You want to know how to write a book but you are not sure where you should start
If you have ever dreamed of writing a book, there is no better time than now to do it.
All you need to do is write between 40,000 and 80,000 words or more, and you are done.
Well, yes and no. It is not the number of words that is important, it is how you put your words together.
“At the end of all this being-determined-to-be-a-jack-of-all-trades, I think I’m better off just sitting down and putting a hundred thousand words in a cunning order.” Douglas Adams
The writing process is about painting a mental picture with words that readers can then imagine in their mind’s eye.
Famously, Ian Rankin never describes Inspector Rebus in his many books.
However, within the words and lines of the Rebus stories, readers can create their own realistic image of him. Quite short, a little rotund with a beer belly and rarely smiles is my image.
If you have read books by famous writers like Stephen King, James Clavell or Dan Brown, you have experienced how well they can paint mental pictures.
The ability to communicate with a reader’s imagination is not restricted to a fiction book. It is just as important for a nonfiction book and even self-help books.
So where do you start with writing a book?
If you are reading this article, you have probably read many others. This is a good sign that you are keen and ready to learn how to write a book and start writing it.
There are no strict rules, however. Every writer takes a different approach, but there are some basic steps that most use when they start a new book writing project.
You will certainly find what works best for you over time, but the following tips will help you put together a framework that will keep you focused and motivated during the process of writing your book.
1. A book always starts with a brilliant idea
Maybe you want to write a science fiction space opera, a period romance or a cosy mystery.
No matter what genre you prefer, you will need to dream up a good idea for your plot.
The best way to do this is to forget about writing your book for the moment and concentrate solely on writing one or two sentence stories.
Perhaps Douglas Adams wrote, “Just before Earth gets blown up a man escapes with an alien and becomes the last human in the Universe, and he gets awfully confused about it all.”
Think about a few books that you have read and liked, and try to reduce these stores to one or two sentences.
If you can do that, you are ready to create your own.
Every time you have an idea, write it down in no more than two sentences and make sure you keep a list of all your ideas.
I have had a file for years where I keep my little sentence ideas. Most have never been used, but I never delete them.
You never know!
One book I wrote came from an idea that I had filed away more than four years before.
Set yourself a target and try to find one new idea every day for two weeks. Out of the fourteen, one will jump out at you as the best one.
2. You can’t build a house by starting with the roof
Any project needs some type of plan.
There are two generally accepted types of authors.
Authors who plan every detail of a story in advance and know exactly how it will end.
They draft meticulous outlines before they do any actual writing. You could call them Plotters who plan every detail.
Then there are authors who often say that they let their characters lead them through the story.
It is a highly creative method and has been a successful strategy for many.
Perhaps you could call them Flyers as they really do fly by the seat of their pants.
But even the Flyers need a basis from where to start. An idea, and a rough outline as to how the story will develop.
Many writers start by writing only the chapter titles. These can be changed later during the writing process, but they do give you a great foundation when you get to the writing of your book.
Another way to prepare is to use writing software that is especially adapted to book writing and not a word processor like Microsoft Word.
Book writing software usually has added functions so you can keep notes and ideas, plan characters, timeline events and work on individual chapters of your book without having to scroll through a long document.
3. Time to do something about the dreaded white page
Every book starts for a writer with a blank white page. Scary.
But it is not such a big deal really. It only takes a few words, and the page is no longer blank.
Start with your first chapter idea as your first few words, and then hit return.
Now write a subject and verb, and you are on your way. It was …, there were …, some think .., I have … or, she thought.
Don’t worry about what you write; just get fifty words on there, and you will be away.
You can, and definitely will come back to re-write them later, but for now, just write.
Refer back to your one or two sentence idea to focus on the task, and once you’ve written a few hundred words, you will have started writing your book.
4. Write, write and just write, no matter how long it takes
Some say that writing a book is hard work, but I disagree.
It is an immensely rewarding process, and once you get through the first few paragraphs of the first chapter, it can become a wonderful compulsion.
But one very important point to remember is that you are writing your first draft. It will not be perfect so don’t aim for perfection in any form.
Turn off any grammar checkers you might have, and even spell checkers. If you are an all thumbs and a slow typist like me, you might want to keep your spell checker on for typos, but honestly, you will write better with no distractions.
You have probably read already about setting yourself a daily word count. I am six of one and half a dozen about the other about this advice.
If you think you need the discipline, then yes, set yourself writing goals. One thousand words a day is not that difficult to achieve, and doubly so on Sundays.
At that rate, you will have written the first draft of your book in two to three months.
It is not difficult to set aside parts of your day as your writing time. It doesn’t need to be in one hit though.
Twenty minutes after breakfast, half an hour at lunchtime and stop watching TV in the evening can all add up to one thousand words a day quite easily.
On the other hand, you can write when, well, when your writing juices are ready to flow.
I remember when I wrote February The Fifth, I almost, (pardon the expression) vomitted the story. I wrote the first draft in less than a month.
But it took me over a year and a half years to write the first draft of Louis, due to the amount of research I needed to do for almost every part of the book.
Every book I have written has taken a different route. I wrote some with word count goals, while others evolved as and when I wanted to write.
If you are planning on writing your first book though, I would advise setting a daily writing goal. It will help to keep you motivated.
5. I’m stuck, I’ve got writer’s block and I’ll never finish this book
Welcome to being an author!
There will definitely be times when the words just will not flow. So what can you do?
The best advice is to stop writing when the words come agonisingly slowly, or not at all. Walk away, change your mind and do something that you enjoy.
Some writers like to go for a long walk, while others bake a cake or go to a bakery and buy one.
Something else that works for some is to write a short story or a poem to change your mindset but still keep writing.
You can always read a book for a while. How long is it since you read Harry Potter?
Once your mind is clear again, then get back to writing your first draft.
You can read more in this article about 17 ways to cure writer’s block.
6. It’s not a book yet, it’s your first draft
There will be no book until you finish writing your first draft.
It will not be perfect, so don’t worry about anything except getting your ideas out and writing your story.
But do make sure you save, file and back up your manuscript meticulously.
Don’t worry about editing, typos, spelling mistakes or plot holes. Just write.
Writing your first draft is the most creative part of writing your book, and you should feel free to let your imagination run wild.
During this stage, you will discover that ideas can come at any time, so keep a notebook handy, or use your phone to jot down any ideas that pop into your mind.
Tip! One small piece of advice I give to new authors is never write in your mind.
Words often flow very easily when you are relaxing, readying for sleep, or bored to tears at work.
But never trust your mind to remember all these words and ideas for your next writing session. Take notes immediately.
Another point to ignore while writing is your story’s word count. If your writing software shows a word count, turn it off. A great story is not judged by how many words it takes to tell it.
If your story takes 30,000 words or 120,000 words to tell, it doesn’t matter.
Write your draft and forget about the distraction of numbers and totals. Mathematics has no part in the creative process of writing a book.
Once you have finished and typed “The End”, you will feel fantastic.
Your last task will be to come up with a title for your new book.
Read More Here: Do your research before you decide on your book title.
7. The End is only the beginning
Once you have finished your first draft, the hard work really begins. So take a break, and forget about your book for a couple of weeks at least.
It is going to take weeks, months or even longer for you to work through the stages of ‘taming’ your draft.
But once you are ready, start working on your second draft.
Importantly, DO NOT overwrite your first draft manuscript!
Save it safely and back it up. Then make a new copy that you will use for your second draft.
This is when you will make changes, write additional scenes, re-write parts, correct plot errors or add plot twists.
It is still a draft, so again, don’t worry too much about correcting grammar, punctuation and line editing. Concentrate on your story.
When you have finished your second draft, it will be time to start on the third.
This is when you should start doing your thorough grammar and spell check. A premium tool such as Grammarly is ideal for this stage and will help you find most of your errors and typos.
And then perhaps, it will be time for a fourth draft.
8. Now you need help with your book
The next stage is when you to let go of your story and start the process of turning your story into a book.
You will need an editor or at least someone else who is competent at line editing, grammar correction and accurate proofreading.
If you can afford or know someone who has skills in developmental editing, even better.
It is impossible for an author to be critical enough to do this work. You have to get independent help in preparing and fine-tuning your manuscript.
The last stage in the process is to use beta readers to give feedback on your book. The more the better.
Then, once you have all the corrections, edits and reader feedback, make the necessary changes to improve your book one last time before you even think about querying agents, looking for a publisher or self-publishing.
9. Getting your book published
The most popular self- publishing platforms for new authors
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP is Amazon’s Kindle ebook publishing service and now also publishes paperbacks. As far as book sales go, Amazon is the undisputed market leader in ebook and book sales.
Smashwords. An aggregating publisher and distributor of ebooks to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Scribd amongst many others.
Draft2Digital (D2D). Similar to Smashwords, Draft2Digital is an ebook distributor to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Scribd.
However, D2D can now also publish your paperback print book with Createspace. There is a review of Draft2Digital available here.
Createspace. A paperback Print On Demand (POD) service with distribution channels through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as many online books stores offering paperback books.
You can use Createspace directly, or you can access paperback publishing directly through your Amazon KDP dashboard.
All of these service providers have well-written Help sections to guide you through the necessary steps to publish your book.
Should you wish to publish in paperback, there are a few providers, but from my experience, only Createspace and KDP offer a totally free service to publish in paperback form.
If you publish with either, there will only be a charge if you wish to buy copies of your book.
Their prices are very reasonable, though, at around $3.85 per copy, plus postage for a 250-page book. As mentioned earlier, both Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital also offer Createspace paperback publishing.
If you wish to publish an audiobook version as well, please read the article in the link below.
Further reading: A detailed article on the costs of publishing a book in all formats including audiobooks.
Further reading: Be aware that self-publishing and vanity publishing are very different. Do not confuse the two.
It is a hackneyed expression that everyone has a book inside them. But it has some truth.
There is nothing holding you back from writing a book, so if you have the desire and motivation, do it.
At the end of the process, you will feel very proud of your achievement, because it will mean that you can now leave more than just footprints in the sand.
Now, is it time for you to write another book?