Embarking on the journey to write your first book? That’s thrilling! And probably a little daunting, too. But don’t worry, every best-selling author was once a newbie, too. To help you on your way, I’m sharing five writing tips that can set you on the path to becoming a best-selling author.
Tip 1 – Create a Detailed Outline Before Writing
Starting to write a book without an outline is like setting off on a road trip without a map. You’ll end up lost, or at the very least, you’ll take a lot of unnecessary detours. An outline gives you a clear direction and helps you stay focused on your story. So, spend time crafting a detailed outline before you start writing. Trust me, your future self will thank you. PS – I made a big list of *all* the different novel outlining methods.
Tip 2 – Develop Your Characters Fully
Readers fall in love with characters, not just stories. Spend time developing your characters – their backgrounds, their motivations, their fears, and desires. Make them real, make them relatable, and your readers will follow them through any twist and turn in your story. That said: don’t great a bunch of cool characters and have nothing for them to do. Figure out the story first; the characters’ full backstory comes in much later, towards the end – in the beginning you just need to make them likeable, and get them into trouble quickly.
Tip 3 – Use Active Voice and Show, Don’t Tell
Here’s a secret: Active voice makes your writing more engaging. It pulls the reader in and keeps them turning the pages. And remember the age-old writing advice – show, don’t tell. Instead of telling your readers a character is angry, show them. Describe the character’s clenched fists, their heated face, the harsh words they spit out. Showing creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind and makes your story more immersive.
I know this one is common, but also difficult to grasp. So just ask yourself, “what does this look like?” Anything you can see on stage, on a TV screen, that’s showing. You’re giving readers images they can see. You especially want to show dramatic moments, those should happen in scene, with immediacy. It’s the difference between seeing an accident, and being told about it later.
Also: show the important stuff, that matters, that has conflict. Little maintenance details that are just to impart basic info, can be told. The more you show – the closer the details – the more important the scene. So you don’t have to over-describe everything everywhere, but for important scenes, showing is critical.
Tip 4 – Understand Your Audience and Genre
Knowing who you’re writing for and what they expect from the genre you’re writing in is key. If you’re writing a romance, your readers will expect a love story. If you’re writing a thriller, they’ll want suspense and twists. Understanding these expectations can help you deliver a story that your readers will love. Read Chris Fox’s “Write to Market” for the basics – it’s a rough lesson for new authors who are chasing inspiration, but your book’s sales are always going to be limited by the number of people who want to read, and enjoy reading, books like yours. Writers who don’t get this end up jaded and elitist, whining about how the entire world just doesn’t get their art, secretly harboring resentment. You can’t train the world to like your book when they don’t want it. You can learn to write books readers enjoy.
Tip 5 – Edit Ruthlessly and Seek Feedback
Don’t be afraid to trim the fat. Every sentence, every word should serve a purpose. If it doesn’t move the story forward or develop a character, cut it. And don’t just rely on your own judgement – seek feedback. Have others read your work and listen to their feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can catch things you might have missed and give you new perspectives. Real talk, getting actual feedback from anyone is really tough. But chances are, you’re making common, predictable writing mistakes that all writers make, and so you can figure that out pretty quickly.
Writing a best-seller might seem like a daunting task, but remember, every author starts with a single word. With these tips in your writer’s toolkit, you’re well on your way to writing a book that readers won’t be able to put down. So, go on, take the plunge, and start writing. Who knows, the next best-seller could be yours!
Stay tuned for more tips on writing, publishing, and book design. Until then, keep writing and believing in your story!