Speaking from experience as a professional development coach and former literary magazine editor: neatness and precision count.
Just like a hiring manager often throws out resumes that boast “attention to detail” while they are riddled with typos, an agent or editor can be just as quick to toss a manuscript because the writer failed to comply with basic formatting and submission requests.
And then your chances are shot…all because of formatting mistakes I’ll help you fix in this blog post.
Give your story the proper chance it deserves.
Here are the basic manuscript formatting standards:
For works of nonfiction, like textbooks and instructional literature, manuscripts should be left-justified alignment with no indentation and a line between each paragraph.
For works of fiction, use left-justified alignment with half an inch indention and no line between paragraphs.
To indent paragraphs, don’t use tab or space. In MS Word, “paragraph” > “paragraph settings” > “indentation” > “special” > “first line” > “0.5 inch”
After you format the paragraph indentation once, it should do it automatically when you start a new line
Headers–at the top right of every page (excluding the title page), you should include the following information:
Your last name
The book title (or an abbreviated version of the book title)
The page number (start page count on the first page of the actual story. Do not include a page number on the title page)
“THE END” at the end of your manuscript indicates the end of the manuscript
Center-justified alignment after the last line of your story
Important for beta readers, editors, and agents to ensure no part of the story has been lost in transit
#3 – Formatting chapters
It’s easy to want to throw your chapters together, one right after another, but there’s a more specific means of formatting your manuscript for chapters specifically.
New chapters should not run onto the same page as another chapter.
This is how to properly format a chapter change:
New chapter page break–always start a new chapter on a new page
Chapter title page
center-align justify the title of the chapter, even if it’s just a chapter number
One-third to one-half way down the page
Start the chapter one double-spaced down from the title
Following that format makes a manuscript much more palatable, just like having your text double-spaced. Any technicality that makes your manuscript easier to read is something you want to take advantage of.
Here’s an example new chapter page from my work-in-progress, Taogan:
#4 – Proper letter design
The words themselves should also be as simple and readable as possible.
Your typeface is not where you express your creativity. Maybe further down the line, your interior formatting can take some more stylistic routes, but for your manuscript, you want it plain and simple.
Here are the industry standards for letter design:
Size: 12 point
Typeface: Times New Roman (Sometimes other basic typefaces like Arial are also acceptable. Always check the submission guidelines for your particular case.)
#5 – Submitting your manuscript to editors, agents, and publishers
If you’re traditionally publishing (and therefore, must not be totally aware of the differences and benefits of self-publishing your book), you’ll send your manuscript to literary agents.
If you can’t follow their submission rules, you won’t get an agent.
If you’re acting as your own agent, you’ll send your manuscript to editors and publishers.
Again, if you haven’t followed industry standards and their specific submission rules, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before they even have a chance to read your manuscript.
If you’re sending your manuscript to a professional editor you’ve hired yourself, you still want to follow these manuscript formatting tips–and the tips below for a digital submission.
The standard manuscript format is organized, readable, and professional, even if you find a situation where it isn’t a requirement.
Check the particular agent, editor, or publisher requirements, as each might have their own specifications for what to include and how to format.
If you’re submitting a digital file of your manuscript, it should be a .doc or .docx, unless otherwise specified. This is the most popular file type for submissions, and Microsoft Word’s track changes feature makes it a favorite among editors and reviewers.
For an initial submission, an agent typically asks for you to paste the first pages or chapter of your manuscript into the body of an email. Past this stage, they typically request a .doc or .docx of the full work.
You may also be asked for a cover letter, author bio, or query letter with your submission.
Some submissions are still open for mail-in options. If you take a mail-in route, you’ll have to print your manuscript.
If you need to print a physical copy of your manuscript for a submission, be sure to follow these printing guidelines!
High quality, bright paper
High quality, dark ink
There are many technicalities involved with producing a clean and professional manuscript, but you can use the rules above to make your own checklist!
Let’s face it, different people define an author platform in many different ways but according to Jane Friedman, an author platform can be defined as the ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.
An author platform can be described as everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.
At the end of the day, your author platform makes it possible for you to build relationships with a diverse group of people online and offline so you and your books can get noticed quickly.
How to Build An Author Platform With 8 Steps
Now that you know what an author platform is and why you need one, let’s look at the steps you can take to build your own:
#1 – Know your target readers
To build an author platform that will help you succeed, it’s important for you to know everything about your target audience and be able to answer the following questions:
Who are they?
What do they do for a living?
What’s their age, sex, marital status, and location?
What are their hobbies, interests, and motivation?
What challenges and problems do they struggle with?
What makes them happy and unhappy?
Where do they spend their time online and offline?
When you know who your target audience is, it helps you learn where to focus your time and energy and on who.
And here are some tips to help you identify your target readers:
Use Google to search for blogs, forums, and communities where your audience may be active e.g. blogs within your niche, websites of authors with similar books, etc.
Look for books similar to yours and take note of the kind of people reading them because they might be your target readers also
Use key details about your book to identify the specific type of people that usually buy such books, e.g. book format, book genre, price, number of pages, etc.
Do research on social media for groups interested in books similar to yours
When you know your target readers, you can apply that knowledge to everything you’re doing and build an author platform that draws and engages the right audience successfully.
#2 – Identify and define your brand
Your brand helps people to recognize you and form an opinion about you and your books, through your personality, your values, your voice, your promise to your readers and even the feelings you stir up in them, every time they read your books or come across your website and social media profiles.
Your brand is what makes you unique so you can stand out among others.
One of the best tools you need to build your author platform is a website.
And it should be a website with a modern and attractive look plus a functional design so that everyone that visits the website can have a great user experience at all times.
Here are a few ways your website can help build your author platform:
Your website is one place where you can showcase your brand as much as you want, using your brand colors, tagline, headshot and so on
A website makes you appear more professional and credible and boosts your chances of gaining the trust of your target audience
Because your website is your business headquarters, you can remain open for business 24 hours a day seven days a week
With a website, you and your books can be found easily by your target audience and the general public
On your website, your target readers can learn about your books at their convenience, irrespective of their time zone or location, all over the world
You have 100% control over your website so it cannot be taken away from you without notice, unlike your social media accounts
You can use your author website to sell your books directly to anyone who is ready to buy
To be able to enjoy all these benefits from your website, it’s important to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly, contains content that’s easy to read and scan, loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and is also accessible from any browser.
Bottomline, avoid website mistakes that can drive people away from your website.
#4 – Start blogging consistently
Blogging is a way for you to share pieces of your writing with the public, in the form of blog posts and articles published on your blog.
Even though it’s not compulsory to have a blog on your website, it can help build your author platform in the following ways:
Blogging consistently compels you to write on a regular basis which helps to improve your writing
When you publish content regularly on your blog, you’ll attract more people to your site
As long as you produce quality and valuable content, blogging can position you as an authority and expert on your subject, which increases your credibility
Blogging makes it possible for you to have a two-way conversation with your readers because they can respond by commenting. This can help you build a community or a tribe of loyal fans (that can leave you those 5-star reviews!)
Blogging can help you connect and build strong relationships with other bloggers, influencers, authors, the media and so on
To build your platform through blogging, it’s important to write for your audience and always provide value.
Also, don’t forget to observe blogging best practices like adding images and graphics, optimizing your posts, writing magnetic headlines, and publishing consistently, maybe once or twice a week or every two weeks or monthly and so on.
#5 – Build an email list
Your email list is a list of people who gave you permission to send emails to them regularly when they signed up on your website and gave you their email address.
One key advantage of having an email list is that no one can take it away from you.
Here’s how to build your email list:
Choose an email service provider like Convertkit, Aweber, Mailchimp, etc.
Create a sign-up form on your website
Make available a thank you gift, also known as a lead magnet or reader magnet, for people that sign up
Decide how often you’re going to send emails to your list and be consistent about it. This could be weekly, biweekly, monthly and so on
Ensure you always send personalized emails that provide value
Avoid buying a list or putting people on your list manually
Remember to provide a way for people to unsubscribe easily from your emails
With an email list, you now have people that are interested in your brand and can be reached directly through emails, one on one.
You can use this unique opportunity to share relevant information about you or your new releases, when you’re ready for a launch team, to sell your books or provide information about your book launch or events, or to even sell directly to them, from time to time.
Check out this interview video with Chandler Bolt and Nick Stephenson that goes over how to build your audience as an author:
Remember, it’s okay to start with nobody on your list because that’s where most people start from but with time, persistence and best practices, you can grow your email list which helps to build your writer platform
#6 – Write guest posts
A guest post is a blog post or an article that you write and publish on another person’s site.
Research and confirm that the blog you’re interested in accept guest posts, allows an author bio with links back to your site and have an audience that matches the type of audience you want to attract
Read their guidelines and follow them
Pitch an original post title that has not been written before on their site or anywhere else
Respond to comments once your post is published
#7 – Connect offline
While it’s true that a lot of your author platform building activities will be done online, there are some steps you can also take offline, to connect with your target audience and build your author platform.
Here are some ways to connect offline:
Inform family, friends, neighbors, and other groups in your community about what you do
Create business cards that has your website information, using your brand color, font, logo, etc and share them everywhere you go
Join author groups and associations in your local community and beyond
Attend writers conferences and events
Accept speaking engagements
Support your local libraries and bookstores and participate in some of their activities
Become a guest on a podcast or on radio or television
Having a presence and being active on social media can put your brand in front of a large number of people that you may not have the opportunity to connect with anywhere else, which goes a long way to increase your brand visibility and build your author platform.
Examples of such social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and many others.
Here are some simple tips for using social media as an author:
Identify all the social media platforms where your target readers can be found
Choose one or two that you like and are comfortable with and learn everything about them
Come up with a strategy on how you will use each social media platform to achieve your goal
Decide in advance how much time you can afford to spend on social media daily and keep to it
Create a profile and start posting, using the strategy you came up with
Even though social media can be used effectively to build your author platform, almost everyone agrees that it can take up a lot of your time if you’re not careful, so remember to take preventive steps to avoid that.
Now that you know all the steps you can take to build your author platform, come up with your own plan of action by identifying the step you want to start with and those you can even do at the same time.
Remember, building an author platform takes time and cannot be done overnight so the earlier you start, the better.
You nod as the light turns green. Time to go, time to move forward.
“Letting fear drive you will only drive you to disappointment,” the narrator reads his book to you. Your speakers beg for just a little more volume to drown out the traffic.
You lean in and turn it up.
This is what you want for your readers, this is what your current readers are missing, and these are the readers/listeners you are missing by not having an audiobook.
There is an entire audience who have no idea that your book could change their lives. In fact, they don’t even know it exists if they only listen to audiobooks.
Don’t worry! We can fix this, just hang out with me for about 10 minutes or so, and you will be equipped with encouragement, inspiration, and most importantly, aplan!
After writing multiple books and recording my own audiobooks, I’ve learned a few things that will help both green and seasoned writers. With so much useful information packed into one post, we’re going to break it down to some basic questions straight from middle-school English class.
Here’s what we’ll cover in relation to audiobook creation (if you’re in a hurry, skip to 1, 3, and 5):
Why not just sell both the digital and the audio? I know the temptation. After investing all this time and money into this audiobook, I need it to “pay” off, so why should I give it away? If that’s a hurdle you can’t get over, at least try using it as a lead magnet for a limited time, then switching to paid. Doing it this way allows for #4 (below) to thrive.
Fewer customer complaints.
When people get something for free, they are less likely to complain about it, though it still happens. However, this releases you from feeling like you have to have the perfect product. As Chandler says, “done is better than perfect.” We’ll cover more in the HOW and WHAT sections.
If you decide to put the book on Audible (the leader in audiobook production) or other sites like Findaway Voices, you will still get sales from people who never took the time to visit your Amazon (or other) page.
The most obvious: Build Your Subscriber List!
Having an author career is a long game. It requires support and a following at the least. This is the point of a lead magnet, to entice readers to sign up for your correspondence. Subscribers by email are gold for an author. Check it out here (and get a free audiobook) to see how the process looks from the subscriber’s side.
None of the other questions matter if we don’t understand our “why.”
As an author, you want to reach a broader audience while also better serving your current readers.
The market for digital and print books is saturated (which isn’t the worst thing), but the audiobook market is still wide open. This is a great time to jump in, stand out, offer more, and expand your reach.
Audiobooks are growing faster than any other digital publishing.
Nearly half of all listeners are under 35 and listen to 15 books a year, claiming that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”
People choose audio for multi-tasking, portability, and the novelty of someone else reading to them.
Podcasts (another growing industry) are a gateway to audiobooks.
Some publishers are skipping ebook production and going straight to audio, recognizing that audiobook sales are independently increasing.
Are you convinced yet?Before you go hire someone or crank up your voice memos,read on to see how best to create your audiobook.
#2 – How do you make an audiobook?
SPS has a great post here about how to make an audiobook. It includes tips on prepping your content, recording, hiring narrators, equipment, uploading to ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) for Audible, and more.
In addition to those things, here are a few tips from my experience when producing my first audiobook.
Use two computers or devices. I used one to handle the recording and audio editing (I chose to do simultaneous editing), and the other to read from while revising. No matter how many times you edit your book, you’ll always want to tweak something; recording your audiobook is no exception. If you’ve hired out your formatting, make notes for them of what you’ve changed.
Keep plenty of water nearby. One time while recording some of my music in a studio, the producer told me to take a drink of water before every take. I didn’t realize how much difference it made until I tried it. Take a deep breath and a big swig before each take.
Don’t beat yourself up for tripping over words. If it keeps happening, take a break. “Ahh! Can you even read? Come on, Michael!” Believe me, I understand the frustration.
Invite or hire a professional or semi-professional to help with setup. If you have any musician friends or podcaster buddies, have them help set up your environment and equipment, down to chair placement and lighting. I made the mistake of trying to do it all by myself (cue Eric Carman) and I ended up re-recording my book 1.5 times—that’s 2.5 total! It was a mess.
BONUS: A crucial piece of advice: listen to audiobooks in your genre. This should sound familiar, as it’s common advice to read the genre you write in, and it’s just as important to listen to it. To be a great writer, you must be an avid reader (and listener!)
With so much screen fatigue, it’s nice to break away and maybe look at, I don’t know, the sky or something real. Try that now…I’ll wait…
Ah, wasn’t that nice?
Let’s get back to business! What makes a good audiobook?
Cast the right voice (even if its yours): coming up in #4: WHO…patience, young grasshopper…
Conviction: Not only does your book need to be believable, but your narrator needs to convey the same conviction as you did when writing it.
Eliminate Mouth Sounds: This. Was. A. Pain. You, like me at one point, probably have no idea how much sound your mouth makes, from breath control to saliva and lip smacks. I ended up hiring someone from Fiverr to go through and edit my four-hour audiobook; the cost was around $300, which included mastering (adjusting the levels and frequencies for the specific ACX requirements).
“Is my book right for audio?”
I would argue that ANY book can be useful as an audiobook!
“What about children’s books?”
Imagine the novelty of having the author narrate his/her own work while the kids flip through the pages, all without having to go to a book-reading.
“How about short, daily reads, like religious devotionals?”
Au contraire…imagine how helpful it could be to have someone walk you through a recipe in real time, hands-free. If that doesn’t quite work, it can still serve to push people to your digital/physical book for reference and pictures.
In fact, some audiobooks come with companion content such as Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman.
By now, you’re seriously considering this audiobook thing. Logically, the next thing to work out is WHO should narrate your book.
#4 – Who should narrate my audiobook?
Having a perfect book will not save you from poor narration. Audible makes it a point to offer a Performance section in their reviews.
Did you also notice the tab below for Amazon Reviews? That’s even more reason to get the “WHAT” right in this entire process.
When it comes to narration, there are two ways to go: do it yourself or hire it out.
Narrating Your Own Book:
There a plenty of advantages here. If you choose this route, you can either set up your own recording space or purchase studio time with an engineer.
Many readers will say they prefer authors to narrate their own works because it’s more authentic to the intentions. However, not all writers are great narrators.
I suggest this, a test run:
Use a phone app or voice recorder and try reading a chapter into it.
Listen back with objective ears, imagining your ideal reader.
Ask yourself if you were drawn in to the story or distracted by the narration. Be honest with yourself, and consider what it would take to make it better: cadence, pronunciation, accent, or perhaps a professional narrator. *If you choose to tackle accents, do your best to respect them rather than stereotyping. Audiobook listeners tend to care about accuracy and honor. For example, in England alone, there are half a dozen or more accents. In America, southern accents vary across states and regions.
Send the sample to an objective friend (preferably one familiar with the accents and style you’re going for), and be open to honest feedback.
If you decide self-narrating isn’t for you, then you can hire a professional.
Tups for hiring a narrator:
Cost: Narrators can be paid in different ways. ACX offers an hourly rate or a 50% split royalties option. There are other ways as well, such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Voices.
Voice: fiction or non, nailing the voice is a make-it-or-break-it detail for many listeners. In fact, Audible has an entire section of its reviews dedicated to Narrator Performance. There is a common consensus that says having an non-preferred narrator is one of the biggest turn-offs for listeners.
Communication: you’ll want to make sure the narrator gets the pronunciations right as well as any specific occasions of sarcasm, humor, drama, timing, or more. They can fix some things in post-production, but changing the pronunciation of a main character’s name after finishing the book would be nearly impossible. It’s not as simple as “Find and Replace” (one of my favorite word processing functions!). ACX has great videos to help with such things.
If this post has stirred you up at all, then you must act!
You and I both know this to be true, so here are some things you can do right now to become a better writer and jump start your audiobook production.
Try the self-narrating tip from #4. For me, I’ve always loved doing impressions and finding new voices and accents. In fact, it has influenced my writing; I now try to include characters whose voices I know I can give life to. Recently, I made one of my characters Scottish, an accent I’ve always admired and respected.
Get started listening with Audible right now if you haven’t already, and start reading reviews, specifically in the Performance section. There are also plenty of free audiobook sources out there.
Continue polishing your book as best you can. Adjustments to the written word are fairly easy, but punching in seamless narration is nearly impossible. It doesn’t have to be perfect though! There is always the option to re-record your book (and likely be even better the next time around) or hire someone else to do it.
Your life is busy and sometimes you want all the (book-related) goods in one place. We heard you – and we listened!
Chandler Bolt created this all-in-one exclusive training for serious soon-to-be-authors. If you want to learn how to outline and everything else about the book writing process, make sure to sign up to save your spot!
Because if you want to learn how to outline, you may as well get as much information as you can right away. Trust us, it’ll make your writing process that much easier.
What is a Book Outline?
A book outline is a roadmap or blueprint for your story. It tells you where you need to go and when in chronilogical order.
It’s easy to see this term and wonder exactly what that means. Is it a bullet list of topics for your book? Is it a chapter by chapter overview written in paragraphs?
No matter how you write an outline, the purpose is the same.
Think of it as a GPS of sorts but instead of giving you driving directions, your outline will give you writing directions.
Why Should I Write a Book Outline?
No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. It’s not just about getting your thoughts on the paper, either. It’s about so much more than the actual writing.
ensure you can focus on the quality of your writing instead of what to write
You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time learning how to outline a book, but some (mostly painless!) prep before writing will be time well-spent since you won’t be spinning your wheels by staring at the blank screen of death.
When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing.
Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating. Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.
Once you have a plan to write your book in outline form, you’ll be better able to put these thoughts to paper and compose your chapters when you do sit down to write.
And I have some good news: there’s no “right” way to outline. Each writer will have their own process that’s personal to them.
Keep reading for tips on how to outline different ways. If one of these exact methods doesn’t strike a chord with you, you can combine methods to create your own way that works best for your unique book.
Are you writing a fiction or non-fiction book? Depending on which you’re working on, the outlining process may look be different.
Thankfully, there are plenty of relevant tips you can apply in the section about outlining a non-fiction book. Likewise, even if you’re writing non-fiction, the section on how to write a fiction outline can help spark some ideas for your process, so we recommend authors of all types of books read the full list.
How to Write a Nonfiction Book Outline
Most non-fiction authors find outlines useful due to the nature of their books. Generally, works of non-fiction require research and citation of sources (although many novels require their own research!).
An outline can help organize your research so it doesn’t overwhelm you, plus your outline will help you create the best structure for your finished book.
These are some of the beneficial methods we recommend for you.
#1 – Mindmap + Book Outline
This is the main method of outlining that we teach in Self-Publishing School. The mindmap method requires you to create a brain dump based on your book’s topic. Write your topic in the center of a piece of paper, then use lines and words to draw as many connections as you can.
It doesn’t need to make perfect sense from the get-go—the goal is free-form thinking to get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.
You’ll start to notice connections between different categories of information. This makes it easier to spot the relevant “book-worthy” ideas. Then you can pluck those ideas out of your mindmap and put them into a cohesive book outline.
We also recommend doing a mindmap for each chapter you select from your original mindmap. It will help you structure your entire book chapter by chapter.
Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless!
At Self-Publishing School, we encourage students to make a mess with their mindmap. Regardless of what your mind map looks like in the end, it is an essential element to your book writing process.
This mind map will be the jumping off point for you to begin your outline. In this brief video, Chandler explains how to turn your mindmap into an outline:
#2 – Simple Book Outline
A simple book outline is just as it sounds; keep it basic and brief. Start with the title. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect title at this stage of the process; you just want to come up with a good-for-now placeholder.
You can always change the title later—in fact, you probably will—but starting with some kind of title gives you a better idea of where you want your book to go.
Plus, outlining your book this way jump-starts the creative process.
Next, you’ll list all of the key points that cover your book’s overall theme and message. You’ll use these key points to generate your notes. Later, you’ll flesh out these notes to draft your book chapters.
#3 – Chapter-by-Chapter Book Outline
Your chapter-by-chapter book outline is a pumped-up version of the simple book outline.
To get started, first create a complete chapter list. With each chapter listed as a heading, you’ll later add material or shift chapters around as the draft evolves.
Create a working title for each chapter, and list them in a logical order. After that, you’ll fill in the key points of each chapter.
Finally, you’ll link your resources as they would appear in each chapter, including books, interviews, and Web links.
Here’s a great example of a chapter-by-chapter nonfiction book outline completed with bullet lists:
#4 – Sketch Your Book Outline
Perhaps you find the idea of a written outline confining. That’s OK — there’s another option which might appeal to your artistic side.
If you like being uber-organized, then the writing softwareScrivener might appeal to you. Their book outline program allows you to upload your research, organize it by moving it around, and filing it into folders.
Like many writing software programs, it does have a fairly extensive learning curve, which can be a major downside—especially if you tend to procrastinate and really want to get your book published quickly.
However, some writers say it revolutionized their organizational process for longer works.
Your goal with the Basic Document format is to use a Word or Excel table to give structure to your theme. Create a table and organize and summarize your key points and plot.
You’ll then create a separate section for characters and themes, and an additional section with relevant research.
#2 – Post-It Wall
This is for the creative mind, and another method we teach in Self-Publishing School. All you need is a blank wall and a box of Post-It notes. Carry a pad of Post-Its with you wherever you go, and doodle your book on the fly.
Write your ideas and inspiration on your Post-Its when the mood strikes you.
Next, affix the Post-Its containing words, snippets, doodles, and phrases to the wall. After a week of this exercise, organize these words into novel outline form. Voila—simple, effective, creative!
#3 – The Snowflake Method
The Snowflake Method was created by fiction writing coach Randy Ingermanson based on the notion, “Good fiction doesn’t just happen. It’s designed.”
The process of the snowflake method focuses on starting small, then expanding. For example, you’d start with one line from your book, then add a paragraph, then add a chapter.
Since the snowflake method is fairly detailed and based on scientific theory, Randy’s article is worth a read so you can review the detailed steps involved in this outlining method.
#4 – The Skeletal Outline
If you’ve ever written a term paper or thesis, then you’re probably familiar with the skeletal outline. You’ll lay out your narrative points in the order they’ll appear in your story, which involves a broad 7-step story arch.
This gives you a big picture idea of the flow of your story, so you can adjust your story and add subplots for maximum impact.
#5 – Novel Outline Template
Why reinvent the wheel? If you’re impatient to jump right into the fun part—writing!—or you aren’t sure exactly how to format your novel outline, then a pre-formatted template outline might be your saving grace.
A fill-in-the-blank novel outline can help you develop your plot, characters, and ideas without getting bogged down with the notion of striving for “proper” outline form.
#6 – The Reverse Outline
Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can give you the answer to the question. The same applies to outlining.
Reverse outlining is exactly what it sounds like: Write down how your novel ends. Then once you know the ending, outline backward to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.
This method often helps if you want to plant seeds and have a lot of shocking foreshadowing moments.
Authors like George R.R. Martin have to use these methods in order to make sure the plot lines up.
Here’s the takeaway:No matter which option you choose, ultimately, you’ll write faster and better with a book outline. If one way doesn’t work well for you, then experiment and try another. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.”
Discover what works best for you and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.
Let’s dive into exactly what these writing blogs have to offer and why you should be paying close attention to them if you want to improve your writing, start your book, and publish it on Amazon (or wherever else you want to publish it through)!
There are a lot of different avenues writers have to be aware of when it comes to building a successful career from their work.
And Write to Done gives you just that!
Being both a creative writing blog along with covering nonfiction writing, Write to Done teaches you how to master a number of different techniques and habits geared toward helping you succeed in the literary world.
You don’t want to miss out on all the writing advice they have to offer along with motivational material to help you keep it up.
The Write Practice is a massive source of helpful information for writers everywhere. They cover writing blog posts touching on topics revolving around key writing practices, writing exercises, and even writing prompts to get your mind stirring.
You won’t be without help with The Write Practice.
Not only do they offer free help through their blog posts, but they also have programs, writing contests, and help involving your author platform in general.
All of these writing blogs have something unique to offer that you won’t find any anywhere else. When it comes to learning any craft – especially writing – it’s important to broaden your search and learn as much as you can from as many talented minds as you can.
What if you knew you could share the story inside you with an audience excited to hear your every word?
There’s a way to up your levels of success before ever writing the first word or your book. Actually, for some people, it’s even easier to up their chances of success than it is to write the book.
Let me explain…
When people hear I’ve written a book they often respond with, “I’ve always wanted to write a book!”
The next phrase is usually something along the lines of, “I’m terrible at writing.”
And in the back of their minds, the other hesitancy might be, “Who would even read it?”
It’s a scary thing to sit down and stare at a blank screen.
It’s intimidating to write that first sentence.
“What if I never make it to the last sentence?”
“What if nobody cares if I do end up finishing?”
Perhaps the biggest question of all: “What if no one reads it?”
These are real questions. Questions I’m here to answer.
It all comes down to branding.
A few decades ago books sold based on the quality of the writing. While that’s still true today, often books are sold based on the platform of the person writing the book. That’s where branding comes in.
If you’re in college maybe your brand is sweatpants and too much coffee, late-night Instagram stories, and weekend adventures.
If you’re in the world of business, maybe your brand is pristine suits, important meetings, and networking with the right people.
Either way, this is your passive brand. It’s the self you portray to the world without really thinking about it.
Of course, you considered what to wear this morning. You saw the still kinda clean shirt on your dorm room floor and decided to wear that to the exam.
Or you chose the darker suit to wear to your business meeting because you didn’t want to stand out too much. You probably made sure it matched your pants (always a good thing!).
But you probably didn’t think about it much more than that. And that’s ok!
Regardless of what you put on this morning, let’s talk about how personal branding can be the difference between writing a book and writing a book people read.
#2 – Active Author Branding
Active brand is the part of you that you intentionally choose to let the world see.
There are ways to do portray yourself that will greatly impact the influence you have. Influence brings followers.
Followers turn into fans.
Fans turn into avid readers…who leave you 5-star reviews that allow more readers to find you.
The following tips will help you develop intentional author branding.
#3 – Developing Your Author Voice
Your author voice is important. After all, it’s what the world hears from you. Yes,
you can alter this if you want to, but we recommend leaning into your natural voice so the you you’re showing the world is authentic and real.
Countless factors determine your voice:
Stage of life
Who you hang out with
Your past experiences
All of these and more play into your personal voice.
It’s how you talk, in person and online. It’s how you communicate to the people around you. The type of punctuation you choose. Even the emojis that consistently stay in the time box in your messages.
All of this factors into your voice.
But using voice to intentionally create your active brand goes a long way in establishing yourself.
If you don’t know what your specific voice is, go through some of the recent texts you sent your friends. Next time you grab coffee with someone, take note of how you naturally communicate with them. That’s your voice.
The next step is to implement that voice across all platforms. The social media outlets you use. The blog you run. The conversations you have.
People want to hear what you have to say, but more importantly, how you say it. They want to know you, not just the knowledge you bring.
#4 – Discovering Themes in Branding
Next up are themes.
These themes seem to run through your life and your writing.
When identifying the themes of your life here are some questions to ask:
What opportunities do you jump at the chance to volunteer for?
What type of movies do you regularly choose to see?
What books do you read?
What type of people do you choose to hang out with?
What stories do you love re-telling from your past?
These are the themes you’re passionate about. These are the themes that should dominate and infiltrate your writing.
Because readers can tell when you’re passionate about what you’re writing and when you’re not. Passionate writing engages readers.
Writing is a skill you can never be the “best” at. You will always be able to grow and expand on your writing skills. Once you’ve reached what you believe is your very best, there is still mountains more you can improve upon.
If you’re like me (and almost all writers out there), you likely struggle with insecurity in your writing. Us writers have a tendency to focus on the bad without knowing how to make it better, and this can often cost us our writing motivation.
If you’re ready to learn tips like the famous “show don’t tell” and more, keep reading, or check out the video below!
How to Improve Writing with Tips for Writing a Book
In order to improve your writing skills, you have to commit to writing as much as you can, using different writing exercises, and reading often. You have to form a writing habit in order to do this.
But there is good news about this.
Your writing skills are not stagnant. They change and grow as you do.
Think of it as running. The more you run and train, the better you become. It can be really hard to write a book at first but as you learn new techniques, how to use literary devices, and new methods for making it easier, you become a stronger, better runner.
Writing is exactly the same.
The way you improve your writing skills is by making a commitment to you, your work in progress, and all the people who can benefit from your book.
Being a good beginner writer is about learning the craft of writing and learning specific techniques that make writing good in the first place.
In fact, becoming a good beginner writer is all about reading as much as you can and writing as much as you can. This is what will help you recognize those literary elements you can then replicate and make your own when writing and editing.
Just like I mentioned above, the more you can write, the better you will get, and this makes publishing your book and showing it to the world much easier.
But it’s also about consuming content about becoming a better writer, like podcasts, blog posts, and videos around the craft of writing.
Once you know how people interpret different events, messages, and themes, you can weave them into your book so it has more impact when they’re finished reading.
And for the fiction writers out there, psychology helps you create real and lifelike characters that leave readers itching to turn that page and read more about them and their journey.
Writing Tips Action Step:
In order to accurately research for your book, think about what you want your readers to take away from each chapter, and then the book as a whole.
Then research how real people interpret those specific messages.
If you want readers to feel inspired during a certain part of your book, research “psychology of inspiration” and read how one can build up to feel inspired and even how it affects their outlook in order to better craft the next chapters.
Writing Tip #4 – Write as often as you can
Even if all you’re writing is a paragraph, it’s better than not writing at all.
And if you can’t add on to your book for whatever reason (maybe a lack of an outline?), then write something else.
Here are a few ways you can utilize this writing tip by writing something else:
Spend 15 minutes listening to music that reminds you of your book to get you in the zone
Tell all your friends/family to leave you alone for writing time
As mentioned above, the more you write, the better you get. But you can’t write if you’re constantly checking your phone, email, or watching TV.
Writing Tip #6 – Research storytelling and story structure
This is largely for the fiction writers out there, but all writers can benefit from this writing tip of improving your storytelling.
Storytelling and writing are not the same things.
Writing is the way in which you describe what’s happening within the story. The story itself is a whole other piece of the puzzle – and is arguably the most important piece.
When you have a story idea worth writing, there’s a few things to remember.
Here are our top writing tips for learning the craft of storytelling:
Study comedians – the reason comedy is, well, funny is because comedians know how to tell stories in a way that keep us on the edge of our seat, and then they surprise us, which often initiates the laughter.
Learn from great storytellers – Stephen King is one of the best storytellers of all time. He has a book, On Writing, that touches on this craft. Give it a read for some of the best writing tips you’ll find.
Read as much as you can – Writers learn how to write through reading. The more you read, and the wider variety of genres, the more you’ll naturally pick up on the art of storytelling.
Get feedback on your stories – This is the hardest, but most crucial writing tip to help you improve. You have to understand your weaknesses in order to make them stronger. Ask friends and family for help in order to learn how to make your stories better.
Writing Tips Action Step:
Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos about the art of crafting a story.
Another great way to learn the ins and outs of storytelling is to watch great comedians. The reason they can make you laugh is how they craft what they’re saying.
Notice the pauses, when they speed through what they’re saying, and how they deliver that final line.
These are all techniques you can use on a larger scale when writing your book.
Writing Tip #7 – Always get feedback
This will always be the hardest, but most important part of improving your writing. Of all the writing tips to take and execute, this is the best one.
It’s very difficult to gauge your own writing – because you wrote it.
This is much like trying to tickle yourself. It just doesn’t work because you’re the person doing it and is much more effective when someone else does it.
That’s why the beta reading process is so vital. It’s when you let others read your book in order to gain feedback from people in your intended audience.
That’s what it’s like for your writing. You need an outside set of eyes on your work.
Do you have any predictions about what will happen?
Do you have any feedback I didn’t ask you about?
Writing Tip #8 – Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals
One of the best ways you can strengthen your creativity is by consciously thinking about how you can describe common things in new, interesting ways.
You want to make people see that common item or situation or visual in a brand new light.
The way you can do this is to pause when you’re describing something in your writing and think to yourself, “how else can I explain this to create a stronger emotional impact?”
Here’s an example of this writing tip if you’re still a little confused:
“The sun set behind the trees and the world fell quiet.”
Is this a bad way to describe a sunset and night beginning? No. However, you can easily get more creative about how to illustrate this to readers through words.
“Night yanked the horizon over the sun, silencing the world with its absence.”
This is saying relatively the same thing, but in a way that stops and makes someone appreciate the way in which it was crafted.
Writing Tip #9 – Practice writing in your head
This might sound a bit confusing, so let me elaborate.
When you look at the world, how do you see it? Probably the same way everyone else does.
Here’s an example of how you can practice writing – but only in your own head. This can help you learn how to craft your prose to read in a beautiful, elegant fashion while also being unique and interesting to readers.
Right now, I’m looking out my window into the backyard. It has snow, the trees are bare, and the sky is a muted gray at the horizon, fading to a very faint blue as you look higher up.
This is a very typical visual for winter (especially in Wisconsin).
Now, in order to practice writing without writing, all you have to do is start describing what you see in prose that you would write in your own head.
“Stillness hung in the air thicker than Christmas morning eggnog, the ground covered in a thin sheet of white speckled with brown where the snow failed to make its mark. Bare branches reached toward the absent sun, reluctantly accepting the gray of winter in its place.”
This example is more prose than reality, but this is how you can sharpen those skill by just thinking in this way.
Notice the world around you in the way you would write it in a book.
The more you practice this when you’re on the subway, making dinner, or even watching your family and friends interact, the easier it will be to write those situations in your book.
Think like a writer in order to become a better one.
Writing Tip#10 – Use strong language
This writing tip can completely transform your writing for the better.
It’s the single best way to make your writing more captivating without really adding anything new. You just simply have to replace weak language with stronger, more descriptive writing.
This can take some time to get used to but the more you do it, the easier it will get.
So how do you recognize weak language?
Here are some mistakes to look for in your writing to utilizing this writing tip:
Passive voice –Passive voice is any use of a “to be” past participle. Now, that’s just a fancy way of saying that if you have something was done by something, it’s passive voice. An example of this is: “The chicken was beheaded by the farmer.” That is passive voice, whereas, “The farmer beheaded the chicken.” is active voice.
Weak verbs – These are the basic, non-detailed version of better verbs. An example would be, “She walked to the store.” In this case, “walked” is the weak verb. You can use another form of this verb to create a stronger visual for your reader. Here’s what that would look like: “She strutted to the store.”
Emotion explaining – Using words that are emotions in your writing is a pretty clear indicator you have to show and not tell. Saying, “She was scared,” is telling. You can create a better experience for the reader by showing that she’s scared through body language, dialogue, and description.
We even make it simpler for you with our strong verbs list. It has over 200 strong verbs and includes the common weak verbs you can replace.
Writing Tips Action Step:
Fill out your information for instant access to your strong verbs list of over 300+ verbs to use!
Writing Tip #11 – Just write to write
Forget about your goals. Forget about how anyone else will interpret what you’ve wrote and just write.
Do it for you. Write what you like and what makes you happy.
Don’t think about the future or publishing or where you’re going from here. Just grab that outline, sit down, and write because it’s fun.
Believe it or not, this frees up a lot of mental space and allows you to write without thinking too much, which often helps you write better.
One of the best writing tips I ever received was to always have a side project going on, something you have no intention of ever publishing. This is where your real writing happens.
It’s a place for you to experiment, discover your writing voice, and learn what you truly love to write while still working on your main project and accomplishing those goals.
Writing Tips from Famous Authors
What better way to improve your writing than to practice writing tips from those who have mastered the craft?
Here are our top writing tips from professional writers like Stephen King, JK Rowling, and even Margaret Atwood.
#1 – “Just do it.”
Much like we mentioned above, Margaret Atwood is a huge advocate of diving right in and just writing, despite your fears, insecurities, or lack of direction.
“I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’
And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.”
As someone who has made waves with a number of her novels, including the masterpiece that landed her an entire TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, she is someone you want to take advice from—especially now that Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass is available.
#2 – “You’ve got to work for it.”
Much to every writer’s dismay, books don’t actually write themselves. If there was a special machine we could plug into our brain that would spit out a perfect copy of the story inside our minds, we would all opt for that instead of sitting down and plucking away at the keyboard.
But that’s not a reality (at least not yet).
Someone who knows the value of hard work when it comes to writing is J.K. Rowling. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?
“You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. It’s all these deadly things that your school teacher told you you needed…
You need it.”
As hard as it can be, Rowling’s advice is as sound as any. Work for your book. Work hard so others can benefit from the worth you’re holding onto.
#3 – “Write for yourself first.”
Stephen King has an entire memoir-ish that doubles as writing tips simply because writing has been nearly his entire life.
One of the best lessons King says he ever learned was from a newspaper editor he worked for while he was in high school (which he discusses in his memoir/writing book On Writing) and he has maintained that voice in his head throughout each work he writes.
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.
Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
On Writing by Stephen King continues to be a source of inspiration and help for writers everywhere. King has a way of pulling you in and giving you the BS-free advice all writers want – and, in most cases, desperately need.
#4 – “Quantity will make up for quality.”
Ray Bradbury is one of the most quoted authors out there. He shares his methods for writing and how to actually succeed in this industry.
His best advice, in my opinion, comes from his book Zen in the Art of Writing, where he says you have to schedule the time to write – and write daily because quantity will make up for quality.
In fact, quantity is what leads you to quality.
“Michelangelo’s, da Vinci’s, Tintoretto’s billion sketches, the quantitative, prepared them for the qualitative, single sketches further down the line, single portraits, single landscapes of incredible control and beauty.”
In essence, the more you practice writing, the better you’ll become and that makes all the difference when it comes to separating yourself form other writers.
#5 – “Tell the truth.”
Miss Angelou is an inspiration to writers everywhere. She’s a personal favorite of mine and her quotes and advice for both writing and life has always spoken to me on a different level than others.
One of the best writing tips I’ve read of her is the fact that you have to write the truth.
“I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth.
The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.”
When you have a truth worth sharing, writing becomes easier, more meaningful, and therefore more impactful for those reading it.
This ties into our writing tip above about writing what you want to read. Focus on telling your truth.
#6 – “You can’t edit a blank page.”
Are you sensing a theme within these writing tips yet?
Even Jodi Picoult agrees that you can’t become a better writer if you never write.
“You can always edit a bad page.
You can’t edit a blank page.”
The best of all writing tips is this one. You have to actually write if you want to get better because the great writing doesn’t happen on the first try. It happens on the second, fifth, and even tenth.
You first have to write the words in order to make them better.
Believe it or not, writing a book isn’t as difficult as it’s made to seem. At least, getting started isn’t.
We have a complete guide that will cover best practices to start writing a book asap – even today if you sit down and put your pen to paper, so to speak.
#1 – Start by setting Up Your Book Writing Environment
One of the most important things to remember if you want to start writing a book is designing a writing space that allows your creativity to flourish unhindered.
Create an environment that is designed to help you stay focused.
Whether you prefer noisy environments or absolute solitude, it’s up to you to determine which will get you into the writer’s flow.
What you want to avoid is a super messy environment, even if you think you work well in those types of spaces (like the one featured below).
If anything can distract you from writing, it’s not worth it.
Here are a few ideas to create your ideal space for writing:
Have collections of inspiration. Decorate your work area with inspiring quotes or pictures that house references to deep work.
Unclutter your space. Create an uncluttered open space to help organize not only what you need, but also your thoughts.
Be Flexible. Your creative space doesn’t need to be one spot, it can be anywhere. Even your favorite authors have discovered their best ideas in the most unexpected places.
Buy a calendar: Your book will get written faster if you have set goals for the week/day. The best way to manage this is by scheduling your time on a calendar. Schedule every hour that you commit to your author business. What gets scheduled, gets done.
Create a music playlist for inspiration: Many authors can write to the sound of their favorite tunes. Is there anything that gets you working faster? Do you write better with deeper focus when listening to rock music or classical? Set up several playlists that you can use to get into the flow of writing.
Try Multiple Locations. You won’t know how creative you can be if you don’t try different spots to write. Maybe writing from your bed is your ideal creative space. What about working in a noisy cafe? Change up your location frequently particularly if you feel creatively spent.
Here are some more tips for starting your book and putting together your writing environment:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
#2 – Start Writing by Developing a Writing Habit
The number one reason authors fail to publish a book is because they never finish the book they intend to publish. Why?
Because they didn’t form a good writing habit.
Feeling overwhelmed when writing a book is natural, but you must remember that this journey always begins with the first page. And in order to write your first page, you must take action.
For example, schedule your writing time daily so that you can stick to a solid writing routine that will allow you to make real progress.
This is why having a writing habit will develop your writer’s flow.
But before you can start your habit, you’ll want to know how much you need to write during each session in order to stay on track for your writing goals.
Here’s a word and page count calculator to help you figure out how many words you should be planning for in your book:
Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.
Your book will have
*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*
Want to receive personalized tips on how to sell more books right in your inbox?
Your writing habit can start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking that you must write your every thought on the page. You can start with a few paragraphs, a sentence, or even just a word.
The purpose of this exercise is to commit to your writing session every day until it has become second nature.
#3 – Create an Outline Before You Start Writing
A clear book outline provides clarity and direction to your story. It is also the roadmap for your book that keeps you on track and ensures you have all your ideas organized in a natural flow. And that’s not even to mention that it helps you write a lot faster, too.
There are many types of outlines you can use here.
We highly recommend starting with the mindmap outline and then moving to the sticky note method, as our students find it the most helpful.
When you get stuck or suffer writer’s block, you can always go back to your outline to find what comes next regardless of whether the book is 100 pages or 300 pages long. It will help you see the overall picture.
Learn to say “NO” to any additional projects no matter how intriguing they appear.
Create an action plan and commit to it. Learn to be selfish and practice saying “NO” often. It’s better to complete one book and get it right than to write two books with poor results.
#5 – Maintain Your Focus
Once you get into the flow of starting your book, you want to remain focused through the duration of your writing session. Any break to your concentration can set you back 20-30 minutes and disrupt your flow.
We become less efficient when we are distracted, and it can end up taking twice as long to complete our writing.
Thankfully, there are very effective techniques that can help you remain centered and in the moment.
Leave the distractions behind by doing the following:
Create a writing schedule. Schedule your writing for the same time each day. This conditioning will develop your writing habit until it becomes as natural as knowing when to brush your teeth.
Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management strategy that breaks down work into intervals separated by short breaks. With a clock ticking, you will less likely be distracted by email or social media.
Turn off your phone. Your phone is the most addicting device that steals your precious attention. Don’t let it take that from you, turn it off. If you don’t want to turn it off, then download a writing software or app that limits distractions.
Have a Task Management app. Task Manager apps, like Todoist, helps you organize your tasks by their time and priority, so you know exactly what to do in what order the next day.
Disconnect from the Internet. Want to ensure you don’t get distracted by email notifications, Facebook notifications, etc.? Disconnect your computer from the Internet and enjoy distraction-free writing time.
Experiment with each of these productivity techniques and optimize your writer’s flow. By becoming a productivity expert, you will easily double your output and complete your book in no time.
#6 – Schedule Your Writing Time
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most popular comedians of all time, and he attributes his success to his unbelievably strong writing habits. In the early days of his career, Seinfeld was asked how he managed to have such great content.
He said, “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.”
Seinfeld used the “Calendar Method”, otherwise known as the “Don’t Break the Chain” method, and it worked like this:
Get yourself a calendar, and hang it on the wall.
For each day you write, draw an X on the calendar for that day. By the end of the week, you should have a row of Xs at the end.
If you miss a day, start over and see how long you can go before breaking the chain.
Buy yourself a calendar and get started on the “Calendar Method!” Being held accountable will keep you motivated and not “Break the Chain.”
#7 – Start by Dealing With Writing Distractions First
Distractions can hinder you and your deisre to start writing a book.
Resistance is a common obstacle that has the ability to distract us for too long. It’s a form of fear that intimidates you from writing and can throw you off your writer’s flow.
Not only do you have the distractions of everyday life, but if someone in your life has qualms with you spending time to write, it can be extra difficult to concentrate and just write.
Everyone has encountered this awful feeling, but it doesn’t have to defeat you.
Here are a few ways to deal with resistance:
Read morning affirmations. Affirmations are powerful snippets of positive words that set the tone and atmosphere for writing. An affirmation could be a quote from a writer, a motivational speech from a public figure, or an inspirational video.
Free Flow for 10 Minutes. Julia Cameron, the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, called these morning pages, and its purpose is to clear your mind of all the anxiety and junk rolling around in your head onto a piece of paper. Write anything. You don’t have to edit, publish, or have a word count, it’s simply a 10-minute exercise to clear out heavy thoughts and prepare you for a more productive day. This is best done with pen and paper instead of typing into a document with your digital device.
Exercise. Exercising is not only good for your health but will help keep you mentally sharp. Working out will increase the blood flow to the brain which will sharpen your awareness and give you the energy you need to tackle your book.
Create a resistance plan! Figure out which methods best filter out the negative noise and get you to prepared to write.
Start Writing a Book TODAY!
If you want to become a published author, you must take ownership of your writing habits.
By following these strategies, you can have a completed book within months and be on your way to becoming a successful writer.
A memoir is unique in the fact that it covers your life’s events in a more story-like structure with an overarching theme or messaged written in.
This means that “how tos,” “motivational books,” and other topics don’t qualify as a memoir. Memoirs are very specific in the sense that it accounts for the entirety of your life with an emphasis on stories and impactful moments that lead to a great purpose.
Now that you know the overall theme and message of your memoir and what will set it apart, you have to connect the dots of your life to that core focus.
Here are a few areas to think about specifically to help jog some of those memories in order to help you know how to write a memoir worth reading:
College/post high school
Hopes and dreams
There are so many areas that have a direct influence over how you perceive life as a whole. You just have to do a little digging to spark some specific memories that can circle back to the overarching theme of your memoir.
I know this is a book about yourlife but it never hurts to back up your own experiences with someone else’s – or many other people’s.
Knowing how to write a memoir involves knowing when your message will be loudest. And that’s often with additional stories from others.
Sometimes you can’t always get the message across if only you have experienced it. To get readers to relate, you might have to show them that many people experience the same thing.
One of the most powerful connections you can make to benefit from the message of your memoir is to show your readers that it’s not just you.
Others have gone through the same situations you have and came out with the same perspective.
This one requires some extensive research (and maybe even an interview or two), but possessing the ability to be credible in your readers’ eyes is crucial. And obviously, you’ll want to make sure you’re using their experiences legally in your memoir.
You can even interview family or friends who might see an experience you share differently than you.
Adding those details will strengthen your core message.
Here’s a checklist of what your memoir should include in order to “complete” and at its best:
Elements of a Memoir
A snippet of what your life is like now and why you're writing this memoir
Each memoir should have an overall theme or message that one can take away when they've finished reading.
Writing a memoir without honesty will come across on the pages. Readers will be able to tell and will be pulled out of the book because of this.
Nobody wants to read a memoir that's written like a textbook. Create entertainment value through the stories you tell.
Because you have an overall theme, it needs supporting stories from your life to back it up.
Once again, a memoir is still a book and therefore, it cannot read like a textbook. Great writing is necessary for a great book.
Your life has an arc and your memoir's purpose is to show this through lessons learned from start to end.
#4 – Write truthfully
One of the hardest parts about writing a memoir is the fact that we tend to be a wee bit biased with ourselves.>
*Gasp* You don’t say!
It’s true. Nobody really likes to admit their faults.
It’s one thing to recognize when you were wrong in life, it’s another to actually write it down for the world to see.
It’s hard. We want everyone to see the best version of ourselves and therefore, we leave out details or flat out lie to seem “better” in their eyes.
But that’s not what makes a good memoir.
In order to learn how to write a memoir that really touches people in deep, emotional ways, you have to learn to be honest.
#5 – Show, don’t tell in your memoir writing
No, this doesn’t mean you have to write a picture book. That’s not what “show” means in this case.
When it comes to creating intrigue with your writing – and trust me, you want to do this, especially for a memoir – you have to write by showing, not telling.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll just give you an overview of this writing technique, but if you’re interested in mastering the ability to pull readers in, you can check out this detailed explanation.
Essentially, showing versus telling is the way in which you describe your experiences with an emphasis on emotion.
But that doesn’t mean you should write down every feeling you had during a specific time. In fact, that’s what you want to avoid.
We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here’s a great video outlining this method ↓
#6 – Get vulnerable
Memoirs are not a time to distance yourself from your inner feelings.
You want your readers to gain a sense of who you are not only through your stories but through the voice in your writing as well.
#10 Write a memoir you’d want to read
How do you ensure others will like our memoir? Write it in a way that makes it an entertaining read for yourself!
This has a lot to do with putting your own personality into it but it’s also about crafting the structure of your novel in an entertaining manner, too.
Even though this is a memoir, there should still be a climax to keep readers intrigued. This would be when your life came to a head; where you struggled but was able to pull yourself out of the trenches and forge your own path.
That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you learn how to start a memoir that’s captivating and intriguing.
Let’s draw those readers in!
#1 – Be relatable
Nobody wants to read a book that’s preachy or condescending.
One major mistake many make when writing a memoir is not starting it off in a way that makes the readers connect with them.
This is one of the most important aspects of your memoir.
Do you really think people will want to read about a person’s life if they can’t relate to them?
Think about when you were most invested in a book (or even a TV show or movie). What did you like most? Could you relate to the author or the characters?
Did you understand their pain and triumph and hardships?
This is typically the best way to not only create invested readers but to gain fans. When others relate to you and see themselves in your journey, they’ll want to stick around to see how it plays out.
And that means they’ll read your whole book and any others you write.
#2 – Use emotion by showing, not telling
If you want to give a play-by-play of your life with nothing more than a list of experiences you’ve gone through, that’s fine.
Just know that doing it that way won’t hook your readers and it certainly won’t keep them.
A memoir can be a powerful tool for educating others through your life journeys, but if they’re not intrigued enough to keep reading, it’ll render your memoir pointless.
And we don’t want that.
showing and not telling, you’ll put more emotion into your writing. This technique might sound confusing but it’s actually quite easy once you learn how to do it.
Here are the basics for showing versus telling:
Use fewer tell words like “I heard,” “I felt,” “I smelled,” “I saw,” to bring readers closer
Stop explaining emotions and instead explain physical reactionsof those emotions (If you want to say “I was scared,” describe your heart hammering against your chest or the sweat beading your forehead instead)
Describe body language in more detail
Use strong verbs that coincide with the emotions you’re trying to convey (writing “crashed to the floor” instead of “fell to the floor” creates more impact)
This writing method can be tricky to master but thankfully, there are countless resources to help you figure it out.
Everybody has an interesting life if you look deep enough. What you have to determine is how your life experiences can aid and shape the lives of others.
Think about how that will manifest from what you’ve lived through before and make sure your readers know what it is from the start (which can also be done through a powerful book title).
How to Write a Memoir Tips from Experts
The best advice you can receive is from someone who’s done it before. These Self-Publishing School students (and graduates!) have first-hand knowledge when it comes to the difficulties of writing your life down on paper.
Here’s what these memoir writers want you to know.
#1 – Write from the heart
Christopher Moss, author of Hope Over Anxiety, says the best way to write your memoir is to be open about your experiences.
“Write from the heart. Show people your experience. Be as vulnerable and honest as you can. If it scares you a little, what you are writing that’s good. The reader has to feel what you are going through.”
#2 – Don’t be afraid to go with the flow
Lou A. Vendetti, who’s in the thick of writing and working toward publication of his memoir, has a few pieces of advice for you.
“Do not be afraid to deviate. If your book doesn’t follow your outline one hundred percent, then that’s okay! Don’t feel like you have to only talk about what’s in your outline. You are the author; you are the publisher, so you are the one making all of the decisions (sounds scary, huh?). In the beginning, I thought it was.”
“Don’t think that the memoir is supposed to be ‘formal.’ As an example, I use contractions in mine, which would not necessarily be used in a nonfiction book. Yes, I wanted my book to be professional, but I didn’t want to make it sound like I’m not ‘on my audience’s level.’ I wanted to keep my voice and make it as if I’m talking to my audience; as if I’m having a conversation with them.”
#3 – Review old photos and videos
Toni Crowe, author of Never a $7 Whore, says it’s best to relive your memories the best you can through photos and videos.
“My advice to new memoir writers is to take the time to review any old documents or photos that exist and to pull those memories out to examine. Doing this during the map mapping process helped me immensely.”
Famous Memoir Examples to Emulate
Sometimes it’s easier to learn by example. That way, you can fully comprehend what a memoir is in order to write your own.
These are famous memoir examples:
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses Grant
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Memoir examples by our own students:
Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir by Jim Manley
Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia by Kathy Flora
Prayers, Punk Rock and Pastry by Chris Stewart
Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous by Emily Ann Peterson
Shift Happens: Turning Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones by Jill Rogers
Hope Dealers: The Calling, The Struggles, The Breakthroughs and The Community of Believers by Nadine Blase Psareas
When you start writing a book, it’s as if everyone around you becomes the expert. They tell you to show don’t tell, start with action, or even embellish your stories to sound “better.”
But how do you know what advice to take…and what do those writing tips even mean in the first place?
We’re here to help you understand showing versus telling and how that will actually help you write better and stronger.
It’s safe to say that the idea of showing not telling is one all writers should pay close attention to.
Show don’t tell in writing is a piece of advice that’s been around for longer than you might realize. Even if it didn’t have a phrase attached to it yet, the best authors out there have been using it for the duration of their careers (and even before, most likely).
In fact, it’s why they’re known as the best writers of all time.
But although these writers knew how to bring their writing to life instinctually, not all of us are so lucky. We have to learn the process of show don’t tell, which can be tricky if you don’t know where to start.
What does show don’t tell mean?
Show don’t tell describes writing in various forms with an emphasis on using and showing actions in order to convey the emotions you want readers to interpret, which creates a better experience for readers, instead of writing exposition to tell what happened.
By showingthe actions and relationships and feelings instead of just telling the reader what happened, the writing comes off deeper, and more meaningful. This creates a much deeper connection and brings readers closer to you (or the main character).
At a first glance, this writing rule could be confused for the best day in Kindergarten when you bring your pet lizard in to show the class.
But in actuality, show don’t tell refers to the way in which you describe the experience you (or your character) went through.
And that makes them feel deeper and stronger about the story. It creates empathy and invests the reader – which is exactly what you need.
Writing your book introduction with an abundance of showing not telling is a powerful way to draw readers in for the duration of your entire book.
But this technique is much easier shown than told (hehe – see what I did there?).
These examples are pretty basic but that’s the best way to gain an understanding of what this looks like. Keep in mind that your sentences may be more complex than these examples, but still full of “tell” words or phrases.
Be on the lookout for the details.
Show Don’t Tell Example #1:
Tell: “I heard footsteps creeping behind me and it made the whole situation scarier.”
Show: “Crunching hit my ears from behind, accelerating the already rampant pounding of my heart.”
Why this showing example is better:
In an instance such as this, you want the reader to feel what you did: the surprise and the sense of urgency, the fear.
Describing the crunching that hit your ears even through the pounding of your heart not only creates a powerful visual, but it also tells the reader the state your body was in during that intense moment. The first example is weak and does little to explain how you actually felt in that moment.
Show Don’t Tell Example #2:
Tell: “She was my best friend. I could tell her almost anything.”
Show: “I met her at the town square, running in for our usual hug that carried on for far too long as we gushed about our lives with smiles lighting our faces.”
Why this showing example is better:
The first example of telling is shorter, but it doesn’t do a great job of really showing the impact you have on each other. Anyone can think of “best friend” and form an overall thought about what that looks like. But this isn’t just “anyone.” This is your best friend. Showing your relationship with one another is vital to forging that deeper connection.
Why should you show don’t tell in writing?
The entire point of showing versus telling in writing is to make a stronger emotional connection with your readers and hook them.
The idea behind this writing technique is to put the reader in your shoes. Make them feel, hear, and sense the situation as you did.
It’s about creating an experience for the reader instead of just a recount of events.
Doing this makes the reader want to root for you. They want to hear your whole story and in turn, they’ll read your whole book.
Why is showing not telling also important for non-fiction?
If you write fiction, you hear this advice all the time. However, all of you non-fiction writers out there, this piece of writing advice might be new to you.
Show don’t tell isn’t always the first thing a non-fiction writer thinks of when it comes to adding more intrigue to your story.
But it is the most vital for pulling your reader in and not only hooking them, but keeping them with you throughout the duration of your book.
Many fiction writers hear this writing advice often because it’s one of the best ways to make real people feel deeply for fictional characters.
When it comes to writing a story about your life and something you went through, the idea is the same. By showing and not telling, you’ll be able to guide them through your real-life situation as an experience and not just some book they’re reading while the kids are yelling at their video games and the oven alarm is blaring in the distance.
If you can show don’t tell the right way, the reader won’t even notice those distractions.
How to Show Don’t Tell in Writing
So now you know what it is and why it’s important, but how the heck do you actually do it? The process of taking a single story and crafting it to create more emotion can be difficult.
Thankfully, we have some of the best tips for showing not telling in writing.
#1 – Get rid of all basic sensory words
Phrases like, “I heard,” “I felt,” and “I smelled,” are all very weak. These are “telling” words and phrases (also commonly referred to as “filters”) that force the reader further away from you and your experience.
That’s exactly what you want to avoid.
Instead, you need to pull them into your world and into your psyche the very moment you were encountering the situation.
Step 1: Read through your writing and circle every telling word you can find. Anything that explains one of the 5 senses.
Step 2: Then write down specifics for each. If you heard someone creeping up behind you, how did you hear it? Was it crunching on gravel? Was it the shuffling of shoes against carpet?
Once you have these, rewrite those sections by explaining how the senses manifested to you and not just what you sensed (detailed below in the next writing exercise).
#2 – Don’t use “emotion explaining” words
This might be a bit tricky and you certainly don’t have to follow this one 100% of the time, but if you can get this right, it’ll make showing versus telling so much easier to grasp.
Think of any word to describe an emotion. I’ll help you out a little:
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
These are all great words to describe how someone felt. However, they’re also very weak, unexciting ways to do so.
If you need your readers to understand how excited you were at any given time, show them. Don’t just tell them, “I was so excited!”
Show them the sweat beading your forehead as you raced to your destination. Show them the lifting of your cheeks as your lips parted way for an uncontrollable smile.
Show Don’t Tell Exercise #2:
Skim through your writing and circle every word that’s an emotion.
Then, for every emotion-explaining word you find, write down physical reactions of feeling that way.
Once you have a small list for each circled word, use it to craft a couple sentences to describe (and show!) just what that looked like.
You can see the difference alone between these two paragraphs. By replacing all of the “telling” words and phrases, it develops into an experience for the reader and not just a retelling of what happened.
A person’s actions are really a gateway to their mind and how they feel.
You can tell if another person has a crush on someone just by paying attention to the way their body adjusts when in that person’s presence, right?
Showing versus telling in writing is exactly that. You want to show the reader what is happening and allow them to form a conclusion about how you or others in your story felt based on what they look like.
In all honesty, a lot of this one is about having faith that your audience can put two and two together.
Oftentimes, we tend to over explain in an effort to make something obvious when really, the emotion is in the guesswork; it’s in allowing someone to draw their own conclusions. That over-explaining is what comes across as “telly” and not as emotionally compelling.
And honestly? It’s also pretty boring and flat.
If you do a great job of showing what you want readers to see, they’ll understand how someone feels – and they’ll even feel that way themselves.
That’s the power of showing not telling.
#4 – Use strong verbs
Showing itself can be extremely impactful, but using strong language and verbs in specific situations is even more powerful for adding depth to your story.
The way you make someone else actually feel how you did as you were going through the experience is to make sure the words you’re using directly reflect the emotions.
This can be a difficult task for those who aren’t sure what “strong language” looks likes, but I’ll make it easier for you.
Show Don’t Tell Exercise #3:
Think of a situation you want to explain in your book (or maybe something you already have written out).
Now imagine what feeling you want to convey through that scene. What do you want your readers to take away from that specific moment in your story? List those emotions so you can see all of them.
Take that list and start writing ways in which you can bring those emotions to life. What do those things mean for you? How would these emotions manifest during that specific time?
Now take those stronger verbs and words that depict a deeper emotion and craft your sentence or paragraph with those to reflect how you truly felt.
How does this sentence make you feel? Do you feel comfort, relaxation, and a sense that I love being there?
That was the purpose.
It’s about taking one specific idea or vibe or feeling and using what you know to transform it into something that’s showing not telling.
We told you to cut sensing words in tip #1, and that’s true, but with this comes the fact that you still have to describe what your character is feeling and sensing.
Showing versus telling is largely about allowing your readers to interpret what your characters are going through without just telling them.
This often means using all the senses you can to depict a scene.
Instead of saying, “She hated it there.” you can use her senses to show the readers that emotion.
For example: writing with showing like this “The faint scent of stale cigarette smoke met her nostrils, pulling her face into a familiar grimace.” allows your readers to understand that she finds where she is distasteful, without having to just say so.
#6 – Practice showing not telling every day
To master the tip of show don’t tell in writing, it takes time and practice to get it right. There’s a fine line of using showing versus telling in your writing.
With regular practice (by writing every day, we suggest), you’ll learn when to use telling and when to use showing in order to give the reader the best reading experience they have.
You can even practice by reading other books and your own writing. Recognizing areas of showing can help you do it more in your own works.
You’ll try to decide whether you’re emotionally, financially, and physically ready to take the plunge. But until you become a parent, you’ll never know how amazing, enriching, and challenging your life could be.
Once you become a parent, you know that your life will never be the same.
By it’s very nature, writing is an introspective, thoughtful activity. The process of writing a book will force you to turn your thoughts inward. Through writing, you’ll gain perspective about what really matters to you.
Writing a book will also teach you about the unique value of your own willpower.
The simple act of committing to a writing project, and seeing it through, will measure the depths of your discipline. Writing a book can be a powerful way to get in touch with your thoughts, values, and motivations.
Plus, writing is cheaper than therapy!
#3 – You’ll have created a professional-quality, ready-to-sell book.
It used to be that only writers with a publishing deal or those who paid for vanity publication ever got to see their books in print. Those days have changed.
Thanks to the rise of self-publishing, any person with a story to tell can become a published author and sell their book. Self-publishing is now affordable, easy to implement, and requires only basic computer skills.
If you can type your book on your keyboard, you can figure out how to self-publish. As your own publisher, you call the shots. You’re the CEO of your own destiny.
Even better, you get to retain more of the royalties if you self-publish. What’s not to like?
Even better, you get to retain more of the royalties if you self-publish. What’s not to like?
#4 – You’ll pocket a healthy chunk of change.
The brilliant ideas you have kicking around in your head aren’t earning you any money. Only once you commit those ideas to paper and hit publish will you earn income from your thoughts.
Your book can earn you a stream of passive income simply by existing.
And then there’s the future—audiobooks, courses based on your book, and speaking gigs! And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can make money off your self-published book—but you need to write it first.
#5 – You’ll let Amazon do the heavy lifting.
Amazon self-publishing is easier than ever. Amazon makes it intuitive and straightforward for authors to upload and sell their books.
They’ve also made it easy for readers to find and buy your book. It’s a win-win.
That’s not to say that you can set up an Amazon page and let it flap in the breeze untended. In order to sell your book, you’ll need to do some marketing and PR.
The good news is that Amazon gives you the tools and resources you need to succeed.
#6 – Our time here is finite.
Nobody’s getting out of this life alive. Our time here is finite. It’s our choice how we want to spend our time. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, don’t wait for a life crisis to force your hand.
The time is now.
You have a chance to share your words, thoughts, and passions with the world. Don’t let that chance slip through your fingers.
#7 – You’ll reignite a passion.
Each one of us has a passion for something—whether that’s rock-climbing, organic cooking, or comedic storytelling.
What’s your passion? You already know the answer to that question.
Here’s our next question: When’s the last time you stoked that passion? If that answer is, “you can’t remember” or, “it’s been years,” then you’ve got some work to do.
You owe it to yourself to explore your passion and write a book. We promise that when you’re writing about something you love, it won’t feel like work.
That’s a heady statistic. By writing a book, you set yourself apart from the masses.
Even if your book is fiction or a memoir, the fact that you’re now an author lends an air of authority to your professional endeavors.
You can now add “author” to your CV, LinkedIn, and professional website.
In short: No matter what you write a book about, becoming a published author boosts your professional authority.
You’ll have accomplished something few other people have.
Our preemptive greeting: Welcome to the Author Club!
We guarantee you’ll like the rarified air up here.
#9 – You’ll tackle a new challenge.
Life has so many obligations—taxes, school pick-up, miles on the treadmill—it can be easy to fall into a daily rut. Writing a book is leaving your comfort zone.
Trying something unfamiliar can be scary—we get it. But, that’s precisely why it’s exciting.
The only way you grow as a person is by forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone. Time to jump off the cliff—write a book and become an author this year.
You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll gain by pushing the limits of your own self-imposed boundaries.
#10 – You’ll gain more knowledge.
Writing a book requires research. No matter what topic you’re writing about, you’re going to have to research new concepts and topics.
By opening the door to new ideas, you’ll educate yourself on a broad array of ideas. You’ll be invigorated by how much you learn while you’re writing, and emerge much brighter for having done so.
And when you’re done, you can assert yourself as an expert in your field. Your book can then open the door for speaking engagements, conference presentations, and other professional networking opportunities.
#11 – You’ll stop making excuses and just do it.
We know, we know, you’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a book for months (years?) now. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article.
How long are you going to give yourself permission to keep quashing your dreams?
It’s time to commit and just do it.
#12 – Because you can!
And you will! No more excuses. You can’t afford to put off writing a book any longer. All that counts is that you get your first word on paper, and then a word after that.
Before you know it, you’ll have a completed first draft. Think about how amazing you’ll feel? Don’t put it off another day. Write your book today. This is the year for you to finally become an author.
Are you FINALLY ready to take action?
The only difference between an author and anyone else is the fact that they wrote the book. They started.
1000 words single-spaced is about 1 page in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or equivalent software. 1000 words in a book is about 3 pages.
One thing to keep in mind with how many pages is 1000 words is that it depends on the text, its size, and the spacing you’re using.
For example, if you write 1000 words on a page in Google Docs, but maintain double spacing, that would be about two pages. However, if your text is smaller than 12 and you use a different spacing variation, it may only be one to one and a half pages.
Here’s how you can make 1000 words be more than two pages:
Increase the font size by .5 or 1 point
Increase the line spacing
Change the size of all the punctuation to be larger
Ultimately, you can expect there to be roughly 300 words per page in a book you write as a whole. Because dialogue requires paragraph breaks, there will be fewer words than if you have a few pages of full paragraphs instead of dialogue.
On average, there are about 300 words per page in a book. This number can vary depending on if you’re writing dialogue or how short each paragraph is.
How to Find How Many Words are in Your Novel So Far
Knowing where to look to locate your word count will help you determine how long your book is actually going to be once it’s finished and you publish it (which you’ll learn to do in the next step).
Finding your book’s word count depends on which writing software you’re using to write it.
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Keep in mind that this is not a perfect way to calculate the number of pages your book will be. However, this rough estimation can help you understand the approximate length of your book.
How many words in a novel?
How many words in a novel vary depending on genre, audience, and the story itself but in general, the average words in a novel is between 60,000 and 90,000 words for most genres.
The amount of words in your novel does matter. Depending on your genre, having too many or too little can not only hurt your book sales, but also cause fewer 5-star reviews (which also hurts your sales).
This is how many words to have in a novel for each genre.
#1 – How many words in a memoir?
On average, when writing a memoir should not exceed 90,000 words and that is a stretch when it comes to memoir word count.
We recommend memoirs be between 45,000 to 80,000 words in order to maintain intrigue and reduce intimidation. This means your memoir will average between 150 and 265 pages.
When readers see that a memoir exceeds 300 pages, it sets up a red flag in their mind. Even if they’re interested in the memoir, a very lengthy memoir is often indicative of something reminiscent of an autobiography (which is basically a timeline of life events) versus a personal life telling with a theme or message.
Exceptions for memoir word count:
You’re famous or well-known. Anyone who already has an audience can get away with a longer memoir simply because people have already shown interest in your life. They’re more likely to want more rather than less.
Your memoir contains multiple lessons or messages. If your memoir is in several parts or you have a few messages to get across, you can write a longer memoir. Keep in mind, however, that it may be more beneficial to write two memoirs instead of one massive one.
It’s your first draft word count only. It’s okay if your first draft is over 90,000 words. Oftentimes, professional editing will cut down the unnecessary information so your memoir is the appropriate word count.
Average book length for a memoir: 45,000 – 80,000
#2 – How many words in a self-help book?
Any self-help or motivational nonfiction book should be between 30,000 and 70,000 words
This means your book will be between 100 and 230 pages in total.
Those looking for help through a book in this genre don’t want a massive novel to go through just to read what they need. For that reason, if you have a motivational or self-help book idea, keep it at a lower word count will actually help you more.
For example, our own Student Success Strategist, Lisa Zelenak, wrote this book called Find Your Thing. It’s a self-help book detailing how to escape monotony in your early 20s and do work that actually matters.
Find Your Thing is about 30,000 words and, with formatting, 178 pages long.
The reason this book does well is because it is not a super lengthly novel. With a self-help book, your audience wants to learn something and they want to learn it sooner rather than later.
Average self-help book length: 30,000 – 70,000 words
#3 – How many words in a fantasy novel?
The average fantasy novel should have between 50,000 and 150,000 words. However, the true word count depends on the category in which you’re writing.
If you’re writing a young adult fantasy novel, you should keep your word count below 90,000 words or 300 book pages.
This is due to the audience you’re reaching preferring that length.
If you’re writing an adult fantasy novel or an epic fantasy novel (like Game of Thrones), your word count can skew higher at 90,000 – 200,000 words.
Not all fantasy novels are epic fantasy novels. Epic fantasy is a sub-genre beneath fantasy and encompasses very long journey-specific plots. Authors who write in this style are George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and the late J.R.R. Tolkien.
Average book length for fantasy novels: 50,000 – 150,000 words
#4 – How many words in a science fiction book?
Science fiction books typically have between 50,000 and 150,000 words, like fantasy novels. This puts them at between 170 – 500 pages.
This specific genre has a lot of flexibility with word and page count due to the variety of plot types and story arcs.
Here are some popular sci-fi novels and their word counts:
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – 50,895 words
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – 100,609 words
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 46,118 words
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – 69,000 words
The Stand by Stephen King – 500,000 words
The Martian by Andy Weir – 104,588 words
As you can see, word count for science fiction books vary widely. However, we do not suggest writing a novel of 500,000 words unless you as established as Stephen King is.
Average science fiction book length: 50,000 – 150,000 words
#5 – How many words in a romance novel?
Romance novels often run between 50,000 and 90,000 words on average.
Romance is a unique genre because the plot is all about two characters and their adventure with one another. For that reason, writing a long, lengthy book just about their romance can become a problem for the readers.
This is why romance books tend to be below 90,000 words.
The more you write, the more you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention and motivation to keep reading.
A popular romance novel that’s a great example of keeping your story shorter rather than longer is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.
This book only has 52,000 words and has become one of the most recognizable romances of our time.
Average romance book length: 50,000 – 90,000 words
#6 – How many words in a mystery novel?
Mystery novels do best if they’re written between 40,000 and 80,000 words.
Writing more than 80,000 words can become difficult, as you have to ensure your readers don’t know the answer behind the mystery.
As with anything, the more you say, the easier it is to decipher the clues underneath, which is what you don’t want when it comes to a mystery novel.
Typical dystopian novels run between 60,000 and 120,000 words, though this genre has the flexibility to be longer.
Because dystopian is often a sub-genre, meaning it usually has a broader genre within it like fantasy or sci-fi, there’s room to expand and grow these types of novels.
Here are some popular dystopian novel word counts:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 90,240
Red Rising by Pierce Brown – 124,749 words
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau – 59,937
As you can see, this genre’s word count bounces all over the place. Just keep your intended audience in mind (young adult, middle-grade), in order to know how many worse to write.
Average dytopian book length: 60,000 – 120,000 words
#9 – How many words in a contemporary book?
In a typical contemporary book, you will have between 60,000 and 90,000 words.
One popular example of a contemporary novel is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which stands at 60,965 words in total.
Contemporary novels typically don’t exceed 90,000 words particularly because they’re focused around modern problems versus anything other wordly. This means if you write too long of a book, you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention.
Average contemporary book length: 60,000 – 90,000 words
#10 – How many words in a young adult novel?
Young adult books range between 60,000 and 90,000 words. Unless you’re writing a young adult epic fantasy, which can go up to 150,000 words.
Young adult is a category more than a genre, but it’s important to keep this in mind when writing a book in any genre.
Your audience matters because different age ranges prefer different lengths of books. An older audience, like new adult or adult, is far more likely to consumer a book that’s over 100,000 words, whereas a younger audience like young adult only has the attention span for less than 90,000 words.
#11 – How many words in a middle-grade book?
Middle-grade books are best if kept between 20,000 and 55,000 words in order to maintain the attention of readers this age.
Anything longer can be difficult for a younger audience to consume and retain all of the information. Therefore, cap your first draft off at 65,000 words with the intent to cut out what you don’t need when you ship it off to your editor.
Keep in mind that these word counts are guidelines. One thing we teach here at Self-Publishing School is that you must first know the rules before you can confidently break them.
Creative writing is one of those skills you can eternally get better at, but often suck at when you start…
I’ve been there. I’ve so been there.
Now, we’re not saying your creative writing is bad necessarily, but just that if you want to continue to push yourself in this industry, you’ll need some work since literature is more competitive now than it ever has been.
Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact, like in poetry writing, short story writing, novel writing, and more.
It’s often seen as the opposite of journalistic or academic writing.
When it comes to writing, there are many different types. As you already know, all writing does not read in the same way.
Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader’s mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.
Creative Writing Topics
If you’re looking for a few creative writing topics to dive into (which you’ll need if you’re going to use some of our top writing exercises), we have exactly what you need.
These are our top creative writing prompts all compiled for you.
Just fill out the form below and your writing prompts will be delivered…promptly! 😉
Download 200+ FREE Writing Prompts Here!
What are the Elements of Creative Writing?
In order to get better at creative writing, you have to understand the elements of what makes writing a book great.
You can’t build a car engine without understanding how each part plays a role, right…?
Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.
What differentiates creative writing and other forms of writing the most is the fact that the former always has a plot of some sort – and a unique one.
Yes, remakes are also considered creative writing, however, most creative writers create their own plot formed by their own unique ideas. Without having a plot, there’s no story.
And without a story, you’re really just writing facts on paper, much like a journalist.
Characters are necessary for creative writing. While you can certainly write a book creatively using the second person point of view (which I’ll cover below), you still have to develop the character in order to tell the story.
Character development can be defined as the uncovering of who a character is and how they change throughout the duration of your story. From start to end, readers should be able to understand your main characters deeply.
Almost every story out there has an underlying theme or message – even if the author didn’t necessarily intend for it to. But creative writing needs that theme or message in order to be complete.
That’s part of the beauty of this form of art. By telling a story, you can also teach lessons.
When you’re reading a newspaper, you don’t often read paragraphs of descriptions depicting the surrounding areas of where the events took place. Visual descriptions are largely saved for creative writing.
You need them in order to help the reader understand what the surroundings of the characters look like.
There are a few points of views you can write in. That being said, the two that are most common in creative writing are first person and third person.
First Person – In this point of view, the narrator is actually the main character. This means that you will read passages including, “I” and understand that it is the main character narrating the story.
Second Person – Most often, this point of view isn’t used in creative writing, but rather instructional writing – like this blog post. When you see the word “you” and the narrator is speaking directly to you, it’s second person point of view.
Third Person –Within this point of view are a few different variations. You have third person limited, third person multiple, and third person omniscient. The first is what you typically find.
Third person limited’s narrator uses “he/she/they” when speaking about the character you’re following. They know that character’s inner thoughts and feelings but nobody else’s. It’s much like first person, but instead of the character telling the story, a narrator takes their place.
Third person multiple is the same as limited except that the narrator now knows the inner thoughts and feelings of several characters.
The last, third person omniscient, is when the narrator still uses “he/she/they” but has all of the knowledge. They know everything about everyone.
While non-creative writing can have dialogue (like in interviews), that dialogue is not used in the same way as it is in creative writing. Creative writing (aside from silent films) requires dialogue to support the story.
Your characters should interact with one another in order to further the plot and development each other more.
Part of what makes creative writing creative is the way you choose to craft the vision in your mind.
And that means creative writing uses more anecdotes, metaphors, similes, figures of speech, and other comparisons in order to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
All writing can have emotional appeal. However, it’s the entire goal of creative writing. Your job as a writer is to make people feel how you want them to by telling them a story.
Creative Writing Examples
Since creative writing covers such a wide variety of writing, we wanted to break down the different types of creative writing out there to help you make sense of it. Y
9 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing
Writing is just like any other skill. You have to work at it in order to get better.
It’s also much like other skills because the more you do it, the stronger you become in it. That’s why exercising your creative writing skills is so important.
The best authors out there, including Stephen King, recommend writing something every single day. These writing exercises will help you accomplish that and improve your talent immensely.
#1 – Describe your day with creative writing
This is one of my favorite little exercises to keep my writing sharp and in shape.
Just like with missing gym sessions, the less you write, the more of that skill you lose. Hannah Lee Kidder, a very talented author and Youtuber, gave me this writing exercise and I have used it many times.
Creative Writing Exercise:
All you have to do is sit down and describe your day – starting with waking up – as if you were writing it about another person. Use your creative writing skills to bring life to even the dullest moments, like showering or brushing your teeth.
#2 – Description Depiction
If you’re someone who struggles with writing descriptions or you just want to get better in general, this exercise will help you do just that – and quickly.
In order to improve your descriptions, you have to write them with a specific intention.
With this exercise, the goal is to write your description with the goal of showing the reader as much as you can about your character without ever mentioning them at all.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.
Pick 5 key qualities about them you want to highlight within your description. Then, without ever mentioning the character at all, describe either their living room or their bedroom to meet that goal.
#3 – Edit your old writing
Believe it or not, editing does count as writing and can actually sharpen those creative writing skill more than you think.
It can be a little scary to pull up a story you wrote last week or even two years ago and tear it apart. But that’s exactly what I want you to do.
Check out this video of me editing my old writing in order to replace weak verbs with stronger, better ones to get a taste of what this can look like and how it can help you get better.
#4 – Voice Variations
One of my favorite parts of writing is giving unique voices to each character. I believe that’s what truly brings them to live.
Their dialogue as the power to pull readers in, or push them out of the book completely.
Obviously, you want the former.
During this creative writing exercise, your focus will be to pick 4 different emotional states and write dialogue and narrative of how your character feels and interprets those feelings.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.
Choose your 4 emotional states – and get creative. You can choose sadness, anger, happiness, and excitement BUT you can also go a bit further and choose to use drunk, flirty, terrified, and eager.
After you have 4 emotional states, write one page of each using dialogue and narrative your character would use.
#5 – Single Senses
Creating strong visuals is one of the most powerful ways to become a great creative writer. In fact, practicing this will help you craft books that really hook readers.
This exercise’s goal is to help you develop writing the senses in ways that not only make sense, but are also imaginative and unique.
#6 – Dialogue Destruction
During this exercise, you will learn a lot about how to shape a scene using entirely dialogue.
Now, this isn’t something you’ll always do in your writing, but it’s very important to know how to move a scene forward using dialogue if you need to.
To start, choose a scene you wrote previously that has little to no dialogue, but is still very important.
Next, rewrite the entire thing using dialogue (including dialogue tags and body language descriptions). You will quickly become better at using dialogue to show and not tell.
#7 – Tell the origin story of the Tooth Fairy
This writing exercise will really help you think creatively about something a large part of the world knows about.
However, you have to think of a very unique, interesting way of presenting this common idea. The purpose of this is to help you dig deeper within your own story and plot in order to come up with the very best, most unique ideas – because that is what will stand out in your book.
Creative Writing Exercise:
Begin this story like you would any other. Develop who the very first Tooth Fairy is and understand their character. Then, start creating a backstory that coincides with how they ended up becoming the tooth fairy.
Write this in full, ending with the Tooth Fairy taking their first tooth.
#8 – Thematic Attic
This is a fun one! The idea behind this creative writing exercise is to focus on interpreting themes through story.
Since all creative writing has an underlying theme behind it, it’s really important for you to be able to accurately depict that theme throughout the story you’re telling.
Otherwise, it can get lost. Not knowing the theme can often leave readers feeling unsatisfied – and rightfully so.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this exercise, pick an overarching theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from equality to the difference between right and wrong.
Next, craft a short story with the setting being and do your best to make sure that theme shines through
Get creative! Your attic can even contain a portal to another dimension if you really want it to.
#9 – Break Language Barriers
This isn’t quite what you think it is. So no, we will not be creating new languages with this exercise.
Instead, we’ll be working on using unique language to describe very common, everyday occurrences and experiences.
One of the beauties of creative writing is that you have the power to change the way someone sees the world. You can make it more appealing and special to them – if you know how.
This exercise will help you develop the skill of using a unique narrative within your story.
Creative Writing Exercise:
In this creative writing exercise, you’ll start by reading. You can read a new book or even some of your old writing.
Highlight or copy sentences or paragraphs you think are very common experiences that most everyone in the world knows of. For example: the sunset, brushing your teeth, looking up at the sky.
Your job is to rewrite these experiences in the most unique way you can using visuals that you don’t normally see in writing.<
Here’s an example:
BEFORE – The sun set beyond the trees.
AFTER – The trees tucked the sun in for the night.
Character – The characters are essential. It’s extremely difficult to tell a story without them, as character development is one of the best parts in narrative writing. Think of your characters as the driving force of the narrative.
Conflict – This part of narrative writing is where the tension comes from. Conflict of any form, whether it’s between characters, between elements in your setting, or even in your plot, is essential for not only a good book, but for narrative writing.
Plot – This is the main point of your story. Where is it all going and what’s happening while we get there? This can often include any conflict, but is usually a bigger “main” portion of your story, and therefore the narrative.
Setting – The setting of a story is really what determines its genre as well as its learning curve. The learning curve refers to how much readers need to learn about the world, aka, how different it is from our own. The setting adds to this extensively because if your book is in a new world, more worldbuilding is necessary, which means it will bleed heavily into your narrative.
Theme – These are embedded into your story even if you’re not trying to. Narrative writing tells a story and with any stories, lessons are learned and these become the themes of your story. Whether you mean to or not, your own thoughts about the world and important values bleed into your work within the narrative writing.
Narrative Writing Arc – This is the story structure the narrative takes. This includes things like the inciting incident, key milestones like the first slap and second slap, the climax, the resolution, and even nuances like the character arc.
15 Original Narrative Writing Prompts
If you’re ready to get started on narrative writing, even before we’ve covered the important tips below, check out these writing prompts to inspire you.
Narrative Prompts #1 – Fantasy
Set in its own world, write a story about a single plant, kept alive in a temple for thousands and thousands of years. Until one day, the guard on duty noticed it has dried and shriveled completely, cutting off the society’s magic.
Write a story about a woman who works the night shift at a local convenience store finding herself in the midst of what seems to be an otherworldly magic battle…in her shop.
Create your own world and write a story about a modern civilization as if magic is and has always been the norm…until someone from the outside is discovered to be marveling at its wonders, as if they’ve never seen it before.
Narrative Prompts #2 – Science Fiction
Write a story focusing on a street sweep who works in the Dark, the place at the Earth’s surface where smog and pollution has taken over. Except when cleaning a particular street corner, they uncover an underground civilization who have perfected the technology to filter the air, leaving them with the purest in the world.
Write a story about a doctor who was just replaced by a machine to diagnose, treat, and even operate on patients.
In a futuristic society, the right to privacy has been abolished in order to keep people safe after a worldwide terrorist attack. Your main character, an engineer, has discovered how to override the “foolproof” surveillance system…what they find in the database changes everything.
Narrative Prompts #3 – Romance
Your main character is a strawberry picker who has a run-in with the love interest, who is hiding in the fields, eating and picking strawberries as a means of survival because they’re on the run…and homeless.
Write a story about two people who have been friends since childhood, though their families have promised them marriage to others despite them being in love.
Write a story focusing on a semi-truck driver trying to outrun a jaded past as they meet someone who works in law enforcement while at a diner.
Narrative Prompts #4 – Dystopian
More than a thousand years have passed since it happened—since one man disobeyed government orders to destroy his research into a nanobot technology after he discovered how to make them think.
Write a story about an old man whose grandfather, when he was young, made the choice to unleash the secrets of cancer research—and its cure—to the world. Now population control has become an even bigger issue.
Climate change is inevitable. Write a story about what happens when a small hole tears in the Earth’s atmosphere due to climate change, and what society must look like in order to heal it.
Narrative Prompts #5 – Mystery
Your character receives a call that seems ordinary, from their doctor, about a recent test they took. When your character goes in for the appointment to discuss, their regular doctor is gone—missing…only to turn up dead days later.
Eight astronauts went to space. Only seven returned. And none of them have any memory of an eighth person having ever been with them at all.
All people in comas have been disappearing from hospitals all over the country for the past three months, with no leads. Your character is the sister of one of the missing coma patients.
How to Master the Use of Narrative Writing
By learning a few tips about how to write narrative really well, you’ll be well on your way from novice to expert.
#1 – Learn from the experienced
Most often, the best advice comes from those who are and have been in the thick of the thing you want to learn about.
They’ve got inside knowledge for the how-tos that are often far more effective that those simply teaching those methods.
Here are our favorite resources for learning about narrative writing:
You learn storytelling by reading or listening to stories. That’s how everyone learns how to tell a story.
While some are better than others by nature, reading more and more can open your eyes to new techniques and methods within the narrative writing.
Reading at least a book a month can help you improve your writing by simply immersing yourself in the words of someone else.
While some people might worry that their own writing will mimic the book they’re reading, this fear is often unfounded. Your natural voice will always be at the forefront unless you’re intentionally trying to sound like someone else.
Which we don’t recommend.
#3 – Practice regularly
Narrative writing is a skill that gets better the more you practice, much like most other skillsets.
As you write and craft stories with protagonists, great conflict, interesting setting, and more, you’ll learn how to make each of those elements better.
Recognizing where your strengths and weaknesses are will help you know what to focus on and improve…but that can only be done through experience, aka, practice.
It’s very hard to be objective with your own work. We can’t often take a step back and recognize what we’re doing wrong and therefore, we can become stunted in our growth as writers.
Feedback is the key to fixing this.
Other people see what you don’t. We all notice different things and this remains true for writing in particular.
Getting someone to offer feedback on your narrative writing is one of the best ways to improve and fix your weaknesses, becoming an overall better writer.
Here’s what some of your feedback can look like:
#5 – Watch movies and TV shows
Yes! We’re officially giving you permission to watch TV instead of work on writing, but for a very specific reason.
When you listen to writing advice, whether it’s from a friend or teacher or published author, you might hear them reference movies as examples.
The reason for this is because while some movies are adapted from books, all movies can teach you about storytelling and the structure of a good story overall.
And while movies are best for an overall view of storytelling for a book, TV shows are much better at teaching you how to write a good chapter, since each episode serves as a chapter of that story, the entire season as the equivalent of a novel.
Here are some questions to ask after you watch a movie or TV show:
How did it start?
What was different and intriguing about how events unfolded?
Was there a twist? What foreshadowing did they use to make the twist surprising, but inevitable?
What were the three biggest moments in the story?
Did the ending connect to the beginning?
#6 – Invoke all three main elements in each sentence
These are character, plot/conflict, and setting.
Brandon Sanderson talks a ton about these three main elements of narrative writing in his lectures on Youtube.
The idea behind this is that these three main components make up the entirety of a story. When you can really dig deep into these three, you’ll become a better and better writer.
And not only that, but if you learn how to master invoking all three of these elements into each sentence, you’ve mastered the art of writing.
Now, this is very difficult. Not all authors do this. In fact, very, very few can do this and it’s not something you can do in every sentence.
However, when you’re thinking of writing each line with the goal of showing your readers more about the character, the world/setting, and the conflict all in one, you will be an incredible writer overall.
Here’s an example of what this means:
Not good: The woman wandered outside without any gear.
Better and invoking 3 elements: The woman was crazy enough to step outside, not a single scrap of gear on her body, flesh exposed in several places.
Why this is better: In the first example, we don’t really learn anything. All we see is a woman going outside without any gear. Now, yes, in this first example we get the feeling that having gear on is probably important, but we don’t see how much. In the second example, however, we get a sense of all three elements. First, we know that the character thinks such an act is crazy. Secondly, we learn that the setting must be dangerous and harsh enough to need gear (or be deemed crazy if you don’t have it). And lastly, this potentially adds to the plot or conflict by showing us that the outdoors is dangerous, or a place one can’t simply walk out to with skin exposed.
The parts of a story consist of five main elements: characters, setting, plot, and conflict along with theme. The parts of a story are both technical and elemental in nature, but these are what make up the necessary parts of a story that readers yearn for.
You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.
These are your story’s main course, but what’s a meal without side dishes?
We’re also going to cover conflict, resolution, themes, morals, symbolism, point of view, and perspective: what they are, how to use them, and how all of these literary elements work together to make a complete and filling dinner–I mean story…I’m hungry.
Parts of a Story Plot: Characters, Setting, Plot, & Other Story Elements
Once you’ve got a solid story idea, the real work begins.
Here are the 10 essential parts of a story every writer needs to get it right. Without these, your story (whether you’re writing a short story or a full novel) will fall flat.
#1 – Characters
Your audience should feel different levels of closeness to your different characters, depending on if they’re main, secondary, or background character.
What do your characters want? Their desire can be simple or complex, tangible or concept–maybe they want a job, a house, approval, a child, contentment. If your character doesn’t want something, they won’t be compelled to act.
Download this character sheet to dive deep into understanding your character’s motives better:
Download your FREE character development worksheet!
If your character isn’t acting, they’re passive or they’re just a plot device. You want to avoid both, and this is usually accomplished through strong character development.
#2 – Setting
The setting is when and where your story takes place.
Aside from the physical location and position in time, your setting can include:
Take the time to consider these aspects to build a complex world for your characters to interact with.
Particularly in fantasy and sci-fi worlds, a lot of planning goes into establishing a convincing and engaging story setting that can either add to your plot or take away from it.
#3 – Plot
Your plot is the actual story–what happens, when, how, why, and what’s the result?
There are a lot of different ways to structure your plot, but in general, a plot arc has five main points:
Set-up/exposition – The beginning part of your story where you establish the world, the characters, the tone, and your writing style
Rising action – The rising action is usually prompted by your inciting incident. Here, you escalate tension and problems, explore your characters. This is the biggest chunk of your book.
Climax – This is the sort of “moment of truth.” The culmination of everything–the highest point of tension. The point the plot has been leading up to.
Falling action – What goes up, must come down. This is where you resolve any subplots and side stories.
Resolution – Wrap up.
Here’s a quick visual representation with explanations below:
Here’s what happened in the plot of this video:
Set-up: Supporting cast prepping to roll our main character down a hill in a tire. We can tell from the vibe and energy that this is just some classic lad antics.
Rising action: The tension builds as our MC gains momentum, and we can’t tell what’s going to happen.
Climax: Our MC is speeding down the hill at this point, when he nearly collides with a moving vehicle! Then he disappears into the water! Is he okay? Tension is at its highest.
Falling action: Our hero is safe! The vehicle and driver are fine.
Resolution: His stoned pals cheer him on. All is well.
Your conflict should rise throughout (peaking at the climax).
During the editing process, a good practice is to look at each scene and ask if there is conflict within it.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself (or your beta readers):
Does the scene add to the overall plot?
Does the scene advance internal or inter-character relationships?
Does the scene add to a subplot?
Does the scene answer or bring about any plot-crucial questions?
The conflict could lend to the overall plot, a subplot, conflict between characters, or even a smaller conflict that is resolved within that scene. For a story to be interesting, there needs to be conflict.
Scenes that don’t add to that are fluff.
#5 – Resolution
I want to talk a little more about resolution, since it’s so important. How you end your story is what will sit with readers the longest.
What’s the culmination of all we went through during the story?
What did the characters learn that led them to the decisions they ultimately made? By the end of your story, all of your conflicts should have a resolution.
In some cases, conflicts are intentionally left a bit open-ended without a solid resolution, but this should be done intentionally and there should be somesort of resolution, even if it’s an unsatisfying ending with a little remaining mystery.
Further boiling a story down will reveal elements like themes, morals, and symbolism.
#6 – Themes
A theme is your story’s main takeaway. Your story can have one theme, or several.
Some examples of themes include:
Coming of age–what struggles come with it, what’s good about it
Forgiveness–trying to achieve it, avoiding it, accepting it
Death–overcoming it, processing it, fearing it
Love–overcoming it, processing it, fearing it (lol)
Good versus bad
The list is literally endless.
The theme of your story helps to focus the narrative and answers the question: What’s the point?
What have your characters learned? How are they changed, and what will they affect now that they are different?
#7 – Morals
The moral of your story is related to theme–what message do you want your story to convey?
If the theme is what the character learned, you can think of the moral as what the reader learned.
Let’s take a coming of age narrative–what are possible morals in that type of story?
Don’t grow up too fast
Follow your dreams
Listen to the wisdom of others
Accept yourself as you are
Appreciate where you are and what’s happening now
Consider what morals you want to convey, but avoid directly stating them when writing your book. This is part of the experience of reading your story…and that’s for the readers.
A symbol can be anything from an object, a character archetype, an animal, an occurrence in nature. A window, an estranged father, a lion, a storm, a desk, a fire.
Symbols have meaning connected to them.
Here are some examples of symbolism in stories:
A window might signify freedom, longing, hope.
A lion might be bravery.
A storm might be impending doom or threat.
A desk could indicate creativity, work, neglect.
It all depends on the context of the story and the connotations you assign to your symbols.
Themes, morals, and symbolism are fun writing tools and parts of a story to work with, but be cautious of relying on them. They’re icing and sprinkles–not the cupcake.
#9 – Point of view
The point of view of your story is simply who is telling the story. The most common in fiction are first-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient.
First-person is the main character telling the story. It uses the pronouns I, me, myself.
A strength of using first-person is that your reader will connect with your character very easily–the reader essentially becomes the character. If done well, this is a very intimate reading experience.
A weakness of first-person is that your storytelling is limited to that perspective. It’s difficult to tell an entire story with a single, first-person narrator. It can be done, but it takes more effort than it might with a different point of view.
Here’s a first-person point of view example from my collection of short stories, Little Birds.
Third-person limited POV :
Third-person is an outside narrator telling the story. It uses the pronouns he, she, they.
Even though it’s an outsider narrator, third limited keeps us in the point of view of our character(s)–the reader only knows what the character knows.
A strength of third-person point of view is the versatility. It’s much easier to have multiple point of view characters with third-person, as opposed to first. You can also flow between third limited and third omniscient in a novel.
The weakness is you don’t get the closeness to the character you have in first-person, though this can still be created through strong character development and using the rule of show, don’t tell.
Here are our top tips for using Instagram the right way.
#1 – Create relevant content
Don’t panic already, ok? This doesn’t mean you’ll have to take photos of yourself or strip down for a good number of likes.
What I mean with creating relevant content is make your Instagram account about something you truly love.
Yes, you’re an author, but what kind of author? Will you share with your followers about your struggles of being an author?
Will you share your process your writing? Will you snap pretty pics of other books you’re reading and loving? Of your pet? Maybe your garden?
The point is, you’ll love it and your following will feel it and love you more for it.
#2 – Post regularly
Many often forget about this one, but you betta believe it when I tell you, this is probably the most important one!
By posting regularly, you’re showing up more often in other feeds and that will increase your chances of getting likes and comments on your photos, and even visits to your profile.
There are many arguments about when you should post and how many times per day, but there are also some great apps that evaluate what works best for your audience.
I always advice posting a photo once a day and not more because you don’t want to overdo it.
In general, the best times for posting are between 4pm and 7pm, which is when people are going back home from work.
However, you should also do what you feel is natural for you and your account.
Less is more but once a day is a must!
#3 – Post consistent content types
Now, when posting, you’ll have to think about what you want to post. This is your part of your job after all, so you should plan it just as you plan your writing.
The best rule to follow is post the same content. This might sound boring to you, but the most successful accounts started this way.
The same type of content, over and over again, and then they opened up to other things. But, in the beginning, it’s important that people will recognize your account as a whole and will want to follow you because you’re consistent and have a structure.
For visual ideas on how to do this, I recommend checking out this Instagrammer, who I love! Marlene uses the same type of content, similar backgrounds, several nuances of the same color, but every picture is unique and makes me wanna go back to her profile!
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency.” – Dwayne Johnson
#4 – Create strong aesthetics
If you’ve noticed from the above screenshot of Thanks a Latte Blog’s account, you’ll find it extremely soothing and inviting. The reason why is her aesthetics.
When creating content and posting it, she’s clearly thinking it through.
In the first phase, you’ll have to do the same!
This might bother some of you, but no one can deny how beautiful an account like this looks. It appeals to the eye as a whole, but each photo is also carefully laid out.
For similar outcomes, look for a color palette and stick to it.
Using one main color and different nuances works out great and it won’t be a lot of work for you to figure out what goes well with what.
Another thing you can try to use is repetitive miscellaneous: either décor pieces you have around the house or flowers in the background, what’s important is that there is a nice wave between all your photos.
If you feel inspired looking at your feed, your followers will too!
#5 – Use high quality photos
You don’t need a professional camera for this! Don’t start making excuses.
Nowadays, our smartphones have good cameras that will just do if used in the best way possible. You’re starting out, you don’t need to spend all that money on something you probably won’t even know how to use!
The best advice for high-quality photos is natural lighting.
Honestly, it’s that simple. Natural light helps your photos look more alive and colorful and it’ll take you a whole less time to edit them—if you edit them at all!
If you’re on the lookout for a good photo editor (that is free!), I recommend using Lightroom or Snapseed.
They’re both really simple to use and many creators on the internet have developed presets that you can buy and use on your photos. If you really don’t know what to do with a photo editor, just buy a preset or two and you’ll be fine!
Just remember! Natural lighting!
#6 – Engage frequently on Instagram
Imagine this: you’re scrolling down on your feed, see a photo you love, you like it and decide to comment.
A simple comment but it’s there. You see another photo, like it, comment and so on. The first Instagrammer actually answers your comment on their photo.
Who do you think you’ll be more inclined to interact again with?
This is a no-brainer and it’s true for every and anyone out there. You’ll feel like you have a connection with this person, even if you’ve never met them in real life.
Answering every single comment, you get might be a difficult task to accomplish, especially if you have a larger following, but it’s Instagram 101.
Not to mention, all your lovely readers will feel SO special because their favorite author answered them!
One of the authors I’ve noticed does this extremely well is Ella Maise. She just knows how to connect with her followers in what feels a very natural way.
Make someone’s day: reply to them!
#7 – Share about your life
Now that we’ve discussed replying to your followers’ comments, I would like to tell you how important it is to use Insta Stories.
Again, you might be an introvert or a very private person, and that’s ok! But you can always share a few snaps that didn’t make it into your profile or a few short videos of your daily life.
You don’t even have to share your face, just record them when you’re taking a nice walk or doing something out and about.
I do recommend speaking though, because I feel that there is a special relationship that is developed when followers hear your voice and what you sound like. (It’ll be weird at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it pretty quickly, I promise!)
“Happiness is only real when shared”
#8 – Host giveaways on Instagram
Not to quote Oprah or anything, but she was onto something! Hosting giveaways is one of the best ways to get out there and get some free promotion.
You’re an author with your author Instagram now, so it makes sense that your prizes are books.
I’d recommend starting with other author’s books because you can include them in the giveaway. For example, to win, one has to follow you, the author and comment on both profiles something related to you or the book. It doesn’t get much better than this!
To host something like this, it might take you a little longer to plan than just posting a photo, but the rewards might also be much higher.
Giving will translate into receiving…
#9 – Repost relevant content
Definitely repost photos and stories on your Insta Stories! I LOVE it whenever I get a notification that someone has re-posted a photo of mine and added a little thank you note or just simply tagged me over on their stories. It makes it personal and I always feel more likely to interact with that person again.
When reposting, I suggest going for anyone and everyone.
However, remember that popular Bookstagrams might help you get to larger audiences, so their support might be very well needed.
I’m not saying you should butter them up, but it is in your interest to interact with them. They also might be reviewing your books and publicity is always great!
As with everything, just don’t overdo it and your readers are your main base so don’t forget to share their stories too!
You’ll make their day!
#10 – Use the right #Hashtags
You want to connect with a specific audience.
What kind of audience do you have in mind?
Are they a niche audience?
Do you want to promote to everyone from the Bookstagram community?
What is your main target?
It’s important to know this beforehand because the use of hashtags is incredibly necessary to start things off on Instagram.
You’ll reach more people by using them and by choosing the right ones, you’ll reach to the audience you want/need for your account.
These are some of my favorites to use when targeting the Bookstagram community:
These guidelines won’t work if you don’t feel like this is something natural in your life. Yes, it’ll take some time to get used to it, but in the end, if it makes you feel stressed or you start overthinking it, just ditch these!
Your Instagram account needs to be a reflection of your life as an author, of the things you love to do and everything you’re willing to share with the people who love and support you the most: your readers!
Whatever, however, and whenever you want to give them something, share with them, give them sneak peeks of future books or just talk about your day, they’ll be there for you!
Instagram is supposed to be fun, a lot of fun! If you spend too much time tying to snap the perfect photo, you won’t have any time left for your book! Just jump on the rollercoaster (hopefully now, after having read these tips, with a better security belt) and see where it takes you.
You have dreamed about this—this world which is different from ours and actually worldbuilding for fantasy in general.
It’s interesting, it’s riveting…
Now you want to share this world that has been created in your head with the world.
It’s not easy to write and writing a book which is completely or mostly imaginary is even harder. How do you even start?
Maybe you have your world figured out but don’t know anything about your characters, about the plot, the conflict, the resolution, nothing. You just have the magic and fantastical element figured out but don’t know how to convert that into a story idea you’re proud of.
Well that’s the fun in being a writer. Now let’s sit down and figure this out!
While many book genres exist, nothing sweeps you off of your feet (or your bed, if you read before turning in for the night), than a well thought out, captivating, and magical fantasy book.
The only thing absorbing you in other fiction books that take place in our reality is the plot and main characters. But in fantasy, you get the IMAX experience – characters, plots, and a gripping fantastical world.
Who doesn’t want to escape and read about wizards and warlocks, vampires and werewolves, hobbits and fairies, ghosts and zombies, witches and aliens, magical creatures and monsters, and of course, superheroes and villains?
Fantasy novels immerse the readers into that curated world and take them along the journey.
Like almost every book-reader in the world, a series which I grew up with is Harry Potter. Of course Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the other characters are incredibly well-written that have you coming back for more, but one of the things that have to this date gripped audiences is the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry – Hogwarts, Ministry of Magic, how wizards operate on a day-to-day basis, Quidditch, and much more.
I mean, to this day you have Harry Potter fans visiting King’s Cross station to see platform 9 ¾.
That’s the power of good world-building. Years after your book has published, you still have your audience feeling home-sick for that world.
How Do I Get Started on My Fantasy Novel?
You have an active imagination, you have an idea of your fantasy world, and now it’s finally time for you to start writing your book.
After some time procrastinating on Instagram, you finally sit down to write but aren’t sure how to start explaining your fantasy world. Or you suddenly realized a loophole or fault in that world.
Don’t worry. Creating a fantasy world which is believable and loved by your readers is possible! If you’re also coming short on ideas, try searching through these writing prompts.
Before you start your story, getting a cup of coffee, and getting your laptop out to start writing, you need to do one important step: Plan and draw it all out in a comprehensive outline!
Before doing anything else, it is important for you to sit down and plan your world. Do your book research.
Why do you think a lot of fantasy books have a map and/or symbols drawn on the front of the book? It’s not just for the author’s own organization; it also gives the readers an understanding of the physicality of the world.
If any point in the story, a reader is lost in the imagery and needs clarification, they can just turn back to the map and clear their doubts.
Step 1 for Starting to World Building Fantasy:
Start by drawing your landscape, your characters (especially if they’re not human-like), any symbols, weapons, buildings, and other imagery.
Focus and write out the world’s culture, people, history, weather, food, traditions, societal norms, religion, and other elements you learn about in this post.
Step 2 for Starting to World Building Fantasy:
The devil is in the details. Sit down and dash it all down along with a ton of scribbling, erasing, and cutting. If you don’t you will leave those dreaded plot holes.
If things don’t perfectly connect and instead tend to contradict each other, your reader will get lost and might feel frustrated.
Your base needs to be strong and this is the perfect time for you to strengthen that base so that the rest of your book flows much easily. It’s like math; if you never understood the bases, you’ll always struggle. Don’t worry—writing is not as difficult as math, it doesn’t make you cry tears (for the most part).
Step 3 for Starting to World Building Fantasy:
Accept the truth.
The hard truth is this: it’s harder to write fantasy than it is to write any other genre or non-fiction.
If my story was set on Earth and involved just humans in our timeline, I don’t need to guess anything. If my characters are set in Toronto, Canada in 2019, I know for a fact that it is spring in Toronto, Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister of Canada, and poutine is sold there. My whole book is set in a real world, where everything is already set. All I need to do here is do some research on Canada and write my book.
But if I’m writing a fantasy book, I have to figure out that world all by myself. Sure it’s time-consuming and challenging but how fun is fantasy to read and write?
You and your reader will get to get lost in your world.
As said by George R. R. Martin, the author of one of the most famous series in the world,Game of Thrones:
“We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La. They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.”
And honestly, yes! Bring on all the mysteries, magic, and alternate realities.
How do you world build a fictional world?
In order for your reader to not get lost and connect with your world, it is important for you to describe it perfectly.
This doesn’t mean that you have to list absolutely anything and everything, but you should at least have your readers understand the basic structures and elements of your world.
Your description of the world has to be as cohesive as possible or else your story would come across as choppy and fragmented, making the reader feel frustrated soon enough.
One of the best tips for this is to use the old rule of “show, don’t tell” when writing.
All of this information you build has to come across to the reader, but you can’t just tell them everything in an info-dump.
What you want to do is leak the information about your world into the narrative with as much showing as possible. Paint the picture with your world through scenes and setting so your readers interpret it themselves.
Fantasy World Building: The Essentials You Must Cover
The 10 elements of world-buildingthat you should ponder over and plan so that your audience falls in love with your fantasy novel are:
#1 – Time in Worldbuilding
Is your novel based in our time? Is it based during World War 1, the Ottoman Empire, when Prussia existed?
Or is it in the future: 2080, the end of the world, or post-apocalyptic?
Or better yet: is it based on another planet or a whole other magical world where our definition of time is irrelevant?
Like The Good Place, does a part of your world follow a weird and different time like Jeremy Bearimy?
Once you’ve established your timeframe, it is easier to then think about the specifics of the world. If it’s during WW1, then you can’t have cell phones, if it’s in 2080 maybe instead of cars there are flying drones.
Or in your world, no elements of our society exist. Aladdin is its own magical realm where the mode of transportation is horses, carriages, or a magic carpet.
The possibilities are endless.
#2 – Location
Location, along with time, plays a key role in your world building. If your characters are in Paris in 1945, they are fighting in WW2 but if they are in India, they are fighting for their independence from Britain along with Gandhi.
If your world is completely imaginary, it then helps answer whether your world has continents, countries, and cities?
Does it have buildings like ours or some high-tech ones that keep floating in air?
Your location then also helps figure out other important elements of your world such as the culture, people, and political systems, which we’ll get to below.
#3 – Laws & Government
Just like our world, this fantasy world of yours will also have the basic fundamentals and structures that make a functioning society.
Of course, instead of having a male or female President, your world’s political system might have an eight-feet tarantula who is the one True Ruler.
Here are some fantasy worldbuilding questions for laws and government:
Who or what are the ruling class and what method of governance do they use?
If magic exists in your reality, what are the rules and regulations surrounding it?
If someone breaks a rule, do they go to prison, are punished, or exiled?
Who enforces the laws in general?
Is there some sort of organization to laws and the justice system?
Maybe whoever kills the Ruler becomes the new Ruler, or according to a prophecy, the true Ruler is the one person who is born on the 4th new moon of the year at exactly 1:02 a.m.
Thinking about these different elements is a great way to tie in your own morals and values, along with your story’s themes, in a cohesive manner.
#4 – Worldbuilding People in Fantasy
There’s a ton to consider when you’re world building for fantasy people.
Here are some question to ask when doing this:
Is your protagonist a human like you and me or a half alien from an imaginary world, one-third wizard, and the rest a bird?
Are all the people exactly the same or characterized based on their gender, race, age, number of feet, what animal head they have?
Maybe the ruling class can only be birds but the local population is a mixture of birds and raccoons?
What language do the people speak? Of course your book would be written in English or any other language, but there might be a language that your characters use?
This could be a cool and fun way for you to include a sentence or two in a made-up language (of course, include a translation for it to not confuse your readers). This will also make it easier for you to write dialoguebetween the characters.
You may also consider if the people live in our world but live in the shadows and are invisible?
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series features us humans, vampires, werewolves, faeries, angels, demons, warlocks, and an imaginary race of humans that are a mix of humans and angels known as ‘shadowhunters’.
They are invisible and everything they use—weapons, appearances, and buildings—are invisible or enchanted in some way.
Species is one of the most important part of your world. In your head, you should have an absolute clear and detailed image of how all the people look like.
#5 – World History
History is what defines and shapes our present. Every world has its history which makes it—its culture, people, government, traditions, etc.
Historical events will also pose as a point of friction and plot point for you world.
Do the vampires in your world hate the witches because centuries ago a group of witches massacred vampires? Is 2230 Earth a dystopian society cause of a zombie apocalypse breaking out in 2095 due to climate change?
Without a strong historical base and understanding, it would be very difficult to understand the situations and choices that your current characters and their surroundings are taking.
History explains the why of the way current society functions.
#6 – Society in Fantasy Novels
All of the characters combined along with their social identifiers, history, and relationship to each other creates a society.
Answer some of these world building questions for forming your society:
In your world, what is the basis of your society?
Does a class system exist with poor and rich people?
What’s the family structure like?
Are relationships monogamous or polyamorous?
Are same-sex relationships accepted or frowned upon?
How do gender roles operate?
Usually our real life societal elements of sexism, racism, classism and others are adopted and reflected in other ways in a fantasy novel. In Harry Potter, racism is reflected in the way Purebloods hate Mudbloods and Muggles.
Find your unique take on societal issues and reveal it in an interesting way.
And remember: you do NOT need to follow our societal structures. You can say “to hell!” with any sexism/racism if you want. There are many other conflicts your story can have without maintaining our own toxic shortcomings as a society.
#7 – Religion in Fantasy
Religion may or may not play an integral role in your world. However, as an important part of society, it will affect your characters and the general values and traditions of the society.
What do they believe in? What are their values?
You can create a religion which worships God(s) or Deity(ies), a cult-like religion which calls for human sacrifices, or create a world in which religion is banned.
Mythologies are ancient stories that characters grow up listening. They are believed to be false or very dramatized religious events, however, to understand a society’s functionality and history, they are important to know. What’s the famous legend or folklore of your world?
Create a backstory for this religion as well. In fact, treat religion as a type of character archetype and fully flesh it out with details, rituals, and more.
#8 – Worldbuliding Magic in Fantasy
In fantasy novels, magic usually plays a huge role. Magic is what defines the fantasy genre.
If there is no magic, it’s not fantasy.
To truly make your world a gripping one, carefully creating the magical aspect of it is important and also a lot of fun!
Ask these questions when world building a magic system:
What type of magic exists?
Do only wizards and witches have magic or some other creatures possess it too?
Or is it magic accidentally born out of a science experiment gone wrong?
Even Spider-man’s powers could also be considered magic as he got them after being bitten!
Or is magic banned in your society with only a few in the ruling class being able to employ it?
This also brings into the question the other important aspects of magic that you need to consider: the rules and regulations surrounding magic.
Can anyone of any age utilize it or just a few? Is magic taught and tested or does it just come naturally?
Magic is the essence and heart of fantasy. Make sure you do it right.
#9 – Economy in Fantasy Novels
Not only does economy include the existence of classes or social strata, it also includes the kinds of professions that exist in your world. Are doctors as well-respected and highly-paid as they are in our world or are they considered useless as magic is the sole healer?
What currency does your world have? Does it have banks or other financial institutions or do people just keep all their money with them?
Does currency even exist or is a barter system in place?
Make sure to have a firm understanding of how your characters acquire goods and services in your novel. This bit will help in worldbuilding other elements as well.
#10 – Daily Life in Fantasy
Finally once you’ve figured all the above elements of your world, this should come naturally.
What does a normal day look like in your world?
Just think about your own daily routine. Most people have the same ones – wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work or school/university, eat lunch, come back home and maybe go to the gym, cook some dinner and watch t.v. before you finally go to bed.
Of course endless other little things might be included in it, like if you stopped for groceries, walked your dog, went to the doctors’ etc., but the basis is pretty common for everyone.
Jenna Moreci, author of The Savior’s Champion, does a really great job of showing us the day-to-day for her main character, Tobias, as seen in the example below.
Here, we can see what Tobias’s everyday life looks like, and if you’ve read the book blurb and know what this book is about (hint: a tournament to the death), you can see just how much those two things create an intriguing contrast.
Fantasy World Building Final Tips…
Now that you know the time period, location, people’s characteristics, type of society, laws and government, existence of magic, religion, and economic system, you can easily figure out what your character’s day to day life is like.
Of course, to advance your plot and keep your readers interested, your characters would probably be on some crazy adventure doing extraordinary things, and not just following their normal routine.
However, other characters would be and it is important to show what the rest of the world is doing while these few people are on their journey.
By strengthening these 10 elements of your world, not only will your world be interesting to read, it will also help you organize yourself while writing. If you need a template to have this all figured and written down, you can try this BookMap.
And now finally, once all these details are out of the way and you have a clear understanding of your world, there’s only two things left to do: love your book and write it!
Building a world can be a lot of fun but it is also a very tedious and laborious process. Create a world that you love! If you aren’t excited imagining, writing, and reading your fantastical world, your readers won’t either.
As Stephen King mentions:
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
Find everything that makes this world of yours special. And don’t worry about creating the next fantasy hit, this one’s all you.
So, you have a dream to write that book, but you’re locked into a schedule that’s keeping you from pursuing your dream.
I know the routine: Get up, work all day, come home and make dinner, and look after the kids (or unwind in front of the TV) and then you fall into bed, exhausted, before you have to do it all again the next day.
When the weekend comes, you just want to kick back, take it easy, and put the week behind you. Then Monday comes around and the rat race starts all over again.
Soon you can hear yourself making excuses for all the reasons why you didn’t write:
“I was so busy this week I just didn’t have time…”
“I’ll do it next week when I’m more organized…”
“I’ll start writing when I’m feeling more motivated…”
“I’ll get to it once I quit my day job and have more time…”
But as you know by now, there’s never a perfect time.
We’re always busy with something. And if we don’t take action when we can, the excuses will keep coming until we run out of time forever.
Don’t let your dream die. I’m going to help you get your book done.
How to Make Time for Writing in Your Busy Life
By becoming a weekend writing warrior, you can get it done. I know because I’ve done it. In this post I’ll share with you my 8 step strategy for writing a book on the weekends even if your week is crazy busy.
#1 – Build a Writing Habit to Make Time for Writing
When it comes to getting your writing done, strategy is everything. Without a plan, you drift; and when you drift, you end up back where you started, wasting more time while procrastinating.
The key to writing a book on your weekends is to get plan out how you will use your writing time and develop a writing habit. If you know ahead of time what you’ll be focusing on, where you’ll be writing and for how long, when it comes time to start writing, you’ll show up ready for keyboard action.
Our intentional planning model should consist of:
Researching topics, articles, and interviews
Chapter mind mapping
Crafting an outline
A good craftsman always shows up to create with his best tools. As writers, we need to spend time preparing to write before showing up at the keyboard. You want to do any necessary research outside of your writing time, not during it.
Stopping just to check that “one thing” breaks your writing flow (and often sends you off into the wilds of the internet, never to return).
During my writing sessions, if I get stuck and need to check on something, I’ll make a note in the paragraph like CBL [Come Back Later].
You can set up your chapters as well by doing brief mind maps for each. If you have crafted your book’s outline already, this should be easy. Take a few minutes each day during the week to do a quick outline for each chapter.
You don’t have to write anything until the weekend, but at the very least, make some notes about what you’re going to write when the weekend comes so you’re prepared.
#2 – Set Up Your Writing Space
Your writing environment has a huge influence on how your writing sessions flow. Will you write in a coffee shop? A quiet room? Under the stairs?
Locked in a closet with just your laptop and a light bulb? Wherever you choose to write, it should be at least comfortable and a place you can stay focused for long periods of time.
My writing space consists of my computer, motivational quotes, and mind maps for my books.
Here’s a table detailing what a good writing space looks like.
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
Decorating your writing space adds to inspiration, but also serves as a reminder:
This is where you write. Make it a place that you can enjoy creating in. But does it have to be just the one place? Of course not. You can change writing locations and have two or three designated spots.
I would recommend having a primary spot you write at consistently, but have another place set up that you can get to just in case you need to change locations. Try out several places and see what works best.
Take note of how you feel working in your creative element.
Here are some questions to help you decide if it’s right:
Is it comfortable?
Are you comfortable?
Is it an energetic spot or, do you feel irritated and restless?
Do you work better in a place that’s quiet [private room] or super noisy [Starbucks]?
On days when I spend all day writing, I’ll break it up into two different locales: one is my writing room, and the other is a coffee shop.
If the noise is a problem, I’ll wear headphones and tune out everything with some mellow writing music.
#3 – Keep Your Mindmap and Book Outline Handy
I have shown up many times to write only to realize I had no plan for what I was writing. This leads to procrastination and then I look for something else to occupy my time.
Know what you are going to write by planning beforehand. Developing your mind map or a book outline is the surest way to start cutting into the pages.
Before you can find time for writing regularly, you’ll need your mind map and outline.
If you start writing without having done these important steps first, you’ll eventually end up stuck. Make sure you have your book fully mind mapped and a general working book outline.
Use your outline as a checklist to get your words down on paper with purpose. Each of your writing block sessions should have a clear purpose as to what you are going to write.
#4 – Eliminate Distractions
One of the biggest obstacles writers face is being pulled out of their “writing zone” by message indicators, vibrations, pop-ups, and a whole list of writing excuses.
This includes notifications that “you’ve got email” or, better yet, someone that you don’t even know has just liked one of your comments on Facebook and you feel that need to check it out right away.
My advice: unplug yourself from all things connected to the Internet.
Here is what you can do to eliminate distractions:
Option 1: Unplug yourself completely from the internet. Turn off Wi-Fi or physically unplug your network cable. This is the best option to separate yourself from the internet during your writing time. This is the “zero tolerance” method that I use as my number one choice for getting things done.
Option 2: Use productivity apps to eliminate or cut down on time spent checking certain sites. Use an app such as RescueTime to block the sites that distract you by choosing the amount of time you need to focus. RescueTime send you updates via email to let you know how much time was spent on certain websites. This is good to know, because the next time you catch yourself saying “I didn’t have time to write” but you spent three unproductive hours on a certain site, you can channel this time into your weekend writing schedule.
Two more apps I recommend:Cold Turkey and SelfControl [for Mac]. Both apps are designed to reduce or eliminate wasted time, and this means higher focus and more time targeted for writing words fast.
In a nutshell: Sit Down. Unplug. Focus. Write.
#5 – Overcome Those Writing Excuses
Writing excuses are present in literally everyone.
We all have those things we tell ourselves to stop us from sitting down and making time for writing.
Do any of these writing excuses ring a bell?:
“I just need a few minutes of rest and then I’ll write…”
“I need to watch that new episode everyone’s been talking about…”
“I just don’t feel like writing today…”
We all have these lies we tell ourselves. Because they are, in fact, lies. Once you notice this, it will be much easier to take ownership of these excuses and overcome them.
#6 – Establish a Writing Schedule & Time Slots
When time is limited, it’s important to be strategic in how you use it. In the previous step, we took action by realizing and overcoming our writing excuses.
The next thing we want to do is decide:
How long are your writing sessions going to be? 25 minutes? 40 minutes? One hour?
How many writing sessions are you doing today?
For example, I’ll do three one-hour sessions in a day. I’ll write for one hour, take a ten-minute break, repeat.
During the break, get up and move around, stretch or grab some coffee.
How to Set Up Your Writing Session
One option is to use the Pomodoro Technique. Self-published author Steve Scott, who has written close to 70 books, utilized the Pomodoro Technique to structure his writing time.
Set your timer for 25 minutes and write. Take a five-minute break, and repeat.
This system works really well and is great for getting focused and writing in short bursts. If you want to go longer, set your timer for sixty minutes. I use the timer on my iPhone.
Set it for the time you are committed to writing and GO. You should focus only on your writing during this period.
No research, editing, or breaking the writing flow, unless there’s a house fire. Just write.
Set a goal for yourself to crank out one thousand words in an hour. These are longer stretches and can be tough for some people so if you are struggling, start with the Pomodoro System and ease your way into doing longer sessions.
#7 – Set Your Word Count Target
Many people get overwhelmed when they think about writing a book. But if you write 3000 words a day on the weekends, you can be done with the first draft of your book in a month.
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If you plan ahead and set your writing goal at a pace of 800-1200 words per hour, you’ll be done in thirty hours of writing time.
This might seem like a lot but think about it: How much time do you spend watching TV in a week? How much time do you spend at the office? How much time do you spend checking email or on social media?
It can be done, and you can do this!
Set a daily word count target for yourself. Be strategic about this and take a rough guess how long your book is going to be. If I know I’m planning to write a 25,000-word novella, if I crank out 6000 words per weekend, I can complete a draft in a month.
If your book is shorter or longer, you can adjust to fit your target deadline. You can easily track your word count in Scrivener. You can also use a Google spreadsheet or a simple Excel spreadsheet.
By tracking your progress, you have a clear indication of how close you’re getting to your goal.
It’s also highly motivating to know you’re making progress.
#8 – Reward Yourself
There’s a famous proverb that says: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
I have no idea who Jack was, but I do know that if you spend your entire weekend writing, you’re going to need some R&R at the end of it. This is a critical stage.
If you spend week after week putting in time at work and then working more on the weekend, even if it is a passion project like writing your novel, you’ll get burned out and feel less inspired when the next weekend comes around. You deserve a break.
Do something for yourself. Go to a movie. Take your friends out to dinner. Get away from the manuscript.
I usually end the weekend by engaging in some fun activities such as:
Watching a movie
Spending time with the kids
Taking a long walk or running
Taking a long drive and thinking about future goals and what I accomplished this weekend
Meditating or working out
Find what activities allow you to refresh as well as relax and you’ll find much more joy in the process of writing a book, and you’ll make more time for writing because of this.
#9 – Plan Your Next Writing Weekend
There’s one more stage after you have wrapped things up at the end of your writing weekend.
This is an important step.
Before you pack it up, take ten minutes to draft a quick action plan for the week. This consists of the book research, chapter outlining, and anything else you need to do outside of the book writing process.
I do this step Sunday night before bed. Then, when the week starts I know exactly what work on to set myself up for success the following weekend. The alternative to this is to spend five minutes each night writing down what you’ll do the next day.
Do you need to outline your next chapter? Tighten up your overall book outline? Reach out to any online influencers about your next book release? This step is part of the intentional planning phase that will keep you focused.
So even while you are busy in the week with your other commitments, having a shortlist to refer to makes your mission clear.
The weekend is nearly here again. Are you ready? Don’t make excuses—get your book written. You can do this. If you follow the 8-step plan, three months from now you can be celebrating the publication of your next book.
The next time someone asks you the question: “How do you find the time to write?” You can now tell them: “Oh, it’s easy. I write books on the weekends.”
So you’ve finished your draft and are ready to tackle the next steps of putting it out there in the world. (Promise me that you’re not procrastinating by reading this blog! If you are, get back to writing right now!)
The first step is to figure how who you want to be perceived, how you want to brand yourself, is in your author bio.
This is the blurb that will go on your Amazon author page, your Book Bub author profile, your Goodreads page, your author web page, on the back of your book and so forth. It’s a really important little piece of work that you want to get right!
While your book cover design is the most important tool when marketing a book, your author bio is easily number two. This is where you convince your audience why you are the best person to tell them about the matter at hand.
It’s a place to connect with your readers and build your legitimacy.
You’ll want to stay factual while interesting. You want to make yourself approachable and toot your own horn, just a little bit.
Here are some tips to master these.
#1 – Author Bio Formatting
Although you are writing the bio, it still needs to be written in the third person no matter how quirky it is. In other words, avoid using “I” as your sentence subject but utilize your name or last name instead.
Additionally, you’ll have many drafts and varieties of this author bio. You’ll want to change it up depending on the application.
You may have a punchier version on your website while your bio for that speaking engagement session at a writing conference that you’re leading (and we’re confident that will happen for you!) will be more serious.
Today, we’re working on the basic draft that you can tweak as needed.
Remember to keep the bio short, less than 300 words. It seems that three sentences is a well-tested length (more on this later). Your author bio is not an entire list of every single award you’ve won or your life story.
Even if you did win the “Young Writer’s” award in middle school, unless you’re still in middle school, this little known fact probably doesn’t deserve to be on the back of your book.
Feel free to have a “full accolades” section on your author website where you can list every single thing you’ve ever done, won or written.
Your mom will be super proud of this list but readers browsing Amazon don’t need to get into the major details.
Here’s how to format an author bio wrapped up:
Use third-person POV when writing it
Keep it under 300 words
Add relevant/recent achievements
Minimize the number of sentences within those 300 words.
And remember: an author bio longer than 300 words or so will take up too much space and become an oversell.
#2 – Know Your Readers
Your bio is an extension of your book.
Write it for your audience. Keep the same writing style and connect this text to your subject matter.
If you wrote a book on productivity, a lengthy sentence about your lazy vacations doing nothing is not relevant and in fact, can persuade readers to avoid your books because they’ll think you to be uncredible.
Here are a few tips for getting to know your audience:
Interact with your readers on social platforms
Listen intently to the feedback during the beta reading process
Run your author bio by a group for feedback and adjustments
Ask people close to you if the bio embodies your personality and is accurate
#3 – Include Your Background
In order to sell yourself to new readers, you will want to include your pertinent background. If you happen to have other books, do include their titles and how many languages they have have been translated into or how many countries they’ve been sold in.
List your related education and memberships. Any higher education beyond college is usually noteworthy too.
Keep your lists short though. Only list three books, for instance, and a couple of memberships. A list of ten books, three degrees, and five memberships will only be skimmed by potential book buyers at the very best.
A huge list like this will become white noise so only include the most important and interesting stuff.
Your fanboys and girls (and your mom’s friends) will look to your aforementioned author website for more info and you can keep the tidy, complete list there.
#4 – Stay Factual
Statements like, “has always dreamed of writing a book,” while certainly may be true, are hard to back up and aren’t going to help sell your book.
Stick to the facts and to what you can prove.
Another reason for this is if you claim achievements that aren’t true or invalid, there will always be someone there to point it out in an attempt to cut you down.
This can reduce your credibility, and therefore, readers’ trust in you.
#5 – Use your personality
One of the best things about being an author is that you get to put your personality, views of the world, values, and more into your writing.
What some don’t understand about authors is: if a reader likes you, they’re very likely to enjoy what you write, because your essence bleeds into the pages.
Being able to showcase this with your personality can do worlds for your readers connecting with you and wanting to read your book out of curiosity if nothing else.
Here are a few tips to add personality to your author bio:
Exaggerate your tone just a little in order for it to be more evident
Be goofy and creative with how you describe yourself (See Jenna Moreci’s example in #11)
Have fun with it!
Throw a joke in your bio
#6 – Jot down an achievement or award
In addition to your backlist of books, your awards, and education, you’ll want your readers to know any higher-profile stuff you have going on.
Be sure to cover your awards, your following, and any big deal author interviews or features.
Again, if any of these this happened decades ago, it may not be relevant. But if you have a quarter-million followers on Twitter or on your blog, this will sell your authority (and yeah, a quarter-million sounds better than 250,000 but are the same number!).
If your writing has been nominated for awards but didn’t make the cut, that is often fitting for an author bio too. “Award-nominated” anything is pretty cool!
#7 – Get Personal
Provide a bit of personal information to connect with your audience. The reason for this is if a reader sees something they have in common with you, it’s an automatic bond and gives them more of a reason to buy.
It’s standard for authors to share where they live and what their family make-up is.
A few non-divisive hobbies and interests are also often included. If you have experiences that are related, such as extensive travel or extreme situations, they may relevant to share as well.
Again, know your audience and choose wisely. Maybe (terribly) you were part of a cult as a child?
That’s really interesting but unless you’re sharing this story in the book or proves your authority on the subject at hand, skip including it in your author bio!
Bonus Author Bio Tip: Keep these bits broad enough to include a larger number of people. For example, if you play the flute, simply mention that you’ve been playing an instrument for however many years as this is more inclusive, and there’s a higher chance of others connecting with you.
#8 – Chandler Bolt’s Author Bio Example
We all known and love Chandler Bolt, Self Publishing School Founder. We wouldn’t be here learning about writing without his hard work and book writing methods. Chandler’s author bio on the back of his book Published is only three sentences long but packs in a lot of authority building, states facts plus toots his horn a bit.
These three sentences along with the killer book cover art work well to sell Chandler’s mastery of book publishing.
Chandler’s Amazon Author Page is another version of his author bio. Here, Chandler gets really personal stating that his birth was almost miscarried!
He also gives some background about his entrepreneurial experience and awards.
#9 – Joanna Penn’s Author Bio Example
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller and nonfiction author who also writes under the pen names of JF Penn and Penny Appleton.
She’s written and self-published nearly 30 books so she really knows what she’s doing. On her Book Bub author page, Joanna’s short bio is only (surprise!) three sentences.
It concisely tells potential readers a short version of her accolades and narrows down her writing style quickly. Then it tells us where she lives and one of her favorite drinks.
On her own website, The Creative Penn, Joanna provides a different three-sentence version of her short bio and then gets into the details about all her books, the many awards and best-selling experience she’s had plus where she lives and her favorite wine (a different drink mentioned here!)! Joanna’s short bio on her page is three sentences and shoves in a ton of accolades into a small space.
Here she tells about her family, her gymnastic prowess as well as her authority and love of athletic mental training. T
his all builds strong authority for her book and brand.
On her Goodreads page about the same book, she sells the book by telling prospective readers that she’s been where they are and know “what it feels like to try your best and to fail.
I also know how it feels to work hard to achieve your goals.” She sells her wisdom and experience. Note that it is the norm to write in the first person on Goodreads but this is a big rule breaker everywhere else.
All of these examples have variations of author bios written in just a slightly different way for different applications. They all say very similar things about the same person.
Not only does Moreci have ample experience when it comes to self-publishing, but she’s also among one of the best examples of how to market your book effectively, including how she’s written her author bio.
Here’s an example of her Amazon author page with her bio:
Notice how Moreci keeps it short, brief, but very clear with who she is, what she writes, and even has enough personal information to let readers into her life at an appropriate level.
If we take a look at her personal author website’s “about” page, we’ll see she has something similar, but with a few more additions, including her books and more.
In this example, Jenna has also doused us with her personality, giving us insight into how she operates and therefore, the tone of some of her books.
Some Additional Author Bio Ideas
Know the very essence of your book and find keywords that your readers may search for to find your book. When crafting your author bio, use these keywords that search engines can catch.
Although it may be irrelative in some bio spaces, add links to any free giveaways (we’ve got some ideas on that here..) on your website, your newsletter, social media or whatever web presence you have.
Also, feel free to add a call to action where applicable.
Final Author Bio Thoughts
Remember that there is no perfect bio, and there are no two alike. Although these are all good ideas, it’s not an exact formula. Your author bio will be unique and will change as you write more books and gain more accolades (because we know you will!).
Now tell me the truth. Is your book really done? We can help you finish your manuscript and really make use of this carefully crafted author bio! Schedule a webinar with Chandler today to get started!
Do you have more author bio tips to share with our writing community? Do you think bios should be longer than three sentences or do you like this standard size?
Here are some of the wrong reasons to write a children’s book:
“I’m retired now and want to make a livable wage doing something easy.”
“Children’s books are short so I know they’re easy to write and fast to the money.”
“I want to write but I’m not sure what. Kids don’t expect much so I’ll write for them.”
“There are some awful children’s books out there. I know I can do at least that well.”
Here are some of the right reasons to publish a children’s book:
“Children are the present and future of our world. I really want to impact them.”
“I want to make writing for kids my business and have a plan to write many books.”
“I LOVE children’s books (even though I’m an adult) and want to write them so much, that I’m willing to learn how to write well in order to exceed their expectations.”
“There are some awful children’s books out there. I want to improve the quality of children’s literature to give kids a better reading experience.”
The reality is, children’s books are the most difficult type of literature to write and produce.
You have to engage an adult audience (the people who hand over the money and are likely to be the one reading your book Every. Single. Day.) but you also have to engage the children, who will beg their money-wielding parent to buy the book and read it to them Every. Single. Day.
Additionally, you only have zero to 700 words to communicate an entire story, with inciting incident, climactic moment, and final resolution, to the full satisfaction of both adult and child—much like when writing short stories. On repeat.
If I’m honest, I didn’t enter the children’s industry for the “right” reasons. I have always been a writer and was finally ready to pursue that professionally.
So, in 2007, I began the hunt toward publishing. Self-publishing was nearly unheard of and I knew enough about traditional publishing to know that who you know matters as much as the quality of your work.
What I learned Writing Children’s Books
Before we teach you how to write a children’s book, it’s important to understand a few key things I wish I knew when I got started.
Here’s what I learned writing a children’s book:
The children’s industry is highly competitive. So even though sales are on the rise, so are people writing and publishing them.
Books that thrive in the industry are extremely well writtenand well marketed.
It takes timeto study the craft of writing for children well and of marketing and selling your book well. Thus, it also takes time to make money.
Self-publishing children’s books is a totally viable and profitable way to produce your stories. From conversations I’ve had, I learned that I make more money per book sold than my traditionally published counterparts, have to do the same level of marketing as they do, have more creative control, and can get my book out in three months instead of one to two years. (I have many friends in the traditional industry and I love their contribution to market research and high-quality value. Together, we partner to impact children.)
Writing for children is the best.Fan mail for kids? Nothing else like it. Experiencing the giggles and gasps of kids who are caught up in your words is life-giving. And knowing that your story is a safe space, gives kids permission to be uniquely them, and passes on important life skills to our upcoming generation is among the highest of honors.
With time and practice, I learned how to set my expectations correctly, develop a writing habit, and produce high quality, professional, and engaging children’s books.
If, after reading the right reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then stick with me a bit longer and I’ll walk you through some standard first steps.
If, after reading the wrong reasons to write a book for children, you realized this is YOU, then consider writing a book for adults. We have some great resources on how to determine what you should write, starting with something that gets you excited, that you can write quickly, and that you can write easily.
For the rest of you, there are a number of standards and steps to get you going on writing your first children’s book.
We’ve broken down the steps for writing children’s books with a strategy that works.
#1 – Determine your children’s book’s audience
Everything about how you start your book: your story idea, book layout, page count, number of illustrations, and depth of the plot depend on who you are writing for.
A picture book, for example, is normally ready aloud by an adult. The child is captivated by full spreads of illustration and relies almost entirely on listening to the story.
Language can be a little more developed, poetic, and nuanced since the book is as much for the reading adult as it is for the child. Early chapter books, on the other hand, are for the older budding reader who still relies on some artwork while gaining vocabulary.
If you don’t know the age and stage of the child you’re writing for, you might lose their interest. The following is a guide for your book according to age group.
Determine What You’re Writing:
Children’s books length varies depending on the age group you want to write for and the detail of the story you want to tell.
If you want to write for children 0 – 4 years old, then you’re most likely writing a board book or a very simple, short concept book.
These books often teach children their colors or how to count or demonstrate a routine like bath time or bedtime, in 0 – 100 words.
Children ages 3 – 8 love picture books. These are stories 0 – 700 words (1000 at the most) that use full page images to tell a story.
These books are often read aloud to children by an adult. Picture books rely in part on the quality of the story as told through text and the work of the illustration to communicate the story. With so few words, picture books must be compelling and tell a complete story, meaning that every word must be purposeful in moving the story forward.
Early Readers are short chapter books aimed at 5 – 7 year-olds and range from 200 – 5000 words. This youngest chapter book is designed for kiddos who see big kids reading chapter books and really want to read them, too.
However, these kids are still developing reading skills and need simple language because they are reading it solo. Chapters are short so kids can feel successful as they make their way through such a “big” book. These are most popular in the educational market as a bridge for younger readers between picture books and chapter books.
Here’s a handy table for an easier overview:
0 - 4 years old
0 - 100 words
3 - 8 years old
0 - 700 words
5 - 7 years old
200 - 5000 words
6 - 7 years old
5000 - 20,000 words
8 - 10 years old
20,000 - 35,000 words
40,000 - 55,000 words
50,000 - 70,000
Naturally, as age of target child increases, word count increases, and the depth of the plot increases as well. These books include illustrations, in lesser measure as the word count increases, stopping around Middle Grade.
Children’s books are unique in the sense that their lesson and what children learn are so very important, but you also have to create this in a way that holds their attention.
Here are some criteria for writing a good children’s book:
It has an important lesson
The story is easy to follow for your chosen age-range
The illustrations are high-quality and professional
It’s relatable to a wide range of children
It can entertain adults at the same time
Using these criteria can help you structure your story, create a better story setting, and ensure you’re hitting the milestones needed for a good children’s book.
#3 – Read LOTS of books in your category
There are many different genres to choose from when writing for children and the best way to write them well is to read them often.
The following are a sampling of the options:
Realistic Fiction: Made up stories that could happen today in real life (but didn’t).
Historical Fiction: Made up stories based on actual historical events.
Biography: A story like this, or a memoir, is based on the life of a real person.
Fantasy: Made up stories that involve ideas that don’t happen in real life.
Science Fiction: Made up stories that generally aren’t plausible and are normally set in the future involving some level of science and technology.
Poetry:Writing poetry is telling stories told in verse, rhyming or not, mean to communicate in such a way as to evoke emotion.
Non Fiction: True stories that are informational (to teach facts) or based on actual real-life stories.
Folklore: These are the stories, often told orally first, that represent our history, our culture, our stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, songs of the past, and even some passed on fairy tales. These are often retold since we don’t know the original author.
Reading books in your genre can help you understand the story structure that works, including how to start your story, the maturity of the content for your intended audience, and more.
#4 – Come up with a children’s book idea
Children’s story ideas can be silly, deep, inspiring, hilarious, zany, serious, and straight up weird. They can make you laugh, cry, gasp, squeal, giggle and guffaw.
Ideas like these come from so many places: the kids around you (eavesdrop on ‘em, it’s great), adults around you (eavesdropping actually goes a long way as a writer), nature, books, movies, newspaper articles, youtube videos, animals… be an observer and you’ll find ideas everywhere!
Here are a few of my favorites places to come up with children’s book ideas:
Unlikely Characters and Settings: Speaking of Tercules, another great place to get ideas is by throwing together two very unlikely characters and dropping them in an unlikely setting. Shark versus Train is a great example of this.
Putting Characters in Child-like Settings and Circumstances: Some book ideas are life skills we want to teach our kids in creative ways. The Princess and the Potty worked magic with my daughter. Or Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, illustrated by my friend, Daniel. Taking a unique character and putting them in the position of a child will help kids catch all sorts of great life skills. Or on a more serious note, my own Speranza’s Sweater: A Child’s Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption, gives children permission to experience the many conflicting feelings of adoption through the lens of Speranza. Our own SPS coach, Jed Jurchenko, also does this with his recent release, The Stormy Secret, helping kids navigate the safe places to share secrets imposed on them.
#5 – Outline the Story
Once you have an idea, start laying it out in a book format. Yes, this is essentially outlining. Depending on the book category and genre, this outline will look different. For a picture book, the story will be, on average, 28 pages of story.
Create a book dummy and fill in the pages with your idea. (To make a book dummy, take 16 pages of regular paper and fold them together in half to make a small booklet.
This should create a 32 page “book.” The first few pages are your title page and copyright page, 28 pages of story, and then any end matter you’d like to include, like “About the Author” or an author’s note.
Use this book dummy to layout your scenes and choose where in your story you want the page to turn.
If you’re writing a chapter book, make sure to outline the entire story with the five important milestones of a strong plotline, as well as the individual chapters. If you’re more of a pantzer, writing by the seat of your pants, then at the very least have a framework for your story so you don’t get lost on rabbit trails.
If you get lost, your readers will too.
#6 – Nail Down the Details
Choose whether you’ll write the book in poetry or prose, first person or third person, past tense or present tense.
Use other books in your genre to guide you as a standard.
If you choose to write in poetry, be aware that if you can’t do it perfectly, you really shouldn’t do it at all.Writing poetry is much more than rhyming words. It’s meter. Rhythm. Timing. Pacing.
If one of these is off, it throws your reader off and discredits your book and your storytelling skills. If it can be told just as well in prose, do it. If you have mastered poetry, do it.
#7 – Write that first draft!
Don’t stress the details, just get the story down.
If you can accomplish this, you’re further along in the process than most other writers you never get past the idea phase.
Here are a few tips to finish your draft:
Schedule writing time
Get an accountability partner for external motivation
Set a deadline
Get rid of distractions while writing
Focus on just FINISHING, no editing along the way
#8 – Re-read and revise your first draft
Do you have enough words? Too many words? Add or cut as necessary.
Does your story make sense? Are there plot holes you need to address? Did you break any of the “rules”? If so, why? If not, why?
Tighten up your draft.
This self-editing process can take a while, but you’ll feel better sending a cleaner, tighter manuscript to the editor because it can only get even better from there.
#9 – Get a critique and/or an edit.
Getting a book critique gives you a chance to get a children’s book professional’s feedback on the marketability of your book, the content of your book, and to address any grammatical issues.
No matter how well you think you’ve nailed grammar or understand a child’s brain, your set of eyes alone will never be sufficient for a perfect draft.
I’m a seasoned writer and editor and I still don’t trust myself to catch every grammatical issue or plot hole. Invite a professional to give you content feedback as well as outside eyes on your grammar and syntax.
But not just any professional! Make sure they have strong experience in the children’s writing industry and credibility to back up their work.
ISBN stands for International Standard Book number and is a 13-digit code used to uniquely identify your book amongst the millions out there.
What is an ISBN number used for?
Essentially, an ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number, is a regulated 10- or 13-digit identification number which allows libraries, publishers, and book dealers to locate and identify specific books.
But where did these ISBN numbers even start and why do we have them?
In the early days of World War 2, the Japanese military sent messages back and forth and the Allies needed to crack their intricate numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables.
But how did they crack this complex system?
MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code.
Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking program in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith, a British retailer, to write a report on how to create such a system.
This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967 and eventually led to the ISBN system used worldwide.
Several years later, this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when a policy was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format and is now the standard used everywhere.
How much does an ISBN cost?
ISBNs cost about $125 for one number in the US. However, if you purchase more than one at a time, this cost could be lowered.
Here are a few tips for buying an ISBN:
If you publish physical copies through IngramSpark, you get your ISBN for only $85
Buying your ISBNs in bulk can save you money if you intend to publish more than one book
Let’s unweave the intricate web of how to get an ISBN and how they work in the publishing industry.
How To Read an ISBN number with an ISBN Example
As of 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. This came about in part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year.
Knowing how to break down and interpret these 13 digits aren’t of much use and interest to most book readers, but for publishers and distributors, it’s a necessity.
If you want to publish lots of books under your own publishing name then it’s something you may want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book and its author by reading the ISBN number.
The 13 digit ISBN number helps:
Identify the specific title
Identify the author
Identify the type of book they are buying
Identify the physical properties of that particular book
Identify the geographical location of the publisher
Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.
Here is the ISBN for a particular book:
You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “978” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. If we remove these digits we have:
First is the initial digit, in this case: 3
The 3 is the language group identifier which here indicates German. For English speaking countries a 0 or 1 is used. Numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.
Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:
0 or 1 for English
2 for French
3 for German
4 for Japan
5 for Russian
7 for People’s Republic of China
It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944. You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency.
Next is “16”. This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number. This number can be as long as 9 digits.
“148410” — This six-digit series represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.
“0” is the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always a single digit.
This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and is calculated based on the other digits in the code.
Where is the ISBN number on books?
The ISBN is usually found above the barcode on the back of the book. However, they’re not the same.
The barcode is much different than the ISBN number.
This is an important distinction because:
When you purchase an ISBN you don’t automatically get a barcode
The barcode of your book can change, while your ISBN can remain the same.
We’ve already discussed what data the ISBN carries, however, the barcode includes extra information such as the book’s fixed price and the currency it’s being sold in.
Barcodes are a necessary element of your book as they allow for most retailers and distributors to scan your ISBN for retail and inventory reasons.
The Book Designer also has a great resource for learning how to reconstruct an ISBN if you finally decided to write and self-publish the book you’ve been thinking about since you bought the ISBN.
ISBN Search: How to Find Your Book’s ISBN
If you want to look up the ISBN of any book out there, you can do so easily by visiting the website ISBNSearch.org.
You’ll be greeted with a screen like the one above where you will be prompted to type in the ISBN, author name, or book title.
After hitting “search,” you will have a list of books matching your searched items with the both the 13-digit ISBN and the 10-digit, like in the example below.
How to Read a Barcode
If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number.
The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5 and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.
For example, if the number reads 52995, this means the price of the book is set at $29.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, though the ISBN wouldn’t change.
This would only be replaced by a new ISBN number if the book is published as a new edition or as a new version.
To buy a barcode you must first purchase an ISBN. You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:
1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.
The Difference Between ASIN and ISBN
If you’ve used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program you’ve probably come across an ASIN. ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners.
You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.
However, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms or in brick and mortar stores, you’re going to need an ISBN.
Reasons Self-Published Authors Need an ISBN
If you want to publish and sell your eBook on Amazon, then the quick answer is no, it isn’t necessary. Amazon will assign your eBook an ASIN number which will be used to identify and track your title.
However, that’s only with Amazon, and only with eBooks.
This might be important if you have a brick and mortar marketing strategy, or if you want your book to be accessible through libraries (more on this later), or if you’re looking to deal with wholesalers or other online retailers.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you want to sell your book by means other than as an ebook on Amazon, then you’ll need an ISBN.
How do I buy an ISBN Number?
You might not even have to buy your ISBN number because of services offered to self-published authors. You can get assigned a free ISBN by Createspace, the On-Demand publishing company that has now merged with Amazon.
If you can get a free or cheap ISBN with them, then what’s the use in paying for your own one?
Here’s the problem: most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.
Let’s say you get a free ISBN with Draft2Digital, but then you notice that there are some retail channels you can access through Smashwords that you can’t with Draft2Digital.
You can’t use the Draft2Digital ISBN with Smashwords.
Smashwords will only let you use your own ISBN or an ISBN they assign to you. So what do you do?
You get a free ISBN with Smashwords.
And now you have two ISBNs for the same book. Same book title, same book format, but two ISBNs.
You then hear of some exclusive channels you can get through eBookPartnership. The only wrinkle? You need an ISBN and they won’t take your Smashwords’ or Draft2Digital’s ISBN. So you sign up for their free ISBN instead.
Now you have three ISBNs for the same book.
The Problem with Multiple ISBNs
This problem can repeat itself again and again as you discover more ways to distribute your book. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the ISBN, sometimes you won’t. But it leads to you having several ISBNs, all from different publishers, for the same book.
Can you picture how unprofessional that looks to a bookstore?
Wouldn’t it have been easier to start off by buying your own ISBN? Wouldn’t that make you look more professional?
All of these issues can be sidestepped by simply purchasing your own ISBN through Bowker.
Libraries and ISBN Numbers
We briefly mentioned that if you want to stock your book in libraries, you’ll need an ISBN. However, that might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might have decided to focus purely on eBook publishing and what part do libraries play in eBooks?
A big one.
Libraries are becoming more important to the distribution of eBooks. Overdrive is the largest supplier to schools and libraries in the world (serving more than 30,000), and they circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014, a 33% increase from their previous year. They also supply to retail stores globally, making $100 million in sales in 2013.
And guess what you need to be able to partner with Overdrive? Yup. An ISBN.
How to get an ISBN
ISBNs are free in many countries, provided either by the government or a publicly administered branch. However, in the US and the UK, ISBN numbers are administered by Bowker and Nielsen respectively and require you to pay.
If you’re located outside the USA you can find out your local ISBN Agency here. While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.
If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com, run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.
How to Register Your Book and ISBN Number
As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker or the International equivalent in your local area, and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink.
This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print.
You can only use an ISBN once. The ISBN is a unique number for that particular book, and can be assigned once, and only once, to that title. It can’t be used with any other book in the future, even second versions of the same book.
You don’t need an ISBN to sell in each individual country. ISBNs are international, they are just assigned locally. A US-based publisher can purchase their ISBN through Bowker, but can stock their book worldwide using that ISBN.
You need an ISBN for every specific format of the book and any new versions. Want to sell your book in print, as an eBook, and also as an audiobook? That’s great, however, you need a different ISBN for each one. If you want to publish a revised and updated version you’ll also need a new ISBN. (This doesn’t cover fixing some typos and errors).
If you create a series of books you can’t use the same ISBN for them. You can use the same ISSN, however. Many fiction and nonfiction authors have an ISSN number assigned to their book series. ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number and can be purchased from the Library of Congress. However, each book in the series will need its own ISBN.
We mentioned that in the USA you can buy ISBNs as a single unit, a bulk of 10, 100 or 1000. Here are the prices:
Number of ISBNs
First off, it rarely makes sense to purchase a single ISBN. A single ISBN would cost you $125, but a bulk of 10 only costs $295. Meaning if you purchased 10, each ISBN would cost you $29.50, a 76% discount.
Buying a single ISBN might seem feasible if you only want to publish one title, but remember that you need an ISBN for each format. So if you want to publish your book as an audiobook, you’d need a brand new ISBN for that. As well as needing different ISBN numbers for your eBook and print versions.
Not to mention that you’ll need an ISBN number for any future books you publish, perhaps as sequels to your book.
We recommend that if you’re serious about making book sales, you should purchase at least a bulk of 10 ISBNs. That gives you 3 ISBN numbers to use for publishing as an eBook, in print, and as an audiobook. You can keep the remainder for any future books you might publish.
How to Get an ISBN final steps
Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBN numbers.
Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.
If you publish your paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can fill in your number in the “Paperback Content” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP.
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How many book genres are there?
There are more book genres than you might think. In this blog post, we’ll cover 22 of them, however, there are upwards for 40 genres and even more if you count sub-genres for books.
For example, you can have a book that’s a dystopian fantasy novel.
Dystopian and fantasy can be genres on their own but if you have a dystopian story that involves magic, your book will then have two genres.
This is also important to keep in mind when you have subplots within a novel that might fall into a separate genre.
You’ll see this most often with romantic subplots in broader genres like fantasy or sci-fi.
What are the main book genres?
There are such a large number of book genres that we can’t cover them all in this post, though we will cover 24 of them for you.
That being said, being familiar with the most common can help you identify which your book will fall under.
These are the main book genres:
Let’s go into more detail with these and nonfiction book genres as well.
List of Book Genres All Authors Should Know
If you’re looking to sharpen your knowledge as an author or are just trying to find which genre your book fits in specifically (perhaps to decide which Amazon categories to go after), we’ve got you covered.
Here are 22 book genres, both fiction and nonfiction, to help you understand which is which and how you should label your novel.
#1 – Fantasy
Fantasy encompasses a huge part of the book world. It’s one of the most popular book genres out there—a personal favorite of mine to read and write.
Fantasy is a genre that’s identified by the use of magic within it.
Overall, fantasy is the genre of possibility. You can write in a little magic, like Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion or you can write a book where magic is the forefront of the plot, like with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
To take this a step further, let’s look at the different categories within this genre that has more specific characteristics.
Young Adult Fantasy Genre:
Young adult is typically meant for readers between the ages of 13-17. However, adults enjoy this category of writing just as much as teens.
One thing to keep in mind when writing young adult fantasy is that the themes and messages within the literature will often revolve around teen-aged problems, like coming of age and exploration of identity.
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000 words
Adult Fantasy Genre:
When you think of adult fantasy, think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings versus Harry Potter or Children of Blood and Bone.
The main plots or themes in adult fantasy will likely revolve around more grown issues like the difference between right and wrong, death, adult relationships, and more.
Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 110,000
Epic Fantasy Genre:
An epic fantasy novel is characterizes by the overall lengthy and grandiose nature of its plot, characters, setting, or theme.
Books that tend to call into this book genre are Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, like we mentioned above. Most often, epic fantasies will also fall under fantasy adventures.
Average word count for this book genre: 100,000 – 200,000 +
Add a variety of types of adventures like both a journey or destination as well as smaller adventures on their way to the destination
#3 – Romance
Romance authors have one specific goal when it comes to their books: to make you fall in love with the characters just as much as the characters fall in love with each other.
In this book genre, the romance is the center point of the plot. The entire novel moves around the relationship, though other plot points may be present.
A classic example of a romance novel is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.
When used as a sub plot:
Romance can also be used a subplot in many novels, and is, in fact, used quite often as a complementary element in books.
When romance is used as a sub plot, the main plot does not have to do with the relationship but rather, is something completely different. The romance simply adds to the plot in order to increase conflict or intrigue.
Average word count for this book genre: 70,000 – 100,000
Tips for Writing in the Romance Book Genre:
Never romanticize abuse (meaning, if there is a toxic element in the relationship, never make this seen appealing or “good”)
Write healthy, consensual, fitting romances by developing both character to work well together
This book genre is among the most popular, though most writers aren’t sure of what this category even is.
The contemporary book genre is simply books written in the current time period with most of the parts of the novel revolving around common issues in a character’s life.
But really, this genre is actually more of the absence of a genre. You may have heard this genre lumped in with others, like Contemporary Fantasy or Contemporary Romance.
The term is used to tell readers that this book takes place in current times, though it might cover other genres as well.
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000
Tips for Writing in the Contemporary Book Genre:
Create a realistic and widely-experience conflict in order to draw readers in
Create a sympathetic character readers will feel bad for
Up the stakes by introducing an element, character, or conflict completely out of left field to shock readers
#5 – Dystopian
This is a newer book genre that’s really been picking up popularity within the last 5 to 10 years.
Though many stories of this nature have been published prior, the term “dystopian” was recently coined to describe a book genre in which the current government or society has been destroyed and the book centers around the aftermath.
Writing Dystopian fiction can give you a ton of freedom in how you develop society while lowering the worldbuilding you’d have to do for a fantasy or sci-fi novel.
The dystopian genre can also be used as a secondary genre label in order to clarify the contents of the book, much like with contemporary.
For example, you can have a Dystopian Fantasy novel as well as a Dystopian Science Fiction novel.
Here are some examples of dystopian novels:
The Hunger Games
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000
Tips for Writing in the Dystopian Book Genre:
Learn what types of dystopian books have been done before (this genre blew up in recent years and is on the verge of becoming vampire-esque in the novel world, aka, overdone)
Mix this with another genre, like horror or mystery to add a something new
Get more creative with the reason for the collapse of society before your book happened as disease and/or zombies is far overdone
#6 – Mystery
We’ve all heard of the mystery book genres. It’s an extremely popular genre, and for a good reason.
This book genre is defined by the plot focusing on solving a mystery, most often with the mystery impacting the main character to the point where they’re the ones involved in solving it.
Many other genres can have mysteries within them (in fact, most do), but what makes a book specific to this genre is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.
When thinking of your “horror” elements, add something real or common to them in order to make them more horrifying. An example is to have a serial murderer who is a huge fan of the local high school baseball team—and attends the games regularly
#8 – Thriller
If you’re writing a thriller novel, the book will focus around a high suspense and action-packed plot.
This book genre most often deals with danger and dread instead, with high emotional impact involving fear.
Here are some examples of popular thriller novels:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Woman in Cabin 10
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000
Tips for Writing in the Thriller Book Genre:
Use the literary device of juxtaposition in order to increase the tension in those “thrilling” moments
Whenever you have a moment of high tension, add in a personal conflict to up the stakes in a non-physical way
Continuously ask yourself how you can increase the stakes in a realistic way that fits with your story idea
#9 – Paranormal
Paranormal books are characterized by including paranormal activity, like ghosts, clairvoyance, mediums, demons, vampires, and more.
The difference between fantasy and paranormal is the elements within. Paranormal doesn’t typically have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, and more.
But the paranormal book genre includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world, like fantasy sometimes can be.
However, keep in mind that you can have a paranormal fantasy novel if your book covers both types of abnormal occurrences.
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000
Tips for Writing in the Paranormal Book Genre:
Opt for paranormal beings from different cultures
Create your own paranormal beings for a culture or religion of your own creation
Use some of the writing tips for thriller novels in order to up the tension with your paranormal story
#10 – Historical Fiction
This book genre is exactly as it sounds: a fictional story that takes place in the past.
Usually, historical fiction centers around known events or problems that take place in a time significantly prior to the present.
Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000
Tips for Writing in the Historical Fiction Book Genre:
Be sure to avoid the common excuse of “there weren’t many people of color” when writing historical fiction from any time period and any location. This is a cop-out and the world was just as diverse then as it is now
Research your book and its details for complete accuracy. Any slip-up in facts can pull a reader out of your book
Add in personal and emotional conflicts that make sense for the time period but are still relevant issues today so readers can connect to your book better
#11 – Science Fiction
Sci-fi is among the most popular book genre there is. With movie adaptations like Star Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this genre has exploded and is abundant in the book world.
Science fiction novels are those that take place in a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally otherworldly beings.
This is another genre that can add to another, like with Sci-Fi Fantasy, which would include a futuristic world with advanced technology and some sort of fantastical being or magic.
When writing a memoir, you’re essentially telling the reader about the most defining moments in your life that have led you to where you are and who you are today.
Memoirs differ from autobiographies in the sense that an autobiography is more of a timeline of your life, events, and accomplishments whereas a memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message you wish to share with readers.
Average word count for this book genre: 45,000 – 80,000
#13 – Cookbook
You already know what a cookbook is.
Cookbooks are those featuring recipes and directions for making the dishes correctly. Not only that, but many cookbooks features stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.
Average word count for this book genre: Cookbooks vary greatly and are more dependent on number of recipes instead of total words.
#14 – Art
This book genre encompasses several different types of books. However, all of them require the same thing: a focus on something art-related.
There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre.
Here are a few ways your book would be a part of the art genre:
it covers art-facts
it teaches specific art methods
it discusses are in detail (art history)
art is a primary focus of the book
Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 60,000
#15 – Self-help / Personal Development
If you’re writing a book aimed to aid someone in their personal life, as well as lift them up to make positive change, it’s likely you’re writing in the self-help or personal development book genre.
Essentially, if your book helps others have a better life by empowering them, it will fall under this genre.
Keep in mind, this book genre is one that encompasses many other genres as well. You can have a health self-help book in additional to a relationship self-help.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000
#16 – Development
The development book genre is growing rapidly as the world focuses on self-improvement as a whole.
If you’re writing in this genre, you’ll likely write about specific struggles pertaining to character and personal problems as well as overcoming these obstacles.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000
#17 – Motivational
This book genre is on the rise significantly as of late. If you write in this genre, your book will center around empowering people to do whatever it is they’re struggling with.
Essentially, motivational books focus on problems that can prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams, and how to solve them.
Most often, motivational books can be lumped in with other book genres like health, fitness, business, and self-help.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000
#18 – Health
The health book genre is vast and covers a wide variety of different topics.
Your book will fall under this wide genre if it features anything health-related. This can be topics ranging from fitness, holistic healing, to more complex medical topics and in-depth coverage of different health conditions.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000
#19 – History
Any book covering historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. And since this is nonfiction, they all have to be accurate.
Many history books are much different than what you might have read in school. In fact, there are several books simply covering different events in history written in a more entertaining fashion versus a factional play-by-play textbook.
Those books still fall under this book category.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 70,000
#20 – Travel
Whether you’re writing travel guides or an in-depth review of different travel destinations, this book genre will cover all of them.
Your book would also fall under this genre if you’re writing about travel-hacks or ways to travel for cheap or even free.
Average word count for this book genre: 20,000 – 50,000
#21 – Guide / How-to
There are so many guide books and how-tos out there that it’s fairly easy to know if your book fits this genre.
The way to know if your book falls in this genre is to think about the core purpose. Is your book written in order to show someone how to do something specific?
The biggest giveaway is in the book title. If your title features “how to…” then it’s in this genre!
Average word count for this book genre: 3,000 – 50,000
#22 – Families and Relationships
You can write a book about how to build a stronger familial foundation or a book about improving your relationship. Either way, those books would fall under this category.
Oftentimes, books in this genre will fall under a smaller, more specified genre as well, like family bonding or romantic relationships or even fostering friendships.
The relationships genre is not to be confused with the fiction romance genre.
Average word count for this book genre: 30,000 – 50,000
#23 – Humor
If you’ve ever read a joke book or a book revolving around a humorous endeavor of some sort, it falls under this book category.
Books in this genre are also often gag gifts or are meant to be facetious.
Average word count for this book genre: 10,000 – 50,000
By the time you get to Death Wish 5, Charles Bronson has run out of reasons to seek vengeance on the world. You can only have everyone (and everything, if you count the house and the dog) you love destroyed by violence so many times before it stops being much of a motivation.
In action films (and thriller-type novels), the setup for revenge often comes down to quickly killing a loved one. But the 80s are over and motivations need to resonate with an audience that rightly finds some quick woman-in-a-refrigerator to be as irredeemable as it is lazy.
When writing a book, you need to incite your hero to action by giving them a reason.
Your reader needs to be on board with that reason. Barring that, your reader needs to understand the reason. Failing that, your reader shouldn’t hate your reason.
The difference between an antihero and a villain often comes down to a mixture of how they handle an Inciting Incident and the scope of the incident.
A villain will want to burn the world because they lost face to the protagonist. An antihero might decide to shoot every criminal they see because children murder, for example.
Before we get lost in the weeds, let’s break it down and ask the big question.
What is an inciting incident?
An inciting incident is a specific event at the beginning of a story that kicks off the main plot by forcing your main character into it. The inciting incident changes your character’s life forever.
A good Inciting Incident contains the following four qualities:
Creates a Story Question that the Climax must answer
Is Sufficient and Kickass: The stakes matter, the presentation WOWs!
Sets a Tone
Truly Motivates a Character (internally, not superficially)
Essentially, an Inciting Incident gives the hero a reason. This reason must be sufficient to the character in question and also sufficient to the story in question.
In the Matrix, the Inciting Incident for Neo comes from learning that he is in a simulation. He is offered a choice between learning about that world or going blissful ignorance.
In Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers meet and fall in love at a party, setting them on a course that leads to tragedy.
Katniss, an independent girl with skills and a drive to protect others, sees her sister drawn to be Tribute in the Hunger Games.
Mild-mannered office worker Richard Mayhew has a job, a fiancé, and no real problems in his life until he can’t help but rescue a wounded girl he sees on the street in Neverwhere.
All these examples show inciting incidents that start their respective stories.
Each of these inciting incident examples reveals something about the protagonist and the world they live in. They don’t just set the story in motion; they give us a reason to want to see our heroes succeed.
How do they accomplish this? They do so by deftly ticking off all four boxes without ticking off the reader.
How to Write an Inciting Incident & do it Well
As stated above, if you’re writing a novel, you need an inciting incident. The key here is to do it well by including the necessary elements to do just that.
Here’s what an inciting incident needs to do:
Alter a hero’s life in an irreversible way
Draw a Line between mundane life and the Quest
Kick Off the story’s MAIN plotline
Let’s walk through what each of these means as well as examples to bring them to life.
#1 – Alter a hero’s life forever
There’s really one main objective of an inciting incident and if you fail this part, the rest of the book will be hard to construct.
Your inciting incident must, above all else, alter your character’s life forever.
Without this very element, it’s very hard to “convince” your readers to buy into the story.
If your readers can sit back and say, “or they could just not do it.” to whatever the inciting incident is and their life would be unchanged, you’ve created a lot more work for yourself when it comes to the plot.
The idea behind this is that if your character’s life is changed forever, they don’t have a choice but to move forward with what has happened.
And that forward momentum is what you need to keep readers engaged.
#2 – Draw a line between normal life and the “new” normal
There needs to be a stark contrast between what your character’s life looks like now versus what it’s about to look like after the inciting incident.
Because readers want to know that your character can’t just “go back” to how things were. Otherwise, what’s the point of them continuing on this journey?
With the inciting incident (and really the setup of your story), you are making a promise to the reader about what will happen in your story. If you don’t draw a line between the old and what’s to come, they won’t be interested in finding out what’s to come because it won’t feel like a mystery.
#3 – Kick off the story’s MAIN plotline
Your inciting incident has to be related to the main plot of your story. If the inciting incident is unrelated to what the main plot points are, you’ve done something wrong.
A common mistake authors make with this is using a big, tense moment as the inciting incident in order to draw intrigue, but then in the next chapter, introducing the real main plot elements.
If your story can work separately from the inciting incident, it’s not done correctly. Go back and tie it into the main plot.
An example of this would be Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
The main plot is her journey to survive the Hunger Games. The inciting incident is when she volunteers as tribute to replace her sister in the games.
Had the inciting incident not happened (volunteering), the main plot would not exist (Katniss surviving the games).
An example of how this could not go well is if the author decided to use a raid or a brawl of some sort as the inciting incident, and then making Katniss be chosen for the games. These elements would not be tied in this instance and it wouldn’t be as intriguing or as good of a story.
Inciting Incident Examples
One of the best ways to get the hang of what an inciting incident really is, is to read and learn from some examples.
Here are 4 inciting incident examples to help you learn how to do this well.
Inciting Incident Example #1 – The Matrix
For Neo, the choice represents an important internal motivation for his character. He doesn’t choose red vs blue pill because he wants to find out what’s going on, he NEEDS to know.
The events leading up to this choice have already illustrated his deep-seated need to thwart authority and solve puzzles, the choice represents a chance to make what he was already doing matter more.
We see his personal stake at play and this also creates a story question for the audience, what is the Matrix and how does Neo matter?
It sets a tone about choice and about the power of illusion which is spelled out by betrayals and misdirects later.
It very much delivers on a WOW! As Neo wakes up in the real world. The rest of the plot follows from the decision and Neo very literally is no longer in Kansas. A metaphor so apt to the application it is the actual reference used in the film.
The audience and the character go through the same revelation created by this Inciting Incident.
Everything that can be hoped for begins and everything that seemed out of place before is shown to be out of place. Despite the trilogy’s faults, this incident is textbook what an Inciting Incident must be.
Inciting Incident Example #2 – Romeo and Juliet
The titular characters met and fall in love. As has been said, you can redo this story with anything, like 2005s pirates and ninjas, and by the end, the audience will demand to know why pirates and ninjas can’t be in love. Or vampires and werewolves, if Underworld is more your thing.
The Inciting Incident creates a story question about love and its consequences which the Climax delivers on.
It reveals the character of both Romeo and Juliet as they feel truly, without the pretense of the society they live in. The costumes and masks of the party keep their prejudices out, revealing an inner truth.
Whether you enjoy a stage production, an older movie, or the Baz Luhrmann version, the party sets a tone for the rest of the events. The presentation leading up to the moment of love discovered feels earned even after a thousand iterations. We root for the characters because we are practically programmed to do so.
Finally, the line is drawn between each character’s former life and their new reality of being in love.
Nothing about their old prejudices continues forward. The consequences of the main plotline stems from this moment.
Inciting Incident Example #3 – The Hunger Games
Katniss offers herself up literally as ‘tribute’ to save her sister. It’s character motivated, it sets a tone, and it stuns the crowd. This Inciting Incident creates an echo that follows the character as the story question becomes about the purpose and meaning of sacrifice.
The separation between the world of the District and the world of the Games themselves is inexorable and clear cut. The film uses a diluted and diffused palette for the earlier scenes, giving way to a brighter almost saturated pallet for the games. In the book, the prose shifts, becoming more playful and les terse. In both cases, the audience knows which world they are witnessing.
The story happens because of this decision.
All of this is sufficient, but Collin’s pulls it off in three words. Well, almost, the setup makes the specific Inciting Incident possible.
The main plotline occurs, in almost a cheat, at the titular Hunger Games.
Finally, the stakes matter to Katniss personally. She saved her sister. The further ramifications that change the society also stem from this incident, but they don’t have to.
If the book ended with her sacrifice it would still be sufficient.
Inciting Incident Example #4 – Neverwinter
Gaiman uses the Inciting Incident figuratively for the reader and literally for the character of Richard Mayhew. The moment that Richard notices Door, he crosses over from the real world to the realm of London Below.
The distinction between the two worlds is irrevocable but not obvious to the intractable Richard, at least not at first.
Meeting Door is both an Inciting Incident personally for Richard, who must help because you help people when you see they need it, and a deeply revealing part of his character development.
The naiveite that comes with it almost gets him killed quite a few times, but the character line is there.
The WOW! of the moment comes from the way Richard entirely focuses on the wounded girl, Door, and totally ignores his blathering fiancé who demands Richard make a decision, on the spot, between helping the wounded waif and staying engaged.
Much like in the Matrix, this is no kind of choice at all. Richard can’t not help.
The stakes don’t seem high to Richard, but the reader soon learns that without aid, the men who wounded Door would have caught up to her.
Finally, the Incident creates a story question about both Richard and Door, how they interact with the world(s) they interact with and who they are. All of which has a pay off in the Climax.
How the Inciting Incident Shapes Your Story
As you see, the Inciting Incident does a lot with very little. The best of them seem to be almost happenstance, a nearly throwaway event that makes an impact on the characters and the world(s) around them.
Even something simple can be used as an iceberg tip, drawing the reader down a rabbit hole (for a fifth example of this EXACT thing) into the world of your story.
Be cautioned! These examples represent everything going right and fulfilling the Musts to be sufficient. Losing one of the Musts alone can cause a story to stumble out of the gate.
It is possible to recover, but never ideal.
Consider the Inciting Incident of The Phantom Menace (picking on a poorly executed story is low fruit, but that’s the point). Anakin is discovered because they need a part to fix a ship to get back on the ‘real’ adventure of protecting Padme. The Incident has prophetic potency but its lack of both a clear separation between the mundane and the quest and its failure to set the stakes leave the audience baffled and relying on external information to care.
The Inciting Incident can be thought of as the first major hurdle you need to jump to make a story kickass. If you stumble, even a little, on that first hurdle getting to the finish line and medalling in the event isn’t impossible, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be easy.
I’m going to start with showing you an image of my nine-year-old’s perseverance that can be applied to anyone.
Every week she climbs a 16 ft rope at her gymnastics class. She decided that she was going to make it to the bell about 2 months ago and she has steadily climbed further up the rope each week.
Her hands slide up the rope with precision, her knees are out like a butterfly and she uses her whole body to climb up the rope. Every week I shoot a Facebook live video of her.
And every week the time it takes her to climb the rope decreases.
Preserving in writing is a lot like my 9-year-old’s determination to squirm her way up the rope.
It is climbing, hand over hand, using all the resources you have to keep your eye on the finished target. In my daughter’s case, it is the bell at the top of the gymnastics rope. In my case, it is finishing my second book this year.
When my family and friends ask me about my first book, how much time it took, and what keeps me going, I shrug and say, “I started working on it consistently in November.” I went from idea to self-published in 6 months. Of course, that was with intentional, uninterrupted writing times and the determination to keep going – even when it was hard.
You can write a book too. You just have to make the most of every second and continue on your journey, even when it is hard.
How to Form a Writing Habit to Maintain Writing Motivation
It is not always easy to consistently write. In fact, there are days when it is downright HARD, but we all have the same 86,400 seconds in every single day.
How we choose to use our time is one of the things that sets apart those who persevere in writing against those that don’t.
And forming a writing routine and habit is the best way to make that happen.
I don’t have a lot of time for writing during the day—so I have to create time. The absolute best time for me is to wake before the sun and spend the first two hours of my day writing and creating.
I do find small chunks of time during a break at school to pull up the google doc app on my phone and write a few words. However, as you can see by Chandler’s video about burnout, it is super important to create hard and fast boundaries about your life and your writing routine, so that you don’t burnout and you’re able to continue writing.
Gather the Writing Tools to Help Writing Motivation
Sometimes those boundaries include using the right tools for writing, which will also help you persevere and keep you motivated to keep going. The right tool or writing software is generally not your phone.
That’s not to say that you can’t have your phone as an occasional tool; however, it is equally as important to understand that if you pull your computer out and go to your dedicated writing space, you will likely accomplish a lot more.
There are different people and people who do things in different ways. In the writing community, we call them plotters and pansters, or discovery writers.
The plotters plan every single detail out and they are then able to compile their narratives. The pansters go with the flow and get things moving by simply putting one word in front of the other.
Here are some of the best tools for writing:
A word processing program (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs)
A blank piece of paper
Keep in mind that the word processor you use can make a huge difference in writing motivation.
For example, using something like Scrivener to track your word count and goal line can keep you pushing to reach the end.
Check out our Scrivener Tutorial below if you’re curious to learn more.
Keep Writing Motivation Through Determination
When I am most likely to want to throw in the towel, I usually get some inspiration from someone that I’ve allowed to read my work to help me keep going. If that’s not possible, I reach out to the #writingcommunity on Twitter and someone there will give me some sage advice—like go for a walk.
So many writers dream of having the ability to work from home, never get dressed if they don’t have to, and being an authorpreneur. However, it takes a lot of perseverance to get there.
It takes the dedication of finding the one time in your day to keep an appointment with the most important VIP in your life: yourself.
How to Maintain Writing Motivation Even When it Gets Tough
My writing coach, R.E. Vance, told me that the worst thing I can do is not to look at my writing for a few days. He said that when you aren’t engaged with it, it takes longer to move to the creation part because you have to re-read, figure out where you are, and you lose momentum.
So follow these steps for persevering in your writing journey every day.
#1 – Keep a Writing Date With Yourself
You are a very important person in this blank page to published process. So, find a time that works for you, whether that is early in the morning or after your family is in bed for the night, and dedicate five, ten, twenty-five minutes, or an hour to working on your book.
“But I am tired.”
Guess what? You’re making the most of those 86,400 seconds in a day by finding a few minutes to commit to writing. Personally, I am a morning writer. I know that I am a lot less likely to be interrupted in the morning than at any other time.
#2 – Keep the Document Open and Visible
When you open your work in progress document, you’re setting yourself up for success.
You know that you want to add more words to the page and you can do this by simply putting one word down and following it with the next.
You can edit bad writing, but you can’t edit a blank page.
That’s why keeping the doc open, no matter what writing software you use, can help keep it top of mind. Think of it like keeping a sticky note out reminding you.
Whenever you log on to your computer, you’ll have a reminder to write right in front of you.
#3 – Do Writing Sprints
For those of you who don’t know, writing sprints are when you set a timer and simply write as much as you can during that time. You don’t go back and read, you don’t edit, you just write and keep writing until the time is up.
Set a timer for a few minutes. It can be one minute, it can be two minutes, or it can twenty minutes.
You get to decide how many minutes you want for a sprint and then during that time period, you simply write.
You write as many words as you can in that sprint and perhaps it will inspire you to do another sprint.
If you want to have more accountability do this, hop on Twitter and search the hashtag #writingsprints to find people who are currently looking for sprinting buddies.
This can help you stick with it and then be accountable for it at the same time, since many post their word counts after (usually followed by more sprints).
#4 – Connect With Other Authors
Sometimes we need a little motivation to keep us going. Most other authors are more than willing to help you when you’re feeling down.
Reach out to the author communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
They often have advice for you, whether it is on their blogs or through direct messages.
If you’re not sure where to go to find other writers, here are some hashtags you can use to search and find people writing in your genre!
The awful news for authors out there today is that there are plenty vanity press scams and self-publishing companies to avoid…unless you want your money stolen, that is…
If you are a self-published author, publishing your book today has never been easier. With a quick Google search, you’ll come across dozens of self-publishing companies offering publishing services for authors.
Before making any decisions, you want to check out all your options carefully. If not, you could find yourself the victim of a self-publishing scam, forking thousands of bucks over to a shady publishing company with nothing to show for it.
In this post, you’ll learn how to recognize the self-publishing scams when they cold call you…and the companies you can really trust to get your book published!
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post on self-publishing scams:
As with any lucrative industry, there are a wide range of self-publishing scams in business for one reason: To take your money.
A Vanity press publisher charges sky-high prices for author services that includes editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing.
But, all of this is outsourced to the lowest bidder and in the end, the author is left with a poor quality book and no way to market it.
“You get what you pay for” doesn’t equate when it comes to vanity press and the publishing scams they represent. You do pay top dollar, often tens of thousands, and what you get back for your investment lacks anything of value.
So, how can you avoid these self-publishing scams?
Let’s take a look.
Why Authors Fall for Vanity Press Scams
There could be many reasons why someone would sign up with a scammy publishing company that wants you to pay big money up front.
There is no shortage of scams out there when it comes to self-publishing. The biggest reason authors fall into these scams is because…well, they don’t know what they should know to avoid being scammed in the first place.
The fact that you have to pay a publisher to get your book published is warning sign enough: The lies are on the wall. Most authors who fall into this trap are not published authors yet.
You are either thinking of writing a book, you’ve started writing it, or you’re done and can’t wait to get it out there.
So, when a publisher comes along offering to get their “just finished” manuscript into the hands of thousands of readers and sell millions of books worldwide, I would grab at it, too. Who wouldn’t want that?
As a first time author, you are most likely not going to write a book that sells thousands of copies. And if you do, it will not be through a company that you just paid $5,000-$10 to for this to happen.
Most soon-to-be-published self-publishers fall into the lap of predatory publishers because they need help.
For someone who wants to become a successful author, your passion to publish is so strong that it overrides the sudden impulse to take the first offer on the table.
Here are several reasons why you might fall for the vanity press trap:
You are desperate for the know-how of book publishing.
The publishing process is too complex.
You are scared of “not publishing” and want it done right now.
You are not tech-savvy and would rather pay someone to overcome the hurdles.
Your friends keep asking you “When is your book coming out?”
You know nothing about book marketing and need to hire the experts. Guess what: Vanity publishers don’t know much about it either and you’ll have to market no matter the avenue of publishing you choose.
You watched a video of a self-published author who just signed a 6-figure deal with a large publisher…and you think that is what usually happens.
Before you make any hasty decisions, stop and breathe. If you need help with publishing your book [and everyone does] there is a right way and…
The other way that steals all your hard-earned dollars.
My hope is that you read this post before signing anything. If you can know the danger signs to watch for, you’ll pull yourself back from making a decision that costs you thousands of dollars, not to mention the heavy burden of regret later.
Early Warning Signs: The Lies of Vanity Press
Vanity presses are generally a bad idea all around, but we’ll cover some specific ways they can scam you and why they’re often on the list of self-publishing companies to avoid.
How Vanity Press Publishers Scam You
It is actually easy to spot a predatory publisher. I only hope you get to this post before they get to you. Here are the 5 big signs you are at risk of being scammed.
#1 — The company asks for publishing fees. This should be enough right here. Although Hybrid Publishers require authors to pay for all the publishing services upfront, they usually split the fees later.
A vanity press publisher will charge thousands for a publishing package. You are told that the book sales will be recouped later through book sales…which almost never happen. Don’t listen to the so-called “reviews and testimonials” on the websites. These are rigged, of course.
#2 — “We will publish your book for you on Amazon.” Let me be clear about this: Publishing on Amazon is super easy, even if you have limited tech skills. Not to mention Amazon has an excellent support system in place. The response time to inquiries is less than 24 hours and they are very detailed when it comes to responses.
A vanity publisher will make this sound more complicated than it really is. They will “take care of everything” and upload the book for you. What this also means is you lose control over making any future changes to the book. The only person that should be uploading the book to Amazon is YOU under your own account.
#3 — Charges for A Reading Fee. Never. This just isn’t done. A traditional publishing house never asks for this. If you are told by the sales rep they will read your book for a certain fee, red flag this. The “reading fee” scam is less common today, but just in case you do run up against a company that tries this old scam.
With a real publisher, nobody makes money until the book is selling. Actually, this practice has fallen the wayside these days and it would be rare to come across. But there is always someone willing to try…
#4 — The publisher will buy you an ISBN [because they are so hard to get]. You can buy an ISBN through Bowker.com if you reside within the USA. The cost is $125.00. In the U.K. you go through Nielson. In Canada ISBNs are free through ISBN Canada. If you buy this through IngramSpark they offer a slight discount. Again, this is just another ploy to make you think it is a difficult process that is better off left to the “professionals.”
#5 — “We will take care of all the marketing, because we know how difficult it is.” Yes, marketing is difficult, especially for authors. But a vanity press company won’t market the book to sell, they will do the bare minimum required so it appears as if the book is being placed in the proper channels.
My advice: Grab a book on marketing for authors or enroll in a course. Learn it. You can even outsource it out so that you doSell More Books. But in the end nobody is better at marketing their own book than the author.
#6 — Excessive use of flattery. The first time I spoke to a vanity press sales rep I remember the praise she gave me for my book. I felt as if I had written a book that was going to sell thousands of copies in the first week.
The rep was quoting passages from the book and referencing everything from the first page. Mind you, I later realized, everything she was quoting was from the first few pages. So did she read it? Of course not.
#7— A sales rep calls you several hours after you sign up to their newsletter with a sales pitch. I tested one of these sites by enquiring about their services, and I downloaded a freebie. The next day I received a call from my “Publishing consultant” ready to help me fulfill my dreams as an author. Wow. The sales pitch was impressive, but if you already knew the situation, it was a total scam. You can smell it.
But, for a new author excited to be part of the publishing journey, listening to someone else tell you how excited they are to publish your boom is a very tempting catch. In the end, they don’t care about your book or you. Whether it is Author Solutions or another of the dozens of publishing scammers out there, they get your money and keep milking it with constant upsells.
#8 — Make “over the mountain promises” to get you endorsed by Hollywood. It is not unusual for these companies to tell you that your book has a shot of being featured in Oprah’s book club, or that they will send your manuscript to one of their agents in Hollywood for review.
I can promise you one thing—Your book will never see the inside of a movie studio. Not unless you are a well-established author who has already proven themselves, and even then, it will not be through a vanity press company that you get there.
#9 — Promises to get your book into barnes and noble and other bookstores. In this case what happens is, they put your book into a large catalogue where bookstores and libraries can order it. But realistically, you’ll be hard pressed to sell a single book in any bookstore if you publish through a vanity press company. Libraries and bookstores won’t even consider it in most cases.
#10 — Insists you sign a contract handing over exclusivity. If this final dose doesn’t make you run the other way, I don’t know what will. By any and all means, as a self-published author, you do not sign over your material rights to anyone. This gives the vanity publisher the right to further exploit your work and profit from all sales. The author, in this case, gets a lower end percentage.
Now that you’ve seen the red flags, you are well-informed to make a decision if you come across what appears to be a shady publisher. You don’t need to sign anything or pay huge amounts of money for the publisher to “publish you to Amazon” or set you up with a movie deal.
Now, let’s take a look at…
Your Self-Publishing Options
We are not living in the 1990s anymore. Back then, choices to self-publish were limited. You either paid a company—like a vanity press—a lot of money. Or, you went on your own and hired a printing company to run off tons of copies that were not cheap.
Today, you will see that you have many good choices these days that make it easier for you to get your book published.
#1 — Self-Publishing Courses
There are quite a few reputable self-publishing courses out there. You buy the course, and work through the modules to write and ultimately publish your own book.
There are costs to publish your book, including creating it, cover design, editing, and launching your book.You still have to pay for these services, but at least you get to choose who is working on your book.
It is up to each individual author to outsource his or her own book. Publishing courses provide the content you need to get it all done, but you do all the work and take on additional costs outside the cost of the course.
You have to pay for the basics that any author pays for: A good cover design, hiring an editor and formatting, and maybe a budget for marketing services such as book promo sites or a media package.
But many new authors are weary about self-publishing and think uploading to Amazon— or other publishing companies—is a complex ordeal. It isn’t. I have been coaching authors for years and, nowadays, the system is built in that all you have to do is plug your book info into the Kindle Direct Publishing Bookshelf and away you go. The cost for actually self-publishing your book is O.
The production cost for the average book is about $1500. If you pay $1000-3000 for a course + $1500 for the book production, you are still under $5,000. If you continue to write more books, you’ve already paid for the course that usually gives you access for a lifetime.
Taking a self-publishing course is the best option we think. You learn how to do so much of the process yourself, and can rinse and repeat for future books. You still pay for everything but, who you decide to hire is up to you and the creative decisions are all yours.
#2 — KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing]
The KDP platform is Amazons book publishing platform. Publishing a book is so much easier now than it ever used to be, especially with Amazon self-publishing.
You no longer need to go through painstaking efforts to land a book deal which locks you into unrealistic deadlines and cuts you out of most of the earnings. You don’T have to sign up and fork over thousands to a vanity press company.
You can now have complete control of your book – and its revenues – by publishing directly through Amazon self-publishing.
Setting up your KDP account is easy, and should be the first step you complete.
Here’s how to set up your Kindle Direct Publishing account:
Next, click “Update” in your account information and fill in your tax information. It’s important to note that you need to complete your tax information BEFORE you can publish your first book. So don’t skip this step!
Once your tax information is complete, click “Finished” and return to the main page.
To start printing your own books with IngramSpark, visit their website and set up an account. Do the same with Amazons’ Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Do it yourself. It’s not the difficult process many would have you believe, and there is lots of support on these sites ready to help you right away.
How much is the cost to print a book?
It depends on the book size but, for a book that is 30k in length with little to no photos or graphs and text only, expect to pay less than $4 per copy. The average scammy publisher will charge new authors $15-20 dollars per copy.
But for them, they print the books at the same cost as an author who sets this up through KDP or IngramSpark.
In fact, many vanity press publishers use IngramSpark for the print-on-demand service only just to sell the books back to the author at 5x the print cost.
#4 — Vanity Press Publisher
Vanity press publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from self–publishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher for everything.
The editing, formatting, cover design, and even marketing the book are paid for by the author through the various packages offered when an author signs up.
But, there is a trap here: The costs are more than you initially pay for, and they don’t tell you this until later when you’re mired deeper into the project. Once invested, most authors are compelled to publish the book no matter the costs.
The emotional investment is what these companies prey on. Knowing how you feel about your book, they are ready to help you do anything to get it to market…and that means offering more expensive services.
By the time you are done and the book is published, potentially you have just spent $10k. With close to 0 book sales.
Vanity publishers make money, not from selling books for you, but from the author buying their own books back from the publisher. It is a scam where the author always loses.
#5 — Traditional Publishers
This is not a self-publishing route but, if you want to take the traditional path, you can begin by querying your manuscript with agents. Keep in mind, you may not see your book in print for a couple of year due to the lengthy process of first finding an agent, and then having them submit it to publishers to buy.
What is a traditional publisher?
“A traditional book publishing company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Buying rights from the author is how book publishers have traditionally acquired books. …The advance is deducted by the book publisher from any royalties the author receives from the sale of the book.”
That’s right, they pay you an advance for the book. You don’t pay them anything. It depends on the publisher’s contract but they will pay for [some] marketing.
The editing, cover design and formatting is taken care of by the publisher [in most cases].
There are a lot of nightmare stories of authors signing on with traditional publishers, but that usually equates to the publisher not trying hard enough to sell any books. In this case the author may end the contract and, after that, many authors take up with self-publishing and find better success. After all, why not be in charge of building your own book business?
#6 — Hybrid Publishers
A hybrid publisher is what you will find between a traditional publisher [pay nothing upfront but get paid an advance] or a vanity press publisher [pay for everything upfront and keep all royalties.
The hybrid publishers model is simple: An author pays for everything upfront but gets a bigger cut of the royalties after book sales, upwards of 50%. The initial cost means that the author assumes all the financial risk in order to get the book to market.
One other difference between traditional and hybrid publishing is, the hybrid has to pay the author a higher percentage of royalties than a traditional publishing house.
In order for a company to be called a hybrid publisher, there are 9 criteria set out by the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) that must be adhered to:
In order to not be classified as a vanity press, ALL book submissions must be reviewed. This means if your book does not meet the criteria, it should be rejected. A vanity press doesn’t care. Anything and anybody will do.
Hybrid publishers must clearly define a vision to follow for their company.
Must report reputable sales on all titles they publish.
Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of standard traditional publisher rates.
The quality of the production—cover design, editing and formatting—must meet industry standards.
The publisher must publish as its own defined imprint and request its own ISBNs.
Manage all distribution services for the works.
Hybrid publisher must manage the rights of the works they publish as well as any subsequent rights acquired.
Hybrid publishers must meet the standards and best practices set out by the publishing industry.
But…the vanity press publishers are bad seeds. Lately they are disguising their services as “hybrid publishers” but still operate with the same scammy tactics.
Take caution here that, while a hybrid publisher might look legit on the surface, there is a possibility you could get ripped off if you are not 100% sure.
Taking Down the Scammers
As a coach and self-publishing authority, I have worked with at least a dozen authors who’ve come away from a vanity press publisher broke, not just financially, but emotionally as well.
Like most authors, they just wanted to fulfill a dream and publish a book. But as soon as you sign up with a self-publishing scam company, your dreams are ripped apart and so is your bank account. By the time the not-yet-published author realizes it, they are invested by thousands of dollars and bound by a contract.
Over the years several class-action suits have been launched against scammy publishers for bad business practice. The worst of these publishers is Author Solutions, a company with a bad rap and a long history of complaints targeted against it by authors who have been exploited.
This company boasts on its website “300,000 authors published.” I would be hard-pressed to believe this and to go a step further, the percentage of those authors who would use Author Solution service again?
Chances are if you have been down this road, you realized before you were half way there that you’d taken a bad path.
Author Solutions is at the top of the chain of seedy publishing houses promising to get your book to market because the world needs to hear your story. And for a publishing package upwards of $5999 it could all be done for you. Well, initially you are led to believe.
Author Solutions is the parent company of several subsidiaries that operate, not only in the US but now have an International reach as they have set up in countries worldwide.
How do they make their money?
It isn’t from helping authors to sell books.
The authors usually end up selling nothing. Instead, they are made to buy the books they want from the publishers at a high cost just so they can have their own copies to sell or giveaway.
Fortunately, authors are better educated these days on the publishing options available. Vanity publishers are disappearing. But do return “wearing different clothing”, disguised as the next best company to get you that bestselling book.
Red Flag List: Self-Publishing Companies to Avoid
I have compiled a list of publishing companies you should avoid at all costs. This is not a complete list but includes names of the major companies flagged by Writer Beware and Alliance of Independent Authors.
For a very thorough listing, I would recommend you check with the Alliance of Independent Authors. ALLi stays up-to-date on the scammy reports, warnings and lawsuits taken against bad publishers.
Here are some self-publishing companies that have made the list of those to watch out for:
Archway Publishing [Simon and Schuster]
LifeRich Publishing [Reader’s Digest]
Palibrio [for the Spanish-speaking community]
Christian faith publishing
Balboa press [a Division of Hay House]
Newman Springs Publishing
Xlibris [UK, AU, and NZ]
Dog ear publishing
Writers Beware and Watchdog Groups
Remember: Always do your homework. To make sure if you are buying into a legit business you should check in with these sites listed below.
“Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.”
A detailed breakdown of self-publishing companies and their ranking based on service and reliability.
Educate Yourself in Self-Publishing
Publishing scams will always be around as long as authors are paying for their services.
How do you, as an author, avoid falling into this trap?
The self-publishing arena is like a vast oasis of information and a never-ending learning process. Vanity press publishers are banking on you having no idea what to do, which is why you might consider turning to a publishing company in the first place.
You will learn how to write and market your book your way and all of it within your control. You won’t have to give up anything or sign your book rights over to a publisher that will exploit your creativity.
If you are uncertain as to whether you should spend money on a course or not, but you want to know the ins and outs of self-publishing, grab a $5 book and start here.
Meanwhile, the scammy publishers are on the phone right now with a future author that isn’t doing these things.
Read Books on “How to Write” and Self-Publishing
Reading is a cheap way to educate yourself on writing. Make it a habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Educate yourself on the publishing industry.
Top 10 Book Recommendations on Writing and Self-Publishing:
Worldbuilding is the process of creating a fictional world within your novel that can be as complex as designing an entirely new and unique location with exotic creatures, societies, religions, and governments.
Or it could be as simple as using the world we currently live in as a foundation, then tweaking it with a few historical, physical, or social adjustments.
World building gives the writer a clear understanding of what their world looks and feels like.
The imaginary world serves to establish where the story takes place. Its purpose as the setting of the story is to anchor the reader into the book by giving them a concrete location.
When a writer makes the decision to half-heartedly world build, it shows. The world they create lacks authenticity and leaves the reader wanting.
World building is a chance to capture the imagination of your reader. Once the reader is immersed in your world, they will be able to suspend disbelief and fully engage with the entire story structure to enjoy a full experience.
But, how does one go about achieving this?
World building might seem daunting, but it can be broken down into simple steps that will make the process thorough and fun.
It is important to think of how the world you are creating is going to be unique to your story ideas. However, it is just as important to keep in mind how your world will serve the plot and affect the characters.
Four general questions to ask yourself before you start building your world are as follows.
#1 – What does the world itself look like?
The physical appearance of your world makes a big difference. Because you have to describe the story setting, you need to know what that looks like.
Here are some questions you can use to do this:
Is it a small dense area, or a vast world full of different environments?
How much of your world are you going to need to show in order to support the story?
How does the terrain influence the story?
What is the weather like regularly as well as when it’s severe?
What does the landscape look like? (Hint: this will influence transport and clothing)
Are the characters going to be concentrated in one area like a small town, or inside a labyrinth?
If so then all you need to world build is that location and focus on elements such as: is this location safe and what is the social structure within this location?
An author who does a great job of setting up the world right from Chapter 1 is Jenna Moreci in The Savior’s Champion. You can see in the example below, you know what the land looks like, how it feels, and even one of the primary agricultural elements is…all in a few short paragraphs.
However, if the cast is going to be traveling within your world, then things get more complex, and you may need to create multiple countries or planets.
Creating multiple countries means analyzing how they will be different from each other.
Here are some questions to get this part right:
Where do the borders lie?
What are the languages spoken?
What are the natural resources?
What are the various cultures and cultural practices?
If you are creating multiple planets, how do they differ from ours? Are there seasons? Is there more than one moon/sun? What life forms exist on these planets?
Knowing these details upfront can also help you shape the cultures and customs around the world itself as we have done in this world. Your worldbuilding will appear more natural this way as well.
#2 – Who are the inhabits?
Think of your main cast. Since your characters drive the story, it’s important to be clear on every type of person involved from the start of the story to the end.
Answer these questions for worldbuilding your inhabits:
Are they human, alien, or hybrids?
What is their population?
How did they get to be a part of this world?
Is there are class system amongst inhabitants?
Is the class system defined by wealth or some other factor?
What of gender, race, and species?
How do the inhabitants of the world you are building get along?
Are there natural alliances between particular groups?
Are some of the inhabitant’s oppressors towards the others?
What resources do the inhabitants have?
Knowing these details can not only help you shape the plot, but being able to slide in these details will make your world appear more lifelike and therefore, more entertaining for your readers.
#3 – What is the history of the world?
History is important, it tells of how things came to be the way they are. Your fictional world, just like the real world, is going to have to have a history—and this history can often be very influential to your plot. Therefore, you have to know it.
While it is not vital for you to know every minute detail in regards to the history of your world, it is crucial to know what are some of the important events of the past.
Here are a few aspects to consider:
Who have been the major rulers?
What key events took place during their reign?
How did their reign change the governments?
How did the countries or settlements arrive at the state they are currently in?
Is there a recent historical event of note?
What are the religious and political historical events that are impactful to your plot?
What have been the major environmental disasters? Famine, plagues, flooding?
How have these impacted the land and the people?
Wars – what nations have been at war with each other in the past? What nations are still at war?
Has there been any civil wars?
This can be the most fickle and influential part of your world building ventures.
An author who excels at weaving history into his storyline is George R.R. Martin in his Game of Thronesseries.
The more you know about your world’s history, the more opportunities you have for foreshadowing, plot twists, and a more comprehensive story in general.
#4 – What are the rules of society?
Every society has codes of conduct, a set pattern of behavior expected to be followed.
Having rules in place will give an understanding to character actions and reactions as well as the overall character development process. Ask yourself what the guidelines in your world are, who enforces them, and how these will affect the plot.
Here are more questions for worldbuilding your society:
What is the political structure of the world?
Who holds power, influence, or authority?
Is it an individual or a group?
Is there a ruling monarchy?
Or is it a form of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, or a democracy?
Are characters going to be breaking or bending the rules, or will they be the ones administering them?
Are the rules considered fair and just, or is the society at large frustrated by the rules imposed upon them?
How are inhabitants punished if the rules of society are broken?
This is a great starting point for crafting the mood and general vibe of your book, not to mention building your main character and others to fit these standards.
#5 – What are the religions, and social customs?
Readers and critics generally frown upon a world building so unimaginative that it contains only one race of people.
Creating a society filled with inhabitants of different races means there will be a variety in the traditional practices from one particular cultural group to the other.
A well- developed world will have its national/religious holidays, dress customs, cuisine, and linguistic characteristics.
How will this affect your characters? What are the legends and fairy tales that serve as a means of entertainment or education for inhabitants?
Here are more religious and social customs worldbuilding questions:
What is the religious belief system?
What gods, if any, exist?
Do the gods play a tangible and active role in the world, or are they entities people believe in?
Are there religious services attended to at a house of worship?
How much does religion play into the daily life of the lay person?
What is considered sacred?
Are particular symbols revered?
What are some rituals or customs related to religion in your world?
How many inhabits believe in the religious system?
Are there any quarrels between different religions?
Are there any specific festivals or celebrations that occur?
Do people work all week?
Are there holidays?
Do people celebrate their birthdays?
How do the various social classes behave?
What customs to they adhere to?
How are gender roles defined?
How do families, marriages, and other relationships operate?
How is death handled – are services held, and do loved ones’ mourn?
Is procreation done out of love or duty?
Do people get to choose their own partners?
What behaviors are generally considered to be improper or immoral?
While there are a lot of questions for this section in particular, these are some of the most important, as they have the power to shape motives, societies, and characters in full.
Even if you decide to create a society that is a monolith – where the entire cast is of the same race or religion, you still need to clearly state what the customs unique to your world are.
How to World Build for Science-Fiction and Fantasy Specifically
These book genres are among the most important for worldbuilding.
From the halls of Hogwarts, to the Starship Enterprise, to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a captivating and unique world is what sets the SFF genre apart from the other genres.
When it comes to the science-fiction and fantasy, there are some key world building elements to consider in addition to the above.
World Building for Fantasy Questions
Fantasy is a genre that includes magical elements or a supernatural humanoid races/species such as elves, vampires, dwarfs, and fairies and that means it needs a set of world building criteria that differs from the above.
World Building for Magic Systems:
Magic systems need rules, regulations, and overall, its own set of world building.
Here are some world building questions for your fantasy magic system:
How does the magic system operate?
Who is able to use it and where does it come from?
Are some individuals more adept at magic than others?
How are magic users grouped and perceived?
How do people hone their magic skills and become stronger?
What is the general attitude towards magic, are people accepting of magic, weary of it, or both?
What are the limitations and rules of the magic?
What happens when these rules are broken?
Are there any exceptions to these set rules and how are they possible?
World Building for Supernatural Humanoids:
These creatures run rampant in both science fiction and in fantasy, but we’ll touch on fantasy right now.
Here are some worldbuilding questions for supernatural humanoids in fantasy:
How are they received in society?
How ethnically and culturally diverse are they within their own species?
Did they evolve or migrate from somewhere?
Where do their powers come from?
Generally speaking, are they a friendly species?
Who or what do they worship?
What languages do they speak?
Are there any cultures or customs distinctive to what they are specifically?
World Building Questions for Sci-Fi Novels
Science-Fiction is a genre that typically deals with futuristic concepts: advanced science/technology, artificial intelligence, time travel, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life.
Because of all these elements we don’t experience in our day-to-day lives (yet, in some cases), you have to be diligent with ensuring the world makes sense.
Here’s some help with world building for science fiction.
World Building for Advanced Science and Technology:
Because this is the backbone of what makes a novel belong in the sci-fi genre, you should spend a great deal of time in this area.
Here are some questions to help you world build for sci-fi:
What is the level of technological development, how does this affect day to day living?
What technologies are used to communicate?
What ones are used for entertainment?
What technology is used to travel?
What is weapons technology like?
Who can afford the technology and how does technology affect social structure?
Who created these technologies?
What are some up-and-coming technologies?
What technologies cause the most issues in your culture’s society?
Which technologies are the most helpful?
World Building for Artificial Intelligence:
This is another hot and ever-growing topic in the sci-fi world. Because artificial intelligence is so significant right now, you have to remember to include it and ensure it sounds natural in your world.
Here are some questions for developing artificial intelligence in your sci-fi book:
Who created the artificial intelligence?
How does the artificial intelligence operate?
Are they self-aware?
What form do they take?
Are they easily identifiable?
How do they communicate with each other in order to complete tasks?
Are AI considered a lower caste? If so are they assigned roles of caretakers of the world?
How have humans managed to sustain supremacy over the artificial intelligence?
Do artificial intelligence feel the need to break out of their assigned roles?
World Building for Time Travel:
Another common practice when writing a sci-fi novel is to include some sort of time travel.
While not all sci-fi novels have this concept, if yours does, it’s helpful to get clear on some details to avoid plot holes later in your writing journey.
Here are some worldbuilding questions for time travel:
Who can time travel?
What is the time travel paradigm?
Can people meet their past/future selves?
How far back/forward in time can one travel?
What are the repercussions of time travel?
Does the time traveler physically change upon returning?
Does time travel have effects on mental health?
How is time travel viewed in society?
What happens when the laws of time travel are abused?
World Building Questions for Space Exploration:
Many science fiction books include space exploration or travel at one point or another.
Here are some world building questions for space exploration:
Who was the pioneer of space exploration?
Is this a new undertaking, or have multiple worlds been aware of each other and living as a large community?
How many planets and how many solar systems does a galaxy comprise of?
What is the system of travel between worlds?
How is the language barrier between worlds solved?
Who regulates space travel?
What sort of documentation is needed for space travel?
Can anyone space travel or is it reserved for specific individuals?
What is the purpose of space exploration and travel?
How was space exploration made possible in your world?
World Building Questions for Extraterrestrial life:
Aliens are a natural part of space exploration so if this is in your novel, you may want to work on world building this particular bit as well.
Here are some questions for world building with extraterrestrial life:
How were they discovered?
Are they friendly or antagonistic?
What are their goals/motivations?
How does their presence affect the community?
What do they eat?
What are their weaknesses and strengths?
How do they communicate?
Does the public know of their existence?
How long has their presence been known for?
World building can be as simple or as complex as the author chooses. Keep in mind, even though you will be developing your world from scratch, not every single element of your world needs to be revealed to the reader. It is important to not overwhelm your audience, and avoid the dreaded info dump.
Elements of your world should be sprinkled in slowly, the details woven into your story in a manner that is