1. Choose your genre
Before you write a single word, decide what genre – or category – your book is best suited. Start with the main genre (i.e. romance, fantasy, science fiction, historical) then break it down into sub-genres. You probably will have a couple genres woven throughout your story, but keep it to just a few. This is also an important factor for your audience to know, especially if they’re searching for a book on an online site or bookstore. If you are unclear which genre or sub-genre suits your story best, research sites that have a breakdown of different ones. You’ll be surprised at the myriad of options for each category.
2. Create interest at the beginning
While some stories start off with jaw-dropping action (think of any James Bond book or movie) many more open with the mundane activities of life and build from there. Create interest in your reader by posing a problem your main character is facing, whether it is with another character or circumstance. The beginning can also foreshadow a topic that your hero or heroine will deal with throughout the story.
3. Don’t make things easy
Your characters cannot have it too easy. Think of what your main characters fear the most and then allow it to happen. Is your heroine afraid of being alone or abandoned, or your hero fearful of failure or falling in love? What life event will challenge them to face their fear and conquer it? By the end of the story, your main characters need to evolve in some way. Even your antagonist must have conflicting feelings of choosing right or wrong to keep him or her believable. These dilemmas should drive each of your main characters into action.
4. Leave them guessing
Not every chapter needs to end with a dramatic cliffhanger, but it should have something to pique the reader’s curiosity whether it’s waiting for a phone call or a kiss. A successful writer leaves the reader wanting more until the key moment when the story takes an unexpected turn toward tragedy or triumph. Every scene should move the story forward, which will keep your reader invested until the end.
5. Show instead of tell
In order for the reader to become emotionally involved in your story, show them what is happening in a scene instead of just telling them. Draw them into the act with a visual image. Instead of telling the reader that the character was angry, show the subtleties of their behavior, the intensity of their feelings and their state of mind while the action is happening. Doing so will help elicit the emotions you want to arouse in your audience and cause your story to become more memorable.