Updated: Jan 17
A lot of my readers have shown interest in hearing about my ‘process’ as a writer, so I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts, breaking down the journey from idea to polished manuscript. I write adult contemporary romance, but will try and keep most of the information I share generic, so it can be applied to other genres.
I’m a busy mother with a full time day job, so writing a series of books on the side has been no small feat. It took me over a decade to write my first book, but with that under my belt, I learned a few things—a lot of things, actually, that I’d like to share. I am by no means an expert, and I have no formal training whatsoever, but the kind of information I’m going to share is the stuff I really wish I had known along the way. Perhaps there is a budding writer out there who might find these posts useful.
The first thing to get a handle on is what genre or sub-genre your idea will fit into. This seems like an obvious thing to know, but you’d be surprised how many people can’t decide where their book fits. I actually described my book as women’s fiction for a long time, but after comparing a few ‘rules’ of both the women’s fiction and romance genres, I realized what I was writing fit more into the romance category. If you’re not sure, consider a few things, like what books you’ve read or TV shows you’ve watched that your story would be similar to in nature. Where do you envision finding it in a bookstore? When you’ve narrowed it down, check out some of those categories on Amazon and Netflix. Look at the ‘suggested’ titles that pop up too. Have you read or watched any of these? Chances are you’ll be familiar with some of the titles (especially movies).
Now that you have a pretty good idea what genre you fit into, it’s time to do some research. Simply google it. What authors are successful? Have you read any of their books? If not, you should start, because you stand to learn a lot from the people who are doing it right. Watch those shows and movies you found on Netflix too. What types of settings seem popular? What do you notice about the storylines? You’ll probably notice a pattern in every movie or book, where they contain some very key scenes that the rest of the story supports. Read outside of your genre too. You never know what could inspire you. Next, who are the readers of your genre? What are the story expectations? This is huge, because readers invest their time, and if you don’t deliver on their expectations, you could be setting yourself up to fail from the get-go. For romance, readers are mostly women. They expect two people to fall in love and live happily ever after. Boom. You’ve already got your ending figured out, at least in part. I can imagine other genres are similar. In a mystery, there is likely a reader expectation that they’ll catch the bad guy and the mystery will be solved at the end. What’s a typical word count? This is another big one. If a typical word count for your genre is 80,000 words, hit that, don’t set out to write a novel that’s 130,000 words, or 40,0000 words. Stick to the norm or somewhere close. You’re a first timer. This is not the time in your career to try and break the rules.
Have you written any short stories or novellas previous to tackling a novel? I hadn’t, and you certainly don’t have to, but looking back, it could have been a good way to get a feel for the whole process, without committing to a full-length novel.
There are so many great sites out there to learn the craft of writing. A few of my favourite ones when I was getting started were:
I would also recommend reading “On Writing” by Stephen King. It’s very popular so your local library might even carry it.
In the next instalment, I’ll be talking about preparation, so be sure and check back. In the meantime, watch Netflix, read books, and keep writing!