Writing Tips - Chapter 1 - I can't make a book!

Writing Tips - Chapter 1 - I can't make a book!

Kids always ask the best questions. 
  • How do you glue all the pages together?
  • Where do you get the paper for the cover?
  • Can you do your own cover art?
  • How do you get it into a shop?
While these might seem silly to older readers, these questions can make the whole idea of writing a book seem utterly impossible, so let's start right at the basics and sort these questions out.

Authors don't make the book you see on the shelf. The author writes the story inside the book, and for the first part of our journey, that's all you have to focus on - but if you really want to know who is involved in making a book, there's a checklist at the bottom of this page. For everyone else, let's think about writing.

What do I need?

Believe it or not, a lot of writers start with a pen and paper. Some use school exercise books, some use notepads, some use sketchbooks. But if you want to send your finished book off, at some point you're going to need to get it typed up on a computer. Don't have a computer? Go to a library and use theirs, or use one at school. But if you're desperate for your own, you can get refurbished laptops for under £200, or a brand new Chromebook for about the same. Chromebooks are super-simple laptops that run Google Chrome - which takes us right onto the next section...

Isn't software expensive?

You don't have to spend a penny. Get yourself a Google Account. If you've bought a Chromebook, you'll get an account when you turn it on. That gives you Google Docs, a simple but powerful word processor. The great thing about Google Docs is it saves everything as you type - you never lose anything. You can also go back to old versions if you mess up.

If you want something more like Microsoft Word, try searching for Open Office. This is Open Source software and legally free to download. It has many of the features of Word - even the advanced stuff.

If you're ready to write, let's go to Chapter 2: Planning and Plotting.

But, for those who need an answer right now to how the final book is made ...

Who does make the book? 

Lots of people, but it all starts with someone just sitting down and writing a story. Once you've written your story and it's as good as you can get it, you contact an agent or a publisher (how you do this will be covered in Chapter 7). If they like your story, the ball starts rolling - that's when the other people step up and take your simple story and transform it into a book that people can actually buy.

Here's a quick rundown of the people involved.
  • The Author. You! The one who dreams up the story and writes the words. 
  • Agent.  The one who reads your book first - just the words. If the Agent likes your story, it's their job to find you the right Publisher and get you the best contract.
  • Publisher. The one with the money. They pay for everything else in the list
    (Golden Rule: an author never pays a publisher, agent or anyone else. EVER.)
  • Editor. The one who takes your words and make them even better. An editor is like a ninja English teacher and will correct mistakes and offer suggestions to make your story even better.
  • Graphic Designer. The one who will lay out your words all neat and tidy and sort out contents, title page and chapter headings.
  • Cover Designer. The one who will design the front cover, back cover and spine. They'll will find the cover art or photographs, or pay someone to do it - so you don't need to think about those either. It's the Cover Designer's job to think of the best possible cover. 
  • An illustrator. The one who draws the pictures, such as internal illustrations, chapter headings or full colour illustrations. Some authors are also illustrators, and they do their own pictures (I drew my own Buttercup illustrations), but more often than not, the publisher chooses the illustrator for the author. (NOTE: if you want to create picture books, but don't want to come up with the words, then this is the job for you!)
  • The Printer.  Not a person, but a building on some industrial estate - often in another country - where the finished story is printed onto paper, the paper is glued together and the cover is attached. 
  • Others. - There are also PR people who tell people about the book. Bloggers and reviewers, shopkeepers and distributors. 
So... a lot of people. But now we've got that out of the way, it's time to focus on what comes first.

Let's go to Chapter 2: Planning and Plotting. 

Colin Mulhern

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