How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 3: Writing

In the first article of this series in turning your book idea into money, we covered the pleasurable Step of conceiving your book idea and fantasizing it to life.

In the second we explored the vital usefulness of outlining, and how this Step will make the job of writing that much easier and quicker. In this post we will examine the actual writing of your brilliant idea, illuminating the methods to the madness of this solitary activity, ways to create compelling opening lines, and how you can make it all a successful breeze.


It can be intimidating, staring at that blank sheet of paper, or that empty white screen with its evil blinking cursor.

But you have everything you need to begin. You’ve conceived your idea. You’ve fantasized about it, molded it, outlined it to the point where you could name the type of grass your second-tier character is standing on while exposing a shocking truth late in the seventh chapter.

And yet, a roadblock remains: how to begin?

Beginning a 100,000 word novel (hopefully your first is not much longer than this or you risk scaring away prospective literary agents) can be a daunting task, and sometimes even more intimidating than writing the rest of it.

No matter how hard I try to perfect that opening line/sentence/chapter, and no matter how pleased I am with it at first, I always end up returning to it. Through a series of edits and revisions, my opening lines rarely survive unaltered. After years of reading and writing and study, I finally stumbled on 2 valuable solutions to this dilemma. Allow me to share them with you now. They are:

  1. Don’t spend days or weeks agonizing over your opening words. DON’T. Once you write your ending, you’ll feel compelled to rewrite the beginning. So just write whatever feels comfortable; you’ll end up editing it anyway.
  2. Wherever you think it is you should begin, ask yourself: Is this really where my story begins, or do things take off after this? Does this opening jive with the rest of my narrative? If it stands alone—cool, contrived, disconnected—it needs to be rewritten.

Blasé Pascal wrote: ‘The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.

As you will be coming back to rectify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your opening, you might want to give yourself a break here, and just start writing already. You’ll have a better idea where to start once you’ve ended. It sounds contrary, I know, but it makes sense. You’ll see. Becca Puglisi of writershelpingwriters offers some tips on openings. Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 3: Writing”

How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Step 2: Outlining

If you are trying to build a writing career without spending a fortune, or are simply looking for ways to improve your writing/publishing/marketing skills, you have come to the right place.

I created Take it to the Bank to share what I have learned on my journey, in the hope that it will save new writers time and cut back on their frustration and learning curve.

In the first post of this series sharing the chapter points of my little guidebook, we covered the importance of hitting the pause button to record a story idea when the inspiration strikes, and the joy of fantasizing that idea into life (fantasizing is giggity-good fun).

All the best authors Outline

In this second post we will cover the main element of the second chapter of the guidebook, which covers the key tool, Outlining. Best-sellers like Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, and John Grisham adamantly promote the usefulness of outlines. As Ursula K LeGuin puts it: ‘A complete outline is absolutely necessary before beginning to write.’

Having an outline to hand when beginning to write gives you a number of benefits. It serves as a reference point. It will keep your narrative cohesive, and speed up the writing process itself.

The methods for acquiring the necessary information to include in your outline are as follows:

  • Researching
  • Note-taking
  • Reading
  • Traveling

Regardless of your genre or subject matter (and no, it doesn’t matter if your idea is for a work of fiction or nonfiction), you will need to do some research. Science-fiction and historical novels require more research than urban fantasies or thrillers, but each one calls for its own particular studies. Remember: real-world details will help create the illusion of reality.

Take notes of all your research findings and all the little tidbits which occur to you to expand your story world.

Reading inside and outside your genre is the best way to get a feel for the specific tone and pace and atmosphere of your story. So go ahead and take a stroll outside your comfort zone. Writing a mystery involves understanding not only mysteries, but aspects of thrillers and police procedurals and psychological suspense. Reading in multiples genres expands your understanding of writing, and by extension, will improve your own written world.


Laura Whitcomb in her writing guide, Your First Novel, offers this advice concerning the discovery of your books’ genre:

‘If you are unsure of the genre in which your new book idea falls, check out ten books in each of several genres and read a page or two from each book. If you think you’re writing fantasy, check out ten fantasy books and read a page or two from each. Do you still think you are writing fantasy?’

This applies to all genres.

Finally, it is vital that you expand your view of the world by traveling.

Walk down city streets at night; take in the street racers, who emerge like nocturnal animals to race each other up and down Main. Take a day trip to another city or the next state over. You’d be surprised how different the world looks through the filmy windows of a Greyhound bus. Listen in on conversations. It is a writer’s privilege and responsibility to eavesdrop. This is how we pick up the ebb and flow of realistic dialogue. The cues and silences and interruptions that fill a conversation will open up before you as you lean forward, tilt your head, and rubberneck your fellow passengers as they discuss their boyfriend/girlfriend, school triumphs, kids, financial woes, and the juicier sides of life.

During all of these things, by the way, you should be taking notes—unless you possess eidetic imagery, in which case, aren’t you special.

Your finished outline should include (at least) the following 4 subjects in detail:

  • World-building – Flora and fauna, social conventions and oddities, languages and slang, the rich and the powerful and the mighty and poor
  • Mini Character Bios – Record physical details of your entire main and supporting cast. Also include their passions/hatreds and motivations. What makes them unique?
  • Scene and Chapter Outlines – Most importantly, include the beginning, middle, and end chapter outlines. Most of the rest will come to you as you write
  • Setting – This goes along with world building, but here you will jot down in greater detail all the little things that bring your world to life, like the critters and any odd weather phenomena. In his fantasy series Codex Alera, Jim Butcher employs Furies, elemental spirits which effect all things and people.


Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Step 2: Outlining”

How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 1: Conception

Hello writers/self-publishers! Let’s jump right into a new series. Take it to the Bank is my latest resource for helping new writers develop their careers in the most frugal manner possible.

Each of these 9 posts will provide you with a quick exploration of successive chapters in the book, with links and helpful tips provided throughout.

The AHA Moment
Today we are exploring Conception–a titillating subject. One of the great joys of writing is first conceiving your book idea, that ‘aha’ moment, when inspiration strikes like Cupid’s arrow and you want nothing more than a few hot minutes to explore the idea.

When it strikes, everything else seems to stop. You must take advantage of this moment and jot down your idea.

The physical act of recording your inspiration will reinforce its importance in your mind, firmly establishing it in your memory cortex and moving it from a fleeting short-term thought to a vital initiative on which your creative mind will unconsciously dwell.

Fantasize About It

Remember when your school teachers snapped at you for fantasizing during class? Well, they were wrong-o! The best thing you can do at this point in your journey from Idea to Money in the Bank is to fantasize about it.

Let your mind wander down twisted corridors of imagination. Let it stroll through ancient enchanted forests. Let it lead you down the path of most resistance, where difficult quesitons are not merely examined, but hoisted, weighed, smelled, licked, and smashed with Nordic hammers. Let your mind fill up with scenes and plotlines. Let it run amuck.

Reader’s Digest has a nice simple post showing you 5 ways to come up with story ideas, while Ali Luke of Aliventures (who also wrote Publishing E-Books for Dummies) provides a comprehensive list of methods for you.

We explore in greater detail the importance of fantasizing your idea into an entire world, fully supported by characters and social systems and history, in the first step of Take it to the Bank, recently published and available for a short period for only .99 cents, here.

Enjoy, and have fun conjuring your idea into a book that will–through 8 more steps–lead to money in the bank!