Writing a book as a new author isn’t an easy feat. You must know how to start a book, create a compelling plot, and finish with a bang. You’ll need to master techniques like first draft writing, self-editing, and organizing your ideas to write a good story. Writing a book is a time-consuming creative endeavor that can take months or even years. You’ll be able to create solid and cohesive chapters that will keep your readers wanting more if you have a well-organized writing process. If you’re unsure where to start, here’s everything you need to know to get started on your first book.
Four things to do before writing a book
An author’s biggest mistake is diving headfirst into writing a novel without any planning. Before you sit down to write a book, there are a few things you should think about. Here are some things you should do before deciding how to start a book.
1. Pick a genre
Genre selection may be more critical than you believe as a first-time author. When readers consider an author, the type of books they write is the first thing that comes to mind. And first impressions are critical.
It will influence readers’ decision to purchase another book by the same bestselling author in the future.
It’s critical to be aware of your genre options before tackling how to start a book. Examine the works of various writers working in a variety of genres.
Recognize the classifications for novels, such as romance, thriller, fantasy, and horror. Once you’ve chosen a genre, peruse its best-selling titles. Develop a working knowledge of the fundamental writing techniques used in your chosen genre to understand better the type of writing you intend to do.
Your chosen genre should come naturally to you.
Nonetheless, experimenting with genre combinations can also be a great choice. Mixing genres can help you captivate your audience if you’re willing to take a chance.
Ensure that one of them is the primary genre. After that, incorporate the other genre seamlessly into the story.
2. Form Story Ideas
Plotting a book is a difficult task.
While some writers enjoy freewriting and brainstorming, others prefer to use writing prompts.
Whatever route you take, it is critical to spend writing time brainstorming various concepts and selecting a solid premise to build a compelling story.
Creating a plot and character outline assists you in taking a step back and gaining a broader perspective on your narrative. Seeing the big picture can help you understand how to start a book and form excellent storylines.
Research can assist in clarifying existing ideas and generating new ones.
It can also keep your thoughts flowing and provide you with some solid facts to inform the possible direction of your story. Depending on your writing story, you may want to research recorded events, real-world locations, people, fields, cultures, and philosophical concepts.
3. Plan your outline
A book outline is a document that details the novel’s structure, plot, characters, and scenes.
It’s the book’s framework and a vital step before deciding how to start a book.
If you do not have an outline, forgetting to include an essential part of the story is possible. After all, your book will contain dozens, if not hundreds, of statistics, facts, ideas, stories, and anecdotes. Without organization, it’s far too easy to forget something.
The following are several techniques for creating a book outline:
The novel’s spine, or critical plot points, are established using the skeleton method. Consider a map with only well-known plots highlighted— the route you take to reach them is entirely up to you.
The synopsis method is a thorough book outline that summarizes the story’s plot, characters, themes, and conflicts.
The mind map technique is a visual outlining technique that visually depicts the spatial connections among your characters, plot points, themes, chapters, and conflicts.
Whichever route you take, you’ll ultimately write faster and better with a book outline in hand. If one method does not work for you, try a different one.
4. Set writing deadlines
Establishing deadlines assists in the transformation of dreams into realities. Setting a deadline is critical when writing a book; without one, the goal becomes a pipe dream.
Writing deadlines only work if they are realistic deadlines that you can meet within the day’s allotted writing time.
Create a calendar to keep track of your deadlines and other priorities.
Once you’ve determined a target completion date for your project, you can establish smaller deadlines that will help you get closer to that target.
Establish daily or weekly writing session goals that are attainable and beneficial to your real progress. In some cases, your smaller goals are not about word counts but the laborious process of editing, revising, or conducting research.
These steps are also essential parts of how to start a book.
If deadlines alone are insufficient to motivate you, a simple reward may suffice. Consider rewarding yourself whenever you accomplish a goal, whether it’s a daily word count or the conclusion of a chapter.
What you give yourself as a reward is entirely up to you. Individualize your prize, and it will motivate you to meet your deadline.
Six tips for creating the perfect first chapter
Your book’s foremost chapter is one of the most critical sections of writing you’ll ever complete. It establishes a precedent for the remainder of the novel.
The first chapter of your book may take longer to start writing a book than the rest, as much must occur in the first few pages to entice a reader to continue reading.
Readers will decide whether or not to continue reading your book after reading the first part. Here’s how to start a book that will keep your readers wanting more from your opening lines.
1. Write a captivating story hook
In writing, a book hook refers to a sentence or series of sentences that grab readers’ attention, pique their interest in your work, and is a crucial part of starting a book.
Hooks don’t have to be what you expect them to be. Even the most cynical reader can be persuaded by a few well-chosen words and drawn into your story.
You can develop an alluring and successful story hook that hook readers using the following methods:
Start with a rhetorical question
You’re engaging in rhetoric if you ask a rhetorical question without expecting an answer. The questioner may provide the solution immediately, or it may be evident to the narrator.
A rhetorical question can be a powerful tool for persuading an audience to respond differently. You can also use other figures of speech in conjunction with these expressions for dramatic or comedic effects.
Create a dramatic declaration
You can pique the reader’s interest by making a strong statement at the beginning of your book.
Your argument will pique the readers interest no matter how strongly they disagree with what you say. Using a hook in your declaration is a great way to compel the reader to support or oppose your position.
Write a pondering hook
Ponderings or musings are the writer’s thoughts. A compelling writing hook can be either philosophical or humorous.
The perspective you’re trying to convey in the book will guide your decision. Books that encourage readers to become more self-aware can benefit from intellectual reflections.
For stories about conformity, amusing musings are more relevant.
2. Introduce the main characters
When readers are captivated by a character’s introduction, they are compelled to care about the story. It is critical to have well-developed characters to keep your readers engaged.
Whether you tell your story from one perspective or many characters, it will be best if you introduce a compelling character in your first chapter.
When learning how to start a book, it’s vital to remember that your characters should draw your readers.
Explaining the character’s backstory can assist in setting the scene when introducing them to the reader for the first time.
The backstory should center on the events that shaped the character’s childhood to aid in developing the character’s story arc.
Before you begin writing, spend as much writing time as possible getting to know the main character to ensure that you introduce a convincing protagonist in chapter one.
By determining the character’s voices and perspectives, you can ascertain their unique perspective, quirks, and significance to the plot.
If you convey all of this in the first chapter, you’ll be well on your way to enticing your readers and retaining their interest in your book.
3. Build your world
Worldbuilding is a huge part of how to create a book. It’s the process of creating a fictional world or universe from real-world elements such as history, geography, politics, languages, customs, and religious pantheons.
The aspects of worldbuilding taken together are sometimes referred to as a story’s lore.
When it comes to engaging book readers, nothing beats the setting.
A story’s setting can have a significant impact on its tone. They can sway a reader’s perception of the story’s outcome and the genre into which it falls.
If the reader pays attention, the story’s setting can also hint at the type of story they are about to read.
Here are some pointers to assist you in developing the setting for your novel.
Define the demographics, language, and culture
Consider your protagonists. Because your characters are the heart of your story, it’s critical to know who they are from start to finish. Consider the people who live in your world.
It’s crucial to remember that a fascinating aspect of any story is the people.
Existing cultures can serve as models, but only in the same way religions do. Expand on their characteristics when drawing inspiration from other cultures to create unique elements for your invented cultures.
Your language choices will also influence how your short story or novel unfolds, significantly impacting whether or not your book is believable.
The experience of worldbuilding through multiple languages can be pretty rewarding. Society must change for the spoken word to evolve, as evidenced by how languages change over time.
Create rules and regulations
Every society establishes and enforces codes of conduct. Having a set of rules in place will aid in explaining the character’s actions and reactions and overall development.
Ascertain who is responsible for enforcing the laws in your world and how they will affect the story. Setting rules and laws is a fantastic opening line for developing your book’s mood and general vibe, not to mention creating characters who adhere to these standards.
Choose the environment/locations
Your story will either occur in the real world or a completely made-up one.
Before beginning work on your story, it is critical to determine which categories it will fall into. After giving your world a name, it’s time to populate it. It requires understanding the region’s geography and ecology and the ability to visualize the landscape and beasts your characters are likely to encounter.
Geography can also arouse readers’ awe if you create something they’ve never seen before.
Consider a mundane piece of geography and how you could transform it into something otherworldly. Additionally, giving each world or region a distinct identifying characteristic is critical.
Make it clear to readers where they are in the story. There should be no two identical worlds or areas.
Distinguish the history
History is significant because it explains how certain things came to be.
As with the real world, your fictional world will require a history—which will frequently play a significant role in the plotting of your novel. As a result, you’ll need to become acquainted with it.
The more you learn about the history of your world, the more opportunities you’ll have for foreshadowing, plot twists, and a complete story in general.
To fully comprehend your story’s conflicts, the reader will need to be familiar with the history of your fictional world. They do not require the entirety of your world’s story immediately.
However, you should have a firm grasp of the history of your world. Providing readers with sufficient information will make them feel more compelled to continue reading.
4. Establish the protagonist’s goals
A character must have a clear objective to remain motivated and contribute to the story’s progression. While protagonists in literary fiction may appear to have a variety of desires or ambitions, there is always a primary goal.
It’s an excellent way how to start a book. After all, your characters would simply stand idle on the first page without objectives. And that hardly constitutes a plot.
The best place to begin is by determining your characters’ true motivations. After establishing their motivations throughout the story, you can detail the obstacles they’ll face.
Your story’s direction is determined by the motivations and values of your characters. The goals serve as a road map for your plot.
Once you’ve determined your character’s primary goal, consider all the steps necessary to accomplish that goal. Keep track of these steps in your mind as they occur to you.
At this point, nothing is absurd. Anything your character must do to achieve that ultimate goal is acceptable.
5. Develop your conflict
You shouldn’t miss the story’s conflict when creating a checklist for starting a book. Conflict is anything that stands in the way of your character development achieving their objective, whether internal or external.
Other central characters in your novel will have goals, and those objectives should affect your main protagonist and their purpose. As a result, it’s natural that they’ll encounter conflict.
Conflict is essential to writing fiction books and must begin with the first chapter. It’s not necessary that a battle or a cataclysmic event must happen.
At the very least, your first chapter should establish a sense of impending conflict – an underlying sense that some intriguing problems are on the way to propel the story forward.
Remember your story’s central conflict or conflicts when introducing problems to your first chapter.
While a more significant conflict does not have to be introduced immediately, your first chapter is an excellent place to begin building toward it or, at the very least, reflecting it in some small way.
6. Create an impactful chapter-ending
When a reader finishes a chapter, they can put your book down.
Without compelling your reader to stay and turn the first page, it’s too easy to lose them in the white space and page break. Scene endings are an excellent way to emphasize the significance of your story’s pivotal moments.
Additionally, they will keep readers’ attention on your book’s pages.
When learning how to start a book, it’s also essential to know how to pause and end chapters aside from learning your opening line. Here are some ways you can end your opening lines and chapter:
Bring in a new character
Your conclusions should mark the beginning of something new. In other words, avoid structuring your chapters so that the end of one concludes something and the beginning of the next begins something.
Include a beginning after the chapter. As a technique, have someone or something appear at the closing.
Arrivals are an excellent technique for piquing the reader’s interest and enticing them to continue reading. As a secondary idea, emphasize to the reader that this is a watershed moment in your novel.
Everything that occurs after this point will be unique.
You may sometimes wish to end a scene outside of a character’s head, mainly if you’ve recently spent a lot there. If you’ve used a dramatic setting to heighten the mood of the action, you can use this to imprint a strong sense of the mood on your reader.
Now is an appropriate to activate your symbolism sensors.
You can convey the scene’s mood and emotions with images such as slamming doors, sunrises or sunsets, smashed glass, visions of flowers, or storms.
End with a cliffhanger
Cliffhangers are the most frequently used type of chapter conclusion. The perfect cliffhanger leaves the reader in the dark because they have read a cliffhanger.
If you do write cliffhangers, review your manuscript for ways to soften the tension so that the reader feels the same amount of tension but is unaware of it.
A masterful and successful writer is a showman, eliciting an emotional response from the reader while concealing their deception.
Eight common mistakes when starting a book
As someone who loves books, it’s fun to imagine yourself someday writing one—but you must think about what happens after all that dreaming. It can be easy to make some mistakes when you’re just starting to write your novel or memoir (or whatever it is). Here are eight common ones.
1. Failing to write every day
Writing every day is the best way to develop a writing habit, and it’s also one of the best ways to keep on track with your book. If you’re having trouble getting started or finishing, try setting aside time each bright cold day for writing—even if it’s only 20 minutes.
The more often you write, the easier it will be to stay motivated while writing.
Any task becomes routine and less daunting over time when we do something daily—if not downright enjoyable!
2. Not having an outline
An outline is a tool that helps you plan the story and keep it on track. It’s like a map for your book, showing you where you’re going and ensuring you don’t get lost along the way.
It also helps to see the big picture so that when things get confusing or unclear about where this character is going in your book, an outline will tell you what needs fixing before it becomes too late! It makes it easier for writers to know when to stop writing (and start writing or editing).
3. Writing your book in the wrong tense
The past and present tenses are both proper but not interchangeable.
If you want to write about a character who has already gone through something, then past tense is appropriate; if they’ve only just begun to experience an event, present tense is more effective.
Intentionally using the wrong tense is like switching between first and third person within a single opening sentence—it makes readers feel disoriented and confused, which can be distracting enough to break their connection with your story.
4. Starting with the wrong characters
There are many things to consider when writing a book, but one of the most critical aspects is choosing your main characters. The characters you start with could make or break your story and determine how readers will feel about it.
So how do you choose which characters are best suited for your book? The first step is to decide whether you want them to be friends or enemies with each other.
For example, if Alice and Bob were fighting over something, it would make sense for them to become friends by the end of the story because their mutual enemy disappears from the particular scene (e.g., they finally defeat him).
However, if they’re both fighting over something else together—like a treasure chest or magical artifact—they’re likely to remain enemies throughout (unless there’s another villain who forces them together).
This makes sense because then there’s someone else who needs defeating!
5. Starting with the wrong dialogue
Dialogue is a great way to start a book. It can be used to introduce characters, set the scene, and give information and tone, but it should never be used as an introduction or setting of tone.
When dialogue is used in this way, it feels heavy-handed and intrusive.
The reader doesn’t get time to get comfortable with your characters or setting before you start writing and telling them what’s going on.
The best way to do this is by showing, not telling: have your characters talk about things happening around them rather than talking directly at each other—and let readers come up with their interpretations of how they feel about those things!
6. Writing in different personas in the same book
Writing in different personas in the same book is a common mistake that can be easily avoided.
The first step to avoiding this is to write what you know, which means creating characters whose backgrounds and experiences are similar to yours.
This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in fictionalizing your characters’ lives when writing about them from an outside perspective—for example, writing about someone who grew up on an island when you’ve never been anywhere near one.
But if you want your readers to relate, why wouldn’t you want their experiences and personalities modeled after yours?
The next step is choosing which point of view (POV) or style of writing best suits your story: first person; present tense; active voice; past tense; future tense; passive voice; past perfect tense etc.—and sticking with it throughout the entire novel, so each chapter feels consistent within itself and with all previous chapters.
7. Having too many characters
Having too much characters in your book can be overwhelming for readers. If you have more than five main characters, it’s nearly guaranteed that your reader will get lost.
Make sure there are no more than three supporting characters and two minor ones (each).
Adding more than this will confuse the reader and make them feel like they’re being pulled in too many directions.
In addition to keeping track of main, supporting, and minor characters, be aware of how many narrators there are.
If there’s more than one narrator in your story—and that means any kind of narrator besides the reader—it’ll distract from the overall narrative flow of your novel because each new voice has its style, tone, structure, and rhythm that must be learned by whoever picks up your book next time around.
8. Not writing what you know
Writing what you know is well-known and time-tested advice for writers. If you’re not writing what you know, then it’s likely that your book will suffer from some credibility issues.
However, there are times when it can be tempting to stretch the limits of your expertise and write about things that you don’t understand or feel qualified to discuss in depth.
The reasons for doing this are understandable: maybe you want to write a book on a subject outside of your comfort zone because it will help sell more copies (or attract more readers), or perhaps there is an area where there is little competition and thus an opportunity for making money by filling a niche market.
Whatever the motivation, many authors fail to realize that there is also value in sticking within their wheelhouse when novel writing books on topics closer to home.
After all, people always prefer reading about things they already know about!
Frequently asked questions
Now that you know how to start a book, here is some additional information that can answer your questions.
- What are the most common book genres?
As a writer, familiarity with a variety of book genres is critical for your professional development and the success of your book. Choosing the appropriate book genre is crucial to your success as a best-selling author. The following list includes several popular book genres.
This category includes all stories set in the future, the past, or alternate dimensions. The story is replete with scientific and technological concepts that are cutting-edge.
In contrast to science fiction, which is about universes, these stories are about kingdoms. Writers must invest significant time in world-building.
These are narratives about two people who are romantically involved. Sensual tension, desire, and ideological tendencies define them.
These stories center on a character who is in danger. This genre is defined by pursuit and eluding. It is cliffhanger-filled and features one or more antagonists whom the protagonist must avoid, fight, or defeat to progress through the story.
This genre includes any story that puts the main character at physical risk and is marked by riveting near misses and bold and fearless feats.
- What is a protagonist?
The protagonist is the central character of the story. While the protagonist is typically the good guy, a story may feature a morally grey protagonist.
The protagonist is the driving force behind the story’s action. Typically, the protagonist’s objectives determine the story arc. The narrative can take place from the protagonist’s point of view.
- What is an antagonist?
The antagonist is the person who stands in opposition to the protagonist. The antagonist’s goal is typically to thwart the protagonist’s efforts to accomplish their goals.
Depending on the author’s intent, this may be a group of characters or a single character. Occasionally, the antagonist is a circumstance or an inanimate force.
- What is a cliffhanger?
A cliffhanger is a plot device where you present the reader with a dilemma at the end of a chapter, section, or story. Cliffhangers infuse a story with an unresolved plot twist to heighten the suspense and drama.
The term originates from the concept of “hanging off a cliff.” Whatever occurs will determine the character’s fate and the story’s plot, keeping audiences guessing.
- How do you plan your plot?
It’s a question that writers get asked a lot: “How do you plan your plot?” There are as many different answers to this question as there are stories.
Some writers spend weeks planning the entire story before they begin writing; others like to write by the seat of their pants.
Still, others work on multiple characters’ plots at once or focus on one character’s storyline until it’s finished before turning the reader’s attention to another character. Most important is finding what works for you—and then sticking with it!
1. Do you plan out your entire plot before you start writing?
No, you don’t have to plan out the entire plot of your novel before you start writing. It’s perfectly fine to plan just the beginning of your story and leave room for spontaneity as you go along.
Or plan out the middle, but let yourself be surprised by how things work.
You can even make an outline of each chapter and leave some blank spaces in between chapters—that way, you can fill in those blanks with new ideas when they come up while writing!
The important thing is that you are thinking about how everything fits together; what creates sense? What’s missing? As long as it feels like something organic is happening on paper (or screen), then great!
2. Do you focus on the story’s beginning, middle, or end first?
When planning your plot, it’s a good idea to stay focused on the beginning of the story first. The beginning is arguably essential to any story because it sets up everything else that will come later in the plot.
When plotting out your narrative, think about what kind of things will happen at the beginning:
Who are we following? What does he/she want? How does this goal relate to his/her overall objective? What conflict is preventing him from getting what he wants?
These questions will help you determine how much time should be devoted to each plot aspect (the beginning, middle, and end).
3. If you don’t know how to resolve a problem or reach an objective in an earlier part of the story, do you just keep going and try to figure it out later?
If you don’t know how to resolve a problem or reach an objective in an earlier part of the story, do you just keep going and try to figure it out later?
In other words, do you write your way into a corner and hope something will come along that will get you out? Or do you go back and rewrite pieces of the book until everything makes sense?
4. How do you figure out plots for multiple characters in a story?
One of the most important things to remember when writing a story is that each character needs to have a story arc. In other words, they need to be going through something different during your story than what happens with the other characters.
Each character should also have their own objectives—goals separate from other characters and aren’t just driven by what’s happening around them.
An objective can be as simple as wanting someone else’s approval or something from another person or group of people (i.e., revenge).
You also want your plots to reflect how these objectives interact and affect each other along the way.
Think about it like this: let’s say you’re writing about two characters who are friends, but one has a crush on the other but doesn’t know how he feels about her yet (this could be anyone who likes someone else).
The plot would be about whether or not he figures out his feelings before she moves away (or finds someone else), which would affect both his feelings toward her and whether or not they stay friends after she leaves town!
Writing a book can be an exhilarating and enormously satisfying experience. Still, it can also feel like an impossibly enormous task at times.
Consider taking a step-by-step approach, setting clear goals, and getting to work right away. By following this simple guide on how to start a book, you will be able to complete a book in a matter of months and will be well on your way to becoming a best selling author.