Getting Down to the Business of Writing A Book

The ideas have rolled around in your head for long enough. In making a commitment to writing your book, setting up a structure is important.

In order to set clear expectations for yourself, you must have sections or chapters listed with a general idea of what will go in each. You may not end up with the same sections you start with in your first layout so don’t be too worried about what you call the chapters yet. This gives a framework.

Once a general outline has been set, create a directory in the word processing folders with the proposed title. Within that directory, have two folders: Needing Work and Completed. You can make hard copy folders and print out the chapters as they are completed ready for the first reader to run through the whole book but this is optional depending how you like to review your work as you go along.

Take each section or chapter of the outline and cut and paste it into a new document. Save each by number and title or descriptive word in Needing Work. This breaks down the task of writing a book into smaller sections.

Writing the prologue or forward is the next task. In the prologue explain why you are writing and what you hope to tell your reader. This will help focus your intent and keep the reader in mind as you tell your story. You may or may not use it in the final book and that can be decided later.

If I want to tell how betrayal tested my faith in friendship, I make a note on the outline where I will introduce the character who betrayed me and in which chapter I want to disclose when and how I discovered the betrayal. I also add which chapter or chapters I deal with the issues and include points as examples. I will include what I did to resolve the betrayal. By having the details pre sorted through the story line, actually writing each sections is easier.

Many stories do not have an epilogue. The  epilogue is written to tell the reader where the story went and what they have experienced or learned. By writing one early in the process you create an ending boundary so when you review the whole story you can see if you have accomplished your goal. Incorporating the information from this summation into the various chapters can help keep the story on track.

In the final version, there may not be a prologue or an epilogue but creating one gives a target that can be useful when editing. Ask: Does my story lead from a premise to a conclusion and if not what needs to change?

Do not get bogged down editing one chapter to make it “perfect” as this is too time consuming and there will be additions and sections deleted later.

I often find a section of writing that includes intense emotion can be written in one sitting. Writing about confronting fear involves getting into the feeling and paying attention to my physical reactions as well as my thoughts and feelings. Emotional relief cannot come until I have the experience poured out. This can be exhausting emotionally. I plan a break afterward and do something completely different to change my mood. I have a treat planned as an incentive to get into the emotion but also knowledge that I will not stay trapped in the intensity, once the piece is written.

Finally I will make another folder called Finished. I will use it after all the chapters have been moved to Completed and I am ready to read and give another editing beginning to end in sequence. Sometimes I will add more detail to something I previously thought was finished or remove words if I feel it is too lengthy.

The next step is putting all the Finished chapters into one document. Then the first reader goes through the whole book and makes suggestions. This needs to be someone who loves to read and who you trust will be objective. You do not need to take all of their suggestions but consider them carefully. This leads to rewrites and changes in flow and clarity. You may have to develop a character more or remove repetitive sections.

Then the detail editor will start. This will catch many more issues that need rewriting, corrections, removal and adjustments. The seemingly never ending process will eventually lead to the content of a book. It then goes to the interior designer. This can result in more changes and many decisions about layout and spacing.

Cover design is a whole project in itself.

Then comes choosing a printer, paper, size and much more.

So get serious about the process of writing and someday you will have a book to be proud of. Then you are going to need to market your book. It is an ongoing project, so get started!

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., is a registered marriage and family therapist, and author of books on personal growth through travel. Questing Marilyn: In Search of My Holy Grail (2003) Questing France: Deepening the Search for My Holy Grail (2005) Quest Publishing Canada