In a recent study, only 3% of writers finish their novels. That means an incredible 97% of people have an idea for a book, start writing, but never finish!
How can you be part of that 3%? The answer is an effective system.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I can almost hear you say: but Karen, what about creativity? What about the muse? And my personal favourite, I’ll feel stifled!
Hear me out. A system is not there to suppress your creativity; in fact, it’s the opposite. Knowing you have a plan will allow you to relax and focus on the writing rather than trying to keep track of all the moving parts. And there are a lot of moving parts!
For me personally, using this system which I have developed over the last three years has helped me get a literary agent, secure a 3-book publishing deal, write an award-winning novel, and write an international number 1 best seller.
It’s also helped me do all this while running a business and balancing family life which, with 2 young children, is incredibly demanding!
While I don’t get it right every time – there are days when it’s just chaos – having a system and plan in place to help write my book has made everything much easier.
So let’s get into it. Here is my 8-step framework that I use to write every book which you can apply to own your manuscript:
STEP 1: SETTING UP FOR SUCCESS
Miss this step at your peril! When I begin work on a new book, I always get clear on why I’m writing this particular book.
Is it for money? (Bearing in mind the average author salary in the UK is just £17,000 pounds!)
Is it for prestige?
A creative outlet?
A legacy for your children?
It’s important to get clear on this and then print it out and keep it visible in your workspace.
During this step, I also make sure I have the right environment for writing, my goals are written down and I’ve addressed any barriers to my work (anyone else trying to work from home with kids?!)
STEP 2: THE BIG IDEA
Your book is nothing if it doesn’t have this - a central premise that sits at the heart of your book. Coming up with ideas can be hard; it may feel like everything has been done before, which it has, but NOT BY YOU. What is your unique take?
During this step, I also brainstorm other ideas (read this post to see how I do that) with the aim of having a bank of ideas that could be sub plots or ideas for character. It’s a great document to have on those days when I’m lacking inspiration.
STEP 3: CHARACTER
This step is all about creating believable, relatable, likeable characters, even villains! As a writer you must love your characters – if you don’t, your readers won’t either. If you’re writing non-fiction, the character could be you, but the same principle still applies – how do you make your character likeable?
STEP 4: PLOT
For those of you writing fiction, plot is what happens to your characters. At this point, you should also be thinking about the pace of your narrative as well as what timeframe, perspective, and person you will be writing in. If you’re writing non-fiction, this will differ slightly. The plot is still focusing on your character though – what happens to the main character in the book? What was their main obstacle and how did they overcome it?
STEP 5: CHAPTER PLANNING
Not every author plans each chapter but it helps enormously if you at least know the beginning, the middle, and the end. You don’t want to spend a year writing a book only to discover that your ending doesn’t work. At this stage, I usually write a synopsis of the book and highlight any topics I need to research.
STEP 6: WRITING
Finally, it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get that first draft down on paper.
STEP 7: EDITING & FEEDBACK
Editing is one of my favourite parts of the process. I’ve already accomplished a massive amount of work with a first draft and now it’s time to craft the manuscript. I do many rounds of editing focusing on different elements of the story. Once finished, it’s then about finding and briefing beta readers.
STEP 8: PUBLISHING
There are various publishing options, from traditional publishing to vanity publishing and this final step can be challenging to know what’s right for you. While you’re deciding, just remember that you have already accomplished what 97% of writers were unable to do - you FINISHED your manuscript and that is definitely worth celebrating.
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