If you’ve always wanted to write a novel but don’t know where to start, or you start writing your book and get stuck, you’re probably asking ‘How can I get help writing a book?’ It’s easy to find help with each part of writing.
1. Join a writing group or community
Writing fiction is sharing. It’s satisfying to share your perspective through your stories and characters but gaining insight via critical response to your creations is crucial too. If you’re struggling to get started, supportive members of a writing group can give you ideas for how to make headway.
You don’t even need a local writing group to get helpful feedback from others. In an online group you can share the trials and pleasures of writing with others from all over the world who share your goals.
Things to remember when participating in a writing group:
- Be open and receptive to criticism: It’s often tempting to be defensive when it feels as though someone is tearing your work to shreds. This is why it’s great to have a policy in a group that if a member gives feedback, they must start with something positive before moving on to (constructive) criticism
- Share successes and milestone achievements with your group, because this positivity will help to keep the whole group motivated to finish book-writing projects
What if you need more extensive input and airtime for hashing out your story ideas?
2. Get a writing coach
One-on-one feedback and discussion around your work and writing process provides many benefits:
- You get complete focus on your story and close assistance with overcoming your personal writing challenges
- You set the pace you work at, but also have an external source of accountability to help you get on track if you fall behind your writing targets
- You have someone who may coach writing regularly and thus have accumulated practical knowledge in how to aid you in overcoming common obstacles
To get the most out of having a writing coach, here are some tips:
- Give your coach 3-5 questions on each piece of writing you submit for feedback. Be more specific than ‘how could I improve this?’ If your current focus is improving your characters, ask your coach for thoughts on what is working in your characterization in a scene or chapter and what is not. Just thinking how to phrase your questions will help you identify what you can and should improve.
- Share work using either a word processor that allows commenting or a free, cloud-based word processor such as Google Docs. The reply feature of Google Docs makes it easy for you and your writing coach to bounce ideas back and forth until you both agree on a finer point of language, characterization or another story element.
- Tell your coach what you expect of the process and let them know if any aspect of your working relationship isn’t meeting your needs – open communication is essential for a productive coaching process.
3. Proofread and spell check your work before asking for feedback to get the best quality of insight
Another writer or coach who also wants to see you reach your writing goals will happily alert you to typos and spelling errors. These are fairly easy to iron out before you submit your work, though, and this will leave the person critiquing you more room to comment on more important aspects of your craft such as style, characterization, plot and mood.
4. Find a co-author rather than ghostwriter
A ghostwriter, someone who pens a story on your behalf according to your plot and ideas, can help you write a book. But it is much more satisfying (and edifying) to be more involved in the writing process. If you are unsure you can write a book, completing the process in collaboration with another writer is a great stepping stone to writing a book on your own. The combination of both your and another writer’s strengths will give your writing additional richness and breadth of perspective.
5. Read the best books and guides on how to write a novel
Insights from published writers into how to set up a writing process, how they overcame specific challenges and how to perfect elements of a novel-writing such as narration and point of view will help you become a better writer. These are some lauded and practical books on writing:
- On Writing by Stephen King – packed with lean, good advice, such as ‘first write for yourself, then worry about the audience.’
- Steering the Craft by Ursula K Le Guin – Le Guin’s slim book is full of succinct explanations and she ends each section (such as her helpful chapter on point of view) with prompts and exercises to help you apply the details of craft discussed in the preceding text.
- How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever by Nathan Bransford – Bransford approaches the subject with wit and humour, offering advice from everything to creating strong plots to finding your most effective writing style
Use books on writing a novel as a source of inspiration and motivation – be wary of any formula presented as the only valid approach, however.
6. Keep a master list of helpful writing resources
When you’re feeling uninspired or blocked, getting words down on the page can be draining. To avoid this, build a list of helpful writing resources you can dip into for inspiration and motivation at any time. They can be writing-specific websites, but they can also be visual albums of inspiring photos, daily quote websites or other resources that stimulate your creativity and help you to write a book by giving you fresh perspectives and insights.
7. Use helpful programs and cloud-based apps for writers
There are various online tools that will help you write a novel. Some of the best online apps for writers:
- Hemingway: This app shows you which sentences in your writing are most difficult to read. It also shows where there are simpler synonyms you could use and points out adverbs that you remove and replace with more descriptive verbs.
- Draft: This free basic, cloud-based word processor is like a paired down version of Google Docs, also allowing collaboration. An advantage over Docs is that it displays your total word count as you go, as desktop word processors do. Helpful if you are keeping track of word count targets.
- Behind the Name: Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with a name you like. This random name generator lets you choose to filter names from specific countries, mythologies and character types. Try it next time you are stuck for great names.
If you’ve been asking ‘how can I get help writing a book?’ think about the kind of help you need. Do you need a community for mutual support and feedback? Or do you need more extensive assistance? Between online writing groups and helpful tools and resources for writers, you can find everything you need to motivate and inspire you to finish writing the book you’ve been planning for years.