How to Start Writing a Book

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Getting started on your first book is easy with these tips!

Does this sound familiar? You’re an avid reader on Inkitt. Your family says you’ve got a book problem. Your nose is always in a novel. At some point you must have thought to yourself: I think I can do this. I could write a book too. The good news? You totally can! However, it’s definitely a daunting task. It can be hard to know how to start writing a book. This post will give you a sense of where to begin. Remember, every great author started somewhere. So, what should you write? Read on to find out.

What do you like to read?

The first and most obvious question is: what do you like to read? That genre is the easiest place to start because you’re already a fan. Presumably you know the conventions, what’s been done before, and what makes a story good. Those are three things you’ve got to know before you write a successful book, so what you read is the low hanging fruit. For example, George Lucas was a fan of Star Trek before he created Star Wars. He knew there was an audience and what they liked about a story set in a galaxy far, far away. Similarly, choosing your favorite genre to write in is the layup choice.

But, you’re not stuck

Sticking with the George Lucas idea, he’s known for Star Wars because that franchise just won’t quit (literally and figuratively). There’s even a section of Disneyworld devoted to it. However, Lucas produced other adventure movies, like Indiana Jones (my personal favorite). He was a fan of adventure tales as a kid, and at its core, Star Wars is in many ways a Western; it’s a frontier setting. My point is that if you love reading thrillers but also like romance, don’t feel stuck. Draw on what you like about the storytelling from one genre and apply it to another, like Lucas did.

Follow the golden rule

Treating others the way you want to be treated is the Golden Rule and great words to live by. They’re also good words to write by. Think about books you’ve read recently that you really liked. What did the author do that worked for you? What do you love about their stories? Now, as a writer, treat your readers to the same craftsmanship, storytelling, plot conventions, etc, as you like yourself. If you hate it when the main character seemingly changes personality in the middle of a novel, don’t do that. If you live for a big twist at the end, add one in. Do you gravitate toward super sexy books? Better add more steamy scenes. Do you like your violence or love making off stage? Do that too. If you think like a reader, you’ll be a more productive writer.

Think like a publisher

While you’re busy thinking like a reader, ask yourself what hasn’t been done yet. While you want to write to excite, entertain, and elicit emotion from your reader, you also need to think strategically, like a publisher. While people might have a genre they like best, they don’t want to literally read the exact same plot time and time again. You’ve got to identify what’s been done before and what hole needs to be filled. Let’s say you like werewolf romances. You know the genre and you understand what makes it great (sexy alphas anyone!?). However, how can you put your own spin on it and do something that hasn’t been done before? Maybe there’s a point of view or a plot or a different type of protagonist that would fill a gap no one realized they were craving.

Know what you’re writing

This probably sound deceptively easy. Of course you know what you’re writing, right? You’re the author! However, if this is your first stab at writing a novel, this is a problem more common than you might think. I know I said that you can blend genres or take pieces of one that you like and apply it to another, but the caveat is you need to understand what you’re doing if you choose that path.

For instance, whether you self-publish, post to Inkitt (here’s how to do that), or go the traditional publishing route, you need to understand what you wrote. It’s easy to get lost in your theme or how you blended genres or whatever cool artistic things you did. At the end of the day, though, you need to know what your product is. Is it primarily a thriller, a romance, a suspense, sci-fi, etc? Yes, you can use different attributes of more than one genre, but you need to be able to relay what it mostly is to your audience. That’s how you’ll find your readers, or an agent, or a publisher. It’s how booksellers (be they online or IRL) know where to put you in the proverbial stacks.

Know your comps

Tagging onto the idea of being very clear what your product, aka, your book is, you’ll need to know how it compares to other titles in the marketplace. These are the “comps” or other books yours compares to. It helps readers (and publishers and agents and librarians, and **algorithms**) figure out who might like what you wrote. Think of it like Netflix or other streaming services. If you liked Billions, maybe you’d like Succession. If you like dark comedies, try Fleabag. If The Office maybe you laugh, try other early 2000s sitcoms. The same thing works in writing and reading. Apply it to yourself. If you pick up every shifter romance out there, there’s a good chance other readers who like the same thing will like your book too.

In conclusion, when it comes to figuring out where to start writing, the first step is deciding what to write. It might seem self-evident but knowing your chosen genre will play a role in the structure of your novel, in who is a main character, and in the thrust of your plot. In short, lots of decisions roll downhill from here. Before long, you won’t be asking how to start writing a book, but how do I upload the sequel?

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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.

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