WRITING YOUR BOOK – How to begin

by Corinne

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When I was busy doing publicity for my books, I met so many people at book signings, on television and radio shows – and believe it not, on the street or in a supermarket who told me the same thing.


“As soon as I have time – or when I retire, I am going to write a book.  I have an idea that I think is very interesting.”
I always had the same answer for them. “Nobody has time.  If you want to be a writer I have a one word for you.  Write.” They always looked at me a little doubtfully and it occurred to me that people just don’t know where to start.

Starting is the hardest part.  But, you have already started if you have an idea.  Books are never written overnight.  They develop as they go along.  You could almost liken it to taking a whole steak and trying to swallow it. You have to cut it piece by piece to eat it.  By the time you are finished, you have had dinner.

The other objection is that the starting has to be perfect.  Every word, every punctuation mark.  Most authors will tell you that you should not edit a book until it is finished.  You are not going to be ready to show your new baby to the world until you give birth so the beginning is to write it for yourself.

Most books, except for novels have an introduction. So, the first step is to go to your computer and write what your book is about.  Or, if you write like I do, I start with a yellow pad of paper.
The next part is why you are writing it.  Who is it directed to?  How will it benefit the reader?  What will they find in the pages? Here is an example from the introduction of my last book, Reflections from a Woman Alone. This is about women. Single women who are also perhaps mothers, friends, credit card jugglers, car-poolers, entrepreneurs, lovers, workers, gardeners, even grandmothers. In short—a person trying to be everything to everybody and still have a life. I know there are some serenely, happily coupled women out there who do all the same things, and if you are one of them, I don’t want to exclude you. You never know when you might need a reference guide to what it’s really like out there as a single woman. And – male readers? Sure. Come along. It wouldn’t hurt for you to learn something about how women really think.

If you will notice it says right away what the book is about.  And in general, who it is directed towards.  Use this as a guide when you write your introduction. You may discard your first copy of your introduction later but this is not your final draft.  This is to refine your purpose in writing your book.  This is for you to get your head around what you will be writing.  Remember, do not edit this. You do that later.

In general, if you are not writing an epic like War and Peace, a book will contain approximately 200 pages.  Whether it is a novel or a memoir or a self-help book.  A book longer than that is not as easily saleable.  But, if you have a lot to say, this is only a suggestion. That usually breaks down to about 20 chapters with about ten pages in a chapter.  That doesn’t sound so ominous, does it? I suggest you make a tentative list of what each chapter will contain.  But this is not written in stone either.  The introduction is your guide. Next, after that first strict rule about the introduction, you have a lot of leeway. The book does not have to follow a prescribed sequence while you are writing.

Take the movies, for example.  I was surprised when I found out that they did not shoot a movie in order starting from the first scene and ending with the finale.  They shoot almost anywhere in the script and are mostly governed by the location of the scene.  It is cheaper to do it that way.  You have the cameras right there. So, you could literally write the last chapter next.  Then, skip to the middle.  Remember you are the architect.  At the end, you will go over the whole thing and put it in the sequence that makes sense just as if you were editing a movie.And you do not have to write a complete chapter at one time.

My experience is that the “muse” shows up at odd times.  When you are taking a shower, waiting for a long red light to change or on hold for the telephone company. Or even if you wake at night.  Just make sure that you always have a pad and pen handy so you can write down your thoughts.  I guarantee if you wait until later, they will have disappeared.

Put all these pieces of paper with your latest brilliant thought in an expandable manila folder.  You could label each one according to the chapter you think it might fit in later but it is an inexact science.  Just write down the fragments.Write stories about what has happened today.  Especially, if they are unusual or funny.  They will plump out your book.  Or even be a springboard for a whole chapter.

Writing a novel is not much different.  Your “introduction” will be the story you are telling.  Who are the characters?  What do they look like?  What is the start of the book and how do they end up?  What happens to them along the way?  It is more of an outline. A rough sketch.  A storyboard.

Writing a whole book can feel overwhelming.  That’s why you are saying it takes time.  We all have little pieces of time that we waste every day.  Use them.  You are a writer.  You told me that.  Write. A quote attributed to Goethe says it all –

What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Hopson August 25, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Corrine:

What a marvelous, inspirational article for people who have been saying, “Someday, someday.” I used to think that way. You are right that it takes bits and pieces for a book to come together.

When I first started writing about my life’s experiences, they started in a journal, shortly after I quit a high profile career on Wall Street.

Then they were submitted to various outlets for publication. First on the internet (heartwarmers.com) and when they were accepted, I was thrilled. It added confidence and then I submitted a story or two to Chicken Soup for the Soul. One of them was accepted in the Chicken Soup for the College Soul and I actually got paid for the piece upon acceptance! That further fueled my confidence!

In the very beginning, I had a bulletin board where I put 3X5 cards up on there, representing potential chapter titles. I would frequently refer to those cards and whenever an idea for a chapter popped in my head, I’d write them down on the index cards. Then when it came to writing a chapter, I’d look at my collection of index cards on the board and pick a chapter idea that inspired me and proceeded to write.

The book I’m compiling is 7 years in the making. It took a LONG time but I was able to do it because I refused to think about the end result (the final book) because it would overwhelm me if I allowed myself to think that far ahead.

So, you are right on the mark. It isn’t that hard to put the pieces together but it has to be done bit by bit.

Thanks for a great article, reminding me to keep going!

Stephen

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Powerpoint Presentation
Twitter:
March 12, 2012 at 1:21 am

I have been in the writing business for years. I have handled many beats and responsibilities. I have written everything from articles, to screenplays, to custom essays, to straight news when I was in UK. Now that I am back in the US where I belong. I intend to pursue another writing career that has always been a frustration of mine, arts. Frustration because I feel that I lack the creativity and the patience to draw, much less do it digitally. So I guess I’ll just concentrate on writing.

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Corinne Edwards
Twitter:
March 27, 2012 at 11:31 am

I agree.

Do what you are good at.

You can always hire out graphics. Lots of them out there.

Good luck.

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Corinne Edwards
Twitter:
August 25, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Thanks, Stephen for your comments which are always so on point.

I had to giggle when you mentioned 3×5 cards. My whole life, my daily list, any talks I make, EVERYTHING is on 3×5 cards!

I thought I was the only one!

Yes, certainly “keep going!” But from my vantage point you are already doing that!

Corinne

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Personal Development for the Book Smart September 2, 2007 at 11:30 am

Hi Corinne, you are welcome!

I always wanted to write a book as well and I agree with you that “Starting” is the most difficult part.I am going to read the other parts of your article and I will get my book started!!

Make that a MUST. =P

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Devin May 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Hi Corinne,

I am glad I stumbled upon your article, I am in the thick of it so to speak and it is easy to lose sight of where I am supposed to be headed. I will be back and reading more. Thanks,
devin
.-= Devin´s last blog ..Writing about Personal Subjects and Painting the Shit out of the Door =-.

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Classical Guitar Tuner July 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Nice to be visiting your weblog again, it has been months for me. Nicely this article that i’ve been waited for so long. I require this post to total my assignment in the college, and it’s same topic with your post. Thanks, great write about.

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iDella June 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Thank you so much Corrine for your excellent yet practical advice in this piece. If its one thing writers often do, its complicate things. You simply very nicely here. Brilliant. And the Goethe quote at the end? Piece de resistance!

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Corinne
Twitter:
June 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Dear iDella –

You are certainly right. We want to start the book and just go on and finish it. That’s where we get stuck.

Writing a book in small pieces and then assembling it all together at the end is the practical way to go.

You could even write the last chapter first!

That’s the way most inspiration travels. Little a-ha moments.

Thanks for visiting. Come back.

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Helga August 30, 2011 at 7:43 am

Very usefull information. This is great for finding the introduction. While you search for the right words for your introduction, the story will get a shape. So you can easily write down all your thoughts.

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andreas September 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Hello,

Thank you so much for this post! I became much more interested in writing when I’ve read your post. I am a big fan of book, I am a book lover. The most inspirational book that I have read was written by Mitch Albom, entitled “For One More Day”. I always wanted to create my own book story, or just a simple novel either. Thank you so much for these writing guidance. And for sharing us inspiration.

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ibiza hen weekend October 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I read very slowly and i have to do a book repoet and it is due next monday and the book is kind of long i cant read that much in tht short of time. remeber the book is screbler of dreams. thats alot.

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Lea October 29, 2011 at 8:39 am

Nice to be visiting your weblog again, it has been months for me. Nicely this article that i’ve been waited for so long. I require this post to total my assignment in the college, and it’s same topic with your post. Thanks, great write about.

Reply

kevin November 25, 2011 at 2:25 am

Hah, been looking for another personal growth weblog for a while. Will be returning here!

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32 weeks pregnant December 18, 2011 at 7:47 am

wow thats some kinda neat tips you have there. i would like to add that you should hire an editor to proof read for you. takes a short time but assures quality writing

32 weeks pregnant
32 weeks pregnant recently posted..32 Weeks Pregnant Weight GainMy Profile

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Corinne
Twitter:
December 19, 2011 at 6:08 am

An editor is very important. I should have added that. You can stare at a document for days and never see your mistakes.

Thanks for a very good suggestion.

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Ben from Zuo Modern January 10, 2012 at 12:43 am

This is very informational post. It has helped my find something that I was looking for a long time on internet.It is so unique and great work. I will follow your posts in future.

Thanks….

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database solutions January 10, 2012 at 7:01 am

Thank you Corrine for the encourgement to ‘write’ and form something from bitesize chunks. Your reference to how a a movie is made relates completely to co-ordinating these chunks of content into a publication to me and no doubt will sizzle away in the back of my head and spring forward occasionally as a reminder.

Inspiring.

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get rid of incontinence January 25, 2012 at 2:59 am

For the newbie these guidelines are more useful and encouraged techniques.Thanks a plenty ! “What you can do, or fantasy you can do, start it;Boldness has professional, energy and secret in it.”These two collections are very encouraging as well as impressive website.

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Micheal John January 27, 2012 at 7:17 am

Most likely, if you are reading this you have already got an idea of what you want to write about. However, if you do not have any ideas yet, then think about what you want to write about.

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beday February 27, 2012 at 12:22 am

If I’m gonna write a book,maybe I should start with the intro to myself..Thanks for sharing some good points

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traffic gate April 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I’ve been trying to write my own book for over a year now. I am struggling with the fact that no sentence stands alone as being perfect in my eyes. When I just sit down and write it flows quite nicely but trying to rationalize with myself that something is better than nothing is a constant struggle

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Corinne
Twitter:
April 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Could I sugggest that you invest in my book about writing?

It is only $8.97 and has many of the answers you have been seeking.

You can find it here

http://www.amazon.com/WRITE-YOUR-BOOK-PUBLISH-ebook/dp/B006RV0B4G/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334360930&sr=1-16
Corinne Edwards recently posted..LOVE AND YOUR CUSTOMERS – Sales, Lies and Naked Truths – on AmazonMy Profile

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Matt
Twitter:
May 1, 2012 at 3:57 am

I’m not one of those people who live under the illusion that I have a life story that people are clammering to read. While I love my life, I’m not convinced that people will be lining up to pay to read it 😛 I do have a lot of experience in some pretty niche industries though and have long though that an EBook would be an interested adventure for me.

You’ve got me thinking that perhaps, regardless of the result, putting pen to paper and writing the thing might be a good step in itself. Who knows, it could set me on a whole new career path and I’ll have your advice to thank 🙂

Matt

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Savvylion August 2, 2012 at 8:00 am

“Starting is the hardest part.” “The other objection is that the starting has to be perfect. ” <- Hi Corinne, this is exactly true. I like this article and your tips. Very useful for beginners and for those who are still planning to write.

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mma December 31, 2012 at 4:35 am

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Kei July 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

Writing can be a struggle or perhaps pain for most when the interest is not there.
Kei recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

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Kiro July 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

Would encourage people to put their imaginative thoughts into words.
Kiro recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

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Jo July 25, 2013 at 9:11 am

You wouldn’t know how gd an author you can be till you start writing something!

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Jack December 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

Yeah, true to that, the more we write, the faster we improve 🙂

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Corinne
Twitter:
July 28, 2015 at 7:57 am

Make sure you have a copyright page on your blog. See my pages on my blog for an example. If you know who is skimming your content, contact them and tell them it is copyrighted and they must tale it down or you will report them to their server. That usually works but there is a lot of thieves around. I have had this happen too.

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