Can’t Figure Out How to Start Writing That Book?

Posted in Book Writing on July 6th, 2011 by admin


By far, the most common question I get asked by authors working on their first pieces specifically written for publication is: “Where do I start?” or, they will say something to the effect:

“I have the idea in my head…I mean I know where I want
the story to start, where I want it to end, and the
main points of the story I want to include, but I just cant
seem to figure out how to start writing…”

Sadly, because each of us has our own style and methods, there is no clean-cut single answer that will work for everybody experiencing this problem. However, I will supply you with a method that has worked for me numerous times, and which other authors, some bestsellers, have said works for them yoo when they ‘hit a literary wall.’

In short…outline. Construction workers and general contractors can’t build a house without a blueprint and a floor plan and many writers can’t either. Keep in mind though, just like in construction, there is always the possibility that the project grows and develops in ways that were unexpected during the  planning phase. The same is very true when you write. Never lose sight of the fact that your outline is just a guide and isn’t carved in stone.

So now you’re ready to get started. If you know where you want your story to start, write a sentence or two explaining the opening setting at put it at the top of a clean page. If you know how you want the story to end, write that at the very bottom. If you don’t know how you want it to end, that’s okay, just skip that part for now. All you really need right now is a starting point, but if you know where you want it to go, placing even a tentaive ending can be a big help in crafting the events of the story to ultimately lead where you want them to go.

Just a quick side note here; it’s sometimes better to use index cards instead of listing ideas for chapters on a sheet of paper. Index cards will allow you to re-order and interchange the positions of ideas over and over without erasing or playing a full four quarters of trash can basketball with your draft ideas. If you have a cork board and a few pushpins, so much the better.
Next, visualize your characters as they move on their respective journies through your story. For Each key experience your characters face, write another sentence on your page between the beginning and ending (if you listed one) or make a new index card and insert it into the outline where you think it makes the most sense at that moment; and don’t worry about the order of the cards making sense yet. As long as it makes sense to you during the draft process, that’s all that counts. No matter what order you place them in, at this point, I can tell you from experience, they will almost certainly change later in the actual writing process.
Once you’re satisfied that you have listed all the key scenarios you want your character(s) to experience, arrange your cards or make a final draft outline on your paper. Now is when yo uwant to make sure they read like a sensible, chronologic timeline of events which naturally progresses any reader from the beginning, through their journey in the middle, to the end — yes, it is going to change (several more times) before your manuscript is ready to be submitted to anyone for publication. Nevertheless, if you want your creative juices to start flowing now, you’ll have to be able to visualize the story as a complete thing now, otherwise you still may freeze up and block when you arrive at a gap in your outline.   Your whole objective at this juncture is to display the key points of action that occur throughout your story, roughly in the order you intend them to transpire. The exact order may yet still change many times before the final copy is made because, as you write, your characters experience things you never initially expected them to. this has a tendency to wreak havoc upon a predetermined timeline.
Now you’re ready; you have a complete blueprint. Rather than writing a novel-length book, now you can write a series of short stories. Each story, an individual chapter that, once placed together in the final order (like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that will only make sense when set in once specific way) you will have a naturally flowing story with many individual action sequences that keep the plot flowing and keep your readers turning pages well into the night.
The practice of outlining will benefit you as a writer in more ways than you can imagine. One of the truest tests of a great author is when you can arbitrarily pull any chapter from one of their books and it will tell a complete story, with a beginning a middle and an end. No, this doesn’t hold true for every great book or even for every great author, but it does more often than it doesn’t. Becoming adept at this will will help you to increase the arsenal of tools you use as a writer to continuously hone your craft and get your work the literary credibility it deserves.

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Book Marketing: Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6th, 2011 by admin


Book marketing in the age of the internet provides numerous opportunities for an aspiring nonfiction book author to have a following before he or she submits a nonfiction book proposal.

The typical advice for someone about to write a nonfiction book proposal is that the person must first have a platform – which basically means a huge following (such as host of a national tv show) or a huge mailing list (perhaps amassed from years of doing business).

The reason for this is that publishers want to know there’s already a built-in fan base of people presumably eager to buy the potential author’s book.

And for someone who doesn’t have this huge following or huge mailing list – it’s too bad but agents and publishers probably won’t be interested in that person’s nonfiction book proposal.

In the past it could take years to “grow” a following. Perhaps, for example, starting off with an advice column in your local newspaper, then working up to an advice column syndicated to a few newspapers, and finally achieving a national syndicated column.

Or you could start off as a talk show host on your local station, work up to a talk show on a few local stations, and finally achieve a national talk show.

The good news is that the internet has changed everything. In fact, the internet has completely eliminated most barriers to entry.

Thus today there’s no reason to put the cart before the horse. Don’t write that nonfiction book proposal until you have established a solid online reputation. Why ask to be rejected when, with some targeted work, you can position yourself as someone to whom agents and publishers should say yes?

If you have an expertise – let’s say you’re a relationship expert with a unique spin – and you want to write a book about your relationship advice, here are some of the internet opportunities you can use to get your own platform BEFORE you write that proposal:

• Start a blog that offers your relationship advice.
• Leave insightful comments with the URL to your blog on other relationship blogs.
• Write guest posts for other people’s blogs.
• Start a BlogTalkRadio show giving your relationship advice and interviewing people who need your advice.
• Join Facebook and start a Facebook group for relationship advice.
• Join Twitter and tweet about your BlogTalkRadio shows.
• Join LinkedIn and start a relationship advice group there.
• Join other social media sites that offer the opportunity for you to demonstrate your unique relationship advice.
• Launch a website that includes testimonials to your advice with an irresistible free offer for people to give you their email addresses (building your list).
• Post brief videos on YouTube and other video sites of you giving relationship advice.
• Make podcasts about relationship advice and have the podcasts downloadable from your website.
• Write reports or e-books about specific areas of relationship advice and distribute these for free or for a fee from your website.
• Offer your reports or e-books to others to use for premiums for their projects.
• Do free or fee question-and-answer teleseminars.
• Write relationship articles and post on free article sites such as
• Write press releases about your teleseminars and post on internet press release sites.

Does this take work? Yes, it does. And will you do all of these? Probably not.

But if you start doing some of these activities as a preamble for writing a nonfiction book proposal, you will be much better positioned to convince a book agent and/or a book publisher that you have the required platform to sell your book.

And the added benefit of doing all this work first? With all the advice you’ve dispensed on the web, your book will almost be totally written thanks to all the material you’ve already produced. –P.Z.M.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a National Internet Business Examiner at as well as a book author, and her power marketing company combines traditional marketing principles and Internet marketing strategies to put power in your hands.

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