Have you ever felt a story brewing in your mind, your imagination running wild with scenes of wild excitement, dizzying romance or tense action, just begging to be put down on paper? Many of us will have dreamt of writing a book, but few might take the plunge of putting pen to paper.
In fact, one of the biggest stumbling blocks new writers face is often one of the first they encounter. Building a convincing world and real, relatable characters can be challenging, but in this specially crafted guide by online printing service YouLovePrint, we're here to walk alongside you as you translate those creative whispers into a roaring, powerful manuscript.
By Kelly Harris, Online Business Development Director at YouLovePrint
The seed of inspiration
All stories are born from the inspiration to write them. Something happens - to yourself, someone you know or in the wider world around you - which causes ideas to start flowing. But we can’t always wait around for these “eureka” moments to happen. Sometimes, we have to go searching for them.
Your life is a library of stories. Every moment, every thought or emotion you experience, holds a storytelling opportunity. It's in the laughter shared over coffee, the tears in quiet moments, and in our deepest dreams and desires. Aside from being fantastic for mental health and mindfulness, keeping a diary is an excellent way to document your life, experiences and emotions. If you’ve been keeping journals for a while, reading back over them can give fresh perspective on past events - perhaps putting you directly into the mindset of your teenage self, or giving the opportunity to revisit those moments with a wiser mind. If you’ve never kept a journal before, it’s never too late to start.
Crafting your world
Research is a vital part of book writing, but it isn't just about finding facts on Google; it's about putting yourself in the driver’s seat so you can tell someone else how it felt to steer the car. Where possible (and safe!), visit places similar to those you want to write into your book. Absorb the environment and experience of being there - the sights and sounds, and how they make you feel. Your narrative world isn't just a backdrop; it's a character in itself. When you visit these places, take a notepad and write down everything your senses experience.
If your story takes place in a fantasy setting that can’t be mimicked with a walk in the woods, there are some great fantasy worldbuilding tools online that can help you. They might be geared more towards tabletop gaming fans, but you can use them just as easily to help you build your book’s world.
In storytelling, a world is nothing without people and stories to populate it. A good story arc isn't just a series of events; it's a path - taken by characters - of growth, obstacles, and solutions. Take Katniss from "The Hunger Games" as an example; her story moves from a simple life in her district to the center of a huge uprising. Or think of Jo March in 'Little Women', and her journey from a young aspiring writer to a mature, accomplished author (a fitting example for this article!).
Read diversely, and let each book you read - and each character you encounter - add something to your own storytelling palette and character “templates”. And remember, your characters are reflections of real-life complexities. Craft them with care, understanding their fears, joys, and dreams.
Plotting a course
Here’s the really important, and possibly the most useful part of this article. Almost all stories follow the same pattern of events - and once you know the formula, it’s almost impossible not to see it in other books and movies. It’s a tried, tested and proven method of storytelling, broken down into key elements:
Introduces your characters, setting, and the central conflict. You show your reader around their new “home” for the duration of your book, giving them a sense of what life is like for your characters.
“The Rising Action”
Brings tension, introducing obstacles and change. Something happens which causes the characters to react, and the story to begin. From here, you might have two or three big events that take place, but the next key point in your story is the climax.
The turning point of the story, where the conflict reaches its peak. Perhaps one of the most classic examples of this is Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet, in which - spoiler alert - they star-struck lovers both die.
“The Falling Action”
The story starts to wind down and begin tying up loose ends. The effects of the climax are explored - if one of your main characters died in the climax, you’d explore how other characters have been affected by the event here.
Provides closure to the story - happily ever after or otherwise!
This is just a brief overview of the story arc and how it can be used, but depending on your genre and story, you can adapt and tailor these elements to fit your manuscript, ensuring a satisfying and well-structured storyline. It’s worth doing some research into this before you get to the next stage.
Putting pen to paper
Now, the moment where dreams meet reality - writing! If you’ve followed all the steps from above, you should already have a tonne of information written down about your world, characters and the journey they’re about to embark on. If you’ve done this, you shouldn’t be staring at a blank word processor document, scratching your head and wondering what to write. You’ll already know.
Remember, each word you write is a step forward. Don't strive for perfection in the first draft, don’t correct spelling mistakes and don’t edit; let your thoughts flow, raw and uninterrupted, with a view to tidying things up later. Create a writing ritual that fits into your life. Whether it's early morning musings or night-time narratives, find your rhythm and find a place in which you can write without real-world distraction (yes, that means the kids too!). And when writer's block looms, step back, breathe, and return with renewed vigor.
Your story, your voice
As you embark on this writing adventure, remember, there's no script to follow. Your voice, your experiences, your perspective are the soul of your book. Revisit this guide as a friend on your journey, and never forget – the most powerful part of your story is you. Embrace your unique voice, and create something extraordinary.
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.
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