How to write and publish your first book!

So, You Want to Become an Author…

No matter where you look, despite where you live, there are stories all around us, just waiting to be told. Maybe you’ve been rolling an idea around in your head or maybe you have a life experience that you want to write about.

How does a person go about breathing life into a story and actually transform those ideas into a book that anybody can read? At first, the unknown can be daunting, but when you take things one step at a time, it is perfectly manageable.

Building the foundation

First, what is the genre you are interested in writing? Think about the books that you are most drawn to. Picture a rainy day that there is absolutely nothing you need to worry about. You can curl up in front of a warm fire and lose yourself in a book – what would that type of book be? If you typically read romance books, chances are, you aren’t going to feel comfortable writing a horror story. Write what you know.

Coupled with the genre is the theme of a book. There are countless different themes that are considered tried-and-true subjects. It might be a coming of age story, or a journey of survival, whether it be in nature or from a damaging relationship. Other common themes include good versus evil, courage, and spirituality. Whatever the theme is, make sure it is one that you feel impassioned toward, because let’s face it, you’re going to have to write about it for… well, the entire book. Make sure you are going to enjoy the journey.

Once you decide on the theme, it’s time to think about the message you want to convey. If someone was to read a book that you wrote, what is the one thing, the most significant idea that you would want your reader to recall after the final paragraph? If a reader finishes the final sentence of your book with the message conveyed successfully, that same person might be the first to order your next book.

Bringing a story to life

Now it’s time to start waking up the distinct parts of your story. This is really where the fun begins. It’s time to unleash your creativity. Build your cities, scratch out your forests, or envision that boat. The more effectively you bring that setting to life in your mind, the better you are going to paint that picture in your manuscript. Choosing a setting and describing it well is extremely important because readers want to be able to picture where the characters are positioned, much like the pieces on a chess board.

Depending on who you speak with, some authors believe it is absolutely important to have a concrete outline before they even begin their first sentence. Others feel that this method is too restrictive, and chose to plow into their story without any forethought to how the story will be laid out.

It’s time to put your characters through their paces

Many writers then turn to the arc of their story. In Nigel Watts’ widely popular book Write a Novel and Get It Published, the author outlines eight points to a story arc.

Those points are:

  • Stasis, or where the stage is set for your book
  • Trigger, when something disrupts the traditional routine for the protagonist, or main character
  • Quest, where the character searches for a way to counteract the trigger; surprise, when the protagonist encounters obstacles on his journey
  • Surprise, where different problems are thrown into the mix
  • Critical choice, when the main character is forced to make a decision that may affect the outcome of the story
  • Climax, when the tension and conflict peaks
  • Reversal, revealing the consequence of the choices the character makes; and
  • Resolution; when the dust settles and the protagonist returns to ‘normal’ life.

Keep in mind that a novel does not need to be constructed around the story arc when a book is being planned, but it’s a good template to refer to as you’re working on your book to keep things flowing and moving along.

Start at the… end?

A lot of well-known authors admit that the most difficult part of writing a story is constructing the ending. Consequently, just like one needs to eat their broccoli before getting dessert, writers tend to focus on the end of the story first and work their way backward. How do you want your book to turn out? Do you want your character to live happily ever after, or are you planning on leaving the reader wondering with a final twist in the storyline?

By having the finish line in sight, it’s often easier to entice yourself to keep writing your book, knowing that you have a concrete resolution to work toward.

And then what?

Write, write, write

It’s time to write. Write every day, write a lot. Don’t worry about making everything perfect at once; a first draft is just that: a draft. Let your thoughts flow without analyzing exactly how the words are coming together. That can happen later, during revisions. Write as if nobody’s going to ever read your words; just allow your story to come out without trying to anticipate how a reader is going to visualize it.

It’s important to write every day to keep the momentum going. Chances are, you are not going to have the opportunity to ‘go to work’ writing in the same fashion that someone gets up and spends his or her day at work. However, make a plan for yourself to block off part of your day to write. Maybe it’s getting up a half hour earlier every day and writing while the house is quiet. Or opting to write instead of hanging out with your co-workers during your lunch break.

Working through your own obstacles

Regardless, write and keep writing. If you hit a snag in your storyline, or the dreaded writer’s block sneaks into your daily writing, take a break. Get up, take a walk or just change where you’re sitting. Instead of writing in your office, take your laptop outside in the sun for a while. Other writers begin freewriting, a technique where a writer just starts writing anything and everything. Not worrying about spelling or punctuation, but just letting the words flow. Chances are, it’s going to chip away at that roadblock in the writing process.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor. However, you don’t have to feel isolated in the process. With the advent of social media, it is easier than ever to join groups of fellow writers online. These groups are great to bounce ideas off of, or even just to commiserate about the lows in the writing process. If you need to take a break, give yourself a few minutes to check in with some of your peers on Facebook. Just don’t let yourself get sucked into the abyss of social media nothingness. It’s great for a break, but then, get back to your writing.

When you’re done with the first draft, it’s time to go back and start reviewing and rewriting. Admittedly, if you consider the first draft as a fun party, the rewriting process can be more like the cleaning up after that party. It can be tedious, but at the same time, consider the accomplishment you have already made! You wrote a book! Now, it’s just time to pretty it up.

It’s show time!

Before you release your book into the wide world of readers, take the time and spend the money to have an editor go through it. You may think that you write without making mistakes, but trust me, it is worth it to have at least one other objective set of eyes to look over your work.

When you feel like your book is ready to go out to print, the publishing step can be quite intimidating. However, many writers have walked the path you are on right now, and plenty of support and information has been laid out for you to tap into.

There are pros and cons to the various publishing methods available today, and you need to figure out the best method for your needs.

Publishing options

Traditional publishing includes looking for an agent to help promote your book, or to go directly to publishers. Again, there are many resources and guides to show how to reach out to these professionals. When you go this route, you’ll have to construct query letters and other methods for book proposals. Traditional publishing can take a lot of time and you’ll likely have to steel yourself for many rejections, but what a great feeling when someone does accept your manuscript!

India has a considerable number of agents to reach out to and the top ones can be found with a simple Google search. An agent is admittedly another step in the lengthy process of traditional publishing, but agents are fantastic for doing a lot of the heavy footwork in finding a good publisher. Many also helping in events after the book is published, such as coordinating press releases, book launches and tour scheduling.

You may want to consider the newer, non-traditional method of publishing, which is self-publishing or independent (indie) publishing. Self-publishing platforms continue to increase in ability and convenience. Keep in mind that with self-publishing, you can quickly get your book out there in both electronic and hard copy format. And, if an error or two does manage to slip through in the editing process, it can be quickly fixed. There are professionals who could help you with cover design, type-setting, ISBN but you will need to do upfront investments for printing and marketing your book. You can list your books on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, etc.

If you want to save investments on printing, you can publish a free or paid e-book on Amazon KDP. Though e-book consumption is much lower in India but it’s a great way to start your writing journey and see if the readers like your book.

Keep on keeping on

The possibilities are endless when you step into the world of writing. Keep your eye on the end result and soon enough, you’ll see your name on the cover of a book that you created!

Read Savi Sharma’s Books