So I wrote a book about how I wrote my books. In it, I covered things like lore, character development, dialog, and planning. I thought, what if I showed some of my chapters here.
What you'll find below is one of the chapters from my book "How I wrote my books, And you can too." I hope it helps someone, but I'll understand if no one bothers to read it. Still, if you do read it and get anything from it, I'd ask that you let me know. Also, feel free to check out some of my books and see how I used some of my advice to put together my work.
Chapter 2 Planning
Now that you have a purpose for your story, it's time to start planning. You want to know seven things before you move on to writing the pages of your book:
- How many chapters do you want your book to be?
Deciding how many chapters to make your book doesn't need to be complicated. Remember your Purpose is the backbone of everything.
If you have a complex or complicated Purpose, you may need several chapters to tell your story properly. Twelve chapters will likely be your bare minimum. I would recommend at least 30 to 45 chapters for a highly complex story.
If you have a relatively simple Purpose, 12 chapters will likely be your maximum. When writing children's books, you may not require chapters at all.
It's also important to keep in mind how long each of your chapters are. A good word count for a single chapter is anywhere from 1,000 words to 5,000 words. You can make your chapters as long as you like, but be careful not to set arbitrary standards; otherwise, you run the risk of writing unnecessary filler. What matters most is the substance of your writing, not the length of it.
Most books have between 10 to 12 chapters, but that's not set in stone. Light novels tend to have an average of 8 chapters. Children's books tend to be 1,000 words long, the length of a relatively short chapter. Some novels are 30 or 40 chapters long, while others have as many as 200.
Pick a number of chapters you feel are reasonable and achievable to complete and are long enough to fulfill the job of exploring your Purpose.
- From what perspective will you tell your story?
You need to pick perspective and tens to tell your story from.
Past tense such as "He said, I said" is the most common approach used by authors. It's classic, and readers feel comfortable with it. Present tense such as "He says, I say" is more modern but may be difficult for readers to accept over the classic. You can choose either of the two, but there is a rule. You must stick with the one you select throughout the entirety of your book. Switching between the two can confuse readers.
There are four perspectives most authors use.
First-person is told from a specific narrator’s perspective. For example: “I did this, I wanted that.”
Second person is written as if the narrative happens from the reader’s perspective, or as if it’s a conversation with an invisible character. For example: “You did this, you did that.”
Third-person limited is tied to one character’s thoughts and perspective at a time. If the perspective shifts, it’s almost as if the camera is handed to another character. For example: “He did this, she did that, but he wasn’t sure why she did what she did.”
Third-person omniscient is like a god’s-eye perspective. Sometimes this means an all-seeing narrator who is almost another character, other times, it’s just a dispassionate voice describing thoughts and actions. For example: “He did this, she did that, he was thinking this, she was thinking that.”
When choosing your perspective, it's essential to stick with it throughout your entire book.
Some genres are typically written in the first person, others in the third. Second person is rare. You don't have to choose a specific perspective because of your genre, but if you feel a need to fit more in line with the mainstream, there's nothing wrong with that.
- What genre would you like your book to fit into?
Remember to think of your purpose. You can tell a horror story, but if your Purpose is to show the divide between the wealthy and impoverished, how will that genre help? Your genre will also significantly affect the tone of your book. There are many genres, and it's up to you to decide which best fits your Purpose, but also which most excites you.
Some authors enjoy writing fantasy, and others prefer science fiction. Some authors like to tell comedies, and others like to tell tragedies. In most cases, a single book can fit into multiple genres at a time. What matters most is that you know which genre you want as your primary, so you'll have a semblance of consistency throughout your story.
- Who is/are your main character/characters?
You don't need a name. Just an idea of them will be enough for now. Your main character should be directly connected to your book's Purpose: their life, their backstory, their personality. You want to have an idea of how they live, breathe, and think. If your Purpose is to show how growing up wealthy helps and hurts people, perhaps your main character is the son of a billionaire. Or maybe your main character is poor but came to live with a person of significant wealth.
Your main character has to be memorable. They have to be the star. Please don't make the mistake of making them an oddball with a hundred quarks. A memorable character doesn't have to be crazy or unrealistic. Realizing their life's depth, crafting life's challenges, and giving layers to their personality can accomplish more than you might think.
- Where is your story taking place?
Is your story taking place in space, on earth, in a cave, Spain, or America? Is it Spring, Summer, or Fall? Time also matters. The 18 hundreds were much different from the two thousands. How will this setting affect your ability to explore your Purpose? It'll control your character's clothes, the food they eat, and their cultural norms. When you pick a setting, you begin to define the abstract.
- What are the major plot points of your book, and where do they fit in?
Now that you have your Purpose, an idea of your main character, and a setting, it's time to map out the story. What do you want to happen? What conversations do you want to feature? What do you want to happen to the characters? You don't need every detail; just general ideas is enough for now. Figure out the major plot points you have to feature, then decide what chapters you want them to happen in. This is the skeleton of your story.
Each of your major plot points should do at least 1 of 3 things. Develop characters, move the story along, or help illustrate your Purpose. If your plot points don't do at least 1 of these things, they aren't essential and may need to be taken out. If your plot points can do all 3 of these things, then you know they're strong.
I recommend having at least one major plot point per chapter. Two is alright. Three may be too many.
- What are your writing standards?
Now that you have your skeleton, you need to start building and adding to it.
How long would you like to take writing this story? When I write my books, I try to finish a complete story in three months. I don't always hit my mark, but other authors do.
It's important to give yourself a deadline so you'll have a sense of urgency motivating you to write. Even if you don't make your deadline, it's good to have one. Another way to track your work and make sure you finish your book is to set time for your writing. Schedule at least an hour a day to do nothing but write—set minimums. Try to write 1,000 words a day, or five pages a week.
This is your project.
No one else is going to make you finish it. Hound yourself, motivate yourself. Take it little by little but don't stop until you have the last word written.
And I understand, we don't always have schedules that leave chunks of time to be filled. Get creative. If you're on break at work, write something. If you're in the bathroom, write something. If you're taking a train, bus, or uber, write something. When you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night, if you don't do anything else, try to write something. It can seem like an impossible task, but it's only a challenge of determination.