Sunday, September 23, 2012

How to get started

A friend's daughter (junior high) recently asked me this via FB: I am writing a book in third person and wondering what are the best ways to start.

My answer is below. Take it or leave it, but I think I did a bang-up job of summarizing some very large topics.

How to get started writing your book

Wow, that's a big question. I like 3rd person POV (Point-of-View) the best. It gives you a lot of options you don't have in 1st person.

Next you need to decide on TENSE. Will you use past or present? For instance, past tense is like this: "He walked to the store."

Present tense is this: "He walks to the store."

I use past, but lots of young adult (YA) books use the present tense. I think the Hunger Games series uses present tense, I could be wrong.

After tense, you need to decide on TONE. Will it be a fun tone, serious, or something in-between? Think about tv shows, how some are comedies, some are dramas, some are action, and so on. That's the tone, and you need to decide what tone to use. Pick one, and STICK TO IT for the whole book.

Now that you have the POV (Point-of-View, 3rd person), TENSE, and TONE, you need to develop a quick one or two sentence TOPIC of the book. What is it about? Hunger Games could be like this: "In a futuristic world governed by wealthy aristocrats, young citizens are forced to fight to the death."

It needs to be quick and dirty, and you need to put it at the top of your first page. Read that sentence every time you sit down to write.

Repeat: Read that sentence EVERY TIME you sit to write. It is all you focus on.

It may just be a title. For instance, "Hunger Games" says a lot about the book, and would be a great hook to reference.

The hook, or TOPIC, gives you as the author something to hook into each time you sit to write, and it keeps you consistent. Anything that is ~not~ related to the TOPIC gets deleted.

That's how you start. Some people will draft an outline, others will just start writing. Me, I just start writing. You may like to plot, and then write.

So long as you honor your POV, TENSE, TONE, and TOPIC, and stay consistent on every paragraph of every page, you'll produce something spectacular.

You may choose a target length for the book. 100pp is a good start, which would put you at about 25,000 words (there should be about 250 words per page on your draft). Set up your Word document for double-space text, 12pt Courier New. Use one space to separate sentences, and use a paragraph format that automatically indents the first line of each paragraph. Do not double-space between paragraphs like you do in emails (and like I do here). That is standard format for a manuscript.

A target daily word count goal is ONE page no matter what, and as many as you can get after that. Finish the book first, and then edit it afterwards. What I mean is this: After you write a page, go onto the next page. Don't get too hung up on fixing problems, because you will get that during revision and edit later.

Wishing you luck, and let me know if you need anything else. Always glad to help.

- Eric

What did I miss?

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications



L. Diane Wolfe said...

I think that is an excellent checklist, Eric.

Jai Joshi said...

Great advice, Eric.

One other thing is character. Have her think about her characters and what type of people they are so that as she's writing their actions will come naturally.


Misha Gerrick said...

No I think you have a great list going.

Of course, she could be a pantser like me. In which case, she needs the following:

An idea of who the characters are an what makes them tick.

A vague sense of how the plot will go.

A CLEAR idea of the end.

Then she can write and discover the rest in the rough draft.


dolorah said...

Excellent tips Eric; especially about keeping the topic handy and not editing til the draft is completely written.

Have a good weekend.

Oh, and I enjoyed Kostas author interview. So cool that AHL has a world-wide readership. That will make for some interesting reading.


Raquel Byrnes said...

Those are great tips, Eric. I'm going to do the sentence at the top of my page one. Thanks! :)

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