Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Nov 24, 2008
Proving that I’m good at internal linking, let’s quickly mention the first three parts of this series again. Part one talked about coming up with the concept for whatever it is you want to write about. Part two discussed how to plan the steps you want to take before writing your book. Part three talked about determining when you wanted to write and what method you were going to take.
Those were the steps to take before actually putting a word down on paper. This next part actually talks about putting something down on paper, and it’s the only part that will cover that.
Every person has to write about whatever it is they want to write about. However, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the truth of the matter is that whatever you’re writing, you’re telling a story about something. If you’re writing a romance novel, you’re telling the story about love and intrigue and sex, and hopefully you’re telling your story in a flowing manner, something meant to draw the reader into the story. If you’re writing an article on how to make money online, you’re trying to tell the story about things you believe in, have tested or read about, and hoping to convey it to your reader in such a manner that it’s actually touching them and they’re understanding it, because we all know if people don’t understand us, they won’t come back.
Every person I’ve ever met knows how to tell a story. Even those people who say they have absolutely no idea how to tell a story can tell a good one if you ask them something about themselves and their lives. Storytelling is one of those things that’s come down through history, and even the quietest people have a story to tell, and when you give them a chance, they can usually tell good stories, whether you care about the subject matter or not.
Let’s think about it in a different way. I believe that you write for yourself. This means that the story you’re telling is initially for you, whether you’re going to share it or not.
If you’re going to tell yourself a story, how do you do it? If you’re imagining a story, how do you tell yourself what’s going on in your imagination? Do you see in your mind that you walked out of a door and got into a car? Or do you see yourself walking up to your front door, which is painted white and styled in a Victorian manner, turned the brass knob, stepped outside onto the porch of the front of the house, which faces a set of small ranch houses of differing colors, turned around to lock the door, then you proceeded to take a step down onto your sidewalk, which curved around on your lawn towards the driveway, where your red Mustang sits waiting for you to get in and drive to the store?
The second one may be a bit much, but it’s an indication that when one dreams and when one tells a story, there are elements in the telling of a story that helps to set the tone and the mood of the story being told. Yet, I’ve noticed that when many people start writing, they leave out things, and therefore may not quite capture their audience, even if the audience is themselves.
I used to write two business newsletters. Many times I tend to tell a story that helps me highlight the point I’m trying to make. I find it helps people relate to those articles and also helps them remember what I’m talking about at the time.
Obviously, the art of telling a story can be applied to more than just books, but when it comes to writing a book, even a serious one, it’s a very important step to think about. I mentioned detective stories in the first part of this series because I love those types of books. Some writers give you every single beat you’re expecting, every spoken nuance of each character, in vivid detail. Some writers will tell you more about what someone is thinking than what’s being said. Some writers will capture the surroundings in finite detail, hoping that you’ll be able to visualize the surroundings exactly as they have laid them out.
It doesn’t matter how detailed you want to get. Tom Clancy writes some very long, detailed books because he loves to establish every single detail of something, even if he’s only going to allude to it one more time, for only a couple of pages, later on in the book. Someone else, like Clive Cussler, likes to get right to the point, and doesn’t bother with too many extraneous points; action is his realm.
When you’re ready to write, and while you’re writing, think about the story you’re trying to tell. Think about entertaining yourself first, because if you can hold your own attention, you’ll be able to hold the attention of someone else. That’s all for this step; next time, your book is written. It’s time for editing.