Do you want to start writing a book?
It’s an adage that everyone has a book inside them.
It is a truism that is more valid today than ever before. Self-publishing has opened the door to anyone who has a story to tell.
New authors around the world are writing and getting new book ideas published every day.
If you are ready to start writing a fiction or nonfiction book, you can do it.
But before you jump in, let me share some tips on writing your first book.
I’ve written a lot of books. Some were relatively quick and easy to write, such as a few science fiction novels. But others that were historical fiction took me much longer due to the amount of time I had to spend on research.
In all cases though, I was passionate about the themes and enjoyed every minute of the process.
As long as you have a passion, and are motivated and ready, you’ll finish writing your book. You’ll also enjoy every minute you spend on researching and writing your book.
Hopefully, the following writing tips will help you.
What is your motivation?
There are hundreds of reasons why you might want to write a book. Here are just a few.
Create an escape – You want to write as a way to free yourself and readers from reality.
Create change – You want to write a book that will change or challenge people’s thinking.
To recover – Writing a book can be cathartic and help you overcome adversity.
To make money – There is no reason why you can’t write and sell books as a part-time activity.
Your authority – If you are an expert in a field, writing a book can enhance your credibility.
Posterity – You want to leave more than footprints in the sand.
Whatever your motivation, as long as it is strong, you are ready.
Writing the first few paragraphs of chapter one is easy.
But it will be your passion and the strength of your motivation that will help you keep moving forward when you are writing chapter twenty-two.
Find your writing space
You will need somewhere you can write without being disturbed.
It is impossible to write when noise and distractions surround you. You might have to do a deal with your family or change your routine.
You will have to find somewhere quiet for your daily writing session. You could be lucky enough to have a study or a spare room. If not, it might be your balcony or a corner in a local café.
Another consideration is that where you write is comfortable. You can’t write productively if you are sitting on an uncomfortable chair or crouching over a low table or desk.
For some writers, lazing on a sofa works. Then again, a traditional office chair and desk is the most appropriate for others.
Wherever you decide to write, make sure it allows you the comfortable, quiet space and time you will need to concentrate and get lost in your thoughts.
Your writing time
Well-known authors such as Stephen King and JK Rowling set themselves a daily writing target. In King’s case, it is 2,000 words every day.
You don’t need to be so strict. But you should schedule a time of the day that you can set aside to write your book. It might be in the morning or evening for one or two hours.
Depending on your family or work commitments, you may not be able to plan for seven days a week. So choose the days you can to fit in with your life.
You can also set yourself a minimum word count. But don’t worry if you miss your target sometimes. It’s not a race. But setting yourself a writing goal is an excellent way to stay motivated.
A fiction novel usually falls into the range of 60,000 to 80,000 words. It’s then an easy calculation. If your daily target is 1,000 words, you can plan to have written your first draft in 60 to 80 days.
Your two writing tools
Writing a book is a long process. You will need to keep notes, track event timelines and for a fiction writer, develop characters.
You can’t do any of these tasks with a standard word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Working on one long document is also risky. One file or save failure, and all your work will be lost.
When you write a book, you will be working on different chapters and scenes, and you want to be able to access these quickly. It is also much safer to have your manuscript divided into small files.
The only way to get the functionality and security you need when writing a long book is to use software that is designed for the job.
1. Your writing program
Scrivener is the most popular book writing software for authors. But you have a lot of other choices.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money. There are many free and open source book writing programs available for you.
We have written a full article on seven free and three premium book writing software programs that you can try.
2. Your writing assistant
The only other tool you will need is an online writing assistant. You might think of this as being a grammar and spelling checker.
But you need more than just a checker. A good writing assistant program will help you with synonyms, sentence structure, reducing passive forms, highlighting run on sentences and maintaining your writing voice and register.
For new authors, I would always recommend using Prowritingaid as the first and best choice. It has over twenty different reports to help you with your writing. It is also highly suited to analysing long documents such as a manuscript for fiction books.
You can find out more by reading our full review of Prowritingaid.
As a second-best choice, Grammarly is a very popular grammar checker. It can do a lot to help you when you write. But I find it more useful for online writing than for manuscripts.
You can check our list of 13 grammar checkers to compare which one will suit you best.
There is a lot of software available for writers and publishers now. But to write your book, you only need two.
Your book writing program and your writing assistant.
Outline your story
Once you have your writing space and time, it’s time to start writing.
But good books and stories always develop from an outline or plan. Some writers go into a lot of detail while others work from a more basic overview.
I find that writing one or two paragraphs that encapsulates the story is a great help in clarifying your thinking. You need to include the beginning, middle and most importantly, the end of the story.
Another way is to make a list of what each chapter is about. You can then reduce these to draft chapter titles.
Knowing exactly how your story is going to end is the best way to avoid writer’s block. No matter how many plot twists you intend to use, you always know where you are heading.
It is the same for non-fiction. You need to cover a lot of topics, so put them in order before you begin. Make some notes on each subject point.
You might have heard that some authors say they let their character lead the story and show them the way. In my experience, this is a great way to write a lot and quickly. But it is so easy to get lost, and you end up wandering off in all directions.
Then it is extremely difficult to pull all the threads together for an ending.
I tried this process for one book. But I had to spent so much time fixing errors in the plot, changes in characters, incorrect timelines and out of order events.
Of all the books I’ve written, that one was the most difficult to complete. When you have no plan, so many things can go wrong.
I would always advise a new author to outline the story in plenty of detail. It makes it so much easier. You can then always refer back to your plan to know where you are and where you are going with your story.
There are many forms that a story or book outline can take. You need to choose one that you think will suit you.
it doesn’t matter which one you choose. But by preparing well before you start writing your story, you will stay on track all the way through the process of writing your book.
Related reading: What Is The Best Software For Authors Writing A New Book?
Writing your first draft
No one has ever written a book without a first draft. But there has never been a perfect first draft.
Don’t worry about your use of grammar, spelling and formatting. It’s called the first draft for good reason.
You will have plenty of opportunities to hone, polish and perfect your book. You will have a second, third and maybe even the fourth draft before you finish your book.
Your sole aim now is to get your story out of your head and into text. Stick to your writing schedule and perhaps your word count goal for each session.
When I am writing a book, I set myself a 1,000-word daily target. I can usually get there in around two hours.
It might take you a few sessions to get into the swing of it. But once you have started writing your first chapter, you will find your rhythm, and the words will begin to flow much more easily.
When you are writing your first draft, don’t get ahead of yourself. There is no point in thinking about your final book title, your book cover, or how you are going to publish.
All of these matters can and should wait until after you have finished your story. Never mix writing and publishing.
It is also worth mentioning that you will write better when you are fresh and full of energy. So take care of yourself and make sure that you get plenty of sleep, have a healthy diet and avoid unnecessary distractions.
In the perfect world, it would be great to disappear off to a remote tropical island for two months to write your book. But alas, very few of us can afford to do it.
What to do when you hit a roadblock
There will be times when your words will flow and times when they seem to dry up.
Some call it writer’s block, but I am not a firm believer in it. Often it is as simple as being tired, and you find it difficult to concentrate.
If this happens, take a break, go for a walk or have a swim.
Another remedy is to leave the chapter you are struggling with and start on a new one. You can even begin writing your last chapter.
One danger when writing a book is writing in your head.
It means that you have great ideas when you are at work, waiting for a train, cooking dinner or just before you go to sleep. When you do this, you can waste a lot of great writing ideas and prompts because a few hours later, you have forgotten what they were.
When you are in the process of writing your book, always have a small notebook with you. Or even better, you can use an app on your phone because it is almost always with you.
Anytime you have an idea, jot it down in a few words. Then when you get to your next writing session, you will have a list of items to help you move your story forward.
Setting a deadline
I adore this quote.
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams
As a first time author, don’t put yourself under the pressure of a deadline.
A publisher has not paid you a huge advance, and you are not under contract.
Sure, some might say that setting a date will help your motivation. But it can also lead you to rush your story and your writing as the dreaded date approaches.
Instead of a deadline, set an approximation based on your daily word count goal. If it is sixty days of 1,000 words, then plan on three months to finish.
But the world won’t end if you take an extra few weeks. When your book is published, it will be around for years and years to come. So a few weeks here an there is of no consequence at all.
Don’t be an editor
Never try to edit your book when you are writing it.
It is a great way to disrupt your creativity and imagination. Let the words come, and don’t censor yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you have sentence fragments, incorrect pronouns, poor punctuation, vulgar language or your dialogue tags are repetitive — none of these matter to your story.
Stay focused on writing your story and nothing else until you write, “The End”.
There will be plenty of time to correct your writing at the next stage.
Dictate your book?
There are a lot of apps and devices available now for dictation. But I am still not convinced about the accuracy of voice to text.
My advice would be to use voice dictation to help you write your book by collecting and recording your ideas. It could well replace your not app or notebook.
But I don’t think I am ready to trust any piece of voice to text software to write a book for me.
The end is near
It can be surprising how fast you get towards the end of your first draft.
Once you get through the first couple of chapters and start to enjoy your writing sessions, you will live each day with your characters or your non-fiction topics in your head. They will become part of you.
But when you see the final chapter and last lines approaching, it can bring on a feeling of having to let go.
Make the most of your last few sessions as you get closer to the end. But it won’t be goodbye.
You’ll meet up again during your second draft.
You’ve done it!
What a sense of achievement it is for you when you finally write those last six letters.
It’s time to break out the champagne and celebrate!
Of course, your book is not ready to publish yet. There is a long way to go before that can happen.
But you need to take a rest now. Before you even think about starting on your second draft, take a break of at least a few weeks. You need time to clear your head and change your mindset.
The next stage will much more analytical than creative.
When you start on your second draft, you will have the chance to correct, polish, enhance and improve your manuscript.
Go back to your writing schedule and use each session to work on one part of your book. Don’t slave away for hours. Keep your sessions short. Concentrating for long periods of time is not a good idea.
Tackle your second draft scene by scene, or chapter by chapter until you are happy with all the improvements you make.
When you reach THE END again, decide whether you need to do a third draft.
Then you will be ready to think about finding a proofreader and beta readers and starting the process of publishing your book.
Further reading: What You Need To Do Before You Self-Publish A Book