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Tips on writing and getting into bookstores

Updated: Jun 8, 2019

There are so many great tips on writing out there:

Here are a few to start:

  1. write what you know

  2. Don’t save information for other books

  3. read the best books

  4. copy style

  5. use said

  6. edit

  7. edit again

  8. Use poetry techniques

  9. Start with a hook

  10. Tell everyone, but tell them when the book is finished.


I am a writer, but to be a writer is to be a reader and readers learn to skim, scan and dissect. After reading a YA novel, I go back through the chapters and summarize them. I don’t make it complicated; a one sentence summary is perfect. Let’s start with my favorite book by Mary Downing Hahn, Wait Till Helen Comes. I cannot say enough about this book, only that I have more than one copy and I read it once a year. Oh, and it still scares me. Let’s dissect it.

First, a good book has something many people like and always will like. Hahn’s book is a ghost story and ghost stories are popular. That doesn’t mean that you or I have to write a ghost story, but we should find a popular niche.

Second, Chapter lengths are anywhere from 6 to 10 pages.

Third, Hahn’s book, like many other YA novels (Young Adult Books), starts out with the protagonist or main character having to make a big move or change in his/her life. Molly, the main character is being forced to move with her family to a country church setting, which she will discover is haunted because her step sister befriends a ghost.

Fourth, each chapter must be exciting and complete but it must also leave us with the desire to read another chapter. For example, in Wait Till Helen Comes, chapter one is when the kids find out they are going to move, chapter two is the move and there’s beautiful descriptions about the remodeled church that they are moving into. This is interesting but would not keep us reading if the graveyard wasn’t mentioned. The introduction to the graveyard is all readers need to keep going. Then, of course, the family has to take a walk down to visit the graveyard in chapter three.

Fifth, As you are dissecting, pull out key words that will help you write your book. Hahn writes for young people but her vocabulary is fantastic for all ages. I note her descriptive words such as edging, wove, pale, and probing. Also, experienced novelist know that said should be used more than shouted, whispered, snapped. Yes, you should put in some of those words, but limit them. Said works well and should be used the most. Hahn often writes, “ said softly,” or she’ll jump into the action of a character and avoid using the said altogether. For example, she writes:[ “Come on, Michael!” I tugged at his arm, trying… ]Anyhow, the reader knows that the speaker is talking because of the followed action.

IN conclusion to this short discussion on outlining:

Take your favorite books and dissect them by chapters. You can do a formal outline with Roman Numerals or you can just do chapters and bullets. Write a simple descriptive sentence for each chapter and a few key words. Now, look at your own story idea. Can you fit your plot into a similar outline, describing each chapter in a sentence? Does your main character have an initial problem that is portrayed in chapter one? My favorite Young Adult Books tend to have a big move as the initial problem because of a single parent or death, etc. How do your favorite books start?

Works Cited

Hahn, Mary Downing. Wait Till Helen Comes. Avon Books, New York. 1986.

How to Write a Novel:

First decide on your title, topic, and audience. Then create an outline that includes the following:

  1. A list a major characters and a quick description, including ages where the story takes place (start to end)

  2. Detailed description of your setting

  3. Your plot

  4. Your time line( does it all happen over a few weeks, months, or years?)

  5. Your main (protagonist) character’s goals, who is the antagonist?You might create a story board for your chapters and then put what happens in each chapter.

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