Thursday, May 03, 2012

Getting Down to the Business of Writing A Book: A Step by Step Guide


Not everyone will want to write like this.  Many successful writers will tell you that they write from their characters and let them-the characters-take the story where it leads.
I find that I get stuck sometimes or lost or going to places that I didn't want to go.  So some structure helps me stay on track.  I liked this format and the ideas she has about writing a long piece.

Getting Down to the Business of Writing A Book: A Step by Step Guide

By Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem, M.Ed.
The ideas have rolled around in your head for long enough. In making a commitment to writing your book, setting up a structure is important.

In order to set clear expectations for yourself, you must have sections or chapters listed with a general idea of what will go in each. You may not end up with the same sections you start with in your first layout so don't be too worried about what you call the chapters yet. This gives a framework.

Once a general outline has been set, create a directory in the word processing folders with the proposed title. Within that directory, have two folders: Needing Work and Completed. You can make hard copy folders and print out the chapters as they are completed ready for the first reader to run through the whole book but this is optional depending how you like to review your work as you go along.

Take each section or chapter of the outline and cut and paste it into a new document. Save each by number and title or descriptive word in Needing Work. This breaks down the task of writing a book into smaller sections.

Note from Michal:  this process can be done many ways. You can do it by hand in a ring binder, for example. 
Another means is to use writing software or  I have started to use Evernote to collect my ideas, rough drafts and research in one place. It is searchable, and if you add tags to each entry, you can find all the related information with one click. You can also put your work in separate notebooks.
My brother, who is writing his PhD., uses a program called Scrivener.  He says it is the easiest way for him to organize his research notes, bibliography, footnotes and dissertation text.  It costs $40.00 US.

From their website: Most word processors approach composing a long-form text the same as typing a letter or flyer—they expect you to start on page one and keep typing until you reach the end. Scrivener lets you work in any order you want and gives you tools for planning and restructuring your writing. 

Writing the prologue or forward is the next task. In the prologue explain why you are writing and what you hope to tell your reader. This will help focus your intent and keep the reader in mind as you tell your story. You may or may not use it in the final book and that can be decided later.

If I want to tell how betrayal tested my faith in friendship, I make a note on the outline where I will introduce the character who betrayed me and in which chapter I want to disclose when and how I discovered the betrayal. I also add which chapter or chapters I deal with the issues and include points as examples. I will include what I did to resolve the betrayal. By having the details pre sorted through the story line, actually writing each sections is easier.

Many stories do not have an epilogue. The epilogue is written to tell the reader where the story went and what they have experienced or learned. By writing one early in the process you create an ending boundary so when you review the whole story you can see if you have accomplished your goal. Incorporating the information from this summation into the various chapters can help keep the story on track.

In the final version, there may not be a prologue or an epilogue but creating one gives a target that can be useful when editing. Ask: Does my story lead from a premise to a conclusion and if not what needs to change?

  • Do not get bogged down editing one chapter to make it "perfect" as this is too time consuming and there will be additions and sections deleted later.

I often find a section of writing that includes intense emotion can be written in one sitting.

 This is a great suggestion.  Whenever you are writing something with emotion, you have to give yourself the time to get into the character and the feelings.  It helps to keep going until you have said as much as you can about the feelings and issues involved. 
You can cut the piece later when you edit your story.

Writing about confronting fear involves getting into the feeling and paying attention to my physical reactions as well as my thoughts and feelings. Emotional relief cannot come until I have the experience poured out. This can be exhausting emotionally. I plan a break afterward and do something completely different to change my mood. I have a treat planned as an incentive to get into the emotion but also knowledge that I will not stay trapped in the intensity, once the piece is written.

Finally I will make another folder called Finished. I will use it after all the chapters have been moved to Completed and I am ready to read and give another editing beginning to end in sequence. Sometimes I will add more detail to something I previously thought was finished or remove words if I feel it is too lengthy.

The next step is putting all the Finished chapters into one document. Then the first reader goes through the whole book and makes suggestions. This needs to be someone who loves to read and who you trust will be objective. You do not need to take all of their suggestions but consider them carefully. This leads to rewrites and changes in flow and clarity. You may have to develop a character more or remove repetitive sections.

Then the detail editor will start. This will catch many more issues that need rewriting, corrections, removal and adjustments. The seemingly never ending process will eventually lead to the content of a book. It then goes to the interior designer. This can result in more changes and many decisions about layout and spacing.

Cover design is a whole project in itself.

Then comes choosing a printer, paper, size and much more.

So get serious about the process of writing and someday you will have a book to be proud of. Then you are going to need to market your book. It is an ongoing project, so get started!

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., is a Marriage and Family Therapist with over 30 years clinical experience. She is a consultant to families and businesses on personal and professional relationships. Marilyn is also the author of books on personal growth through travel. Read free chapters and reviews at Quest Publishing.

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