Tips for Novice Authors, Part 1
If you are reading this, then you probably have asked yourself
at some point in your life, "Do I have what it takes to
become an author?"
I believe that successful authors, those who actually write
and finish that novel, or book of poetry, or even that book
of short stories, and see it all the way to publication, have
Characteristics of Authors
- They like to sit for hours in front of a computer screen
(or with pen and paper), typing (writing) away.
- They think about their book, even when they're not
- They are motivated to finish their book.
- They are motivated to proofread, edit and revise their
finished book until it is the best it can be.
- They are motivated to publish their book.
- Once they publish the first book, they are already working
on the next one.
If you answered yes to anyone of the above, then you have
a good chance of attaining your dreams of becoming an author.
Don't listen to those people who say it's a competitive
market out there. Don't listen to those people who say they've
written five books and haven't had one published yet. And
don't listen to those people who send you back your manuscripts!
Listen to yourself. Listen to that inner voice, the one that
is whispering now. But wait until you get started. Once your
book is written and published, that inner voice will be roaring!
And the whole world will hear about it.
I know, I know. I tend to be the optimist. But we have so
many pessimists in the book business, we sure need some more
For you, the novice writer who would like to start writing
that first book, the best way to begin is to start writing.
Yes, just sit down and do it. Stop the other activities, the
television, the reading, the shopping, the chatting on the telephone,
and find the time to devote at least one hour a day to writing.
Whatâ€™s one hour a day in the scheme of things? It comes and
goes like this, poof! What do you have to show after an hour
of television? A lazy yawn? If that same hour was spent on writing,
then there would be a product in your hands. Something that
will, hopefully, be shared one day with others.
So, go ahead, shut the door to the rest of the world for
one hour (or more) and make yourself comfortable in front of
the computer screen (or pen and paper). Letâ€™s take the first
step to becoming an author.
How To Begin
Just like a construction company which builds a foundation
to a home, you also need to prepare a foundation for your career
in writing. Don't skip this step, it's important.
Your "foundation" will consist of basic writing
skills. Remember those English courses you took in high school
and college? If you don't remember anything from those courses,
then it wouldn't be a bad idea if you found your old English
textbooks, dusted them off a bit, and looked through their pages
to refresh your memory.
If you haven't taken any courses in creative writing,
you might consider signing up for one. Check with your local
community college. They often offer weekend and evening classes,
and sometimes even online classes. If you're on a budget,
then visit the public library and sign out books relevant to
In addition, it would be very useful to join a writing group
(online or in your local area) that critiques your work and
gives you the opportunity to critique also. The group provides
wonderful support and an avenue to sharpen your skills as you
gain experience in writing, as well as exposure to other people's
writing. For example, Writing.com is a good example of an online
resource that provides many opportunities to share your writing,
and get your work rated and reviewed. If you want to join a
critique or review group, it offers that also.
The second step to becoming an author, is to have the right
Besides a comfortable chair, plenty of lighting, and a quiet
room, you will need a computer with a word processing program
(e.g., Microsoft Word), a printer, and plenty of paper.
Why a computer? First of all, publishers typically will request
a copy of your files sent to them on a floppy disk. More importantly,
working with a word processing program will aid you in many
ways towards becoming a published author. It will provide the
opportunity to save your work as a Word file, without having
to use up tons of paper (as with a typewriter). This greatly
aids you in keeping your work organized. It also gives you the
flexibility to edit and re-edit large sections of your work
quickly by allowing you to utilize the copy and paste functions.
Other advantages of using a computer word processing program
is that it provides spell check capabilities, and also helps
you count the number of words per page. In addition, when you
want to spice up your vocabulary (For example, if you like to
use the word "walk" alot, and are getting tired of
that word, place your cursor on the word "walk", hit
shift F7, and itâ€™ll give you a list of synonyms you can choose
from - like stroll, amble, etc.).
The time saved by using a computer is very valuable. It gives
you more time available to write! Of course, if you donâ€™t have
the above materials, donâ€™t let that stop you from writing that
book! Using a pen and paper is perfectly fine. Books were written
with these two basic tools for centuries.
Letâ€™s assume you are using a computer and a Word processing
software. First of all, before you begin writing, form a subdirectory
that you can add all your chapters to. Maybe you know the title
of your book already. Fine, then form a subdirectory using the
name of the title. After you finish writing that first chapter
(oh joy!), just save it as Chapter 1 under the subdirectory.
If you are writing a book of poetry, then you might want to
save each poem as a seperate file.
When I write my chapters for my novel, I format them in double
space mode, with a Times New Roman 11 font. All the margins
are at least one inch. This way it will be ready for manuscript
Try not to add your page numbers until the very last revision.
Page numbers constantly change when youâ€™re revising, so wait
until the end.
Finally, another reason for having a computer, is for Internet
access. As a writer, you will have opportunities to submit work
online for e-zines or poetry contests. Any chance you can get
to write online, do it. As long as it doesn't take too much
time away from your book. It's also a free way of promoting
yourself before the book is even published.
So you need to balance your time in writing that book, honing
your writing skills, submitting your work along the way for
others to critique, and promoting yourself. Can you do it? Of
course you can!
The third step to becoming an author is:
What to Write
If you are planning to write a novel, it would help to know
what general category your book is going to be in. Will it be
in the romance, mystery, or science fiction category? If you
donâ€™t know, take some time and think about it. Read some books
in those genres. Which books seem to attract you the most? Itâ€™s
highly likely that youâ€™ll be writing in the category that you
like to read. My preference is romance because I read those
types of books the most. Once you decide the category, then
you are closer to writing that novel!
For poetry, you might start by writing a poem and submitting
it to a poetry journal, or a poetry contest. Gain exposure for
your poetry. Join a critique group so you can sharpen your poetry
skills. A chapbook usually consists of about 25-35 poems. For
a poetry book, you'll need at least 60 pages of poetry,
if not more.
Types of Novelists
I have found over time, that there are two types of novelists.
The first type is the writer who prefers drawing up a proposal
or plan of what they will write about. The second type prefers
to write whatever comes into their mind at that moment.
You decide which writer you will be.
Type 1 Novelist
They begin by describing the characters, their names, personalities,
and sometimes their motives. Then they decide when and where
the setting will take place. When will it take place? If it
takes place before the 1900â€™s, then it will be considered historical.
Also, will the setting be in the country, in a city (which city?),
in a house (whose house), on a cruise ship? That needs to be
Once those decisions are made, they write brief sketches
of each chapter. It could be a page or two long. Once all this
is done, then the real writing begins. If this method works
for you, then feel free to use it. It may take some time, but
you will become more confident about what youâ€™ll write once
you go through this initial process.
Type 2 Novelist
What if youâ€™re the type of person who doesnâ€™t want to spend
all that time writing proposals and character sketches? What
if youâ€™re like me, who prefers to just write whatever comes
into your head? Then do it! Sit down and start writing. Write
As the story develops, something wonderful begins brewing
in your mind. Something called creativity. Iâ€™ve caught myself
hours after I finished writing a chapter, and Iâ€™ll be preparing
dinner, or walking somewhere, and a scene from my novel will
begin to unfold. Itâ€™s called creative problem solving. My mind
is working to solve the problem that the writing presents it,
even though Iâ€™m not actively writing. When I get those urges,
I immediately stop what Iâ€™m doing and jot down my thoughts.
Itâ€™s helped me many times, particularly when everything clicks
How Long Will it Take?
It took me almost two years to write and find a publisher
for my first novel. For other people, it may take longer or
shorter, depending on the amount of time they allow for writing
and how many pages they are writing. I know of authors that
took six, seven, up to twelve years to write their first book.
I also know of a famous author who writes two novels a year!
So unless you begin writing that first page of your book,
you'll never know how long it'll take you to write it.
Go ahead, make that first step, and good luck!
For Further Reading