Before you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or whatever medium you’re using, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions.
“Why am I doing this?” If it’s for fame and glory, think again. Chances are very unlikely that you’re going to be the next John Grisham, Stephen King or Dan Brown. Chances are even less that you’ll become an overnight sensation in the style of J.K. Rowling.
Once you’ve decided that you do, indeed, have a story to tell, and that others will actually want to read it, you have to take the steps necessary to become a good writer. Everyone has a story to tell, but if it isn’t written properly, you won’t make it to print (or Kindle).
1) Create a storyline. Work out all the plot twists ahead of time. It will save you having to re-write the first seven chapters when you realize the storyline doesn’t make sense.
2) Create a character list. This helps you keep characters clear in your mind. It will also help you define their purpose, their relationships, their actions and their personalities.
3) Research your setting. Make sure it’s appropriate to the storyline. This isn’t just about geography, research the era, time of day or political mood as necessary.
4) Write about what you know. Don’t write about Australia if you have never been there. Don’t write about a computer hacking scheme if you don’t know how to use a computer.
5) Research, research, research! Especially if you decide to go outside your area of knowledge. Even if you’re familiar with something, you will want to make sure you mention the right year, the right model, or spell a name correctly.
6) Gather details. Make notes about specifics that are appropriate to your book. Adding details to your writing makes it more believable and gives you accountability.
7) Make time to write. Put aside a certain amount of time every day for writing. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. If you don’t it will atrophy. Even if you’re not working on your book, write something else. After all, writers write!
8) Reread. After you have written a chapter or a paragraph, let it ferment. Walk away. Write something else for a while. When you come back and read it again, the initial emotional attachment will have dissipated and you will have a clear unbiased view of what you had previously written. It’s never quite what you remember from the first time around.
9) Rewrite. Get used to it. You will be doing a lot of this. Unless you are an artistic savant, it won’t come out perfect the first time. Fluff it out. Add details. Remove unnecessary ramblings. When you’re done, do it again. And again.
10) Read. Read it yourself. Find someone else (you trust) to read it. Find someone (you trust) who will be brutally honest, not someone who will sing phony praise in your honor – your editor certainly won’t!
11) Read. I know I already said this, but I’m not referring to your budding novel. I’m referring to John Grisham, Stephen King, Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling – or whoever your favorite author is. There is no such thing as a good author who is not also a good reader. You will learn a lot by reading and learning from how others have written.
Good luck! Get writing!