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Start the Book You Always Meant to Write

Updated on October 15, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and I love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Your Own Life Experiences Can Be Your Inspiration

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You Have a Story Inside You

We each have a tale to tell. Life happens to all of us and we react in different ways. Your story is unique. No-one else sees the world in quite the same way as you. There is a book inside your head (and mine too) just waiting to be written.

To get started on writing your story you need three things; motivation, time and serendipity. Without the desire and motivation to share your story, your book will not get off the starting blocks. You can make time to write if you really want to, no matter how buy a life you lead. As for serendipity? Well, that is beyond anyone's power to control.

Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.

— Jim Tully (author)

Your Writing is Unique

The stories you tell about the world are from your own perspective. (See how Toronto skyscrapers are changed when viewed through an altered reality.)
The stories you tell about the world are from your own perspective. (See how Toronto skyscrapers are changed when viewed through an altered reality.) | Source

What it Takes to Write a Successful Book

For starters, you need to have:

  1. An interesting and original idea (if you’re writing fiction).
  2. Or something special to say (if you’re working on a non-fiction subject).
  3. You must be able to write clearly and use words effectively.
  4. You must be able to organize your life to give yourself enough time to write

To achieve success as an author you also need:

  • a LOT of patience
  • a willingness to ask for and respond to positive and negative feedback
  • an ability to carry out methodical research

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice Even successful writers sometimes need help with editing and proofreading. There are professional editors who offer these services in return for a fee. There are also self-help writing groups who provide mutual support for nil cost (or almost free). Members give each other constructive feedback to help their fellow writers develop. Look out for writers’ groups active in your area or start one yourself if Craigslist (or similar) has none listed.

Your Efforts May Produce Delicious Fruit or Rotten Apples

Arthur Rackham's illustration "Apple Harvest".
Arthur Rackham's illustration "Apple Harvest". | Source

Editing and Tweaking Your Story

Once you have your first draft, start thinking about how you can improve it. There are bound to be things you want to change, but they don’t need to be lost forever. If you’re working on a computer, save your first version and then rename to a new document. This way you can look back and see how the story has developed and you won’t lose any of your original ideas.

Write about feelings you've felt, experiences you've had, and all the while try and marry them to a tight, original storyline.

— Harriet Evans (author)

Have you found the book within you yet?

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Grab Your Reader from the Start

Your book needs to have a strong opening that grabs the reader and makes them want to know more. This is as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction. The first line often raises a question of some sort, although it may not be phrased as a question.

For example: ‘I’ve had enough’, said Sarah, before slamming the door shut behind her.’

Your reader will now have the following questions buzzing in their mind.

What has Sarah had enough of?

Who is she?

Who’s she talking to?

Where’s she going?

These questions are the “hook and bait” that will reel in the fish (your readers). If done well, the opening paragraph can land a sizable catch of loyal readers. These fish will provide you with several meals (maybe a small income and some repeat fans for your future published work).

The Opening Lines of a Book Are the Hook to Snare Your Reader

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Think About the Language You Use

Don’t use the same words repeatedly. If you’re an avid reader and enjoy books from a variety of genre, you’ll find your knowledge of alternative words increases naturally. Many writers find that using a thesaurus is a quick way and easy way to increase their vocabulary. A thesaurus has thousands of antonyms and synonyms.

For example, can you find a better way to describe what’s happening? Instead of saying “she walked into the room”, choose a verb that describes how she walked. Here are some alternatives:

  • she crept into the room (she was trying not to wake the children)
  • she sashayed into the room (she was feeling good because it was her birthday and she was in her evening gown)
  • she padded into the room (it was 7am, she’d just got up and was wearing slippers)

Changing the verb alters the picture you create in your reader’s mind.

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.

— Virginia Woolf

Your Choice of Subject Reflects Your Life Experience

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In the TED talk video below, Nathan Filer, lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath University, UK, says there are seven steps to writing a best-selling first novel

Steps for aspiring authors
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1. Have specific goals
Instead of “I want to be a writer” say “I want to write something today”.
2. Make sure your goals are achievable.
This minimizes the risk of feeling a failure. (But see step 3.)
3. Be prepared to fail.
See failures as small setbacks in a longer journey
4. Base the praise you give yourself on facts.
The occasional self-pep talk is good but be realistic.
5. Be flexible about how you reach your goal.
Join a writing group, enroll on a creative writing course, do whatever it takes to realize your goal.
6. Take responsibility
You can’t write a book by committee. You have to decide what works for your story.
7. Focus on what you can control.
Getting your book published is subject to factors beyond your control.

How to Write an Award-Winning Best-Selling First Novel

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  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 10 months ago from The Caribbean

    For me it is my lack of focus which prevents me from completing my book. Thanks for the motivation and the tips.

  • Paxash profile image

    Darcie Nadel 10 months ago from Louisiana

    Thanks for writing this. I keep attempting to write my first novel, and this was really helpful advice for me.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 10 months ago from the short journey

    Thanks for some good tips. Looking forward to listening to the Ted Talk from Filer.