Writing a book is to embark on a journey. If you know your final destination, you’ll get there… eventually. If you have no destination you may find yourself lost in the forest going in circles or in the middle of a calm and breezeless ocean. This is when writer’s block raises its ugly head and makes you think to yourself, Where am I? Where am I going? I’m L-O-S-T!
For instance, let’s say you and your creative mind want to take a road trip in a big RV and your final destination is Nashville, Tennessee. You might begin the trip, departing Santa Fe, New Mexico. You might begin by going west through Arizona, turning north toward Utah and later swing east through Colorado toward Nashville. Taking in all the sights along the way, you tell your readers what you’ve experienced; just bear in mind you originally want to end up in Nashville. This is the ending of your book!
Different genres of books have so many different destinations. A Romance book may lead to heartache, true love or possibly indifference; each is a possible destination. Sci-Fi may end by discovering a new world or a new understanding of reality. Fantasy books can end at any destination you can imagine. Memoirs end where the story of that person’s life ends. Young Adult books may end with finding new friends or raising your self-esteem. Action/Adventure books usually end with the “good guy” winning out over the “bad guy.” Each has an ending but the writer needs to know where the journey ends.
Get the picture?
I can honestly tell you that I have never had writer’s block. I’ve been in mid-chapter and needed to decide how to put in sub-plots, carry them toward an end but deciding creative twists to your story is still not a problem when you know where you’re going.
So how do I do this?
- Prepare an outline before beginning your book; the best way to avoid writer’s block. This initial outline will not be carved in stone; it is just a general road map to follow when you begin writing. The hardest part of writing a book is the first line. Get past this by writing it and making it interesting to the reader. As Nike says, “Just Do It!” Now you’re past the hard part. In your outline, create interesting chapter titles to help mark out your route. Make some notes under each chapter to make sure that chapter 1 leads into chapter 2.
- For example, at the End of chapter 1, “She was at a crossroad and had no clue where she would go next.” The beginning of chapter 2 might be, “While walking in the park, aimlessly, she unexpectedly bumped into Ryan. After about a mile of walking and conversation, Ryan invited her to join a new group. At least she had a new path…”
When you take the time to make an initial outline, you’ll find you have a roadmap to your desired destination – the end of your book.
- If possible, you should also prepare a timeline that can be overlaid on your chapters, especially if your story will be fast-moving and involve flashbacks, reflections or other non-sequential devices. Sometimes this is as simple as printing out a calendar and writing the chapter numbers on it.
- Another useful tool is to prepare a character summary for each of the characters you have identified who will appear in your book This summary should include a brief physical and personality description, along with details of any relationships between the characters.
Completion of the preparatory steps will also help your editors, beta readers etc. to identify any inconsistencies that almost inevitably arise in the writing process. They will thank you!
Now you can get stuck into the joy of writing. As you get into the body of your book, you’ll find new characters just walking onto your pages to fulfill whatever you need for different segues – create summaries for them as they appear. Now you can add to or take away from your original outline and develop new paths to reaching your original destinations. Remember to update your outline. It’s important to plan your work and work your plan. But remember that deviations are to be expected and permissible, just update the plan. Then, buckle in and enjoy the journey! Have fun writing your book!
Oh, don’t forget to have an ample supply of drinks and snacks handy.
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