Some people have asked me to help them write a book when they mean, write the book for me. What’s the saying, teach a man to fish. You know the rest. This blog post is mainly for people who want to write and publish their books but don’t know how or where to start. I am the author of twelve contemporary and historical fiction novels that I have published on Amazon.com. I worked for a small university press, where I learned my publishing skills before starting a career with a federal agency. Join my mailing list on janicedennie.com to receive bonus content, updates, and special offers. Feel free to chat with me on Facebook.com/Janice Dennie or leave a message below.
STEP 1 – WRITE YOUR STORY
Write your story on a piece of paper or computer. No one knows your account better than you. Don’t worry how it sounds. You can always clean it up later. You become a writer by writing.
YOUR BOOK’S QUESTION
Ask yourself this question. What will your reader get for reading your book? An exciting story filled with thrills or an inspirational story that promises to lift their spirits? Or perhaps a story that will open their minds to a world they’ve never known? You must adhere to this question throughout your book.
I recommend reading “The Weekend Novelist” by Robert Ray and Writer’s Digest “Elements of Fiction Writing” books.
WRITE A SYNOPSIS OR OUTLINE
Write a synopsis or outline of your story/plot. Create a clear story arc that provides a well-defined beginning, middle, and end of your story. You should include every major plot twist where something unexpected happens, including your characters’ motivations, giving each a unique voice, add any conflict and big turning points or climactic scenes in your synopsis.
I usually begin my synopsis with an inciting incident; something extraordinary happens to kick off the story. Then I develop five (5) major plot/story points that I can later break up into chapters. Next, I create the crisis – something unexpected that goes wrong. Then the climax or dark moment, when all is lost, and finally the resolution that ties up all loose ends, answer all questions, and solves all problems.
Here is a sample synopsis from my novel, “Kenton’s Vintage Affair.”
Unemployed chef Briana Rutledge inherits her grandmother’s cottage in Napa, California.
She sets out to turn the cottage into her dream restaurant, but Tiffany Young and her father, restaurateur Nathaniel Young, plot to run Briana out of town.
Vintner Kenton Underwood is known for his superior Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking skills. To increase sales, Kenton needs to expand Underwood Hills Winery by adding white wines to the label. Peter Keller of Eagles Nest Winery obstructs Kenton’s expansion plans to get back on top as Napa Valley’s top Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker.
Kenton has no room for love until he meets sexy, understated, Briana Rutledge who finds a special place in his heart. But Briana harbors a deep-seated fear that thwarts her future happiness. Kenton also suffers from an obsession that fuels his competitive behavior that threatens to ruin his relationship with Briana.
STEP 2 – BUILD YOUR BOOK
Like building a house, every book must have a structural frame made out of 2×4’s. Break your synopsis up into three parts. Aristotle came up with the idea of the three-act play. Act I, the beginning of your story, Act II, the middle, and Act III, the end.
Your opening scene is an essential part of your book because you must capture the reader’s attention by the first paragraph, page, or at least by page three. You should also bring all of your characters on stage in Act I. You don’t want to introduce characters in the middle or end of your book. Character development is significant, but that is a discussion that comes later.
The middle of your story comes after introducing the characters/conflict. It is the meaty part of your story that dramatizes incidents that move the book toward the end. It should include scenes and incidents that increase in conflict and expose characters. These incidents show the reader that your character can change. Act II is where your story builds up to a frenzy with an unbearable situation, and then the story ends. No. You haven’t answered the story question.
Answering the question or delivering the promise of your book requires a satisfying ending. If you promised the reader that they would experience an exciting story filled with thrills by reading your book, now is not time to end your account with a peaceful compromise where everybody gets along. It would be best to have an ending that uses the same characters, conflicts, problems, and tensions to show readers the climax. I would highly suggest reading Beginning, Middles, & Ends, by Nancy Kress.
Voice and POV
A solid method to make a character important to your readers is using the character’s point of view. The character sees situations, incidents, etc., from their perspective. Does your character see things from a common viewpoint or an eccentric one?
When you narrate your story in the first-person point of view, your main character must be present in every scene. However, when you narrate in the omniscient third-person point-of-view, your character is not present in every scene because you are the narrator. “You can show the readers every character’s thoughts, dreams, memories, and desires, in the past, present, or future. If you narrate in the limited third-person point of view, you tell the story from one character’s point-of-view, seeing only what that character sees, aware of what that character wants. The limited third-person narrator can never change viewpoints in mid-sentence. You must show a clear division or a chapter break, or a line space. The limited narrator can change the viewpoint from one scene to another as long as there is a clear chapter break.” (Card 157)
STEP 4 DEVELOPING CHARACTERS