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Question
Hi. Can you tell me what is a good way to begin to write a book? Thanks

Answer
If you really mean a book—that is, a nonfiction book—then in my opinion the best way to begin is to write a list of ten or twelve major issues you plan to address. Those become your chapters. With this minor outline, you can then see where you want to take each chapter and can begin writing any chapter you want; you don’t have to write them in the order they will appear in the final version, because through the use of a computer, you can rearrange all you want, before you create the final draft.

If you actually mean a novel—that is, a work of fiction—then each writer has his or her own method. Some create an outline; some imagine the plot; some formulate strong characters and put them in situations where they almost take off on their own.

Because the plot is the most important part of a novel, it’s good to know at least the intended main plot before beginning; that is, write down at least a brief outline of what the main characters want, what gets in their way, and how they resolve the issue and get what they want or don’t get what they want. In this way you can again begin writing at any point and go back later in future drafts to reorganize the scenes, if necessary.

That all-important strong opening sentence, paragraph, and chapter often does not come to the creative writer until the first or second draft is completed or nearly completed, so don’t let the need for a strong opening deter you. Just write. The opening will come to you later.

For more tips and information, subscribe to my free newsletter for writers. Go to www.zebraeditor.com and click on Free Newsletter at the top of the page. You'll also find many more questions and answers from my "Ask the Book Doctor" column on the site.

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Bobbie Christmas

Expertise

Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.

Experience

Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Organizations
Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Publications
Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Education/Credentials
Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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