These days, anyone can self-publish their book and receive the title of ‘published author,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a successfully published author. Here are some questions to ask when writing a book.
The key to writing a successful book that attracts readers and gains publicity is to have something incomprehensible from books from any major publisher. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t write something unique and groundbreaking to the best of your ability. Your author brand is your own but using inspiration from already successful publications is a great way to get your book off the ground.
It’s difficult to know what to plan for when starting a novel. There are tons of questions you need to ask yourself before you even get to the writing process.
Do you need to know the details of every character or scene?
How much do readers need to know about them for a successful story?
I want to get started now! What do I need to know?!
Fear not! We’ve put together a shortlist of the most important questions you need to ask before you start writing.
Do I Need to Write a Book?
You might be surprised by this initial question- most writers are.
However, you want to make sure whatever ideas are floating around in your head can be expanded on enough to meet book-length. If you’re excited about the topic and feel like you could write on and on about it, that’s a good start.
If reading this article chances are you’re already planning on writing a book, so the automatic answer is ‘yes’. Before you run with such a simple answer, you need to really think hard.
Let’s break it down into more specific questions:
- Can I easily write at least 80,000 words about this topic?
- Have you shared your ideas with someone else and did they like them?
- Are you ready to pitch this idea to publishers?
- If you aren’t confident in reaching 80,000 words, can it be a long article? A short story? A blog?
- If you had only one chance to publish something, is this really what you want it to be?
Yes, the mere thought of writing a book and becoming a published author is exciting. You’re passionate and eager- if you weren’t that could pose a problem. But you absolutely need to make sure you’re ready and able to put in the work.
Can I Commit?
If you have other commitments, you should establish a realistic schedule that allows you to complete your book without putting stress and hardship on yourself or your family.
It’s impossible to know exactly how much time you’ll need to write a book, but to get a good idea of how much time you’ll need to set aside is by taking the amount of time you really think you need and multiplying it by 5.
Yup, that’s a big commitment.
And that’s just the writing.
There are so many other responsibilities to writing and publishing a successful book to consider, such as:
- Creating a title
- Writing the marketing materials
- Writing the back cover
- Designing the cover- the cover is everything!
- Spreading the word- asking everyone you know to pre-order it
- Calls and meetings with publisher
- Developing an ad campaign (social media)
- Building an author website
- And more!
Like we said, writing is only 30% of the process. If you take into consideration all the hours you need to set aside for writing plus everything listed above and is dedicated to the project, you’re on the right track.
Whose Story Is It?
Now that you’ve answered the first couple of questions, it’s time to dive into the content of your book. The actual writing process is only 30% of the work, but the planning and idea development to create a smooth, flowing story is crucial to success.
So, whose story is it?
Authors tend to think of the protagonist of the story when the ideas start cooking. The key is to keep this information in mind throughout the drafting process so the story doesn’t get off-track. As more and more characters are brought into scenes- friends, enemies, family, etc.- it can be easy to veer off and over-explain what’s in their heads too. You naturally want to tell their stories, but if they aren’t the protagonist/s, you don’t need to.
It’s possible that your story will have an ensemble of protagonists. You don’t have to stick with one single character, and multiple characters can host their own scenes, just stay focused.
No matter what, your story needs to tell who the story belongs to and stick with it throughout the entire book.
What Is the Protagonist Pursuing?
Whether your story has a single protagonist or a small group of people, it’s critical to clearly define what they’re pursuing. What’s the point?
Many authors try to depict a more emotional story rather than focusing on a ‘physical goal’ like a love interest, freedom, money, etc., and an ‘internal need’ like being good, kind, etc. They try to get “deep”. Physical goals get buried in the subtext for readers to discover on their own.
That’s all good and well and can make for a very successful book. However, an anti-plot story typically only works in the hands of a master storyteller. Aspiring authors just starting out should not take this route.
Stick with the pursuit of physical goals first. If your reader reaches page 10 and it isn’t crystal clear what everyone is after, then you’re going to have problems. Get to the point and stick with it.
Can I Handle the Criticism?
Just because a book is successful, it doesn’t mean everyone will love it. On the other hand, just because 5 publishers rejected your idea, it doesn’t mean one major publisher won’t love it.
Becoming an author can be an emotionally taxing pursuit, but just like any other big dream, there will be challenges.
You must have thick skin.
People will always have snide things to say, judge your creativity, and discourage you at every step. They absolutely DESTROY creativity. They can be great when you’re pitching title and cover ideas, but they can hurt your brainstorming, outlining, and creative writing process.
Find people that will support you no matter what, whether it’s friends, family, or a Facebook group of writers who share the same hopes and dreams as you. It will go a long way when you need it most.
Rejection hurts. Dream killers hurt. Negativity hurts.
Scream, yell or cry if you must, but always bounce back. If writing a successful book was easy, everyone would do it.
Plan for Success
Stories are living, breathing things that refuse to be tamed very quickly.
Thankfully, answering these 5 questions will put you on the right track toward success. When you nail the story’s protagonist and plot, give yourself realistic goals, and plan accordingly, everything else will either fall into place or reveal itself as you move along from the groundwork you’ve done and the foundation you’ve built.
Keep a positive attitude before you start writing all the way to the end.
You can do this.
You can be successful.