Writing your first book is the most courageous you would do besides confessing your feelings to your first love. It’s nerve-wracking, leaving your sleepless. But once done, it leaves an empty space in your heart and mind, followed by another sleepless nights due to anxiety.
Writing your first book sounds daunting. If not, the scariest moment you couldn’t ever forget. Writing itself is a tedious work.
The whole process is 100% hard work. In the end, it feels rewarding. Especially after you type in the last word of your first novel.
In this post, I don’t want to roam around the bush and I’ll share the exact steps I did to write Accidental Quest in 30 days.
Writing My First Book Experience
To me, when I stared at the blank page is the most daunting, wondering what I should type first. It happened on the 21st day of August this year. The time I wrote Accidental Quest Book 1 of the Trilogy.
At that time, I promised myself I should finish the book no matter what within 30 days. Normally, even great authors like Stephen King write a book for around 60 days versus 30 days to a nobody like me.
It’s an insane plan. Thank God, I made it.
I started scribbling on a word processor that day and continued for 8 hours. Sometimes 10. It depends on how much I can write that day. And continue the next chapter the next day.
The system went on for 30 days.
Non-stop planning, particularly on the plot, the details I have to review to make sure my characters are great (in my eyes) and revise, revise, revise.
After a month, I finished the first book on September 24 with 100,000 words.
Even after my deadline, I continued revising. I read books about self-editing – a lot of them – to improve my work. So, I could say the time I finished I saw my thick printed manuscript in front of my eyes, I was teary-eyed.
This is what I want to share with you. I want you to experience how it feels like to finish your first book, feeling proud with the result.
In spite of the fear, think of it as a challenge. Can you do it? Can you write a novel?
Of course, you can. Everybody can.
It may sound scary today. Let me be blunt at you. Forget that fear and step up. Rather, prove yourself you can stand up against your limits by starting that book you want to write.
To how much your determination, hard work, and persistence last en route to your first published work.
Your first book.
How did I write my novel in 30 days?
I’ll share everything in this post the exact things I did to guide you how rewarding it is. Before that, I’d like you to download your FREE eBook on how to start writing your novel without cluttering your plot or killing your characters for the sake of ending your story. It’s around 30+ pages, which took me days to make it.
How To Start Writing Your First Book
I started my writing journey as a pantser, which means I sit in front of my laptop and start writing without plans. I don’t deny that humble beginning.
Without index cards. Without planning the characters. Nothing but my guts and skill at the tip of my fingers.
This method works for some, sometimes for me. But in the long run, I don’t like the idea of not having advanced planning for the plot.
Sometime in 2017, I wrote my first Filipino Historical Fiction 30 Days With Mr. Weirdo for my readers on Wattpad. You can read it here.
With a big promise of weekly updates, the pressure became unbearable leading to my first writing chaos.
I got lost in between and I had no single idea how to move on to the next chapter. That’s when I tried to create a system for my writing.
The unorganized system I lead me to intense planning. From the premise to the plot itself is planned.
First Step: Write a strong premise.
The premise is the overall plot. And this is your first step.
It’s sometimes in one or two sentences containing the entire story. It’s a quick synopsis. Within these sentences, you – as the author – need to create strong, compelling plot.
If you don’t see your story impressive in your premise, you have to keep revising until you craft the best one.
It’s just 1 to 2 sentences. Yet it requires so much of your time. It took me around 2 weeks to finalize my premise after countless number of revisions.
Why? There are many factors to consider to create a compelling story.
Here’s mine in my book Accidental Quest (Book 1):
So, how do you write your premise?
- You have to know the core structure of your story. What is it about? Who are your character and his/her limitations? Strengths and weaknesses? What journey awaits them? Who is responsible for their difficulties?
- You have to have a compelling story. For me, a story is a colorful world of flawed characters affecting their life and others. But their desire to achieve a particular thing lets them overcome these imperfections.
- You follow the template. It follows with the questions: What, Who, Why, Where, & How. Like journalism, you need clarity for your story. As an author, you need to see the whole story by looking at it.
Let’s take mine as an example.
Who is the main character? = a not-so-brilliant college student
What is her problem? = She fears she might fail in her Philosophy class and wouldn’t graduate soon.
When does it take place? = A month before graduation day (around February)
Where would the adventure take her? = She learns about the notorious assassin’s life twenty years ago.
How did the adventure open doors for her? = She decodes the hidden messages in an old book.
(WHO) A not-so-brilliant college student, (WHAT) forced by the academic requirement to pass and graduate, (implied WHERE & HOW) decodes the mystery behind the infamous murderer’s life twenty years ago by hidden messages in an old book.
Second Step: Place important scenes on index cards.
For my first book, I had around 15 index cards with separate scenes written on top and the details in bullets below. I didn’t mix them up.
I have to separate each scene to avoid problems with arranging which scene goes next. In each index card, I also place the dialogue or at least the key points what the character/s will say in a conversation.
When you’re a bit techie, you can use novel writing apps like Scrivener or Dabble Writer, which I love than the former. I used Dabble in my novels since I first knew it on NaNoWriMo 2018. It’s one of the sponsors and I immediately checked the app out.
What so cool about this application is Jacob, the creator of this wonderful writing software, is generous enough to give 50% discount to me when I reached the minimum 50,000-word count for the annual writing event. You can check the app here.
I’ve been there and it was my mistake. I thought that by avoiding this step will make my writing easier and faster only to find out it wasn’t.
Third Step: Create a novel outline.
A novel outline is the skeleton of every fiction you’re writing. An essential tool every author should have or else you’re messing up your own writing. I know it felt because I’ve been there.
To do that, there are many ways you can create the novel outline. What I do is to have the index cards with me (near the laptop) while I type in the chapter to chapter outline.
Yes, it’s done per chapter. I’ve written a more detailed post about this, which you can read here.
With the use of the index cards, it’s easy for me to choose which scenes go first and which is next. In the outline, I place the main thought of the chapter or a general idea of what’s going to happen in that chapter. For example,
MAIN SCENE: Giovanni meets Alexandra, confesses his love.
- Detail 1: He invites her to dinner, recalling their journey together as friends.
- Detail 2: Alexandra shares her difficult past, including her hurdle with her stepfather, Monsour.
Most of the time, I include conversations and bullet points indicating the necessary object or action the character/s must have or do as the highlight of the chapter.
This is the first page of my novel outline, containing the important details I think the novel needs.
Fourth Step: Set your writing time.
This is very important to me. When I wrote Accidental Quest last August, I had set my writing time from 12 noon to eight in the evening. It sounds a lot of time.
It’s not, if you really enjoy what you’re doing.
Right now, it’s tough with a day-job (8-9 hours per day) + writing a chapter before going to bed or sometimes after I wake up or in between. If you think it’s really difficult, check out my post here. I wrote how I managed to finish my books (more than 30 days even) while working full-time and managing household chores. It’s tiresome but it’s an experience worth your while.
Albeit the tiring day, writing my story becomes a motivation to end my day right. It drives me to finish my work with efficiency making sure I can give ample time to continue scribbling the next chapter. As I’ve mentioned in my About Page, I feel responsible for creating my characters’ life story real and published so everyone can read it.
Fifth Step: Set your writing pace to 1,500- to 2,000-word count daily.
Honestly, this isn’t a typical word count per chapter of a novel. Most writers, especially those with day jobs like me, it’s the best we can give.
After that, our brain cells surrender grinding. *sprawls*
What I do is to set 1 to 2 hours of writing time per day. It doesn’t matter if it’s the morning or in the evening as long as I can write something during the day. Small progress counts, right?
I make sure I’m consistent with my writing page to make sure I can finish my book on time. If you doubt this system works, I apply it to the next novel I finished just a few weeks ago. It’s a gay romance entitled The Rival. You can read the novel here.
I started the book in October and finished the first draft 60,000+ words in the same month. For sure, further revisions happens in the next few months.
Extra Tips & Recommendations:
- Use Dabble for your writing convenience. I’m not recommending it because I’m paid. I’m no affiliate. I simply want you to give it a try. It’s an application intended to create a focused writing system. You can download the application I use every day for my novels. Click here.
- Know why you want to publish your first book so freaking bad. This is very important. Why would you do a risky move without knowing your end goal? Writing a book is hard work. It’s no BS. It’s a demanding path you have to go through. If your reasons weren’t strong enough, how can you withstand the challenges in the process?
- Be consistent. Regardless if you write short today or long the next day, it doesn’t matter. To me, small progress is a progress. Just write every day. Enjoy the process.
- Know your characters. Don’t limit them on the page. Make them real, alive. See them. Know them. Feel them. Why are they acting like they are? villainous? desperate? What do they want? You know what, my characters in Accidental Quest are real to me. They’re phenomenal.
- Write in the same spot where you got the inspiration. Where were you when you had the a-ha moment? Where were you writing most of the time? Were you at the dining table when you first thought of your plot? If so, sit at the same spot and write until you finish the book. I wrote my book at my sister’s bedroom for one month.
- Above all, love your novel. This the best tip I can give you. Don’t just write that story you have in mind simply because they’re trendy. Find the reason why you have to write it. And I hope, when you’re writing your first book, it’s out of love.
Overall, writing your first book is quite a tedious work. It requires a lot from your time, effort, and emotions. Why am I including emotional strain here? For novelists like me, writing a certain chapter, especially those with heavy scenes, certainly requires a tremendous amount of energy from you. After writing that scene, I swear it drains you. It tires you. Swear.
No matter how much you plan it this way, there are also many times when you detour a bit because new ideas come in. However, it doesn’t mean you change everything and start from scratch. No. That happens in the midpoint of the story, which is why I recommend to have a careful planning for the books or else you’ll get lost and frustrated.
Nonetheless, writing your first book is worth your while, though it takes an amount of effort from your part. Still, it’s an experience you won’t forget. An experience where you get the chance to see your characters evolve and become a reality – from an idea in your head to a printed page where many people can read and know them personally.