eyeglasses on a book

How To Start A Book: A Quick Guide For New Authors

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. To write a good story, you’ll need to master techniques like first-draft writing, self-editing, and organizing your ideas. 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.

4 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 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. Whichever route you take, it is critical to spend time brainstorming a variety of concepts and selecting a solid premise upon which 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 the type of story you’re writing, you may wish to conduct research into recorded events, real-world locations, people, fields, cultures, and philosophical concepts.

3. Plan your outline

old typewriter being used to start a book

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:

Skeleton

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.

Synopsis

The synopsis method is a thorough book outline that summarizes the story’s plot, characters, themes, and conflicts.

Mind Mapping 

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 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 goals that are attainable and beneficial to your 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.

6 tips for creating the perfect first chapter

Your book’s first 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 write 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 chapter. Here’s how to start a book that will keep your readers wanting more. 

1. Write a captivating story hook

In writing, a book hook refers to a sentence or series of sentences that grab readers’ attention and pique their interest in your work and is a crucial part of how to start 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 story hook can using the following methods:

Start with a rhetorical question

If you ask a rhetorical question without expecting an answer, you’re engaging in rhetoric. The questioner may provide the solution right away, 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 effect.

Create a dramatic declaration

You can pique the reader’s interest by making a strong statement at the beginning of your book. No matter how strongly they disagree with what you say, your argument will pique their interest. 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 the reader is 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. Regardless of 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 time as possible getting to know the character to ensure that you introduce a convincing protagonist in chapter one. By determining the character’s voice and perspective, 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 start 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 setting of a story 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. When drawing inspiration from other cultures, be sure to expand on their characteristics to create unique elements for your invented cultures.

Your language choices will also influence how your story unfolds, significantly impacting whether or not your book is believable. The experience of worldbuilding through multiple languages can be pretty rewarding. For the spoken word to evolve, society must change, 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 character actions and reactions, as well as the character’s 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 starting point 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 an understanding of 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 on the history of your world. By providing readers with sufficient information, they will 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 fiction may appear to have a variety of desires or ambitions, there is always a primary goal. It’s an excellent way of how to start a book. After all, your characters would simply stand idle on the 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 on how to start a book. Conflict is anything that stands in the way of your character achieving their objective, which may be internal or external. Other central characters in your novel will have goals, and those objectives should affect your protagonist and their purpose. As a result, it’s natural that they’ll encounter conflict.

Conflict is essential to book writing, and it 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

Each time a reader finishes a chapter, they can put your book down. Without compelling your reader to stay and turn the 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. Here are some ways you can end your opening 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 at the conclusion of 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.

Add mystery

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 writer is a showman, eliciting an emotional response from the reader while concealing their deception.

Frequently asked questions

Now that you know how to start a book, here are 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.

1. Sci-Fi

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.

2. Fantasy

In contrast to science fiction, which is about universes, these stories are about kingdoms. Writers must invest significant time in world-building.

3. Romance

These are narratives about two people who are romantically involved. Sensual tension, desire, and ideological tendencies define them.

4. Suspense/Thriller

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.

5. Action-Adventure

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. Typically, the antagonist’s goal is 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.

Final words 

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.

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