How to Write a Book

Okay, I’m no expert on writing books, but I have written a few. One thing for sure, it’s not a song. See my post How to Write a Song.

Just as there’s no right way to write a song, there’s no right way to write a book. So, what I’m about to tell you may not work for you. Furthermore, the way I write a book will differ depending if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Let’s start with non-fiction.

When I write non-fiction, it’s all about planning, research, and organization. I create an outline of what I intend to write. Then I pen potential chapter titles based on that outline. I research the topic of each chapter in advance. Then I write and edit a chapter at a time. It’s a very methodical process, and although it’s something I’m fairly good at, I prefer to write fiction. But for me fiction is a totally different process.

Although it’s been several years since I completed my last fictional book, the third of a trilogy, I love writing fiction. Why? Because there are very few rules. When I write fiction it’s all about the story, the development of plot and character. I may sketch out some ideas, but I don’t outline the entire book. That would kill the mystery. Instead, the story unfolds. It’s like driving on a dark mountain road. You never know what’s around the next curve or over the next hill. There is a good combination of contemplation and spontaneity involved.

One thing I make a point to do when writing fiction is to make it move, attempt to write a page turner. There are several ways I work to accomplish this. First, short chapters or sections can soften the threat of reading. I tend to keep chapters short with little cliff-hanger endings. Second, I try balance narration and dialogue. Narration tells the story, but dialogue moves it. A balanced combination is key. Finally, foreshadowing and suspense are two elements that I love to use to help keep readers interested.

There’s a reason I haven’t written a book for a few years. Writing books takes much more commitment and discipline than writing songs or poetry. It takes months, or even years, to write a book vs. hours to days for most songs and poems. Once you commit to a book project, you need to write consistently, several hours a day. That’s something I’ve not had the leisure to do in the past few years. I wrote my trilogy when my daughter was younger. She slept a lot and I took advantage of that time.

Again, there’s no right way to write a book. It depends on the type of book and your own personal preferences. I personally enjoy the process of letting the story unfold as I write.

So, now for the big question? Will I write more books?┬áThe answer is not so simple. Life is uncertain. As I move closer to retirement, and as my daughter becomes an adult, it’s my hope that I might write a few more books. In the meantime, I invite you to read some of the titles I’ve already written. – dse

The Cult Trilogy


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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.