At the core of any desire to write a book is the critical choice of coming to terms with what type of book you want to write, and why.
You have an idea to share, you have decided its important to get out and to not just be thoughts in your mind, even to make it something tangible you can review and even share.
So what now?
Don’t worry, by the end of this post we are going to help you get a sense of where you want to go with your story, what form it may take, and share some resources to help you begin.
Consider this page to be the GPS you can use to plug your ultimate writing aspirations into. This GPS will help you set your path to your goal even right up to the first time you pull out of the driveway of your writing aspirations so you can know with confidence if you should turn left or right to start your journey.
5 Questions To Ask For Your Writing
- What genre of books do you read most often?
- What section of a bookstore do you visit the most?
- What of the Human Condition do you most associate with?
- What of the Human Condition do you least associate with?
- What do you use to make decisions in your life?
Answering these five questions are the first step to getting a sense of what the content and composition of your writing might look like.
Here’s an example:
If your answer to #1 was Self-Help, and your answer to #2 is Historical Fiction. You may find the idea of writing a Self-Help book for a Historical period to solve a common problem that existed at that time.
While several writers could probably imagine quite a few scenarios where this could be quite entertaining, there isn’t really an established market for this type of story. As evidenced by no existing genre, nor space in bookstores.
This is most relevant when you decide what your reason for writing is. Let’s take a look.
10 Reasons to Write
- For Enjoyment
- To Process Life Events
- To Grow and Expand Mentally
- To Help or Inform Others
- To Have a Voice
- To Answer a Calling
- To Boost your Credibility
- To Leave A Legacy
- To Achieve Fame or Notoriety
- To Make Money
Note that these are not the only reasons to write, however they are some of the most common and huge indicators of how you should begin your approach to writing your book. Regardless of your reason, it’s important that they intersect with your interests.
Using the previous example of a Self-Help Historical Fiction book. If your Reasons to write were numbers 8-10 then by taking on the Self-Help Historical Fiction will put you in a situation of fighting an extremely steep uphill battle.
In order for your Self-Help Historical Fiction to Make Money, Boost your Credibility, and help you achieve Fame and Notoriety; not only will you need to write a technically sound book to that you can possibly get interest from agents and publishers, but it would likely need to be scholarly in nature (due to the historical aspect) as well as find a way to be a general audience crowd pleaser. All said, quite the tall order!
What you really want to look for your book is a cross section of your interest, and a reason to write. This cross section is the defining factor of where to begin.
Because to complete the process of writing a book you truly need two things:
- A passion and interest in the topic you’re writing about.
- A clear and resonating reason to continue during the harder moments.
What If My Interests and My Reasons Don’t Intersect?
If this is true, consider this your first big challenge as a real writer. Because this will not be the only time that interest and reason are at odd for you or what you’re writing.
To move past this, you can do one of two things:
- Find a new interest that aligns with your reasons.
- Accept a new reason that aligns with your interest.
In the case of the Self-Help Historical Fiction reasons 8-10 don’t align, but reasons 1 and 3 totally could. So as you start writing you’ll want to start with these reasons in mind and your experience of putting words to paper will not be weighed down by all the other irrelevant things that reasons 4-6 would trigger.
Where to Begin with Writing
Here are our recommendations to start writing regardless of your interest.
If Your Reasons for writing align with 1-3
You are interested in writing for Exploration!
This is a powerful form of writing could look like journaling, opinion essays, comedy, poetry, short stories, or even social media all of which can provide an outlet to explore.
It may be valuable to look into some story structure, or pacing standards to amplify your work, but going deep into things like plotting is less important than conveying emotion and ideas with clarity though powerful execution of sentences.
To start consider your level of expertise around sentence execution.
We aren’t talking general spelling and grammar. We mean building momentum, and creating rhythm.
A few great resources to consider starting with are (links to Amazon):
The Great Courses Building Great Sentences by Professor Brooks Landon
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
If Your Reasons for writing that align with 4-6
You are interested in writing for Education!
This can be because something occurred in your life that you think others could benefit from hearing or that you have a perspective to share that’s unique or even revolutionary.
This type of writing can often take the form a broad section of genres from Self-Help, Memoirs, Historical, Journalism, or sometimes even Fiction.
Each of these genres tend to be whole worlds onto themselves with certain rules and regulations you must follow. Story structure can be powerful in some cases (we’ll cover these resources later), but persuasive writing standards are likely to be the most applicable.
If Your Reasons for writing that align with 7-8
These are primarily Self-Help or Business books!
They could also be Scholarly Studies or Papers and though there is some overlap of emotions with 4-6 these types of books aim to take persuasion to the level of taking action. Not just informing but altering the course of lives. That isn’t to say that all Self-Help or Business books achieve this lofty aim, nor that they are all aiming so high but personal motivations aside 7-8 are all about creating perennial change.
There’s a very specific formula of information, examples, and stories and overall structure that makes these types of books effective.
The resource we’ve found to be most comprehensive for this style of writing is:
Book In A Box Method by Tucker Max & Zach Obront
Reasons for writing that align with 9-10
We’re going to go ahead an call most of us out here, prepare to be seen!
If you write fictions, fantasy, sci-fi, romance or any kind of entertainment centered writing – 9 and 10 apply to you. At the minimum 10 does.
We’re calling you out, because too often having this as a reason is looked down on or even demeaned as impure.
Despite what’s popularly stated, it’s simply untrue and often harmful to aspiring authors trying to write something that will be picked up by agents, publishers, or even getting traction during self-publishing.
But the worst approach you can take with this whole endeavor is to lean fully into the “Fated to be a successful author” mentality. Or to ascribe to the narrative that if you read a bunch of books that somehow you’ll become a great author.
Sometimes the most successful authors tend to be the most clueless about what made them successful. Not out of malice, but simply because they were the luckiest of the lucky that got picked up and crafted into who they are today.
Some authors respectfully show this truth!
We adore Terry Brooks and Pierce Brown for their honesty around this topic.
Terry has been writing forever and he’ll say today that he pretty much has the process down without having to think much about it. But in his book on writing “Sometimes the Magic Works” he tells the story of Lester Del Rey and how he took Brooks’ story and shaped it, he credits his editors with an immense credit of helping craft the stories into what they are.
Pierce is hilariously effacing about this. Often joking at his signings that he’s completely aware of the pain he puts others through with his entirely haphazard first drafts. He’s clearly more than a little aware that his books only end up like they do through the hard work and care of others making sure there’s structure, and progression throughout the story.
Look we get it.
The stories of the lucky authors are always inspiring, and we all dream that we’ll be these people. The ones taken under wings and made into stars. But this happening is incredibly rare, and worse it removes all agency from your capacity to create any success for yourself.
This is why if you are an aspiring author, we recommend you start learning about story structure, about foreshadowing, and as much in-between as you can.
Because this is always true.
Whether you plan your story now, retrofit it to a plan it later, or allow someone else to define the plan of your story for you. The book will be planned. It will be structured. It will rarely, if ever, be a by the seat of your pants miracle that everyone just “gets” and becomes a bestseller.
To start with structure we highly recommend:
Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
The worst thing you can do as someone who wants to write a book, is not take the time to understand what you want, why you want it, and what those you’re crafting for – want and expect.
Ignoring the market and really the worlds of writing that you want to break into will only make your climb all the more of an uphill battle.
Don’t choose to put your trust in anecdotal success stories. Instead, build your knowledge and mastery of the craft of writing; so you have the best chance possible of creating the writer’s life you’ve always dreamed of.