Society & Culture & Entertainment Writing

How to Write a Book Program

    • 1). Plan and brainstorm. Clustering is a technique (developed by Dr. Gabriele Rico) to help your students discover what they want to write. A good place to start is to have them write down "Fiction" or "Nonfiction" in the center of a piece of paper, then circle it.

      Next, have them write down what type of genre the book will be if it is fiction: i.e. literary, mystery, romance, thriller, inspirational, adventure, or western. If the book is to be a nonfiction, note whether it's a self help, how-to, memoir, biography, informational or reference book. Circle that word, then link it to the other circled word with a line.

      Next, have them write down a word or topic that is central to the theme of the book, circle it, link it, then think of other words that describe or enhance this theme, plot idea, characters, characteristics, descriptions, feelings, sensory impressions, important dates, or important details to be included. Circle and connect each of these concepts. Have them fill the page or pages until they can't think of anything else.

      Now they review their clusters, cross out irrelevant words, then, on a separate sheet of paper, start outlining the book using the clusters or individually bubbled words. This outline will be a living guide for the book, subject to change at any given time.

      Have the students write a summary of what the book is it about.

      Have them begin noting possible titles for the book. Every time another possible title comes to mind through the entire process of writing the book, write it down. These two elements need to be memorable, exciting, and promise some sort of benefit for the reader.

      Next, they need to write down who would be interested in reading their book.

    • 2). Create the Body. Go through the rough outline and put a star beside all of the words, concepts, or scenes that elicit an immediate insight or story.

      Have students begin to fill the body of their book by freewriting. There are many proponents of freewriting, each having their own unique approach. Some of the innovators include Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, and Dr. Elizabeth Neeld. We'll begin with one of Dr. Neeld's techniques from her book, "Yes! You can Write." Have them pick one of the starred words, concepts, scenes from their outline, and say to themselves, "In this selection I'm going to write about ______." Now they write everything that comes to mind for five minutes without stopping. If they can't think of anything to write for a second, they write, "I can't think of anything to write."

      If there's more to say on the topic, pick the aspect, point, or concept that they want to focus on next, repeat the "In this section" sentence, filling the blank with it, then writing for another five minutes. They keep this up in class or at home until the entire outline has been addressed.

    • 3). Structure, organize, research and plot. Have students go through their outline and body of work so far and begin to section the manuscript into chapters. Break into topics or scenes. Research topics or scenes to insure their accuracy and poignancy.

      Have them develop a chronology. Decide on the narrative voice, tense, and POV (point of view) to use for the book. For instance, an autobiography, memoir, and sometimes a novel, will be narrated in first person, past tense. A self-help, how-to, or instruction type of book will likely be in second person, present tense. A novel is most often in third person, past tense.

      Next look at the pacing, arc or flow of the book. Vary the narrative, description, action, and dialogue if it's fiction, memoir or biography. No matter which genre or venue, it has the greatest impact when it engages the senses and emotions.

      Have those who are writing fiction be attentive to their characters. There must be challenges that arise to bring out the personality flaws and strengths. In other words, there must be at least a protagonist and antagonist. Christopher Vogel is quite effective in helping to develop character archetypes and plot employing Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey" approach. Mary Carroll Moore devised an exercise to storyboard characters' inner and outer stories, goals, or agendas.

    • 4). Edit, revise, prepare manuscript, and check facts and research.

      Have students type up the first draft of their manuscript and print it in Courier, double spaced.

      Have them read what they've written aloud to themselves softly in class or at home. This will help a great deal with punctuation, pacing, and flow.

      Advise them to remove or rewrite clichés, delete unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, vague, general words, and words too oft repeated.

      Urge them to use active voice at the beginning of the sentence, avoid passive voice wherever possible, and remove all unnecessary "thats."

      Finally, have them partner up with another student as a 'reading buddy.'

      Advise them to have their manuscript professionally edited, if they can afford it, before querying an agent or publisher. Much more is expected of the writer today.

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