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Does anyone know how to write a book? (Original Post) angstlessk Jul 2017 OP
Fiction or nonfiction? The Blue Flower Jul 2017 #1
Non Fiction...but could go either way angstlessk Jul 2017 #5
Do you mean a memoir? That is a very specific style, otherwise non-fiction and fiction are miles anneboleyn Jul 2017 #15
Thank you, very informative angstlessk Jul 2017 #19
See I am getting angry...angry for my mother who sent me there angstlessk Jul 2017 #20
It sounds like you have a really important story to tell. Do it. Tell it. I have no Squinch Jul 2017 #27
You open a new document in Word The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2017 #2
I want to say...very funny, but you are probably the best advise... angstlessk Jul 2017 #7
And find a good proofreader who will know you meant 'advice'. trof Jul 2017 #21
The question is...where do I post it..with proof it will not be stolen? angstlessk Jul 2017 #9
Don't post it at all, or if you do, add the copyright symbol to anything The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2017 #11
ROFL snooper2 Jul 2017 #18
For some people, this actually works. musicblind Jul 2017 #25
Have you looked here? Wounded Bear Jul 2017 #3
Do you journal or blog? NRaleighLiberal Jul 2017 #4
I love to read, but never journaled my life angstlessk Jul 2017 #6
My advice - read Stephen King's book On Writing NRaleighLiberal Jul 2017 #8
Open Microsoft Word and type the first sentence. MineralMan Jul 2017 #10
You are correct...no shortcuts angstlessk Jul 2017 #12
Message auto-removed Name removed Jul 2017 #30
I do not know how to write A book, I only know how to write this one. politicat Jul 2017 #13
This is fabulous. I'm bookmarking this. Squinch Jul 2017 #29
I've been published three times. musicblind Jul 2017 #14
Great advice -- I also pointed out basics that are very hard (dialogue for example). I can always anneboleyn Jul 2017 #17
For some, dialogue is hard. musicblind Jul 2017 #24
Speaking more as a reader than as a writer, dialogue seems to be The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2017 #31
Funk and White's Elements of Style... haele Jul 2017 #16
For later tnlurker Jul 2017 #22
This message was self-deleted by its author tblue37 Jul 2017 #23
One word after another. Go from there. WinkyDink Jul 2017 #26
Contact your local University English Department.... Adrahil Jul 2017 #28
Take a book you like and outline it. AngryAmish Jul 2017 #32
My mom used to do that, she was the ghostwriter for a few books. hunter Jul 2017 #33


(5,611 posts)
15. Do you mean a memoir? That is a very specific style, otherwise non-fiction and fiction are miles
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:17 PM
Jul 2017

apart in terms of structure (and non-fiction obviously requires detailed research and documentation unless you are writing a memoir specifically -- or historical fiction). Have you worked on basics such as constructing effective dialogue for example? (I have taught creative writing and write fiction and academic work). Working on a novel is so very different -- you will need to consider narrative point of view, plot line, characters and characterization, dialogue, etc etc etc. You will need to craft a prose style that is suitable to the form.

If you are trying to write a memoir (like Girl, Interrupted) read as many examples as possible; also, look into the unique issues that accompany writing a memoir (including the names of real persons, or people who can quickly identify themselves, can be very risky for example -- also the names of real places). A memoir also needs to be constructed in a way that makes it interesting for readers OTHER THAN the writer herself/himself. This is much more tricky than it sounds.

There are a number of websites you can visit (creepypasta for horror and supernatural fiction for just one example) to share your writing with other aspiring writers. Honestly I would not worry about someone stealing your work.


(11,862 posts)
19. Thank you, very informative
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:23 PM
Jul 2017

You have introduced items I have never thought through...like those at the reform school...who should I name? Ms Stark who ran it? Or the crazy woman at the 'punishment' cottage?


(11,862 posts)
20. See I am getting angry...angry for my mother who sent me there
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:29 PM
Jul 2017

angry for being there...angry because my probation officer assured me she would advise foster care and instead said i should go back to Bonair

And that was 50 years ago!


(49,667 posts)
27. It sounds like you have a really important story to tell. Do it. Tell it. I have no
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 08:02 AM
Jul 2017

advice for how to write or publish a memoir, but I am over here cheering you on.

Keep us posted.


(11,862 posts)
7. I want to say...very funny, but you are probably the best advise...
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 02:47 PM
Jul 2017

A couple of chapters to get the juices going!

The Velveteen Ocelot

(113,061 posts)
11. Don't post it at all, or if you do, add the copyright symbol to anything
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 02:59 PM
Jul 2017

you do post. If you want others to read it but don't want it spread all over, get a Dropbox or Google Drive account and put it there, where you have to give permission for anyone to read it before you are ready to publish. And use the copyright symbol on everything.


(4,484 posts)
25. For some people, this actually works.
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 01:39 AM
Jul 2017

It's never worked well for me because, whenever I try it that way, I ramble. I've always had to make detailed outlines for my books.

However, your advice is pretty similar to the advice Stephen King gives in his book On Writing. While he gives great advice for pre-planning, he admits that he often doesn't have a roadmap for his books. Sometimes, he just opens up word and starts writing.


(59,320 posts)
4. Do you journal or blog?
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 02:43 PM
Jul 2017

I wrote my first book starting in 2012 - was published in 2014 - no formal writing training, but I was a long time blogger and journaled throughout my life - and I love to read. It just sort of flowed out of me - my editor helped considerably to mold and shape my words.


(59,320 posts)
8. My advice - read Stephen King's book On Writing
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 02:49 PM
Jul 2017

It is really helpful.

Writing comes easy to some, very hard to others - you only will find out when you take the plunge.


(145,896 posts)
10. Open Microsoft Word and type the first sentence.
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 02:52 PM
Jul 2017

Keep adding sentences until you have no more to say.

Then, use one of the free file format conversion programs to turn it into an e-book and put it on Amazon and wait.

Promote it on your favorite social media venues.

If it's a work of genius, people will buy it. If not, well...


(11,862 posts)
12. You are correct...no shortcuts
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:01 PM
Jul 2017

I need to do the grunt work, or just let it die...I do not want to let it die..

I am lucky to be alive today. So many ways I should have died.

Response to angstlessk (Reply #12)


(9,808 posts)
13. I do not know how to write A book, I only know how to write this one.
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:05 PM
Jul 2017

A paraphrase from a conversation between Gene Wolfe and Neil Gaiman, about writing. It always holds true.

For Non-fic, start with a series of outlines. The first one should be a 1 pager, extremely high level: Incitement, arc, denouement. Locations, characters. 300 words, max. The second should take that one and break it down into chapters, so 3-5 pages. Third is breakdown to scenes - usually about 10 pages or 1 page of outline per 1000-2000 words. When/if you start writing dialogue, you're done outlining and moving into writing. Then it's all BICHOKFTSB - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard, Furiously Typing, Sweating Blood. Nothing substitutes for doing the work. Set a daily goal -- 1000 to 5000 words, 1 scene to 1 chapter. Never stop at the end of a chapter or scene; write the next few sentences so you can get back in the groove faster the next day.

Finish a first draft. Just finish something. Editing happens after you type THE END. You cannot edit if it's not finished. Expect the first draft to appall you about six weeks after you finish, and to delight you. But in those six weeks, don't touch it. Unless you're on deadline, then you maximize the number of days you can walk away from it, and go DO SOMETHING where you've got zero chance of messing with it while it's composting. Manuscripts must compost between 1st draft and 2nd, because your brain needs to reset.

If you're really lost, allow me to recommend a few seasons of two different podcasts as tutorials. They're both aimed at fiction, but you're talking creative non-fiction, so there are similarities. Writing Excuses, http://www.writingexcuses.com seasons 9 through current (though season 8 is also very useful, and the whole run has been excellent). Each one is 15-20 minutes long, and they break down all aspects of world building, characters, formatting, conflict, narrative arcs, you name it. (And, yes, non-fic needs narrative arcs, otherwise it's just a series of things that happened.) Do their homework. If you spend the next six weeks doing one podcast and exercise per day, you'll be a better writer at the end.

The Journeyman Writer is now an archived podcast, no longer in production (though the host has moved on to other things). Each episode is about 5 minutes long, and each episode is intensely focused on one aspect. It's about handling the details of writing and keeping with it. https://storywonk.com/category/podcasts/the-journeyman-writer/


(4,484 posts)
14. I've been published three times.
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:10 PM
Jul 2017

It's really not hard if you break it down into steps.

Here are the steps I use:

1.) What do I want the overarching moral of the story to be?

2.) Summarize the story in a single paragraph.

3.) Break that paragraph down into segments. These segments will later become chapters.

4.) Write bullet points under each chapter. Use those bullet points to detail specific things you want that chapter to include.

5.) Write a 15 to 20 page treatment of the story using the information in steps one through four.

The next step is to write the book! It's that easy!


(5,611 posts)
17. Great advice -- I also pointed out basics that are very hard (dialogue for example). I can always
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:19 PM
Jul 2017

distinguish an amateur writer from a polished, experienced writer by the way in which the writer constructs dialogue.


(4,484 posts)
24. For some, dialogue is hard.
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 01:36 AM
Jul 2017

For other people, captivating descriptions are hard.

Dialogue has long been a bane of mine because I was born deaf. As a result, the way I speak in day to day life is very different than the way other people speak. I have to constantly remind myself of that. I'm also not afraid of getting help with dialogue. One of the greatest assets a writer can have is to NOT be offended when someone offers you constructive advice.

When it comes to the story, or to dialogue, I don't take every piece of advice but I certainly listen. And I adore editors, especially copy editors. The more corrections an editor has, the more I appreciate them! Despite my mother being an English teacher, grammar has never been my strongest suit.

So, in light of your good point about dialogue, I would recommend the OP get someone to read his story, early in the writing process, and tell him how the dialogue flows. Definitely, do that before sending query letters, anything like that.

And don't ever be ashamed to ask for advice! (That's to the OP, obviously). Advice is an amazing tool and MOST people want to help rather than tear you down.

The Velveteen Ocelot

(113,061 posts)
31. Speaking more as a reader than as a writer, dialogue seems to be
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 09:58 AM
Jul 2017

a common problem. In a lot of otherwise pretty good, well-written books the dialogue isn't very realistic. I'll be reading along and start thinking, "Hey, real people don't talk like that," or "A real person of that age/profession/gender/or whatever wouldn't talk like that in that situation." Sometimes the dialogue is clearly expository - that is, the author is trying to convey some information or background by having one of their characters talk about it in detail - but it often sounds artificial because in a real situation the character wouldn't be giving that explanation.

I wonder if it would help the writer to speak their dialogue out loud, or have someone read it to them.


(12,397 posts)
16. Funk and White's Elements of Style...
Wed Jul 5, 2017, 03:17 PM
Jul 2017

The best advice I ever had from a writer who was also teaching my English Composition class was to read a lot.
For Non-Fiction, research and write a few essays on the topic you want to write about. 10 - 15 pages; the normal "chapter" size.
After you've finished, put them away and read other authors on your topic. After you've finished, read your essays *aloud* to yourself.
If your essays "flow" from point to point in a logical order and don't continue to re-hash personal opinions as concepts or seem repetitious or as if you were presenting "bullet points" to hammer your audience with, then you have a good chance to flesh out the subject and be able to flesh out the draft outline you will need to create to bound your Non-Fiction presentation into a book (rather than a lecture).

If you're a fiction writer, write a few "short stories" in the style of your favorite authors with their characters, and compare the differences in the "read". If your plot and characterization seem to be something that writer would have come up with, then you've got a good idea on your writing capabilities.
The most common "how did you learn to write" explanation I've read from successful authors I like was - "as a child, I used to write continuing adventures of characters in the books I liked..."
That, and not self-editing too much. Back in the 90's (Before the Cloud), I had a friend who wanted to write historical romance and actually finished a draft manuscript she was going to send out to an editor. It was pretty good; she researched the time period and developed well rounded characters that weren't "anachronistic", her main and sub-plots were reasonable for the time period, and her dialog did not go into exposition too much.
She had just started shopping agents - and after a first rejection from an agent that dealt with History Non-Fiction, she decided to tweak the plot a bit for the Romance Novel agents; after all, Romance "trilogies" and series make lots of money, right? (She loved the Brother Cadfell novels, ignoring the fact that after the sixth book in the series, the author was pretty much rehashing the same basic plots along with the interspersing of history...)

Since she had fallen in love with her main hero character (always a risk, especially after a divorce..), she decided to put a bit more of herself into her heroine; completely turning both characters into 20th century idealized stand-ins...
...and she re-wrote over her 300+ page final draft (instead of saving it to a floppy first) and by the time she started sending out her manuscript to fiction agents, all she got was "won't sell, needs a lot more work, needs research, just not balanced between plot and characters..."

And what would have been a really nice historical adventure-romance turned into FanFic that would only be sold either in the back Sci-Fi/Fantesy errata corner of a local comic book shop or at conventions.

Anyway, Good Luck. And whether the book is Fiction or Non-Fiction - don't fall in love with your main characters!


Response to angstlessk (Original post)



(13,340 posts)
28. Contact your local University English Department....
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 08:04 AM
Jul 2017

... and ask if there are any creative writing professors interesting in taking on a commission.

The creative writing professors at the UNiversity where my wife teaches take on co or ghost writing commissions all the time.



(25,704 posts)
32. Take a book you like and outline it.
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 10:46 AM
Jul 2017

Use that as the skeleton to hang your story from. Lots of it will suck, rewrite and change the outline to make yours read better.

I wrote a few books but never bothered trying to publish.

My published work is all technical law related stuff.


(37,979 posts)
33. My mom used to do that, she was the ghostwriter for a few books.
Fri Jul 7, 2017, 12:26 PM
Jul 2017

She'd turn rambling prose written on yellow tablets, or even dictation on cassette tapes, into something coherent and neatly typed that could be published.

Things are a little different today with word processing, the internet, and electronic publishing.

Some people have done well opening up to random strangers on the internet. Andy Weir, author of The Martian did that. It takes some thick skin however. My sister has blogged some very personal stuff, ignored the horrible flack that all opinionated women get on the internet (including rape threats from anonymous strangers), and pushed through to publishing... at which point she sometimes shuts down a blog with great haste, which doesn't make it go away really, but closes the door to new harassment in that particular venue.

There are a few protected places on the internet for criticism and advice. DU is not such a place because there are so many right wing assholes obsessed with DU who will do everything they can to find you on facebook and other social media sites, or even where you live.

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