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Knowing this can help you relax about picking a starting point. You might discover your Chapter One right there. Write a character sketch or two.

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better

Ask yourself: What will this character be doing when we first meet him? Write it. Again, you might find yourself writing Chapter One. The truth is, you probably can write a great story starting from any of several places. In fact, I recommend it. The important thing at this point is to begin. This step might seem obvious, but too many first-time novelists try to lure the reader into a story by holding back the main character. Having a couple of subsidiary characters talking about the protagonist can be a terrific technique for character or plot development at some point, but not at the beginning of your novel.

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What do they know at the beginning? What will they learn going forward? What does their world mean to them? Who is the strongest character in your story?


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The main character, Stevens, is a weak man, yet his presence is as strong as a hero. Ishiguro gave him a voice that is absolutely certain, yet absolutely vacant of self-knowledge.

We know Stevens, and because we see his limitations, we know things will be difficult for him. Another common error many aspiring novelists make is trying to set an opening scene in too much depth. You want everybody to be in the same place with the story you are. Readers will trust you to fill in all the necessary information later. Pack punch into a few details. He lived in a seedy neighborhood in Kansas City. When the night freight passed, the windows rattled in their frames and the dog in the flat below barked like a maniac.

Ah, in those books the locale has been crafted with the same care as a character, and effectively used as one. Another way to introduce a setting is to show how a character feels about it. Petersburg, and this immediately puts us on the alert about him.

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The setting serves the character; it does not stand on its own. Your Chapter One must move along smartly, but in being economical you cannot become vague. Difficult, you say?

Subject Guide

Likewise, Cook, himself a doctor, knew that a patient prepped for surgery would typically be given a calming drug before the main anesthetic—and that some patients, somehow, do not find peace even under the medication, especially if they have reason not to. One of the reasons my novel Damn Straight, a story involving a professional golfer, won a Lambda Award is that I know golf, and let my years of painful experience inform the book.

You could show the dentist nattering on and on as dentists tend to do, and that would be realistic, but it could kill your chapter, as in this example:. Bored yet? Me too. Payne paused in his running commentary on dental history and put down his drill. Every chapter should have its own plot, none more important than Chapter One. There is no one formula because following a formula would rob stories of their true potential. You may already have a title for your book in mind.

But something we want just as much if not more is for readers to actually find your book! Editing is a valuable investment. Your book and its message might be amazing, but if too many errors slip through, your readers will notice and voice their opinion in a review like this, which ultimately will lower your overall rating. If your book is more than words long, you should send it off to a professional editor for proofing. Yes, you can go over it yourself and let your significant other read through it. But letting a third unbiased, independent, and professional party look over it will make your manuscript so much better, given you have an experienced editor.

When it comes to picture books, there are a number of different orientations to choose from. This decision needs to be made early on because your illustrations will depend greatly on the orientation you choose for your book. Below are the most common sizes.

If you plan on having your images cover the entire page, make sure to add 0. The larger your image, the better — at least 2, pixels per side, preferably larger. Take printing into account. Just make sure the aspect ratio remains the same if you should decide to resize your images.

For picture books, I usually like to work backward. Remember — this is not the final layout. This is just meant to help you determine which illustrations you would like to include so that you can get ready to find and hire an illustrator. This step is also helpful if you are planning to create your illustrations yourself.

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You just want to get the essence of the story right, so be loose and expressive, and have some fun. How you combine your text and illustrations is really a design question and completely up to you. But because the creation process depends on your chosen combination, you will have to decide in advance so you can let your illustrator know. It will also look consistent across different devices.

Marketing Basics for Writers

Here, I have added a layer underneath the text to make it stand out from the background. These tools, most of them free, let you do that with ease. Whether you're a professional writer or a student planning to be one, professional organizations can provide useful resources, support, and information that can make you a better, more successful writer. Solid rhetoric and persuasive writing skills can help any kind of writing be more effective. Here are just a few resources that can help you build your abilities. The following tools include everything from word counters to image databases and can help improve the speed and content of your writing.

Thinking of a word but can't pinpoint what it is? These resources offer help with spelling, definitions, synonyms, rhyming, and more. If you need a little help with editing and revising your work, consider these sources for some perspective and guidance. Whether you're writing a term paper or a book, these links can help you streamline and improve your research and writing.

These tools can help writers pen their latest work from almost anywhere, with some boasting features that make it easier to concentrate, organize ideas, and share work as well.