When I started out years ago with a burning need to write a book, I sat down and just started writing. I had no idea what I was doing. Consequently, at the end of NaNo that year I had 50,000 words that were useless. There was no story there. Just a meandering mess of stuff that happened.
Over five years I bought and read books on craft, marketing, writing, storytelling, and publishing. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of podcasts. I watched YouTube videos. I did BootCamp.
Why? Because I knew there was a playbook out there to follow.
If you’ve been around awhile, this is not new information. There’s an art to storytelling, but also some science. The good writers know that each genre has beats that they need to hit if they want to sell books. Some can instinctually do that, others have to learn (I follow the latter camp in case you were wondering).
Remember what I said about Justice League and the Marvel-esque playbook I wrote for them? Do that with your books. Look at what the big guys are doing and figure out how to apply that to your genre.
Play #1 – Learn the Beats
Read a good book on storytelling. Take notes.
Play #2 – Read in your genre
I know this is advice you’ve heard. Everyone says it. Writers are readers, blah blah blah. They’re not wrong. But being a reader isn’t the whole story.
You have to read like a writer.
Copy down those beats you’ve learned and then pull out a book in the genre you want to write. Now, as you read, find those beats. Make a note – how far in the book did they appear? How did that write handle them?
Play #3 – Plants
Plotter, pantser, whatever. Every great pantser I know has said that they at least have an idea of where they want to end up at the very least.
I would suggest that you take your beats and figure out where you want to end up (start with how you’ll get to beat #1). Write to that beat, then pick the next one. You can pants the story in between, but by the time you’re done you’ll have a very effective story skeleton that already hits the proper beats, even if you have to edit heavily.
Me? I do beat sheets. I plan out every beat, then add the in-between scenes to get me from major point to major point. If you need help with that, I’d suggest Tick-Tock Plot. That was the book that finally made beats click with me. I have my giant plot clock stored under my desk and I keep Post-It in business.
Play #4 – Write
Not just your now awesome book. Write down funny things you hear out and about. Write about your own feelings. Write down your childhood memories. All of that can be mined for story ideas and bits and pieces that add depth.
Also, write your book.
Look, those books at the top of the charts are there for a reason. Something they’re doing is resonating with the readers in that genre. Don’t go out and decide that you’re going to redefine the book world with your first killer novel. Start small.
And if anyone ever tells you that writing a Romance is easy, challenge them to write one. They’ll learn …
P.S. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Joyous Greetings! Enjoy your time with friends and family and try to sneak away to do some reading or writing this week? Okay?
P.P.S. There’s an affiliate link above. I read the book. I love the book. I’ll get a little Christmas bonus if you buy the book. That’s all.