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Writing Books/Where do I start?


Dear Susan,

For two years, I have had what I consider a great idea for a fiction novel. I have never written a book before and would like your advice on where to start and what to expect. For ten years I have been writing a monthly newsletter (4 pages) that is sent to 25,000 readers. That is for my company and it is the extent of my writting experience.

Thank you in advance.

Hello Mike!

Congratulations on having a great idea - that's where everything starts. First I want to warn you, the writing of a long work of fiction is extremely difficult, lonely work. It takes real discipline to sit down every day or every other day and turn out your pages. You must be committed to sticking with it until it's finished. Then, if you want to publish it, you must contact agents one after another and try to persuade them to read your work. This process alone may take years, unless you have a friend in the business. If you succeed at that, and get the book finished, you must do most of the marketing yourself. Examine your past life for clues to your habits when it comes to commitment, dedication, persistence, etc. If you find yourself wanting, perhaps you'd better undertake another project.

A word here about novels: they come in two types. One type is the "mainstream" novel, which is character-driven and meant to shed light on the famous "human condition." The emphasis is on what people think, say and do, and how they learn and grow. Through the course of the book the characters change, and that process is what draws readers to the book.

The other type is the "genre" novel: mysteries, romance, science fiction, thrillers, etc. Here the emphasis is on plot, and the suspense/action is the whole idea. The two types require different processes to complete. If you know which type your novel falls into, come back with that information and we will proceed from there.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 200+ questions!

And good luck with your book!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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