These columns began last September and if you have followed the suggested steps, you should have a better understanding of your writer within. If you’ve written one page per day since then, you have about 180 pages toward your book or ten 18-page short stories. These pages may only be a first draft, but they represent what your writer can do. You have gotten this far because you:
Using “Turtle Steps” as an example, I will take you from idea to finished piece to illustrate my writing approach.
Early one morning while sitting in my office drinking coffee, I noticed a turtle crossing from a thicket of hedges toward my butterfly garden. On a note card I wrote the words “turtle” and “butterfly garden.” The following morning, I pulled out the note card and let my mind roam. I added, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” grandmother telling me story, fast/slow . . . any idea sparked from “turtle” and “butterfly garden.” These steps occurred during my brainstorming time.
During the week, I looked up “The Tortoise and the Hare” and reread it. I wrote down the moral of the story and began the bare-bones outline:
III – Slow and steady wins the race
II – Personal and professional examples
I – Personal experience of turtle and butterfly garden
Before I fleshed out the outline, I thought about the story’s form and audience. I chose to write a devotional for adults. I selected several possible Bible verses to support the message, “Slow and steady wins the race.” I then filled in the outline with details to suit my intended audience. These steps occurred during my researching time.
When the time came for me to write, I opened a word document and wrote my name in the top left hand corner (Step 1). I moved down the page and gave my piece a title. The title doesn’t have to remain the title, but give your idea the respect it deserves by naming it. I wrote the first draft from first to last sentence according to my outline. After the first draft was complete, I rewrote, edited, and re-edited the piece. I let the piece rest. Then I rewrote, edited, and re-edited the piece several more times. These steps occurred during writing time.
While the piece was resting, I looked up possible markets for the submission process. I knew the form, length, audience, and subject matter of the piece, so selecting appropriate markets was a matter of finding matches. I narrowed my list to ten periodicals. These steps occurred during researching time.
I wrote a cover letter answering the two questions, “Who Am I and Why Am I Qualified to Write this Devotional?” I submitted the piece exactly the way each market requested. I made a copy of each letter for my records. I did this during writing time.
I created a folder for “Turtle Steps.” In the folder I placed a page with all the places and dates I submitted the story. By each entry I left a space to make notes when the piece was returned or if an editor took time to give comments. I acknowledged any comments via an email to the editors. These steps occurred during organizing time.
Articles two through nine have prepared you to write. You now have something to say and a designated time and place to say it. I chose the title “What Kind of Writer Are You?” for this first series because I believe a writer must first know himself/herself and his/her work habits before the “partnership” begins. Would you go into business without knowing the person with whom you’ll be dealing? Then why would you set out on a huge project such as writing a book without knowing how the “writer within” you works? I’ve enjoyed writing these columns and hope something I’ve shared has benefited you and your writer within.
Remember – write every day and sign your name to it.
On first thought how you write may seem like a needless consideration. But just as you need to know the why, when, where, what, and who of your writing, you need to have a solid plan as to how you will transform an idea into a full-blown story, article, or book. I will share the two approaches I use.
The first one is a detailed outline. In nonfiction I begin with a “bare-bones” one that has three main parts: an introductory section with the idea I’ve chosen to write from, an examples section with points to illustrate the idea, and a conclusion section that states the message. I write this outline from end to beginning, meaning my original outline for “Turtle Steps” may have looked something like this:Read more: What Kind of Writer Are You? Article 9: How Will You Write?
Even after you’ve settled on a field (fiction), a category (mystery, amateur sleuth), and a form (short story), you have another vital decision to consider before you begin: Who will be your readers? The group you are targeting is known as your audience. These are the people you’ll want to impress and keep them wanting to read more of your work. These people will be your cheerleaders to bring others to your books and/or stories.
An audience can be targeted from many directions. Age, gender, and experience are just three of the major ones authors use to slant their writing. Say you’ve decided to pen a cookbook. Will it be for children? Young marrieds? Widowers who’ve never done more than reheat a cup of coffee in the microwave? Or, perhaps you have set your goal to create the next popular children’s mystery series. Will it be for ages seven to ten? Preteens? Young adults? Boys? In both the nonfiction and fiction examples from above, your choice of audience will have a direct impact on how you will write that book. Your audience will dictate how you handle subject matter, language, and level of experience.Read more: What Kind of Writer Are You? Article 8: Who Is Your Audience?
Q: My book is finished being edited and is ready to be printed. How can I put a nice cover on it as cheaply as possible? I don't expect the book to be on a bestseller list, but I do want it to be more advanced than my first attempt.
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A: You are wise to be concerned about the cover. The cover, both front and back, is often the only thing that sells a book. If the cover looks bad, few people will buy the book, no matter how well written the contents may be. As in editing, the cover is not a place where you want to scrimp.
If you don’t want the cover to look cheap, don’t be cheap. That is, pay someone, even if it is only a design student, to design a book cover properly and well. Making the front, back, and spine look professional takes much more work and knowledge than most non-designers can imagine, plus the file must be compatible with the printer’s equipment. If you want the cover to look professional, hire a professional to do it.
Fiction is not true – it is made-up stories. These stories may have real people or real events, but the point at which an author begins adding made-up information, the piece becomes a work of fiction. For example, you might decide to write a story about Hurricane Katrina. You can set it on the Gulf Coast, use actual tracking data about the storm, and use pivotal personalities who were involved; however, once you add your own characters and introduce a creative plot line, the end result is fiction.
Like nonfiction, fiction breaks down into smaller categories, known as genres. The following is a good representation, but not complete, of types of fiction: romance, sci-fi, mystery, western, adventure, fantasy, comedy, horror, paranormal, and Christian. The definition of each genre is self-explanatory: mysteries have puzzles for someone to solve, romances are love stories, westerns are set in the west . . . and so on. But, and a very important “but” here, these genres become much more complex by having subgenres with specific guidelines.
Read more: What Kind of Writer Are You? Article 7: What is Fiction?