Steps to Write a Book

Story Writing Ideas & Fiction Writing Tips

Steps to Write a Book offers practical guidelines to write a book that appeals to your target audience. On this page we show, step by step, what you need to do to write a saleable story.

Steps to Write a Book #1: Choose Your Target Audience

Before you begin writing, have in mind a clear picture of your target audience. This will determine the kind of story you write, the characters you create, the language you use, and the length and complexity of your story.

Ask yourself, who are you writing for? Children, teenagers or adults? If you're writing for children, which age group: babies, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school kids or pre-teens? If you're reaching out to teen readers, which ones: early teens, mid-teens, late-teens?

Be aware that each age group has different reading tastes (although there's some overlap, given the wide range of maturity levels among kids and teens of any age). To learn more about the books each age group prefers, visit Hot Favorites for Kids and Cool Stories for Pre-Teens and Teens.

Then, we have the adult audience with all its niche markets and sub-groups, each of which has different needs. Readers in their twenties are looking for career advancement, romance and adventure; those a decade older have different concerns, like how to juggle work and family, bring up children, earn more money or achieve financial freedom. Middle-age readers are searching for purpose in life or a second career; seniors want to know how to keep healthy and manage their money.

Find out about your readers' cares and concerns: talk to people, read magazines and newspapers, watch the news; you'll get an endless supply of ideas for stories.

Steps to Write a Book #2: Know Your Readers

Once you have decided on your audience, do your homework. Find out which categories of books, and which particular books among them, are popular with your target readers, and why: what is it about these books that gets people reading and, equally important, what is likely to turn them off?

Read book reviews: check out booksellers' websites, some of which run reviews by readers. Look through library websites, too, for reviews by readers or librarians. Visit bookshops and libraries, talk to the salespeople and librarians to find out which are the bestsellers.

Get hold of the books most popular with your target audience, and read as many of them as you can, to gain an insight into what readers want. For lists of bestselling books for kids and teens, visit Top Kids' Books and Top Cool Teen Books.

Want to find out what kinds of books are most popular with kids and teens? Visit:
Best Ideas for Babies' Books
Terrific Ideas for Toddlers' Stories
Hot Favorites for Kids
Exciting Story Ideas for Early Teens
Cool Story Ideas for Mid-Teens
Marvelous Story Ideas for Mature Teens.

Steps to Write a Book #3: Now What You Need is a Flash of Inspiration

You may already have your story all worked out in your head; or you may be facing a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen - and an equally blank mind.

How do you get that flash of inspiration, that brilliant idea that'll lead to a bestseller? In fact, it's not difficult if you know where to look; ideas are all around you. To start you off, go to Brilliant Ideas for Stories and Writing Prompts & Story Ideas

Steps to Write a Book #4: About Themes and Plots

The theme is the kernel of the story, the central message you want to convey to readers. If you write without a unifying theme, your story will lack cohesion.

Here are some examples of themes: Beauty and the Beast - character is more important than appearance; The Hare and the Tortoise - slow and steady wins the race; The Ugly Duckling - hold onto hope, there's always a beautiful tomorrow.

Themes are built on needs and problems. For example, if you're writing for teens, some needs you can address would be your readers' search for identity and the pressures they face from friends and schoolmates. You could then build your story on themes like finding oneself through facing and overcoming challenges, or making choices based on one's personal convictions.

The length of your story will determine the number of themes it can successfully carry; if you're writing a short story, it is wise to focus on just one or two themes. In a full-length novel, you can have a strong central message with a few secondary themes supporting it.

Weave your storyline round your central theme. A short story will often have a simple plot based on a single theme. A longer novel can have a more complex plot, with subplots to add depth and interest.

Steps to Write a Book #5: A Story Outline Keeps You on Course

Once you have the plot in your head, you'll need to put it down on paper in the form of an outline. This helps to clarify your thoughts, and it also makes it easier for you to spot inconsistencies in your story.

Your outline can be in narrative or point form, it can be brief or detailed but, most importantly, it must establish your characters and show how the plot develops from beginning to end.

Steps to Write a Book: what you may want to include in your outline:
Title of book
Target readers
Approximate length of story
Principal character(s)
Supporting characters
Brief description (point-form or synopsis) of:

Not all writers work from a prepared outline; some prefer to develop the story as they go along. However, you'll find that writing from an outline helps to give you a more integrated story. You can measure each incident against the full storyline, pace your writing so that no scene gets underplayed or overemphasized, and time your cliffhangers for maximum dramatic effect.

Steps to Write a Book #6: Tantalizing Titles

Your title has to stand out from among many on the bookshelves; it has to catch the reader's attention at once, and convey the message that this is a book worth reading. Use vibrant, positive words suggestive of adventure, mystery, romance, fantasy, or whatever is appropriate for your story and your target audience.

Also, while the title should give an accurate idea of what the story is about, it should not reveal too much: just enough to arouse curiosity, tantalize readers and compel them to grab your book off the shelf - and hopefully make a beeline for the checkout.

Steps to Write a Book #7: Research is Important Too

Every piece of information in your book must be accurate, even down to the smallest detail. Errors cause you to lose credibility as an author; so, do your research before you begin writing.

Research also gives an air of authenticity to your story. If your protagonist is a deep-sea diver, an airline pilot or a lion-tamer, you may want to find out more about these occupations. If you're writing historical fiction, you'll need to ensure that details in your story tie in with the historical events, social norms, culture and customs of that time and place: for example, what people ate and wore, what their homes were like, what they did for a living, who were the rulers, and what important events took place at the time.

What's next? Visit More Steps to Write a Book: How to Write a Story for ideas on how to plan the setting, create characters, and write your story.

For further tips and steps to write a book, visit the links below:
How to Write a Story: Conflicts, Cliffhangers and Climaxes

Creative Writing Tips: Sparks Fly with Dramatic Dialogue

Creative Writing Tips: Vibrant Verbs Get Readers' Attention

Creative Writing Tips: Want to Write Well?

Creative Writing Tips: Top Secrets of Top Authors

Creative Writing Tips: Effective Word Choice - Denotations and Connotations

Creative Writing Tips on Figurative Language: Imagery Helps Readers See, Hear, Feel

Creative Writing Tips: Word Music for Lyrical, Memorable Prose

Writing for children or teenagers? Visit How to Write Stories Kids and Teens Want to Read.

Legal issues concerning writers: click here for tips on how to Avoid Defamation of Character

Return from Steps to Write a Book to Creative Writing: Write to Win Hearts.

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