A Hands-on Guide to Write a Book

Grant Ferguson

I’m Grant Ferguson, and I love helping writers turn ideas into novels, but what breaks my heart is how many abandon their dreams. So, I created a hands-on guide to help you write a book you’ll love sharing.

The Silver Bullet You’re Missing

First, a bit of background on me. I’m just a regular guy, not a famous writer with best-selling novels flying off the shelf. What I bring to the table is decades of setting ambitious goals and completing complex projects.

You’ve met someone like me. You know, that person, the one who can’t stop working until every task has a check mark next to it. Yep, that’s me.

But not everyone is wired like that, so I give tips on how to create your own DIY writing project. It’s the silver bullet you’re missing!

Instead of dumbing down, I break down into phases how to write a book. You can turn your idea into a novel using this phased approach.

Table of Contents

A Hands-on Guide to Write a Book

  • Follow time-proven steps.

    Gather the story ingredients and follow the recipe to turn your idea into a novel. It’s a plan, not a formula!

  • Master the Global Story Elements.

    The essential ingredients of a novel include structure, characters, plot, and theme.

  • Prepare to write a book.

    Turn an idea into a premise. Adopt a storytelling structure. Develop interesting characters. Design an intriguing plot. Form external and internal themes.

  • Build a Story Spine.

    Draft the core story in a fairy-tale format that names the hero, defines the problem, gives beginning and ending. The Story Spine hints at external, internal, and philosophical goals and themes.

  • Flesh out the Story Body.

    Draft the short version of the entire narrative in a fairy-tale format, preparing the initial contents for completion of the Global Story Beats.

  • Outline the Global Story Beats

    Follow the Global Story Beats process to outline scenes and scene sequences.

  • Create the story’s logline.

    Write a one-to-two-sentence logline, enabling you and others to envision the emotional aspects of the entire story.

  • Write the scenes and sequences.

    Draft single scenes, grouping the action and people into a logical order to advance the story. Organize scene sequences into a rational group of scenes to form one of the Global Story Beats.

  • Self-edit your manuscript.

    Edit to correct content and story arc based on the standards of a chosen genre and the level of audience expectations.

  • Get answers to frequently asked questions.

    See the answers to questions others have asked.

It’s DIY Time!

I love do-it-yourself projects, so if DIY is your thing, you’re in the right place.

Like a cookbook, I list the ingredients and walk you through the recipe to turn your idea into a novel. You’ll gain practical knowledge you can use to create a manuscript you’ll be proud to share.

It’s a plan, not a formula! You’ll use your vivid imagination and writing style to create a unique story.

Tame Your Book!

Tame Your Book!

It takes passion, discipline, and courage to tame an unruly book. If you’re serious about completing a full-length novel, it’s difficult, but with knowledge and a plan, it’s doable.

The lines on the writer’s roadmap look more like spaghetti than a quick hop from point A to B. Along the way, you’ll face many crossroads, and with each decision, your future comes one choice at a time.

Learn and Practice the WHAT and the HOW

To turn your idea into a novel, you’ll need to develop a sufficient grasp of the what and a practiced skill of the how. Find the information and examples you need in our weekly updates.

Join the Storyboard Adventure

New writers and best-selling authors differ in their approaches:

  • Aspiring writers focus on WHAT to include in the story.

  • Successful authors combine the WHAT with practiced know-HOW.

Gain an understanding of story elements and learn how to follow a proven plan.

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Categories of Global Story Elements

The Global Story Elements divide into four categories.

1. Structure

Your storytelling framework influences a story’s beats, arc, pacing, and viewpoint. Story structure includes characters, plot, and theme.

2. Characters

Individuals with identifiable traits and voices who fill roles, and strive to achieve wants but unresolved needs hold them back. Relationships exist between these individual, which influence conflicts and changes.

3. Plot

A plot is a series of events, forcing characters into conflicts and blocking the fulfillment of their wants and needs. For example, the writer’s chosen genre influences story conventions, obligatory scenes, external and internal theme, and tropes. The plot includes settings, stakes, secrets, and twists.

4. Theme

The story’s external theme often parallels the expectations for a chosen genre (e.g., the genre of crime paired with the theme of justice versus injustice), and the internal theme deals with a human frailty (e.g., selflessness versus selfishness). The story problem (e.g., injustice) usually remains unresolved until the lead character adopts the universal truth communicated by the internal theme (e.g., forgo selfish pursuits to act in the community’s best interest).

This illustration shows the relationships between the categories and elements.

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The Global Story Plan

To help you write a book, follow the Global Story Plan. For example, here are the seven phases:

1. Project Preparation

Book ideas, characters, settings, plots, and themes come from many sources. Writers begin by turning their initial concepts into a premise before writing, and that includes developing an understanding of structure, characters, settings, plot, and theme.

➨Premise

The premise gives a story’s big picture and writer’s development strategy in one sentence, combining character, plot, theme, symbol, event (i.e., the Story Problem), and giving a sense of the hero and story outcome (i.e., the hero’s change). (See: 11 Tips on How to Create Your Story Premise BEFORE You Write; How to Find Book Ideas; How to Write a Premise for a Book; Exploring How to Structure a Book).

➨Structure

The structure is how you will organize the manuscript with a framework (e.g., the Global Story Beats) and point of view before you write. Structure guides how and where to place content within your story. (See: 7 Tips on How You Can Structure Your Story)

➨Characters

The universe of people populating a novel ranges from realistic to fantasy characters, and they show wide ranges of traits and behaviors. The preparation phase includes selecting the best characters to tell the story and creating backstories that shape their thoughts, choices, words, and actions. (See: Develop Characters Using Enneagram Personality Types (Part 1); Develop Character Voices and Descriptions Using Enneagram Personality Types (Part 2))

➨Settings

Your choice of story locations can enhance the mood and tone, taking on qualities akin to essential characters. Like several cast members, you can have many settings and each fulfills a vital role in the story. These setting can deepen every scene, help portray the story’s cast, deliver and enrich the backstory, convey emotions, build tension, and provide a unique reader experience. (See: Personify Your Story Settings)

➨Plot

The plot highlights key events (i.e., turning points) that cause conflicts and direct the story toward the climax. (See: 7 Tips for Structuring Plot and Subplots)

➨Theme

What your story is about will expand and mature as you write. Your chosen genre suggests the initial external and internal themes, serving as guideposts whenever you arrive at a decision crossroads. (See: Self-edit Your Novel (Part 3))

2. Story Spine

Based on your premise, the Story Spine tells the core story in a fairy-tale format that names the hero, defines the problem, gives beginning and ending, hints at external, internal, and philosophical goals and themes. (See: Build a Story Spine)

3. Story Body

Based on the Story Spine, the Story Body tells the short version of the entire narrative in a fairy-tale format, preparing the initial contents for completion of the Global Story Beats. (See: How to Outline the Story Body)

4. Global Story Beats

Based on proven structures divided into eighteen beats, follow the Global Story Beats process to outline scenes and scene sequences. The process is suitable for use with many genres, including mysteries, thrillers, and romance. (See: How to Use Global Story Beats with Scrivener)

5. Story Logline

A one-to-two-sentence logline enables someone to envision the emotional aspects of the entire story. The wording grabs attention and makes people want to know more. The premise gives a story’s big picture and writer’s development strategy, and the logline engages the audience at an emotional level. It’s the pitch that makes people want to read your novel. (See: How to Write a Logline for Your Novel)

6. Scenes and Scene Sequences

A single scene groups the action and people into a logical order to advance the story. A scene sequence is a rational grouping of scenes to form one of the Global Story Beats. For example, the SETUP beat is a sequence of scenes that establishes the characters, their wants, the stakes, story theme, and the need for change. (See: Effective Tips for Writing Scenes that Hook Audiences and Keep Them Turning Pages)

7. Self-edits

The self-editing process corrects content and story arc based on the standards of a chosen genre and the level of audience expectations. A professional edit can fix many issues, but unless you’ve hired a ghostwriter, the editor will not rewrite your story. A self-edit tightens loose structure, fleshes out underdeveloped characters, fills plot holes, clarifies theme, and corrects errors. Also, a self-edit can lower the potential cost of a professional edit. (See: Self-edit Your Novel Part 1A; Self-edit Your Novel Part 1B; Self-edit Your Novel Part 1C; Self-edit Your Novel Part 1D; Self-edit Your Novel Part 2; Self-edit Your Novel Part 3)

This illustration shows the phases of the Global Story Plan.

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Frequently Asked Questions

➨Can’t I just write instead of learning all this technical stuff?

I felt the same way, and didn’t let my ignorance of story structure stop me from self-publishing four books. When all I heard were crickets instead of ringing cash registers, I realized there had to be a better way. I read books, visited websites, took courses, and attended webinars. To date, I’ve recorded and organized over 3,000 notes, which I share with subscribers.

➨Why approach writing as a project?

For many years I led teams merging mega-sized corporations, so I learned to value a project plan. When you write a book of 50,000 to 100,000 words, you’ve got hundreds of moving parts and dozens of issues to resolve. A writing project plan divided into phases helps you avoid the frustration of producing a manuscript that no one wants to read.

➨Where did you discover the processes used in the Global Story Plan?

Learning from books enabled me to move up in the ranks from a humble beginning to a senior position. I’ve applied that same process to reading and applying the advice taught by respected writing teachers.

➨How much do you charge for the Global Story Plan?

Nada! Unless you donate or buy my workbooks, the information is free. I do have affiliate links for apps and books, but if you buy through my site, you’ll not pay one penny more even though I might earn a small commission. By the way, I only recommend apps and books I’ve purchased and tested.

If you read the pages and posts on tameyourbook.com, you can find the information I put into my priced workbooks, but you would miss out on the time savings and convenience of the complete packages.

All I ask of you is to pay it forward. As Nelson Henderson wrote, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

➨What do you provide to subscribers?

Please explore the links above and download the free checklists.

Join the Storyboard Adventure and Write a Book

The storyboard adventure will help you understand the Global Story Elements and encourage you to keep following the Global Story Plan.

Learn from a true-life writing adventure that moves a story from good to great. It’s not linear, more like spaghetti. Get scenes from my latest work in progress. Read insights coming out of the revision process. Enjoy exclusive how-to articles.

Together, we’ll tame your book, turning an unruly draft into a purring manuscript!