People often ask me, “Why do you write,” and “I want to write a book, how do I do it?” There is no universal answer to those questions any more than one can answer, “How high is up?”
Speaking for myself, I have many ideas running around in my little brain so it is important to focus on one or two. So first, choose an idea or message. Next, write an outline of the direction you want your story to flow. I do mine by chapters, listing 10 or 12 chapter titles, but that number always increases as the story develops. Next, pencil in some of the main characters and notate where you want them to go. That is the last time you will tell the characters what to do. Afterward, you let them tell you where they go, who they meet, what they see, their fears, points of pride, and any other trait that defines your main characters.
Now comes the most important part. WRITE! FOCUS. Create a time and place where you can really focus. I have the good fortune of having an office and can close the door to shout out anything other than my story. I usually write after eating breakfast and doing my daily crossword puzzle, about 9:00, then write until lunch. That gives me three or so solid hours to focus, REALLY focus. Sometime when my characters are talking to me I hear nothing else and see nothing else. Not a rapping at my door nor traffic outside, nor the phone, nor any other distraction. I call these times, “getting into a zone.” They don’t happen every day, but when they do, I sometimes continue writing for hours beyond lunch.
You may ignore spelling and grammar, and minor mistakes until you’re ready to tidy up the document. Note your word count. If you’re writing a novel, 80,000 words is usually a sweet spot. That or the number of words publishers like in a novel. That means, don’t stop writing until you approach 180,000 words. When you reach that number you might need some help editing, cleaning up the document, and the most difficult of all, cutting the superfluous stuff that you consider sacred but your editor redlines. A good editor is essential at this point.
It is important to start another file for cuts and deletions. but KEEP THAT FILE. Much of it can be used for future writing ventures. “There Lives of Peter Novak” ended up to be about 82,000 words, but my cuts and deletions file contains over 100,000 words. Consider this a resource, not a scrap heap.
Final words: the two best ways to become a writer is to study (read) and practice (write). It is analogous to what a successful athlete does. Study your opponent, and practice your technique.