What do you want to see in a writer’s handbook? Here’s my Table of Contents

Cover Time!

Cover Time!

How do you write a novel? More than that, how do you write a good novel?

I am SO excited: I am maybe an hour’s worth of work away from finishing a first draft of my Writer’s Handbook “Writing For You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”

The whole reason I’m putting this book together–expanding, rearranging, and adding completely new material to many of my blog posts from the past year–is that a number of my followers told me I should do it.

Since the book in every way was the suggestion of you guys, and I’m writing it for you guys, I’d like to ask: what else would you like to see in a writer’s handbook? My table of contents so far includes:

  1. INTRODUCTION: Who I am, what I do, and what qualifications I have to be writing this book. Basically, why should you care what advice I have about writing? (Including a brief description of every novel I’ve written and my approach to that novel.)
  2. PREFACE: Why anyone should do this crazy thing called writing a novel. What are the reasons for writing that will set you up for success?
  3. CHAPTER ONE: What to know before you write
  4. CHAPTER TWO: The cardinal rules of writing
  5. CHAPTER THREE: On outlines
  6. CHAPTER FOUR: On character development
  7. CHAPTER FIVE: On first drafts
  8. CHAPTER SIX: On editing
  9. CHAPTER SEVEN: On style
  10. CHAPTER EIGHT: Making and managing time to write
  11. CHAPTER NINE: On social media marketing

I don’t have a release date yet. That’s forthcoming. While I want to release the book as soon as possible, I’m determined to make sure it’s in a state to be released and ready to be read before I ask people to buy it.

As soon as I know when the book will be ready for release, I’ll make an announcement. For now:

What do you guys think I’m missing? I can’t guarantee, of course, that I’ll be able to throw in everything y’all request, but I definitely need your input. I want this book to be a real help to my fellow writers. I want it to contain the information y’all need. So please let me know.

What do you most want to read about? What do you feel are the blog’s strongest assets, so I can make sure to employ them in the book as well?

I can’t tell you how crazy stoked I am about this project, my first non-fiction release. Thanks, you guys, for all your support and for helping me make it a success.


40 responses to “What do you want to see in a writer’s handbook? Here’s my Table of Contents

  1. Sounds great! Look forward to reading.

  2. Looks great. Do you have anything on setting and description?

  3. Victoria, I can’t WAIT to read your book! Your blog is full of so much great info that I find myself constantly quoting you to my writer clients. I’ll bet you’ve already covered this, but one thing I notice in a lot of the fiction I critique and edit is the tendency to introduce too many characters in the first few chapters. I feel like my head is spinning as I try to remember the protagonist, his ex-wife, his girlfriend, his BFF, his boss, his next-door neighbor . . . and that’s in the first chapter! Thanks for considering an explanation about how to handle the introduction of multiple (important) characters in the first few chapters.

    • thanks!!! That’s a great suggestion. I think I actually have that problem to a degree in my first published novel so I can even approach it from experience 🙂 I appreciate so much your support and kind words, Candace!

  4. Hi! I think this looks really neat! I look forward to reading it, when it comes out. In the meantime, I think maybe something about persistence might be worthwhile to include. After all, a person can know everything about the craft and still get discouraged along the road.

    • thanks, Emily! I touch on that on the “what to know before you write” chapter but it’s worth really delving into 🙂 I’ll make sure I’m clear on how important persistence is, because you’re absolutely right.

  5. I wait for your book Victoria because it´s really interesting watch your point of view about the writer way; though I prefer take my writing time like an artist. I´ll try to explain it. When I write fiction I inmmerse myself in a chaotic ocean where the ideas, the characters, and everything realtive to the tale live by themselves. I know, I know Victoria, that´s not the way if I wish to be published. I can imagine your expertise look :-).

    I´m really tired about the literature in Spain, is almost dead though there´s a lot of titles published every year. I´m out of the literature circuit moreover when my topics are northamerican and they are writen in spanish language. That´s the reason why I´ve choosen to live out of the system and maybe the usual ways to create literature are not made for me (that don´t make me happy).

    Anyway, your opinions and texts are very important for me and I take you in account everytime I write in these times. Thanks so much, I wait for your book.

    Sorry Victoria, possibly my english is nos so good as you would.

    • your English is fine, Eugenio! No worries 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of 20th century Spanish literature either. That’s why I studied Golden Age literature. 🙂 I appreciate your kind words. And I admire that you can create art and writing from chaos because my approach is different.

      • Golden Age, what a pretty name! I love the poetry of Fray Luis de León, my family ancestor. specially “El Cantar de los cantares” Thanks from the hearth. The actual spanish literature is simple and dark in the shape and avoid of real content, maybe that´s the reason i love northamerican comtemporary literature. Thanks so much.

  6. I really look forward to this one, Victoria! You know, I’ve mentioned how much you have helped me as a newbie, so this book is perfect! 🙂 I do have a suggestion: How about a chapter on Realistic Dialogue and how it ties in to character development and propelling the story forward? I know..you could probably write an entire book on just that..but this would definitely be a great help! Thanks again, and best of luck to you always! I don’t always comment, but I do read every post! 🙂

    • Thanks, Rebecca! I really appreciate your support, and your suggestion here is a great one! I have some posts that border on that topic that maybe I could expand a bit. That chapter on dialogue is a fabulous idea!!!

  7. Maybe you could include some guidelines on writing strong dialogue that helps move the story forward and writing from different POVs successfully. These are two issues I see in lots of the subs I read as an editorial intern.

    • thanks, Fiona!!! Someone else has mentioned dialogue too. And POV is a huge factor, for sure. I don’t have a chapter there yet and I know I don’t mention POV as much as I maybe should.

  8. thank you for asking…

    how to plot non-fiction, is that different from fiction? How many chapters are usually expected . how do i to go from point of conception (idea for a book to writing it and what’s required for a query, proposals, an agent and order of their priorities.

    i think thats it for today =)


  9. How about a section for originality and being influenced by other writers? It’s important for beginners to understand that they will never 100 percent original and that’s okay. For proof, you can add a link to TvTropes.

  10. The content looks interesting; something I would like to read, but I just don’t like the cover. Maybe I am being too polite. I mean, I loathe the cover. Pencils…. Blue pencils on a gloomy gray background. The colors are all cold, and not very inviting. It reminds me of my son’s first grade writing practice books. If I was browsing through Amazon, and I saw this cover, I would keep on browsing.

  11. I think that any wisdom you can impart about social media marketing would be phenomenal for a writer just finding their feet. While plenty of marketing information is available (if you know where to look) there isn’t a huge amount that is specific to writing fiction.

    I am looking forward to this! I’ve never read a how to write book, but your blog happened to be the first one I’ve ever followed on WP, and you really seem to know your stuff.


  12. Hi Victoria,
    you muct be psychic, for i was just thinking yesterday that you should write a book on how to write a book, your blogs are so insightful it is the natural progression.
    My thoughts, for what it is worth
    1. the 3D’s, discipline, determination, distractions (this may be in Ch 2)
    2. procrastination v perseverence (may also be in Ch 2)
    3. Mid term blues
    4. This may surprise you, but i dont like the cover, because as a thumb nail it looks like vials of blood samples or vials of drugs, i had to enlarge it so see that it was pencils – may give the wrong impression on a website thumnail.

    Great idea and i shall definitely get one when it comes out.
    Keep up the good work


    • thanks for your feedback, Andrew. You’re not the only one who didn’t like the cover. I’ll probably change it substantially before release, so I appreciate your thoughts.

  13. catherinelumb

    This sounds great Victoria.From what you have above I think chapter 8 needs to come much earlier. You need to make time and manage that time well before you even sit down to write, so it makes sense to me that this information would need to come early on.

    As I’m reading this point in my own writing experience: I would add something about writing a pitch – assuming you don’t cover it in the marketing. But you could also create a chapter that examines how to identify the theme and how to utilise this to work in your pitch?

    Also – one thing I have seen in blogs, but not much in writing how-tos (excepting perhaps Stephen King who does touch on it but not explain it) is the difference between plot and story…I think given your experience you could really clarify this for reader/writers.

    I assume you will have a recommended reading section too?

    I would definitely purchase this book based on the fact I know your existing advice on the blog is fantastic and that you can explain concepts very clearly. I look forward to recommending it to my writerly friends when it’s out! 🙂

    Take Care, Cat x

    • thanks for the suggestions, Cat!!! I think moving that chapter does make sense. 🙂 Being self-published after years of writing, I don’t know much about soliciting agents yet because I’ve never done that successfully, but I have read some things about it I could refer people to 🙂

  14. catherinelumb

    In that case you should include some advice on self-publishing and perhaps an opinion piece on why you chose this route rather than traditional publishing? That would certainly be useful and plays on your expertise. Really looking forward to seeing the finished product. Good luck with it 🙂

  15. In reading the comments of others, I agree that the question of the year should be included: Traditional or Self-Publishing? How hard is it for a non-techie, such as I am, to format a word document from their computer to CreateSpace as a DIY e-book? Or is it worth it to pay a company such as BookBaby to format it and upload to all the different venues? I know that they claim that the author maintains all rights, and once they pay for the package, the author gets 100%..I wonder how accurate that is though, because B & N and Amazon, etc. will still want theire cut, right? So, if that is the case, CreateSpace sounds more attractive if it isn’t too complicated to do it.. I hope I am making sense here. Of course, there is always tradional publishing, but that sounds like it would be entirely too much frustration to me. Plus you have to wait so long to see anything in print! 🙂

  16. Maybe some thoughts about the target market and the language to write in (for those with a different mother tongue than English). As well as translating into which languages, if any.

  17. angel7090695001

    How to use dialogue correctly (speech marks, indirect attribution, speaker first and last.) and what program to use for writing a novel. Stuff like Microsoft word, ywriter, Evernote, storyist.

    • Thanks, Louise! 🙂 I have to say, I only use Word and have never investigated other programs, so I don’t really know much (if anything) about that, to be able to voice an opinion or give information.

      • angel7090695001

        I use a combo of word (for formatting, upgraded to windows 8 and free trial ran out so have to make do with open office because word pad is worse) evernote (for ipad and sync to pc) and ywriter (for computer, pretty nice layout for character, places with scenes and chapters.) I now write in scenes and chapters because of ywriter.

  18. Pingback: Bloggers, Authors, Wordsmiths: Should you blog daily? | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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