You want to write a book, but you don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Most beginner writers feel that way, but the difference is that you took the first step and tried to find answers to your questions in order to give the million ideas running through your head a chance to be born. Many people claim or dream of writing books, but only few of them end up actually doing it. So congratulations!
Now, how to decide what to write? Here are some pointers:
Tip 1: Identify your why
Take a moment to reflect on the motivations behind your writing. Why do you want to write this book? Is it because you enjoy the process, or is there a deeper purpose behind your words? Consider the message you want to convey to the reader and how it fits into your broader purpose in life.
Human beings tell stories to pass on wisdom and to educate. Stories can also be told for entertainment and recreation. What do you intend to impart to the reader? What do you want your legacy to be?
As a Muslim, every action you take has an intention behind it, so reflect on your niyyah (intention) behind writing this book and ensure that it aligns with your overall purpose. Seek knowledge to guide you and ensure your writing follows the Islamic principles.
Tip 2: Identify your What
While some writers have the luxury of knowing their writing aspirations from the get-go, others may struggle to make a decision. In such scenarios, the safe and effective option is to:
- Write about what you know and love.
This is crucial because this passion will be your source of motivation when other factors are not enough to keep you going.
We all get excited when we start a writing project, but eventually, we may encounter tough challenges and frustrations. When that happens, it’s passion and genuine interest that can help us overcome these hurdles and complete our writing journey.
Before you embark on this adventure, reflect on what you enjoy doing in your free time, what brings you joy and excitement, what are the topics you’re passionate about.(Notice the subjects that always pop up in your conversations with other people.)
- Use your life experiences
Don’t be afraid to draw on your life experiences when deciding what to write. You can consider writing about events, people, and places that you know well, whether from childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Drawing on personal experiences can give your writing that extra touch of authenticity and help you develop unique characters and scenarios for your story. Keep in mind, you’re not going to recount your life’s events. Instead, you’ll be crafting a narrative that will draw readers in and captivate them with its unique perspective.
- Look for a source of inspiration
Finding inspiration can be a challenge. To get the creative juices flowing, you can:
- Look into books, poems, or movies that resonate with you.
- Brainstorm different ideas and see what feels right.
- Experiment with writing prompts. There are countless prompts available online or in books.
Tip 3: Identify your genre and the format of your book (fiction or non-fiction)
Figuring out what to write entails more than just identifying the theme or focus of the story. It also includes determining whether you prefer to write a non-fiction book or a fiction book, as well as deciding on the genre you would like to explore.
If your aim is to teach your audience, you’ll be more inclined to write a non-fiction book. Similarly, if you’re writing about your life and you want to inspire people by your story, a memoir is what you’re looking for. Memoirs are generally written around a theme and crafted like fiction stories, but they’re still not fiction.
In fiction, there are genres. Every genre has specificities and the readers’ expectations your book needs to meet. If you’re going to write a fiction book, start writing in the genre you read since you’re familiar with it as a reader, and you might know instinctively what your audience is expecting to see in your book.
Tip 4: know your target audience
Once you decide on what to write, you need to understand and study your audience, as there are certain expectations within every genre to meet. Missing these milestones or not aligning with readers’ expectations can result in stories that don’t resonate with them, thus decreasing the likelihood of success.
While it might be tempting to write about something that is purely of interest to you, you should consider the needs and interests of your intended audience when selecting a topic to write about.
When a reader picks up your book, he does it because of the promise you made. You promised a romance, you better not kill the protagonists at the end of your story. You promised them a thriller, better not present them with a chick-lit. Your readers are looking for certain feelings or moods, ruining that for them will make your book fail.
Tip 5: Read
- In Your Genre
Conduct research and analyze what other writers are producing, and what stories have been written. This will help you learn what authors and books have been influential in this genre and why, what tropes and conventions are common in this genre, and what potential gaps in the market that can help you create something new and unique to captivate your reader.
Remember what Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
- Read widely
It’s essential to read as much as you can. Reading widens your perspective and helps you understand all the nuances and different techniques that other more experienced writers use in their work. By reading widely, you can learn to identify different writing styles and see what works well for you. This will also help you to gain new ideas and inspiration and improve your writing by understanding what makes a good story. Reading also improves your vocabulary, sentence structures, and overall writing skills.
Tip 6: Write
Don’t procrastinate! Some beginner writers avoid facing the blank page by plotting their stories to death. Start writing now! The story almost always won’t go as you planned. Also, don’t let yourself get sucked into the black hole of research. It’s important to research about the facts you’re going to use in your story, but do you really need to learn about the evolution of the socio-economico-politico ecosystem since the fall of the Roman Empire to this day in order to write your book?
In the other hand, some writer fall in the trap of world building. This is more specific to SFF writers, make sure what’s you’re creating is relevant to your story. Don’t build a very detailed world that you won’t use most of it or that you’ll end up info dumping it and bore the readers by details they don’t care about.
I know. It’s intimidating to begin writing, but you need to practice, practice, and practice some more. Start by writing your thoughts in a journal and try your hand with different ideas and stories.
- Don’t be afraid to write bad first drafts
Beginner writers often struggle with writing the first draft, feeling that they need to get the words just right from the outset. However, the first draft is typically the ‘rough draft’ which is the starting point for the writing process. Don’t be afraid to write a rough first draft and get all of your ideas and thoughts down on paper, then come back and edit it later. Writing does not need to be perfect or polished from the start. In fact, that is the last stage of the writing process.
- Embrace failure as a learning opportunity
It is important to embrace learning when starting a new skill, and writing is no exception. Try different techniques, explore new ideas, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.
When facing failure as a writer, don’t feel discouraged. However, re-frame failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Instead of seeing it as a personal failure, use it as an opportunity to reflect and understand where the story fell short. Take a look at your writing process and identify areas for improvement, whether it is your style of writing, story ideas, or grammar. With each failure, you will learn and become a better writer.
- Develop your writing style
When it comes to writing, there are various styles that you can choose to use. Finding your own writing style is a crucial part of starting your writing journey.
Consider what kind of stories you enjoy reading and the style that fits your personality. You can choose to write in first person, third person, or present tense, or past tense. Experiment and see what resonates with you the most.
Experiment with different styles, such as dialogue, narrative, and imagery, to find what works best for you. Developing your writing style will take time and dedication, but once you find it, it will make your writing stand out.
- Take risks
Writing outside your comfort zone can help you grow quickly as a writer and produce unexpected results. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment and don’t be afraid to try new ideas and techniques in your writing. While risk can be scary, it is a necessary step in the development of your writing and creativity.
Tip 7: Set realistic writing goals
As a beginner writer, it is easy to fall into the trap of setting unrealistic goals. These can be unattainable and quickly lead to self-doubt and giving up.
Instead, start small and focus on achievable goals. For example, write every day (even if it’s just a sentence or paragraph) or set a word count goal (like 200-300 words a day).
After you have established these attainable objectives, you will be capable of writing consistently and enhancing your writing abilities.
Tip 8: Finish what you start
One of the biggest challenges for beginner writers is finishing what they start. Often times, a beginner writer gets overwhelmed with ideas and starts multiple projects, but struggle to complete them.
Try to focus on one project at a time. Set smaller goals, such as finishing a chapter or a short story rather than focusing on completing an entire book right away. This will help you build a habit of writing and completing your writing projects.
The more often you set and reach writing goals, the more motivated and successful you will become as a writer.
Tip 9: Don’t be afraid to share your work
Sometimes, beginner writers get bogged down with their work, thinking it’s not good enough to share or have others take a look at it. However, it is important to get feedback and see how your work resonates with others.
Getting constructive criticism from readers or fellow writers can help you improve your craft and develop your writing skills. Receiving feedback and constructive criticism can be difficult, but with time, you’ll learn to take it with a grain of salt.
Use the feedback to find areas for improvement and identify what works well. Remember, feedback is not about attacking your writing, rather, it’s about making it the best it can be.
And most importantly, don’t compare your writing to others. Remember that everyone has their own unique writing style and voice. Focus on writing in a way that best reflects your own creativity and ideas. You don’t have to write like anyone else. Be yourself and your writing journey will be infinitely more rewarding.