Frequently asked questions about writing a book

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Erik Deckers

As the author of several books, I’m often asked what it takes to write a book. If that’s what you want to do yourself, here’s a handy guide to help you.

I want to write a book.

Was that a question? This is called Frequently Asked QUESTIONS, not Frequently Blurted Out Vague Statements.

I want to write a book?

*sigh*

What is, I want to write a book?

That’s it! I’m changing topics.

No, really. That’s my question. How do I write a book? Or how do I get started?

That’s a better question. The first thing is to figure out your writing style. That is, are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

A what?

Plotters, also called Planners, outline their book before they ever get started. They create detailed outlines and write character guides and backstories to figure out what the book is about. That can take a few hours or a few weeks. Then they fill in the gaps.

Pantsers just fly by the seat of their pants. They make it up as they go along.

Then what are Planters?

Pots or boxes that hold flowers. Their books are not very good. Or do you mean Plantsers?

Yes, Plantsers. What are those?

First, thank you for sticking with the question format. A Plantser is someone who writes a basic outline but makes it up as they write to the outline. For example, “Chapter 1: Dirk Facepunch is hired by Stella Dangercurves to investigate a robbery. Chapter 2: Dirk is warned by the police and the mob to stay away from the case.” And that’s it. There are no character lists or idea of what happens until they reach that point.

What if I get stuck in my story?

This is why you should be a plotter. You’ll always know what is coming next in your story.

But what if I’m a pantser?

If you’re ever stuck for an idea, try writing, “Suddenly, a shot rang out,” and proceed from there.

Seriously?

Oh, yeah. It made my business books a lot more interesting.

Hilarious. How do I find an agent and a publisher?

Are you done with your book yet?

No.

Then this is not the time to think about agents and publishers.

So when should I start thinking about it?

Later. Much later.

But I—

Have you even started on your book?

No.

Do you even have an idea for the book?

(Sulky pause) No.

Then drop it. Look for an agent and publisher when your first draft is done, not before.

What if my first draft isn’t very good?

There’s no question about that. It will absolutely be terrible.

You’re so mean!

I’m completely serious. No one’s first draft is very good. Absolutely. No. One.

The first draft is about getting the story out. The editing process is where you hammer it into a usable shape. You’ll want to edit your story six, seven, even eight times before it’s finished.

What should I write about? I hear post-apocalyptic young adult romance is very popular.

Rule number one about writing a—

Plus, she’s a vampire.

Rule number—

And the Chosen One.

That sounds terrible. Rule number one is to never chase the money. That is, don’t write what you think is popular just because it’s popular. Do you even read post-apocalyptic young adult vampire romance novels?

No.

Then don’t write those. Write about the things you love. What kinds of books do you read?

I don’t read very much.

Seriously? You need to be a reader. Writers are readers! You need to read a lot in the genre you want to write about. Otherwise, you’re just a vegan trying to open a burger restaurant.

But I don’t want to open a restaurant. And I’m not a vegan.

That was an analogy.

What’s an analogy?

Great googly-moogly!

Just kidding, I know what an analogy is. I mean, what is I know what an analogy is?

Meh, points for trying.

Seriously, though, don’t write a book just because the genre is popular. It will be a lot harder because you won’t understand the genre’s basic structure or popular tropes. Or you’ll write about something that no one cares about anymore.

So what should I write about?

Write in the genre you like to read. If you read a lot of mysteries, then write a mystery. If you like science fiction, write a scifi story. Go on a reading binge and read as many books as you can on that subject.

I also recommend subscribing to Kindle Unlimited (KU), which is like Netflix for books. You borrow books on your Kindle and read them before returning them.

Shouldn’t I just support my local library?

Touché. You absolutely should support your local library. That’s another great source for your genre. But I recommend KU because there are so many new authors there that you’ll see the latest trends and learn what people like to read.

How much do you get paid?

Hey, look, we’re out of time. Thank you for your wonderful questions.

But—

‘Bye-bye, now!

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