One of the most difficult things about writing a book is organizing your thoughts. If you’re like most writers you have notebooks full of ideas and shoeboxes full of notes with scribbled outlines, dialogue, tips, and descriptions. You’ve got the content right there in those shoeboxes ... so what do you do with it?
Approach writing your book like you would approach preparing an extravagant meal for some very special guests -- your readers. There’s a process, right? Let’s use our meal preparation analogy to walk through the basic steps of writing your book.
Step 1: Know your guests
You want to “wow” them with this meal and cause them to ask for seconds. So, based on what you know about them, what are their preferences? Do they like spicy foods, lots of sauces, cheesy dishes, salt-free fare, a little chocolate, steamed, fried, grilled, or broiled?
In the same way, consider your ideal readers. What are they looking for in a book like yours? Interesting anecdotes, useful tips, moving dialogue, emotional scenes, honest expression, life lessons, a love scene, a villain with a conscience, a moral to the story? You probably have all of these in that shoebox in your closet. So dig it out and start searching through those notes.
Step 2: Your recipe
Typically, you would find a recipe in a cookbook or perhaps from a trusted cook ... or sometimes you have to make it up yourself. For your book, this recipe is called an outline. You need to determine the main theme of your book, the characters, the setting, the moral or lessons of the story, the key points and tips. Then decide what comes first, next, and last in your book.
Every line, every character, every bit of dialogue, every scene, every concept should focus on the theme. You decide how much of anything to include (such as tips, drama, dialogue, backstory, characters), how long a scene should simmer, at what temperature you should allow a memory to bake, and how long the lessons of life should cool on the rack.
Step 3: The ingredients
Next, let’s gather the ingredients. Oh wait, you’ve got them right there is those shoeboxes full of notes and ramblings that you’ve been collecting. Shop for the meat, the potatoes, the spices, seasonings, garnish, and even the perfect wine to accompany your meal. Find them in your notes. Read through what you’ve already written and determine how all of that fits into your recipe. Also, you’ll want to take the time to browse through the supermarket ... in this instance, the library, your own bookshelf or an online bookseller. Remember, writers read. Reading is the process of shopping, as it were, for style, context, ideas, voice, and technique. Develop your own unique work of art, so you don’t need to snag another author’s words, characters, or theme verbatim.
Make sure you use quality ingredients: interesting characters, moving dialogue, action, descriptive words, engaging scenes, valuable tips, step-by-step instruction, a moral or lesson that readers can easily grasp, and of course a theme that is carried through the entire book. No scene, resource, conversation, or character should be included that doesn’t directly influence the overall theme of your book.
Step 4: Preparation is key
There is an art to preparing a delicious meal. You assemble your ingredients, read through that recipe once again, ensure you have all of the equipment and utensils needed, and you go at it. You chop, you measure, you taste. It’s a process, remember. With your writing, you add a dab of dialogue, a pinch of persuasion, and a little laughter. Be the sous-chef and make certain that you have everything you need to craft this delicious meal.
Step 5: The art of presentation
Your guests smelled the savory aromas when they walked through the door. For your book, the cover art or the title gets readers to grab your book off the shelf. But what’s inside is what gets them to want more. It’s all about presentation.
Have you ever been presented with a meal or a dish that looked ... well ... unappealing? It may smell yummy and be delicious to the taste, but if the presentation is all wrong you might think twice about tasting it. Consider that with your book layout and design, as well as with your promotional information.
Technical aspects of writing – grammar, punctuation, spelling, voice, tense – as well as layout, format, publishing options, or cover design all play a huge part in the appearance of your book. Whether you self-publish or outsource, don’t leave your book in the hands of others. Oversee the entire process yourself.
Step 6: Share and enjoy
Delicious food is scrumptious even if you eat it alone. However, when shared with family, friends, and other guests, the meal can be that much more delectable. Marketing and promoting your book and you, as an author, is vital to making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the yummy vittles you’ve prepared and are ready to serve up. You have a story to tell. There are hundreds of thousands -- dare I say, millions -- of people who want and need to know your story, the lessons you learned, the tips you have, the knowledge you’ve gained. Don’t leave them waiting. Your guests have arrived ... and their appetites are voracious. Bon appetit!
Congratulations, your meal is a success. Your readers are satisfied to the full. Bravo!