What is a dream for many can quickly turn into a nightmare: Writing your own book. Because just one good idea is not enough for a good novel. And very few of us are geniuses who can write a complete novel off the cuff. So if inspiration is to eventually become a book, it takes a lot of perseverance and help. Our tips will make it a little easier.
Inspiration for writing a book: Where do I get good ideas?
Inspiration for writing a book
The best ideas are usually right under your nose, like self-publishing star Poppy J. Anderson (over one million Kindle book sales on Amazon) in her column on read.net reported. This means that the first task of a writer is to observe the environment closely. Only those who observe closely are able to describe in detail afterwards. "We are surrounded by them, they swirl around us like dust. All I do differently than others is to be mindful of it", writes bestselling author Andreas Eschbach on his blog about novel ideas.
It is advisable to always have a notebook or something similar with you, so that you can immediately record interesting ideas. We don’t want inspirations to disappear as suddenly as they came. This notebook should also have a permanent place on the nightstand, because many good ideas come while we are dreaming or in a twilight state between being awake and asleep.
Another, almost inexhaustible source of inspiration is, of course, reading. "That’s great, I want to be able to do that too" or "How awful, I could do that a thousand times better" are two thoughts that have probably occurred to everyone while reading. From there, the step to writing yourself is not far away. Reading the works of other authors not only trains your judgment, it also automatically helps you acquire new knowledge and expand your vocabulary.
Tips for finding inspiration
- Observe and really perceive the environment
- Taking notes so you don’t forget an idea
- Seeing how and what others write about
Preparation: what do I need to know about my book before writing it?
Once you have an idea for writing a book, you can use brainstorming and mind maps to develop the initial structure. Very few writers just write away, but prepare their stories. This means that even before the actual writing, the characters and their background are sketched out and a plot, i.e. a basic framework of the storyline, is worked out.
This is a good way to outline the story arc, give the story a structure, and create a rough chapter plan. This way you always know where you are in the story when you write it. Tedious plotting is not for everyone, but rather a question of type. But especially in the beginning a well prepared plot is useful. It helps not to lose the overview while writing, to get stuck because of missing ideas or to lose the red thread because of an overflow of ideas. Thriller author Marcus Johanus agrees, making a plea for plotting on a blog.
Helpful questions when plotting a book
- my story has a beginning, middle and end, or conflict and resolution?
- problem and solution are realistic and comprehensible?
- the plots merge into one another in a meaningful way?
- Do I really know my characters??
- how to summarize my book in one sentence?
Research: the path to credibility
Depending on the theme and plot of the book to be written – whether it’s a novel or a non-fiction book – the research can be more or less involved. One thing it always is: important. This means that the author often acquires more knowledge than he actually uses in the book. And that’s a good thing, says author Marcus Johanus, and warns against infodumping, i.e. the clumsy dumping of information that has obviously been glanced at. The more basic knowledge you have, the denser and, above all, more believable the story will be. The factual reality can be left behind in the fiction with pleasure. But a violation of the basic rules of logic or physics will not go down very well with most readers.
The research possibilities are, as so often, numerous. The Internet offers a good first starting point and usually all the information you need. In addition, research in books and libraries is a good idea. Libraries are also an excellent place to find further inspiration, says Andreas Eschbach. Also, don’t be afraid to ask experts for support, even if you’re not a famous author yet. Most people are happy about the interest and share their knowledge gladly.
Research tips for writing a book
- there is not enough background information
- Experts help where the Internet and library can’t get you started
The first novel draft: don’t be afraid of bad writing
The first draft of a novel
Finally you get down to the actual writing of the book, but even the first half page is a disaster? No problem – just continue. "The first attempt is always crap", already knew Ernest Hemingway. The first draft is basically just an exercise, or the raw material for what comes later. This means that the first draft is (almost) never good. But this should not discourage you at all.
Even the first five attempts, after half a page, to let go proverbially in the wastepaper basket is not a help. It’s best to focus purely on writing and not take a second look at the text until the first draft is complete. Then the whole thing is put away for now. And lo and behold, after some time (whether hours, days, weeks or more) the text is no longer as dreadful as one thought at first, but rather a quite good basis for work.
If you feel insecure about the actual tools of the trade, you can take a step back and learn how to write. We have more info about this on the learn.net info page Learn to write compiled.
Tips for writing a book for the first time
- Switch off the inner critic
- Set firm but achievable goals
- Writing every day (even if it’s only 30 minutes)
Motivation: Remedies against writer’s block and "no desire"
Writer’s block is a myth. Most of the time there are quite different difficulties which are summarized under this term. The two biggest of these are the fear of the blank page, i.e. the actual beginning, and of the inner critic. This usually comes out in the course of writing, sows doubt and reduces self-esteem. The simplest remedy for acute symptoms: Distraction. Going for a jog, reading a good book or listening to music can help to clear your head and find new motivation. This is nevertheless only a short term solution, where the actual problem remains.
The real problem is often that people don’t take writing a book seriously enough. Therefore, the only way to permanently overcome writer’s block is to make writing a necessary habit. If writing is integrated as a fixed part of the day and is adhered to in a disciplined manner, there is no such thing as writer’s block. Because it’s hard to get started, it also helps to "warm up". This means starting with a small, different text or even a poem before moving on to the "real" writing Story goes. And sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone with your problem.
Help with writer’s block
- Do not despair
- short distraction
- Integrate writing into your day
Revision: What do I need to keep in mind when revising?
Once the first draft is completed with all your heart and soul, it goes from being a gruesome attempt to a perfect masterpiece you just created. But neither view of the text is particularly constructive in terms of revision. Therefore, it is advisable to leave the finished draft for the time being and to gain some distance from it. How long this period is – whether you sleep on it for a night, wait a few days, or a few weeks – depends on each individual.
Afterwards it helps, among other things, to read the text aloud to oneself as if it were someone else’s. Bulky formulations and incomprehensible sentences are immediately brought to light. It can be helpful to change the typeface or print out the text to literally have a new look at it. In addition, it can help to focus on certain aspects during the individual steps of revision and to disregard the others at first. That is, at first, the focus is only on the content: Are the connections logical? Is the action comprehensible and the causing motivation? Then comes the fluency check (Do I have favorite words that I use more often than average?) and finally checking the spelling.
Tips for revision
- Gaining distance
- concentrate on individual aspects
- not to be afraid of big changes
Feedback and correction: Stranger eyes help against text blindness
Book writing: Feedback& Correction
Let’s be honest: No one wants to read a book – whether printed or as an eBook for Kindle or Tolino – that is full of errors. It doesn’t matter whether it’s grammar, spelling or logic. There are readers who stumble over such errors, possibly smile, and then continue reading. After all, everyone makes mistakes, even well-known authors are not immune to them. For others, however, they mean a significant reduction in the reading pleasure. Only one thing helps: Correct, correct, correct. Or better yet, be corrected by others. Not for nothing is it said: "Four eyes see more than two". There can also be six, eight or even more eyes.
Spending a lot of money for a professional proofreading is not necessarily necessary. In most cases, there are bound to be a few volunteers in the circle of family and acquaintances who can take a look at the manuscript. Even then, the manuscript will probably not be perfect. But a sympathetic reader will overlook one or two minor errors if the content is correct.