writing tips

17 Writing Tips You Can Use Today [From Experts!]

Writing tips have aided every writer out there—from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King.

And now you’re here for a reason…

You want to learn how to write better. Because let’s be honest…we all feel like our writing could use some improvement.

What you didn’t know is that you’ll learn a whole lot more than that by reading this post—and you’ll find out exactly what if you stick with us.

Whether you just want to write for fun or write a book to publish it successfully, we’re here to help.

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.

That’s part of the magic of being a writer.

tips for writing

But it can be hard to know where you actually need the improvement. Which areas are your weakest and which do you excel in?

Here are top writing tips for beginners:

  1. Write what you want to read
  2. Write with intention
  3. Use psychology when writing
  4. Write as often as you can
  5. Eliminate distractions
  6. Research storytelling and story structure
  7. Always get feedback for writing
  8. Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals
  9. Practice writing when you’re not writing
  10. Use strong language
  11. Just write to write
  12. “Just do it.”
  13. “You’ve got to work.”
  14. “Write for yourself first.”
  15. “Quantity will make up for quality.”
  16. “Tell the truth.”
  17. “You can’t edit a blank page.”

It’s one thing to improve your grammar, it’s another to work on bettering the actual writing.

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.

Are you ready to get your book published?  Do you want to speak 1-on-1 with a Self-Publishing School Publishing Success  Strategist to get clarity on your idea and the next steps you need to take?    If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing  Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to getting your  book out of your head, onto paper, and published!

If you’re ready to learn tips like the famous “show don’t tell” and more, keep reading, or check out the video below!

Writing Tips to Help You Become an Author

If you’re looking for a way to get your book done quickly and with quality, you’re in the right place.

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.

How do You Become a Good Beginner Writer?

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.

These are our favorite writing tips resources:

What are some writing tips for beginners?

Being a newbie writer is not easy. These are some of the top writing tips we suggest in order to improve your writing skills as a beginner.

Writing Tip #1 – Write what you want to read

If you yourself wouldn’t pick up the book or story you’re writing and read it with joy, then you shouldn’t’ be writing it.

“But what if I think other people will like it even if I don’t?”

This is a very common argument against this writing tip but it’s not sound. And the reason for that is because you’ll lack the passion.

When you create a story that you love yourself, it comes through in the writing. It’ll read as if the words and your protagonist and characters as a whole pop off the page instead of lying flat.

It will also be much easier to write and you’ll want to write it more than if you didn’t enjoy the story or topic as much.

So for this writing tip, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you pick it up to read the back cover?
  • Would you personally look for a book like this?
  • Is this a book genre you personally enjoy?
  • Will you develop the characters in a way that makes you root for them?
  • Is the story structure captivating to you?
  • Have you read and loved other books with similar worlds/characters/stories?

If you can’t answer these questions with a confident “yes,” skip the book idea and write one you actually want to.

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Writing Tip #2 – Write with intention

All writing has a purpose – and it needs a purpose if you want your writing to get better and read as something enjoyable.

When you have a reason for writing what you’re writing, it becomes so much easier and it feels like you’re fulfilling a purpose rather than just writing a book.

If all you’re doing is writing a book to make money, then your heart (and therefore your passion) is in the wrong place. This makes it very clear to readers through your writing.

Below is a writing tips exercise to help you achieve writing with intention.

writing tips

Writing Tip #3 – Use psychology to write better

Yes, there is research involved no matter what kind of book you’re writing.

“But how can psychology actually help my writing improve?”

In order to craft your book in a way that speaks to readers how you intend it to, you have to understand how the human mind works.

This is how using psychology as a writing tip helps you get better:

  • You’ll craft more realistic characters
  • Your antagonist’s and protagonist’s motives will be more realistic
  • You can take your readers on a better experience by learning to manipulate their emotions with your plot
  • You can easily hit emotional triggers in readers that prompt them to keep turning pages
  • You’ll better understand what it takes to write a novel that’s engaging

The Write Practice has a fantastic resource for how to use psychology to become a better writer.

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.

For example:

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:

The point is to write as often as you can because the more you write, the better you will get. It will help you pinpoint weaknesses in your writing and you’ll notice improvements as you write.

Writing more often also allows you to flex your imagination, which is indeed much like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets and therefore, you’ll be able to write with more creativity.

Writing Tip #5 – Eliminate distractions

In this age of technology and helpful writing software, there are endless amounts of distractions.

We almost always have our phones within reach, a computer right at our fingertips (literally, if you’re writing), and a TV nearby with access to Netflix, Hulu, and other attention-sucking programs.

If you want to write better, you have to eliminate distractions that keep you from writing.

Here are our writing tips to get rid of distractions:

  • Use a distraction-blocking App like Freedom or PauseFor
  • Shut your phone off and put it in another room
  • Close out of all apps or windows on your computer
  • 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 tips for beginners

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.

Jenna Moreci has a great resource on the beta reading process you can check out.

Here are some specific questions to ask others for this tip to improve writing:

  1. Did you find anything confusing or unclear?
  2. Did you understand why InsertNameHere did what they did?
  3. Were you able to easily follow the dialogue?
  4. Was the dialogue in writing clear and concise?
  5. Which character did you empathize with more?
  6. Do you have any predictions about what will happen?
  7. 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.

Like this:

“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.

Like this:

“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.
writing tips for beginners

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.”

writing tips jk rowling

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.”

writing tips stephen king

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.”

writing tips

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.”

writing tips maya angelou

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.”

tips for writing a book

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.

Check out this Self-Publishing School review by SelfPublishing.com!

Writing Tips to Get You Started TODAY

If you’re here, it means you’re ready to take the leap and start writing.

We can even help you have your book outlined today – but only if you take action now.

If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing  Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to getting your  book out of your head, onto paper, and published!

Start Writing a Book: 7 Best Practices to Become an Author Fast

Deciding to start writing a book is intimidating.

When you’re not sure how to start writing a book, it can paralyze you. But we have the best top steps to start writing a book today so you can become an author!

Beginning the process of writing a book and presenting it to a worldwide audience is very exciting but also a little scary – especially if you mess it up and end up making a fool of yourself.

It’s a fear we all have, trust me…

how to start writing a book

You have amazing book ideas that you want to share with the world, and you’re more motivated than ever to educate your readers about them!

This is how you can start writing a book today:

  1. Start by setting up your writing environment
  2. Develop a writing habit to start
  3. Create a book outline to start writing
  4. Focus on writing your book ONLY
  5. Maintain your focus at the start
  6. Schedule book writing time
  7. Deal with writing distractions
  8. Start writing your book!

Once you begin, you may realize that writing a book is hard work. There are many obstacles that can prevent you from writing and can create stress leading to anxiety.

For example, you may find yourself in front of a blank page unable to type and thinking of stressful questions like:

  • “How do I even start writing a book?”
  • “Do I need to blog first?”
  • “Should I start without an outline”?

Writing a book shouldn’t be this hard!

But many get overwhelmed because they lack a writing process.

And we can help you with that.

Start Writing a Book for Success with FREE Training

If you want to skip right ahead to what will really help you start writing, then you’ll want to check out this free training we put together for you.

With your FREE training, we can help you understand HOW to start a book and self-publish it so the maximum number of people can enjoy it.

Just click the button below to TAKE ACTION on your dream –and let’s do this together.

Click here to save your spot

How to Start Writing a Book Step-by-Step

If you’re feeling demotivated when it comes to starting your book, you’re not alone. Writing can still be one of the hardest parts for most authors even if they have been writing for a long time!

Fortunately, there are some extremely effective techniques for how to start writing a book and overcoming these hurdles.

We’ll cover what you can put into action to assure you show up with a game plan to get your thoughts out of your head, down on paper, and into the minds of your readers.

Ready to start your journey to becoming a bestselling author? Let’s go!

How to Start Writing a Book for Beginners

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).

start writing a book environment

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 TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- 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
Get Comfortable- 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.

how to start writing a book

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

words

pages

*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*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

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.

If you’re not sure how to outline a book, we’ve got a handy video right here for you to learn:

Before you write, spend some time creating your outline with these steps:

  1. Brainstorm: List every thought and story idea you want in your book by creating a mind map.
  2. Organize: Combine all related ideas together.
  3. Order: Arrange ideas into subsections from general to specific.
  4. Label: Create main and subheadings that will eventually be your chapters.

Action Step:
Spend a good portion of your time constructing an outline. If you want more on creating it, be sure to check out our guide.

#4 – Work on ONLY Writing

One challenge many authors experience is taking on multiple new projects when they should be focused on one because their minds are full of amazing book ideas.

Although enticing, the division of attention can spread your energy thin producing bad writing or worse, failure to complete your book.

But don’t worry. We’ve all experienced shiny new book idea syndrome before!

There’s only one clear solution to this problem: Cut the clutter and focus on one project until it’s finished.

Be fully committed to starting your book by doing the following:

  • Create an action plan that breaks down the entire project into realistic portions to complete.
  • Set hard deadlines for each and every phase of your book.
  • Learn to say “NO” to any additional projects no matter how intriguing they appear.

Action Step:

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.

Action Step:

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.”

start writing a book

Seinfeld used the “Calendar Method”, otherwise known as the “Don’t Break the Chain” method, and it worked like this:

  1. Get yourself a calendar, and hang it on the wall.
  2. 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.
  3. If you miss a day, start over and see how long you can go before breaking the chain.

If you can keep this chain going, you will write your book faster than you can imagine.

Action Step:

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.

Action Step:

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 seven strategies, you can have a completed book within months and be on your way to becoming a successful writer.

But what can you do right now to ensure the success of the book you’re going to start writing? We’ve got them for you.

Join your free training!

That’s right! We have free training that’s just for you! Chandler Bolt will walk you through everything you need to go from blank page to published author in as little as 90 days.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Are you ready to start writing a book? Let us know what it’s about and when you want to publish below!

how to write a memoir

How to Write a Memoir: 13 Key Elements of a Memoir You Need

Learning how to write a memoir might seem simple…

You may think it easy to jot down details about your life in a cohesive, entertaining fashion…but there’s quite a bit more to and this is where we see a lot of writers fall short.

And you probably don’t even know what you’re missing!

Memoirs can be very complex pieces of work. It takes a lot of skill and craft to be able to write down intimate details about your life for others to read and learn from.

Which means learning how to write (and even publish/market) a memoir can be really hard.

But the great part?

Writing a memoir is both empowering and rewarding, and when broken down into these feasible steps, it’s something you can learn to master in no time.

memoir - how to write a memoir

This is how to write a memoir:

  1. Choose your memoir theme
  2. List associating memoir memories
  3. Add others’ related memories
  4. Write your memoir truthfully
  5. Show, don’t tell in your memoir
  6. Get vulnerable with your memoir
  7. Make connections with each story
  8. Add the impact in your life today
  9. Put your personality into it
  10. Write a memoir you want to read

With your FREE training, we can help you understand HOW to start a book and self-publish it so the maximum number of people can enjoy it.

Just click the button below to TAKE ACTION on your dream –and let’s do this together.

Click here to save your spot

How many people can say they wrote a book detailing the most impactful moments of their lives?

Not many.

And by taking this leap and diving headfirst into your memories and entire life, you’re reaching new heights for yourself and you may even enlighten others by the end of your journey.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. It’s a book about your life, the lessons learned, and key moments that shaped who you are.

We all typically think of a memoir and cringe a little at the idea of a book about someone else’s life. But that’s not all a memoir is!

Essentially, this is a book written by you about key moments in your life. You bring your memories to life in order to touch on an overarching message others can learn and grow from.

It’s like the highlight reel from your diary (if you ever had one) about the experiences that shaped your life.

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

What Qualifies as a Memoir?

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.

Memoir Definition

A memoir is a historical account written with personal knowledge and experience covering the lifetime of an individual, usually with a greater purpose or message within it.

How is this different than an autobiography? I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t they the same thing?”

With so many genres and writing terminology out there, knowing the differences between a memoir vs autobiography, (aka works of writing that are basicall the same) can be confusing.

They’re both about someone’s life written by themselves, right? Right.

But they do differ in a single way that really makes a memoir vs an autobiography completely different in terms of their end results.

A memoir typically covers one aspect of a writer’s life (or a continuous theme through memories), while an autobiography is a chronological account of the writer’s life.

So if you want to write a play-by-play of your entire life from the moment you popped into this world to the very second you started writing, you’d write an autobiography.

But if you’re looking to share a profound message with the world through your own real-life experiences, you’ll write a memoir.

How to Write a Memoir with Meaning and Influence

Writing a memoir can not only be a valuable experience for you, but the impact it may have on other people is astounding too.

You have a life worth something. You have experiences that led you to a very specific place in life, and you know what?

Others have undoubtedly been in your shoes before and will benefit from you writing a book

Essentially, you can teach others how to get through what you did or even how to learn from their own journeys just as you have yours.

That’s the meaning of a memoir and its influence knows no bounds.

What are the Key Elements of a Memoir?

Writing a memoir can be difficult simply because it’s about your life. Somehow, we find it too hard to put our own lives into words through a meaningful message.

How do you really sum up an accumulation of years and years of experience in only a couple hundred pages?

We’ll help you learn how to write a memoir worth reading – and sharing.

#1 – Choose the focus or theme for your memoir

A memoir isn’t just a list of all the experiences in your life. If it were, you’d call it an autobiography.

What sets memoirs apart from a simple retelling of your life is an overarching theme or message that others can take away from it – and that you personally learned from the stories you share.

Think about what you want others to take away from reading your memoir.

What will they learn or realize or gain from reading about your life? You can ask yourself those very same questions about your life to find the answers.

What have you learned throughout your life? What’s the number 1 message that your experiences have taught you?

Once you have that big, broad idea, the real work begins.

#2 – List all associating memoir-related memories

It’s time to do a little mind mapping.

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:

  • Childhood influences
  • Grade school
  • Teenage years
  • First job/s
  • First love/s
  • Parents
  • Siblings/family
  • Friends
  • College/post high school
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Failures
  • Successes
  • Regrets
  • Resentments

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.

#3 – Add others’ related stories

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.

how to write a memoir checklist

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 MemoirDetails
IntroductionA snippet of what your life is like now and why you're writing this memoir
Core theme/messageEach memoir should have an overall theme or message that one can take away when they've finished reading.
HonestyWriting 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.
Entertainment valueNobody wants to read a memoir that's written like a textbook. Create entertainment value through the stories you tell.
Supporting storiesBecause you have an overall theme, it needs supporting stories from your life to back it up.
Intriguing writingOnce again, a memoir is still a book and therefore, it cannot read like a textbook. Great writing is necessary for a great book.
Overall arcYour 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.

Quite the opposite, actually.

It’s time to dig deep and show the world what kind of author you are through your life experiences by getting vulnerable.

Open yourself up to the truth behind who you are today. If you shield yourself in any way, it’s going to be obvious on the pages of your memoir and therefore, not as effective.

At first, you may want to cringe while writing certain memories but after a few days, you’ll find it easier to share your truth.

And best of all? You’ll be happy you did.

#7 – Make connections with each story

You have your focus, right? Having that overarching message is going to help you tie all of your memories together in a cohesive manner.>

Each story you tell – whether it’s yours or someone else’s – has to connect to your focus in order for that theme to come across to your readers.

But they don’t all have to directly relate to your focus.

Some experiences may have led you to moments of realization that then led you to other events that tie into the main message you want others to gain from reading your memoir.

Think of it this way: you want to connect the dots so by the time the reader is finished, the message comes full circle.

how to write a memoir tip

#8 – Talk about how everything affects your life today

Usually, writing a memoir is about looking back on your life and determining how you made it to who you are today. What events lead to the very core of who you are >right now?

That means your memoir will include inside peeks into your life as you live it now.

Each chapter should bring your readers back to your present-day life and how each memory affected where you are today.

#9 – Put your personality into the memoir

Nobody wants to read a stiff retelling of your life.

I’m sorry, but I’m not really. I’m here to help. And that means I have to be real with you and tell you that people want to hear your personality!

They’re reading about your life and that means they want more of you in the writing. Learning how to write a memoir includes figuring out how to put more of you into the pages.

Don’t be afraid to write how you speak. Talk to them as if you were talking to a friend.

Here are a few ways you can add more personality into your memoir:

  • Tell jokes
  • Use cuss words (if that’s how you really speak!)
  • Add your personal lingo (we all have phrases we use regularly)
  • Italicize words you emphasize when speaking
  • If you have the urge to write something you think is funny or witty, do it!
  • Write your book by talk-to-text using Google Docs or other writing software

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.

how to write a memoir tips

#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.

How to Start a Memoir

A strong introduction is everything.

Without the ability to hook readers, convincing someone to buy and read your book will be a bit harder than anticipated.

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.

memoir writing tips

#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 reactions of 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.

#3 – Make the message clear right away

What is it you’re trying to say through your memoir? Why did you want to start writing one in the first place?

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:

  1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  2. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  3. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses Grant
  4. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  5. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  6. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.
  8. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
  9. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  10. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Memoir examples by our own students:

  1. Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir by Jim Manley
  2. Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia by Kathy Flora
  3. Prayers, Punk Rock and Pastry by Chris Stewart
  4. Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous by Emily Ann Peterson
  5. Shift Happens: Turning Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones by Jill Rogers

This is the Story of Your Life

The biggest takeaway here is that this is your story, it’s your life, and therefore, it should be told just as you want it to be.

There’s nothing more freeing than having the ability to articulate your life experiences in a way that will truly speak to others and potentially change their lives.

Do you want to change lives and help others through the same turmoil you’ve experienced?

By self-publishing your memoir, you’ll be rewarded for all of your honest hard work with more than just additional income.

You will be responsible for changing and shaping the lives of others.

Start Your Memoir TODAY!

The work doesn’t just stop when you learn how to write a memoir.

In fact, it’s just beginning! Here are a few steps you can use to start your memoir and make some progress.

#1 – Begin your training

It’s NEVER too early to start working toward your dreams and goals of becoming an author. In fact, you shouldn’t waste any time!

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Click Here to Save Your Spot

#2 – Determine your overarching message

You already know how important this is and how to discover it. Now it’s time to actually startright now!

Grab a piece of paper (or open a Word Doc, whichever you prefer) and quickly jot down some single words or phrases of the first ideas that pop into your mind when you think about the way you live your life.

They could be as simple as these:

  • Free
  • Against society
  • Helping others
  • Self-gain
  • Unique
  • Nontraditional
  • Love wholly

I think you get the idea. These are very basic concepts of how people choose to live that may have taken some learning to get to.

What are yours?

#3 – Start your mind map [FREE DOWNLOAD!]

This is where it all starts!

You have the very core of what your memoir will encompass. Let’s start that mind map!

I’ve attached a free downloadable mind map template specifically for a memoir you can use to brainstorm the memories and stories you’ll include.

You can fill this out on your computer or print it out if you’re the type who benefits from writing details down.

Once this is done, you can start outlining your memoir!

→ FREE DOWNLOAD OF OUR MEMOIR MIND MAP TEMPLATE HERE

Are you ready to start your memoir? If not, what’s stopping you from turning your life experiences into an everlasting footprint in the literary world?

show don't tell

Show, Don’t Tell: How to Show Not Tell in Writing With Exercises

Learning how to show don’t tell in writing is one of the most difficult—and important—parts of writing when you first start.

It’s what will give readers the coveted emotional attachment that forges true, long-lasting fans (and customers!).

Part of writing and publishing a book successfully is ensuring you have the highest quality writing, and this rule of show don’t tell is crucial for that.

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.

how to show don't tell

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).

Here’s how to show don’t tell in writing:

  1. Understand what show don’t tell means
  2. Learn from examples of showing versus telling
  3. Cut the “sensing” words to show don’t tell
  4. Avoid emotional explaining when showing not telling
  5. Describe body language
  6. Use strong verbs to show don’t tell
  7. Focus on describing senses
  8. Practice showing not telling every day

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.

NOTE: If you really want to write a book readers love, with tips specific to your genre and writing style, we can help.

Check out this completely FREE training to get started!
Learn more about it here

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 showing the 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?).

Show Don’t Tell Examples:

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

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.

example of show don't tell

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.

They already picked up your book for the killer title and eye-grabbing cover, but they need a reason to stay.

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.

show don't tell

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.

This is done through using strong verbs and other visual language.

Show Don’t Tell Exercise #1:

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?

how to show don't tell

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:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Excited
  • Giddy
  • Love
  • Anxious
  • Joy
  • Disgust

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.

show don't tell examples

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.

show don't tell

#3 – Describe body language

One of the best ways you can show not tell in writing is to use strong descriptive language when it comes to body language.

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.

show don't tell

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?

show don't tell

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.

show don't tell

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.

This specific example for show don’t tell can be a little time-consuming at first, but you will get the hang of it and these methods will soon become second nature to you.

#5 – Focus on describing senses

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.

What to do Next?

Show don’t tell can be difficult to master unless you’re constantly thinking about it. But because this specific writing skill is vital for building strong emotional connections, you have to implement this information.

Here’s what you can do going forward.

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13 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book This Year

There are so many reasons to write a book but when you’re in the throws of the process, it can be hard to see that light.

And even more to take your book a step further by learning how to publish a book effectively.

Most of us want to write a book. Maybe we like the idea, maybe we think it will be easy.

No matter why you came up with the idea to write a book, there are reasons to consider in order to make your book the best it can be.

Because a big struggle writers have is sticking with it.

They often wonder…

  • Why should I keep going?
  • What’s the point of writing this book?
  • Why did I even start this in the first place?

Well, as difficult as it can be to keep going when you’re unclear as to why you started, there are reasons to write a book.

And we’ll cover the most impactful ones that can keep you pushing to finish your draft.

reasons to write a book

Here are 13 reasons to write a book:

  1. You are a writer
  2. You’ll discover who you are
  3. You’ll have a professional piece of work
  4. You’ll make money from writing a book
  5. Amazon can do the heavy-lifting
  6. Our time here is finite
  7. You’ll reignite a passion
  8. You’ll be a professional author
  9. You’ll accomplish a new challenge
  10. You’ll gain knowledge
  11. You’ll stop making excuses
  12. Because you CAN!

With your FREE training, we can help you understand HOW to start a book and self-publish it so the maximum number of people can enjoy it.

Just click the button below to TAKE ACTION on your dream –and let’s do this together.

Click here to save your spot

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.

These same concepts apply to becoming an author. Until you’ve ushered new creative life into the world you have no idea the incredible, myriad of ways writing a book can better your life – and even your business.

You’ll ask yourself why you waited so long to make it happen.

We’re here to tell you that you should write a book, and you should do it this year. If not now, then when?

Here are 12 reasons why this is the year you’ll write your book.

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

#1 – You are a writer (you just need to write)

Listen, everyone can be a writer. Each one of us has a story to share. In fact, most of us have more than one story to share.

he simple truth is that in order to be a writer, you just need to write. And to become an author, you just need to publish what you write.

At Self-Publishing School, we’re here to tell you that both of these worthy goals are within your reach. You just need to start—today.

#2 – You’ll discover who you are.

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.

Check out just how much by filling out our book profit calculator below:

STEP 1

Enter Your Information Below To Calculate Your Potential Book Sales

STEP 2

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CONGRATULATIONS!
Here's What You'd Earn:

Your profit per book:

In 3 months, you'll make:

In 6 months, you'll make:

In 1 year, you'll make:

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.

#8 – You’ll be a pro author.

Only 1% of the world’s population ever publishes a book.

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.

And you can start TODAY.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

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Are you serious about getting your book published? Interested in how Self-Publishing School can work with you to get your book written and launched to bestseller status?

If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to completing your book.

How Many Words in a Novel? Exact Word Counts Per Genre [With Examples]

How many words are in a novel? After all…

Writing too many words in your novel is just as embarrassing as not writing enough.

A book’s word count does matter and if you get it wrong, this can impact your book sales, reviews, and its overall performance.

So if you want to write and publish a book successfully, this is vital information to know.

But that’s why we’re here.

To not only help you understand how many words are in a novel, but how many should be in your specific book depending on what you’re writing.

Because yes, different types of books require different book lengths.

And you will instantly lose readers if you are too far off the general norm.

How many words in a novel

Not only do you need to know how many words are in a novel, but also why and how the genre you’re writing it can change this word count.

This is how many words are in a novel:

  1. How many words in a memoir – 45,000 to 80,000
  2. How many words in a self-help book – 30,000 – 70,000
  3. How many words in a fantasy novel – 50,000 – 150,000
  4. How many words in a sci-fi novel – 50,000 – 150,000
  5. How many words in a romance novel – 50,000 – 90,000
  6. How many words in a mystery novel – 40,000 – 80,000
  7. How many words in a horror novel – 40,000 – 80,000
  8. How many words in a dystopian novel – 60,000 -120,000
  9. How many words in a contemporary novel – 60,000 – 90,000
  10. How many words in a young adult book – 60,000 – 90,000
  11. How many words in a middle-grade book – 20,000 – 55,000

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

How many pages is 1000 words?

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

How many words per page in a book?

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.

Here’s how to find your book’s word count for a number of writing softwares:

  • Microsoft Word: The word count for your book in Microsoft Word will be located in the bottom left corner next to the page number.
  • Google Docs: To find the word count in Google Docs using a mac, you can hit Command > Shift > C (Control > Shift > C on Windows) and a box will pop up. You can also go to Tools > Word Count
  • Scrivener: If you’re using this writing tool, just go to Scrivener > Preferences > Editing and then select live counts to show the word count box and character on the bottom bar.
  • Pages: To view word count in Pages on a mac, go to the toolbar and click View > Show Word Count.
  • Open Office: If you’re using open office, the word count is visible in the bottom left corner.

Book Length Calculator

The best way to find out how many pages will be in your book is to use this calculation method:

Take your current word count and divide it by 300. This will give you the approximate number of pages that will be in your book.

Here’s the book length calculator for you to use:

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Your book will have

words

pages

*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*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

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.

How many words in a novel nonfiction

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

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program.
Learn more about it here

#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.

how many words in a romance book

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.

For example, Agatha Christie, one of the bestselling mystery writers of all time, write between 40,000 and 60,000 words per book.

Average mystery book length: 40,000 – 80,000 words

#7 – How many words in a horror novel?

Horror is much like mystery in the sense that you don’t want to drag these novels on too long. Therefore, we advise writers to stick between 40,000 to 80,000 words for horror novels.

As an example, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is 42,211 words long.

Average horror book length: 40,000 – 80,000 words

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#8 – How many words in a dystopian 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.

how many words in a book contemporary

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.

Ready to start your book now?

Now that you know how many words your book should be, it’s time to actually start writing those words!

But first, make sure you know what you need to about how to write a novel so you don’t make the mistakes so many before you have…

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Are you serious about getting your book published? Interested in how Self-Publishing School can work with you to get your book written and launched to bestseller status?

If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to completing your book.

creative writing

Creative Writing: How to Get Started with Creative Writing [+ 9 Exercises]

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.

You might not like to face that truth, but it is indeed a truth everyone who wants to write and publish successfully has to face.

I’ll go into more detail about that in a little bit but every writer out there needs some writing tips to help them get better.

And one of the best ways to get better at creative writing is to first learn and understand the craft of it, and then challenge yourself by completing writing exercises.

creative writing exercises

Here’s what you’ll learn about creative writing:

  1. What is creative writing?
  2. Creative writing topics
  3. Elements of creative writing
  4. Examples of creative writing
  5. 9 powerful creative writing exercises

NOTE: If you want to be a better writer, write more captivating prose, and complete a story you know eaders won’t be able to put down, we can help.

Check out this completely FREE training to get started!
Learn more about it here

What is Creative Writing?

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?

That’s the same case with writing.

Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.

Unique Plot

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.

Character development

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.

Underlying theme

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.

Visual descriptions

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.

This pulls readers in and allows them to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes – which is the reason people read.

Point of view

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.

Dialogue

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.

Imaginative language

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.

Emotional appeal

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. You may know that novels are considered creative writing, but what about memoirs?

Here are examples of creative writing:

  • TV show scripts
  • Movie scripts
  • songs
  • speeches

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.

Have you checked out our fiction writing and self-publishing program? Learn more about it here

#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.

creative writing exercise

#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.

This will also help you understand how to show and not tell in creative writing.

Creative Writing Exercise:

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.

creative writing quote

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.

[su_box title=”Creative Writing Exercise” box_color=”#112947″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”0″][/su_box]

Turn Your Creative Writing Idea into a Novel & PUBLISH!

Now that you’re more ready than ever to produce a high quality book, it’s time to take action.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

You don’t want to miss out on all he has to offer because once you watch this, you’ll be able to put these creative writing exercises to use.

Are you serious about getting your book published? Interested in how Self-Publishing School can work with you to get your book written and launched to bestseller status?

If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to completing your book.

writing narrative

Narrative Writing: How to Understand and Master It

Narrative writing makes up the bulk of what we know as storytelling.

But it’s not as easy as simply telling the story…it takes a lot more than that to write and even publish a book with a heavy focus on narrative writing.

If you want to…

  • Learn more about narrative writing
  • Learn why mastering narrative writing is the key to good storytelling
  • Learn how to master narrative writing to improve your books and projects

Then you’re in the right place.

narrative writing

Here’s what you’ll learn about narrative writing:

  1. What is narrative writing
  2. Parts of narrative writing
  3. Narrative writing prompts
  4. How to use narrative writing
  5. Learn narrative writing from those experienced
  6. Read often to improve narrative writing
  7. Practice narrative writing regularly
  8. Ask for feedback to improve
  9. Watch movies and TV shows
  10. Invoke all 3 main story elements in 1 sentence

What is narrative writing?

Narrative writing is writing that has a story, characters, conflict, and other essential parts of a story. Narrative writing is often synonymous with a story.

And this differs greatly compared to other forms of writing, like in textbooks and certain nonfiction books.

However, if you’re writing a story of some kind, that is narrative writing, where a narrator is telling the story.

Parts of Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is made of specific parts. These parts of a book end up completing the whole, and are necessary for writing a good novel.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Write a story about a doctor who was just replaced by a machine to diagnose, treat, and even operate on patients.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 can also take a look at this list of writing advice blogs to sift through.

#2 – Read a lot

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.

Check out these writing tips and exercises to get better if you want some intentional practice.

#4 – Ask for feedback

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:

how to write a short story feedback

#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.

what is narrative writing

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.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

Sign up for your FREE training on How To Write An Amazing Novel In 90 Days…And Live Full Time Off Your Fiction Writing.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

Are you serious about getting your book published? Interested in how Self-Publishing School can work with you to get your book written and launched to bestseller status?

If so, click here to book a free consultation with one of our Publishing Success Strategists, and put together a step-by-step roadmap to completing your book.

Parts of a Story: The 11 Essential Story Elements You Need to Get Right

Knowing the parts of a story are essential for getting your book right.

Without constructing your book with these in mind, you could be taking the book idea you really love and need to get out into the world and just throwing it away.

And that’s not to mention whether or not you’re setting yourself up for success when you publish

But if you really want readers to not only experience your story but to enjoy it, keeping these parts of a story top of mind is crucial.

parts of a story

These are the different parts of a story:

  1. Characters
  2. Setting
  3. Plot
  4. Conflict
  5. Resolution
  6. Themes
  7. Morals
  8. Symbolism
  9. Point of view
  10. Perspective
  11. Pulling it all together

NOTE: If you’re ready to craft a strong story (with the help of an established fiction author as your coach), with a focus on genre-specific writing help, we’ve got a free training for you.
Learn more about it here

What are the parts of a story?

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.

There are infinite ways to write a book and tell a story.

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.

But one key thing to keep in mind about including characters is, if your character is important enough to have a name, they’re important enough to have a goal.

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:

  • weather
  • political climate
  • social norms
  • cultural influences

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:

  1. Set-up/exposition – The beginning part of your story where you establish the world, the characters, the tone, and your writing style
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Falling action – What goes up, must come down. This is where you resolve any subplots and side stories.
  5. Resolution – Wrap up.

Here’s a quick visual representation with explanations below:

Guy Rolls Down Hill In Tire Towards Car

DON'T try this at home… That was close! 😨😬

Posted by UNILAD on Monday, August 13, 2018

Here’s what happened in the plot of this video:

  1. 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.
  2. Rising action: The tension builds as our MC gains momentum, and we can’t tell what’s going to happen.
  3. 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.
  4. Falling action: Our hero is safe! The vehicle and driver are fine.
  5. Resolution: His stoned pals cheer him on. All is well.

Along with our three fundamental story elements, we can dive a little deeper and discuss conflict and resolution.

#4 – Conflict

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 some sort 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)
  • Empowerment
  • Displacement 
  • Motherhood
  • Injustice 
  • 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.

#8 – Symbolism

Symbolism is a literary device used to convey subtle meanings.

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 POV:

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.

parts of a story point of view

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.

This is an example of a third-person point of view in Jenna Moreci’s The Savior’s Champion.

parts of a story POV

Third-person omniscient POV:

Third omniscient is when an outside, all-knowing narrator tells the story. Third omniscient can jump into any character’s thoughts and knows things about the story the characters might not know.

The omniscient narrator knows everything happening in the universe.

The obvious strength of third omniscient is ease of storytelling–you’re not limited to any one character’s knowledge.

The weakness is you’re even further from your character and it’s that much harder to forge a connection between your characters and your readers.

Author Erin Morgenstern does a great job with this point of view in her novel The Night Circus, seen below.

parts of a story point of view

# 10 – Perspective

Even though “point of view” and “perspective” are often used in the writing community interchangeably, perspective is actually different. 

Perspective refers to the character’s interpretation of the world and their attitude toward it.

A character’s perspective can be determined by their personal story–their upbringing, their opinions, their socioeconomic status, their education level, etc.

Considering your character’s worldview when deciding their morals and actions will make your characters and story feel more authentic. 

While you outline your book and story’s plot, characters, and setting, don’t forget to consider everything else we’ve covered. These elements work together to tell a complete and engaging story.

#11 – Put it all together

Your story is more than all of these separate parts. You need to have a way to put them together that makes sense.

You need a system…

Which is exactly what Self-Publishing School provides.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Are you currently writing a story? What’s it about and what is your biggest struggle with it?

imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome for Writers: How to Overcome it For Good

Imposter syndrome for writers is normal. It happens.

Writing isn’t without its challenges. Like any creative endeavor, there are roadblocks that sometimes obscure the path from your original idea to its final creation.

But I’m not talking about writer’s block.

I’m talking about its sneaky sibling: imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome for writers

Here’s how to overcome imposter syndrome for writers:

  1. Analyze your imposter syndrome
  2. Learn what it really is deep down
  3. Uncover if you even have imposter syndrome
  4. Learn how it impacts your work
  5. Force yourself to keep writing
  6. Create balance to get over imposter syndrome
  7. Create balance in your feedback
  8. Interview other writers
  9. Realize everyone is different
  10. Realize that everyone starts somewhere
  11. Final tips to get over imposter syndrome

Analyzing Imposter Syndrome

When you think of the phrase “imposter syndrome,” what comes to mind?

A shadowy figure dressed in mustache and sunglasses? A copy cat watching your every move?

Though imposter syndrome isn’t that insidious, it can still wreak havoc on your work. 

Fortunately, by following the tips outlined in this post, you’ll be able to identify your imposter syndrome and kick it to the curb!

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome for writers is when you compare yourself to other writers to the extent that you question your own ability in writing. Imposter syndrome can apply to any creative field, but is prevalent for writers.

On the most basic level, imposter syndrome results in doubting your work. At a severe level, it results in a refusal to engage creatively.

What do I mean by “a refusal to engage creatively”? 

Fearful of being inadequate, you don’t reach for your pen to jot down that amazing story idea. Distracted by other writers, you leave your page blank. Though you have great concepts, you don’t show them to anyone because you’re afraid you’re not good enough. 

But you can overcome this self-doubt. Why? Because you are good enough.

Do I Have Imposter Syndrome?

Bookstores are usually a writer’s paradise. Home to a wonderful collection of different authors and book genres, it’s usually any writer’s dream to display their own work on the shelves.

But to someone with imposter syndrome, this place is a hotbed for competition. If you have imposter syndrome, you might feel the urge to instantly compare yourself to every book you come across. You might start thinking thoughts like: Their idea is so cool! Why can’t I come up with that? There are already so many successful authors…I can’t hope to be one.

Imposter syndrome might affect your writing itself. 

Writing workshops are great opportunities to gather feedback and make your work stronger. But someone with imposter syndrome might freeze up when it comes time to share their work. 

If you have imposter syndrome, you might start picking your piece apart, embarrassed to utter a single sentence.

Good news! With our writing tips, you’ll gain confidence in your writing ability. 

How Can Imposter Syndrome Impact My Work?

When someone has imposter syndrome, it’s not just the author who suffers…it’s their work. Imposter syndrome can snuff out someone’s will to write, that key energy that pushes anyone to even start typing in the first place. 

Imposter syndrome is a state of mind. 

You’ll start questioning everything you put to paper; you’ll question the good reviews you get on your work and instead focus on the bad.

That sort of mindset tramples the creative process.

But you can quiet self-doubt and endless comparisons today. 

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If you have imposter syndrome, you’re not without luck. 

Here are just a few of many tips and strategies you can employ to hop back on that writing saddle.

#1 – Force yourself to write

This might be the greatest hurdle to overcome. But the first step in overcoming any writing issue is by taking to the page.

Start simple—you don’t have to write a memoir of 200 pages just yet. If you can’t think of any imaginative ideas or writing prompts, write about something that relates to you, like your morning commute.

If pressure forces you to write, add a timer. Hop onto Google and search for a stopwatch, or go the old-fashioned route and grab your own. Scribble down a few basic themes or ideas, set that timer for five minutes, and start writing!

This tip is professor-proofed. 

I was first exposed to this tip in one of my college classes last semester. Engaging in it truly helped me shed my imposter syndrome.

Taking to the whiteboard, the teacher wrote a handful of basic words. Robot. July. Clouds. Balloon. It seemed silly, but this exercise helped the entire class.

Instead of being scared to read their work aloud, everyone was eager to share what they wrote. To my shock, I was too!

The goal isn’t to use every single theme you wrote down. If you do, that’s terrific! The main goal of this challenge is putting yourself back into a writing mindset. 

Challenging yourself through creative writing is just one of many ways to diminish your imposter syndrome.

Up for taking this challenge with others? Make it a party and grab some friends. Instead of focusing on who wrote the “best” story, though, try celebrating the simple fact that you’re all making something creative. 

The more you spend thinking of ideas and diving back into your writing, the less you’ll think of other people’s opinions.

#2 – Create balance in your life

A stressed mind creates stressful scenarios. Look for what is lacking in your schedule—or what’s eating it up. Are you getting an adequate amount of sleep each night? Is your work environment clashing with your mental health? If you’re tense, try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.

Here’s a great table on creating your writing environment:

How to Start Writing TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- 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
Get Comfortable- 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

If schedules rule your day, pencil in some time to write. Follow rule #1 and take advantage of gaps in your day. Scribble some sentences while you’re munching during your lunch break, or make a habit of journaling before bed. 

Not only will this help you make long-term progress, but it’ll also help you fall into a writing routine.

Visit this post on how you can create your perfect writing space

However, you normally gather your ideas, make sure you’re actually jotting them down. Nothing hurts more than thinking of your next great story idea and forgetting it because you didn’t have it on paper.

The easier you make it for you to find your character bios or world maps, the less stress you’ll be putting on yourself when it comes time to write.

The more you declutter your mind, the more room you’ll have to start focusing on your work.

#3 – Create balance in your feedback

It’s no secret that if you want to grow as a writer, you have to accept feedback. For someone with imposter syndrome, though, accepting negative feedback is especially difficult. The solution?

Realize that feedback is supposed to enhance your work. Instead of attaching yourself to the feedback, remain subjective. 

The joy of being an author and sharing our work with the world is that we come across various viewpoints. Some might agree with us, and others might not. And that’s okay! You can decide when and how you want to respond to reviews.

Feedback like this is not worth your time:

“You just don’t know how to write a book. I hated reading this!”

For starters, this type of feedback is rude. More importantly, feedback like this doesn’t offer any suggestions or justifications. You can toss “feedback” of this sort out the window. Instead, look for feedback partners who will lift you up.

An example of proper feedback:

“I really liked the tone of this piece. It was consistent and locked me in. Yet, I’m not sure if your main character’s actions are justifiable. I didn’t see any character development in this chapter and I think adding that would help.”

Positive, constructive feedback creates balance. 

As an author, positive feedback lets you know what you did well and what you need to improve on. Creating this balanced feedback opens up an honest and respectful dialogue between writing partners.

Cultivating these conversations helps eliminate imposter syndrome.

#4 – Interview other writers

No one is immune to self-doubt. But one way to start squashing that feeling is by interviewing authors.

Here are a few sample questions you might ask:

  • Have you ever faced imposter syndrome?
  • Are you still battling imposter syndrome?
  • What tips have you used to overcome your imposter syndrome? 
  • What are your favorite writing exercises?
  • What are your favorite inspirational quotes? 
  • What book serves as your inspiration?
  • What is the best feedback you have ever received?
  • What is the worst feedback you have ever received? 
  • How do you overcome negative feedback?
  • What might you say to your younger writing self? 
  • What is your biggest writing achievement?
  • What are your writing goals?


If they are not finished with the journey of overcoming imposter syndrome, you can help each other. Try tip number one and get lost in the sample writing activity togetheror create your own!

By engaging with other writers, you’ll start realizing that most of them have the same concerns you do. You’ll realize that writing is a personal—and community-filled—journey. While we might feel excluded in our writing dens, bent over the keys, nothing is more welcoming than knowing we’re not alone. 

#5 – Realize every story and writer is different

Your western murder mystery is probably very different than someone else’s comedy road trip novella. 

It makes sense that comparing those two ideas is rather difficult. Even at the surface, it’s rather hard to come up with like-minded ideas. Gunslingers and modern-day travel sagas don’t exactly share too many similarities.

But, what if you did? Finding common ground in another work shouldn’t spell the end to your writing career.

Let Stanley Kubrick’s words be of inspiration to you:

Everything has already been done. Every story has been told…it’s our job to do it one better.”

Take it upon yourself to add your creative twist to your work. 

When those comparison-laden thoughts surface, realize that every writer brings something different to the keyboard. 

#6 – Everyone starts somewhere

If you’re anything like me, you didn’t pick up writing skillsets overnight. Instead, it’s been a long journey from the day you first started scribbling on paper to where you are at now.

I’ve learned my biggest lessons from myself. I’ve kept going through successes and failures— just like that time I tried to write a novel at age 13. 

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to…yourself. Think about how long you’ve been writing. If you’ve been writing since elementary school, it’s likely your younger self would be in awe about what you’ve written throughout the years. 

Picturing that little kid smiling over your skills might be enough motivation to keep going.

Even if you just picked up the creative pen last week, every day is a new experience. Every sentence written is a new notch of knowledge added to your belt. Root for yourself.

Final Tips for Getting Over Imposter Syndrome for Writers

If following numerous tasks stresses you out, nothing says you have to follow all of these pointers at once. Try them out of order, mix them around. If you would rather find a writing community first, then start working on how to balance your feedback, that’s perfectly fine. 

Conversely, if you like following guides step-by-step, give it a shot!

Is goal-setting your calling? Try marking on your calendar when you would like to erase your imposter syndrome. Sometimes, having a feasible end date serves as great motivation. 

Regardless, by following these steps, you’ll start living the inverse of imposter-ridden scenarios.

Stepping into a bookstore, you’ll feel energized looking at the latest best-sellers and fresh faces on the shelves. You might even picture your work standing proudly amongst them.

Heading to your next writer’s conference, you come prepared. You’re happy to gather feedback on your work and even happier to share your piece aloud. 

You don’t compare yourself to the big leagues or your writing partner. You see other writers as writing allies, no matter if they’re writing about a space opera and you’re writing about an romance saga in Venice. 

Most importantly…You realize how imperative it is to foster a healthy community of writers—and you’re ecstatic being a part of one.

Shut Down Imposter Syndrome Today

Sometimes all it takes is a little extra knowledge to gain that confidence.

Knowing some of the tips mentioned in this webinar will help you overcome imposter syndrome and learn that it’s much easier to write and self-publish a book than you think.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

Click Here to Save Your Spot

What are your tips for dealing with imposter syndrome? Share your remedies below!

fantasy world

Fantasy World Building: How to World Build for Your Fantasy Novel

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!

fantasy world building

Here are our tips for fantasy world building:

  1. Understand what makes a book fantasy
  2. Get started on your fantasy book
  3. Worldbuilding a fictional world
  4. Time in world building
  5. Worldbuilding location
  6. Worldbuilding laws and governments
  7. People in world building
  8. Worldbuilding history
  9. How to build a society
  10. Worldbuilding religion
  11. Magic systems
  12. Creating an economy
  13. Worldbuilding daily life

What is a fantasy novel?

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-building that 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.

world building location

#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.

worldbuilding in fantasy

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.

world building life

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.

Writing Tips to Get You Started TODAY

If you’re here, it means you’re ready to take the leap and start writing.

We can even help you have your book outlined today – but only if you take action now.

Check out this training if you’re really serious about your book and want to become an author someday.

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What are some elements of your fantasy world? Drop them down below so we can all get inspired from them!

mindmap for a book

How to MindMap a Book: Easy Steps to Set Up Your Outline & Book

So you have a killer book idea….the next step is taking that small idea and learning how to mindmap for a book in order to set yourself up for success.

Coming up with a writing prompt or story idea that both will interest you and drive sales is probably the hardest part of self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the process of taking that idea and turning it into a book will be easy.

The first major step in that process is mindmapping, and in this blog, we’re going to explain the best ways of how to mindmap for a book.

how to mindmap for a book

Here are the steps to mindmap for a book:

  1. Understand why you need a mindmap
  2. Know the benefits of mind-mapping
  3. Choose your mind-mapping method
  4. Make a central topic in your mindmap
  5. Add secondary topics
  6. Branch out from the secondary topics
  7. Remember your mindmap will change
  8. Start your mindmap today

Why do we need to mindmap?

One might wonder why mindmapping is even necessary. First-time authors may find it tedious or boring while other full-time writers might be talented enough to get away with it.

Mindmapping may not be essential to a successful rough draft, but it makes getting to a refined manuscript a whole lot easier.

For a fun relatable metaphor, I would compare it to grocery shopping.

Do you really go to the grocery store without a plan or list of things to buy? Do you aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and just throw whatever looks good into the cart?

Maybe if you’re 10, and Mom’s buying, but most people would probably say they went to the store with the intention to buy certain items. In this comparison, the prepared list before heading to the store is your mindmap.

Benefits of Minmapping a Book

Creating a mindmap for your book is essential for setting your book up for success.

Three main reasons to mindmap:

  1. Helps to organize thoughts
  2. Begins to carve out natural book chapters & creates a story structure
  3. Continues the brainstorming idea process

Without your grocery list, it will take a lot longer walking up and down every aisle to make sure you have everything you want and need in your cart. There’s also a greater possibility that you forget something that you actually do need, and you won’t notice until you’re home.

You can also check out the training below in order to not on understand the importance of this step, but to get a better idea of what you need to set your book up for success:

training

#1 – Mindmapping helps organize thoughts of your book

After you initially devise the main idea or theme of your book, there’s probably a ton of loose thoughts in your mind of what you want to include.

Before losing them in the cobwebs of your head, write them down in your mindmap!

Mindmapping is all about getting every single, teeny-weeny thought or concept written down on paper. Then you can begin organizing which thought goes where. 

Doing this as you write is nearly impossible. Mindmapping helps get all your thoughts on one subject together in one place. That way, they are all grouped together in your book, and you didn’t forget any (like when you forgot to buy peanut butter at the grocery store).

#2 – Mindmapping begins to naturally carve out book chapters

When authors perform the grouping part of mindmapping, they are actually beginning to form the chapters of their book. This happens so seamlessly, that they might not even realize it!

If you tried to skip mindmapping and subsequently, outlining, and just began writing the rough draft, you might not know where to begin.

Well, after mindmapping, because you wrote out all of your thoughts of every idea you had on each topic, you now know which topics are the most important and have the most supporting information.

Start your book with those bigger topics. When you make a switch in topics during your writing, you know it’s time to begin a new chapter.

#3 – Mindmapping ensures you don’t forget anything & provides structure

As I said in the grocery store example, it’s much easier to forget an item that you need in the refrigerator if you’re just aimlessly walking around the store looking for what you need.

If that’s how you approach your book, you will likely forget to discuss a topic or make a point that you wanted.

Devising a plan for your book through mindmapping helps guarantee that doesn’t happen. It also pushes you to continue brainstorming. You may believe you already have enough to cover a certain subject, but going through the mindmapping process will push you to think of even more great ideas to include when writing your book.

Now that you understand the importance of mindmapping, let’s dive into how to mindmap for a book.

Choose Your Method of Mindmapping Your Book

After learning the three key aspects of why mindmapping is necessary to write a strong manuscript, you’re ready to begin your mindmap. 

mindmapping a book

Now, there are essentially two different ways to mindmap. Let’s dive into each one!

The two different ways to mindmap for a book:

  1. Bubble maps on printer paper
  2. Post-it notes on a bulletin board

Each author should choose the mindmap technique that makes them feel the most comfortable.

Self-Publishing School teaches to avoid using a computer when performing the mindmap phase. I couldn’t agree more.

Surely, it can be done on a laptop or a tablet, especially an interactive one where the user can use his fingers to write and draw. But I find a good, old-fashioned paper and pencil to be the best way to mind map.

You can also use post-it notes if that’s your preferred style.

Mindmap Option #1 – Bubble map on printer paper

The last real requirement before beginning is a piece of paper without lines. Printer paper would work best. Because of the added flexibility of erasing, I would also advise a pencil instead of a pen, but that’s my preferred use of writing utensil anyway.

On the first piece of paper, write your book topic (make it as general as possible) real big in the middle and circle it.

Next, take the more specific topics and put them in smaller circles around the big circle in the middle of the page. Draw a line from each little circle to the big, center circle.

Now, you have the beginning of your mindmap. More than likely, each of those smaller circles are going to turn into your chapters. Essentially, you’re creating a roadmap for your rough draft.

Here are the keys to successful first bubble midmap:

  • Make your central topic in the biggest circle as general as possible.
  • The reasons you want to write the book or important arguments you want to present will make the best topics in the second-tiered bubbles.
  • Continue your roadmap, writing key aspects to include for each topic to fill out the mindmap.

When you’re finished, you are going to have something that looks a little like this:

mindmap example

How to Mindmap For Your Book Using the Bubble Method

Everyone has slightly different methods for mindmapping a book. What I’m taking you through is my experience, plus some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Keep in mind that this is just a base. The real benefit comes from making this process your own and finding what works.

#1 – Make a Central Topic

As you can see with the first mindmap I did for my first book, His World Never Dies: The Evolution of James Bond, my central topic is very, very general — James Bond.

If someone asked me what my book was about, I would be a lot more specific than that, but start very general in the mindmap. 

Staying general allows the secondary bubbles—the ones that directly link to your very general topic—to be the main subjects of the chapters in the book.

#2 – Secondary Topics Are Your Central Arguments

More than likely, the general topic is what the subject that you love, but your central arguments are the secondary topics of your mindmap.

They are also what is going to make your book unique.

Returning to my book as an example, I wanted to write a book about the James Bond film series. But many people have done that.

What makes my book unique is the secondary bubbles on my mindmap surrounding the generic topic. Those were the central arguments to my book, and eventually, they became my chapters.

#3 – Branch off from your secondary topics

Referencing my mindmap example again, you can see that each secondary bubble then has multiple bubbles of thoughts coming out of it.

This is where you start to see a “road” for your rough draft.

I wrote down every possible idea I had on each of my topics that links to my general subject. I basically kept writing and making more road until I ran out of paper.

A lot of the ideas I wrote here were already in my head, but I also came up with new ideas through the process of mindmapping.

I never would have came up with all of these concepts if I hadn’t taken the time to mindmap.

How to Mindmap Your Book With the Post-it Notes on Bulletin Board Method

The other way to construct a mindmap is with post-it notes on a bulletin board or wall. If you love post-it notes, this may be the best way for you.

The keys to a successful post-it notes map is the same as the bubble map. The only change is in the display.

mindmap a book post it notes

In the above example, each big piece of paper with a number in the middle marks a chapter and certain topic pertaining to your larger, general subject. Each colored post-it note applies to a chapter and is the same as the third-tiered bubbles from my own mindmap.

Both techniques will work. You choose which one is best for you!

After completing your first mindmap, you want to repeat this process for every chapter.

The post-it notes picture above is the beginning of the next step of the process, which is then mindmapping each chapter. If you prefer the printer paper mindmapping technique, then repeat the exact same mindmap except plug your more specific topic in the middle.

This allows you more space and enables you to get even more detailed with your roadmap.

Here’s the mindmap for chapter 1 of my book, His World Never Dies: The Evolution of James Bond.

Notice how I included even more details off the “masculinity” bubble in this mindmap than I did in the first one. The main mindmap was definitely a good starting point, but then diving into a mindmap for each major topic or chapter pushed me to brainstorm even further.

This will have the same affect on you and place you well on the path of writing a well organized rough draft.

Tip: Another way to think of your mindmap is to think backward from the outlining phase, which comes directly after the mindmap.

While the bubble roadmap and the post-it bulletin board are the most popular mindmaps, there are other techniques you could try! Here’s one more example of a mindmap:

mindmap for a book example

Yes, this looks more like a book outline than mindmap, but if you feel more comfortable with a list like this, then do that.

There’s no right or wrong to mindmapping. The important part is to really begin brainstorming that great book idea and begin organizing your thoughts into possible chapters. 

Last big key to a mindmap? Remember, it’s going to change

Let’s return to our grocery store list analogy to end our blog. Even with the best, most-detailed shopping list, we all tend to deviate from it sometimes. Whether an item that you don’t necessarily need is on sale or you find a different brand for cheaper price, audibles to the shopping list happen.

Keep that in mind when you’re mindmapping. This isn’t going to be EXACTLY how your final draft will go. The mindmap process is just supposed to place authors on a road to an organized and well thought-out first draft.

Are you ready to start your mindmap TODAY?

Again, mindmapping may seem like a step authors can skip, but it’s pretty necessary, especially for first-time authors. It’s tempting to want to just start writing, but going through the mindmap phase first will make finishing your rough draft much easier.

A full commitment in this stage can make all the difference in the quality of your manuscript.

Here’s a free training that can teach you the importance of this step, along with more information on how the self-publishing industry works.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

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What are some of the best mindmap tips you’ve seen or heard? Drop them down below so we can all benefit from them!

Time for Writing: How to Make Time to Write in Your Busy Life

Finding time for writing isn’t easy, especially if you’re just starting out.

Carving out the time to write a book requires planning, persistence, and at times, a lot of caffeine.

Even with all the right elements in place, making time for writing is a major undertaking, especially when your days are filled with commitments to work, family, and social activities…

time for writing

Here’s how to make time for writing as a new writer:

  1. Build a writing habit
  2. Set up your writing space
  3. Keep your outline nearby
  4. Get rid of distractions
  5. Overcome writing excuses
  6. Create a schedule for writing time
  7. Set up your word count target
  8. Reward yourself for finding time for writing
  9. Plan your next writing session

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.

NOTE: If you really want to make writing a habit, check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program, where we help our students develop and keep writing habits. Learn more about it here

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 TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- 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
Get Comfortable- 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. 

All you have to know is how many words will be in your novel and you can work backward from there.

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Your book will have

words

pages

*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*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

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.

time for writing

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.”

What to do Next

Now it’s time to cut the reading and get to learning.

If you’re ready to write a book and self-publish it, in the next 90 days, join your free training!

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how to write a children's book

How to Write a Children’s Book with 11 Easy Steps for Success

Learning how to write a children’s book involves a number of steps. It’s more than just writing out a story idea and drawing pictures…

Have you written a book for children that has been rejected by agents and publishers over and over? Or do you have a page full of kids’ writing prompts or book ideas but no idea what to do with them?

If you’re like me, this has made you wonder if you’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or just plain enough for this writing and publishing for kids gig…

write a children's book

I’ve met my fair share of authors who’ve been swindled by hybrid publishers or spent years investing time, money, and energy into an industry that has given them little in return.

Never fear! We are here to help you!

Here are the steps for how to write a children’s book:

  1. Determine who you’re writing for
  2. Learn what makes a good children’s book
  3. Read a lot of children’s books
  4. Flesh out your own book idea
  5. Outline your children’s book
  6. Narrow the details
  7. Write your children’s book!
  8. Re-read and revise your first draft
  9. Get your book edited
  10. Find a children’s book illustrator
  11. Celebrate writing a children’s book!

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program (Yes! We even pair you up with a children’s book coach if that’s what you’re writing!).
Learn more about it here

What is a Children’s Book?

Children’s books are everything from Young Adult down to board books for your teething kiddo, however, a book is considered a children’s book when it’s intended for an audience between 0-8 years old.

But there are a wide variety of standards and skill between these opposite ends.

For example, books for young adults are full of detail, world-building, plots and subplots, setting creation, and strong character development, with no pictures, for thousands of words.

Picture books, on the other hand, serve our 0 to 8-year-old audience and have very few words, lots of pictures, simple plots but intense engagement.

For our purposes here, let’s think Early Reader down to Mom-or-Dad-reads-it-to-you. Everything else is essentially novel writing for an older child audience.

Why write a children’s book?

There are a number of reasons to write for children. The bonuses and motivation for writing children’s books will often be much different than if you want to write a full novel.

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.

writing children's book

Children’s Books Are on the Rise

The good news is that children’s book sales are on the rise. According to a 2017 article in Publisher’s Weekly, children’s books have become a centerpiece for many traditional publishers because the increase has surpassed those of every other book genre counterpart.

Between 2012 and 2017 children’s book sales doubled, with a trajectory to continue increasing.

In 2018, 31 out of the UK’s 100 bestselling books were children’s books. That’s a huge percentage!

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:

  1. The children’s industry is highly competitive. So even though sales are on the rise, so are people writing and publishing them.
  2. Books that thrive in the industry are extremely well written and well marketed.
  3. It takes time to study the craft of writing for children well and of marketing and selling your book well. Thus, it also takes time to make money.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

How to Write a Children’s Book Step by Step

Writing a children’s book has a different overall book writing process than say, when you’re writing a novel.

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:

Children's AgeBook Length
0 - 4 years old
0 - 100 words
3 - 8 years old0 - 700 words
5 - 7 years old200 - 5000 words
6 - 7 years old5000 - 20,000 words
8 - 10 years old20,000 - 35,000 words
Tweens40,000 - 55,000 words
Young Adult50,000 - 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.

This is a great resource for determining what you want to write (and for whom). This article was written primarily for writers in the traditional industry but is a great standard for us as well.

#2 – Know What Makes a Good Children’s Book

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:

  1. It has an important lesson
  2. The story is easy to follow for your chosen age-range
  3. The illustrations are high-quality and professional
  4. It’s relatable to a wide range of children
  5. 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:

  • Fractured Fairy Tales: Take a commonly known myth or legend and retell it in a new and creative way. Think “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” (as told by the wolf), Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, or my very own book, Tercules. I took the legend of Hercules, combined him with a wild turkey chick, and voila.
  • 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.

One of the biggest hangups preventing all authors from being successful is finishing writing a book.

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.

Editing for children’s book is not the same as editing for books for adults.

Trust me, I do both. Consider the editors feedback and make any necessary changes. Stay true to your voice and your story while honoring the tradition of literature and writing quality books.

#10 – Find a children’s book illustrator

This is the most fun part! Your book will now come to life in the hands of someone amazing.

The illustration in your book are extremely important. You have to think about which style you want and find someone who can bring that to life.

Here are a few places you can find a children’s book illustrator:

P.S. — Do you know any great children’s book illustrators? Drop their names in comments below so we can check them out!

#10 – Celebrate!

This is huge! These words you’ve been pouring over are about to be read by children!

Take a minute and have a dance party before stepping into book production, including formatting your book and even getting a book cover design.

You did it!

Are you ready to become a published children’s book author?

If you’re ready to finally take this idea you’ve had forever and do something about it, we’ve got just what you need.

Check out this free training to learn which steps you’ll need to take in order to not only self-publish a book, but do it successfully.

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faith based book

How to Write a Book About Your Faith: A Guide for More Impact

Simply writing a book is a step of faith. So, if you are interested in writing a book about your faith, you will need to exercise some.

Writing a book about your faith is so much more than simply jotting down your thoughts and opinions—at least if you want your story and message to be impactful…

The following principals, when applied, will help you with your journey.

how to write a faith based book

Here are the steps to write a faith-based book:

  1. Notice the similarities and differences with other books
  2. Convey hope in your writing
  3. Write a story, not just a list
  4. Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books
  5. Draw on your own experiences
  6. Trust your faith
  7. Create flaws
  8. Write your faith-based book so they understand
  9. Have faith
  10. Create overwhelming odds against you/the protagonist
  11. Learn lessons from those who have done it before
  12. How to start writing your faith-based book today

NOTE: If you’re ready to share your message and faith with the world, we can help! Check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program to learn how to do this in 90 days. Learn more about it here

How to Write a Faith-Based Book in 9 Easy Steps

There’s more to writing a faith-based book than jotting down your feelings and interpretations.

These steps will help you take your idea and vision to the next step and write a good book about your faith and understandings of it.

#1 – Similarities and differences between Faith Books and other books

The main difference between a book about faith and other books is not so much what is seen, but what is unseen.

According to one Biblical writer: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

While this is a Christian scripture, it could apply to writing a book about any faith. One goal of writing about faith is to convey hope to those who are hurting.

So, in order to write and publish a book your audience will want to read…

#2 – Convey Hope in your writing

You hope your work will be published and, I assume, that it helps your readers.

Pass hope onto your readers with examples of how faith “moves mountains,” and your book will have a higher chance of success in selling more books and becoming an enjoyable experience for everyone who encounters it.

Here are a few examples of how you can convey hope in your writing:

  • Display your own or others’ struggles
  • Make a point to develop a full range of emotions by the “show, don’t tell” rule in writing
  • Focus your book to look on the bright side
  • Show the steps from struggle to hope so readers can understand how it’s done

#3 – Write a story; not just a list

The most popular faith-based books have story settings where people overcoming impossible challenges.

Perhaps the most famous example is David and Goliath.

You know how it goes; an unknown boy destined to become king slays an evil giant. Even if you heard this only once, you would never forget it.

faith based story

Keep this in mind when looking to convey faith through your words. 

Faith comes to life through stories, and those stories will be remembered longer than any list of does and don’ts. Not that I’m against lists; I’m writing some here. However, this is an article, not a book.

A good story helps ensure your words have staying power. Do you know anyone who doesn’t remember the story of David and Goliath? Exactly!

#4 – Fiction vs nonfiction faith-based books

While far from fantasy, Cori Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place reveals parallel worlds.

Outwardly Ten Boom endures a brutal concentration camp while inwardly she lives in a world of faith. Faith, in this case, is essential to her survival. While the threat of death is ever-present, the main character and author find freedom against the ultimate antagonist. 

faith based books

After becoming friends with many ex gangsters, I wrote the book in the middle.

Fiction needs to be as real as nonfiction!

The more implausible the story, the more you need to anchor it in details that make it seem real. 

This is one of the biggest writing mistakes new aspiring authors can make.

The people we met long ago in a galaxy far away behave like we on earth—they are sometimes petty and self-centered and at other times noble and selfless.

#5 – Draw on your own experiences

Recall a time when you needed a certain amount of money, and it came just in time.

If you are writing a fictitious book like The Shack, you can use the feelings you encountered in life, and exaggerate them to make your point. Can you remember needing a certain amount of cash on the first of the month and receiving near that amount in the mail, just in time?

Take the amount you received and multiply it along with the penalty for not coming up with the money.

Turn things from difficult to desperate in order to further your message and story.

#6 – Trust your faith

Trust in the force!

Star Wars may not seem like a faith story, but it is. An entire galaxy is under the boot of darkness when Princess Leah suddenly appears and utters those desperate and now famous words, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!” 

The story of Moses who, with Pharos’s army before him and the sea behind him is similar.

The only option for Moses and the people he led was a great miracle. What is the only hope for the characters you want to write about?

Make the obstacles insurmountable, the solution nearly impossible, the resolution semi miraculous and you’ll even maintain that writing motivation on your way to a great faith book.

# 7 – Flawed, but not too flawed

When it comes to stories like this, you want to make sure you never write it as anything being “perfect.”

Firstly, no reader will want that type of character development or story structure as a whole because it’s not realistic and therefore, not interesting.

Here are some tips to avoid creating not enough or too many flaws:

  1. Don’t make your faith hero too good. Nobody is perfect, and your characters should not be perfect either.
  2. On the other hand, don’t give your characters fatal flaws. Some flaws are endearing while others are repulsive. Readers will easily forgive a woman who chews gum constantly while a man who runs over a puppy for the fun of it will remain beyond redemption to them.
  3. Make flaws relatable. If your reader thinks, I do that, or if they know someone with similar quirks to your characters, they will most likely relate to your creations and enjoy the story.
writing a faith based book

Tip for writing flaws in your faith-based book:

Think of it this way: You are on a bus. It is crowded and noisy with all sorts of distractions. Someone takes a seat across the aisle from you. You have something important to tell them…

Hold that image; the person you envision is your audience.

Write to them alone. The first thing out of your mouth should be more attractive to them than anything competing for their attention. Also, everything that follows after those initial words should hold that attention.

Lose them for a moment, and you may never get them back. 

By the time you reach your destination, your imaginary friend should be so intrigued by what you have said that he or she will follow you when you exit the bus.

# 8 – Write so they understand

Know what moves your readers and talk to them like you would any other friend, in terms they understand.

Everyone understands words like hope, faith, and love.

What you want to avoid is speaking in terms and scriptures and such in a way that those even looking to build their faith won’t understand.

#9 – Have a strong faith

One of the most famous writing tips, and wisely so, is that you write on what you know.

To write about faith, you will need to exercise faith. That starts by getting up early and writing.

Tip: I begin fiction drafts first thing in the morning, pre-coffee (tea in my case) while still in pajamas. Being nearly half asleep tends to bring out a loose, dreamy quality. While this style is good for fiction when getting the framework of the story down, it is not recommended for non-fiction or final drafts.

Nonfiction and self-editing require concrete logic. I suggest attempting them later in the day, when well fed, fully caffeinated, and wide-awake. You can then correct the mistakes you made while floating in that pleasant morning haze.

#10 – The Protagonist needs to face overwhelming odds

Hosoi, my life as a skateboarder, junkie, inmate and Pastor is a book I co-authored for HarperOne.

faith based book example

The memoir follows famed skateboarder Christian Hosoi, who became one of the world’s top skateboarders before falling to meth addiction.

After his incarceration, Hosoi faces himself for the first time, a showdown that ends at the feet of faith.

Immersed in fame, money, and vice since his childhood, the character has little chance of surviving, much less in becoming what he is now—a faithful husband, attentive father of four and a church pastor.

The example here is that your protagonist has to face challenges and odds stacked against them.

And if you’re writing a nonfiction book, your job is to ensure that your own struggles are evident.

When others relate to hardship, it creates a more powerful emotional impact in your faith-based book.

#11 – Learn lessons from those experienced

Some of the most powerful lessons can be learned by those who have experience. I learned as much when interviewing Shack author, William Paul Young.

faith based book author

In the last century writers like C.S Lewis and G.K. Chesterton led the faith-based fiction pack.

More recently, William Paul Young made a big splash with a small volume called The Shack

I interviewed Young a short while ago, and he mentioned that Shack began as a hand-stapled gift for his grandchildren.

As you may know it went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.

C.S. Lewis had similar success with a book he wrote for his grandchildren, The Chronicles of Narnia

While these are extraordinary examples, they illustrate two things: The power of faith and focusing on a narrow audience.

While written thousands of years after the books in the bible, both Lewis’s and Young’s tales weave in some timeless common threads: For one, the main characters have little or no chance of succeeding in their goals. Similar to the story of young King David, a cursed land is liberated by a band of children in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Start Writing Your Faith-Based Book Today!

The hardest part is getting started and sticking with it.

With the proper system (hint: ours), you can save a ton of time while maximizing the quality and impact of your book.

Ready to share your message? Check this out!

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book genres

Book Genres: Writing Genres Dictionary [Examples & Word Counts]

As a writer (or author) knowing the different book genres is vital to your overall knowledge as a professional, and for your book’s success.

Not only is labeling your genre correctly important but…

Not doing so can result in low book sales, negative book reviews on Amazon, and unsatisfied readers overall.

book genres

When you’re writing a book, the genre you write in is super important because it will dictate the different literary elements within your book.

Here’s a list of the different book genres:

  1. Fantasy
  2. Adventure
  3. Romance
  4. Contemporary
  5. Dystopian
  6. Mystery
  7. Horror
  8. Thriller
  9. Paranormal
  10. Historical fiction
  11. Science Fiction
  12. Memoir
  13. Cooking
  14. Art
  15. Self-help / Personal
  16. Development
  17. Motivational
  18. Health
  19. History
  20. Travel
  21. Guide / How-to
  22. Families & Relationships
  23. Humor
  24. Children’s

NOTE: We cover what you need to know about selling in your specific genre in all of our Self-Publishing Programs. Learn more about it here

Knowing Your Book Genres is Important

When becoming an author, it’s important to know the differences in genres so you’re well informed about what you’re writing.

Obviously, your audience may change from genre to genre.

Not only that, but the “rules” for writing also vary depending on which genre you write in, which means you’ll have to understand them in order to get it right.

Not only that, but those “rules” also often include how long your book is, meaning how many words and pages it will be.

This varies per genre based on audience and industry standards.

To find out yours, check out the calculator below:

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Your book will have

words

pages

*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*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

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:

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Westerns
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary

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.

book genres

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 +

Tips for Writing in the Fantasy Book Genre:

  • Spend time world building and understanding the setting of your story
  • Focus on strong character development (your magic system can’t carry the whole story—a bad plot still makes for a good book if you have great characters, but it doesn’t work the other way around)
  • Create rules for your world, and magic system specifically
  • Avoid over-used magic and story structures
  • Remember that your flora and fauna (plants/trees, etc.) can be magic and have fantastical elements as well

#2 – Adventure

Writing a novel in the adventure category will require a trip, journey, or quest of some kind as the overall plot.

Your average adventure novel often focuses on both the character’s physical journey as well as the journey they go through as a person throughout the novel.

Average word count for this book genre: 90,000 – 130,000

Epic Adventure Genre:

As stated above for an epic fantasy, any genre that’s “epic” is characterized by the magnitude of the plot, character, or themes themselves.

An example of an epic adventure novel is Moby Dick, which stands at about 190,000 words and 720 pages long.

Average word count for this book genre: 120,000 – 200,000

Tips for Writing in the Adventure Book Genre:

  • Focus on the ebb and flow of tension in your story structure
  • Outline your book so your structure works for this genre
  • 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
  • Avoid these common mistakes when writing romance

#4 – Contemporary

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.

book genres dystopian

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
  • Young World
  • Handmaid’s Tale

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.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Mystery Book Genre:

  • Outline your story thoroughly if you want to shock your readers with the twist as planning allows you to provide foreshadowing that makes sense
  • Know your ending before planning out the rest of the story
  • Make sure your main character is really, really interesting (the reason mystery novels work well is because of the protagonist, not always just the mystery)

#7 – Horror

Horror novels are characterized by the fact that the main plot revolves around something scary and terrifying.

Oftentimes, you can find that Horror and Thriller describe the same book, though we’ll touch more on why thrillers are not always horror novels in the next section.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Horror Book Genre:

  • Do what your readers least expect by setting up a scenario in which they can guess the result, and then do something completely different
  • Use strong verbs and the rule of “show don’t tell” to appeal to the senses in order to achieve a physiological response in readers
  • 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
  • The Shining
  • It

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 110,000

book genres thriller

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.

The word count for this novel genre can be extensive depending on the storyline.

Average word count for this book genre: 60,000 – 90,000

Tips for Writing in the Science Fiction Book Genre:

  • Create new technology that works with and/or against your protagonist’s agenda
  • Develop slang when writing dialogue that’s appropriate for the time you’re writing in (and avoid using current-day slang that will likely be outdated for your world/era)
  • Like other genres that are not set in a realistic time and world, make sure to add internal conflicts that we still struggle with in our current lives in order to appeal to readers more

#12 – Memoir

On to the nonfiction writing portion of these book genres and first up is memoirs.

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

#24 – Children’s Books

While there are several genres of children’s picture books, we wanted to touch on some details about them as a whole.

When writing a children’s book, it’s important to keep these details in mind. If you don’t, you run the risk of writing a book that you like instead of one that a child would.

A children’s book describes any book written for an audience between the ages of 0-8 years old.

Now, of course, children of older ages can enjoy this book but ultimately, you’re shooting for those who can’t read at all, or are relatively new to reading.

Average word count for this book genre: 300 – 1200 words

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Which genre is your book in? Tell us about it in the comments below!

inciting incidents

The Inciting Incident: How to Write One Correctly to Hook Readers

Your inciting incident has the power to influence readers to 1) buy your book and 2) pull them in for the remainder of it.

In order to get readers to keep reading, your book needs something to trigger that.

Sometimes…even starting your story out strongly isn’t enough…

And that means you need a powerful and inticing inciting incident.

inciting incident

Here’s how to write an inciting incident:

  1. Know why the inciting incident matters
  2. Learn what an inciting incident is
  3. Ensure it changes the character’s life forever
  4. Make sure it draws a line between old life and new
  5. It must kick off the main plot
  6. Learn from inciting incident examples

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program, in addition to your 1-on-1 coaching with a bestelling fiction author.
Learn more about it here

Why Inciting Incidents Matter

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.

Why?

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.

what is an inciting incident

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.

Start Working Toward a Powerful Story TODAY

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. When you have a coach, someone you can work with 1 on 1 to take your story idea to the next level, your progress (and future publishing goals) are better for it.

Check out this free training to learn how you can get started.

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Are you getting ready to write your inciting incident? What’s your book about?

find motivation for writing

Writing Motivation: How to Persevere in Writing When You Feel Like Giving Up

Writing motivation is fickle. It comes and goes but the feeling of wanting to give up might linger even longer.

So how do you persevere in writing if you feel like giving up?

Contrary to popular belief, writers and authors don’t just want to write all day every day. Maybe the very rare person does, but that’s not the norm…

And so writers must learn to reach beyond themselves and understand how to stay motivated to write and persevere until they finish writing a book, especially if you want to self-publish a book.

Here’s how to keep your writing motivation high:

  1. Learn how perseverance in writing works
  2. Forming a writing habit
  3. Gather the right writing tools
  4. Increase writing motivation through dedication
  5. Keep your writing dates
  6. Keep the document visible
  7. Do writing sprints
  8. Connect with other authors
  9. Be kind to yourself

NOTE: If you want a system as well as an accountability resource to keep up your writing motivation, check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program where we do just that (with 1-on-1 coaching) and much more. Learn more about it here

How Perseverance Works, Even in Writing

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:

  1. A word processing program (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs)
  2. A journal
  3. A blank piece of paper
  4. A notebook
  5. A pen/pencil
  6. A keyboard

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.

motivated to write

#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).

motivation for writing

#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!

PlatformHashtags
Twitter- #amwriting
- #writerslife
- #authorlife
- #aspiringauthor
- #writerproblems
- #[yourgenre]writer
Instagram- #amwriting (as in, "I am writing")
- #writerslife
- #fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
- #writerprobs, #writerproblems
- #writersofig, #writersofinstagram, #writersofinsta
Facebook- #amwriting (as in, "I am writing")
- #writerslife
- #fantasywriter, #scifiwriter, #contemporarywriter, etc.
- #writerprobs, #writerproblems

#5 – Be Kind to Yourself

The research from writer Joseph Epstein says that more than 81% of Americans believe that they have a book in them, but very few will put n the work to do it.

You, however, are doing it and this deserves recognition.

Often times we get down on ourselves, but in these times, you need to remember to speak to yourself like you would a friend.

When I talk to a friend about my writing, they give me kudos and credit for the things I am doing. You should speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend.

Writing Motivation from other Authors

Any author will tell you that there will be days that you simply do not want to write, but many have tricks to help overcome the writing void.

Here are a few of my favorite blog posts on finding the perseverance in your writing routine:

Remember that there will always be times that you lose writing motivation and struggle to produce excellent content, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write.

Even the best writers struggle.

They keep moving forward, by putting one word in front of the other and finding writing motivation that works for them, and you can too.

Persevere in Writing TODAY

Step 1:

Set aside some of those 86,400 seconds in your day today and take time to write. It can be for 60 seconds or 60 minutes, but by putting engaging with your writing today, you are making the choice to persevere.

Step 2:

Sign up for your FREE training. Oftentimes, it helps to hear just how easy and manageable this process can be.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

Spots are limited!

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What are some of your secrets to writing (even when it’s hard)? Drop them down below so we can all benefit from them!

how to world build

Worldbuilding in a Novel: 120+ World Building Questions to Get it Right

Writing a novel requires more than good writing chops and fancy literary devices…you need solid worldbuilding in order to craft a realistic image for our readers.

And you’ve heard the word ‘world building’ being tossed around a lot, especially in association with the science-fiction and fantasy genre.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to world build in your novel with tips and questions to make sure your book is well-rounded.

worldbuilding

Here’s how to world build in your novel:

  1. Understand what world building is
  2. Build the look of the world
  3. Decide on what and who the inhabitants are
  4. Develop a strong world history
  5. Form societal rules
  6. Develop religions and social customs
  7. World building questions for fantasy
  8. World building questions for sci-fi

NOTE: If you’re ready to take your world and get it in front of readers everywhere, make sure to check out our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program, where you’ll have 1-on-1 time with a bestselling author as your coach!
Learn more about it here

What is world building?

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.

world building example

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 Thrones series.

worldbuilding example

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 enjoyable for the readers instead of dropped all at once in exposition.

Your imaginary world will naturally grow and develop as you write. When done correctly, world building can be a wonderful way to enhance your story. 

Uplevel Your Book TODAY

We know you love your book. And that means you want to see your book in the hands of readers everywhere.

We can help you with that…and here’s a sneak peek for FREE.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Are you writing a book in its own world or this one? What’s been the hardest part about worldbuilding for it?

book about your life

How to Write a Book About Your Life: 10 Easy Steps to Tell Your Story

Do you have an amazing life story you want to know how to write your life story, whether it’s just for you or so others can learn from you?

Writing your life story is a bit of a different process from writing a novel or even writing about someone else.

This is your story; rather than developing characters for a made-up story, it’s your personal life you are sharing with readers.

It’s a very vulnerable—and worthwhile—form of writing.

how to write a book about your life

If you have an incredible true story to tell about your life but aren’t sure where to start on how to write your life story, we can help.

Here are the steps for writing a book about your life:

  1. Start by journaling or free-writing
  2. Outline and organize your notes
  3. Pick a nonfiction genre to write in
  4. Research for accuracy
  5. Identify characters and perspective
  6. Add speculation
  7. Determine the setting
  8. Remember the dialogue
  9. Prepare for negative pushback
  10. Commit to finishing

NOTE: If you’re ready to start writing about your life…and publish your influential story, check out our VIP Self-Publishing Program where we’ve helped thousands do the same, successfully. Learn more about it here

Why Write a Story About Your Life

Many people think they need to do something massive or be famous in order to write about their lives…

That’s not true at all.

In fact, more people can relate to regular, non-famous people and their struggles than they can those who have been in the limelight.

The reason writing about your life is important is because you have a story. You have something worth sharing that can actually change the lives of others through your trials and tribulations.

Even if you’re not ready to write a memoir, you still have something valuable to share—knowledge gained through the years or maybe you just experienced a short, influential event in your life that you believe can help other.

No matter what that story is, you can and you should tell it.

How to Write a Book About Your Life in 10 Simple Steps

So you’ve discovered you have something to share with the world…but what you don’t know is how the heck to make it happen.

Here are our top tips for writing your life story.

#1 – Journaling and Free-writing

Take a few minutes to free write or journal each day, focusing on one memory. A good writing prompt for this free-write session is to write about a significant 24 hours in your life. This is just to help you get started. The memories written down from this significant moment in your life will be use later to build upon to create your nonfiction narrative.

Even if you don’t ultimately use this particular memory in your overall narrative, getting into the habit of writing down memories will benefit you as a writer and help keep those memories fresh.

Still feeling stuck? Explore using a nonfiction writing prompt to help you get started.

#2 – Outline and organize

After you’ve written down a variety of memories—whether they’re a part of an overall narrative or a collection of essays—they now need to be organized into a coherent story in order to actually write it.

Since you’re writing your life story, technically the plotline is already there; it just has to be written down and organized in a manner that will speak to your audience.

However, if you are the more organized type and not a “pantster” like other writers, outlining what memories you want to include in your life story may help get the writing juices flowing.

Not only can an outline help you get clear on the message and order you’ll write your book, it can also help you form writing goals that will set up a writing habit. These are two keys to actually finishing your book.

Other writers struggle with writing unless they have an outline or book template, even if it’s a book outline of their own life. It all depends on you, the writer.

We have a great video detailing how to outline a book you can check out right here to find a method that works best for you:

#3 – Pick your genre

“Creative nonfiction has become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities.” – Lee Gutkind, What is Creative Nonfiction?

There are several book genres that fall under the nonfiction genre: memoirs, essay collections, autobiographies, motivational books, and more.

Since you are writing a book about your life, it might feel like you have to put it in the “memoir” genre, but that’s not always the case.

In fact, it might hurt your book sales to mislabel your book as a memoir when it’s actually more of a self-help in a specific category.

An example of this is While We Slept by our own coach here at Self-Publishing School, Marcy Pusey.

While this author does label this book as a memoir, it also fits in several other categories. These Amazon categories will help you 1) reach a wider audience and 2) help you tell the story in a way that will speak to those readers.

If you’re struggling to decide whether your book about your life is a memoir or autobiography, this can help:

The main difference between memoirs and autobiographies are their focus. Memoirs focus primarily on one specific time, or “memory” of one’s life, like a battle with a disease, traveling to a foreign country, or adopting a special pet.

Autobiographies, or “biographies of oneself,” focus primarily on your entire life from start to finish—from when you were born until you die, or at least until the current moment in your life with details about achievements or notable moments.

Autobiographies also tend to be a bit more factual than creative, though there have been some very well written autobiographies published.

What if neither of these makes sense for my book about my life?

Maybe you don’t have a specific period in you want to focus on, but don’t necessarily want to tell your entire life story from start to finish. This is where a collection of personal and/or lyrical essays may be more of your style.

Think Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me? Kaling is still telling her life story, or at least memorable moments in her life story, without necessarily being one complete narrative. Collections of personal essays are like the nonfiction version of a collection of short stories.

If you are still uncertain about which nonfiction subgenre to write your life story in, this is a major topic covered in the Self-Publishing School VIP course. They take you through choosing your categories that will help your book sell the most.

#4 – Research

Regardless of how you begin writing your life story—with free-writing or outlining—research can help you build on memories to create a fuller story and establish you as a credible writer.

Memories are fickle, and we don’t always remember things correctly, especially if you are writing about something that happened many years ago.

Researching for a book can seem like a daunting task. In fact, out of all the research you’ll end up doing, only a very small percentage will end up in your story. In order to find that small percentage, however, you need to do your research.

Here are some tips for book research when writing a book about your life:

  • List memories or facts you’re not 100% certain about
  • Ask family members or others close to you for details
  • Get quotes from those people if necessary
  • When writing and you come across something you need to research, simply make a note to research and keep writing so you can write faster

#5 – Identify characters and perspective

The people you have met in your life influenced you in some way, and as such, they will influence how you write your life story as well.

Here are some tips to organize these characters for your story:

  • Make a list of people, also known as “characters” in this case, who you want to include in your story
  • Write down their description: physical appearance, age, background,
  • Write down their relationship to you (and if you’re close or distant to them)
  • Check out this character bio template from Selfpublishing.com to help flesh these details out

This will assist you in describing them in your narrative through the rule of “show don’t tell“, that way readers can visualize them and understand how they affected your life personally.

The only thing you may have to alter is a character’s real name, or names.

Changing names can protect a person’s true identity in their story. Unless you have permission to use someone’s true name, change it and include a disclaimer at the beginning of your story. Make a note in your character list of names you change, that way you can keep track of who’s who.

Also, just because this is your life story—so technically, it’s told from your point-of-view—doesn’t mean you can’t explore the perspectives of the other characters in your story.

Keeping other character’s point-of-view in mind will give your story more dimension, and will help you to avoid a one-sided, train-of-thought narrative.

#6 – Add speculation

Use “speculation” to fill in gaps in your life story. Not sure if one of your character’s motivations? Is your memory of the event a bit foggy? Using what you already know, combined with the research you’ve conducted, speculate to the best of your ability.

Here is an example of writing speculation:

“I am not sure why my parents chose to end their marriage after 15 years together. They were always private people, and after their brief announcement to me about their separation, neither of them spoke a word to me about it ever again.

Perhaps they were trying to spare me the heartache of the ordeal. I often wonder if my father’s time in the service made him distant from mother; that was the case with me. Maybe my mother, like me, became lonely as a result of that.”

Words and phrases like “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “I wonder if” show your reader that you, the narrator, are speculating.

Try to find creative ways to speculate, as well. You are, in a sense, still telling a true story; you’re using what you know to create a hypothesis about something that is still a mystery to you.

If you were to claim this hypothesis were true without facts to back it up, you could get end up in trouble.

#7 – Determine the setting

Readers want to know where your life story took place, or the setting. Like fiction, you need to consider how the setting of this story affected you as a person.

Here are some questions to help you discover the setting of your book:

  • Where was this place?
  • What did it look like?
  • Did you enjoy living/visiting there?
  • Do you remember any smells from the area?
  • What was the culture like there?
  • Were you a spectator of that culture or immersed in it?
  • How did the setting contribute to your experience?
  • What mood did that setting elicit?

Details like these affected your life tremendously—maybe more than you realize—and therefore must be included in your narrative, just as they would be if this was a fictional story.

Not only that, but this helps paint a much clearer picture for your readers and creates a more entertaining experience.

#8 – Remember the dialogue

Even if you’re writing a nonfiction book, the dialogue is still crucial.

When you forget to write dialogue…the book can end up reading like a very boring textbook.

Dialogue is what gives the writing—and the story itself—life.

But that leaves the challenge of writing accurate dialogue. Unless you used a tape recorder or video to record a conversation, chances are you’re not going to recall previous conversations word-for-word.

Just write down what you remember to the best of your ability, and paraphrase if you must. If you are still on good terms with the person you’re speaking within your memory, try contacting them to be sure that their memory of the conversation is similar to yours. You can even ask them to approve any written dialogue that’s in quotes if it’s not 100% accurate to what was really said.

Write dialogue the same way it would be used in a fiction book and remember to use correct dialogue formatting and tags.

#9 – Prepare for negative pushback

Not all of us have sweet stories with cute pets. Sometimes our memories and experiences are on the dark side—for example, The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison.

This memoir focuses on the time in the author’s life where she has a sexual (and incestuous) relationship with her father. She received a huge amount of negative reactions to her story.

If you are going to write and publish a personal and scandalous true story about your life, steel yourself for these kinds of negative reactions, particularly from those in your life unhappy with you telling the story to begin with.

Something this is just a part of becoming an author.

Nonfiction writing that isn’t dark in nature is still liable of receiving negative feedback from those who appear in the story, even if their names are changed.

Some people may react simply because they were written in the story at all.

#10 – Commit to finishing your book!

Your story can only get out into the world if you commit to not only finishing your first draft, but publishing your book.

If you’re ready to commit right now, we have a FREE training to help you through the next (and often most difficult) steps.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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Just remember: this is your story. This is your life. You have a right to tell your story.

So what are you waiting for? Start writing about your life today!

what are character archetypes

14 Character Archetypes to Help You Build a Strong Character Cast

Using character archetypes in your book is a great way to ensure you have a diverse cast with specific roles.

Because without good characters…your readers won’t find a good reason to keep reading…

The character development of your story can make the biggest difference in hooking real fans for life…and losing readers for good.

We’ll help you discover some character archetypes you can use to ensure your readers are ensnared in the grasp of your story from start to finish.

character archetypes

Here’s a list of 14 character archetypes:

  1. The Leader
  2. The Outsider
  3. The Caregiver
  4. The Rebel
  5. The Mentor
  6. The Professor
  7. The Warrior
  8. The Hunk
  9. The Wise
  10. The Orphan
  11. The Hero
  12. The Jester
  13. The Seducer
  14. The Bully

NOTE: If you’re ready to take these archetypes to the next step and flesh them out with your very own coach, check out our VIP Fiction Self-Publishing Program.
Learn more about it here

What is a character archetype?

A character archetype is a typical character that represents specific actions, nuances, and characteristics, and can also be known as “character tropes.” These characters have well-known qualities that shape their narrative and the story.

There are many characters that have similar and recurring qualities that are easy to recognize in stories.

Take mentors or professors for example. This can include any “wise one” that is a resource for support and knowledge for the main character.

We’ll cover more of this in that section below, but Albus Dumbledore is a great example of this character archetype.

Character Archetypes List of the Top 14 You Need to Know

Not every story needs a character archetype, and having a few doesn’t mean your characters aren’t well-rounded or unique. At the same time, your characters can also have multiple qualities of these archetypes, which adds to their complexity.

Character archetypes are used in order to ensure your character cast is diverse, while also fulfilling plot and story structure needs.

There are certain elements every good story needs in order to satisfy readers and character archetypes are a big part of what does that.

That’s why we’re covering 14 character archetypes to think about when writing a novel.

#1 – Character Archetype: The Leader

The leader is a well-known and widely used character archetype for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this archetype is always active, meaning they don’t allow things to happen to them but rather, they move the plot forward through decisions and their own actions.

You’ll often find that main characters often possess the qualities of a leader, which makes for an alluring book.

Qualities of a The Leader character archetype:

  • Active and not a passive character
  • Makes decisions for other characters
  • Leads the “charge” in almost all scenarios
  • Is the go-to character for advice
  • Can grow into the leadership role if they’re not there right away
  • They are typically a key-player in the plot and overall story

Character Archetype Examples: The Leader

For more clarity, here are some recognizable examples of this character archetype where you can easily identify these traits.

Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Throughout the series, Rowling paint Harry as a leader in several ways. We first see him as less than a leader, living under the stairs but as the story progresses, his leadership shines in several ways. Firstly, he decides to forgo friendship with Draco Malfoy because, well, he doesn’t believe him to be a good person. This sets the stage for even more leadership characteristics as he stands up to Snape, and ultimately takes on Voldemort in the end. His leadership continues to grow as he leads his friends and classmates through difficult times in the series.

Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – The first act of leadership we see from Katniss is the very beginning of the story. She is hunting for her family…so they can eat. It’s a very basic form of leadership that’s necessary due to her mom’s state after her father passes away. We continue to see her leadership flourish as she volunteers as tribute, sets a precedent of distaste for the games, and ultimately saves both her own and Peeta’s life by the end of the first book.

Tobias Kaya in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci – Tobias begins the book as a provider for his family. This leadership role is necessary due to his sister’s disability. As the book progresses and Tobias enters the deadly tournament, allies seem to be his only means of survival. He bands together (somewhat reluctantly) with a few key competitors and soon finds himself as the voice of their group, making decisions out of instinct without even realizing the position he’s in.

character archetypes leader

#2 – Character Archetype: The Outsider/Wildcard

This character archetype serves a very distinct purpose. Oftentimes, this is a character that adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the story.

For example, this character won’t be “close” to your main character or even other secondary characters. They often come into the story to aid or solve a specific issue, but can also be seen as untrustworthy.

Character Archetype Examples:

Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games trilogy – Johannah Mason meets Katniss and Peeta during the opening of the 75th Hunger Games. Wild, unpredictable, and untrustworthy is our first reactions to her, solidifying her character archetype as the outsider or wildcard. Because her character is so unpredictable, we’re both worried and interested in what she’ll do next, which increases the tension when she appears on the page.

Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series – Luna Lovegood is a very important character in the Harry Potter series but is often seen as an outsider not only from her own perspective but from others. We don’t really know what she’ll do next and this adds to the intrigue of any scene she’s in.

#3 – Character Archetype: The Caregiver

This character archetype speaks for itself. The caregiver is essentially the character who serves to take care of others.

They often have qualities that are “parently” and can be the voice of reason when the plot thickens. This character is one others often turn to for help, reassurance, and even encouragement.

Characters may also wonder how they’d get through what they have without this one character ensuring their safety and wellbeing.

Character Archetype Examples:

Louisa Clark in Me Before YouThe main purpose of this character’s role is to be a caretaker. Her job in the story is to care for a disabled man. The characteristics she possesses in the story are directly in line with this character archetype of being a voice of reason, encouragement, and caring for others in the story.

Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series – While Hermione’s character serves several purposes throughout the story, a major contributing factor to her narrative is the care she takes of both Ron and Harry. How many times throughout the series do the two of them even say, “What would I do without you?” This is a common reaction to the caretaker character archetype.

#4 – Character Archetype: The Rebel

Many main characters can fall under The Rebel character archetype because this trait often leads to interesting and intriguing conflict readers latch onto.

Keep in mind, however, that this is also a great archetype to use for villains or antagonists.

The qualities that make up The Rebel archetype are exactly what you’d expect; the characters often go against the grain, resist rules, regulations, and orders, as well as follow their own paths.

Character Archetype Examples:

Fred and George from the Harry Potter series – While Fred and George, twin brother of Ron Weasley in the series, are also known as The Jester character archetypes (which we’ll cover below), they’re primarily rebels as well. The most infamous instance that showcases this is in book 5 when Delores Umbridge takes over. They drive her out with their own invented pranks, “sticking it to the man” in the way they know how best.

Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy – Katniss may not have thought herself a rebel at first, but her actions quickly showcase her natural rebel side. From threatening to eat Nightlock berries at the end of the first book to actually leading the rebellion as a whole, she’s The Rebel through and through.

#5 – Character Archetype: The Mentor

One of the most iconic (and sometimes clichéd) characters in stories is The Mentor.

I’m sure many examples are already popping up in your mind for this one. A classic example of this is Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.

The Mentor character archetype is someone who serves as a source of information, motivation, support, and encouragement usually for the protagonist or that group in a novel.

This character is also commonly used as an exposition element in the sense that they can provide information to the protagonist that the audience also needs to know, but in a natural way that doesn’t feel like “info-dumping.”

Character Archetype Examples:

Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series – As mentioned above Albus Dumbledore is a prime example of a mentor in this series. He guides, teaches, supports, and encourages not only Harry, but several students he grew close to throughout the series.

Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games trilogy – This may be unclear at first, but Haymitch is literally and figuratively The Mentor in this trilogy. His character literally mentors Katniss and Peeta in the games as his duty but later mentors them in ways unrelated to the games by offering advice and taking on their personal conflicts.

character archetypes mentor

#6 – Character Archetype: The Professor

The Professor and The Mentor are very similar character archetypes. However, with The Professor the emphasis is on their role as an educator and teacher instead of just a mentor.

Therefore, Dumbledore can be seen as The Professor, though another character occupies that role in this series.

This character archetype is usually a teacher or educator the main character grows close to. The key defining factor is that The Professor both teaches in a formal way, but also takes an interest in aiding your character’s personal life and journey. They offer guidance and help when the characters need it most and can be a go-to for information for your characters.

Character Archetype Examples:

John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society – In this iconic story, Professor Keating guides his students on a journey through poetry…and adolescence. Not only does he teach his students poetry in a way they can understand and appreciate, he’s also instrumental in developing Todd Anderson, the main character and student.

Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series – This archetype is evident in Professor McGonagall as well. Her role is to be an educator and to hold students to the highest standard, pushing them and even creating conflict within the story.

Mr. Bruner in The Edge of 17Mr. Bruner is Nadine’s teacher and also someone she goes to for guidance in her personal life. He not only serves as her educator in school, but he’s a confidant for Nadine’s personal problems and helps her get through them.

#7 – Character Archetype: The Warrior

When you think of this character archetype, it’s very evident which characters fall under this category.

Think of the best warriors in any movie where they appear. Those characters are often tough, confident, and skilled in combat. Many army officers, commanders, and persons in charge of armies will occupy this archetype.

But a character doesn’t need to be in a role of combat or military in order to be The Warrior. They can possess qualities of a warrior without the title.

The Warrior can also be both a good or bad character.

Character Archetype Examples:

Gray Worm in the Game of Thrones series – Chosen to lead the Unsullied under command of Daenarys Stormborn in this series because he “has no fear,” his character is the epitome of The Warrior. He is fierce, skilled, battle-ready, and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish what he wants and needs to.

Cinna in The Hunger Games series – This might be a very underrated quality of Cinna’s in this series with The Warrior traits not evident upon first glance. But we later learn how instrumental this character’s role is to rebelling against the Capitol, marking him just as deserving of the title “warrior” as anyone on the battlegrounds.

#8 – Character Archetype: The Hunk

Also known as “The Adonis,” this character is the stereotypical “hot guy” in stories.

While he may also serve other roles, this character is a distraction (often to the main character) and is usually the love interest in stories.

This character can go one of two ways. You can have the stereotypical hunk who is unintelligent and only gets by on their looks, or he can be the hot guy who is misunderstood and has more going for him than people believe.

Either way, the main factor is that he’s very handsome to the point of distraction.

Character Archetype Examples:

The Adonis in The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci – In the Sovereign’s Tournament, a competition to the death to win the hand of The Savior, there are several competitors, one of which is nicknamed The Adonis. This character is very much the stereotypical hunk with no brains, and it serves a very distinct purpose in this novel. He’s a fan-favorite of the spectators and stirs up jealousy amongst the competitors.

Christian Gray in 50 Shades of GrayOn the other hand, this character is more in line with the second version of The Hunk, a hot guy with more to him than meets the eye. Christian Gray is written as being so attractive, it turns heads when he walks by. But he’s also a billionaire businessman with a lot more than meets the eyes. He’s very smart while being a hunk, and then some.

Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter series – This character serves as a mix of both types of The Hunk. He is a competitor in the Triwizard Tournament, and the ladies love him. He’s handsome, charismatic, and also a highly intelligent and skilled wizard. All of these add to the conflict of Harry competing because others root for Cedric and not him, creating issues at school and in his personal life. Not to mention the fact that Harry’s crush ends up dating Cedric.

#9 – Character Archetype: The Wise

This character archetype is someone who often serves as a destination for characters in adventure or epic novels.

You may recall stories of characters needing to travel to meet this “Wiseman” who could tell them what to do or where to go next.

With a character like this, their role in their personal life is also in line with being The Wise in the sense that they also serve as aid, advice, and intellect outside of your main character’s needs.

Character Archetype Examples:

Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings Series – While this character also serves as The Mentor, it’s important to note that he’s a very wise, all-knowing character as well. Throughout the series, he proves himself a source of information for several characters.

Yoda in the Star Wars franchise – We can’t talk about The Wise without mentioning Yoda, one of the “wise man most in books.” He knows the most, aids anyone he comes by in their efforts, and is a classic example of The Wise character archetype.

character archetype wise

#10 – Character Archetype: The Orphan

While many authors aren’t bad people, we do tend to put our main characters through the wringer and orphaning them is one of the top ways to create sympathy for the character…and we all know that doing that makes readers love them more.

There are so many examples of characters whose parents passed away shortly after they were born or even later, into their teen years.

The most distinguishing factor for this character archetype is that the loss of their parents, whether it when they’re a baby or adult, has to add to the conflict of the story, including internal problems. If the story can exist as-is without their deaths, it’s not useful for the parents to be dead.

Character Archetype Examples:

Tony Stark from The Marvel comics – Although Stark loses his parents at the age of 21, this plays a big role in who he is in the franchise. After they pass, he has to take over his father’s company, where he grows into the person we really know him as: Ironman. Their death also plays a pivotal plot point in storylines later as well.

Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series – Harry’s parents died when he was a baby but they left before something so important, the series could not have been written as-is without it: Harry’s scar and connection to Lord Voldemort. Their deaths catapulted the entire conflict of the story, and it also causes him internal conflict in that he struggles with his identity due to their absence.

Snow White – We all know this story. Because her mom dies, her father has to remarry, which puts her in the path of Maleficent, the villain of this story.

#11 -Character Archetype: The Hero

The Hero is one of the most common character archetypes there is in stories, and this is because good stories often have a “triumphant” character who prevails over evil and save others.

Many heroes also embody other character archetypes as well.

The best defining factor for The Hero is that they save others through their actions against the antagonist.

Character Archetype Examples:

Here’s a long list of The Hero character archetypes:

list of character archetypes
  • Harry Potter
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Marvel Superheroes
  • Matilda Wormwood in Matilda
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • Beowulf
  • Atticus Finch
  • Neville Longbottom
  • Hermione Granger
  • Ron Weasley
  • The entire Order of the Phoenix
  • Peeta Mellark
  • Tobias Kaya

#12 – Character Archetype: The Jester

If your favorite character in stories is ever the goofball who’s really funny, they’re likely The Jester character archetype.

This type of character has a few jobs, the main one being comedic relief. They can serve as a strong literary device to cut the tension in order to give characters a relief, or to distract from something worse coming up.

A couple of key identifiers of The Jester in stories is that they cut tension either with what they say or do, are the butt of every joke, or make others the butt of every joke. The Jester’s job is to elicit laughs and keep the scene and mood light.

Character Archetype Examples:

Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter series – We’ve already talked about these rebels but they’re also very much Jesters for this series. They make jokes and even pull pranks, both of which lighten the mood of a story that’s very dark.

Fat Amy in Pitch PerfectThe story of Pitch Perfect is made hilarious by Fat Amy, one of the main characters. She adds jokes, comedy by the way her character acts, and generally brings the story to a new level of funny.

Dory in Finding NemoWe’ve all laughed at Dory in this story. Because of her short memory, there are plenty of moments for jokes and laughter, not to mention her character’s general demeanor.

#13 – Character Archetype: The Seductress/Seducer

With this character archetype, there’s a very specific goal of the seducing behavior.

Most often, this character is someone who’s attractive and can seduce someone in order to get something they want, or even to subdue them in order to do this.

The main point of The Seducer archetype is to trick someone into being vulnerable in order to gain the upper hand in any type of situation, whether that’s life or death or simply getting out of a speeding ticket.

Character Archetype Examples:

Dominika Egorova in Red Sparrow – This character archetype for this movie is quite unique. While her character, with the alias of Katerina, may not have been this type to start, she is taught this very specific skill in order to achieve her goals as a spy.

Black Widow in the Marvel comics – Similar to the previous example, this character was trained in many art forms, seducing being one of them. Her character often has to seduce men, playing to their deepest desires, in order to extract information for the intelligence agency she works with.

#14 – Character Archetype: The Bully

We all know a bully in real life and stories have no exception to their presence. Of the character archetypes, this one is easy to stop.

It’s is often used to make your main character’s life a lot harder. They can be a bully physically or even emotionally. As long as they belittle your character to the point of increasing conflict in the story, they’re The Bully.

Character Archetype Examples:

Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series – From the get-go, Draco Malfoy has bullied Harry Potter and his friends. He puts them down, tries to disrupt them with their plans, and even tries to have Harry killed (and kill him himself) later in the series.

Regina George in Mean Girls This character is the epitome of a bully. She puts others down and makes them feel like less than, so much so that the climax of the movie comes to a head with her “burn book,” which consists of a diary of bullying comments about others.

Patty in Diary of a Whimpy Kid –There are several bullies in this story, the main character’s own brother being one, but Patty indeed holds this title as well. She consistently bullies Greg throughout the story.

Are your characters ready for their own book?

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Now that you have your character archetypes, it’s time to put the wheels of writing your book in motion.

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literary devices elements

Literary Devices: 15 Literary Elements With Examples & Tips to Use Them

All writing is made up of literary devices whether you realize it or not.

But what if you could intentionally uplevel your writing, make it better, more impactful, and crafting it in a way to hook readers from the introduction?

What would it mean for you if you were able to guide your readers in a specific direction and interpret your words the way you want them to?

Using literary devices is exactly how you can do that…and we’ll teach you how with our list of literary devices.

literary devices

Although the term “literary devices” can be a wee bit intimidating, they’re actually pretty simple.

In fact, you’re likely using a ton when writing your book that you don’t even know you’re utilizing—and we’ll touch on which those are in a little bit.

Here are 15 literary devices to use in your writing:

  1. Allusion
  2. Diction
  3. Alliteration
  4. Allegory
  5. Colloquialism
  6. Euphemism
  7. Flashbacks
  8. Foreshadowing
  9. Imagery
  10. Juxtaposition
  11. Metaphor/simile
  12. Personification
  13. Onomatopoeia
  14. Symbolism
  15. Tone

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

What are literary devices?

Literary devices are various elements and techniques used in writing that construct the whole of your literature to create an intended perception of the writing for the reader.

You probably remember learning about literary devices like personification, foreshadowing, and metaphors in school.

While these are very common types of literary elements, there are many more you can use to make your writing stand out in comparison to others.

Using these devices will help your writing become stronger and better.

Literary Terms Every Writer Should Know

You don’t have to know every single literary term in order to be considered a writer. In fact, most people are writers before they discover the detailed nuances of writing and even publishing a book.

But there are some that every writer should be aware of.

Here are the literary terms every writer should know:

  • Imagery – The use of visually descriptive or figurative language in writing. One way to describe this is showing versus telling, and we’ll cover more on this later in this blog post.
  • Personification – When you give human characteristics to non-human objects or elements. This will also be covered in more detail below.
  • Point of view – How your story is told and through whose perspective is what your point of view is. This could be first person, second person, third person, or more that we’ll cover down below.
  • Protagonist – This is the “good guy” in your story or the person your readers will root for. Oftentimes, this is the main character or even you, if you’re writing a nonfiction book.
  • Antagonist – Also known as the “bad guy,” or the person trying to prevent your protagonist from succeeding. This person or group or organization will likely be the reason for your protagonist’s hardships in your book.
  • Foreshadowing – We’ll cover this in detail below but essentially, foreshadowing is the placement of clues about what will happen in the future of your story.
  • Conflict – This is a basic term to describe the difficulties your protagonist or you face in your book. Any issues between characters or elements are known as conflict.
  • Rising Action – Rising action is the events that directly lead up to the climax of your novel.
  • Falling Action – When writing a novel, this is often the last chapter or two after the climax to “tie up” loose ends in your story.
  • Climax – The biggest, most pivotal point in your novel. This is when your protagonist faced their challenges head-on and either “wins” or “loses.” Think of any time Harry Potter directed faces off with Voldemort at the end of the books. This is the climax.
  • Voice – A writer’s voice is the unique narrative of the writing. This is the way in which the author chooses to display sentences and even down to the phrasing they use.
  • Style – Much like the author’s voice, the style is the unique way the author writes but also encompasses the entirety of the novel and story as well. Their style can mean how they write, but also how they tell a story and the way in which they allow events to unfold.

Here’s a quick example of what different writing voices and style look like between two famous authors, Stephen King’s The Outsider and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

literary devices style

List of Literary Devices to Use in Your Writing

When it comes to writing, you always want to be learning more.

Why? Because the more you know, the better your writing will be.

There’s no need to use every single literary device in your book, but by knowing what’s available for you to use and how to use it strategically, your writing will become stronger and therefore, more captivating to readers.

Here is a list of 15 literary devices to use in your writing.

#1 – Allusion

No, this is not illusion, though the two can be confused with one another.

An allusion is a literary device that references a person, place, thing, or event in the real world. You can use this to paint a clear picture or to even connect with your readers.

Allusions are often used as literary elements that help connect the reader to the works. By referencing something the reader may be familiar with in the real world, this invests them more than if you didn’t have any connections.

Allusion Literary Device Example:

Allusion Example 1: “Careful, now. You don’t want to go opening Pandora’s Box.”

In this example, the allusion is Pandora’s Box. Because this is a reference to a real-life element, it’s considered an allusion.

Allusion Example 2: He was a real goodguy ball-buster, the Deadpool of his time.

In this example, the narrator is using Deadpool as the allusion by referencing the person they’re describing as being like the super-hero (if you can call him that) Deadpool.

#2 – Diction

Diction is a literary device that’s the choice of words or style used by the writer in order to convey their message.

Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying that diction is the way in which the author wants to write to a specific audience.

Here are the different types of diction and what they mean:

  • Formal diction – This is when the word choice is more formal or high class. Oftentimes, writers use formal diction as a literary device when more educated individuals are speaking or the content is for those with higher education.
  • Informal diction – When your characters (or you writing a nonfiction) are speaking directly to everyday people, this type of diction would be use as it’s more conversational.
  • Slang diction – Slang is commonly used for a younger audience and includes newly coined words or phrases. An example of this would be use of the word, “fleek” or other new slang phrases.
  • Colloquial diction – This is when words that are used in everyday life are written. These may be different depending on the culture or religions present in the writing.

Diction Literary Device Example:

Diction Example 1: “I bid you adieu.”

The diction present here is formal diction, as most people don’t use “bid” and “adieu” regularly in everyday speach.

Diction Example 2: I remember her hair in particular, because it was on fleek!

Here, “fleek” is a slang term used to describe a woman’s hair, which means it’s slang diction.

#3 – Alliteration

Alliteration is a literary device that uses the same letters or sounds at the beginning of words in a sentence or title.

There are many nursery rhymes that use alliteration but this is also useful for creating something memorable within your writing.

literary devices alliteration

You can also use alliteration when choosing the title of your book, as it makes it easier to remember, as you can see in the example of alliterative titles above.

#4 – Allegory

An allegory is a figure of speech where abstract ideas are described using characters, events, or other elements.

That’s more of a fancy way of saying that instead of being literal with an idea, you use characters, events, or other elements in order to describe it in a way the reader can better understand.

Think of it like a story within a story. You use characters, events, or other means to represent the literal meaning.

This one is a little better understood with examples than a definition.

Allegory Literary Device Example:

Allegory Example: One of the most famous works using allegory is George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The perceived story is about a group of farm animals who rise up and defeat humans but the underlying story is about the Russian Revoluation.

Using an allegory is often telling a darker story in a way that’s easier to understand and for readers to receive.

#5 – Colloquialism

One way to increase the world building in your book is to use colloquialisms.

Colloquialisms are expressions, words, and phrases that are used in informal, everyday speech, including slang.

You can use these a couple of different ways. Firstly, you can use these as slang in the real world and secondly, you can even create your book’s own colloquialisms for their world and culture, and even when writing dialogue.

Colloquialism Literary Device Example:

Colloquialism Examples:

Bamboozle – to deceieve

Gonna – going to

Be blue – to be sad

Bugger off – go away

Over yonder – over there

Da bomb – the best

You can create your own coloquialisms within your own world to increase the realism.

#6 – Euphemism

We tend to think of euphemisms as sexual euphemisms, which is how they’re often used. However, euphemisms are actually any terms that refer to something impolite or unpleasant.

We create phrases or other words in order to avoid using the actual term because they’re impolite, rude, or indecent. Those alternatives are considered euphemisms.

This is often why we think of sexual euphemisms when we hear of this literary device. Most individuals would rather make a much lighter comment when referring to something as “indecent” as sex, but the same case is made for when someone dies.

Euphemism Literary Device Example:

Euphemism Examples:

Before I go – before I die

Do the dirty – have sex

Rear-end – butt

perspiration – sweating

Thin on top – bald

Tipsy – drunk

Having a loose screw – being dumb

#7 – Flashbacks

Flashbacks in literature are when the narrator goes back in time for a specific scene or chapter in order to give more context for the story.

Oftentimes, we see flashbacks in books where the past greatly impacts the present or as a way to start a story off on an interesting note. This is seen in Harry Potter whenever Harry gets to see a memory of the past from Dumbledore or even Snape.

Foreshadowing Literary Device Example:

You can even use flashbacks as a plot device, like in the example below.

literary devices flashback

For example, in Vicious by V.E. Schwab, she uses flashbacks as a recurring element in her book. Every other chapter goes back in time and then back to the present for the next chapter as a way to structure the story itself.

So in this instance, Schwab is using this literary device to shape the entire narrative of her story instead of simply using it as a single piece, which is a unique take on flashbacks.

#8 – Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is when the author places elements within the writing that gives clues about what will happen in the future of the story.

These can often be small bits and pieces that some readers might not pick up on the first read through. They might even look back and realize that certain elements were foreshadowing once they hit the climax or a big plot twist was revealed.

Foreshadowing can be both literal and thematic.

You can write a scene where there’s a conversation that the reader can’t fully understand the meaning of until more is revealed.

You can also write a scene that has symbolic elements that foreshadow events, like placing a black crow in a scene that foreshadows a death, as crows are symbolic of this.

If you really want to up your creative writing, you can even create themes to foreshadow within your own world.

As an example of this literary device, you can create a culture in which rabbits are a “known” sign of change and conspicuously place a rabbit in a later scene.

Foreshadowing Literary Device Example:

Foreshadowing Example 1:

In Back to the Future, one of the clocks in the opening credits has actor Harold Lloyd from the silem film Safety First hanging from the minute hand. This foreshadows Doc Brown hanging from the Hill Valley clock tower later in the movie as he tried to send Marty McFly back to the 1980s.

Foreshadowing Example 2:

In The Avengers Tony Stark makes a comment about one of the ship’s engineers playing a game called Galaga as they all get together for the first time. The objective of the game in real life is to defend Earth from alien invaders, which is what happens later in the movie.

#9 – Imagery

This is one that we briefly touched on above and also one you likely learned in school, though it may have been a while since then so we’ll give you a refresher.

Imagery is when you use visually descriptive or figurative language in your writing. Think of it more like showing versus telling in writing where you use more sensory language versus blunt, plain words.

You would also use stronger verbs in order to present stronger imagery in your writing.

Get Your FREE Strong Verbs List Here

Over 200 strong verbs and the weak ones they replace!



Imagery Literary Device Example:

Here’s an example of imagery from Hannah Lee Kidder’s anthology, Little Birds:

literary devices imagery

Notice how Kidder uses visuals to bring life to her words. You’re very easily able to picture where this scene takes place and exactly what those rocks look like.

#10 – Personification

Personification is a literary device where you give human-like qualities to non-human elements.

This is one of the most well-known literary devices and it’s useful for a number of reasons:

  1. It creates a stronger visual
  2. It pulls readers further into your world
  3. It helps the readers relate to and understand what’s going on
  4. It can allow readers to have a new perspective
  5. You can give readers a new view on a typical visual/occurrence

Personification Literary Device Example:

Personification Example 1:

The wind whistled past my ears like a familiar tune I’d long forgotten.

Personification Example 2:

The moon yanked a blanket of silver light over the forest.

Personification Example 3:

Squatting in the corner was a felt chair covered in the dust and damp of abandonment.

#11 – Juxtaposition

literary devices list

Juxtaposition means placing contrasting elements next to one another in order to emphasize one or both, including words, scenes, or themes.

This literary device can sound overly fancy but it’s quite simple.

Many times, authors will use juxtaposition in order to create a stronger emotional reaction from readers.

Think of when a happy moment in a movie or book is followed by a sad, heart-wrenching scene. That scene is made even worse by the fact that we just had our emotions on a high.

Juxtaposition can also be used on a smaller scale, with contrasting words or phrases next to each other in order to emphasize both, like in the first example below.

However, when it comes to giving your book that “rollercoaster” ride of emotion effect, juxtaposition used on a larger scale can make a huge difference.

Juxtaposition Literary Device Example:

Juxtaposition Example 1:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” – A Tales of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Juxtaposition Example 2:

I hate loving you.

Juxtaposition Example 3:

You will soon be asked to do great violence in the cause of good. – The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

#12 – Metaphor/Simile

This is the most popular literary device that has to be used with caution because if used too much, metaphors and similes can reek of cliches and amateur writing.

Metaphors and similes are comparisons used to create better clarification and understanding for readers.

While these are similar, they’re quite different.

Metaphor

A metaphor is a comparison between two things that are NOT alike and replaces the word with another word.

Simile

Similes are comparisons between two things that are NOT like and replaces the word with another word but uses “like” or “as” within it.

Metaphors VS Similes Examples:

Metaphor Example 1:

She was drowning in a sea of her own despair.

Simile Example 1:

It was like she was drowning in a sea of her own despair.

Metaphor Example 2:

His heart was lead, weighed down by the memory of what he’d done.

Simile Example 2:

His heart was as heavy as lead, weighed down by the memory of what he’d done.

Literary devices are used to make your writing stronger. However, you don’t have to use every single device out there. These are the best to strengthen your writing.

#13 – Onomatopoeia

While its name may be confusing, this literary device is actually easy to understand once you get past its difficult spelling.

An onomatopoeia is a word or phrase that shows you the sound something makes. Since we can’t hear books, this literary device is best used to paint a clear picture and include the sense of hearing in your writing.

When using this literary element in writing, the correct formatting is almost always to have the word italicized to show emphasis of the sound.

Onomatopoeia Literary Device Example:

  • Buzz
  • Zap
  • Splat
  • Boom
  • Splash
  • Zing
  • Crank
  • Whoosh
  • Bang
  • Creak

#14 – Symbolism

Every story uses symbolism in some way. This literary device is the use of a situation or element to represent a larger message, idea, or concept.

Many times, authors use symbolism as a way to convey a broader message that speaks to more readers. You can also use symbolism to foreshadow what will happen later in the story.

Symbolism Literary Device Example:

  • Crows are used to symbolize a bad omen, like death
  • The color purple symbolizes royalty
  • The color red can symbolize death, struggle, power, passion
  • Spiders can symbolize spying, sneaky, or untrustworthiness

#15 – Tone

The tone of a book is something that conveys the narrator’s opinion, attitude, or feelings about what is written.

This literary device has the power to shape the entire narrative.

For example, if you want to catch a reader off-guard when something traumatic or intense happens, keeping the tone light and humorous before the event can increase the sensation of shock and tension.

Tone can guide your readers right into the emotion you want them to feel in a particular scene.

Ready to start your book?

Writing a good book is much harder than it may seem…

And it’s not just about the book, either—not if you want it to sell and do well, that is.

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Which are your favorite literary devices to use? Do you have examples of some you love?

how to write a novel

How to Write a Novel: 5 Key Steps Every Good Book Needs [Template]

If you misunderstand how to write a novel with the proper story structure, your book will never sell.

Harsh, but true. And that’s why we’re here to tell you the exact methods that skyrocketed the popularity of books like The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.

Here are the steps for how to write a novel:

  1. The Setup for writing a novel
  2. The Inciting Incident
  3. The First Slap of a novel
  4. The Second Slap
  5. The Climax of a novel

But before we dive right into those, we have to understand your unique writing method in order for you to understand how to write a novel in a way that’s best for you.

How to Write a Novel

What is a Novel?

A novel is a work of fiction told through narrative prose focusing on characters and a plot with at least some degree of realism.

Essentially, a novel is a long story in which a message, theme, and plot are revealed slowly over the course of scenes and chapters that make up a bigger storyline.

How Many Words in a Novel?

The exact number of words that make up a novel varies greatly depending on the genre and personal taste, however, a book is considered a novel if it has more than 50,000 words.

But that doesn’t mean your book will be that long. You have to learn how many words are in your novel.

Below is a table detailing how many words make up a novel in each respective genre, as some are typically longer than others.

Type of WritingWord CountPages in a Typical BookExample
Short story100 - 15,0001 - 24 pages"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
Novella30,000 - 60,000100 - 200 pages"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
Novel60,000 - 100,000200 - 350 pages"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": by JK Rowling
Epic Novel120,00 - 220,000+400 - 750+ pages"Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin

Keep in mind that these are a baseline. You want to make sure your novel is in the ballpark word count for your genre and target audience but just remember that you can easily go over or under depending on how well the story is crafted…

…and if it covers our 5 key milestones – it will be crafted well.

How do you plan a novel? Your Novel Structure Breakdown (& Template)

Planning a novel involves coming up with your plot, character development, knowing your audience, and outlining your book.

  1. Coming up with your plot involves knowing which genre you want to write or even utilizing a list of writing prompts to get your thoughts moving.
  2. Character development is one of the most vital parts of your novel. Take the time to know your characters and protagonist well before you start writing in order to better plot your novel to fit how they act.
  3. Your audience will dictate the type of content in your plot. You can always plot first and then decide if you’ll be writing young adult, new adult, adult, or even middle grade. Just make sure you categorize your novel correctly in order to reach the right audience.
  4. Once you know the above, you’re ready to outline your novel. First, however, you have to figure out if you’re a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between before you can outline your book.

If you want to have a solid fill-in-the-blank template, we have three story structures for planning your novel.

Fill out the form below to gain access!

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What’s the Difference Between Pantser Versus Plotter

A plotter is someone who plans out their novel with an outline before actually writing, whereas a pantser is someone who writes with seemingly no direction – they write by the seat of their pants.

Are you a plotter or a pantserFiction authors tend to fall into one of two buckets when writing their books.

how to write a novel plotter vs pantser

Pantsers

These are writers who basically only have a few vague elements about the story in mind when they start writing, but nothing else.

One of the most famous pantsers is Stephen King. In interviews, Stephen King has said that he often has an idea of the beginning, the premise, and a vague idea how it’s all going to end – and that’s all he needs to start writing his book.

Plotters

These are writers who need to know every piece of their story, down to the minute detail, before they will write a single word. They have full, complete outlines that serve as a guide for their writing.

They will know who each and every one of their characters are, what their motivations are, the chapters needed for the book, chapter sections, and in some cases, even paragraphs. Probably the most famous plotter out there is James Patterson.

Knowing if you’re a plotter or pantser will dictate your entire writing process.

Clearly, it’s possible to be successful whether you’re a plotter or pantser. But here’s the harsh reality: whereas Stephen King and James Patterson sit on opposite extremes of the ‘Outline Spectrum’, most of us fall somewhere in between.

But that still doesn’t answer the question:

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

My best advice is to be something in between. Someone who looks beyond the “outline” of a novel, and identifies something much more important in their story…the 5 key milestones we’re about to reveal to you.

How to Write a Novel with 5 Key Milestones of Every Successful Novel

how to write a novel milestones

Most novels and movies have five key points that make up the core of their story – it’s a formula that’s been around for longer than books have.

This may not even be something authors do intentionally but rather, these are what make a story (even spoken) good and captivating.

What’s more, these milestones are something that readers have subconsciously been trained to look for when digesting a piece of fiction.

In other words, if you don’t have these five key moments, your reader is likely to turned off of your story because it didn’t meet expectations set by the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories they have already digested before yours.

Let’s get started.

#1 – The Setup when writing a novel

This is where you make your story promise and write an introduction that pulls readers in.

Here’s a solid resource for how to start a story if you need a few more tips.

You tell your reader what kind of story it will be – a comedy, drama, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi – and you give a few clues as to what they can expect. Whatever you said in these initial pages must be followed to the end of your story.

A stone-cold drama cannot turn into a slapstick comedy by the end of the story. That doesn’t mean a stone-cold drama can’t have humor in it, it just means that you can suddenly pivot and become an Adam Sandler movie.

Also, during the setup, we learn a little bit about:

  • The characters
  • Their everyday lives
  • Their challenges
  • The world they live in

We get a sense of where the story is heading.

One mistake made by first-time fiction authors is that they do not properly set up the story expectations and the reader goes in expecting one thing, only to get another.

Nothing annoys readers more, and so it is essential that during the setup phase of your novel, you set the expectations that you will meet during the book or you’ll lose those 5-star Amazon reviews that make such a difference.

The Setup of a novel Example:

In the Hunger Games, we meet Katniss. From her surroundings, it is obvious that she is poor, and as soon as she steps outside of her wooden shack we see hovering drones.

Within the first few pages of this book, we have learned three essential things:

  • This book is a drama
  • Katniss is our heroine and she has a miserable life
  • SURPRISE! There are drones and other technologies that indicate this to be a sci-fi
  • We are about to read a dystopia set sometime in the future

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Ask yourself these questions:

– What does your story’s setup look like?
– What happens?
– What story promises do you make?

Create a list of everything your reader needs to learn in order to enter your story’s world before crafting your introduction.

#2 – The Inciting Incident

The inciting incident is the moment in your story when your hero’s life changes forever. It is the ‘no-going back’ moment, where nothing that happens afterwards will return your hero’s world back to normal.

Katniss volunteers, Neo takes the blue pill, Dorothy lands in OZ … the aliens are here!

As soon as your inciting incident happens, your story should be full throttle towards the climax.

The most common mistake first-time authors make is that their inciting incident is reversible. That means that something could happen that would return the hero’s life back to normal.

No, no, no!

how to write a novel inciting incident quote

Your inciting incident should as final as the severing of a limb or a death of a loved one. Nothing should be able to reverse the effects of your inciting incident has on your hero.

Inciting Incident in a Novel Example:

Katniss volunteers! In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is irreversible because – quite literally – soldiers grab Katniss, whisk her away from her world, and into the world of the games.

There is no escape.

And even if she could get away, she would be hunted by the Capital for the rest of her life. With those two simple words, “I volunteer!” her life has changed forever.

Note: There is an exception to this rule when it comes to romances.

With romances, the inciting incident is almost always when the two lovebirds meet. (Not always, but for the vast majority of romances, this is the case.) With romances, try to create an inciting incident that simultaneously shows how perfect these two people are for each other while setting up the numerous reasons why they can’t be together.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Answer these questions in full and complete the brainstorming activity.
– What is your inciting incident?
– Is it strong enough?
– Are there ways you could up the stakes or shorten the timeline?
– How can you make it your inciting incident as impactful and irreversible as possible?

Brainstorm several inciting incidents… Don’t settle for one. Take a look at your inciting incidents and ask yourself this: Which one of these is the harshest, deadliest inciting incident of the bunch. Then pick that one.

#3 – The First Slap

Now, we are away to the races for writing a novel!

Over the next few chapters, your character should be making a series of gains and losses, where the aggregate result is that their situation is slightly better than what it was at the moment of the inciting incident.

The reason why we need this upward trajectory is because we are setting up the reader for the first slap.

The first slap is the moment when everything that our hero has gained is lost in fell swoop. Your hero is brought down to zero. In other words, all gains are lost, and your hero’s situation has never been bleaker.

how to write a novel structure

The greater the fall, the more engaged your reader will be.

First Slap Example:

In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s world is brought down to zero when she actually enters the Games.

Between the inciting incident on the first slap, Katniss has made several gains, garnering the attention of the Capital and making some friends along the way. But none of that matters the moment she enters the Games – and what a moment it is.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm what your first slap can be. Like with the inciting incident, try to come up with 3-5 scenarios and pick the one that is harshest. Take a look at all the events that could potentially happen between the inciting incident and the first slap. This is a loose mind map as you are not committing to anything at this point, but do try to get a sense of whether or not your hero will be making gains and losses (with a net value of gains) and try to assess whether or not the first slap is harsh enough to truly wow your reader.
Remember, you want your readers to hate you for what you’ve done to the characters they love.

#4 -The Second Slap

Your hero has rose to the challenge! They have successfully thwarted the big evil that has been thrusted upon them by the first slap and she is doing well.

…Now it is time to bring her back to 0 again.

The second slap should be as harsh, if not harsher, than the first slap. This is the moment when the reader should be looking at your book and thinking, “Wow, this author is mean. Diabolical villain mean!”

In the second slap we are setting up for the climax, which means that the hero needs to have an out. In other words, there should be some semblance of hope.

Second Slap Example:

In the Hunger Games, the second slap is when the Game Masters announce that two tributes can survive the Games should they both be from the same district.

Katniss goes looking for Peeta, only to find him mortally wounded – he is bleeding to death and won’t survive the next few hours, let alone the rest of the Games. We know enough about Katniss to realize that Peeta dying is the worst thing that could happen to her (besides her own death).

But there is hope!

An announcement is made that there is something at the cornucopia that the Tributes need, and Katniss just knows that there is medicine there for Peeta.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm several seconds slaps and pick the harshest one. Then ask yourself: where is the hope and how will it lead into the climax?

#5 – The Climax

The rollercoaster that you’ve put your reader on is almost over.

How to Write a Novel

The reader has gone from an engaging setup where they get to learn about your characters and world to the inciting incident where everything is turned on its head.

Then they are subjected to the first and second slaps where you embrace your inner sadomasochist in order to punish your hero and give the readers the thrills they so richly deserve.

Now it is time to wrap it all up with the climax.

There is only one rule to the climax. A rule that must be adhered to, no matter what genre you are writing in:

Make it amazing! The climax should be the moment where your reader puts down the book and goes, “Holy S&*%! That was awesome!”

Novel Climax Example:

The climax in the Hunger Games is the final confrontation between Katniss and the remaining Tributes, as well as the monsters that the Game Masters send after her. It is wrought with danger and excitement.

But what makes the climax truly kickass is the poisonous berries at the end.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Hunger Games today and read it! You’ll immediately get why this scene is so amazing.

How to Write a Novel Action Step:

Brainstorm your kickass climactic scene! Show us how amazing, smart, resourceful, powerful your hero is when overcoming their final obstacles, but remember to make sure it’s realistic and makes sense for your character.

There you have it: how to write a book is made much easier with your 5 key milestones. This method is particularly effective for first-time authors who are still finding their writing feet (or should I say typing fingers) and is an awesome resource that experienced writers can rely on time and again when planning their stories.

The 5 Key Milestones combined with a spot-on Premise and A-Story will tell you where your story starts, where it is headed and how it will end.

In other words, if you do the novel writing exercises above, you should have everything you need to get your novel to the finish line.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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And if you need a bit of extra help, I’m going through these 5 Key Milestones in a lot more detail in an upcoming webinar I’m going to conduct with Chandler Bolt. Get the full scoop and register to join us (before we fill up!) here.

how to make a living writing

Make a Living Writing Books: Building Multiple Income Streams for Authors

Making a living writing is 100% possible and more so now than it ever has been before…you just have to know how to get there.

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.
I’d type a little faster.”

— Isaac Asimov

It is every writer’s dream: to make a living writing the kind of books you love to read.

But, can really earn an income if you self-publish a book? Is it realistic?

make a living writing

This is how to make a living writing:

  1. Is making a living writing possible?
  2. Learn why authors fail to make a living writing
  3. Build your author platform
  4. Scale assets and multiple income streams
  5. Use the “multiple book model”
  6. Expand your book formats
  7. Scale income streams
  8. Build an email list of raving fans
  9. Become a full-time author

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

You may have heard that most writers—Self-published and traditional—are starving artists who never make more than $1000 a year.

The stories are true. Many writers starve. But many sell a lot of books and do very well, if they stick with it and build multiple income streams.

I’ll just get this out of the way right now. Writing a book is hard work. Creating a sustainable platform with several income streams is harder. But, if this were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Making a living from your writing is definitely worth it and, as a writer who wants to earn cash online from their craft, it is one of the most rewarding achievements you will experience in the self-publishing business.

If you are an aspiring writer, or have already published and want to scale up your book business, find writing jobs, get some writing scholarships, or even write for online publications, let’s dive into how to turn your words into income (Yes, it can be done!).

I don’t know what starving authors are doing but, in this post, I’ll show you how to earn a living writing books through creating multiple income streams.

You will see that it is definitely possible.

You can become the top 10% that make money from your books and write from Starbucks, the beach, or that cabin in the woods everyone keeps talking about.

Making a Living as a Writer is Possible

Before the Internet became a thing, the path of a writer was a long, and often frustrating profession, guaranteeing nothing even after years of committed writing.

You have heard the stories of famous authors rejected multiple times before getting published.

As an INDIE author, the days of sifting through rejection slips are over.

You write, you publish, and you build your own book business like Jenna Moreci did creating her full-time author and Youtube business where she now gets to spend her days doing what she loves.

Check out an interview we conducted with her about how she did it:

Or, you build a business from a book. Either way, your writing is the gateway to a better life that you create and have total control over.

If you want to know what it would take for you to bring home a full-time income from your books, check out this book profit calculator. It’ll do the math and show you what you’d need to sell and how much you’d make in total:

STEP 1

Enter Your Information Below To Calculate Your Potential Book Sales

STEP 2

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CONGRATULATIONS!
Here's What You'd Earn:

Your profit per book:

In 3 months, you'll make:

In 6 months, you'll make:

In 1 year, you'll make:

Why Authors Fail to Make a Living Writing

Do you know why most authors only earn a few thousand dollars a year or less from their writing?

Here are 4 reasons authors fail to make a living writing:

  1. They only write one book. You need momentum with your book platform to generate enough monthly sales to support your lifestyle. This is possible with building out a library of books and maximizing on the earning power for each. We will look at this more later.
  2. They don’t stay current with shifting publishing trends. The self-publishing industry is constantly changing. If you aren’t staying current with what is working (and what has stopped working) your book sales plummet and you don’t reach as wide an audience as you’d like.
  3. They stick with one platform as the only source for earning income. Many authors stay with Amazon only. This makes sense considering they have 85% of the market for ebooks. And Amazon’s exclusivity program, KDP Select, makes it easy to sign over all power to the online digital giant. However, if you keep your eggs in one basket, what happens when that basket falls out of the tree? In other words, Amazon decides to make a major change to their platform overnight and, within a week, your monthly royalties get cut in half. Yes, it happens as we see time and time again.
  4. They don’t invest in the quality of their product. Poorly designed book covers, sloppy editing, a boring book description…equals a product nobody wants. If you want to make a living writing books, invest in your book (particularly getting a good book cover) so that it sells.

Bottom line: Write and publish consistently, write high-quality books people want to buy, expand your reach by publishing across multiple platforms, and stay up-to-speed on the latest marketing strategies that are working.

This is the formula most successful self-published authors are using to make money with writing.

Build Your Author Platform to Make Money Writing

You, as an author and creator, needs to form the mindset that this is your business—your book business. Regardless if you are a part-time author looking to make some extra income, or your goal is to be a full-time author, when you start making money from your “hobby”, you are turning it into a business.

When it comes to creating income from writing, it boils down to one word: Platform.

Your author platform is the structure of your writing career. It should consist of multiple income streams. This begins with your platform.

According to Michael Hyatt, bestselling author of Platform and Free to Focus, a platform is, “The means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans. It might include your company website, a blog, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, an online video show, or a podcast. It may also include your personal appearances as a public speaker, musician, or entertainer.”

As a writer, even if you are writing a book for the first time, think about what your platform means to you. This will become the structural foundation that your writing author business is built on.

If you want to make a living writing fiction or nonfiction, the approach to how you structure your income streams are similar, although the content is different.

What drives your platform, however, is the one thing that many overlook: Your author mindset. From now on, approach your craft with the mindset that this is your business.

Like every business, you have to be focused on the customer experience and products available to those customers. Delivering the right product, in this case the book they are looking for, is how to convert the curious customer into a paying one.

Components of an Author Platform

Your author platform is made up of:

A Catalogue of Books: This consists of published books, and all variations of the book including paperback, hardcover, large print and audiobooks. Your books, aside from bringing in consistent revenue, act as funnels for building your subscribers list and promoting your other products. Your books could be stand-alone reads, as many nonfiction titles are, or a series of thrillers.

Email list: This is your list of raving fans that have given you permission to contact them by providing you with their email address. Your email list is at the heart of making a living, not just as an author but, anyone who is building an online platform.

Wide Distribution Model: As a self-published author, Amazon may be where you make 80% of your income. But if you have more than three books available, you want to consider opting out of Amazon’s KDP Select program and publishing wide with other platforms such as aggregators Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and Kobo. Set your print books up for sale through IngramSpark. You can tap into a huge international market that, not only will drive your book sales but, open up opportunity for international foreign rights.

Courses: As an author you could develop courses based on the content of your books. For example, take a look at what Lise Cartright has built through her platform Hustle & Groove. Picture a multitude of courses available for when browsers or subscribers come to your site for the first time. Building online courses is a great way to expand this platform.

Website: A critical piece of your writing business is your author website. This where you stage all of your talent. You might have an author blog that brings in leads for your books and courses.

You could create content that you don’t publish on Amazon and make it exclusive to your website only. You can cross promote with other authors and set up an autoresponder email funnel to build a deeper relationship with your readers.

Your author website should include these basic features:

  • A free offer: This is free content a new subscriber downloads after opting in.
  • Featured blog posts: Your blog is an asset and potential income stream as it brings in leads through visitor traffic.
  • Course platform: Highly recommended. These are great assets to build out and easy to scale up.
  • About page: Make a dynamic introduction here.

Scalable Assets and Multiple Income Streams

Let’s get to my favorite topic: Creating multiple income streams to grow your business!

This is what I love about self-publishing. You are at the helm of your own ship and you, and only you, get to choose the direction to take.

We know that, if we write and publish lots of books, potentially our library of books grows and this generates strong passive income.

But relying on book sales only is a lot of work, and it is more work if you are selling on just one platform, Amazon.

Check out how our very own coach Lise Cartwright has built her passive income stream with books (and how she can teach you to do the same when you become a student):

As an authorpreneur, a self-publisher who writes and publishes their own books, you want to always be thinking creatively how to expand your income streams.

Let’s take a look at the list below for book assets.

  1. Book series
  2. Boxsets
  3. Audiobooks
  4. Paperbacks
  5. Hardcover books
  6. Large print books

Making a Living Writing with the “Multiple Book Model”

Let’s be honest. Making money from one book can be very difficult. Most authors who earn a living as a successful writer have several, if not many, books in the pipeline.

These authors not only publish consistently but, are focused on delivering a series of books to build a valuable fan base.

The people buying your book series, once they are hooked into your series, crave more. This makes it a no-brainer for scaling up your author platform with every new book launch.

The more books you publish, the more income you can potentially earn and add more subscribers to your list.

For example, check out this popular book series:

We know that publishing consistently brings in more money and builds your platform over the long-term. But why does this model work?

how to make money writing

Your readers love new material, and so does Amazon. When your platform is active with new book releases, sales and reviews coming in consistently, the algorithm is “switched on” to help you sell more by pushing your books into the higher-traffic channels.

As your platform continues to scale up, your platform grows.

It might be slow at first, and you feel like you’re doing a lot of writing without any gains, but…that is the way it is when you begin to build.

Most fiction authors start to see a return on investment after the 4th or 5th book in a series. For nonfiction, this could happen sooner but, I certainly experienced a big shift after launching my 5th book Relaunch Your Life.


Another reason multiple books work is, new readers discovering you are almost always going to buy your other books if they like what they read. If that same reader likes your books, maybe he or she wants the course you are offering as well at 20% off.

Expanding Book Formats to Make More Money from Your Books

Don’t just settle for publishing in a single format.

We’re covering the several different types of book formats you can publish in that will increase your income from writing over time.

#1 – Boxsets

A boxset is a series of books bundled together allowing readers to purchase the series at a reduced cost per book. This is a great product to create as soon as you have 3 or more books in a series.

Check out these boxsets by popular authors:

#2 – Audiobooks

The popularity of audiobooks is on the rise. With less people reading and tuning into digital products while on the run, audiobooks is an income stream you can’t afford to leave on the table.

You can record the audiobook yourself or hire a professional. Once recorded, upload to ACX, Audible and expand into other channels for wide distribution through Find Away Voices.

#3 – Paperbacks

We live in the digital age but, paperbacks are still massively popular. In fact, 30% of my author revenue still comes through paperback sales.

With the power of Print-on-Demand, readers can buy our books through Amazon or IngramSpark, and these sites do all the heavy lifting. No inventory.

#4 – Hardcover Books

You can use IngramSparks’ powerful distribution network to create stunning hardcover versions of your book. Why not? It’s another income stream that, once set up, sells itself. You have to pay a fee of $49.00 per title and you’ll need an ISBN for each version of the book.

#5 – Large Print Books

Did you know you can offer readers another version of your book in large print form? This isn’t a huge market but, depending on the age range of your readers, a great option for children’s books or readers with impaired vision.

Ideally, you are not just selling a book. You are converting a browser into a lifelong customer. That is the real power of building a brand and an author platform.

Right now, take a few minutes to map out a rough plan for your book platform. How many books will you write this year? Is this a series of books or stand-alones? How far apart will you publish your books? Could you compliment your book by introducing a course to go with it?

Creating Scalable Income Streams

Successful 6-figure authorpreneur Joanna Penn accounts for her success to multiple income streams she calls “scalable assets” that bring in thousands of dollars every month.

Check out how she does it in the video below:

In essence, a scalable asset can be anything you create once and continue to sell over and over again.

For example, you put in over a hundred hours to write a book. Now, if you were being paid $30 an hour to write, that would be $3000 to you after the work is done. But let’s say your book sells at $4.99 as an ebook, and $12.99 for the paperback.

You consistently sell 30 eBooks a day at a 70% royalty rate, because your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. The paperback priced at $12.99 earns a fixed 60% royalty rate through KDP. That is roughly 182.00 per day for ebook and paperback sales. Making money with ebooks is doable and sometimes the most lucrative option.

Now, this continues for 30 days and that is: 185.00×30=$5,550. Now, I calculated this just for one book if it does really well. Imagine where you could be with five, ten or twenty books each generating their own passive income streams?

How about if you had audiobooks as well? What about foreign rights sales? A course that goes with the book?

Get the idea now.

Yes, the dream is very real. It is right in front of you, if you want it!

How can you scale up your author business right now?

How many assets can you create over the next six months?

Build an email list of raving fans

If you haven’t started building an email list yet, you need one. Without a fan base to market your books to in the initial book launch phase, you are left to the mercy of the Amazon algorithm. Your list is the horde of fans waiting for your book release.

When you get ready to launch your next bestseller, these are the people who will help you to make it a smashing success.

A successful book launch is critical. When you Sell More Books, this is a trigger to Amazon that your book is popular and in demand. Amazon steps in to push your book into the also-bought section, the area that recommends popular items to customers when browsing.

How do you create an email list?

You can start with offering a free gift inside your book.

This is a lead magnet that could be a:

  • Checklist
  • Action Guide
  • Audiobook
  • Free Report
  • Video Series

Your readers give you their email by signing up (what Seth Godin calls “Permission marketing) and they get added to your newsletter list. This is one of the most effective ways to sell books and continue to add to your subscribers list.

Your list is happy because they get to join you on the journey as you keep them in the loop on every writing project. Then, when close to launching, you can invite them to your launch team and offer the book for free to a segment of your list.

This helps to secure book reviews during launch week. In turn, your book sales flow in and your book has a stronger chance of sticking in the marketplace after the initial 30-days is over.

Remember: From the day your book is published, Amazon puts all books in “new releases” category. It is critical you maximize paid downloads and reviews during this 30-day period for the long-term success of the book.

Ready to Become a Full-Time Author?

Okay, you don’t have to be full time to still make money selling your books. But to make money at this, there are three things you should do consistently.

Here is a list of three action items that you, as a real author, can take to scale up your platform, sell more books, and earn good money while you sleep.

#1 – Form a writing habit

I write every morning from 5:30—7:00. This is a consistent schedule I have kept for the past 3 years and during this time I wrote and launched 12+ books.

Developing a writing habit is crucial if you want to make a living writing.

If you still have a day job (and most people do) you’ll need to find the time of day works best for you, establish your most productive writing time and make this a habit of creating content during this peak time.

Once you’ve established your best time for writing, write consistently for five days a week.

#2 – Publish consistently

If you follow the steps above and write with consistency, you can publish frequently, too.

Imagine where your (fiction or nonfiction) platform would be if you put out a book every 3-4 months. This is how you create scalable income.

Do the work now and reap the rewards later.

#3 – Communicate with your fanbase

We looked at the importance of an email list and why you need one. When you are getting ready to launch, you want to be able to shout it out to someone who is listening.

Your team of dedicated email subscribers are ready to help you launch bestseller after bestseller. But, communicating with your list is critical in between book launches.

At the very least, send out an email once every two weeks, and if you can, once a week. Provide tips, strategies, or an update on what you are working on.

Keep your tribe in the loop!

#4 – Determine Your Level of Success

You have to work out the details of what your success means to you.

How many income streams can you build, and what are they? Will you focus on the wide distribution model, or stay exclusive with Amazon?

This is different for every writer and depends on what you are comfortable with in terms of time and financial investment.

Stay focused on the big picture and scale up gradually. With every new book, you are generating potential to earn more and gain wider recognition as an author.

If you write one book and focus all your efforts on this, think of other income streams to tie in with your book and the kind of fan base you want to build. Will you offer coaching? Courses? Outsource your tech skills to help other authors?

You are an author, and now is the best time to make a living as a writer.

Take the First Step Toward Making a Living Writing

Chandler Bolt created a training focusing on exactly the steps above. In fact, he’s built this very 8-figure business on the back of his 6 bestselling books.

If anyone knows how to make a living (and then some) writing, it’s Chandler.

Join Chandler Bolt at his FREE Webinar Training as he reveals the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row – and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years!

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What’s stopping you from making a living as a writer? Where are you stuck?

how to write a short story

How to Write a Short Story with 11 Easy Steps for Satisfying Stories

You probably don’t think short stories are very hard to write.

In fact, you might be the type who assumes short stories are even easier because, well…they’re short.

But that’s just not the case (there’s an art to writing an amazing story)—and I’ll tell you why in just a minute.

Short stories, and getting good at writing them, can actually set you up for success in other writing ventures as well.

They may be difficult, but we’re breaking down how to make them much easier, and what makes for a good one to begin with.

how to write a short story

If you want to learn how to write a short story, you’ll have to go through these main steps:

  1. Know your character
  2. Outline your short story
  3. Start with something out of the ordinary
  4. Get your draft done as soon as possible
  5. Edit your short story
  6. Title your short story
  7. Get feedback about it
  8. Practice often
  9. Write a short story every day
  10. Define your core message
  11. Write a satisfying ending

But before we dive into these exact methods for how to write a short story, let’s talk about why any and all writers should learn how to craft solid, captivating short stories, even if your end writing goal is to write full-length novels or even nonfiction.

how to write a novel training

Why All Writers Should Learn How to Write a Good Short Story

There’s a lot more to writing short stories than you may think. Just because they’re shorter in length doesn’t mean it takes any less skill to execute a good one.

In fact, being able to tell a full story in such a short amount of time arguably takes more skill than writing a full-length novel or nonfiction book.

That being said, why is it beneficial for all writers to learn how to write a short story?

#1 – You learn the skill of showing

When you only have a few pages to hook readers, paint a clear picture of the character, and tell a story, you end up mastering the skill of showing instead of telling.

The reason for this is because, in order to accomplish a successful and good short story, showing is a major part of that.

It’s far too difficult to write a great short story without showing the details and using strong verbs to paint a clear image of your character’s life.

Those skills will transfer into anything you write, automatically making it that much better.

#2 – You’ll strengthen individual chapters

No matter if you’re a fiction writer or if you prefer nonfiction, the idea here is the same.

A chapter is basically a short story that’s a part of a bigger whole. The same skills you apply to write a great short story will also help you write stronger chapters.

Each part of your book should be polished, strong, and enticing for your readers. Using short story writing methods will help you achieve that within your chapters.

Why is writing good chapters important if there’s a whole book available for someone to read?

Because it hooks readers and keeps them turning that page.

And when readers look back on an entire book filled with incredible chapters, the entire book as a whole will be seen as being that much better.

Hello, 5-star reviews!

#3 – It makes the story sections of your nonfiction book more captivating

Every nonfiction book has portions where stories must be told in order to get the point across.

This is what allows people to relate to you as an author, which pulls them in deeper and makes the core message of your book resonate with them more.

But if those stories are weak, not well-written, and lackluster, it’s unlikely someone will enjoy them as much.

It’s also likely that your message will get lost because the book doesn’t carry the same impact.

How long are short stories?

Short stories should remain below 7,000 words in order to be considered a “short story.” They can be as short as only one sentence, as this is known as flash fiction.

You already know that short stories are…shorter than your average novel but do they have any other difference?

Here’s a chart detailing the main differences in how many words are in short stories, novels, novellas, and nonfiction works.

Type of WritingWord CountPages in a Typical BookExample
Short story100 - 15,0001 - 24 pages"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
Novella30,000 - 60,000100 - 200 pages"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
Novel60,000 - 100,000200 - 350 pages"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": by JK Rowling
Epic Novel120,00 - 220,000+400 - 750+ pages"Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin

As you can see, the main difference is length, but that’s not all. When you write a short story, you’re only writing a very impactful snippet of your character’s otherwise full life.

You don’t have to unpack your entire character’s life story in a few hundred words in order to write a great short story.

How to Write a Short Story

If you’re ready to tackle this avenue of creative writing or you just want to learn how to write a short story to strengthen the overall quality of your book, here’s how you can do that.

#1 – Focus on Character Development

In order for a short story to be impactful, you have to know your character well. Having good character development is essential in short stories, since your characters often drive the story.

You only have a certain amount of time to show your readers who that person is and you can’t do that if you don’t even know who they are.

Think about it.

If you write a short story about your best friend, whom you’ve known for many years, versus writing one about someone you just met yesterday, you’ll be able to craft a much stronger story about your best friend because you know them so well.

The same goes for your fictional characters.

You don’t have to spend a ton of time on your main character, but know their history, age, personality, family life, friend life, love life, and other details that shape the way someone sees the world.

Here’s a sample of what a character arc typically looks like in a full novel:

how to write a short story characters

Keep in mind that since your short story is, well, shorter than a novel, you may remove a few steps. Knowing the overall character journey, however, can be helpful for character development within short stories.

#2 – Outline

Thankfully, the outlining process for a short story is much easier than a full novel, but I do still advise creating one in order to have a cohesive flow throughout the story.

This is definitely useful for those of you who prefer outlining versus just writing by the seat of your pants.

Here’s what your outline should encompass for a short story:

  • The point of view you’ll use
  • How you’ll start the story
  • How you’ll get from the beginning to the main issue
  • What happens at the “climax” (yes, even short stories have one!)
  • Resolution of the main issue
  • The very end

Keep in mind that your short story can end very abruptly or you can flesh it out until there’s a satisfying ending.

This is really up to you as an author to decide.

#3 – Start with something out of the ordinary

In order to hook readers with a short story, you should start with something that’ll catch someone’s attention right off the bat.

Take Hannah Lee Kidder’s example from the video above. One of the short stories in her anthology, Little Birds, opens with a woman collecting roadkill.

Odd? Yes. Attention grabbing? You bet!

Because we’re automatically intrigued by the fact that people don’t normally go around collecting roadkill.

Now, you don’t have to start your short story with something as strange as that but you do want to give your readers a sense of who your character is by depicting something different right away that also has to do with the core focus of your short story.

short story writing

Take this short story called The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, for example. This author starts with a very low money amount and then hits you with the fact that it’s Christmas the very next day.

This is out of the ordinary because many readers understand that having such little money (scraped up money, at that) right before Christmas isn’t typical. It’s odd – and also hits their emotions right away.

#4 – Get the draft done ASAP

Done is better than perfect. We’ve all heard or read these words time and time again – and that’s because they’re important; they’re true.

This is especially the case when it comes to short stories. Once you have your outline and know how to start writing, drafting the short story in full comes next.

Don’t worry about editing or polishing the story up in any way right now. After all, you can’t possibly make good edits until you know what the story looks like in full.

That would be like matching your earrings to your pants without first having the full outfit put together. You don’t know if those earrings work well with it until you see what else you’ll be wearing.

It’s the same for writing. Focus on getting your draft done so you can move on to the next step.

short story writing quote

#5 – Edit your short story

Editing is where the real magic happens when it comes to writing. We all have this idea in our minds that we’ll get it perfect the first time and that’s just not how writing works.

Most of the time, your first draft is just the bare bones of what’s to come but through line editing, developmental edits, and proofreading, it will transform into something better.

Think of the actual writing as the wooden structure of a house and the editing as the drywall, paint, windows, light fixtures, doors, and anything else that’ll make the house complete.

These are a few things to keep an eye out for when editing your short story:

The editing process for short stories is pretty much the same for novels. The only difference is that short stories tend to focus more on imagery and exposition than they do full character and plot development.

#6 – Title it!

This can be one of the most difficult things for any book, let alone a story that’s only a few hundred to a few thousand words.

The good news? Short story titles are a little less important than titles for novels. They can also be very abstract.

What you want to think of when titling your short story is this:

  • What’s the overarching theme?
  • What is something unique about the story?
  • What sounds intriguing but not explanatory?
  • What makes sense after reading the short story?

These questions will help you develop a title that not only makes sense, but is also intriguing enough to pull readers in while staying true to what the story is about.

#7 – Get feedback

No matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you are as a writer, you need feedback.

In order to learn and improve and ensure your message is coming across as desired, you need someone else’s fresh eyes on it.

Here’s an example of what feedback might look like if you’re using Google Docs to write your short story:

how to write a short story feedback

We need this help because the simple fact is, we’re too close to our writing.

It’s impossible to read your story with a critical eye when you’re the one who came up with and wrote it in the first place.

Allowing others to read your work and offer feedback is one of the best ways to improve and make sure your story is exactly how you want it.

#8 – Practice by writing short stories often

The number one best way to learn how to write good short stories is by writing them often.

When you’re writing regularly, your brain falls into the habit of being creative and thinking in terms of short stories.

The more you do it, the easier it will get and the more you’ll improve. So focus on writing a certain number of short stories per week and stick to that – even if they aren’t your favorite.

#9 – Write one short story every day for 30 days

This is separate from writing short stories often. If you really want to kickstart your progress and get really good quickly, then create a challenge for yourself.

Write one short story, whether it’s 500 or 1,000 words, per day for an entire month.

When you’re done, you’ll have 30 full short stories to review, edit, and improve upon. Doing this not only builds a habit, but it also gives you a lot of experience quickly.

After those 30 days, you’ll know more about how you like to write short stories, which mean more to you, and how to write them to be good.

how to write a short story quote

#10 – Focus on a single message to share

Short stories are known for being impactful even though they’re not novel-length.

And that means they have to have a core theme or message you want to get across. This can be anything from loving yourself to ignoring societal expectations.

In order to do this, think about what you want people to walk away from your story feeling.

What is the desired outcome?

If you just want people to enjoy the story, that’s great. However, what makes a story impactful and enjoyable is what readers take away from it.

Brainstorm some themes that are important to you and work your short story around them. This will not only make you care about your story more (which means it’ll be written better), but it’ll also make ti more satisfying for readers.

#11 – Tie it up with a satisfying ending

Nobody likes a story that ends on a major cliffhanger.

It’s okay for your short story to have an unresolved ending. In fact, that’ll likely be the case simply because the story is…well, short.

But you do want to tie your story up in a way that leaves the reader feeling satisfied even if they didn’t get all the answers.

Many times, this means circling back to an idea or element presented in the beginning.

This structure often allows readers to feel as though they’ve read a complete story versus just a snippet of a larger one.

Short Story Ideas

Now that you know how to write a short story, it’s time to put these new skills to the test with some short story ideas guaranteed to produce something interesting and intriguing.

Here are 20 short story ideas to take your writing to the next level:

  1. Your character opens the mailbox to find their biggest fear inside.
  2. After a devastating fall, your character is learning the hardships of healing after an accident.
  3. Your character accidentally insults their company’s CEO – right before a big promotion.
  4. Your character lost a child years ago but lives as if it just happened the day before.
  5. Your character’s village wise woman tells the story of how magic was lost due to abuse.
  6. Your character lives in a space pod traveling space, and they’re also claustrophobic.
  7. Ash floated from the mountaintop and awoke your character from their night’s sleep.
  8. Your character hasn’t eaten in days and stumbles upon real berries, and so does a starving bear.
  9. When your character’s heart is broken, they must find a way to heal it – any way.
  10. Your character is an orphaned 7-year-old who hears voices.
  11. Your character just found out they have a rare disease…that hasn’t been detected anywhere in centuries.
  12. After a fight with their ex, your character decides to go on a trip to the neighboring town that hosts very…unusual tales.
  13. Your character accidentally runs into the wrong person on the street…and now they can’t sleep at night.
  14. When your character moves schools, they didn’t expect to find a secret lurking throughout the school…that all the teachers know about.
  15. It’s your character’s turn in their culture’s ritual of fighting a lion barehanded. They’ve never been good in fights.
  16. After extreme weather conditions plague your character’s town, they finally leave home to find everybody has gone missing.
  17. Your character is in the back of an ambulance, trying desperately to revive someone who’s apparently dead…so why are they still away and breathing?
  18. After a short stint at a hospital as a nurse, your character decides to take their skills to the mountains as a wilderness medical professional. They just didn’t expect to find odd and interesting injuries among campers.
  19. An apple appears at your character’s front door every morning and they can’t figure out who’s putting it there.
  20. When an avalanche quakes the mountains in your character’s town, it unveils something that’s been hidden for…millenia.
how to write a short story

Tips for Writing with Short Story Ideas:

Sometimes short story ideas are enough but if you want to utilize them effectively, keep these tips in mind:

#1 – Keep it simple and focus on a single portion of a character’s life

#2 – Make sure the reader has a clear picture of your character right away

#3 – Focus on the theme and message you’re trying to get across

#4 – Let the short story idea create a life of its own

#5 – Be unique and think of many possible endings to the story before outlining

How to Start Writing Your Short Stories

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passive voice in writing

Passive Voice: What Is Passive Voice & How to Improve It with Examples

Passive voice has its purposes. It really does. In fact, it can be the politically correct way to phrase something.

Imagine…

The setting: a public school library

The players: a librarian (OK, I’m the librarian) and 15 first graders

The scene: The librarian is reading aloud nonfiction books about sharks.

The question: “Why do sharks _______________?” (some intriguing behavior too complex or gory for me to explain or possibly even understand)

The passive voice answer that keeps me employed in a public school: “That’s the way they were made.”

The active voice answer that I would tell my grandchildren: “God made them that way.”

Here’s what you’ll learn about passive voice:

  1. What is passive voice?
  2. How much passive voice can you use?
  3. How to choose to use passive or active voice
  4. Active voice examples
  5. How to vary your sentence variety
  6. How to find your percent of passive voice

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What is passive voice?

Passive voice is when you write a sentence in which the subject receives an action. For example, “The ant was helped by the human.” is passive voice because the subject (ant) receives an action (help). The active voice of this sentence is, “The human helped the ant.”

Typically, passive voice is seen as weak when writing a book and in most cases, this is true. However, passive voice can serve its own purpose in writing.

One instance to use passive voice intentionally is when you don’t know (or care) WHO created the action.

It was so long ago, so obscure, so common, or so…something that the point is not on the subject performing an action; the focus is on the result.

Most of the time, though, active voice is the way to go. It’s more direct (less wordy) and commands more interest. You use strong verbs in active voice, so the entire sentence is (usually) stronger.

Active voice sentences are easier to understand.

what is passive voice

How much passive voice can you use?

The English language has melded far too many linguistic influences to have any absolute rules.

Therefore, the frequency of using passive voice versus active voice is a judgment call on how you would like to balance out your active and passive sentences, particularly when you can actually use passive voice intentionally as a literary device.

The key is to understand the difference between the two.

How to Choose Between Using Passive Voice or Active Voice

In general, active voice is preferred. Below is an explanation that I used with English students.

Active voice shows direct ACTION; passive voice is more ho-hum and wordy with unnecessary prepositional phrases.

The passive verb usually needs helping verbs.  Sometimes it even sounds stilted.

Active voice has movers and shakers; passive voice is like being a couch potato. Do you want to be the one DOING the action or be passive? Be an active leader, not a follower! Start with the main subject and go from there.

Passive Voice Examples:


ACTIVE:  I love reading.

PASSIVE:  Reading is loved by me.

ACTIVE:  AC/DC Thunder won the game easily.

PASSIVE:  The game was won easily by AC/DC Thunder.


With students, the focus is on active voice; with a professional writer like yourself, you will most likely have a blend of both active and passive sentences, but active should still far outweigh passive.

Active VS Passive Voice with Examples

From Billboard’s “The Biggest Hits of All: The Hot 100’s All-Time Top 100 Songs” I selected songs that used active voice in their titles. (WHO selected them? I selected them. That’s another easy example of active voice.)

Here are song titles along with a rewrite in passive voice:

  • “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” * Rock ‘N Roll Is Loved by Me
  • “I Gotta Feeling” * A Feeling Was Gotten by Me
  • “You Light Up My Life” * My Life Was Lit Up by You”
  • “We Found Love” * Love Was Found by Us
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand” * Your Hand Is What I Want to Hold
  • “Another One Bites the Dust” * The Dust Was Bitten by Another One
  • “I Will Always Love You” * You Will Always Be Loved by Me
  • “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” * It Was Heard Through the Grapevine by Me

Sentences with the understood subject (you) have an imperative active voice which is much more authoritative than passive tense:

  • (You)” Un-Break My Heart” * My Heart Should Be Unbroken by You
  • (You) “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” * A Yellow Ribbon Should Be Tied Round the Ole Oak Tree by You
  • (You) “Let the Sunshine In” * The Sunshine Should Be Let In by You
  • (You) “Play That Funky Music” * That Funky Music Should Be Played by You

Conversely, this next song title has a passive voice that works: “That’s What Friends Are For” (better than Friends Are for That).

With the rewrites changing active voice to passive, did you discern a pattern where many of them ended with a prepositional phrase containing the person doing the action?

Think of gossip.

People want to know who is doing what! (They really did that? You’re kidding!) Put the subject right at the beginning so everyone knows whom you’re talking (writing) about and what they did!

How to Vary Your Sentence Variety Using Passive Voice and Active Voice

If you have the same subject over and over and if the object is more of the point anyway, passive voice allows for sentence variety.

Furthermore, if it doesn’t matter who did the action because the result is the point, passive voice works.

what is passive voice

The chairs in the old high school library were refinished and moved to the new library weeks before the tables were moved. Temporary chairs were in the high school library.

I needed the tables from the old elementary library to sort the genre boxes, so students had chairs, but no tables for a while. The elementary students enjoyed sitting at the “invisible” tables and joked how they didn’t have to push in their chairs when they left.

After class, a first grader told his teacher very sincerely, “The tables really are invisible!”

I smile whenever I think of his endearing comment.


Passive voice rationale: It didn’t matter who had refinished and moved the chairs or who had put temporary chairs in the high school library. I hadn’t done those things, and those details would not have added to the book.

Nonetheless, I had completed the genrefication project (where the library was totally reorganized by book genres). I didn’t want to start almost every sentence with “I + action verb + direct object.” It would sound awkward to repeatedly start sentences with “I did this, I did that, I, I, I….”

Passive Voice Checker & How to Determine Your Percent of Passive Voice

Beyond the basic spelling and grammar check (which can be helpful with tools like Grammarly or even Hemingway Editor) is Word’s readability feature.

It tells you various details about your writing, including the percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Reading Ease, and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

For example, the segment about the chairs and the invisible tables scored an 8.8 Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level, which means it was written at a reading level where an 8th grader in the 8th month of school should be able to comprehend the text.

Many teen and adult fiction books are written at 4th – 6th-grade reading levels (based on Accelerated Reader scoring) because the writing flows at those levels for recreational reading compared to reading to learn new information. Newspapers may rank more at a 10th-grade reading level, depending on the complexity of the information.

If you are using Word and would like to know your percentage of passive sentences and readability scores, here’s what you do:

  1. Go to Review at the top of Word.
  2. Select Spelling & Grammar from the top left.
  3. Select Options… from the pop-up.
  4. Select Settings… at the bottom of the next pop up (next to Writing style:)
  5. Then scroll down until you see Passive Voice and check the box
  6. Select “OK” and you’ll now be able to check your passive voice in Word
passive voice checker

In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t), this article was written at a 6.7 reading level with 6% sentences being passive.

Now check some of your writing and see if you agree with your results.

By the way, I just took my own advice here and checked my children’s picture book, The Flower Fairies Meet the Talking Rainbow Rocks. It contains 4% passive sentences (acceptable to me) but has a 4.1 reading level, which is higher than I would have guessed and higher than I had planned for a picture book.

My book’s science-related terms increased the reading level. Word’s readability tool actively helps with various writing considerations beyond passive voice. You may use it purely for passive voice, but it will tell you even more.

Active writing is lively writing. It is aggressive in the most positive sense. It burrows in there and zooms straight to the point.

Stay active with your writing, and stay active in your writing.

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structure of a story

Story Structure: 3 Main Templates for Structuring an Unforgettable Story

Your story structure does matter.

Not only was Rome not built in a day, but it also wasn’t built without a plan. London was built without a plan.

Hit some Google maps and look at an aerial view of both cities. You will see the difference.

And your readers will definitely see the difference if your book doesn’t have a cohesive structure…and they will not be back for more.

story structure

The three main types of story structure we’ll cover are:

  1. 3 Act Structure
  2. Hero’s Journey
  3. The 5 Milestones

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What is story structure?

There are a few main types of story structure but overall, the structure of your story is how the events are laid out with an emphasis on using each part to further the story in an intriguing and cohesive structure.

Structure, suffice it to say, is important. The structure makes all the difference in creating a narrative that is poignant and satisfying.

More importantly, structure helps you, as the writer, keep track of all the events so that characters and story elements don’t fall through the cracks.

Keeping track of story elements makes writing a lot easier. Like following a recipe, it keeps you from leaving out important bits or putting in too much of others. Even simple stories contain numerous smaller nuances that, when forgotten, lead to disaster.

Watch any B movie from the 80s and you can see places where the editor, the script, and the director all lost the plot…don’t allow that when writing a novel yourself.

Furthermore, readers expect certain structures within story. They have an emotional attachment to certain pacing. They start to feel anxious if an element they are expecting hasn’t yet occurred, or never occurs.

Depending on the book genre, manipulating these expectations is a part of the style.

If you want to keep track of all of this, we’ve put together all three of these methods into story structure templates for you.

To gain access to all three, fill out the form below:

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Why focus on the structure of a story?

Much like the streets of Rome, you want your story to get somewhere.

You might enjoy meandering through London’s sprawling game trails turned roadways, but you want to get somewhere eventually.

That is why a story structure serves as a map to guide you, the characters, and the reader to an eventual, and hopefully rewarding, destination.

Some of the most famous stories out there have a very specific, replicable story structure that has served them well.

That’s why we always recommend outlining your book using these methods for planning your novel.

Story Structure: 3 Templates for Getting it Right

Now that we’ve stressed the need for a story structure its time to learn about your options. Story structures don’t have to be confining, rigid, things.

They work best when used as signposts and tentpoles, holding up the scaffolding and guiding you on your way.

Note that a story structure is somewhat different than a story shape. The shape is more about the feel and thrust of a story over its arrangement.

Story Structure #1 – The 3 Act Play

The most basic of story structures, very popular in Hollywood style films, is the 3 Act Play.

Many world-famous novels use this structure, including:

  • Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This structure relies on a total of five elements which includes the acts themselves, composed of various scenes, and two key transitions, referred to as “pinches” here.

Here is the three-act structure broken down:

  • Act 1: Setup – We’re introduced to the main players as well as the main conflict. We understand the voice, tone, and direction of the story.
    • Pinch 1 – This is when the initial conflict arises (sometimes known as the inciting incident).
  • Act 2: Confrontation – We’re in the thick of the main conflict here, along with some secondary conflicts. We’re faced with difficult (seemingly impossible) odds to overcome.
    • Pinch 2 – The conflicts addressed in Act 2 come to a head, and decisions need to be made. This is often the moment where all hope is lost for your protagonist.
  • Act 3: Resolution – Everything boils down to this act. All of the conflict, subplots, and challenges arise and the climax kicks off, shortly followed by the resolution of the story.

In the past, plays were structured with five acts, with two of the acts serving as long-form versions of the modern transitional elements of Pinch 1 and 2.

These have faded, partially because audiences have adapted to storytelling tropes and don’t need them spelled out. Also, stage tech, at least in plays, has advanced, requiring less busy work on the fringes to enact scenery changes for the more crucial acts.

Act 1 – The Setup

The first act introduces the characters with some mild character development and sets up the conflict. Take Romeo and Juliet (a fine example because we can discuss both the play’s 5 act structure and the films 3 act version).

The major players are all introduced in the first act and then attend a party. This gives us further information about each character in how they rep and participate in the party. We also see their conflicting social dynamics.

We set up an additional set of character dynamics between Romeo vs Paris as parties interested in Juliet and Mercutio and Tybalt as loyal but antagonistic figures.

Pinch 1 occurs at the end of the first act, introducing the conflict of the young couples’ love for each other. 

Act 2 – The Confrontation

In the play this is developed through the second act as the stakes for the lovers is spelled out. They marry in secret and that forms the end of the major plot point, the star-crossed lovers are not just passingly at odds with their society.

Within the 3 act structure, this is a single plot point. We get that they love each other, and that love means marriage.

Then, the middle act is the apprehension of their actions bringing about unintended, but not unforeseeable consequences.

The second act is often the longest as it is the place where elements move and forces muster. Everyone has to get into further trouble, further develop their roles, and gain power toward a resolution.

Act 2 ends shortly after a complication that brings the elements to a head. No longer able to maintain the secret, Romeo is confronted with a duel and his actions result in the death of his friend which then results in his banishment once he kills Tybalt.

Act 3 – The Resolution

Act 3 then begins with the fallout of these actions.

With Romeo headed to banishment, Juliet seeks a drastic plan to keep him around. She fakes her death to bring out the true feelings of the interested parties.

Since it is a tragedy, Romeo to get the clever reveal of the ruse and kills himself rather than being alone, though your story structure doesn’t have to follow this specific tragic ending.

Juliet then has to kill herself in turn and we end up with a high body count to bring the story to a close.

Story Structure #2 – Hero’s Journey

While the 3 Act structure works well for simple, straightforward stories, it doesn’t have the necessary oomph to underpin more nuanced tales.

When the good guys and bad guys are less black and white, you need to reach for the ancient wheel that is the Hero’s Journey.

The journey typically consists of 12 steps. It is the backbone of traditional storytelling, except it works and is a joy to take part in.

Older versions of the structure had more steps, the Tarot stemmed from an early understanding of this story structure starting with the fool (our hero) and ending with the world (resolution or complete understanding).

novel structure

Here are the 12 steps of the hero’s journey:

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusing the Call
  4. Meeting a Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach the Innermost Circle
  8. The Ordeal
  9. Seizing the Talisman
  10. The Road Ahead
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

These steps explain, in detail, the trajectory of the story while leaving room to put in differing characters and pursuits of different ideals. While many contemporary stories still follow this structure, it is easiest to see it in the light of an epic.

We’ll use Lord of the Rings as an example of this story structure. While the entire story follows the structure multiple times, we’ll stick to Frodo’s arc.

Step 1 – The Ordinary World

The Lord of the Rings story begins, rather appropriately, in the most banal land in Middle Earth. The Shire is a pure ordinary world where nothing too much happens, and everyone lives without any idea that better or worse things exist outside its borders. (Well, they have some idea, but go the cognitive dissonance route to ignore it.)

Step 2 – The Call to Adventure

The Call to Adventure comes when Gandalf shows up in search of the One Ring.

He tells Frodo a quest needs to be taken up but doesn’t give the full details. This bleeds into Refusing the Call as Frodo accepts part of the responsibility, without understanding the rest.

Step 3 – Refusing the Call

Refusing the Call is about seeing what has to be done and deciding there has to be someone else.

A good hero, like a proper Platonic philosopher-king, needs to reject the call first to be more worthy of it. Frodo will finish Refusing the Call later in Rivendell as he tries to bargain that others are more capable.

Step 4 – Meeting a Mentor

Though Gandalf served as a Mentor in The Hobbit, Aragorn (as Strider) is the Mentor here.

Meeting him gets the four hobbits along the correct path and out of the shying away into the real journey. The Mentor often brings insight, training, or purpose to a hero.

Step 5 – Crossing the Threshold

Crossing the Threshold reflects the hero facing a challenge and realizing they can make a difference.

For Frodo, this occurs twice, the first time as he faces the barrow wraiths and rescues his friends, the second is surviving the orc attack in Moria. Both thresholds show the power of gifts he received from Biblo but also hint at how friendship will play a role in his other tests.

Step 6 – Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Tests, Allies, and Enemies is a larger middle section of the Hero’s Journey which winds through other elements.

The gathering of the fellowship is a gaining of allies, their journey is a test, the fellowship mirrors the numbers of the enemy Ring Wraiths.

This step might not necessarily be a solid, definable moment, but rather something that has been happening throughout the story until this point.

Step 7 – Approach the Innermost Circle

Approach the Innermost Circle is a great danger, if not the greatest danger, a hero faces.

Within Frodo’s journey, this is when he attempts to leave the rest of the group behind, going alone on the river because he fears what will happen if he keeps with the group.

This moment in your story should be high tension, with consequences that impact the overall plot.

Step 8 – The Ordeal

The Ordeal is what takes place inside the Innermost Circle.

In the wastes of Mordor, Frodo must hold out against the weight of the One Ring. It is a prolonged Ordeal but well within the idea of the step.

This is another step that can fall within a previous step.

Step 9 – Seizing the Talisman

Seizing the Talisman is about gaining an object of power that will turn the tide for the hero.

Tolkien has many of these for other characters, usually in the form of legendary or magical weapons they acquire. For Frodo, the specifics of the talisman are in his pity on Gollum.

Step 10 – The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead takes the hero from the talisman to a final conflict.

In this case, Frodo is betrayed by Gollum and nearly killed by Shelob, saved only by the friendship with Samwise.

The consequences of Seizing the Talisman are usually a downward turn, comparable with Pinch 2 from the 3 Act structure.

Step 11 – Resurrection

Resurrection often involves a person, or entity returning after being thought dead.

Gandalf becomes the white, Luke comes back with a mechanical hand, Frodo fails to discard the ring and has to be attacked by Gollum.

Frodo’s resurrection is being saved at the last moment by his previous good decisions, often a resurrection succeeds because of past decisions by a hero and rarely the actions they take in that moment.

Step 12 – Return with the Elixir

Finally, the hero must Return with the Elixir, taking everything they have learned and accomplished back to the Ordinary World they once inhabited.

Frodo and Sam arrive to take on Saruman, showing their knowledge and skill acquired through the Journey to return the land to peace.

This is often the last chapter, showing your character/s returning to their life or beginning to create their new life.

Story Structure #3 – The 5 Milestones

structure of a story

If the previous two structures seemed restrictive or overly elaborate (the Hero’s Journey is 12 freaken steps, after all) then the 5 Milestones structure is for you.

This structure keeps it simple by focusing on five plot points, usually one or two scenes each, that create the scaffold of the story. These Milestones have to go in order, but the space between them can be adjusted quite a lot.

Here are the 5 Milestones for this story structure:

  1. Setup
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. 1st Slap
  4. 2nd Slap
  5. Climax

We’ll use the Hunger Games to rundown this structure.

story structure milestones

Milestone 1 – The Setup

The first Milestone works just like the 3 Act and the Ordinary World. It shouldn’t be surprising as beginnings all need to do the same thing.

Collins sets her premise up by explaining the reason there are districts, why the Games exist, and introducing Katniss as the protagonist.

We know, rather quickly, that the world is dystopian and unfair, and we know the main character has the skills to make an impact.

Milestone 2 – The Inciting Incident

This leads to the Inciting Incident, the kickoff to the main plot and conflict in your novel.

In this case, Katniss’ own sister is chosen to take part in the Games. A task she is not ready for and will likely not survive. Not only that, it will spell disaster for the rest of the District if or when she fails.

story structure inciting incident

That specific moment is the inciting incident because it leads to Katniss’s next decision, which kicks off the entire point of the book: Katniss volunteers to be the tribute.

This sets the rest of the plot in motion while also anchoring the reader to the motives of the hero.

Milestone 3 – The 1st Slap

The 1st Slap, much like Pinch 1, sets the stakes and introduces the larger plot.

The Inciting Incident is often character motivating and motivated. The 1st Slap is usually external, a factor within the world that must be overcome.

The opening of the Games sets the stakes and shows the danger Katniss will face.  This parallels Crossing the Threshold in the Hero’s Journey story structure, where first blood is drawn and the hero, as well as the reader, see the reality of the dangers.

Rather than simply being told “there be dragons”, they see one firsthand.

The 1st Slap also makes good on the promise of adventure by putting the hero into the middle of a peril that they must escape. There is no turning back, only moving forward.

Milestone 4 – The 2nd Slap

This takes us into the 2nd Slap. Here, we see things get worse like a Pinch 2, but we see the hope on the horizon.

We know the Talisman, as seen in the Hero’s Journey story structure, is out there to be seized.

In The Hunger Games, this is seen by Katniss working out a plan to fake a relationship with Peta to get support from the outside; a means of survival.

She needs to keep him alive for his sake, and for hers. He is dying from an infection and she is told there will be an item she needs at the feast.

The feast is a huge risk, but it offers hope. She must take the chance. Things go badly, of course, and the hope teeters her on ruin.

story structure example

Milestone 5 – The Climax

All of this creates the landscape for the final Milestone: The Climax.

With the Games coming down to just Peta or Katniss, we go back to the events of the Inciting Incident and loop that motivation into how the hero wins.

Frodo helped Gollum, who saves him in return (not out of good intent, but it gets us there). Katniss has a need to protect others, all her actions follow that desire.

She sees a way to save Peta by threatening herself. This kind of character-driven resolution makes for a rewarding story and makes it easy to weave the details of your final victory throughout.

Your readers stay looped into the triumph because they root for the character because they like them, not because the plot says that they win.

The secret to making a story kickass is to make it come from within. A good reader can smell a set up a mile away. A good reader also loves to see a Milestone achieved.

There you have it, three ways to get a story from ‘In the Beginning’ to ‘The End’ that will keep you focused and organized. The reader will know what you’re doing, following along through the peaks and valleys, the twists and turns, confident that your roadmap will lead somewhere promising.

Start Your Story Off Right TODAY

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romance novels

10 Best Romance Novels That Have Gone Underappreciated

There are many romance novels out there. Some better than others, granted, but what makes some the best of the best?

What gives them that je ne sais quoi factor we’re all craving, some of us even trying to emulate when writing a novel ourselves?

I could go about this list in many different ways, but I’ve decided not to make this one a common, boring, cliché list. No.

This is not that kind of list; this will give you the best romance novels in different categories and the reasons why you’ll fall in love with them!

Here are the 11 best romance novels:

  1. Slammed by Colleen Hoover
  2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  3. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
  5. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
  6. Dance Until Dawn by Berni Stevens
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  10. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
  11. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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Side note: you’ll need a big box of tissues for most of these, so be sure to grab one before you dive in!

Best Romance Books Per Category

The answer is for pulling novels from specific categories is simple: there are far too many amazing books out there to choose from and if you’re mapping out a list of the best, you’re going to miss a few important ones.

Categorizing them makes sense because you’ll be able to decide for yourself which type of book you’d enjoy more.

Consequently, you’ll find the best one in each category here. Once you finish it, you’ll be able to say if you enjoy that theme or not. And if not, you’re ready to jump into one of the other picks.

11 Best Romance Novels

If you’re looking for a quick read for a weekend or want to learn in order to write your own book, this list can give you some inspiration.

#1 – Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Category: Poetry, specifically slam poetry

Romance Novel Summary: Layken, an 18-year-older student meets her new neighbour, Will. Will is 21. They have an instant connection based on their similar likes, which gives Layken hope for happier days.

Once their connection is deep within you and you love them, there’s a revelation that shocks them and us, and they can’t be together. The problem is, they really want to.

Why You’ll Love It: If you’re not reading it because you love slam poetry, don’t worry. You’ll love slam poetry once you’re finshed! You may even want to try your hand at writing poetry afterward.

I had heard a few poems before but with this book, I became totally obsessed with slam poetry. It takes the novel to a higher level and forces us readers to connect with it a lot more. It becomes personal.

It’s also easy to identify ourselves with this story because it discusses topics that we’ve all had to face, including death and grief. Colleen is a brilliant writer and she just knows how to pull your strings.

Quote: “Question everything. Your love, your religion, your passion. If you don’t have questions, you’ll never find answers.”

#2 – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Category: Young Adult Romance

Romance Novel Summary: You’ll meet Cath Avery, who has a total opposite twin sister, Wren. When they both start college, Wren tells Cath she doesn’t want to be her roommate and they should live their college experience separately.

Then, one day, between her awkwardness and fan-fiction stories, she meets Levi. And then everything changes. Slowly. But it changes.

Why You’ll Love It:This is not only a young adult romance, not only about love. It’s also about making decisions at a young age and growth. The story is beautifully structured, and you won’t be able to put it down before you finish it.

Besides having a really solid love story, you’ll also have a good laugh when diving into Rowell’s world.

Quote: “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”

#3 – The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Category: Greatest Love Story

Romance Novel Summary:This is the story of Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson. It is set in North Carolina after the Second World War. Noah thinks of Allie, a girl he had met 14 years prior. And one day, she shows up in his town.

Nicholas Sparks is the master of twists and turns in love stories and this one does not disappoint. This is a book of surprises that will test Noah and Allie’s love until the end.

Why You’ll Love It:I mean, do I really need an explanation here? Everyone knows Nicholas Sparks and that his books are amazing and will leave you in tears!

If you’ve watched the movie, read the book. If you haven’t watched the movie, read the book! It’ll break your heart in the most beautiful possible way.

Quote: “Every great love starts with a great story…”

#4 – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Category: Modern Romance

Romance Novel Summary:Lucy Hutton is a nice, sweet girl; Joshua Templeman is her opposite: cold and grumpy. They meet when the publishing houses they work at merge. It’s hate at first sight.

But everything changes with a kiss…

Why You’ll Love It:Two opposites attract… isn’t it just brilliant when you have a love/hate relationship in one of your books?

Because this is a modern romance, the storyline is also modern, which is the reason why many, many people love this novel. It’s easy to relate with it and Lucy is like the next-door neighbor, you just adore her.

And with this title, how you could NOT want to read it?

Quote: “It’s a corporate truth universally acknowledged that workers would rather eat rat skeletons than participate in group activities.”

#5 – The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Category: Loss and Grief

Romance Novel Summary:Lucy is a senior in college at Columbia University when she meets Gabe, also a college senior. They meet on an ill-fated day that will shape their lives and the lives of those around them forever.

They meet throughout the years but there’s always something in between them, there’s always something preventing them from being together.

And in the end, Lucy has a very important decision to make. What will she decide to do?

Why You’ll Love It:If you’ve read and love PS: I Love You by Cecelia Ahern, this book should be next on your list.

I think it’s beautiful the way Santopolo deals with loss and grief, which are two themes so close and tangled with the subject of love.

Even though they can be difficult to approach, the message is important and not every romance needs a stereotypical happily ever after.

Quote: “Maybe it’s the act of opening yourself up, letting someone else in—or maybe it’s the act of caring so deeply about another person that it expands your heart.”

#6 – Dance Until Dawn by Berni Stevens

Category: Fantasy Romance

Romance Novel Summary:This is the first book in a series called “Immortals of London”. Ellie Wakefield has been saved from death by William Austen, a 300-year-old vampire.

Ellie has to learn about this new world and together they face unexpected challenges.

Why You’ll Love It:

Who doesn’t love a good-ol’ vampire story? Add to that a little old banter, and there you have it, the perfect novel!

Fantasy and romance are just like peanut butter and jelly; there’s no reason why they should go together, but they do, formidably.

This book is full of mystery and Stevens has written it in a way that you just crave for more. It’s fresh, well-detailed but very easy to read.

Quote: “I understand that this is rather a lot to take in,’ he said. ‘But I would appreciate it if you would stop referring to me as either psychotic or perverted.’ ‘Well I’d appreciate not being kidnapped and shut in this filthy hole.’ ‘Touché’.”

#7 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Category: Feminism and Classic Literature

Romance Novel Summary:The story revolves around the Bennets, a noble family that doesn’t have a lot of money because of Mr. Bennet, the father.

It all starts when two single noblemen arrive to town and, as it is custom, meet the single women, because ain’t it universally acknowledged “that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”?

When Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy meet, it’s not all rainbows and flowers, but would it be a real love story if it was otherwise?

Why You’ll Love It:Classics are important for a reason, and that reason is mostly because they’ll teach you something about the past, which most often than not, still has some truth in the present day.

You’ll love Pride and Prejudice because Jane Austen wrote it for everyone to dream about it. It’s an important story that needs to be read.

Elizabeth Bennet was born way ahead of her time and she’s here to teach you a lesson in sarcasm and feminism – you just cannot not read it!

Quote: “He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far we are equal.”

#8 – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Category: Illness and Loss

Romance Novel Summary:Louisa Clark loses her job and desperately needs to find another one. When the opportunity of taking care of Will Traynor, a young man that is wheelchair bound, knocks on her door, she doesn’t jump of happiness.

It’s a slow start and their relationship doesn’t seem to evolve, but as any other love story, there are twists and surprises along the way for both Louisa and Will.

Why You’ll Love It:This is a story of poor meets rich, good meets bad, but not at all as you’d expect it to be.

It’s not even about these pairs at all. But you’ll connect, at first, with the main character, Louisa, because of this. She’s simple and relatable.

You’ll read it in an afternoon and you’ll still be crying months later.

Quote: “I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”

#9 – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Category: History, specifically the Civil War

Romance Novel Summary:Scarlett O’Hara has a hard task at hand: she’s fighting for her family’s plantation and for the love of her life – if that wasn’t enough, this is amid the Civil War.

In the end, will she get it all or lose everything?

Why You’ll Love It:It’s History holding hands with a love story, what more could you need?

It has the charm of the south in a very troubling period of history; it’s family and love struggles. It’s one of the most popular books ever written, and you just need to find out why!

Quote: “It was better to know the worst than to wonder.”

#10 – It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Category: Abusive Relationships

Romance Novel Summary:Lily is a determined, successful woman. She had a difficult life growing up, but she never stopped fighting for what she truly loved. She meets Ryle who has a no-dating rule, but they quickly become close.

She thinks he had a difficult past too, but she can’t figure out what happened exactly. When things start changing, she’s put in a place she never wanted to be back again.

“Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.”

Why You’ll Love It:If you’re looking for strong-minded, determined women, this book is for you. Lily is written in a way that you’ll be rooting for her from page 1.

It’s a book that will touch some of you deeply and will haunt you for many years after the last page was turned. A beautiful love story that has more to it.

Quote: “Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

#11 – Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Category: LGBTQ+

Romance Novel Summary:Simon is 16 and very much homosexual, however, no one knows. When his secret is about to be revealed, a series of events lead him to being blackmailed.

He’ll try to navigate high school without anyone finding out his secret while not messing up his friendships nor his own life.

Why You’ll Love It:This is a fun yet serious book. The characters are well-