author to orient himself in the chaos of scenes, plot lines and events, not to mention the plot, climax and denouement, which, of course, must be present in the text.
Compositional planning is not only the formulation of the plot, the events of the main action, the climax, the denouement, the epilogue, but also the planning of the alternation of scenes, the determination of their correlation in time (what happens after what), the determination of the main plot lines that are tied to the actions of the main characters. Obviously, the author cannot predict everything, because in the course of working on the text there may be an unexpected idea that takes the plot in a different direction. But compositional planning will allow you to look more boldly into the eyes of the future novel, and feel freer to work with the text. And when you know what lies ahead, it’s much easier to move forward with the plot.
Learning to narrate and tell a story
So, we have dealt with the plot, characters, planning and composition, we have mastered the method of blind typing, that is, we are well prepared for the start. Now we need to choose the manner of narration, determine the grammatical tense we will adhere to, and master the main functional types of speech: description, narration, and reasoning, so that we can describe, narrate, and reason accordingly. Because, apart from the speech of the characters, that is, monologues and dialogues, a fiction text consists of descriptions, narratives, and reasoning, mixed with each other in a variety of proportions.
Starting to write
Beginning to work on a manuscript is an extremely exciting moment, because sometimes it is quite unclear where to begin and how to write in general. Here modern authors gladly get help from the centuries-old experience of professionals. Today we know many ways to facilitate the process of getting started on a manuscript.
Fight fatigue and laziness
There are times when an author gets tired. Burns out. From indefatigable writing, from thinking over plot moves, dialogues, from directing characters in the right direction. Experienced similar feelings many writers who have achieved world fame. The famous John R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, did not escape his moping: “They say only the first step is difficult. I don’t think so. It seems I can write the first chapters endlessly. And how many of them I’ve already written! <…> what to do next, I have very little idea.
Shaking things up with literary games
The trick is that the author, who succumbed to weakness, hostage to laziness and fatigue, runs the risk of completely out of work and not come back. So when taking a little break from writing, it’s important not to step completely out of the literary context. A little fantasy, a little writing. But something non-serious. Literary games and participation in various writer’s marathons, parleys, and other game projects are good for this, which allow you not to lose valuable storytelling skills, but also help you to take a break and take a break from serious work.
Editing the manuscript
Once the text of the novel is fully written, it is worthwhile to start proofreading and editing. You can use both your loved ones and professional readers, who are called beta-readers, for this. You can give the manuscript to a literary editor for proofreading: he will not only proofread the text for errors, but also suggest what can be changed conceptually. For example, find plot blunders or gaps, show where the lines of the characters are headed in a different direction, how you can deepen the characters’ image if necessary.