how to write a book

The hardest part about being an author used to be getting published. Traditional publishers only accepted a small percentage of all books and self-publishing options were limited.

Now that the rise of technology has made it easier than ever for authors to self-publish, actually writing the book has now become the hard part. While writing a book is a lot of hard work, the process does not have to be overly hard.

In this post we will discuss how to write a book in 12 steps.

1. It Starts With An Idea

Every great book starts with an idea, but how do you come up with a book idea? Here are a few tips:

  • Write a book in your favorite genre to read
  • Choose a topic you have knowledge about
  • Your first idea probably won’t be your best

You do not have to know the entire story when you come up with an idea. In fact it is better to let your story tell itself as you write. Don’t over think the idea phase. Many authors never make it past this first step.

2. Outline Your Idea

Now that you have an idea it is time to create an outline. This should be a very high level outline. Break your book into chunks (beginning, middle, end) so you have a guiding light. If you try to be too detailed it is easy to get overwhelmed. Much like the idea phase, your outline shouldn’t include too much detail.

Your story will change along the way, but writing without any outline is dangerous. Not having an outline is an easy way to get lost and never complete your book. As your book begins to take shape it is a good idea to re-outline the remainder of your book.

3. Break Your Writing Into Small Chunks

Now comes the fun part! It is time to start writing your book. Here is the key to writing a great book: focus on writing in small chunks. Really small chunks.

If you can write 500 words a day, that is more than enough. Even 250 words a day will get the job done. It is easy to get excited when you first start writing and try to write 5,000 words per day. This simply isn’t sustainable.

Everyday, focus on writing the best 250-500 words you can. Before you know it you will have a full fledged book on your hands.

4. Find Inspiring Places To Write

how to write a book

Modern day technology allows us to write anywhere. Take time to find a few inspiring places to write your book each day. This will be a long process. Finding a place you enjoy writing and can be productive will help make it more enjoyable.

A few examples of places to consider are:

  • A dedicated room in your house, preferably with a view
  • A bench at a quiet park
  • Anywhere with running water (a stream, waterfall, etc.)

Each writer is different, so you will need to experiment with different writing places. Don’t under-estimate this step. Writing a book is hard. Don’t make it any harder on yourself.

5. Dedicate Specific Time Everyday For Writing

Will you be writing full-time? The answer to this is almost always no.

Most writers have another job and this is ok. What is important is that you find a specific time everyday to write. This could be early in the morning or late at night. Again, experimentation is key.

I wish I could tell you the ideal time to write, but it simply doesn’t exist. When you don’t dedicate a specific time everyday to write, you end up skipping days. This is the easiest way to procrastinate a great idea into oblivion.

6. Never Stop Writing At The End of a Chapter

The hardest part about starting a book is the initial feeling of staring at a blank page. All authors can attest to how hard it is to write the first few sentences of any book. Once you do turn your first blank page into a masterpiece, make sure to never put yourself in this position again.

Never stop writing your book at the end of a chapter. I will repeat, never stop writing your book at the end of a chapter.

Even if you like to finish chapters before you stop writing, make sure you at least write the first sentence of the next chapter. That way when you begin writing the following day you will not be staring at the daunting blank page.

7. Seek Feedback Early and Often

how to write a book

Feedback from others will help you succeed, and I am not talking about trained professionals either; that will come later. I am talking about feedback from family, friends and other authors.

This feedback should not be editing advice, but instead should be focused on helping you create a clear storyline. It is very easy for authors to understand their own stories. Getting an outside perspective will help you realize areas in your storyline that need clarity.

8. Self-Impose Deadlines

Humans have a habit of taking as much time as is allotted. For example, if our boss says something is due in 2 months we generally will take the full 2 months before submitting it. Now if our boss said the same task was due in 2 weeks, chances are we could get it done with the same quality.

When it comes to writing, deadlines are crucial. Otherwise progress is difficult. As an author you are your own boss. Self-impose deadlines and hold yourself to them. Whether it is a deadline for the end of your first chapter or first draft, deadlines are your best friend.

9. Find Professional Help

Let’s keep this step as simple as possible; every author has strengths and weaknesses. 

Write down what your weaknesses are (editing, cover design, etc.) and hire professionals to help you with these areas. Focus on your strengths and let professionals handle your weaknesses.

Professional help does not have to be expensive. Try talking to other authors to find recommendations for affordable help.

10. Learn From Mistakes

You will make mistakes. If you are a first time author you can expect to make a lot of mistakes.

Make sure you learn from these mistakes so that you can avoid them moving forward. Mistakes are learning experiences. If you accept them and learn from them, your book will improve every day.

11. Title Is Everything

We all know the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. The problem with this saying is most people do judge books by their covers.

While a good cover design is important, your title is critical. The wrong title can be the difference between success and failure. You should spend a little time every week thinking of title ideas. Plan this into your routine.

Once you create a list of potential titles, ask family and friends to vote on which title they like best and why. This strategy is very effective because it can show you why people are attracted to certain type of titles. Make sure you also consult with professional help prior to settling on your final title.

You only get to have one title, so make sure it is a good one.

12. Always Finish

how to write a book

Last but not least, make sure you finish your book. Writing a book is hard. It will test you mentally and emotionally. You will question if it is worth it many times throughout the process. Quitting will cross your mind.

This is normal, keep going. Finishing a book is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It is what drives prolific authors to keep writing book after book after book. Always finish your book!