Dawn Brookes Publishing

Publishing Topics by author Dawn Brookes

Tag: writing

Writing a Great Book Outline

Writing a Great Book Outline and Writing to Target

I have recently finished my very first debut novel so don’t consider myself an expert on this but I was greatly helped by using a system for writing the book. This system kept me to time and was just what I needed. The system I used I have adapted from one I learned from a course on Udemy called Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction

The first thing I need to say is that I did veer off but not hugely and you will see what I mean when I explain it.

Storyline

Obviously before you can develop a plan there needs to be a story in your head. My story evolved but I had the basics of the plot before I started writing.

I had a main character (initially it was 2), sub-characters important to the plot, a scene (set on a cruise ship), a theme – murder mystery (initially thriller but turned out to be cosy as I don’t do graphic), a beginning, a middle and an end (I had two in mind).

Word Count

The next thing was to decide on a rough word count. There is some debate over words needed but in general they are as follows:

Word Counts are not written in stone

Depending on what you read there are different opinions on how long a book should be so I have gathered a few together but they are just guides. Publishers will have minimum and maximum word counts for different books and generally frown on shorter novels and those that are too long.

  • Novel 40,000 words or over (generally 60,000 for mystery, 90,000+ for non-series novel). Some authors and publishers recommend 50,000+ with a maximum of 120,000 but Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix is over 250,000 words!
  • Young Adult 40,000 to 80,000 words
  • Biography & general non-fiction 50,000 to 120,000 words
  • Memoir & self-help 40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Novella 17,500 to 39,999
  • Novellette 7,500 to 17,499
  • Chapter books for children start at 16,000
  • Short story under 7,500
  • Flash fiction 500 to 1,000 words
  • Children’s picture books 400 to 800 words (some of mine are 1,200)

Splitting the Story

Splitting the word count to write the book

In my case I opted for 56,000 words (it has ended up being nearer the 60,000). As this was my first novel and I wanted to keep to time, I decided to aim for the same number of words per chapter using a table system.

The book had to have a beginning, a middle and an end and I wanted tension to build until the climax so this had to be factored in.

The grid or table includes the number of chapters split into one quarter for the beginning, one half for the middle and one quarter for the end. These quarters are then divided into 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so on, depending on how long the book will be and how many chapters you want to include.

So for example for a 60,000 word book using a 6 grid system 6 x 4 or 24 chapters.

60,000/24 = 2,500 words per chapter (guide only, can be flexible)

There would need to be 6 chapters in section 1, 12 in section 2 and 6 in section 3

In this example there will need to be at least 24 chapters of 2,500 words each split into sections.

I outlined each of the chapters with points that would be included in each, building on the story and adding tension as the story developed. By the halfway stage the tension was building and by three quarters it was higher with no resolution in sight. The final quarter then built on that tension but arrived at resolution.

Writing in this way kept me to time 

I used 56,000 with the 5 grid system 5 x 4 or 20 chapters 

56,000/20 = 2,800 words per chapter.

Writing the outline for each of those chapters helped me meet the target of writing the 2,800 per day. I didn’t stick to 20 chapters and have ended up with over 30 but that didn’t matter. The system helped me write the required number of words per day because I knew what I wanted to include in each of those grids.

Writing at a slower pace or writing more words

If you want to write at a slower pace you can write half the amount per day e.g. 1,400

If you want to write a much higher word count you will want to choose a higher number of grids resulting in more chapters. For example:

9 grid system 9 x 4 = 36

100,000/36 = 2,778 (give or take) words per day or half if you want to write slower

Conclusion

This is a system that has helped me and I hope that it helps you. If you want to learn more about this system check out Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction by Geoff Shaw where he explains it much better and outlines plot building within the system.

Cosy Mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Dawn Brookes, British nurse, shares what she’s learned from writing two memoirs
photo of Dawn Brookes

Thinking of writing and self-publishing a memoir? Get off to a flying start by reading this case study by ALLi author member Dawn Brookes, who shares the benefit of her experience gained from her two self-published memoirs containing stories from her early nursing career.

 

Why I Wrote My Nursing Memoirs

I started the first memoir while working full time as a community matron in Derbyshire. Initially I was writing for myself and for future generations who might want to explore family history. I became determined as I remembered the patients from those early days, I wanted their brave stories to be told, and I was remembering the fun and camaraderie of nursing in the 1970s.

Progress was slow going as I had hardly any spare time.

Set Back by Lost Work

In 2014 my computer crashed, and the hard drive was irreparably damaged. I lost the majority of the memoir. At that point, I gave up. Work was too busy and I began to doubt the value of writing it. I had major things going on in my life, as I was about to semi-retire and work part-time. I forgot about the book.

Broken Bones

As published in Alli blog

Hurry Up Nurse – the first instalment

Fate conspired to remind me about the memoir when, following a fall, I broke my foot in three places and ended up in plaster. I was confined to the house and bored out of my brains – when I remembered!

I was able to concentrate on one thing, in one place and I completed the work in seven weeks.

The most challenging part for me was developing patients’ stories without identifying them due to confidentiality.

I had to change things around a bit and mix up details while remaining true to the facts.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

cover of book 2

And the first sequel (More are in the pipeline)

I made a whole load of mistakes in August 2016.

The biggest mistake was not having the manuscript proofread, although I had read it numerous times and   asked a few friends to read it, we were all too wrapped up in the story and missed the numerous grammatical errors.

The next mistake I made was joining the Amazon Advantage programme. I ordered 200 books. The pricing of memoirs is relatively low at £7.99. I had sensibly had the book cover designed by a graphic designer, and the Kindle book formatted and converted by a professional. I published the book on Kindle.

The orders were coming in from Amazon Advantage, but I was posting books to their warehouses all around the UK, wasting time at the post office.

It was costing more money than I was making!

The next major faux pas was when I read the book and noticed an error on the second page. I was learning a harsh lesson. In spite of this, complete strangers were reviewing the book favourably – even on Goodreads it was getting three stars! This encouraged me that the content was at least readable. I found ALLi’s Debbie Young via a blog post, and she kindly agreed to read the book. Debbie was encouraging about the content and gentle with her advice.

I bit the bullet and hired a proofreader which was the best thing I could have done.

Corrections

I was able to correct the mistakes for the Kindle version, but the print book was more difficult. I had sold about 90 books when I decided it was time to cut my losses and do a reprint.

I realised that the Advantage programme was not right, and I moved the book to Createspace after a few emails to Amazon Advantage.

Change, Change, Change

The beauty of spending decades working in the NHS is that constant change requires flexibility which is vital, and I applied those skills to publishing.

The second memoir flowed better because my writing had improved.

Also,

  • I found it easier to mix up events and personalities to protect confidentiality.
  • The whole publishing process was much simpler.
  • I learned how to format books for kindle and epub and for print too, which saved me money.
  • This money was spent on proofing and editing the second memoir.
  • I saved a fortune by using print on demand.

More Memoirs to Follow

With lessons learned and readers requesting more, there is likely to be another memoir or two in the future. I still have around eighty print copies of my first book if anyone wants one – as long as they don’t mention the grammar!

Newspaper cutting

Celebrated as a success story in Derby local paper.

OVER TO YOU If you’ve learned lessons from writing a memoir, do you have top tips to add to Dawn’s list? We’d love to hear them!

As published on Alliance of Independent Authors blog   26/10/2017

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