If you are writing a book for the first time and getting jitters as to what will happen on the way, you’re not alone.
Every beginner writer wants to write a book someday. And anticipates various kinds of hindrances on the way.
Under such a situation, you may go to the works of great authors and learn the tricks of the trade for they are the ones whose abilities are never questioned.
I have divided the entire process of writing your first book into 8 steps.
For each step, I selected 3-5 quotes on ‘writing tips’ from famous authors.
Guiding principles for each step have been derived from the selected quotes.
The aggregate of the individual principles gives a full-fledged book-writing procedure. The writing postulates derived from the quotes will be numbered as #P1, #P2, #P3 …You may download a free PDF of the procedure at the end of the article.
So, get ready to go through a very valuable collection of tips for writing a book for the first time.
Step 1: Brainstorm to Find the Main Idea for Your Book
Write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
– Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, short story writer and journalist
#P1 One main streak of thought is enough to write a whole book. State your very own thought with all accuracy, purpose, and honesty.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
– John Steinbeck, American novelist, short story writer
#P2 Once you have made up your mind to write about your own, genuine thought, there will be no dearth of ideas. It will multiply by itself and produce its own corollaries.
I don’t believe that a writer ‘gets’ (takes into the head) an ‘idea’ (some sort of mental object) ‘from’ somewhere, and then turns it into words, and writes them on paper. At least in my experience, it doesn’t work that way. The stuff has to be transformed into oneself, it has to be composted, before it can grow into a story.
– Ursula le Guin, American author of speculative fiction
#P3 Explore the seed idea as much as you can. Write all the possible versions and implications of it. When the thought settles into your soul, new stories emerge spontaneously.
When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.
– George Orwell, English novelist, literary critic
#P4 When you are writing a book for the first time, you’ll observe soon that any theme has two sides. One may argue in favor or against of it. Be a critic for your own opinion and weigh the theme thoroughly. This is how you will understand the strength of your theme and whether it can be blown up into a story.
“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes. The most everyday events and casual observations could trigger the idea for a new plot”.
– Agatha Christie
#P5 Keep a short-note of daily petty-looking events that touch you. If you don’t, you will forget soon. While first time writing a book, they provide a source of brilliant story ideas
Step 2: Write Outlines if You are Writing a Book for the First Time
Writing a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. It helps, if you have a plan and a course laid out.
– John Gardner
# P6 When you are writing a descriptive book, you must know how far you want to go for a particular topic or how long a chapter should be. So, it is better to chalk out a detailed plan for your work.
I always work from an outline, so I know all the details of the broad events and some of the finer details before I begin writing the book.
– Mercedes Lackey, American writer of fantasy novels
#P7 Write clear outlines for your book. Include the aspects you want to touch on and also the matters you want to go into detail about. Do not hesitate to include finer details of the settings or the characters as they flash in your mind.
There’s an outline for each of the books that I adhere to pretty closely, but I’m not averse to taking it in a new direction, as long as I can get it back to where I need it to go.
— Justin Cronin, American novelist
#P8 Create such outlines that would be easy to stick to. See to it that the outline restricts you without clipping the wings of creativity. It must provide you a certain degree of freedom to write.
If you’re going to have a complicated story, you must work to a map; otherwise, you can never make a map of it afterwards.
― J. R. R. Tolkein, English writer and philologist
#P9 Try to draw a story map that allows you to move anywhere from the center of your story to its periphery or vice versa as many times as you want. While doing so, it still keeps you focused on your subject.
Step 3: Write the Plot – Visualize the Story
Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there is an explosion – that’s plot.
– Leigh Brackett, American sci-fi writer
#P10 Write your story’s plot as a sequence of events logically bound to each other. Connect the broad headings in the outline with interesting happenings. Explore your characters’ lives more and more. This helps to shape up the plot.
The more elegant and subtle you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
– Billy Wilder, Austrian American filmmaker
#P11 Use ‘Show, don’t tell’ for plot writing. The events must speak for themselves. Make the readers implicate and derive their own propositions.
Visit this link to read about ‘Show Don’t tell’:
You need a revolution in your life so as to know the plot of the devil and discover the thoughts of the Lord toward you
— Sunday Adelaja- pastor, journalist, author
#P12 Think ‘what drives what’. Try to relate the events with reason. Apart from this, create a wide variety of relations among characters and reveal the truth through their activities.
Step 4: First chapter – Pen a Powerful Launch
To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.
– Eric S. Raymond, American software developer
#P13 The audience consists of people like you and me. So, always place yourself in the shoes of the reader and think whether you would have liked to pursue after going through the first chapter.
Well begun is half done.
#P14 In the beginning itself, build up situations that look almost impossible to sort out.
If you start with a bang, you won’t end with a whimper.
– T.S. Eliot, poet, playwright, critic
#P15 Start your book on a note that casts a spell on your reader. The start must make the reader think more and more about the forthcoming events in the book. In that sense, the start is a propeller.
Step 5: Use Illustrations for The Middle Chapters
Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad
– Paulo Coelho, writer of The Alchemist
#P16 Be it love for a person, riches, nation or whatever, if you are writing fiction, you definitely need to involve love in one way or another.
Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself—it is the occurring which is difficult.
– Stephen Leacock, Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humorist
#P17 While writing a novel, no doubt the language and the style matter, but it is the occurrences on the way that provide the impetus. So, keep your inventory full of new ideas and stitch them into the tale whenever required.
Illustrations can be a big window: a looking glass into the author’s imagination.
– Tony DiTerlizzi, American fantasy artist, children’s book creator, and motion picture producer
#P18 Your middle chapters become vividly understandable to the reader when you illustrate them with intriguing, profound occurrences. Craft illustrations that depict your writing voice precisely.
“It’s the writer’s job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, American writer
#P19 While telling the story, make it a habit to make the characters cross lines. Use love, deceit, greed, hate and other human emotions to weave your middle story.
Step 6: Rising Action – Develop the Heat
Plots may be simple or complex but suspense and climactic progress from one incident to another are essential.
– H.P.Lovecraft, American writer of sci-fi and horror stories
#P20 Action will not rise until the story progresses in clear, eventful steps. Let the events snowball into bigger and impossible consequences and further chain-react into magnanimous surprises and shocks.
Writing is like making love. Don’t worry about the orgasm, just concentrate on the process.
― Isabel Allend, Chilean writer
#P21 A writer need not bother about the pre-climax or climax if his story is headed in the right direction with the right speed and the characters are playing their part as per the attributed traits. The climax will evolve by itself. The story at the highest point, finds its way on its own.
Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.
– Tim O’Brien, American Novelist
#P22 Create grueling situations when you are nearing the end. Such situations demand impossible solutions and could make your book a page-turner.
“Lack of emotion causes lack of progress and lack of motivation.”
– Tony Robbins, American coach, author and speaker
#P23 Build up events that churn out human emotions very intensely. This will give you a chance to evolve your characters.
Very few of us are what we seem.
― Agatha Christie, English writer of detective novels
#P24 Play ‘foreshadowing’ as much as you can. It means building up suspense by showing only little bit of a major forthcoming incident. You get a chance to reveal later with a bang.
Step 7: The Climax [Characters, Drama, Action]
When pressed, hunters who claim that they just want “to be out in the wilderness,” will admit that the kill is essential—or at least the hope of a kill. As it turns out, there is no correlation between hunting and hiking, climbing, backpacking, kayaking, or any other outdoor activity. Hunters do not purposefully linger in the woods after a kill, but quickly begin the process of preparing to head home with the corpse. For hunters, the kill is the climax—the most important moment. They are not driving into the woods (or sometimes actually walking) for the sake of beauty, but in the hope of a kill.
― Lisa Kemmerer, Associate Professor, Montana State University, Billings (She has written on animal and environmental ethics.)
#P25 The story does not become potent till it has extremes. So, venture into the unknown zones and pick up extreme events. Without the ‘kill’ there would be few takers in this age of neck-to-neck competition.
Where was the end of the story? Surely, the final stage would be reached when the audience forgot it was an audience and became part of the action. To achieve this would involve stimulation of all the senses, and perhaps hypnosis as well, but many believed it to be practical. When the goal was attained, there would be an enormous enrichment of human experience. A man could become – for a while, at least – any other person, and could take part in any conceivable adventure, real or imaginary.
– Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, English writer and futurist
#P26 If the high action in your story neither looks real nor connects, you have produced a dumb copy. Only when the audience attunes itself to the characters and the setting in the end story, your book becomes a highly sought-after object. The audience, at this point, does not only read but begins to feel things. So, try to concoct an engaging, touching and real looking climax.
I write the last line, and then I write the line before that. I find myself writing backwards for a while, until I have a solid sense of how that ending sounds and feels. You have to know what your voice sounds like at the end of the story, because it tells you how to sound when you begin.
– John Winslow Irving, American, Canadian Novelist, Academy award winner
#P27 You may well use what we call ‘back-writing’. It helps. At times, you know the end but not the build-up. At that point write the end and think how you might reach there. Receding step by step, you can create the pre-climax that soon reaches the peak.
Step 8: Falling Action and the End – Don’t go Abrupt
I work very deliberately, with a plan. But sometimes I come to a point that I planned as the end and it needs softening. Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly.
– Colm Tóibín, Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist, critic, playwright and poet
#P28 Just as a musician puts an end to his performance by lowering the scale and killing the tune gradually, you have to soften your story and bring it towards its logical end. At a point, your story, itself suggests you to stop. Identify a proper point of trough and end.
There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.
Franklin Patrick “Frank” Herbert Jr., American science fiction author
#P29 Though we just stated that a story calls for an end by itself, still there cannot be an end to it until the writer desires. Find a suitable point in the story where the situations are not screaming, the inferences are weak and where you can tell the reader, “Goodbye till we meet next.”
How you leave the reader is so important – not the climax; I call it the ‘exit feeling’.
– Patrick Ness, British-American author, journalist, lecturer, and screenwriter
#P30 The reader contemplates after the climax. So, build up the peak in a way that leaves a mark on her. While at other points, you were trying to engage the reader, your effort at this point should be directed towards making her look back and recollect incidents.
Every story has an end but in life every end is just a new beginning.
– Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
#P31 Every point in an end can give rise to a new story. When you are going to stop, look back at your notes and think well over whether you left out something you wanted to say.
Jump in, First Time Writing a Book is Fun
So? What are you waiting for? It’s high time you started writing your first book.
Fear not. What worst can happen? Your first book may not get a good amount of readership. Else, it will attract some criticism. What else?
On the other hand, even in the worst case you stand to gain valuable experience and immunity against criticism. The experience will at least help you write your next book with greater amount of authority.
One more thing. Having read this article, you might need to learn a trick or two about first time publishing a book. And I’ve a link for you:
And lastly, if you are writing a book for the first time, as promised, I’m giving you the link to download a free PDF guide (containing the above mentioned 31 postulates) to be able to do so: