- Read, read, and read some more
The first thing you do in order to write a book is to read. Yes, read. Read a lot of books, read books that you love to read, read books that you wish you wrote, read books that other people recommend you should read, read them again.
The first time you read it enjoy the book like a reader. Just laze around, sit down, enjoy it. The second time you read a book, look at the characters and the setting. Study them closely. The third time you read a book, look at the style. What’s the style of the author? It’s different each author and you will see this the third time you read it. Study it.
A lot of writers give this advice as well – reading – well, for me, however, I personally experienced a change in my writing when I started to read more. There was a time when I read nothing but parenting books after my daughter was born. But when I decided to start the Goodreads reading challenge, I ended up reading around 60 books a year, and it helped me learn about the many different points of view for the characters.
It gave me writing ideas on how authors develop their characters, about their writing style. I even noticed the author’s crutch words and pet phrases. This allowed me to look at my own work and see what my own crutches and pet phrases are. Here are some examples of the most commonly used pet phrases and crutch words. Do you know yours? I know mine from the list, I can see it, but I’m not going to tell you.
Reading books by other authors is not so you can copy the author’s writing style or storyline, this is so that you’d get a grasp of how others do it and then you put your own spin to it. If you’re writing a picture book, look at the illustrations. See which styles you like. Finally, look at the acknowledgement part of the book, this is where you’ll see who helped the author create this book. if anything it’ll give you an idea of just how many people are involved with creating a book.
- Time to create
Next comes the creation part. Enjoy this process, take your time with this one. Don’t rush it. I love this part of the process.
Before I write the actual book, I go through the characters who will be in it. All the characters. The protagonist, the antagonist, the sidekicks, the BFFs, the parents, the school principal, the gardener. I create even the most minor ones because it helps a lot during the process if these people are already whole. I give them a face, hair, neck, height, whether they wear a hat or glasses, their mannerisms, their educational level, their ticks. It sounds like a long process but it should be. The more you know your characters the smoother your writing process. It will give you an idea how they interact with each other.
Questions like this, does she have a short fuse? Does she like to flip her hair? Does he hate ice cream? Initially, I suggest you focus on the main characters more ‘til you get a hand of things. Then, just keep expanding.
As for your world, well, that’s a wonderful process too. You get to create your own universe. How amazing is that? Now, take a lot of notes. Look at the web and see illustrations and pictures of places around the world. Think of the places you’ve visited, the places you want to visit, or the place where you grew up. Look at old photos.
I love Pinterest, there’s so many inspirations for worlds there. You can create your own board and save illustrations and pictures that you like. I create boards and name it like ‘worlds’ or ‘creatures’. I refer to it every now and then, it helps for visualization.
- Time to write
Just write. Sounds easy? No, not really. There are days when I can flow easily, and there are days when it’s like pulling teeth. But, as Stephen King once said, “Fear is at the root of most bad writing.” If you’re already doubting yourself before you start writing, then it’s going to show in your work.
Embrace the task in front of you. Stop comparing yourself with others. Just because a friend or someone you know finished a novel or published a book, doesn’t mean you can’t too. Their success doesn’t diminish your own journey. Do your own thing, run your own race.
Here are a couple of things to remember:
Write even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t wait for the muse, if you keep waiting for her or him, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to be able to sit down during the days that you don’t want to. Writing a book isn’t always going to be fun and games, that’s what separates the amateurs from the professionals.
Schedule a writing time each day. It doesn’t have to be all week. It can be 5-6 times a week, but make a schedule for it. Even something as short as 30 minutes a day will already be thousands of words in a month or so. I wrote for 30 minutes a day in a whole year and managed to finish a novel. It was the only time I could spare, especially juggling work, motherhood, and all that. But it worked for me.
Stop making excuses. If you don’t have a laptop, use a pen and paper. James Patterson still writes on paper. But he pushes out a million books still. When you’re on the train standing up with everyone else, use that time to type stuff on your phone. If you’re taking a break, sit down somewhere and grab a pen and notebook, you don’t have to be on your desk all the time. You can write anywhere.
Kristyn Maslog-Levis is a freelance journalist based in Sydney. several of her works have been published in the New York Times and Al Jazeera. She has published The Girl Between Two Worlds in 2015 and is set to release a sequel entitled The Girl Between Light and Dark in May 2018, both under Anvil Publishing.
She worked as a TV reporter for ABS-CBN before finishing her master’s degree in communication under the ASEAN scholarship at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Kristyn is also an avid photographer with several photos published in various magazines and exhibited in a couple of local and international exhibitions.