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Adventures in Book Writing – Chapter 1: Kickoff!

One goal on my list this year is to write a book, and the year ain’t getting any younger. So I’ve pulled the trigger on working towards this goal this month. I thought it would be useful to share that process with you for a few reasons.

One, it will hold me accountable a bit. Making goals public is a great way to keep you consistent, because psychologically, you want to be consistent with the image that you portray in public. So, if I’m somebody who wants to be consistent with the image of a writer, I need to share my writing publicly at times. This, in my opinion, is one of those times.

Two, writing about something helps me learn a little more about it. So, then, writing about the book writing process will help me “talk my way through it”, learning a little more about myself and my book along the way.

I have also decided that certain aspects of the book will be kept private. I won’t necessarily discuss details about the plot or the characters, because that’s a personal thing that I’d rather not reveal. Plus, I am expecting the writing of this book to be a fluid process, and things could change along the way.

So, let’s get started!

I installed Scrivener.

Looking around, Scrivener seemed to be the tool for the job. Now, it’s easy to say that all you need is a pen and paper, which I agree with, but I wanted to have a comprehensive tool to use, and I have the ability to go out and get it. Nothing wrong with that.

Lots of writers use Scrivener, and as an Ubuntu man, I was very happy to see that Scrivener is actively being developed for Linux. I was even happier to see that, while it is still in beta (or “testing mode”), Scrivener for Linux is free. So not only do I get to use a really powerful tool to write my book, but I also don’t have to pay for it right now. Sweetness!

After I started using Scrivener, working through the tutorial and starting to pop in little details about my book, I’m seeing why people use it. It’s insanely flexible. I can see how I can use Scrivener within my own personal workflow, and adapt the program to meet my needs. It gives me lots of brainstorming tools and organizational features, like documents, sub-documents, folders, and even a pinboard of notecards to sort. Add footnotes, sticky notes, and just about everything else you can do with a paper workflow, and you can see why Scrivener is such a popular tool. Highly recommended.

Why not just use a Word document? Well, you certainly can. I chose to use Scrivener because I’m a visual guy at times, and this turns the book development process into a visual process.

How did I choose a topic for my book?

This was the biggest initial roadblock for me, because I don’t read a whole lot of fiction (yet). I wanted to write something fictional, but what am I interested in reading?

I knew that I like history, particularly war history. So I figured early on that I would want to write a war story of some kind.

Taking a page out of the Accidental Genius handbook (affiliate link), I decided to get some freewriting out of my head so that I could see what kinds of ideas were lurking around in there (one of my favorite brainstorming methods).

There were two side effects to this – one, I found some pretty cool ideas, and two, I have a really weird brain when it is left to its own devices.

Here are some of the more, ahem, interesting book ideas that my brain came up with after freewriting 50 book ideas without stopping:

  • Bears overtake Manhattan
  • Fantasy world where midgets rule the earth
  • Bankrupt prize fighter bumfights for money
  • Society crumbles over bad TV show
  • Pack of wild dogs take over Manhattan
  • Mozart fights zombies
  • The Beer Wars
  • A man’s desperate attempt to take off a straightjacket
  • Woman breaks up with man over his hairstyle
  • A talking banjo saves Manhattan
  • A blind man has a knack for shooting darts

So, yeah, they’re not all winners (though I like the challenge of trying to write an entire book about the straightjacket one).

I then went through the list, bolded the useful/possible ones, and cross-checked them with what I was interested in. The result? A pretty good idea that took concepts from a few different ideas that dovetailed together.

I haven’t started writing yet.

The last couple weeks have been about getting the idea on paper and workable, so the next thing I did was grab a marker, stand next to my whiteboard, and diagram out the most basic and

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vague of all story timelines. All I needed to get down was the “bones” of a plotline.

Before doing that, I consulted my book on plot development (affiliate link) to determine what kind of plot I wanted this story to be. Then, I jotted down the basic structural components of that type of plot and detailed what parts of my plot idea would coincide with those parts.

Then, I slapped it all up on a timeline. To give you an idea of how vague this timeline is, the character names used are “#1” and “#2”.

But what this means is I now have a basic start. I’m not starting from scratch when I eventually sit down to write the story (which I’m not doing yet).

The Next Steps

Okay, so I have a basic plot in place. Now, I’m going to work through some character development. Like, you know, giving them names and stuff.

But it will go beyond that. If I want this (possible) book series to be memorable and lasting, it can’t be entirely plot-driven. I need a cast of characters that people will be interested in reading about.

So I will spend next week really hammering out who these characters are, what they’re doing in the story, and the different traits that will define who they are.

Stay tuned…

book writing, brainstorming, freewriting, scrivener, ubuntu