Author’s Corner: How to Write a Book When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

I want to write a book …

You remember when this big idea first hit? Maybe you were browsing for books, waiting for an author’s autograph, or sitting in stupefied awe after finishing a great novel. The idea took root and then, bam, you’re rushing to a stationary store to buy all the notebooks, pens, sticky notes, and highlighters you can carry. You browse online for writerly things, like a cute laptop mug that says, “Writer at Work.”

The moment that mug arrives, you’re filling it with pencils and pens, setting it next to your stack of notebooks, and pulling the keyboard closer, because IT’S TIME.

You open a new document. Your hands flutter to the keyboard. This is it…the magic is about to happen. And that’s when you realize your big idea has a second part to it.

Herron sits at a table with his books displayed

Author R.L. Herron

You want to write a book … but have no idea where to start (What was I thinking? I can’t do this!).

Thankfully, while daunting, this doesn’t have to stop you from writing.

I’m here to tell you that not knowing where to start is a problem that countless writers before us have faced. So, if you are feeling a bit lost when it comes to your big dream, these things can help you move forward.

Just Write

Sure, this seems obvious, but starting can be paralyzing. We worry about committing our ideas to the page, afraid they might resemble some four-year-old’s Cheerios-and-glue “masterpiece”? Well, guess what? They might, and that’s okay. Great storytelling takes time, and if that didn’t put off Stephen King, it shouldn’t stop us, either.

Read and Reread

Reading is so enjoyable we tend to forget how each story is a treasure trove of education on what makes a book off-the-charts great. So read widely, thinking about what makes each story compelling. Look for characters that stand out, story worlds that seem so real you feel part of them, and plots that keep you flipping pages long into the night.

Ask yourself…what made certain characters larger than life? Did their personalities, complex motives, or a truth they live by pull you to them? What scenes and situations seemed the most real to you? Studying where you fell under the storyteller’s spell can help you see how you can do the same for your readers.

Join a Writing Group

One of the best things you can do at the start of this journey is find others on the writer’s path. A community of writers puts you in touch with those who have the same goal, meaning you can learn from and support one another. There’s so much great stuff to learn! As any writer will tell you, the road from an idea to a ready-to-publish novel is a long one, and it’s easy to get lost along the way.

Above All Else, Be Fearless

Starting a book can seem like a monumental undertaking and, sometimes, with big dreams we have the tendency to try and talk ourselves out of them. We fear failing, as if that’s worse than never trying at all.

If you feel the passion to write, don’t let fear stop you. The world needs great stories.

About R.L. Herron

R.L. Herron, the author of multiple works of fiction, including several Readers' Favorite medal winners, lives and writes in Michigan with his lovely wife, and a finally-paid mortgage. His books are all available on Amazon and online with Barnes & Noble. Visit Author R.L. Herron's Website, Broken Glass.

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