Five Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Book

Updated on July 1, 2018
Elizabeth Bradstr profile image

I am a full-time student and avid reader and writer, hoping to obtain my Master's Degree in English.

What’s your favorite book? Was it something you picked up from a library or bookstore? Did you get it as a birthday gift? Were you recommended it by a friend? Were you required to read it in school? Whatever the reason, most avid readers can name their favorite (or their favorite few).

Whether a book is science fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, or nonfiction, the good ones all have certain things in common. Understanding what these books do right is the key to understanding how to write a book people will want to read. You should know your characters, do your research, plan your plot, advertise appropriately, and edit thoroughly. If you do each of these things, your book is much more likely to make waves.

"The more you know what a character would say and do as a real person, the more dynamic and interesting they will seem to the reader."

1. Characters

Characters are, by far, one of the most important aspects of a book. The main character(s) don’t necessarily have to be likable, but they should be as real as possible. How do you make a character real? It’s simple! The key to a realistic character is giving them traits. People often say to give characters negative traits, but there’s no such thing.

The same trait can be positive or negative. It’s all about the situation you place your characters in. For instance, a character stops to help someone whose car broke down. We see them as compassionate until it is revealed they were tricked by a cunning criminal. Then, in our eyes, they become foolish and too trusting of strangers. A reporter is admirably determined to deliver a story until their curiosity gets them hurt. Then, they become someone too stupid to know when to quit.

What’s the point of this? Well, traits given to characters give them depth. They allow the reader to empathize with the character, and it will make them want to follow the character through their journey. They are less likely to put the book down if they find themselves relating to or even simply enjoying the character.

You should know things like your characters':

  • Age and Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Political Stance
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Hobbies
  • Values
  • Maybe even their Hogwarts House.

The more you know what a character would say and do as a real person, the more dynamic and interesting they will seem to the reader.

2. Do Your Research

People say “write what you know”, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the setting of your story the same place in which you live. What the saying means is that you should write about things you’re familiar with.

If you aren’t familiar with something, do your research. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing an author inaccurately describe something like a stay at a hospitable or an injury. This will break the immersion for your reader, and it can make your story hard to enjoy.

"Your story doesn’t have to have a lesson or a moral to it, but it should go somewhere."

3. The Story

Flash fiction writers are famous for their short stories that can end in the middle of a sentence, but writing a book is much longer and requires more planning. I have read many books that started off with a strong premise that only weakened as the pages turned. Some parts of the plot were captivating and, in other chapters, it would feel like nothing occurred, and the endings always felt rushed. These books left me feeling dissatisfied and occasionally frustrated, and I hesitate to read books by the same authors.

Planning a captivating story is the essence of writing a good book. A good character can only do so much in a story that goes nowhere.

Now, I don’t mean you should plan out every scene to the smallest detail, but every author should have at least a rough idea of where the story is going. A story with little to no planning can result in pointless scenes or simply confusion for the reader.

Have exposition and world-building. Take the time to flesh out the setting and set up the conflict.

A well-planned story will not only keep the reader engaged but help ensure that they are willing to read more of your content. Write with a purpose.

Your story doesn’t have to have a lesson or a moral to it, but it should go somewhere.

4. Know Your Genre

I, like many other people, enjoy a good romance, but the romance must be well written. It is perfectly fine to blend genres. Do you want a romance set in a fantasy world? By all means, write away!

The problem occurs when subplots are shoved into stories as afterthoughts. A story can contain other genres and subplots, but they should make sense in the story.

I often see a movie or read a book expecting one thing, only to have a half-baked romance shoved in my face. If the subplot is a direct cause or result of the main plot, I think it is appropriate and even appreciate it. But if a book simply includes something like a romance subplot to attract more readers, I often find myself unable to enjoy it.

This is because, when something is done simply to attract more consumers, people can tell. It does not come across as genuine or interesting. It comes across as a cheap ploy that only serves to drive most serious consumers away. Make the events of your story appropriate to the plot and characters. Something artificial will surely affect how well your book does and how you come across as an author.

5. Edit

Most writers try to become published authors, and this often includes having your story professionally edited by a publishing company. However, more and more people are becoming self-published authors.

This can mean that the author themselves is the one to edit their work. This is perfectly acceptable if you remember some key things:

  • Keep a consistent style. Changing your diction or usual flow can cause confusion for the reader.
  • Watch for proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Nothing breaks the immersion of a book like seeing a word misspelled or not having the proper subject-verb agreement. If these errors occur often enough in your story, it becomes difficult to continue reading the book.
  • And make sure your sentences make sense. Reread what you write aloud. It helps you notice any mistakes you may have made and didn’t catch.

I Hope This Helps

I hope this advice helped. I gathered this through my personal experience as a reader, and the advice I have been given as an author. I hope to see some new bestselling books soon!

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