Why do you crave these types of books? This type of story usually has a single protagonist who has to save the world before the bad guys destroy everything. This fits with the expectations of readers who like supernatural thrillers. Another great example is the romance genre, where the readers are some of the most voracious and demanding in the publishing business.
If you want to satisfy romance readers, then you need to deliver the HEA, the Happily Ever After, as well as obligatory scenes like the first kiss. As an example, consider The Hunger Games. The book opens in the ordinary world of Panem, where Katniss is hunting for food for her family in a district oppressed by a central government. Then Prim is chosen for the Reaping, which is the Inciting Incident as Katniss has to make a choice that then propels her into the story.
Act Two of the book is the preparation for the Games and the obstacles of the arena itself, where Katniss has to fight to survive. She faces death rather than leave Peta behind and in the Climax, defeats President Snow and wins the Games, returning to the real world of the district at the end, forever changed. If you want readers to want to spend their precious time on your book, then you have to write a character that keeps them engaged. There are other people in the worlds of those books, but the main characters are the ones that we care about most and follow through the books and also why these became huge films as well as multi-million selling books.
Your character will also shape the Point of View you write from, and this is critical because every story is different from a different perspective. The bad guy never thinks they are the bad guy, after all. What does your character want and why? How do they overcome the obstacles along the way? How are they changed as a result of the journey? Go back to the books you love the most and you are likely to find that these are the core aspects of those stories. The Taj Mahal features in my novel, Destroyer of Worlds. You can also think about where this will happen, otherwise known as the setting.
There needs to be action that takes place somewhere specific. Game of Thrones is a great example of this.
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Take Jon Snow at the Wall in the North. The ice and snow bring a dark, cold tone to the experiences of the characters and makes life much harder than those who live in the golden city of Kings Landing in the sunnier south. The Hunger Games also uses setting to derive plot, with much of the first book taking place in the games arena where Katniss must survive the deadly traps set for the Tributes.
In Gone Girl , Nick must find his missing wife Amy, and figure out the psychological games she has been playing as he falls into the domestic traps she has set. Remember that plot and setting is experienced by the character and the closer you get to the emotions of the protagonist, the more your readers will resonate with the story. Because that is NOT what the author wrote the first time they put pen to paper. The reality is that everyone starts with a first draft, and most authors would never show that draft to anyone. In my experience, the amazing ideas I have in my head turn out to be a mess on the page.
Finding the right words is difficult. And how the hell did my character even get into this dilemma in the first place?! Do you schedule your gym classes? Your meetings at work? Your social life? I use an old-school Filofax diary and schedule my writing time in blocks. Now I tend to go to a cafe or a co-working space and pound away at the keyboard while plugged into Rain and Thunderstorms on repeat. Anything to quiet that critical voice! Once you are in your specific place at the specific scheduled time, then you need to focus. No Facebook, no email, no social media, no texting.
Set a timer and start small, since writing takes stamina and you have to build it up over time. Try ten minutes of typing and just write down what your character is doing in a particular place. Allow yourself to write a load of crap without censoring and I guarantee you that there will be something there worth saving! Take a quick break and then do another ten minutes. Repeat this until you have your first draft. It really is that simple but not easy, and you get the bug, this will turn out to be immensely satisfying and addictive!
Bonus tip: You can write by hand on paper, or use MS Word, but many writers now use Scrivener software which helps you organize and write your novel. I have personally found it life-changing! So said Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and many other incredible bestselling books. This is particularly true when you first start writing fiction because there is a huge gap between the books that you love and the pitiful first draft you have created. I end up with pages of scribbled notes, arrows, lines and extra scenes, strike-through marks across whole pages, as well as grammar and typos fixes.
Then I put all those changes back into my Scrivener document, remembering to back up my files along the way, of course! That first edit is usually my most significant one, and then I will print it out and go through it once more before working with a professional editor. The best way to improve your writing is to work with an editor on your manuscript. If you want an agent, then improving your manuscript before submission is a good idea.
You can find a list of editors here. There are different types of edits. A story edit, or content edit, is a great way to check whether your structure is working, whether your characters are engaging or whether your plot has massive holes. Too many writers think editing is about fixing typos, but that is the least important thing at this stage. Readers will forgive terrible writing if your story is amazing. After all, 50 Shades of Grey sold million copies! Getting a story edit is often the best way to improve your work and well worth investing in.
Then you can do your rewrites based on the suggested changes. This article has been a whistle-stop tour through the process, but I want to reassure you again that it is possible.
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So I wish you all the best with your book. If you want to get started on your novel right now, and get into these topics in more detail, then check out my multimedia course: How to Write a Novel: From First Draft to Finished Manuscript. What are your problems with writing your first novel?
Or do you have any tips on writing for those getting started? Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation. HI, Joanna! This was a great mini refresher course for me. I spent four years writing and have some not quite finished manuscripts, one complete flash fiction that won second place in a contest, a few incomplete short stories. This blog post gives me the jump start I needed. What if they see this book as a winner and steal the manuscripts and make it there own.
How do you protect the First draft? This is not something to be concerned about! I sometimes like to print out posts so I can mark them up and easily refer to specific parts and so forth. Thank you much! Although writing is hard…. Hi Joanna, Great article. Sums up the process in essence. I find the more I write and study storytelling, story structure and novel writing, the less I know. For years, I ditched every novel I wrote when it got to this stage, and at the time I was teaching creative writing and novel writing.
I felt such a fraud! I wanted to write literary stuff, but loved to read weird sci fi and thrillers.
When I found your podcast last winter, I realised it was okay to write genre fiction and self publish. Oh, and a non-fiction book about writing. May the force be with you! I love your blog and books! I just signed up for NanoWriMo to write a book in the month of November. Are you familiar with this event? This blog post is exactly what is needed for those of us who are participating! Thanks for all you do! Where else will you get ideas from? It can add credibility to your career or business. When I received a proof copy of my first book, the feeling was euphoric. I felt a mixture of pride and disbelief.
I created this. You write the book once and it continues to pay each month even though sales will likely drop after a few months, which is why many successful self-published authors write multiple books. The bad news? Your first book is for learning. But if you become a better writer and publish more books, your income will grow. Regardless of the results, the process is worth it. Your first book is an experiment and a learning process.
Some just want to cross writing a book off of their bucket list. Others want to turn it into a full time living. Some use their books as launching pads for a business. Each category requires a certain level of commitment, both mentally and financially. Figure out which one you are or aspire to be and plan accordingly.
Author Type 1 — The Laborer of Love. The laborer of love has dreamed of writing a book for a long time. They just want to be able to say they did it. Author Type 2 — The Serial Writer. This is the type of person who writes multiple books in order to make a full-time living as an author. They write quality books, but they keep tight deadlines to write multiple books a year. Most successful self-published authors fall into this category. Steve Scott is a great example. He started writing short books 20—30k words every 3 weeks.
He now makes north of half a million dollars per year in royalties after having written more than 60 books. He used his platform and authority as an author to pursue more business ventures, but book royalties are his main revenue source. Joanna Penn is another great example. Lastly, take a look at the income reports from serial author Michael Stawicki.
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He waited a year before publishing the reports to give a clear view of the struggles he faced early on. In his first few months he made little money and even lost money some months. When you read statistics about self-published authors not making much money, the data often includes writers who only write one book. I bet the numbers are more favorable. I plan on writing a new book every 4—6 months. I take my reputation as an author seriously.
I want to write quality books, but I want to move towards a full-time living too. This schedule gives me enough room to make those cumulative sales but also gives me enough time to produce quality work. I personally know an author who has written about 30 books, which enabled him to write full time. It just takes work, diligence, and patience. Authors on this level spend more on quality editing and design. They also spend a lot on advertising for their book launches. Author Type 3 — The Authorpreneur. This is the Holy Grail for aspiring writers.
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Their income streams include:. Got a new book out? Send an email to your subscribers and sell 1, copies on day one. Launch an online course? You can convert at. But here are some things I can safely say about making it to this level. Take it one book at a time, use blogging and book writing to build your following, develop trust and rapport with your audience, and be patient.
The only reason I included this author level is to give you something to aim for long-term. This is my long-term goal, and I keep it in the back of my mind when I feel like giving up. It might be yours too. Authors at this level have major book launches that cost a lot of money. Self published authors at this level spend a lot of money on design, editing, and marketing. It went on to sell more than , copies. Platform or no Platform? An author platform usually consists of a blog and an email list. Having an email list of people who you can market your books to increases your chance of success.
For all other types, you might want to consider building a following before you launch first book. When I wrote my book, I had no following. This can only take you so far. So how large is large? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some authors have , email subscribers. Some have a few hundred. Taylor Pearson , author of The End of Jobs, sold 5, copies in his first month with just email subscribers. He had a couple of things going for him. A smaller email list with high engagement can help your book sell if you use smart marketing like Taylor.
Right now I have around 1, email subscribers. If your launch goes well and you get a high amount of sales during your first few weeks, Amazon will help you market your books by recommending them to customers. If you just want to get your feet wet in publishing, you can start with no following. I might come out with a list-building guide in the future, but there are several bloggers who can do the subject more justice than I can.
Here are the best resources on the Internet for building your email list:. Free Resources:. Paid Resource:. This is the process I used to write my book. Depending on the subject of your book, research may be necessary. I read a lot. I learned about it from best selling authors Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene. You can read about the entire process in detail here. It helped to have a stack of quotes, facts, and anecdotes to draw on before I got started on writing the book. The collection of facts and quotes I used to write my first book.
Patience is key when it comes to creating quality work. If you have an idea for a book already, skip to step two. What can you talk about with ease? For me, living a strength based and purposeful life was something I always talked about. What do you like to read? I love to read books about personal development, business, psychology, spirituality, and marketing. I learned this exercise from popular author Jeff Goins.
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