This is the missing “how this book is organized” section that I removed from the front of Book Craft because it felt too stagnant and uninspiring. You’ll have noticed, in this bare-bones original outline, I use clearer language and focus on each step, without the fun magical words. The 12-chapters in Book Craft work well as a 12-step, weekly plan to write a book in three months – with most of the writing done in the 2nd month. That’s pretty fast for just about everyone, so go at your own pace, but remember to give equal time to each section. A 3 month book writing goal is tight, but possible. If you give yourself a year, you’ll waste a lot more time.
My first draft had a 25,000 word section here on creative confidence! I had so much cool stuff to share, like anus leeches and how Confucius whines about not getting patrons, but it was mostly about how “it’s OK to write for money” and I didn’t want to start the book on that tone. I’ll either turn it into another book or add it as a LONG article on this site.
WEEK 0: MINDSET
Before we even get started thinking about writing a book, we need to check and fix your mindset and remove any limiting beliefs that are going to slow you down: so I’ll introduce you to some deep insights on creative courage, overcoming anxiety and writing with purpose.
I decided not to include this in the introduction, as a summary of contents, because it may have spoiled the discovery of the experience, but I’m adding it here as a useful recap or summary.
For best results, read a chapter a week, and take action (implement your insights) before proceeding to the next step. That will allow a deeper and fully experience.
WEEK 1: FICTION BASICS
You’ll learn what it takes to create a good story, what a story actually is and includes, how to make sure readers are paying attention, leaning in and listening. We’ll also learn about the most popular genres, and what readers expect from each, how to make sure you’re writing a book that they will care about; estimating the market potential; and figuring out the heart of your story before you write it. We’ll end with a massive list of first chapter mistakes and red flags, as well as a scene checklist.
WEEK 2: IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
Most (but not all) commercial fiction has one main protagonist or point of view; this is the character of greatest change. We need to figure out where the story begins and ends; why it matters; how much to include. We need our story to hit major turning points so our readers have confidence that we’re taking them to an emotional payout; that this plot events in the story matter, and we have to make sure things are happening
WEEK 3: PLOTTING YOUR BOOK
Most plotting resources fail because they’re too general. They aren’t wrong, they’re just unspecific. They don’t tell you want to do at each point. And while this gives you more freedom, it can also leave you feeling like your story is missing something crucial and you’re not sure how to bridge the gap. I’ve gone in the opposite direction by creating a hyper-specific 24-chapter plot outline. Use it to get started, then allow your story to unfold the way it needs to.
WEEK 4: RAISING THE STAKES
Having a tight structure or plot outline is just the beginning. Lots of cool things might be happening, but it won’t matter unless the events have real consequences. We need to figure out what the protagonist wants and why they aren’t allowed to have it, so that through they story they are forced to change.
Once we’ve mapped out all the big stuff, we can write forward, knowing where we’re going. Unexpected things will still pop up, and that’s fine. We’re allowed to stop and take breaks or detours whenever something interesting happens. As long as we don’t lose track of the final destination.
WEEK 5: POINT OF NO RETURN
This week we’ll just try to get started until the first major turning point, the point of no return, that launches our story. This is the most important part of the book, because if you don’t get people to care about your story or characters in the first quarter of your book, they’ll give up long before things get interesting. So we’ll also include a big list of weak writing warning flags to watch out for.
WEEK 6: MIDPOINT
This week we’ll write towards the middle of your novel, when the progatogist is forced to question who they are and what they want.
WEEK 7: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
Finally we reach the critical, identity-shattering event. The protagonist has been building a house of cards, or juggling with porcelain plates, and here it all comes crashing down. Now they’re forced to change, to grow, to choose, to give up – usually giving up on youthful optimism, and deciding to play for keeps.
WEEK 8: EPIC CONCLUSION
The satisfying, emotional pay off when it all comes together. You can hold reader’s attention with fun banter and action, or literary distractions and nice sounding words, but by the end of the book it should all mean something and hit them on a deep emotional level. If it doesn’t, they’ll either feel cheated, or they’ll feel apathetic. You want them to be thinking about your book months later.
Once you have your book written and it holds water, then we can finally start to make it good, or even great. We do this by improving and deepening the scene description, conflict and suspense, using the scene-checklist to make sure each scene is powerful and necessary, before doing a final proofread or polish in the last section. This is the stuff a very qualified developmental editor might do for you.
My proprietary 3-phase revision system, with a fourth round for editing and proofreading.
WEEK 9: FIXING THE STORY – what
After I finish a first rough draft, I’ll go back and fill in any gaps or fix narrative problems, focusing on the events or incidents. Getting things in the right order so they make sense, so readers can read through the book without feeling confused or disoriented. The right stuff needs to happen, in the right order, or else more polishing is useless. I also want to make the “right stuff” interesting by adding as much conflict and tension as possible.
WEEK 10: MOTIVATION: PURPOSE why
Once I’m pretty sure everything is in the right place, I’ll pay attention to the motivations: why does this happen, why are characters doing these things? I’ll need to create backstory, plant clues, establish facts. If they need a pair of scissors in the last chapter, I’ll make sure to add one into the right scene earlier so it doesn’t just appear. I’ll make sure everything makes sense and is believable.
WEEK 11: DESCRIPTION: DETAILS how
In the third stage, I’ll look at how things actually look, and describe the setting, character movements, clothes and scenery. I want to make sure readers can picture it clearly. I want to avoid reference points (“small items”) and change them to real descriptions (“a pot of tea, spools of thread and an orange crayons). I’ll make sure I’m using expressions and postures, without overdoing or repeating any too often.
WEEK 12: FINAL POLISH (EDIT & PROOF)
Through that process, I’m also fixing any typos or mistakes I find, but I’m not actively seeking them out and I won’t worry too much about word choice or sentence structure. This is actually a 3-step revision process followed by a final, 4th step, which includes copy editing and proofreading.