So You Want to Write a Book?

Most of the posts on this blog are geared towards writers who have been writing for a long time. But as I was drafting another post, it got me thinking back to when I was writing my very first fantasy short story--a short story I then decided actually needed to be a book. At the time, I had never written a book before and I had absolutely no idea where to start.
What were the rules? Was I supposed to write a certain way? Make characters do certain things? Follow a specific plot? Heck, I hardly even knew what the word "plot" fully meant.
And so, I decided to put together a little manual of info for all the newbies out there! Whether you're young, old, or somewhere in between, if you've never written a book before and you have no idea what to do, look no further.

1. Brainstorming/outlining

The very first thing to do after you decide you want to write a book is to do some brainstorming. Every writer brainstorms differently. You can write down everything you can think of pertaining to your book idea, you can use notecards, you can scroll through different pictures on Pinterest to get a feel for your world, etc. Pick the method of brainstorming that works for you, and try to get as much of a story together as possible. Beginning, middle, end, a few twists here and there, etc.

Once you have some basic ideas, it's time to see whether you are a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter is a writer that needs an outline in order to begin writing. Someone who works best with their entire story laid out in front of them, chapter by chapter or scene by scene, completely aware of almost every detail that will be within their book. I am a HUGE plotter, and cannot start writing a chapter unless I look at my outline and see exactly what my plan for that chapter is.

A pantser is the exact opposite--a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. Sometimes they have very basic outlines with a few notes, but for the most part, Pantsers just jump right in and begin writing. My cousin Cassidy is a pantser, and I honestly have absolutely no idea how she does it. Pantsers blow my mind. Seriously.

2. Character development

Now that you have ideas and/or an outline, start thinking about your characters. How many do you have? Are you writing from one point of view or two? Do you have a solid villain?
Here are some basics to keep in mind:

Your main character should not be cliche (meaning your character should be unique, have flaws, not know everything, etc)
Your supporting characters should not all sound the same/have no purpose in the story
Your villain should have a reason for their actions (not just evil because you need them to be evil)

(For more info on character development, click/tap the three horizontal lines in the top left and look under popular topics)

3. Drafts

This is something that writers learn without really realizing they didn't fully know it before.
A draft refers to your word document, or notebook, or whatever you write on, where your story is written. Your draft, essentially, is your book. There are multiple levels of drafts, and your first ever write-up of your story is your first draft.
There are no specifics as to how many drafts you should have. By rule of thumb, you should at least have more than one!
Here is a little rundown of the average drafting process:

First draft: messy, probably full of plot holes, could be improved a LOT. That's good!
Second draft: Generally for fixing the big issues (like plot holes and flat characters, as well as deleting unnecessary paragraphs)
Third draft: Focuses on the smaller stuff, like language usage, wording, authentic dialogue, etc.
Fourth draft and on: Polishes things up and repeats any of the above as necessary.

4. Rules

Do you want to know the most beautiful part about writing a book?
There are no rules.
All of the stuff I talked about above? Those are just guidelines. You are not required to write your story in a specific order, or keep your plot close to reality. You can do anything you want because this is your story!
When I was writing my first book, I felt super suffocated because I didn't think about letting my mind wander farther than what I knew. I was writing a book set in the future, and I was really struggling to figure out how my characters were getting food, water, electricity, etc in a post-apocalyptic world. I was so stuck in what I knew (today's methods of getting water and electricity, factories, Walmarts, stuff like that) that it didn't even occur to me that I could 100% make things up as long as it worked with the story. I could create new technology, new ways of making things, new ways of doing everything!
Once you break out of the walls of your brain, it's amazing what can happen on paper. With my current project, I've ventured to ideas I never would have even considered a possibility before.

So whether you've written a hundred books or none, one thing about writing a book is and always will be true: this is your story, and only yours. So how are you going to tell it?