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Ready to finally sit down and write your first book?
Now you just have to actually sit down and write your first book.
So, to help you out, I've brought together some of the best articles I've found on writing. You'll find all sorts of tricks, advice, tips, resources, and more for every step of the process.
How to Write Your First Book: Top Articles on Writing
1. Literary Hub: The First Rule of Novel-Writing is Don’t Write a Novel
Are you getting overwhelmed with all the "if you want to write your book, then you have to..." rules that keep popping up everywhere?
A lot of the "writing advice" that authors like to give to new authors is, well, pure bogus. They aren't trying to give you bogus advice, it's just that the advice they have set up as a hard-and-fast rule doesn't work for everyone. And nothing is more dangerous to your writing than trying to stick to a rule that just doesn't work.
But after many years of banging my literal and metaphoric head against the wall, I realized that the more and more frustrated I became, the more and more I tried anew to tackle my writing, the less it gave me. And an amazing truth began to bubble to the surface. It was this: the harder I worked at my writing instead of with it, the more it would back away from me.
2. Publishers Weekly: What I Learned from James Patterson
I include this article not just because the advice in this article is good (it's great), but also because it teaches us a valuable lesson: even well-established, experienced, best-selling authors can learn a thing or two.
New authors tend to get themselves stuck—they feel new because they still know there are things out there that they don't know. They have questions and each question on their mind makes them think about how little they know. They feel amateurish.
The next time you're feeling new and amateurish because you don't know something, remember this article and remember experienced authors also learn new things they didn't know. The only difference is that new authors know they don't know something and are able to ask questions, experienced authors don't have that same advantage.
The sum of this advice was to sacrifice all for the story and the characters. Outlines were trusted navigational charts, yet we were free to sail in other directions as the novel evolved. But if you were going to change something, it had to be a terrific change. “We’re after terrific, fascinating, and smart,” Patterson said. “We’re after a story that the reader can’t put down and can’t forget when they’re done, the kind people talk about to their friends.”
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3. Terrible Minds: 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story
One of the first questions people ask me about writing their first book is "what's the best way to plot an outline?"
The best way.
This is such a hard question to answer because there is no singular best way to plot out an outline, but there is a best way for you to do it. The trick is for you to figure it out because what's best for me might not work best for you.
And that's why Chuck Wendig's post is such a great one. He covers 25 different "plotniques" so you can try them out and see which one suits you best.
I'm a panster at heart, plotter by necessity — and I always advocate learning how to plot and plan because inevitably someone on the business side of things is going to poke you with a pointy stick and say, “I want this.” Thus you will demonstrate your talent.
4. Jerry Jenkins: How to Write a Novel: A 12-Step Guide
Now, just about any step-by-step guide is going to help you write your book. They all contain a lot of the same information told through different perspectives and giving different examples and perspectives.
So why would I include this 12-step guide by Jerry Jenkins, specifically? Is it because he's written over 200 books? Or because he's sold over 70 million copies of his books? Or because he's been writing for over 40 years?
Nope - none of that. Those are great, don't get me wrong. Congratulations, Jerry; but I wanted to include his guide to reiterate the notion that even experienced authors still struggle and learn new things from time to time. And in his guide, Jerry explains how, even after gaining so much experience, he is able to fight off these struggles to keep writing.
You may be surprised that even after writing 200 books (two-thirds of those novels) over the last 45+ years, including several New York Times bestsellers (most notably the Left Behind Series), I face those same problems every time.
5. Reedsy: Character Development 101: Writing Characters Readers Won't Forget
Every new author knows that character development is an essential part of writing their books. They seldom ask me if character development is something they should do. However, many new authors struggle with how to develop their characters.
How can they ensure that their readers will react to their characters the way they intend? How can they make sure their characters are believable?
For any novel to truly connect with readers, the author needs to pay close attention to character development. Even if you’re writing an action-packed, plot-driven book where the characters are robots, it’s the human element that will resonate with readers.
6. Well Storied: Four Ways to Plot a Trilogy
I know, I know... you're just trying to write your first book - not a whole trilogy! One step at a time, right?
Yet I am asked almost every week about plotting out a trilogy or a series by a new author. So I couldn't very well leave this article off the list. Even if you're not sure whether or not your book would make a good series, this article will give you some good points to think about as you explore longer arcs and possibilities.
A good trilogy must hook readers and keep them engaged, maintain good pacing and consistency, and steadily increase in tension toward an epic series climax. Mapping that out? Well, it’s certainly a tall order. No wonder so many authors find the task of writing such a trilogy daunting!
7. Writer's Digest: 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them)
I have long said: you cannot break your book.
But you can sabotage yourself into never writing the book in the first place.
As long as you are writing your book, you can't break it. The trouble comes in when you allow things like rules, advice, and perfectionism to stop you from making any real progress in your book.
The hardest part about this is that usually what gets people stuck is the very thing they rely on to get through their book—things like editing as they go (which can launch a battle with perfectionism), obsessing over the details (perfectionism), and even spending too much time world-building—thinking they have to have every aspect built, explained, and planned out before they can start telling their story.
So, technically you can break your book... just not by writing it.
You can doom your debut novel from the start with these 7 (tongue-in-cheek) strategies for flailing, and failing—or, you can do just the opposite.
8.Your Guide to Structuring Chapters
Chapters help give your book structure. They help guide your reader from one scene to another, provide your readers with insights as to what to expect, and even help give your readers time to absorb and digest everything they've just read so they can react to your story.
In other words, how you structure your chapters can have just as much of an impact on your story as what words you choose to deliver your story.
Chapters are one of those structural elements that you probably don’t think about much until you’re tasked with dividing your own book into sections. Then you’ll wonder: What makes for a compelling chapter? How do I decide when to end a chapter? What do chapters do anyway?
9. How to Write the Perfect First Page
The dreaded first page has single-handedly stopped more new authors in their keyboard tracks than just about any other page ever. I cannot even tell you how many times I've been asked over the years "but how do I start my book" or "how can you get the first page just right?"
Typically, I like to save "perfect" for editing—while you're writing, write, get the story out and into your document and then worry about making those words good later. During editing, all those transitions, chapter hooks, and micro-cliffhangers that you're so worried about are much easier to focus on and figure out.
I’ve changed the first page of my novel a lot. I can’t even tell you how many times. It happened because as I was writing, I followed a lot of writing blogs, attended a lot of author talks, and browsed a lot of guides that had a lot to say about how to write the first page of a book. I guess the thinking is that readers thumbing through books in the bookstore and agents alike make snap decisions based on those initial words—so you better make it good!
10. 6 Clever Ways To Achieve The Perfect Ending To Your Story
While the first page of the book can seem overwhelming to many new authors, the ending can be equally intimidating. In fact, some authors get themselves so stuck on how to end their story, they just keep writing—adding on several chapters they hadn't planned on simply because they can't seem to bring their thoughts and story to a close.
Of course, the ending is the most important part of any story, right? That's where the payoff is. That's where the hero wins, the villain escapes, love is redeemed... everything the characters have endured gets them to this point and we can celebrate their triumphs and mourns their losses with them.
But to many authors, the idea of tying up loose ends and making the ending as spectacular as they think their readers will expect turns into a daunting and stressful exercise.
You’ve done all the hard work. The amazing story you’ve been writing is 99% finished; now you just have to end it. Cue aimless staring at the computer screen, right? Ending a story can be an excruciating and frustrating experience. We all want that perfect conclusion, one that complements and fulfils the purpose of the story.
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