How to Write your Book
in one Weekend
If you have spent any time searching the internet for information on writing and publishing your book you may have come across courses claiming to help you to write your book in one weekend. I'm asked if this is legitimate, and how it is possible, and what is really happening at these courses? In truth it is, of course, not possible to write a book in only two days, and yet, paradoxically, people taking these courses are not necessarily being cheated. They are truly learning how to write their novel. However, such a course would be better named "How to write a book in 30 days," because, with the prep work required, that's a more reasonable amount of time to complete a first draft.
Everyone has a book inside them; they just don't know how to get it out. Lets take a look at what's really going on in these courses and how you can fast-track your book. I will start by talking about a non-fiction book, then follow up with how to write your novel. The process is similar, but there are some differences.
If you're thinking of writing a book, then you already know what you want to write about. If it's a novel, then you have conceptualized the basic story. If it's non-fiction, then you're writing about a topic that's important to you and you are looking for a way to get the message out.
For a non-fiction book the first step is research. Before you start writing, you need to gather all the resources you are going to use to write your book. Will you be using any quotes from other authors or famous people? Do you have charts or graphs to put in your book? What about images, diagrams or pictures you want to use? Until you actually start writing your book, you may have trouble identifying all the material you will need. That's okay, gather as much as you can; it doesn't hurt to have too much; you don't have to use it all. Research is an on going process, but if you allow yourself a week for the initial research, it will give you a good start.
With your material in hand it's time to start laying out your book. This is the segment that is usually done in the weekend course on writing your book. Start with a series of chapter headings or topics, layout the things you want to cover in your book. Pick a number-- say ten or twelve-- chapters-- and put one chapter heading on each page. You are by no means limited to this number of chapters; it is just a starting point. Under each chapter heading write down a brief summary of that chapter. You can now sort through your source material and decide which items go with which chapters.
On each chapter page, write down six to ten sub-headings, using your source material as needed to help identify the subheadings. Don't worry if only three items come to mind on one chapter and twenty-three on another. Later in the editing process you will restructure as needed. The main thing here is to complete your layout.
Now write down a review for each of the subheadings, then go back to each subheading and write down five to ten bullet points about that particular subheading. If you actually do this segment in two days, you have a very good start on your book. However, the reality is that very few people can complete this section in two days. A week is more realistic. You started with one page per chapter, which by now may have grown to five or ten pages per chapter, depending on the number of sub-headings and the length of the review for each.
The next stage is to take the source material that you collected and begin adding it to the appropriate chapters. Put in the quotes you are going to use, add your diagrams or charts or any of the other source material you have collected, to fill out and support your message. Remember this is your book, your message. The source material you gather is to help make your point. Read through each sub-heading summary and bullet point and begin to expand on them. You may decide to leave some as bullet points and turn others into more sub-headings or general content. As you are expanding your summaries and bullet points, you may identify areas you wish to do more research on.
If you have followed this process, you have spent a month or two and have a very good start to your book. You have a first draft and are well on the way to writing your book.
A fiction book or novel follows a slightly different process. For your novel, the first stage is creating your story outline: the plot, characters and setting. What is your story about? What is its genre? What is its setting? Where and when does your story take place? Outline each of your main characters: protagonist, antagonist and any other characters that come to mind. Although characters may appear or disappear as you write, and their characteristics may change slightly as you go, having an outline helps you to stay consistent. However your outline is not carved in stone; think of it as a work in progress. It will evolve as your story does.
This brings us to the second stage: research. For a novel you still need to research. Where is the setting of the book? Do you need to do any research into the location or time period, clothing, language characteristics? What about your plot? Even though it is a fiction book, you still want to be correct in any real world details you use. Some best-selling novelists put more research into their stories than many non-fiction writers.
The third stage is similar to the non-fiction book, in that you are taking time to identify chapters. However, instead of sub-headings, you will be writing a synopsis of the events that will unfold as the story develops. More likely than not, you won't know how many chapters you will end up with. What you do know is that your book will have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Layout these sections and detail what action is going to occur in each section. Decide on any plot twists you want and where they will occur. At this point, some authors just start writing and let the story fill out as it goes. Others like to continue the process of defining a series of chapters and filling out plot details for each.
You have now completed the third week in the extended version of the two day course. The final week is spent editing and revising and filling out your manuscript. Remember this is only your first draft, there is still a lot to go before you are ready to print. But if you've followed this outline, then you are much further ahead than the majority of those who sit down to write a book.
There may be times when you get stuck and need a little assistance. Please be sure to check out other chapters in our Better Writing Series. We look forward to seeing your completed work.