How do you start writing a book? Do you start with the idea you have and expand on it? Do you develop the outline of the book? Do you start with an introduction?
These are all questions I’m pondering as I get anxiety about the idea of writing another book.
I’m not a novelist, nor do I write short stories or fiction. I write creative non-fiction. Or at least that’s what I think I write.
My first book was a photo book. Stories accompanied the photos, called Yellowknife Streets. It documented the lives of many of the people living on the streets of Yellowknife at that time.
I know for that book I started writing each story that I acquired. As more acquired the book started to form into its own. I then spent time thinking about why I was doing what I was doing. What I wanted to accomplish. And what I wanted other people to understand about the book and the people in it.
This understanding of the book as a whole helped me write the introduction.
So in that case, I wrote the entire book first and the introduction last. Is that normal?
This next book that I have an idea for is also fiction but not a photo book. And it won’t feature specific people.
It will be different. For me.
I’m excited about this but also nervous. Hence the pondering, how does a person start writing a book.
Some of the tactics I ponder are:
- Can I write the introduction first and let it guide the book?
- Should I storyboard the rough outline I currently have knowing more will arise?
- Can I start writing it before I’ve done all the research?
- Should I have an editor help me figure out the outline of the book?
- Can I add to the outline after I’ve written most of the book?
- What does enough information look like to start writing a book?
- Can I write the book one chapter at a time and then put it all together later?
These are all naive questions to ask. I didn’t research how to write a book. Or take a course. Or go to school for writing. Or ask a writer friend. Or have the desire to do any of those things. I just want to write.
The book I want to write follows the same principles as most of the business books I read.
What I have learned from those books is that I should know what I want the reader to learn. Have a general outline. And throughout the book have each chapter build on the last but also stand on its own.
From my general understanding of these books. It is best to intertwine the information about that chapter with a case study of it in practice. Doing this I assume gives you a better chance of keeping the attention of the reader.
This poses another question.
- Is there a simple formula I can follow for writing each chapter of the book?
Again, these are the questions I am pondering. This is my own adventure into writing something longer than a blog post.
I don’t expect to come to an answer quickly.
And it sounds cliche, but the idea of writing out these questions helps me see what I need to overcome.
In closing, I’m reminded of a Hemingway quote: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”