My friend Andrea wants to write a book, and she was asking me how I wrote my books. (Everyone asks me that.) I usually just say, ‘I sit down and write’, but even though that’s part of it, it’s not the real answer. Andrea wanted to know why every time she started a book she ended up never finishing it, or why it sailed off on a hundred different tangents and never got off the ground. Those two complaints are the ones I hear the most – so for all you aspiring authors – those who never managed to finish a book or whose ideas got too scattered, here is my method, may it help!
First of all, I start with an idea.
I want to write a story about an ex NASCAR driver (who got in a terrible accident and is blind) and a woman, who fall in love over the phone.
That’s the basic idea. I wrote it down and thought about it for a while.
Then I wrote a half page synopsis – it goes like this:
Angel: Blind NASCAR racer – lost his vision in a terrible accident and his wife dumps him. Feels sorry for himself, stays away from everyone – has phone sex to cool himself off.
Shelly: is a struggling songwriter – singer and she does waitressing and phone sex to pay her bills. She and Angel become friends.
The NASCAR association decides to honor Angel and have a big charity dinner to raise money for the blind. Angel doesn’t want to go by himself because he doesn’t want anyone to pity him, and everyone knows his wife dumped him when he couldn’t race anymore. So he asks Shelly to go to the charity ball with him. They fall in love.
Angel gets his eyesight back and Shelly is afraid he’ll turn into the old Angel – arrogant and haughty with everyone around him. This seems to be true when he comes into the restaurant where she works and is rude.
Angel’s ex-wife is also determined to get him back, so she mounts a seduction campaign. When he shows up at her party with Shelly, she is furious and decides to get rid of Shelly.
(That’s just the rough synopsis, and hasn’t got the character details or any real conflict – plot – resolution, yet.)
And then I do a chapter by chapter outline:
Chapt. 1 Angel and Shelly fall in love over the phone. (get to know Shelly and Angel)
Chapt. 2 She agrees to go with him to the charity ball where he meets a surgeon who wants to operate on his eyes. (Shelly and Angel really start to believe they have a future together. Angel doesn’t tell Shelly about the operation though. He’s too afraid it won’t work.
Chapt. 3 Angel has the operation and his sight is restored. He goes to the nearest restaurant to have a meal and he treats the waitress badly when she recognizes him by name – he thinks she’s an autograph hunter – little does he know it’s Shelly.
Chapt. 4 He goes back home and finds that his ex-wife has already heard about his operation and she wants to get back together with him. She’s sure he’s going to go back to racing, but he hasn’t decided yet.
(This is just to give me an idea of where the story is going and helps with the pacing…)
When the outline is finished, check to make sure you have the following things:
A clear beginning, middle, and ending.
A plot (this is the story – is it interesting?)
Character developement – the main characters should change in the book – I call it ‘the epiphany’ – it means that the main character will go through something that will bring about a change in his / her life or personality.
Conflict – what is keeping the main character from his / her goal?
Resolution – does it tie up all the loose ends? Is it satisfying?
Once the outline is finished, I start to write. Sometimes a scene will come to me from the middle or end of the book and I’ll write it down while it’s fresh – don’t ever be afraid to write ‘out of order’. You can stray from your outline – mine are usually just the framework and tend to get left behind halfway through the book. Try to have a theme while you’re working – this can help. (For instance in this case I’m thinking about tolerance and overcoming a physical handicap as well as overcoming a bad reputation.)
And above all – stick to it until you’ve finished! Write a little every day, and when it’s all done, you can say, ‘I’ve written a book.’