Writing a book follows the same general guidelines as for writing the short story.
Hopefully, you will add much of this information to your list of tips for writing a story or writing a book. Advice found here applies to multi-genre writing as well.
For quite a while, I wrote and published short stories, poetry, and other brief prose. Many of the pieces received critiques in a number of Internet workshops. I kicked around a lot of ideas for writing longer stories, maybe a novel.
My thoughts were that since I practiced multi-genre writing, surely I could try writing a book. After all, I maintained a long, long list of tips for writing a story.
These are some of the valuable tips I learned when writing a book. Make a note of the tips you find here to have them available when you are writing a book.
When some of us in an online workshop decided to experiment with Interior Monologue, the idea of a person caught alone in a rip current gave me an Aha! experience. It was, after all, fresh in my mind because I had just survived being caught in a rip current at Ke`e Beach on the North Shore of Kauai.
I was alone in the water with my thoughts while the current threatened to pull me all the way out into the North Equatorial Current!
I would write my own interior monologue, my self-speak, and fictionalize it to suit the heroine’s predicament when she thought she could be a goner. What a spectacular story that would make! Thus, Caught in a Rip was born.
Again, I entertained the idea that writing a book couldn’t be much different than writing a long short story. Who was I kidding?
After I posted the novella of my experience, translated to my character’s plight, for review and critique in the online writing workshop. the story and my writing received a rating of 10 from each and every reader.
At that moment, having written only a novella, writing a book seemed a daunting task.
Getting this novella completed was fun.
Then I hit on the idea of writing another of my short stories into a second novella. For the moment, writing a book slipped from my mind.
Then I was in a quandary as to how these stories helped with writing a book. These two novellas still weren’t long enough when combined to call them a novel and make me feel I was writing a book.
Simply, I had two novellas, as different in content as any multi-genre writing.
Both were written from my own life-threatening episodes at sea.
The stories being related gave me another Aha! experience.
conjured the idea of interrelating the two separate main characters,
giving each of them their own story but having the women as good
friends. The only thing left to do was bring them together in writing a
third story, completing the trilogy. I felt I'd be writing a book.
I wrote the third story, Hurricane Secret, loosely at first. I knew that I had to have threads from each story intertwined in the others. That is the beauty of writing fiction.
In writing jargon, that means I did not totally wrap up the action at the ends of each novella. Instead, I left questions unanswered. After all, readers would know more intrigue was to come because there was much more of the book to read.
Another important element was that I began the time period of Child of a Storm much earlier and had the two women meet in the first story. Then the time line in each story progressed forward, as did the ages of the characters.
Caught in a Rip takes place in a much later time period, perhaps two decades later.
In the third story, Hurricane Secret, all the threads have been woven toward the climax and denouement. And yet, each story stands alone and could be published alone, but I finally had a book-length work.
I received only rejections. If the agents commented at all, most stated that this was not the kind of project their agency represented, in spite of saying my query letter and other documents were well-written and the stories sounded exciting.
Without being told, I felt they were rejecting novellas in particular. Momentarily, writing a book seemed out of my ability.
During the search for an agent that lasted about a year and a half, I began to research my Egyptian novel, The Ka.
After a string of rejections longer than my arm, I decided to publish The Tropics using print-on-demand.
Though I was extremely pleased with the outcome of The Tropics, when I thought about writing The Ka, an entire novel composed of one story, I knew then that I would really be writing a book.
Still, it doesn’t matter which format you choose when writing a book. All of it amounts to experience. In order to learn, you must get the words out, no matter what you may write.
Many more tips for writing a book can be found in the analysis of my Egyptian novel, The Ka and among the tips for my award winning thriller, River Bones. You can also apply those tips to this first chapter of Child of a Storm, presented below.
The most widely known procedure in writing a book is to produce one continuous story, beginning, middle and ending. But, as in everything, there are deviations.
Tips for writing a story in any format are included below. They apply to the short story, to a novella, or a book length production.
Please use these navigational aids to visit various sections from any place you see them on the page:
Child of a Storm-Caught in a Rip-Hurricane Secret
Child of a Storm
The jagged scar on Pablo’s belly wriggled like a snake that protruded above his waistband as he darted out of the yard to join his friends playing on the sidewalk. The scar extended from above his belly button to near his pubic bone. In the tropical heat, sweat made it glisten, but the scar never bothered him. Everyone seemed more conscious of it than he was. Yet, the erratic scar told of a surgeon who had been careless or, perhaps, in a great hurry to enter that child’s abdomen. Back in Colorado, where Ciara Malloy was from, a disfigurement like that would be cause for a thorough malpractice investigation.
In the very first three words, I introduce the jagged scar. In the same paragraph I say Pablo is a child. That alone is enough to cause curiosity about how that child might have suffered.
The reader also gets to see the events through Ciara’s eyes. She, then, is the person through whose mind we will interpret the story. When writing a book, stick to one point-of-view character.
In spite of all that this story has to offer, Pablo is introduced first. It is a secret about him that runs throughout the three novellas and that Ciara uncovers.
These are some of the most important aspects this novella has to offer.
One of the most important tips for writing a book is to get the most important facts to your reader as quickly as possible. Write it in a manner that makes the reader care about the characters and want to turn pages to learn about them.
San Juan’s August humidity hung so heavy in the air you could almost swim through it. Still, it was better to be out on the patio than to swelter indoors in front of a window air conditioner. Jalousies cranked tightly closed were neither capable of holding out the humidity nor containing the cooled air.
The limp breeze picked up, wafting spicy aromas of neighborhood cooking. With the current of air came the smell of fresh moisture. Moments later, the rain came. Big wet drops splattered over everything, crackling when they fell into the barbecue.
Ciara ducked under the raised floral umbrella over the patio table. Rico dragged the hot barbecue across the concrete patio closer to the main house and under shelter of the eaves in order to finish cooking the game hens. His muscles flexed as he labored. His torso already glowed from standing too near the barbecue and from closeness of the late afternoon heat. Just like when she had seen him at a construction site. He always removed his shirt while working and his bronzed muscular physique glistened in the bright Caribbean sunlight.
The first time she saw him at work, he wore only shorts and construction boots. With tousled wavy black hair, he looked like a golden god in a hardhat, tight roping a two-story block wall as he supervised the construction crew.
Frequently in the Caribbean, rain showers passed over but ceased within minutes. Now the rain continued. Maybe they would have to eat dinner indoors after all. The atmosphere had been muggy and the breeze on the patio so tempting. They both loved being outdoors. Their eyes met.
“It’ll pass,” he said, smiling in a way that said he would allow nothing to spoil this day. Being bilingual, his English retained a heavy Cuban Spanish accent. “Better today than tomorrow.”
Rain hitting the large flat leaves of the nearby avocado tree played a constant rhythm in the background. Drops hitting the tin roof next door added accompaniment.
“Nothing bad will happen today,” Ciara said.
“You aren’t going to leave me, are you?” he asked. But his smile was facetious.
Leave him? She loved him with all her heart. She loved Pablo, his little boy, as her own. She could not understand why she and Rico had not set a wedding date. After a freak storm last year that blew down her shack on the edge of the beach, she had moved into the cottage behind his house on Calle Delbrey. Not being married, they lived separately for Pablo’s sake. That was the way Rico wanted things. Too, they needed to maintain a level of dignity.
Dictates of the Puerto Rican culture forced them to live in separate homes until they were married. But to hear him occasionally allude to her leaving, if that’s what he feared the most why, then, did he hesitate about finally tying the knot?
“Was this the kind of weather you had when your wife left?” Ciara asked. They had always talked openly about the past. Wounds healed more quickly when feelings were aired. Or was it because when she and Rico met the bonding energy between them had wiped out the pain of old hurts?
“About the same,” he said. “Strange how bad things in my life happen on rainy days.” He smiled and shook his head. “Like the day your shack went down.”
“Sure, but we met the sunny day after,” she said. She remembered the day she was picking through the rubble of the shack and looked up to find this gorgeous Latino watching her with a most tender expression. How the sparks shot between them that day. “Still, the weather is only coincidental to events occurring, don’t you think?” she asked.
“Wasn’t raining when Pablo was born,” he said. “But it stormed when his mother ran—”
In this section, Rico is introduced. We see what he looks like through Ciara’s eye. She’s the one who sees his muscles flexing and glowing from the heat of the hot sun and barbeque. She’s admiring him.
They live in Puerto Rico.
We also get to know what the weather is like and how they share their lives.
Remember: When writing a book, the writing must include what is perceived through all of the senses.
In this short section, we learn about their worries. But understand that this cannot be introduced unless it has everything and everything to do with forwarding the story. To show what a character worries about could end up being back-story, pathetically boring your reader.
In writing a book, tie the thoughts and bits of back-story to something in the present, but do not write in all of the details. If it applies, you’ll have plenty chances to weave it seamlessly into the story as you go along.
Then there’s foreshadowing. The talk about bad things happening when it rains is like an omen. It ties to something ahead in the story, simply because it’s been Rico’s experience and he is expecting it.
Readers are very smart. They will expect it too.
Pablo came running around the side of the house. Rico quickly looked down and tended the barbecue.
“Is dinner ready, Mama?” Pablo asked, his hazel eyes large and round from the exertion of play. Then he saw his father at the barbecue near the back wall of the house. “Hola, Papi,” he said. “When do we eat?”
“About ten minutes,” his father said.
“I’m going back to the street then,” Pablo said, starting to run away. “I’m winning all the races.”
“Hey-hey,” Rico said. “Be on time for dinner.”
Too tall and mentally advanced for just under eight years old, Pablo never let a little rain slow him down. He and some neighborhood children ran races up and down the block in front of the house. Long-legged Pablo usually won.
“You were saying?” Ciara asked.
“You know the details,” he said. “Pablo was born on a bright sunny day in a hot spell. The day construction stopped early because of torrential rain was the day I found my wife’s goodbye note.”
Rico told her everything when he first disclosed he had a son. While still living in Cuba, having to shut down the construction site due to a storm, he came home from work early and found his wife’s hurriedly scribbled note saying that she had run off with their neighbor who had been, unbeknownst to Rico, her long-time lover. She told no one else and had left the baby alone in his crib for Rico to find. Pablo was only two months old then.
Rico’s wife had only stayed in the marriage for the duration of the pregnancy. Once the child was born and her body healed, she called it quits. Rico had evidently been too slow at making the decision to leave Cuba in the wake of the upheavals and change of government introduced by Fidel Castro. His wife chose to leave with the man who would take her to safety and a better life in America.
“Nothing’s going to spoil our sail tomorrow,” Ciara said. “The weather will clear.”
“Besides, Pablo’s looking forward to this vacation before school begins again.”
“I hope you don’t let the weather dictate—”
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “But it rained a lot last year, too, when your shack on the beach went down.” Then he added, “But it hasn’t rained that much this year.”
“Freak storms happen anytime,” she said. “You really don’t believe rain is some sort of omen, do you?”
“No...,” he said.
But that’s all he said. As usual when conversation became too focused, he seemed distressed. Several times recently he had made an attempt at explanatory conversation. But something always got in the way. Some problem was eating at him and he needed to get it off his chest, but did not seem to know how to begin. The longer he waited, the more desperation he seemed to harbor. Surely that had been the reason he decided they take a week off, sail the ketch all the way to the Virgin Islands if time allowed. Get away from distraction.
One of the best tips for writing a story or for writing a book, that I can offer is: Foreshadow, foreshadow….FORESHADOW.
only is more about Pablo exposed, but it is also foreshadowing. How his
life began ties in to the rain that Rico dreads… and is a
prognosticator of serious events to come. In writing a book, these details come out over time as the story moves.
More of the history that Ciara and Rico have shared is revealed but that, too, ties in with the weather conditions they hope not to find when they sail the next day.
Ciara was not too worried about anything. Rico had proposed. They were to be married. But then, that had been nearly nine months back. So what he needed to say evidently had to be said before they could think about exchanging vows.
Certainly he was not afraid Pablo would disapprove. His son already called her Mama, almost from the day they met when he was nearly four years old. She had been the only mother he knew. The way Ciara saw it, what woman would leave a devoted man like Rico who so cherished his family? Too, he had proven his love by refusing to participate in the double standard tolerated among the locals. Rico had no mistresses.
In the nearly four years she had known him, Rico had been every bit the man Ciara had dreamed of meeting, plus, raising a son by himself was a monumental task, but an obligation he met head-on and at which he excelled. He was committed to the life he had been dealt, committed to making it all work for him and his boy. And committed to her. Though Ciara liked to go out Friday evenings, he soon taught her about Viernes Social.
Their mistresses usually accompanied men on what was known in San Juan and all of Puerto Rico as “Social Friday.” To be seen in public with a man on Friday evenings usually got the woman labeled as the man’s mistress. Rico would have no part of it. Friday evenings were usually spent barbecuing, sometimes with neighbors, or participating in not-so-quiet evenings at home with energetic Pablo. Once in a while Pablo accompanied them to the movies or when other social activities allowed. That was respectable.
Rain pelted and poured off the eaves in torrents. Rico looked up from tending the hens. “Your house or mine?” he asked, smiling his silly smile as his eyebrows came together.
He lived in the main house up front, Ciara in the larger of the two rear cottages. “We’re closer to my doorway,” she said. “If you want to make a dash for it, I’ll hold the screen open.”
Once the hens were covered on a platter and safely indoors, they gathered up the eating utensils and some food out on the patio table and ran again for the doorway.
“You really loved your shack out at the beach,” he said as he toweled off and then slipped into his shirt again. “You’ve decorated this cottage in the same island motif.”
“Your shack at the beach,” she said, bringing glasses of cool tropical punch to the table. “I only rented.”
“Even though you were warned it was about to fall down.”
“I needed the solitude to write,” she said. “It was private. Plus the rental agency said the owner would remodel.” She teased, not having yet met Rico at that time.
“It’s taken a lot to get around to doing that,” he said. “I’ll begin that job once we return from vacation. No freak storm will take the new structure down.”
“What about that house you’re building in the new Valle Arriba Heights? The one I helped you design.” Ciara had watched that house go from a spark in her mind to blueprints. But the real thrill was watching the actual house being built, one Rico had given her full reign on designing just to show that he appreciated her creativity and input. She felt immense satisfaction seeing that project nearing completion. That must have been why Rico so loved his work.
He only smiled. “Got less than a month before it’s finished,” he said. Then there was that twinkle in his eyes again, like he relished some sweet harbored secret.
Particularly when writing a book, when you include foreign phrases, take the time to work in the translations if the phrases are widely unknown.
For example: Viernes Social. Only people who know Puerto Rico or know of the culture understand this colloquialism. So in writing about it, I explained right away after that it meant Social Friday, and also what it stood for.
When writing book, all foreign phrases must be clearly understood or somehow clarified..
Among your tips for writing a book, remember to include personality traits that make your characters tick. They interact with society, people, and events around them. Some of this must be revealed as the story moves along. Revealed, but not all at once.
Many instances appear in multi-genre writing for the use of foreign language words and phrases. Use them only when necessary.
Rico had involved her in all aspects of the design of the floor plans, elevations and every last detail of that house. Since he loved what she designed and went ahead with the building of it, Ciara guessed he would invite her to be a partner in his business. With that house alone, she had learned what it took to build a house from the ground up.
The idea of a partnership enticed as she daydreamed, but she knew to direct her efforts to writing and publishing her childrens books instead. Rico was of Latino origins and needed to feel in command of his life, his family. Ciara was not sure working together would be the best arrangement. But then, Rico did not exude a lot of machismo either. He had matured well beyond ego trips.
Finishing construction of the Valle Arriba Heights house could not be the reason he would delay their marrying. Too, he was remodeling the main house in which he and Pablo lived right there on Calle Delbrey in Santurce, walking distance to Condado Beach. When a freak storm had demolished the beach shack, Rico rushed to remodel the larger of the two cottages in which she lived now. He was just finishing the remodeling of the main house along with the studio cottage on the opposite side of the yard. But neither should those projects keep them from marrying. She had been happy living in the shack on the beach. Certainly she could live with remodeling debris, which was only temporary.
“Your construction activities must be the most excitement this old neighborhood’s seen in decades,” she said.
Most of the homes on the block had been standing a while. In Puerto Rico, things moved slowly. No one was in a hurry to remodel if they did at all. Things were fine the way they were. Calle Delbrey was a quiet street with yards dotted with tall old mango, avocado and other fruit trees. With only occasional car traffic, the area was safe for Pablo. People along the long block knew one another. A woman directly across the street took care of Pablo when she and Rico occasionally attended a social event or enjoyed an evening dinner and show at one of the resort hotels on the Condado Strip.
“I always meant to remodel this property,” he said. “I’ve owned it since right after moving to this island.” Then his expression saddened. “This was to be my mother’s place.”
“You told me,” Ciara said sympathetically. “Your family sold everything before you left so you could sneak the money out of Cuba and all of you start over here in Puerto Rico. But your mom got sick before she could get permission to leave.”
“Those were the bad years,” he said. “Rained a lot.” But his expression hinted at more. Time did not necessarily heal the wound of losing parents but it should at least have helped him accept the tragic turn of events. Something was still fresh in his mind. Something haunted him. He reached over and nudged her by the chin so he could look into her eyes. “You, Ciara, you gave my life new purpose.”
“You’re sure about that?” she asked, wanting to make him smile.
“All the work you put into that shack near the tide pool? I used to lay on the beach just to watch you making that place livable.”
“You…!” she said with an angry smile. “You watched me and I never knew it.”
“That’s one thing I’ll always remember you for, Ci-Ci,” he said as he took her into his arms. “You gave me reason to go on. I lived for the next chance to lay on the beach and watch a most determined little girl in the shack.”
“You…you voyeur! You didn’t even offer to help!” She laughed and playfully doubled up a fist. “I saw you out there two or three afternoons every week. But I didn’t know you were my landlord back then.”
“The girl in the shack…who painted everything inside and out…including her nose and freckled cheeks!”
“All the time you watched me,” she said, “you were probably hoping I’d come over and paint your walls!” He chuckled. “Go ahead, make fun,” she said. “But I did it again decorating this cottage, didn’t I?”
Rico raised an eyebrow, glanced around the room. “Quite nice,” he said. “You have a way of making the best of everything.” He held her arm’s length and looked into her eyes. “You have such determination, such dedication,” he said, beginning to smile. “But evidently you didn’t need all that seclusion to write your childrens books. You’ve done just fine living in my yard.”
“I manage,” she said, sticking her nose into the air.
He drew her tighter to him. They did not have to kiss to share feelings. A loving bond was just there between them, like they were each a part of the other. She threw her arms around his neck and nuzzled her face against his cheek.
Writing a book is like becoming a voyeur peeping into people’s private lives. You must show them interacting, their endearments and their battles – if they apply to the story. Scenes like some of these move the story and plant clues to future actions.
These scenes show us how intimate the characters are with one another. When writing a book, give a good inclination how the characters will react in more dire instances. With what you’ve already learned about these, you know dire situations will arise.
Did you read the part where the house Rico lives in was meant for his mother? So what happened to his mother? Why isn't she living there? Everyone has family. Include them if they apply or are foreshadowing for something later in the story.
“You know the most important thing I like about you, Ci-Ci?” he asked softly.
Ciara pulled away to look into his eyes. “The most important?” she asked, half teasing. “What’s that?”
His expression sobered. He tried to smile, and then said, “How easily you’re able to love a child who isn’t yours.” He pulled her close again before she could read his expression. “Nothing will change my love for that boy,” he said.
They held together again, connected at the heart. The rain worsened. Droplets echoed through the glass blocks in the flat roof over the dining area. Ciara prayed the rain would not rule the moment.
Pablo appeared outside the screen door. “Mama, Papi. Can I come in?”
Rico turned to face the doorway. “Go home and wash your hands and face…and change your shirt,” he said quickly.
“I already did, Papi. Can I come in?”
“Okay, but remove your sandals.”
Rico looked at his son’s hands and face then motioned for Pablo to sit at the table. Young Pablo had even combed his hair. He was definitely the product of his father’s loving and attentive upbringing. He already knew what was expected of him and happily complied and got on with things. His puffy-cheek smile of expectation tugged at Ciara’s heart.
“I’m afraid if it’s storming real hard,” Rico said as he served red rice onto their plates, “we’ll have to delay leaving till the rain lets up.”
Ciara went into the tiny kitchen and returned to the table with a hot pot of quingombos guisados, an okra stew, and served it over chickpeas and the rice tinted red from achiote, an annatto seed powder.
“Oh, no, Papi,” Pablo said. “We haven’t taken the boat out since school finished in June.”
Foil packages, that had been kept warm on the side of the barbecue, contained pasteles made of pork and spices mixed with seasoned and grated green plantain bananas and steamed. On the side, she placed a small platter of Pablo’s favorite tostones de platano, chips made from deep-frying boiled slices of green plantains.
“You know I’ve been busy with the houses, mi hi’jo,” Rico said. “We have an agreement, you and me, you remember?”
“Si, Papi. But we love to sail. Now Mama does too.”
“Si, si,” Rico said as he halved the game hens, serving each of them a side.
“Can we say grace?” Pablo asked.
They were both surprised. Pablo always said grace whether or not they did. Why would he make an issue of saying it now?
“Go ahead,” Rico said. “You say grace.”
Pablo clasped his hands, bowed his head and said the prayer. Just before finishing, he added, “…and protect us on our vacation from the rain because Papi says bad things happen when it storms.”
Silence and the sound of rain above them filled the room as Rico glanced at her. A draft slammed the front door shut. Pablo looked up, startled, and then slowly picked up his fork.
“Y que mas, Pablito?” his father asked.
“Oh,” Pablo said, laying the fork down as he remembered. He bowed his head again. “Amen,” he said.
Rico spoke as they began to eat. “You think the rain’s going to ruin our vacation, Mi’jo?”
“You don’t like the rain so much, Papi,” Pablo said. “You always tell people that bad things happen when it storms. So I don’t want any rain when we sail.”
Spanish phrases these characters use, and the names of the foods, give
us some of the flavor of the lives they live. Again, don’t forget to
translate the less common phrases when writing a book.
Have you noticed all along that Pablo is a very-well mannered boy? That he treats Ciara respectfully, and with his father he is more playful? Do you sense the nature or personality of this wise, precocious child?
If you go back over this chapter for the main points of foreshadowing, there is that jagged scar. There is Rico’s fear of rain when they sail. Ciara is afraid their marriage will not take place. And through it all, Ciara notices something eating away at Rico deep inside. All foreshadowing.
When writing a book, if you want to get into your reader's heart and play with their emotions - no matter what kind of plot you're weaving - include a child or a small dog in the mix.
In writing a book, the first chapter sets up the action, or expectation of it. The first scene you set provides the sense of what type of story this may be; what type of characters people the plot.
Though the scenes change from one location to another when writing a book, after the first scene and setting, the reader should be deeply rooted in the over all “feel’ of the story.
The first chapter also employs all the tips for writing a book that can be squeezed in: creating interesting characters that live interesting, even heart-stopping and dire, situations.
If you cannot set up your first chapter as a grabber when writing a book, you will need to work on that chapter before proceeding.
Maybe your characters live boring lives. That would have to be established as early as the first paragraph and change to totally opposite when writing the next paragraph if you are to hold the readers interest. Writing a book that starts with a boring person or incidence won’t grab anyone's attention. Because of that, when writing a story, never begin the writing with a boring person or uninteresting opening.
In our society today, readers demand that something happen, and fast. Write it that way.
So it is that the first chapter must foreshadow everything else contained when writing a book, even in multi-genre writing. Employ as many tips for writing a book in your first chapter that you can get into it. The rest of the plot will smooth out and write itself.
SPECIAL NOTE: The Tropics is out of print. Used copies are still around. However, I have rewritten the book and published it as an eBook. Read about the exciting expansion of the stories under the new title and cover, Legacy of the Tropics.
The Tropics Media Room (with Photos)