Learn to write a book – the best tips and tricks to get started. Learn in simple steps and didactically well prepared, how to write a really good novel.
Introduce your idea
Once you’ve summarized your idea in one sentence, here’s a possibly somewhat awkward step that many aspiring writers neglect: Tell a friend or family member about it. Does your succinct summary generate interest, or is the idea not well received? Is it just unclearly worded or actually even uninteresting?
Take time to consider your idea. Is it enough for a gripping novel? A clear book idea helps with writing and with not losing the red thread. Many entangled subplots can cause the author to get bogged down and lose sight of the main thread. The story becomes unclear, leaving the reader disappointed and too confused to follow the book’s central track. If you can state your book theme in a few sentences, you’ll always keep the core in mind. And you’ll also be well equipped for later marketing.
Write the book that is close to your heart
My first and most important tip for you: write the book that is close to your heart. This is because an average book is around 300 pages. To write them, you will have to invest a lot of time in your book. There’s no point in doing that if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing. If you are only writing to meet “rules” or writing what you think others will want to read. Write exactly the book you want to write.
BUT – yes that’s right, here comes the big BUT, just as you feared. It’s at least as frustrating when you write 300 pages and realize at the end that no one likes to read it – except your own family. And that no publisher wants to publish your book. And even if you publish the book yourself, that you have to pitch it like sour beer and still nobody buys it.
That’s why I recommend to all people who are starting to write: Get familiar with what people like to read. And familiarize yourself with what publishers would like to put out: These are books that can also be sold. After all, publishers are businesses and have to pay rent and salaries at the end of the month. Publishers who don’t earn anything with their books won’t be able to survive for long.
All the tips you read from me and others that you can follow without betraying your heart’s project should be implemented. Any tips that result in your heart project becoming just another random book that you work on listlessly should not be implemented. Because that would only lead to you eventually running out of desire altogether and stopping writing your own book.
But the more of the tips you implement, the greater your chances of finding a publisher and/or readers in the end. The more tips you don’t take into account in order to be able to realize your heart’s project, the greater your risk that you will find neither a publisher nor readers. In this way, surprise successes have already come about that no one expected. However, this is like winning the lottery. Most of the time, books are created in this way that are only read by a few. But then it’s still your heart’s project and it was worth it.
What is most important to me is that you make conscious decisions. That you know what you are doing. So that you are clear at all times: Where do you stand with your book? Is it important to you to find as many readers as possible? Then you should implement as many of my tips as possible. Is it important to you to write the book that is close to your heart, no matter how many people read it later? Then you should critically scrutinize every single tip to see if it still suits you. And as I said: The more of my tips you implement and still write the book that is close to your heart, the greater the chance of finding a publisher and/or readers in the end.
That’s why you should start thinking about what you want your book to be early on. The clearer your idea of the book you want to write, the easier it will be. Do you want to
- write a novel
- write a biography
- write a book for young people
- write a children’s book
- or write a non-fiction book?
If you can’t decide what kind of book to write, you’re making it unnecessarily difficult for yourself. It’s hard enough to write a good novel. It’s even harder to get a good mix of novel and nonfiction, or a good mix of biography and children’s book.
Plus, a mix makes it harder to find readers. Because there are a lot of books out there in bookstores or on web stores like Amazon. Nobody wants to browse through 1,000 books to find one they would like to read. That’s why there are drawers like “young adult book,” “literary novel,” “nonfiction” or “children’s book.” Anything that does not fit into these drawers will not be found. This says nothing about the quality of the books, but more about people’s search behavior. That’s why books that don’t fit into these pigeonholes, but were written by famous people, are still found. There the famous name on the cover is enough to sell it on the book market.
But if you have neither – nor to offer, i.e. neither a famous name, nor a book that fits into a pigeonhole, then it becomes much more difficult. Because publishers don’t like to release books that can’t be clearly pigeonholed. Because they know that it will then be difficult to find readers for the book. Unless, as I said, the book sells simply because of the name on the cover.
If you then decide at some point to publish the book yourself, you will face the same problem: books that cannot be clearly classified will not be found by people. Because they don’t fit into the pigeonholes. Then it takes an enormous amount of effort to find readers .
Decide for your book
Even if many people don’t like it: books that can’t be clearly classified are difficult to place with publishers and hard to sell. Of course, a mix is possible and all kinds of mixes can be found on the book market. But if you’re a beginner and want to start with the hardest part of writing a book, you should think twice.
A little help in deciding:
- A novel is a purely fictional story.
- A biography truthfully describes a person’s life.
- A book for young people is aimed at a target group between the ages of 12 and 18. The narrower the target group, the better. This is because 13-year-olds are interested in different topics than 18-year-olds.
- A children’s book is aimed at a target group between the ages of 3 and 11. Again, the narrower the target group, the better. A four-year-old child is interested in different books than a ten-year-old child.
- Nonfiction books present clearly delineated topics, well presented in an exciting way.
My most important tip: Make up your mind. That makes it easier to get started writing. After the 10th bestseller, there’s still time to experiment.
In this post, I explain how to write a novel. If you want to write a different kind of book, you can find more information here on my blog about:
- Writing a children’s book
- Writing a non-fiction book
- Writing a biography
And as I said, if you want to write a novel, then you’ve come to the right place.
In what genre should I write my book?
It will be easiest for you to write in the genre you like to read. You know the common basics, the target audience, and what matters. If you want to write a love story, it helps if you’ve read a lot of romance novels. Then you intuitively know what makes a love story work: romance, fateful encounters, unfulfilled longings, tender temptations, passionate lovers, unexpected twists before the romantic countdown, or a tragic ending. Know your genre if you want to write a novel.
The same is true in nonfiction: as an avid amateur cook and fan of cookbooks, you know what’s important in a cookbook. You’ve probably been annoyed yourself by ones that didn’t describe recipes well or used ingredients that were too exotic. Maybe that was even your incentive to write your own cookbook.
Watch out for the genre mix
Even if your fantasy novel contains a love story or you want to mix different genres in your book in some other way, make sure that it can be clearly assigned to a single genre in the end. Publishers as well as bookstores and online stores work with specific product groups, based on the individual genres. If your book is not clearly positioned, it may be misclassified and not found by your target audience. It’s even better if your book fits into a subgenre, such as “urban fantasy” or “young adult romance”. This makes the target group more specific and increases findability and sales opportunities.
Define the target audience
Is your romance novel for young women or rather for women from the second half of life? Are you writing your non-fiction book for politically interested people with a great general education or rather for readers who want to acquire basic political knowledge? Describe your target group as concretely as possible. This will not only help with marketing, but it will also make your writing much easier if you know who you are writing for.
If you want to submit your manuscript to a traditional publisher, it is usually necessary to clearly state the genre and target audience. The editor in charge, who will look at your text, needs this information to get a clear impression of your book. And in self-publishing, you should also know who you want to target and tailor your marketing accordingly.
The challenges of your genre
Depending on the genre you’re writing in, there are different house challenges to master. While a novel needs a clear storyline and authentic characters and dialogue, in a technical book, the content needs to be articulated in an understandable way and professionally researched. In technical books, you also have to quote, and you have to observe a few formalities.
Structure and tension building
Before writing, you should develop a structure. If you want to write a novel, it helps to plan in advance what course the plot will take. You can use an arc of suspense or other methods, such as the hero’s journey, to create a basis.
However, a structure doesn’t mean you have to stick rigidly to it. Writing is a creative process and your storyline can change as you write. However, it is important to keep the core in mind and not get bogged down or lost in illogical plot developments. The more extensive the story, the more necessary the thorough planning. An illustrative and suitable method for planning is the snowflake method: In this method, individual elements of a novel are planned piece by piece, just like a snowflake, and then assembled into a story at the end.
In the case of a non-fiction or technical book, you should determine in the structure which topics you want to accommodate. Here, too, the common thread and a logical structure are important. Basic explanations form the basis for more complex aspects in later chapters. With a table of contents you can keep track of the structure of your book.
Several authoring software programs offer help in planning and structuring a book. Some also help you create an overview of the characters or design a descriptive storyboard.
How do you write good characters?
If you want to write a book, you should know the main characters in advance and plan their development in the course of the novel. This way you avoid that they don’t act comprehensibly for readers or that you describe them differently.
As an author, you should know your characters well. Only then will they come alive for your readers. This includes not only their appearance and age, but also, for example, their social environment, their life so far, and their strengths and weaknesses. How does the protagonist change over the course of the story? And to what extent do his moral views influence the plot? A character arc can help you structure your characters. Authoring software such as Papyrus or ywriter can also help you develop your characters.
As with plot development, the same applies here: Leave yourself room for change. You don’t need to work out every character in detail. Rather, they usually develop in parallel with the plot. This is perfectly normal.
Which narrative perspective should I choose?
The narrative perspective determines the point of view from which you write your novel. It can be a main character narrating from his or her perspective. Or the narrator looks at the action from the outside and is omniscient. Which narrative perspective you choose depends on the nature of your story. Do you want to deal with emotions? Then you should choose a personal or first-person perspective. Do you want the narrator to comment on and analyze the action and characters? Then an authorial narrative perspective would make sense. Again, you don’t have to make this decision from the beginning. Try different ways and choose the one that suits you and your book best.
Learning the craft of writing
Writing is hard work. Many prominent authors can confirm this. Taking a self-critical look at your own text, changing it, varying it, discarding entire passages and starting over again – this is all part of writing and takes time and patience.
To train your writing skills, you should take every opportunity to write and read. How does your favorite author manage to build up suspense in his or her crime novel, keep it going, and keep the reader guessing? Reading targeted novels in your genre will help you come up with your own ideas and plots.
Interacting with other writers can be helpful in gaining new perspectives on writing. Courses at a writing school can also help you improve your writing. There, you can also get valuable tips from instructors. There are writing workshops on a wide variety of topics and genres. You can learn what makes a crime novel, how to write atmospheric scenes, or how to write authentic dialogue.
But don’t let perfectionism get in your way. The most important thing in writing is passion.
How much research is necessary for a book?
For a historical novel, you should know the historical context, and for a crime novel, the work of the criminal police or detectives must not be misrepresented. Research precedes a good book. Readers find it difficult to forgive factual errors. Therefore, it is better to check details once too often.
With technical books, a mistake can even result in you losing your reputation as an expert. So check carefully and find test readers who know the subject before you publish your book.
But don’t get lost in research. Poring through numerous reference books on a topic will do little to advance you and your novel and, in the worst case, maneuver you into writer’s block.
How do I start a book?
Have you ever put a book aside because it just didn’t grab you? A good beginning is important – even the first sentences. You don’t need to have them ready at the beginning, but you can write them later. But what should you put on the first few pages of your book?
Right at the beginning, you should draw the reader into the plot. Only reveal enough to pique their interest. A detailed description of the characters will suffice later. It’s best to grab a conflict or the main problem of your book right at the beginning. And the mood and style will also become clear in the first few pages – do you write humorously, ironically, mysteriously?
But not only the beginning of your book is important, but sentence beginnings in general. Especially in descriptive text passages, repetition can easily occur: “He went outside the door and looked to both sides of the street. He was freezing, but didn’t want to turn back to get his jacket. He was used to cold, after all. He took a deep breath…”. In “writing fever,” this sort of thing can happen quickly. When revising, you should track down such monotonous sentence beginnings and replace them.
Dealing with writer’s block
Even top authors know the fear of the blank page. It has nothing to do with their skills as writers or the quality of their texts. Sometimes the words just don’t want to flow and the page remains blank. Often small breaks or a walk help. Or new inspiration comes when you go through the previous manuscript again. Exchanging ideas with like-minded authors can also help. There are different methods to overcome writer’s block. Whether it’s a writing routine or creative exercises – don’t give up, but try out what helps you to get back into writing.
How do you find a good book title?
A book title should sum up the plot in a few words and arouse the curiosity of as many readers as possible – admittedly, not an easy task. But don’t let that worry you. Write down keywords that make up your book or theme. This can often be enough to spark ideas. Also, there are different methods for coming up with a suitable book title that are also used by marketing experts or editors.
Maybe you had a suitable idea at the beginning or during the writing process? Then you should definitely check Amazon or buchhandel.de to see if the title already exists on the book market.
Proofreading and fine-tuning
Every year, numerous books come onto the market with which your work has to compete. Today’s readers are also critical and expect an exciting and, above all, error-free text – and if they are dissatisfied, negative reviews will hail. That’s why you should at least have your text proofread and, in the best case, edited. This will help you avoid spelling mistakes and gaps in logic. It’s perfectly normal to become “operationally blind” as an author. You know the plot and characters by heart and therefore rarely find inconsistencies. That’s when it can help to invest in an editor. Because an editor goes beyond proofreading and checks your book with regard to the thread, logic and structure.
Ghostwriters and pseudonyms
You have an idea for a novel in your head, but you don’t enjoy writing it? Or you are an expert on a topic and would like to publish your expertise in a book, but don’t have the time to write it yourself? Then a ghostwriter can be a viable alternative. There are a few things to consider when choosing a professional writer, and the cost should not be underestimated. But it offers many advantages, for example, the book can appear under your name.
On the other hand, many authors wish to publish their own book under a pseudonym. This can be useful, for example, if it fits your genre better than your real name. Or if you want to write an erotic novel, but don’t want to be recognized as an author by your private and professional environment. If you publish through publishers or self-publishing services, this is usually not a problem. If you want to take care of it yourself, there are a few things to consider, for example, when it comes to the imprint.
A book requires more than “just writing”. In addition to a passion for writing, writing a book involves a good amount of work. It takes patience, perseverance, and a self-critical eye – many authors often rewrite individual passages of text several times. As a foundation, you should structure the plot of your novel or create an outline for your technical book. Courses at writing schools and exchanges with authors can help you become more professional. And after writing your book, book professionals such as editors or designers and self-publishing service providers such as tredition will be there to help you.