Advice on how to start writing a book is quite different from tips on how to finish a book. What genre your novel will fall in, how long it should be and what writing style should you follow are questions that the author is best qualified to address. The bigger challenge for most first time writers working on their novel or non-fiction books is about putting the lid on the project and completing the book.
I have a friend who is a voracious reader, has an excellent grasp on the English language and has dissected almost all genres. She’s tried her hand at writing as well. Her style is unique (I’m guessing, as I don’t have statistics to compare). She just starts off on a thought process that catches her fantasy. It could be a personality trait, a plot or just a bunch of unlinked ideas. She then lets the characters ‘tell’ her how the story should unfold. Her biggest hurdle has been completing the story.
After completing a few chapters, the characters take over and the author becomes more of a ringmaster trying to discipline and coerce them into completing the performance. I thought that was a very interesting approach with a challenge that I was only able to partially appreciate.
My approach for my MBA book has been very different. It was non-fiction to begin with, but it still had ‘fictional’ characters tackling ‘real’ issues. Then there was the additional complexity of weaving the ‘real’ content with the ‘fictional’ part in a seamless manner. Not too easy. I couldn’t afford the characters to run riot and mess up the real focus of my book. But for USP reasons, it couldn’t be like a regular serious, high-brow business book.
I used a customised ‘fishbone’ approach. Basically, the way it worked was as follows. I had a high level theme in place about what I wanted the primary message in the book to be. That was the backbone. Then I worked out the individual chapters again at a high level. Each chapter in turn was broken up into sections and sub-sections. Sounds very logical, but it wasn’t. I still had to make significant structural changes as I went along. But there was never a feeling of being completely lost at any point in time.
The books got a lot of book reviews from readers, but I’m also keen to see what other writers think about it. If you have already read it, let me know how successful I was in meshing the fiction and non-fiction elements. Also, keen to know what you would have done to make it better. I’d love some creative inputs to make the second edition more intriguing.
Btw, what’s your writing style? Are you the my-characters-are-free-birds types or would you rather have them on a tight leash? How do you ensure that the book gets completed as planned? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.