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How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

You want to write a book. Maybe you have a great story idea. Maybe you have a big idea you want to share with the world. Maybe people have told you, “Your life should be made into a book!” But first, you have to learn how to write a book.

How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide

The problem for the first-time author is figuring out how to get started. What are the writing habits you need to finish the actual writing for an entire book? And what comes next: traditional publishing? Self-publishing? Becoming a New York Times bestselling book?

Because after coaching thousands of writers to write and finish their books, and also writing fifteen books of my own, I know exactly how much hard work it takes to finish a book.

It's not enough to want to write, you need to know how to write a book.

You need to have the right process. The write process, you might say (sorry, I had to!).

In this guide, we're going to learn everything about how to write a nonfiction book, from how to defeat procrastination and find writing time, all the way to revising and the editing process—and even to the publishing process.

If you've ever wanted to write a book, whether a memoir, a big idea book, or a self help book, you're in the right place.

If, on the other hand, you're a fiction writer and have a main character who you know is going to take the world by storm, we have a complete guide on novel writing here . For you nonfiction writers, though, read on for all our best writing tips.

Quick Tip: The Best Tool to Write a Book

Before we get started, here's a quick tip for writing a book, Microsoft Word just doesn't cut it.

My favorite writing tool is Scrivener, a book writing software used by the most successful writers. Scrivener helps you stay organized, set word count goals, and keep better track of your writing sessions. Check out our full review of Scrivener here.

How to Fail Writing a Book

In 2011, I had one of the best years of my life. That year, I wrote my first book, became a full-time writer, got my first book published , became a bestselling author, and had 80,000 people read my writing.

But it didn't happen overnight. I had dreamed about and had been working toward those goals for eight years before that: eight years of failure, of trying to write books and not being able to finish them, eight years of wanting to be a writer but not knowing how to actually do it .

Since then, I've written fifteen books, including one book that recently hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list.

You might be thinking, “That's cool, Joe. But you're clearly a talented writer. Writing is hard work for me.”

To be honest, it doesn't come easy to me. In fact, if I told my high school English teachers I'm a writer, they would probably be shocked.

The difference is that I found the right process. It's a step-by-step process that works every time, and it will work for you too.

In this guide, I'm going to share the process that I've used to write fifteen books, become a professional writer, and hit the bestsellers list.

But it's not just me. I've also trained thousands of people in our 100 Day Book program to finish books using this process, too.

It works, and it will work for you, if you follow it.

That being said, if you're still not sure you can actually do this alone, or if you just want some extra help along the way, check out 100 Day Book . In this program, we've helped thousands of aspiring writers turned authors to accomplish their dream of writing a book, and we'd love to help you, too. Click to learn more about 100 Day Book here.

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Writing a Book

Here's the process I finally learned after that decade of trying to learn how to write a book and failing, the same twelve steps that have helped me write fifteen books.

come up with a book idea

1. Come Up With a Great Book Idea

If you're here, you probably have a book idea already. Maybe you have several ideas.

And if that's true, great! Pat yourself on the back. You've made it to step one.

Here's what to do next: forget any sense accomplishment you have.

Yes, I'm serious.

Here's what George R.R. Martin said:

“Ideas are useless. Execution is everything.”

Because the thing is, an idea alone, even a great idea, is just the small step to write your book.

There are a lot more steps, and all of them are more difficult than coming up with your initial idea. (I'm sorry if that's discouraging!)

You have an idea. Great! Next, it's time to learn how to execute the way successful authors do. Let's get started with step 2.

(Don't have an idea yet? Check out this article: How to Write When You Don't Have Ideas .)

write a premise

2. Write Your Book Idea In the Form of a 1-Sentence Premise

The next step to taking your idea and turning it into a book is to summarize your idea into a single-sentence premise.

But wait, what's a premise ?

A premise distills your entire book idea down to a single sentence. This sentence becomes the foundation of all your writing efforts and will be helpful even into publishing process.

Your premise is also the most important part of a book proposal, so a good premise can actually help you get published.

Here’s an example of a nonfiction premise from my book The Write Structure , which got half a dozen responses from agents.

The Write Structure utilizes The Write Practice’s ( award-winning methodology to show creative writers how to write their best novels, memoirs, short stories, or screenplays by following story structure principles used and taught by writers for hundreds of years.

Each nonfiction book premise should contain the following three elements:

By simplifying your book down to a single sentence, you create a strong, achievable foundation to your entire book. Not only will this simple step help you during the writing process, it will also help you throughout the publishing process, too, which we'll talk about more in a bit.

Ready to write your premise? To make it easier we have a free worksheet template that will guide you through writing a publishable premise: Download the worksheet here.

Or get a copy of our Write Plan Planner , and have a physical tool to guide you through the writing process. Check out the planner here.

3. Choose Your Publishing Path

When you're writing nonfiction, you have to choose your publishing path earlier than creative writers because most nonfiction books are picked up by publishers before they're written.

In fact, it's a red flag in the eyes of traditional publishers and agents if you've finished your book before you pitch them. They want to see a book proposal first, and have a hand in the shaping of the book.

That means, if you're writing nonfiction, and you want to get traditionally published, before you go write your own book, you must write a book proposal.

However, if you're writing a memoir, you may need to finish writing the book before you seek publishing. Memoir exists in something of a gray area in the publishing world, with more self-help focused memoirs requiring a proposal, and more creative memoirs acting more like a novel, where the writer would finish them first.

Which publishing path is right for you? Here are the two main requirements for traditional publishing for nonfiction books:

If you can't answer “yes” to both of these questions, then you might consider self-publishing, working with a small press, or hybrid press after you complete your book. Or taking a break from your book to build your platform and target audience, perhaps by building an author website and starting a blog. (For more on this, check out this guide on how to build a platform via a blog .)

You might be wondering, at this point too, how do you write a book proposal?

Book proposals vary across writers and publishers, but here are some of the major components:

For more on this, check out Jane Friedman's excellent guide on how to write a book proposal .

Now, once you've chosen your publishing path and you're ready to begin writing a whole book, how do you actually finish it? The next steps will all but guarantee you reach The End of your book.

outline your book

4. Outline Your Book

Even you if you don't decide to traditionally publish, I still recommend working through most of the elements of a book proposal listed above, especially the book outline because it will make the writing process so much easier.

Your book's outline will vary widely depending on your genre, your writing style, your book's topic, and your method.

However, there are some tried and true structures that exist in nonfiction books. Here are some suggested structures you can use:

Introduction . Most nonfiction books include a short (2,000 to 3,000 words) introduction. They usually outline the main problem you will be focusing on in the book. They may also introduce you as the author and your authority, and outline the unique solution you will be guiding readers through in your book.

8-10 Chapters . Nonfiction book chapters dive deeper into the problem and give principles or steps to solve that problem. Chapters can have a variety of different structures, but here is my personal favorite, used frequently by Malcolm Gladwell:

Conclusion . Conclusions usually restate the problem and show how you solved that problem, often ending with a concluding story and a call to action to encourage the reader to go out and put the ideas you've shared to use.

Easy right? Not exactly, but creating this outline will make the rest of the writing process so much easier. Even if it changes, you'll have a resource to help you get unstuck when the writing gets hard.

If you want a template for your outline, as well as a step-by-step guide through the book writing process, get a copy of our Write Plan Planner . This is the exact process that I have used to write fifteen books, and that thousands of other authors in our community have used to finish their book all in a beautiful, daily planner. Check out the planner here.

set a deadline

5. Set a Deadline

This one might surprise you. Because most people think that once you've got your idea ready to go, you should just start writing and not worry about the period of time it takes.

Nope. Not even close.

The next step is to set a deadline for when you're going to finish the first rough draft of your book. But you might be wondering, how long does it take to write a book in the first place?

How long should you set your deadline for?

Some people use NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to set their deadline for them, writing 50,000 words of book in the thirty days of November. That being said, it's very challenging for most people to finish a book in thirty days.

Stephen King, on the other hand, said the first draft of a book should take no more than a season, so three months. With all due respect to Stephen King, I think that's a little fast for most people.

We give people 100 days , which seems to be just long enough to write a first draft without getting distracted by everything else the world wants you to focus on (looking at you, social media).

So for you, give yourself a week or two to prepare, then set your deadline for about 100 days after that.

There you go! You now have a deadline to finish your book!

break up your deadline

6. Break Your Deadline Into Weekly and Daily Word Counts

You can't pull an all-nighter and finish writing a book. Trust me, I've tried!

Instead, you have to break up your deadline into smaller, weekly, and daily deadlines so you can make measured progress over your writing period. This step breaks the work into manageable pieces.

This step also requires a bit of math. Here's how to do it so you can actually stay on track:

If you can hit all of your weekly and daily deadlines, you know you’ll make your final deadline at the end.

P.S. You're much more likely to actually meet your deadlines if you take a stand and set a consequence, which I”ll talk about next.

take a stand

7. Take a Stand

Deadlines are nice, but it can be too easy to follow Douglas Adams' advice:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

There are two tricks that will help you actually meet your deadline, and it's essential to do these before you start writing or you'll never finish your book.

The first one is a little scary, but will make a huge difference.

Once you've set your deadline, go tell everyone you know. Post your deadline on social media, saying something like this:

how to write on books

Here. We'll even make it easy for you. Just click the share button below to tweet this and fill in the blank with your deadline:

Don't have social media? That's okay. Just email five friends. These friends will become your accountability partners to ensure you finish your book.

Important: I don't recommend talking about your book idea. Talking about the idea can actually remove some of the motivation to actually work on your book.

But I highly recommend talking about your book's deadline because humans naturally avoid letting each other down. When you make a public promise to do something, you're much more likely to do it!

So go ahead. Share your deadline. You can do this right now. Don't worry, we'll be here when you get back.

Then, move on to the next trick to keep your deadline.

set a consequence

8. Set a Consequence

You might think, “Setting a deadline is fine, but how do I actually hit my deadline?”

The answer is you need to create a consequence. A consequence is a bad thing that happens if you don't hit your deadline.

Maybe you write a check to a charity you hate, like the society for the euthanasia of puppies, you give it to a friend, and you say, “You have to send this check if I don't hit my deadline.”

Or maybe you say you're going to give up a guilty pleasure if you don't hit your deadline, like ice cream or wine or TV or your favorite phone game.

Set a really tough consequence for your final deadline, and then set a couple of less severe consequences for your weekly deadlines.

Whatever you choose, make it really hard to not hit your deadline.

Why? Because writing is hard! If you want to write a book, you need to make not writing harder than writing.

By creating a consequence, you make not writing harder than the actual writing, and this simple trick will make you much more likely to finish.

set an intention

9. Set an Intention

This is the last step before you start writing, but secretly one of the most helpful.

Set an intention.

Studies have shown that when you have a goal, like working out more or writing a book, and you imagine where , when , and how much you're going to do something, you're much more likely to actually do it.

So do this with me:

Notice that this is the tenth step.

Most people start here, but without the groundwork you've laid in the previous nine steps, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Don't skip the first nine steps!

Once you do begin writing, keep this in mind:

First drafts are universally bad .

Don't try to write perfect sentences. Don't go back and edit endlessly.

No, instead write as fast as you're able. Get to “the end” as quickly as you can. Use writing sprints .

Try to write as imperfectly as you can, not because you want to write a bad book, but because this is how writing always is: you write a bad first draft and then revise it into a better second draft—and finally, three or five drafts later, you've written a good book.

The difference between aspiring writers and published authors is that published authors know you can't do good writing until you write a bad draft first. Get through it as quickly as you can!

If you're not a natural writer , consider dictating your book into a recorder, and transcribing it afterward. There's no reason you have to physically type out your book. Transcribing it is a perfectly viable way to create a good first draft.

revise, rewrite, edit

11. Revise, Rewrite, and Edit

After you finish your first draft comes the real hard part.

I know what you're thinking. The first ten steps weren't hard enough?

Yes, of course they were hard. But for some reason, second drafts can be just as hard, if not harder, than first drafts. I've had some of my biggest mental and emotional breakdowns in my life while working on the second draft of a book. There's just something about second drafts that are much more mentally challenging than first drafts.

Here, it's a good idea to get an editor who can give you feedback. (Need an editor recommendation? We have a team of editors we work with here at The Write Practice. Check out our process and get a quote here .)

Once you've finished your second draft, I also recommend getting beta readers, people who can read your book and give you feedback. For more on this, check out our guide on how to find beta readers and use their feedback effectively here .

Depending on your topic, you might also consider recruiting some sensitivity readers to read your book, too.

After you've done all of this, I have one last writing tip for you to ensure you actually finish writing your book—and it might be the most important of all.

Don't stop

12. Don't Stop

Most people want to write a book. I hear from people all the time that think they have a book in them, who believe that they have a story that needs to be shared.

I very rarely talk to people who have finished a book.

Writing a book is hard.

It's SO easy to quit. You get a new idea. Or you read your writing and think, “This is terrible.” Or you decide, “I'd rather be catching up on Netflix, not spending my nights writing.”

Because of this, you quit.

Here's the thing though: the only way to fail at writing a book is to quit .

If you don't quit, if you just keep writing, keep following this process we've outlined above, you will finish a book.

It might not be a good book (yet). But that's what editing is for.

It will be a first draft, and a finished draft at that . You can't write a second draft and start to make your book actually good, actually publishable, until you write the first draft.

So write. Don't stop. Don't quit. If you follow these steps and don't stop, you'll finish.

We'll be here supporting you along the way.

More Resources on How to Write a Book

Still feeling stuck? Have more questions about how to write a book? We've put together a library of book-writing resources. Take a look at the articles below.

Book Writing Tools and Programs

How to Write a Book Fast Articles

I shared above why I believe that first drafts should be written quickly, in just a few weeks. Still not sure? In the articles below, dozens of other writers share how they wrote fast first drafts, plus you'll get all the tips and strategies they learned along the way.

How to Write a Book by Genre

Every genre comes with specific expectations that must be fulfilled. Here's how to craft an amazing story in your genre.

Okay, no, Stephen King isn't a genre. But he's well worth learning from!

How to Write a Book When Writing Is Hard

Let's face it: writing is hard . Every single writer struggles at some point in their book. The important thing is not to quit . In the following articles, writers share how they persevered through the hard parts, and how you can too.

How to Write a Book With a Specific Style

Your book comes with its own unique quirks and challenges, especially if the story you're telling is a series, or is told from multiple perspectives. Here's how other writers have navigated these choices.

How to Write a Book and Publish It

Writing is meant to be shared! In these articles, writers break down the publishing process so you can finish your book and share it with the world.

Publishing Resources

Once you've finished writing a book, how do you get it published. Here are some resources to help.

Commit to the Book Writing Process, Not Your Feelings

Are you ready to commit to finishing your book?

I don't want you to commit to a book idea. Ideas are seductive, but then you get a fresh idea and the idea you've been working on becomes much less interesting.

You probably have had inspiring moments of writing, when everything feels like it's flowing. But I don't want you to commit to a feeling. Feelings are fickle. They change by the hour.

No, instead commit to the process.

If you follow these steps, you will finish a book. It won't be easy. It will still be a challenge. But you'll do it.

Can you imagine how great it will feel to write “The End” on your own book? Think about the people you will touch because you finished that book. Let's get to it together.

Are you going to commit to writing a book? Let me know in the comments !

The first part of Step Three is to create a 1-sentence premise of your book.

Spend fifteen minutes today to rewrite your book idea into a single-sentence premise. Then, share your premise in the comments section .

Finally, after you share, make sure to give feedback to three other writers in the practice box below.

Happy writing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel

Writing a novel is an awesome undertaking, requiring time, skill, and oodles of imagination. A lot of people give lip service to the idea of writing a novel, usually confidently citing the amazing ideas they have along with a deep disdain for the novels that are getting published without their involvement, but not everyone has what it takes to write a novel—much less a good one that others will want to read. If you’re thinking of writing a book, whether in a fevered NaNoWiMo dash or a more stately approach, here are ten books you should read in order to prepare yourself. They won’t necessarily make writing a novel easier, but they will certainly clarify for you what it takes to go from 0 to 60,000 words.

I Should Be Writing: A Writer's Workshop

I Should Be Writing: A Writer's Workshop

Paperback $16.99

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Mur Lafferty

I Should be Writing , by Mur Lafferty The Six Wakes author has also been hosting the I Should be Writing podcast for years now, and the essence of that essential listening has been distilled into this phenomenal book. It’s billed as “A Writer’s Workshop,” and that’s exactly what it is, complete with exercises, examples, and stimulating and encouraging lessons. If you’ve never tried to write a novel before, this is the book that will help you get over the hump whether you work in the speculative genres like Lafferty or not.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary Edition)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary Edition)

Paperback $14.99 $17.00

Stephen King

On Writing , by Stephen King This is the ultimate writing memoir from one of the most prolific writers of all time. King is in his 70s now and going as strong as ever, publishing some of the most highly regarded books of his career. If you’ve never tried your hand at writing and need to wrap your head around how it’s done, this is probably the perfect book. The combination of King’s homey style, experience and talent, and eagerness to get into the specifics of his craft and process make this a must-read for every aspiring novelist.

Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing

NOOK Book $9.99

Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing , by Ray Bradbury Bradbury’s essay collection isn’t so much for craft and business stuff—instead, it takes a more philosophical approach to writing in general and writing novels specifically. Bradbury was a True Believer, someone for whom books were sacred, and stories a religion. If you’ve tried writing before and found yourself losing the thread over and over again, your excitement ebbing away as the difficulty mounted, Bradbury’s collected wisdom will keep your inspiration levels high.

Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

Hardcover $24.00

Ursula K. Le Guin

Words are My Matter , by Ursula K. Le Guin Le Guin was more than just a great writer. She was a great thinker and a passionate advocate for authors and writing in general. The essays in this book run the gamut from thoughtful craft-oriented think pieces to intelligent assessments of other writers’ work, showing exactly how smart, critical reading can inform your own writing. There’s no better glimpse of what it takes, mentally, to write well over the course of decades, and if you’re contemplating a life of the keyboard you need to read it. Le Guin pulled no punches on her opinions, and you may not agree with everything she writes—but you’ll be better off for having read it.

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience

Paperback $17.99

Chuck Wendig

In Stock Online

The Kick-Ass Writer , by Chuck Wendig Wendig’s muscular style of writing advice is ideal for the 21st-century gig economy world we find ourselves in. He’s funny, honest, and successful—and he frames his advice on writing craft and getting published in a funny, fast-paced writing style that’s as fun as it is educational. That latter part is important; a lot of writing books are happy to help you write a novel, but few offer a ton of clear advice on getting that book published. If that’s your goal—and it isn’t everyone’s—then Wendig’s eminently readable book is a key step to laying your plans for literary world domination.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird , by Anne Lamott At some point every writer is advised to read Lamott’s classic reflection on the process of writing, and that advice is and always will be good advice. Beginning with the central anecdote about her brother, struggling to write a book report on birds, being advised to just take it “bird by bird,” the book is filled with practical and inspiring advice that demystifies the mechanics of the creative process. Even better, Lamott stresses that writing is in itself a reward, and pushes you to write for the satisfaction of having created something rather than the material rewards of publishing, which is by far the healthiest way to approach writing a novel even if publication is your ultimate goal.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Paperback $13.95 $14.95

Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist , by Austin Kleon One of the main things stopping people from writing novels is a lack of faith in their own ideas and creativity. Kleon’s new classic is a primer on how to harness your creativity and trust your instincts—as well as a necessary corrective to the idea that your ideas have to be rigidly, perfectly “original.” Kleon lays it out clearly—every artist steals, and every creative endeavor is built on the work that came before it. If you’re hesitating about your novel writing ambitions because you’re worried your ideas aren’t original enough, read this book.

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

Paperback $16.99 $19.00

The Anatomy of Story , by John Truby You’ve probably heard different theories on story and plot, from the Hero’s Journey to the Three-Act Structure and everything in between. The necessity and usefulness of these concepts varies from writer to writer, but knowing something about them is probably a good idea. While you can read plenty of books about plenty of theories on story, Truby’s is an excellent combination of modern thinking in terms of organic story generation combined with specific steps and plot points. His book will get you thinking about the shape of your story before you start writing, and that will make for a tighter novel that gets written faster.

Penguin Classics Aspects Of The Novel

Penguin Classics Aspects Of The Novel

Paperback $22.00

E. M. Forster , Frank Kermode , O Stallybrass

Aspects of the Novel , by E.M. Forster Forster, author of classic novels such as A Passage to India and Howard’s End , was also a lecturer at Trinity College. His series of lectures on the novel at that school in 1927 are collected in this book, and remain powerful explorations of the different aspects of the novel. Using classic works as examples, Forster brings his remarkable intelligence to bear on the question of what makes a novel, and how to apply those lessons in your own writing—where he uses examples from his own not-too-shabby writing career.

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Paperback $13.00

Lawrence Block

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit , by Lawrence Block Block, one of the most successful mystery writers of all time, wrote a lot of articles for Writer’s Digest back in the day in which he offered brass tacks writing advice and a glimpse into what the business was like for a successful published author. Those essays are collected here, and offer a still-applicable set of lessons on everything from getting past writer’s block to simply starting —which might be precisely what you need to read before you make your first, or five hundredth, attempt to write your own novel.

how to write on books

How Do I Write a Book On My Computer? 3 Best Options.

Writing a book is already quite a challenge, particularly for beginner writers. Although writing in notebooks and on note cards is still used by many writers as part of their process, most of us now prefer to use software. But as a beginner, how do you write a book on your computer?

Let’s take a look at these three best options you should evaluate and choose from.

Writing on a Laptop

A Tool Made for Writers

We all know that it is pretty common that we have great ideas for action scenes or short passages that we really need to write even though we don’t know where we want to use them.

The only real downside of Scrivener is that there is a bit of a learning curve. It has lots of tools built in that simply don’t exist in anything else you’ve likely used and it can take some time and effort to get used to them.

A Tool You May Already Have

The familiarity most of us have with Word makes it a straightforward decision. We do not need to spend any time figuring out the basics and can therefore just start writing.

As another bonus, there are many document templates included if you get the subscription, which can help you design and write lots of different kinds of materials beyond books.

The Free Option

Although there are plenty of free text editors around, Google Docs has many additional features that make it worth evaluating.

This makes it really easy to work with remote editors and agents on your manuscript without having to save and transfer documents to each other. Although there are a few limits, it is extremely useful.

They are all either very reasonably priced or completely free and will work for everybody.

What Is The Difference Between a Good Book and a Bad Book?

How do you develop creative ideas 5 best tips, 1 thought on “how do i write a book on my computer 3 best options.”.

As an Octogenarian with limited typing abilities which of Microsoft or Google Docs would work best to dictate? Can one start two books simultaneously? How to have a mentor to help write a book and what are the fees generally involved as obviously it is not going to be free? Lastly do I need a mentor

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Your Step-By-Step Guide To Writing A Story Outline

Writing a whole novel can seem like such a daunting task. 

But it’s far easier to complete a novel if you break it down. 

Writing a book outline is a really helpful way to break your story down into more manageable parts and to give you a clear guide on where your story is going and what to write next.

Let’s look at how to write a story outline, and we’ll give you some story outline examples to help you get started.

What Is a Story Outline?

You’ll write faster., it’s easier to write., there’s less chance of the dreaded saggy middle., an outline keeps your story on track., you can clearly see your character arcs., save time on editing., 1) start with your premise., 2) identify major plot elements., 3) get to know your characters., 4) explore your settings., 5) think about your theme., 6) choose your outlining method., 7) create your outline., 8) troubleshoot your outline., 9) starting writing, 1) snowflake method, 2) save the cat method, 3) fichtean curve method, 4) reverse outlining, final thoughts.

A novel outline is like a roadmap for your book. Just as you wouldn’t set off on a long journey to an unfamiliar destination without a map, writing a book outline can help you get from setting off from your home to reaching your destination. 

Your novel outline is basically the skeleton of your story, including the structure, main plot points, and more, depending on how detailed you want to make it.

However, it’s not supposed to be a rigid, stifling, or limited document you’re not allowed to deviate from. 

It’s supposed to be a helpful, loose guide that still leaves room for your imagination.

Don’t worry if you don’t already know everything about your story. You can still create a good outline and fill in the gaps as you go.

It’s also possible that however good your outline is, your characters will turn up and throw it out the window. 

If that happens, go with it. It’s your characters that should drive the story. You can always tweak and adjust your outline as you get further into your story.

Things to ask yourself when you’re creating your outline:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between. An outline can still help you write your story.

Plotters may want to get really detailed and plot out each individual scene and pantsers can still write a helpful outline but leave more to be decided as they write.

An outline can be anything from a simple list of handwritten plot points on a page to a whole wall of sticky notes or index cards.

Some people prefer the visual format of a mind map, some would rather use writing software, like Scrivener, and yet others work best with a typed, ordered list of scenes.

Why It’s Important to Create an Outline for a Story

It’s not compulsory to create an outline for your book.

You don’t have to if doing so doesn’t work for you, but if you can make it work, there are a lot of advantages to writing a book outline before you start writing your story:

With so many books out every month, it can be hard to stand out. One of the best ways to get attention is to use rapid release for your stories.

But one thing that tends to slow people down when writing is that they don’t know what happens next, and they have to spend time thinking about it before they can crack on with the story.

Write a novel outline, on the other hand, and you can speed away with your story because you’ve already worked out the whole thing from start to finish.

You can then release your stories more rapidly and keep your readers happy.

Not only can you write quicker, but it’s also easier to write and to ensure you don’t miss anything that needs to be there if you already have an outline of at least the story’s main points.

Hands up if you’ve ever started writing a novel and then realized that either you have no idea what happens in the middle at all or that what you’ve got just isn’t enough to keep the story flowing to the end.

That’s the saggy middle, and it’s not something you want. Use your outline to plan your middle and avoid the dreaded sag.

With a well-planned outline, you have a clear path from start to finish, and it’s easier to stay on track when you’re writing and ensure you’re still heading to the big finish you planned.

In most stories, the main characters grow and change over the course of the story. You can use your outline to map these changes out and then write your story without losing any of those changes.No more writer’s block.

Kick writer’s block into touch with a clear outline that you can easily follow to see what to write next and what comes after that.

That doesn’t mean you have to write in order if you don’t want to, but it should mean that you aren’t left staring at a blank page with no idea what to do next.

A great outline can save you a lot of time on editing. You might find that once you’ve written your story, there isn’t as much to change to make sure your story flows well and that you don’t have to edit too much in terms of the story structure.

You might also save yourself some money here because there may be less for your developmental editor to do.

9 Ways to Write a Story Outline: Your Step-by-Step Guide

At the end of this post, we’ll share some story outline examples where you’ll discover there are as many ways to outline your story as there are writers.

But that’s a very good thing. It means that if you want to outline your stories, you can find a way that works for you.

It might take some trial and error on your part, but you will come up with a way of outlining that helps you plan your novel and keep track of all the parts of your plot.

Your premise is the basic idea for your story. What happens and who does it happen to? Remember those questions we gave you in our section, What is a Story Outline? This is where you need them.

Start asking yourself about your story, who your main characters are, and what happens to them.

Look at the inciting incident that sets your main characters off on the path of following the story through. What are the obstacles along the way?

Who is the villain, and what are they up to? How will they try to stop your main characters from achieving their goal?

What is your story about? What is your theme? What tropes will you need to include to fit the genre?

Take some time to answer these questions and think things through, then write yourself a paragraph that summarizes your novel.

We’ve already mentioned the inciting incident – the event that takes place that propels your characters into taking action and doesn’t give them any choice in the matter.

In this step, think about the main elements of your story.

Once you have these major points nailed, you are a good way toward having your outline done, and you have the major points to hand your scenes on.

You can’t finish your outline without knowing your characters really well. Your story should be character-driven, and action and dialogue should come about because you know what your characters would do next and how they would react to each challenge or occurrence in your story.

Use character sheets if it helps, and write down their basic information, such as physical description, any marks, scars, tattoos, eye color, hair color, and more.

If you’re very visual, try to find a photograph of an actor that would play your character in the movie of the book. That can help solidify your character in your mind and let you see and hear them.

Look at your story skeleton from step two and think about how your characters will react to these major points. You may well start coming up with scenes and dialogue at this point, which is great! Jot those down too.

Know how your characters change and grow over the course of the story. Most characters do develop and change in novels. There are very few characters that stay the same.

Get to know your settings as well as you do your characters. You want to be able to describe things in detail for your readers and bring them into the story. 

In some cases, some settings may also contribute to the story and be either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. 

If you’re familiar with the story of Odysseus or Jason and the Argonauts, for example, you’ll well remember the journey across the sea when they faced Scylla (clashing rocks) and Charybdis (the whirlpool), in a very narrow strait of water.

Don’t just think about what your settings look like. Add more description and help place the reader firmly in the story by thinking about what your settings feel like, smell like, and sound like.

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Some writers only discover the theme of their stories as they write. If that’s you, don’t worry. You can still write an outline and then add in the theme later once you’ve discovered what it is. Just leave this bit blank for now.

If you’d rather decide on your theme before you start to write, or even better, if you already know what it is, write it down here.

It’s good to keep the themes of your story in mind both as you write your outline and as you write your story. You can then ensure that your story fits with your theme and what you want to say.

We’ve shown you some story-outlining examples above, but those are just some of the ways you could outline your story.

You could choose a specific outlining method, such as the Snowflake Method, follow the three-act structure, or you could create an outlining method that’s all your own just because that’s what works best for you.

Start to bring everything together here from the above steps. Go back to step two and start to add other major plot points, scenes, notes, and more to your list of the major plot elements.

Keep expanding your outline and adding in more details, including your character arcs, beats, and anything else you find helpful until you’re at a point where you think you’re done, and you’re ready to start writing.

While plotters may want to get into all the details in their outline, pantsers are more likely to want quite a light outline that they can then use to guide them as they discover the story as they write.

Give it a day or two, and then read back over your outline. Make sure every plot point and scene leads naturally up to the major plot elements and that the story flows.

See if there are any gaps and fill them.

Add in any other notes, scene ideas, and bits of dialogue that come up as you do this.

You’ve done it. Your outline is complete, and it’s now time to put it to use and write.

Use your outline as much or as little as you want as you write. Don’t forget that your story follows naturally from who your characters are and what they would naturally do under given circumstances. 

If you find that your characters are going in a different direction or that you get better ideas as you write, then go with them. If things don’t work out, you can always look back at your original outline for help.

Story Outline Methods and Examples

Honestly, there really isn’t one best way to outline your novel. There’s only the best one that works for you. Here are just some story outline examples to show you how you could outline your story.

Try different ones to see which one you prefer, or try adapting the parts that work for you from different methods.

This method was invented by Randy Ingermanson. He was a software architect, and when it came to writing novels, he found himself using the same method he used to design software to write his novels.

He wrote this method up to share with other writers, and many writers find this a helpful way to outline.

You start by writing a single-sentence summary of your novel. This should be a compelling hook to draw your readers in. Get it right, and you can also use it in your marketing copy.

Next, you expand the sentence to a paragraph, which includes the start of the story, the major points, and the end of your story. You now have a short overview of your novel.

Next, add a one-page in-depth summary of each main character. Then go back to your paragraph summary and expand every sentence in that summary into another paragraph.

Keep expanding your novel outline until you have a full, highly-detailed outline and character sketches of your major characters.

You can read Randy’s full description of the Snowflake Method on his website .

Save the Cat was originally a method for writing screenplays by Blake Snyder, a Hollywood screenwriter. It is equally effective for writing novels.

It’s called Save the Cat because so many novels have that moment where the main character does something to make the reader feel for them and root for them, for example, like saving a cat from a tree.

With Save the Cat, you follow a beat sheet, which breaks down the three-act structure, and simply fill in a couple of sentences for each beat to describe what you’ll need to know or what happens in each beat.

This then gives you a good overview of your novel and what has to happen at each point.

You can read more and download beat sheet examples at the Save the Cat website .

This method is commonly used for thrillers where you want the reader to feel right in the middle of the action from the get-go.

The first two-thirds of a story plotted with this method are known as “Rising Action.” The next point in the story is the “Climax,” and then what follows is known as “Falling Action.” It’s easy to see how thrillers fit this method particularly well. 

Most thrillers start off at break-neck speed and take the reader through fast-paced action that’s all heading in the direction of the climax of the story.

Then, once the climax is reached, the story continues into falling action where explanations are given, the bad guys get their just desserts, and any romance is wrapped up nicely.

The pattern of the Fichtean curve tends to look like this:

Crisis 1, Crisis 2, Crisis 3, Climax, Falling Action.

Think about your story and see how you can plan all the action to fit this format.

This method is exactly what it sounds like. Start at the end and then work your way back to the beginning to see how you’ll get to that ending.

This method can be particularly helpful for murder mysteries and thrillers. You can work backward from “who dunnit” and why, working out the steps they took to commit the crime.

As you go, you can also fill in how the detective or hero/heroine of the story works it out. It’s then much easier to go through and add twists to the plot and plant clues and red herrings for your readers to follow.

When it comes to outlining, there are so many different ways to approach it. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, an outline can make a big difference when writing your story.

It can help you keep track of everything that needs to happen and allow you to write faster. 

However, when choosing the best way to outline your story, don’t think you have to follow what anyone else does. Everyone is different, so outline in the way that makes the most sense to you.

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Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

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Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

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5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

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From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

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A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

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From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

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From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

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From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

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Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

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From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

From the book: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

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30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

how to write on books

From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

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Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

how to write on books

From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

how to write on books

From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

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What to Write in a Book As a Gift: 40 Bookish Inscription-Ready Quotes

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Is there any better gift than a book all wrapped up with a bow? The new-book smell and possibility of an unforgettable story are just the beginning. There’s also the hours of curling up with it, the thoughts and characters that stay with you long after—and of course, remembering the person who got it for you. The person who gifted you the book perhaps wrote an inscription to you inside the front cover. As the gift receiver, that inscription means as much as the book does—in fact, a quick Internet search brings up a plethora of cherished book inscription images , some decades old. So when you’re the giver, what to write in a book as a gift is one of the most important questions to tackle before getting out the wrapping paper.

What to write in a book as a gift. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash:

Of course, you’ll want to write something personal—about the recipient or the occasion, or about the book or your favorite passage from it. No one other than you can come up with those words, but if you want to add a little something extra about the joy of books and reading, we’ve rounded up a list of quotes to help you send the perfect message.

What to Write in a Book As a Gift for Someone Who Could Read All Day, Every Day

In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold. ―Ben Aaronovitch

Reading—the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay. —William Styron

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading. —Logan Pearsall Smith

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. —C.S. Lewis

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Joseph Addison

For Someone Whose World Expands Through Books

The world was hers for the reading. —Betty Smith

A book is a dream you hold in your hands. —Neil Gaiman

It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. —S.I. Hayakawa

Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere. —Mary Schmich

That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet. —Jhumpa Lahiri

Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere. —Jean Rhys

Reading is departure and arrival. —Terri Guillemets

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home. —Anna Quindlen

For Someone Who Collects Books Like They’re Going Out of Style

I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library. —Jorge Luis Borges

I love the smell of book ink in the morning. —Umberto Eco

So many books, so little time. —Frank Zappa

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. —Henry Ward Beecher

For Someone Who Loves A Book That Leaves Them Thinking

The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. —Harper Lee

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. —Haruki Murakami 

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. —Italo Calvino

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. —Oscar Wilde 

For Someone Who Talks About Books As If They’re People

A first book has some of the sweetness of a first love. —Robert Aris Willmott

It is better to know one book intimately than a hundred superficially. —Donna Tartt 

There is no friend as loyal as a book. —Ernest Hemingway

With books, I slip out of my life and am with the choicest company. —Katherine Young

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. —Charles William Eliot

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book. —Marcel Proust

For the Friend Who Talks About Books With You for Hours

There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books. —Irving Stone

Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen. —Charles Caleb Colton

My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read. —Abraham Lincoln 

For Someone Who Appreciates a Little Humor

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. —P.J. O’Rourke

There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it. —Bertrand Russell

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read. —Mark Twain

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy. —Frank Zappa

Never judge a book by its movie. —J.W. Eagan

For Someone Whose Dreams Are Fueled by Books

Books were my pass to personal freedom. —Oprah Winfrey

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. —Margaret Fuller

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. —Frederick Douglas

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. —James Baldwin

Couldn’t quite find just the right inscription in this list of quotes? Many of them are pulled directly from literature, so you can always open the book you’re giving and look for the right words within its pages. After all, just as they often do in books, authors have a way of expressing what you’ve always thought in a way you’ve never thought about saying it. On the other hand, their words might be the thing that inspires you to come up with the perfect sentiment yourself. But whoever’s words they are, a meaningful inscription is the most beautiful bow you can put on a book this holiday.

For more inspiration about what to write in a book as a gift, check out these quotes that celebrate the reading life and these quotes that remind us why we love books so much .

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How I write: Dame Claudia Orange

Dame Claudia Orange is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished historians. A director at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for many years, she is now a research associate at the museum. She has just released The Story of a Treaty, He Kōrero Tiriti, a lively account of the Treaty from its signing in 1840, through the debates and struggles of the 19th century, to the gathering political momentum of recent decades.

Which book do you wish you'd written and why?

A recent shift from Wellington to Auckland has made me realise how important is family, and the records for a biography. This was evident in my keeping whakapapa, photos and stories of my mother’s German-speaking forebears (from Bohemia) who settled at Puhoi. Alongside them are those of my father Monty Bell, whose forebears had migrated from Cork and the Isle of Man. They settled in Marlborough and then (for him) in Feilding, where he surprisingly learnt te reo during WW1. Bell family reunions and Puhoi anniversaries, celebrated with waltzes and polkas, were part of my growing years. There is a book to capture here - still to be written.

READ MORE: * How I write: Te Papa's Puawai Cairns * How I overcame writer's block and actually finished a novel * Te Papa - 25 years at Our Place * What Dame Claudia Orange is reading

Which book had such an impact on you that you bought it for your friends?

With democracy seemingly at some risk in 2022, I bought a new book by law professor Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Gwen Palmer Steeds – Democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand: a survival guide . It was just the gift my law student granddaughter Dominique needed. Concise and easy to read, it was also a gem for me too - a quick and clear reference guide, expressed with clarity and a degree of quirkiness.

What book do you go back to time and time again to re-read?

As a historian and writer, there is more than one book which I keep referring back to and reading. That tapestry of our history called The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (online) has been a must for checking on people of the past. But contemporary affairs and the recent past have made me treasure Aroha Harris’s Hikoi : Forty Years of Maori Protest and her section of the history Tangata Whenua. Others that capture political work are Christopher Finlayson’s He Kupu Taurangi on settlements and the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Which writer do you turn to when you have writer's block?

I seldom have writer’s block, but if slow to get to my computer then coffee and talk with other writers and friends makes me “fire up”. And good advice from a past historian stays with me – stop halfway through a sentence – easy to continue when you come back to it.

Which authors would you want in your book club?

I love crime novels so Jane Harper ( Exiles ) whose work emerged from a journalism career would be a must. And from a similar background too, Colin James ( Unquiet Time ) and Guyon Espiner ( The Ninth Floor) .

What book did you read as a child or teen that had a profound effect on you?

As a child I often read a book a day, fed by an expert at Ponsonby’s Leys Institute library. I was captured for a time by an American “Maida” series where Maida was capable of leading in any project. Primary years giving way to secondary demands, the Knox-Cox gospel stories with commentaries exercised a need to influence the world for better. And at that time Keith Sinclair’s book on the New Zealand wars emerged, followed by his History of New Zealand. These made senior history relevant to me and I recall my excitement after a history class.

Have you ever finished a book and gone straight back to the start to read again?

Yes – one of Jane Harper’s first, T he Dry. PD James The Murder Room . And many of Agatha Christie’s novels, in particular Murder on the Orient Express .

When it comes to a memorable book, what is more important, a great plot or great characters?

Great characters live with one after a book is finished. A plot can sometimes be disappointing, and must be one of the greatest challenges for writers to construct.

What's your writing routine?

When involved in writing a new book, I keep a daily diary that lists the work to address, the research to unearth, and the key topics to be addressed. I decide what I want to say paragraph by paragraph, and express it briefly and in terms that can be understood. I check the diary record regularly which spurs me on but does not necessarily tie me down. If the words keep flowing, the computer stays on!

And where do you write?

I have been fortunate in having a space at Te Papa’s environment area that has enabled me to keep books, papers, legislation and other records there. At lockdowns it became essential to work at home, and so a good laptop and a bedroom cum study was and is essential. No distractions are essential: All necessary stuff done in the morning with the afternoon into the evening being my best time. I have also kept a notebook by my bed and carry a small pad with me to capture those points and expressions which can be elusive.

What “must read” book have you not read? Go on, fess up

The Iliad is often referred to by my husband, so it is one I will attack this year.

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A Complete Guide to eBook Writing

Last Updated: February 28, 2023 References Approved

Writing Your eBook

Publishing your ebook.

This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA . Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.  wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 35 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 665,657 times.

Ready to make your debut as a digital author? Whether you have useful advice to sell, or just want your voice to be heard, putting your words in an eBook (electronic book) and selling virtual copies of it online is an effective, low-cost way to self-publish. Read the steps in this guide to complete and successfully publish your first eBook. From planning and writing to publishing and promoting, we'll walk through everything you need to know on your eBook journey.

Things You Should Know

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Grant Faulkner, MA

To write your first eBook, start by coming up with an idea that you feel strongly about or are an expert in, and make that the subject of your book. Next, organize the details by making an outline of the chapters you want to include. Then, write a first draft based on your outline, filling in the details as you go. After writing your first draft, get feedback and revise it until you feel the book is ready to publish. Finally, publish your book using Amazon’s KDP or another eBook publishing service, such as Lulu or Booktango. For tips on promoting your e-book on social media, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Table of Contents

How to Write a Book [Step-By-Step Guide] by a 4X New York Times Bestselling Author

how to write on books

This is the best, most comprehensive online guide to writing a non-fiction book in existence.

That’s not just my opinion; I can back this statement up.

I’ve personally written 4 New York Times bestselling books, 3 of which hit #1. Those books combined to sell 4 million+ copies. I’ve helped other major Authors with their books (Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Dave Asprey, Peter Thiel, etc), and I also co-founded Scribe , which has already helped 1,200 authors write and publish great books, including a dozen major bestsellers, including books by David Goggins ( Can’t Hurt Me ) and Tiffany Haddish ( The Last Black Unicorn ).

I wrote this piece to give you a detailed, step-by-step instructional that you can follow to actually finish your book .

I know of nothing better, or more well tested to work, on the internet.

But remember—this guide is ONLY for non-fiction authors. If you are looking for how to write fiction, I’d go here .

calendar planning

Create Your Writing Plan

Step 1: set proper expectations for yourself.

Most online guides to writing a new book begin with writing.

But that doesn’t work.

If you wanted to cook dinner, you wouldn’t start with the cooking, would you? No, of course not. You’d start by preparing your space and collecting the right ingredients. It seems obvious when it’s pointed out, but so many people miss this when writing a book.

At Scribe, we’ve helped over 1,200 authors write their books (as of summer 2019), and probably the #1 thing that separates those who finish their books from those who do not is having the proper expectations going in.

Because writing a book is hard, and if you’re not prepared for that fact, you’re far more likely to stall, and even quit. But if you know the difficulty of what’s coming, you can mentally prepare to get past those obstacles when they come (and they will ).

These are the major expectations you should have as you write your book:

Expect it to be hard.

Anyone who tells you the process of writing a book is easy is either trying to sell you something, has never written a book, or writes really bad books.

Books are hard to write.

And writing a good book is even harder.

If you want to write a good book, then expect that it will require hard work from you.

Expect to get tired.

Writing is tiring (especially if you do it correctly).

Expect to get tired when you write, and expect that it will drain you. Make sure to take the steps you need to be both rested and energized when you write.

Expect to be confused.

Writing a book is confusing. But what you’ll find as you work this method is that while some of the things we recommend might seem unusual, they actually WORK really well—which is ultimately what matters the most.

Expect to feel overwhelmed at times.

There is a lot coming. It will be like drinking from a firehose. You WILL feel overwhelmed at times.

But understand this: overwhelm is NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO NEXT—which is exactly why you are reading this guide. We solve this for you.

If you follow along and do what we say, you will ALWAYS know what to do next. We’ve made this process so that there are no surprises.

Expect to be emotionally uncomfortable (and maybe afraid).

This is a big one. Writing a book will unquestionably push you emotionally and expose fears and anxieties.

That is never easy, and never fun, but if you want to write a book, it’s almost certainly going to be a necessity (don’t worry, I will tell you what fears are coming and how to deal with them).

Don’t worry too much about your fears right now, but if they come up later, you can always read our guide on book writing fears and how to beat them. It’s the best guide on the internet on how to deal with writing and book fears.

Step 2: Schedule a Time and Place to Write Each Day

Shouldn’t you just get inspired to write? If you wait until inspiration strikes, and then use that as fuel to write, you’ll be good, right?

If you rely on inspiration to write your own book, you will fail . There is one single thing that creates success with writing, and every single writer will tell you this:


It took me three years as a professional writer before I understood that I needed a writing plan for every book I wrote. Writing without a plan is like going cross country without a map. Yeah, you might get there, but it’ll take you at least twice as long.

You must sit your ass in the chair and write, just about every day, until the book is done.

It doesn’t need to be full-time, but you do need a writing plan. Because it defines exactly what you will do to finish your book.

Inspiration might be how you decide to start the book—and that’s fine—but discipline is how you’ll finish.

You are an author now, and what does an author do? They write. EVERY DAY.

A writing plan is nothing more than a specific writing schedule that lays out a writing time, where you’re going to write each day, how much you will write, when everything is due, and what your accountability is.

“When should I write?”

You must start by picking the exact time and writing space you will write each day. For example, you could write every day during free time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in your home office. Or from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Compass Coffee.

This is not negotiable. If you tell yourself that you’ll “write when you have time” then the book won’t ever get done. If you don’t think about the environment where you will do your writing, you may very well not make effective use of that time you’ve set aside.

With both of these elements, you want to be as specific as possible. The more you plan now, the less you have to think later.

If the book matters, then you figure out precisely when and where you will write it.

We recommend writing for at least one hour per day. If you only have 30 minutes per day to write, then do that. The optimal amount of time is two hours, but very few people can set aside that much time.

Also, be realistic. Most authors cannot write (effectively) for more than three hours a day.

“How consistently should I write?”

If you can, write every day. If seven days a week is too much, then take one day off and write for six. God rested on the seventh day and so can you.

The key thing to remember with a book is that you don’t stay where you are with a book; you either move forward or you move backward .

Momentum is a key element in seeing a book through from beginning to end. You will make that decision each and every day for the duration of the book-writing process. Your plan will help you stay accountable so you continue moving in the right direction.

“How do I pick my writing location?”

It’s very simple to pick where you should write: wherever you get writing done .

These are the general factors people consider when writing: ambient noise, temperature, view, comfort, and isolation. A universal “correct” place to write doesn’t exist. If you write well in coffee shops, do that. If you write well at a desk in your basement, do that. Wherever you are most creative, most functional, and most confident, write there.

Find the place and setting that works for you and then recreate that each day. If your initial location stops working for you after a while, acknowledge that, figure out what you need to change, and identify a new location.

“What book writing software do I use to write?”

It doesn’t matter what book writing software you use. Just don’t get fancy. Use what you know and what is easiest.

Step 3: Set a Specific Writing Goal (250 Words Per Day)

In addition to scheduling the time and place of each writing session, give yourself a specific writing goal for each session.

We recommend a goal of 250 words per hour of writing.

Why 250 words? It’s approximately the number of words per page in a printed book. So if you’re writing about 250 words, that’s about a page a day.

Yes, this is a very low goal. But a low goal is good. A low goal is not intimidating, so it will help you get started. It will also make you feel good when you surpass it, and that will entice you to keep writing.

This is a classic sales technique—lowering the quota to inspire action—that works wonderfully with writing. The best part is that it adds up quickly:

By writing just 250 words a day, you can get a 120-page (30,000-word) first draft done in about four months.

This also builds a writing habit. Humans are habitual creatures, and it’ll get easier as you go.

Step 4: Create Your Deadlines

Deadlines force action and demand accountability. Below is a rough outline of how to pace yourself, and you can adjust it to your schedule.

If you want to move fast, give yourself a deadline of about a chapter a week.

If you want to move at a reasonable speed, give yourself two weeks per chapter.

If you want to move slower, allow three weeks.

If you have a hectic life, do a chapter per month. And then question whether you have the time to even do this.

Step 5: Announce Your Book

To take accountability one step further: announce that you are starting your book .

Use whatever social media platform you prefer, but the point is to publicly claim your intention to people you care about. You’ll get a lot of positive feedback, which will help you start, and the fact that you have announced your intention will help you push through when you are wavering.

You can talk about what your book is about, who it will serve, what the working title is, what areas you plan to cover—it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you tell the world this is coming.

Step 6: Give Yourself a New Identity: Author

As soon as you finish your writing plan, and announced your book, it’s time to consider yourself an “Author.”

Yes, this is getting a little ahead of the game. You haven’t published your book yet. Nor have you even officially started writing.

But that’s OK. You’ve made the commitment, and believe it or not, wearing the identity will help you get started and get through all the problems that will inevitably come up.

All you need to do is something as simple as writing your name and “Author” beneath it to make it real.

writing on laptop

Write Your Book

Step 7: figure out your book objectives: why are you writing your book, and what do you want to get.

The first step in writing your book is what is called “positioning” in the book industry . Positioning is the most crucial part of both writing (and marketing) your book. What is book positioning? Simply stated:

Book positioning is the place your book occupies in the mind of your reader, and how that reader perceives your book as fulfilling their needs.

That is the technical, industry definition of positioning. But really, positioning is about answering the question readers ask about every book:

“Why should I read this book?”

It’s important to understand that you can’t write or market yourself out of a positioning problem . If you get it right, positioning makes both the writing and marketing of the book easy, and ensures you get what you want from your book.

If you do not take this seriously—if you get your positioning wrong—then almost nothing you can do will save your book or make it successful.

The best place to start book positioning is your objectives. This is because once you know what you want to accomplish with your book, it allows you to figure out the correct book to write.

This basic question helps authors discern the proper objectives:

“Imagine it’s a few years after your book has been published. What has the book helped you accomplish that made the effort worthwhile?”

There are an almost infinite array of benefits a book can get for an author, but most of them fall into one of these six popular objectives:

Obviously, the details of each of these depend on your specific field and profession, but any of those objectives can be very realistic.

Examples of Book Objectives

From a book about learning faster and more effectively:

1. We have built our B2C business to over $10M a year, in large part by leveraging the free book funnel and the exposure of the book, despite the fact that I’m less involved in the business than ever

2. We’re doing over $1M a year in corporate and enterprise subscriptions, because of the exposure and credibility of the book and the event

3. We have sparked research, conversation, and debate about education reform, and are working on a few not-for-profit pilot initiatives to improve education

From a book that teaches women how to sell like men, but ethically and with heart:

1. I have a large following of female entrepreneurs and my brand is recognized and well-respected

2. I’m a sought-out speaker on the topic of sales and female empowerment. I have done a TEDx talk and been asked to speak at large, recognizable conferences like SXSW and Traffic & Conversion Summit.

3. I frequently get messages from people (women and men) who thank me for writing this book because it genuinely helped them

What Are Unrealistic Book Objectives?

Of course everyone secretly hopes their book will sell millions of copies and be a breakout success—but if you make that your objective, you are setting yourself up for failure. Those are not realistic goals. If you set realistic goals, you give your book a chance to actually succeed.

In fact, the most important thing you can do with this question is kill your fantasies and set objectives that are achievable. These are unrealistic objectives for most authors:

Here’s the thing about these objectives: they are not literally impossible. People have accomplished them all. We’ve had a few of our authors do them.

But they are exceedingly rare, and most books have no shot at these objectives. The more you focus on realistic objectives, the better your book will be at hitting the audience you need to hit in order to succeed.

Step 8: Figure Out Your Book Audience: Who Is Your Book for, and Why Will They Care?

You can absolutely write a book without caring who your audience is. But don’t expect it to do well.

In fact, there’s a name for a book that is written without an audience in mind— it’s called a diary .

If you want your book to be successful and reach the objectives you set out for it, you need an audience, and you need to think about and define that audience beforehand.

Let’s start with a definition of what an audience is (for the purposes of a book):

An audience is a single group of people who share the specific problem your book solves.

Why does this matter? Because the key to writing a good book is actually narrowing your audience down as much as possible to only the people your book is intended to help.

Some authors start by thinking their book can potentially reach everyone. They dream about the millions of people that “could possibly” find their book appealing.

Don’t do that. There is literally no book ever written with an audience of everyone.

Not the Bible. Not the Koran. Not Stephen King’s The Shining . Not 50 Shades or Harry Potter , or any other book.

If you think your book is for everyone, you are flat wrong. The fact is, the large majority of books are completely unappealing to most people.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Here’s exactly how to figure out who the audience for your book is:

Audience Question #1: Who is your Primary Audience?

We recommend starting with the smallest possible audience you must reach to make your book successful. For most authors, the smaller the better. Your total audience is a series of concentric circles; the primary audience is the bullseye.

By starting small, you can ensure that your book will definitely reach SOMEONE. This niche focus ensures that your audience will get excited about your ideas, they will implement your ideas, and they will share your ideas with their peers. This process is no more complicated than asking yourself a very basic question:

“Who MUST know about my book in order for it to get the results I want?”

This includes results for the reader and for you.

For example, if your objective is to help oil and gas executives make better decisions about where to drill, and you want to speak at a major oil and gas conferences and become the expert in this space, then your audience is the people who book the speakers for that specific conference (and the executives who attend).

If your objective is to help CTOs recruit engineers better and raise your authority in the CTO space to get clients for your CTO recruiting business that caters to small-to-midsize companies, then chief technology officers from SMBs are your primary audience.

If you want to help people deal with their back pain and get visibility in your community to drive clients to your chiropractic practice, then your audience includes the people in your community with the health problems that you can address.

Pretty simple.



Audience Question #2: Describe a typical person in your Primary Audience (an avatar). What are they like?

This person is literally who you’re writing the book for. They are your perfect reader.

This should be a description of a specific person in your primary audience. It can be a real person who is representative of your audience, or it can be a made-up composite of several different people.

It’s essential that you describe a specific person, as it makes positioning your book more real. Don’t describe a group or a type or a set of characteristics: create an individual with a name and a story.

The point of doing it this way is to set you up for the next two questions, which are about digging into your audience’s pain and the benefits they will get from reading your book. Clearly understanding both serves as a yardstick against which you can measure the value of your content when you begin writing.

If possible, pick someone who energizes you—either a real person or a composite of real people. Someone you really want to help, maybe someone who reminds you of yourself before you knew everything you know now (the “younger you” can be a great ideal reader). The more you envision a real person who you can help, the more excited you will be about writing this book for them.

Audience Question #3: What pain is this person experiencing because they have not read your book?

This step is about expressing your reader’s pain. How are they suffering, what are they missing out on, what do they not have that they want? They are depressed and suffering—how, specifically, and why?

Your answer should only be about the problems they currently have, not the solutions. Your book is the cure, but we first have to know what ails them.

Sometimes Questions 3 and 4 overlap a little, and that is fine. In fact, you might have written the pain in the description of the person. If so, just cut and paste and move it here.

Audience Question #4: What transformation will occur because they read and implement your book?

Once this person reads your book and implements your ideas, what happens? Do they only stop experiencing the pain described above? Do they get more benefits, or both? What good things will happen as a result of reading your book and implementing your ideas?

Most importantly, what changes or transformation occur in their life? What is their new life like?

Example of an Audience Avatar

Who Is Your Primary Audience? An advanced practice nurse who is interested in starting a healthcare practice

Describe a typical person in your Primary Audience (an avatar). What are they like? Jennifer is an advanced practice nurse who currently works for a physician, hospital, or large practice. She doesn’t make as much money as she feels that she should, and she works long hours that take her away from her family.

In order to meet volume quotas and stay on schedule, Jennifer isn’t able to spend much time with her patients. This makes her feel rushed and stressed. She worries that she may be missing things or not providing the quality of care that would be possible if she had more time. Further, she’s not able to practice the type of preventative, relationship-based care that fuels her soul.

She is afraid of leaving the security of her current position, but isn’t sure she wants to keep practicing nursing if she doesn’t make a change. She wants to start her own practice, but doesn’t know where to start or what to do. She is looking for guidance and permission, but hasn’t found a book, resource, or mentor to help her.

What pain are they experiencing because they’ve not read your book? Jennifer feels stressed and rushed at her current job. She is unhappy, unfulfilled, and has considered leaving nursing completely.

She is afraid of starting her own practice because she doesn’t know where to start or what to do. She’s afraid she’ll fail. She’s afraid she won’t make any money. She’s a nurse, not an entrepreneur! She isn’t sure if she’s doing things right, which is scary because she likes to follow the rules. All of this uncertainty means it’s taking Jennifer a lot longer than it should to start her practice, leaving her in her current job where she is unhappy.

What benefit will they get because they read and implement your book? Jennifer will get a step-by-step guide to start her own practice. The process is no longer mysterious. It now seems achievable. She now knows the applicable laws and regulations, so she has peace of mind knowing she won’t be breaking any rules.

With a roadmap and examples of other APNs who have succeeded, Jennifer now has the confidence and permission to start her own practice.

Jennifer is less afraid of failure by she has strategies to mitigate the risk of starting a business.

Jennifer is now fast-tracked to get what she really wants—a better lifestyle (more time to take care of herself, flexibility to be available for family and/or friends); the freedom and autonomy to practice the type of medicine she loves, the ability to benefit from the fruits of her hard labor, and recognition as a leader in her community.

Step 9: Lock In Your Book Idea

Now it’s time for the fun part: nailing down your book idea .

Book ideas often shift once the objectives and audience become clear, so we leave this task for the end of the positioning process. It’s much easier now to get your idea right, because you know exactly what you want to accomplish and what audience you must attract with your book to reach your objectives.

Before you write down your book idea, be sure to avoid the biggest mistake that authors make:

Don’t write the book you think your audience “should” read. Instead, write the book your audience wants to read.

This is a subtle yet very important distinction. If you can answer the next two questions well, then it should be positioned properly.

In 200 words or less, describe your book.

Write a one-paragraph description of exactly what the book is about.

DO NOT worry about writing the perfect book description (that comes later in the publishing process). Just get something down in less than 200 words that answers these three questions:

You don’t have to get it perfect at first; you just need to get something down that gets you pointed in the right direction. You will have plenty of time to get it perfect later on.

For now, distill the book idea into 200 words or, better yet, less. If you can’t do it in 200 words, you don’t actually know what your book is about, who it’s for, or why they will care.

If you are struggling with this, then think about your favorite book. Tell me in a few sentences what your favorite book is about. Now, what would that be for your book?

Don’t fall victim to the classic trap of trying to combine two or three books into one. A book should be one idea only, not all your ideas.

Also remember that putting your story in your book is fine, but only the parts that are interesting or relevant to the reader.

Examples of Solid Book Ideas

Example 1: This book will be an informative, easy-to-digest guide to hand safety in construction and manufacturing workplaces. The author will share what companies can do to educate their teams on hand safety and how to reduce hand injuries amongst their employees outside of just purchasing gloves. He will explain the methodology and safety tips needed to prevent hand injuries before they happen, and what to do if they do happen to prevent them from coming up again. He will include case studies, helpful tips, and practical applications that safety managers can use to prevent the majority of hand injuries in these companies, which is a huge risk each day.

Example 2: This book explores a series of critical flaws that represent the most common root causes of poor performance in organizations and are the primary reasons why organizations fail to achieve peak performance. What’s challenging about these flaws is that they lie underneath the surface of poor performance, so many organizations are not aware of them. Even when people may be somewhat aware, they may not realize how deep they go. And if/when they realize, they may not want or be able to treat them—especially alone. This book is for C-Suite executives who lead organizations that aren’t performing as well as they need to or could. It will help them diagnose and cure these flaws in their organizations, thus positioning their organizations for optimal business results; scalable, sustainable growth; efficient and effective operations; happy and engaged employees; and satisfied customers. On a personal level, this book will help these executives become more effective, less stressed, and happier in their professional and personal lives.

After you read the examples above, you could explain to someone else what the book is about, who it is for, and what they will get out of it.

Example of a Poorly Written Book Idea

Jim Smith is known as the “Deal Maker of Business.” He got his start at the age of eighteen and hasn’t stopped since. Now, with seven bestsellers and a reputation for his success as a digital nomad, Jim is looking to become a big deal with entrepreneurs.

In his book, Jim will reveal his country roots and his struggle with education as a high school student to set the stage for his readers to understand that the only thing holding them back is their mindset. Though he is known as a real estate success and has written extensively about cornering that market, this book will pull back the curtain to reveal that Jim’s success isn’t about real estate alone—it’s about the self-awareness required to do well in all areas of life, not just business.

Jim will challenge his readers to give up their throne as the King of Dipshits, to surround themselves with people who challenge them, to identify and own the things they are not great at, and to stop working like $10/hour employees when they are running a million-dollar business. Most of all, Jim will use his experiences and his humor to bring fresh insight to entrepreneurs who want a life like his, but aren’t sure how to get it.

What’s this book about? Who is it for? What will they get? I couldn’t say with confidence, and I doubt you can, either.

Step 10: Outline Your Chapters

Your outline is the structure of your book, and thus incredibly important. If you start writing without a structure, the process will take forever and the product will be haphazard and incomplete.

Worse, having no outline often leads to not finishing your book at all .

The outline is also your best defense against fear, anxiety, procrastination, and writer’s block. With good positioning and a good outline, the actual writing of the book becomes fairly easy.

At Scribe, we have a complete outlining process that is very different than what most people teach. What makes our outline different is we only intend it to trigger the proper ideas and concepts for each chapter, so when you sit down to write, you know what to focus on.

You can download the full book outline template here.

Step 11: How to Start Your Book: Outlining the Introduction

You know why most readers—probably including you—skip book introductions?

Because most authors think the purpose of the introduction is to explain everything they will talk about in the book.

That is boring and wrong.

The purpose of a good book introduction is to engage the reader and get them to read the book.

Just because someone is reading an introduction does not mean they are going to finish the book. The thing that scares people off of books is NOT the price—it’s the commitment of time.

People don’t care about $10. They care about spending their time on something that is interesting and engaging to them.

That is the job of the introduction: prove to the reader this book is worth reading. A well-done introduction grabs the reader and compels them to keep reading. It pulls them through, and makes them excited to start the content, because the introduction has answered the most important question the reader has:

An Introduction Should:

An Introduction Should Not:

Step 12: How to Finish Your Book: Outlining the Conclusion

Here’s the thing with book conclusions: if the reader got all the way to the conclusion, then it means they read the whole book, they liked it, and now they want to wrap this up.

So don’t ramble on and on. Give them what they want.

The goal of the conclusion is to tie everything together, neatly summarize your book, and then provide a specific call or calls to action for your reader.

Don’t overcomplicate the book conclusion —just let it do its job, and it’ll work great.

What a Conclusion Should Do:

What a Conclusion Should Not Do:

Step 13: Get a Working Title

You do NOT need to know your book title at this stage, but I like to start thinking about my title at the latest when I am finishing my outline.

All you need to do now is come up with a “working” book title. That basically just means a temporary title. That’s it.

Even if you hate it, a working title is necessary.

A bad title will help you get to a good title, but having no title keeps you stuck.

So just put down whatever you have, and then move to the next step.

Step 14: Write the Vomit Draft of Your Book

What we’ve found working with thousands of authors is that almost all of them know how to write out their ideas. What they need most is what we’ve already gone over: defined book positioning and a clear book plan. From there, the writing itself is easy.

Where problems arise is in the mindset around writing . What happens in this stage is that authors get stuck.

But I can tell you how to avoid this very simply:

Give yourself permission to write a mediocre first draft.

Most beginning authors have this notion that professional writers put out amazing first drafts, or that their first draft has to be really good.

That is nonsense.

I can tell you, as a professional writer who has written four New York Times bestsellers, my first drafts are utter garbage. Worse than mediocre. They are terrible.

But that doesn’t bother me because I know I can edit them until they are not terrible. The Barbara Kingsolver quote tells it all:

“1. To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. 2. Revise until it’s not a bad book.”

Many people struggle with giving themselves permission to write a mediocre first draft, so we developed a concept called the “ vomit draft .”

We literally call the first draft the “vomit draft.”

This is because when you’re vomiting, you don’t care about looking beautiful. When you’re vomiting, you just want to get it all out, because that’s the only way to get it over with.

What’s cool about the vomit draft is, unlike vomiting in front of people, your vomit draft is ONLY for you. You are the only person who will ever see it, and you will edit this before even your editor sees it.

By focusing on just getting it out, it stops you from reading and editing as you go, which inevitably slows you down and stalls you.

When you write something you think is garbage, just say, “That’s a problem for Future Me!” and keep moving.

This might be the most important advice in this book, so pay attention:

Write your vomit draft as quickly as possible. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Move forward without looking back until your vomit draft is done.

Let me repeat that and break it down to be very clear and to be sure you got it:

Write your vomit draft as quickly as possible.




I cannot be more serious or literal about this.

The quickest way to derail a vomit draft is to start editing before you finish. I don’t care who you are—if you start editing your vomit draft, you WILL get stuck.

If you edit during the vomit draft stage, the best case scenario is you double the amount of time it takes to write the book.

Using the Vomit Draft Method does two things:

1. It suspends your self-judgment. 2. It creates momentum through daily victories (getting 250 words per day and celebrating that adds up and reframes how you see yourself)

If you edit as you write, it totally derails your book. The bully in your brain, the part of you that is ridiculously hard on yourself, will start to second-guess you and shame you and will, at best, slow you down—if not kill your motivation altogether.

How long should your book be?

When our authors ask us about book length , we tell them it should be as short as possible, without leaving anything out.

You should not write thinking about length, but you should remember to keep your book as short and focused as possible. Shorter books are much better. They sell better, and they are more read, more engaged, and more impactful.

The data we have on this is very clear: books under 100 pages don’t sell as well (lower perception of value), books between 100 and 199 pages sell the best, books between 200 and 299 pages sell almost as well as the ones in the hundreds, and books over 300 pages sell the least (that length is a big investment of time).

As a rule of thumb, you can assume about 200 words per printed page, so 100-199 pages is 20k-40k words. And 5-20 chapters is usually what works best.

Step 15: Find Your Voice

For some reason, when it comes time to writing, lots of authors become obsessed with “finding their voice.”

I’ll often tease authors and ask them things like, “Hey, did you look behind your sofa? Your voice might be there.”

The joke is silly but the point is right—you don’t “find” your voice outside of yourself. Your voice is already a part of who you are. Your job as an author is to get out of the way and let it out.

The second thing authors do wrong, is try to mimic a voice. You can’t be Malcolm Gladwell. You can only be you, so don’t try to be anything else.

So how to do make sure it’s your voice in your book? There are two frames we recommend authors take:

Voice Frame #1: Conversation with a friend.

This is the most common mental frame that our authors use. When they sit down to write, they envision themselves talking to a friend.

This is literally the frame that I used to write this section—I pretended to explain this to a friend of mine.

Getting in that state of mind does several things:

John Steinbeck says it best:

“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death, and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person, and write to that one.”

Voice Frame #2: Help a stranger heal the same pain you had.

This is very similar to the “conversation with a friend” frame, but it is also different in a few ways. If you envision yourself helping a stranger solve a painful problem, you do these things:

Uber Cool Trick: Combine the two. If you envision yourself talking to a friend AND helping them through something difficult you’ve already done, that might be the best of both worlds.

Both of these methods allow you to get out of your own way and let your voice come through naturally.

Because you aren’t actually thinking about voice. You are focused on the reader. Focusing on the reader, rather than on yourself, is a superpower technique you can use at every stage to create an effective, successful book.

Don’t worry about being a writer. Just help people, and your voice will take care of itself.

Step 16: Use Good Writing Principles

Remember writing essays in school with a minimum word count?

If you were like me, you were guilty of turning “ they said ” into “ they then proceeded to vocally exclaim …”

I can’t think of a worse way to learn to write.

I didn’t have five pages of thoughts about Paul Revere’s ride, but being forced to write that much forced me to write convoluted sentences packed with unnecessary words to pad my essay and hit the space requirement.

What I didn’t learn in school is how to write something people want to read . That is the key to non-fiction, and it’s never covered in school.

Great non-fiction is short, simple, direct, and about the reader. Follow these principles and you’ll be writing very solid prose.

Also, check out our post on writing tips for authors .

1. Make it short.

This is the most important principle. If you get this one right, the rest (usually) take care of themselves.

Keep your writing short on all levels. Short chapters (usually no more than 4k words). Short paragraphs (2-3 sentences). Short sentences (5-20 words). Even shorter words (less than 12 characters).

Brevity forces economy and effectiveness. When you put a space constraint on your writing, it compels you to focus on the essential and cut the rest.

One key point: make it as short as possible without leaving anything out . Short does not mean missing essential content.

2. Make it simple.

Simple is very similar to short, but not the same thing. You can write something that’s short but complex. That doesn’t work well.

Simple words and sentences force you to write in plain English. Even difficult and complex ideas can be broken down into small words and short sentences. As Richard Feynman said, if you cannot explain your idea simply, it probably means you don’t fully understand it (which is bad, if you’re writing a book).

3. Make it direct.

Most non-fiction writing is indirect in some way— passive voice , jargon, multiple clauses, heavy use of adjectives and adverbs.

Don’t do these things. If you’re doing them, stop. If you aren’t sure what they are, then do this:

Make each sentence a single, clear statement. Connect it to the sentence before and the sentence after. Do not put multiple thoughts in one sentence.

Make your writing as direct as it can be.

I have to explain passive and active voice, because most people don’t know what it is. Active voice means the subject of the sentence is performing the verb. Passive voice means the subject of the sentence receives the action. Even though they mean the same thing, the effect is very different. Example:

Active: Tucker wrote the book. Passive: The book was written by Tucker.

Active voice is much easier for people to read because they can picture the sentence. You can see Tucker writing a book.

But in the passive voice, there is another cognitive step. You have to first imagine a book, then think about Tucker writing that book.

This small cognitive step makes a huge difference in how people respond to your writing.

4. Make it about the reader.

Ask yourself this question about everything you write:

“Why does the reader care?”

This is the hardest principle to apply, because when you do this, you realize that most of your writing is for yourself—not the reader. You see your writing for what it probably is: selfish, indulgent, and grandiose.

If that happens, don’t get down on yourself. That is common. Only every author ever has had that problem. All you have to do is stop writing about things the reader doesn’t care about and focus on what they do.

Step 17: Beat Procrastination & Writer’s Block

Like almost everything that stops you from sitting down and writing, procrastination is a symptom of fear in another form.

If you find yourself procrastinating, then ask yourself if you believe in your plan and your outline. Sometimes procrastination is your subconscious telling you that something is wrong with your plan.

Look at your outline for your book again. Examine it, and ask yourself if you believe in each section. If you don’t, then fix wherever you see a problem and you should be good.

Also, another great way to beat procrastination is to use public accountability. When you are lagging on your book, post about it, and that will help you get support and make sure you find the will to keep going.

Every writer I’ve ever talked to or worked with (including myself) has dealt with writer’s block. In fact, some of the greatest writers of all time—Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee—battled with it for decades, and had it crush their careers (neither wrote a book other than their first).

After decades of writing books professionally, and working with thousands of authors to help them through these issues, I have developed an approach to writer’s block that is different than most, and—if applied correctly—almost always works.

When I am stuck, I ask myself the question: What am I afraid of?

Hint: it’s pretty much always some fear you don’t want to face.

Here’s the thing though—this won’t work if you aren’t honest with yourself. And of course, you have to be self-aware enough to know when you’re not being honest.

This works for me (most of the time), because I’ve spent many years in different forms of therapy, and I have gotten pretty decent at seeing my own head garbage (again, most of the time, not always).

If you’re not like that—and most people are not—this strategy won’t work. You’ll just spin up elaborate rationalizations to convince yourself that there is a REAL reason, and it’s not some fear you aren’t facing .

But if you do this, if you can actually understand the fear that driving your block, then you can solve it. I walk you through exactly how to beat your book writing fears in this piece .

There are absolutely times when writer’s block is not fear. Sometimes you’re just having a hard time, for other reasons, and for those times, these are the strategies I’ve found that work (both with me, and the thousands of authors we’ve helped write their books).

1. Talk it out: Writer’s block exists. There is no such thing as speaker’s block. You can always talk. If you really feel stuck, get someone to interview you on the thing you’re stuck about. Once you have to talk about it, the ideas and words flow.

2. Do something else: You know the saying about how “the phone only rings when you’re in the shower”? Well…go get in the shower. Metaphorically. Going for a walk works really well for me. As does playing with my kids. Basically taking your mind off of it allows your subconscious to work on the issue, and you can come back to it fresh later on.

3. Context switching: This has helped me before—I will change where I am writing. I’ll go to a coffee shop or a restaurant or anywhere else. It doesn’t matter where I go, as long as I change the context I am in.

4. Keep writing: I hate this, but sometimes it works. Many times I’ve been stuck, and I would keep writing, even if it was useless, and that got me going. Lack of momentum almost always has fear underneath it, but sometimes just getting moving is enough to get to something good.

These are the strategies I’ve seen work for myself and others.

But again, do what works for you. That’s the only rule for writing.

post-its on written pages

Editing Your Book

Step 18: celebrate finishing your vomit draft.

No seriously—once you finish your vomit draft, you need to stop and celebrate. This is a big deal.


It feels amazing to get through the first draft. Reward yourself with some time to rest and relax. The hardest part is over. You now have a real book in your hands, even if it is rough.

When I say take some time to rest and relax, I’m very serious. Set the entire thing aside for at least a week, ideally two. This will give you a valuable fresh perspective when you come back and begin editing.

It’s possible to begin editing immediately, but the result won’t be as good. This is part of why we tell you to schedule two months for your editing—to give you a buffer to rest your mind and come back at your manuscript fresh.

Step 19: Before You Edit, Remember Who the Book Is For

Yes of course the book is yours. Yes, it probably has a lot of your stories in it, in fact it should. Yes, the book is going to create benefits for you.

But as we discussed, if you want the book to help you, then the book has to provide value to the reader. In essence, to get what you want, you must give them what they want.

That is much easier said than done. Here are some facts about readers.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just how all readers are (including you and me).

The reality is that, in a book, you are buying the attention of the reader ONE PARAGRAPH AT A TIME.

You can write the book without worrying about that fact, but once you start editing, it becomes very important.

The point is that as you write, you can think of yourself, but as you edit, you need to be thinking about your reader.

Step 20: Do the “Make It Right” Edit

We have three editing phases we recommend, and this should be the easiest and most simple editing pass. There are three goals to the “make it right” edit. You want to ensure that:

This is basically just making sure the book has everything in it so you can actually begin the deep editing. All the writing and stories that need to be in, are in, and they are in the right order, and it all makes sense.

That’s pretty much it. Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.

Step 21: Do the “Line-by-Line” Edit

This is the framework we use for our line-by-line editing. It’s simple to understand, but powerful if you do it right. It gives you the exact questions to ask yourself at each level of editing:

As you read every chapter , ask yourself these six questions:

We mean this literally—ask yourself these questions, each time.

Yes, this is tedious. But if you do this exercise consistently, it becomes second nature. Once that happens, you’ll find that you can not only cut the fluff out of your book, you can also make your book sharper and more refined, and you’ll be able to hone in on what you are trying to say, and nail it.

Do it for each paragraph, then do it for each sentence. If you do this, you’ll have an excellent book.

Step 22: Do the “Read Aloud” Edit

This is an editing process that’s not commonly taught, but is a secret trick of numerous bestselling authors. Brené Brown, Neil Strauss, myself—we all do this.

When I wrote my first book, I had teams of proofreaders working through the book. I did not think that a single mistake would sneak by, and happily locked in the manuscript.

A few months later, I recorded my audiobook , and as I read through the manuscript out loud, I was horrified.

There were 100 tiny little mistakes and changes I only heard once I said them out loud. Not just spelling—there were very few of those. They were more word choice or phrasing mistakes.

It drove me NUTS.

Don’t make the mistake I made. Read your manuscript out loud and mark changes as you go.

If the words roll off your tongue, they’ll also flow smoothly in readers’ heads. Because I waited until so late in the process to read it out loud, it was too late to make edits to the book.

Learn from my mistake and read your manuscript out loud and make your changes before you start the publishing process.

If you find taking the time to sit and read out loud difficult (and a lot of authors do), we recommend having a friend help you out. If someone is sitting in the room with you, listening as you read through the manuscript, it’ll create the social pressure you need to actually do it.

If it’s something you would say out loud, then it reads clearly on the page. If it’s something you would never say to another person, it won’t read as clearly.

The reason reading your manuscript out loud works so well is because you will catch dozens of things you would have otherwise missed. Like Paul says, hearing yourself speak forces you to notice bad or strange phrasings—even if you don’t know why it’s off, you know it’s off.

If possible, read each chapter to a person. I know, that sounds awful and tedious, but reading to actual people forces you to really hear what is and is not working. It’s an incredible forcing function.

If you can’t do that, then set-up a microphone and record yourself as you read aloud.

You can delete the recording afterward. All that matters is that you are reading it OUT LOUD.

This is KEY to making this process work.

You have to read it to a real person, though. It doesn’t really work any other way.

Then you listen to what your words are saying—you’ll hear the errors.

Step 23: Stop Editing

Most first time authors fall into the “editing death spiral.” This is when they keep editing the same thing over and over, and cannot stop.

We see this all the time. They will do the first three rounds of edits fine, then they spend six months tinkering with it.

Not because they are making substantive changes. Instead they get lost in details, fretting over small word choices, making tiny edits and obsessing over obscure details. We almost have to pry the book out of their hands so we can finish it, even though they don’t really have anything left to change.

If you need a frame to help you decide when and if you are done editing, you can use what we call the Edit Stop Quiz . It’s two questions, and you can use it over and over again until you are done.

Edit Stop Quiz

Question #1: Is this the best book you can write, RIGHT NOW?

If the answer is yes, then send to publish.

If the answer is no, then go to question #2.

Question #2: What can you do RIGHT NOW to make it better?

If there is an answer, something you can do now, do it.

If there is nothing you can do now—if the answer is something like, “Become a better writer”—then send to publish.

The point of this is to get you out of your spiral of “Well, if I did a little more research …” and then two years later your book is still stuck. That is bullshit, and just procrastination to stop you from finishing your book.

This can be driven by many different forces, such as perfectionism, fear of publishing, fear of success, or fear of failure. There will always be more to work on, more to change, more to improve. That will kill your book.

There are two aphorisms we use to help get authors past this point:

“Perfect is the enemy of good, shipped is better than perfect.” —Seth Godin

“[Books] are never truly finished, only abandoned.” —Leonardo Da Vinci

Final Thoughts

This should be more than enough to help you not only get started, but actually finish your book.

Here’s the thing though: writing the book is only the first step (even though it’s a major one).

The next step is to actually publish your book and decide if you are going to go the self-publishing or traditional publishing route.

Please don’t be the person who writes 80% of the book and quits. Remember that at least one person, and probably many more, want to learn what your book will teach them. You have an obligation to yourself and to your audience to stop editing and put the book out.

Write up and publish your knowledge, even if it’s not perfect. They want and need it.

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How to write fast — or at least faster

12 fast-writing strategies that will give you energy, focus and momentum..

how to write on books

Not long ago, I received a memo from a college journalism professor asking how to help his students become faster writers. I believe that the best public writers are the versatile ones, the scribes who can write fast when they need to and slow when they have a chance to. I have not included much about fast writing in my books on the craft. But I found some advice I once offered to Poynter readers . Here it is, with a few updates.

To be a good writer, you have to learn to write slow. Some sentences or passages just take a long time. But slow writing need not be the norm. In journalism and all public writing, the goal should be fast writing — or at least faster writing.

I’m a pretty fast writer, but not the fastest. I would give that title to Bill Blundell, formerly of The Wall Street Journal and author of “The Art and Craft of Feature Writing.” I once attended a workshop with Blundell in which the class was assigned a news feature story. We all had access to the same information. In the allotted time, I managed to squeeze out a couple of clumsy paragraphs. Blundell, who nervously chewed paper (literally), knocked off three pages in no time, good enough to be published the next morning.

Ray Holliman, a sports writer from Alabama, may have been the fastest writer in journalism history. The St. Petersburg Times used to send him to cover the late-night West Coast football games, knowing that Holliman could deliver on deadline. More than one sports writer told me, “Ray was always the first one out of the press box.”

When it comes to spot news, I would declare that CBS News Radio correspondent Peter King is Johnny-on-the-spot. I’ve watched him take a fat document from NASA, digest it in no time, and turn it into a 30-second report before the competition can stir its coffee.

I’ve studied writers like Blundell, Holliman and King and have come up with a list of fast-writing strategies that may not turn you into a fast writer, but will make you faster. (Jane Caplan, the late wife of the great medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, once told me, “When Arthur cleans the house, it is never really clean, but it is cleaner.”)

I like the feeling of writing fast. It places me “in the moment,” giving me energy from adrenaline, focus and momentum.

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How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide

So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.

But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.

You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.

But what if you knew exactly:

You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever. 

The key is to follow a proven, straightforward, step-by-step plan .

My goal here is to offer you that book-writing plan.

I’ve used the techniques I outline below to write more than 195 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 45 years. Yes, I realize writing over four books per year on average is more than you may have thought humanly possible. 

But trust me—with a reliable blueprint, you can get unstuck and finally write your book .

This is my personal approach on how to write a book. I’m confident you’ll find something here that can change the game for you. So, let’s jump in.

Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book

Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself

Part 4: Editing Your Book

You’ll never regret—in fact, you’ll thank yourself later—for investing the time necessary to prepare for such a monumental task.

You wouldn’t set out to cut down a huge grove of trees with just an axe. You’d need a chain saw, perhaps more than one. Something to keep them sharp. Enough fuel to keep them running.

You get the picture. Don’t shortcut this foundational part of the process.

Step 1. Establish your writing space.

To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n my couch facing a typewriter perched on a plank of wood suspended by two kitchen chairs.

What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do.

And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.

Naturally, the nicer and more comfortable and private you can make your writing lair (I call mine my cave), the better.

How to Write a Book Image 1

Real writers can write anywhere .

Some authors write their books in restaurants and coffee shops. My first full time job was at a newspaper where 40 of us clacked away on manual typewriters in one big room—no cubicles, no partitions, conversations hollered over the din, most of my colleagues smoking, teletype machines clattering.

Cut your writing teeth in an environment like that, and anywhere else seems glorious.

Step 2. Assemble your writing tools.

In the newspaper business, there was no time to hand write our stuff and then type it for the layout guys. So I have always written at a keyboard and still write my books that way.

Most authors do, though some hand write their first drafts and then keyboard them onto a computer or pay someone to do that.

No publisher I know would even consider a typewritten manuscript, let alone one submitted in handwriting.

The publishing industry runs on Microsoft Word, so you’ll need to submit Word document files. Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, both will produce the kinds of files you need.

And if you’re looking for a musclebound electronic organizing system, you can’t do better than Scrivener. It works well on both PCs and Macs, and it nicely interacts with Word files.

Just remember, Scrivener has a steep learning curve, so familiarize yourself with it before you start writing.

Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it.

Tons of other book writing tools exist to help you. I’ve included some of the most well known in my blog po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r your reference.

So, what else do you need?

If you are one who handwrites your first drafts, don’t scrimp on paper , pencils , or erasers .

Don’t shortchange yourself on a computer either. Even if someone else is keyboarding for you, you’ll need a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents , edi tors, publishers.

Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed.

Try to imagine everything you’re going to need in addition to your desk or table, so you can equip yourself in advance and don’t have to keep interrupting your work to find things like:

If I were to start my career again with that typewriter on a plank, I would not sit on that couch. I’d grab another straight-backed kitchen chair or something similar and be proactive about my posture and maintaining a healthy spine.

There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative and immerse yourself in writing while you’re in agony . The chair I work in today cost more than my first car!

How to Write a Book Image 2

If you’ve never used some of the items I listed above and can’t imagine needing them, fine. But make a list of everything you know you’ll need so when the actual writing begins, you’re already equipped.

As you grow as a writer and actually start making money at it, you can keep upgrading your writing space.

Where I work now is light years from where I started. But the point is, I didn’t wait to start writing until I could have a great spot in which to do it.

Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.

Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill be made up of many small parts .

An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time .

Try to get your mind off your book as a 400-or-so-page monstrosity.

It can’t be written all at once any more than that proverbial elephant could be eaten in a single sitting.

See your book for what it is: a manuscript made up of sentences, paragraphs, pages. Those pages will begin to add up, and though after a week you may have barely accumulated double digits, a few months down the road you’ll be into your second hundred pages.

So keep it simple.

Start by distilling you r big book idea from a page or so to a single sentence—your premise. The more specific that one-sentence premise, the more it will keep you focused while you’re writing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you can turn your big idea into one sentence, which can then b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.

Step 2. Settle on your BIG idea.

To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer.

You need to write something about which you’re passionate , something that gets you up in the morning, draws you to the keyboard, and keeps you there. It should excite not only you, but also anyone you tell about it.

I can’t overstate the importance of this.

If you’ve tried and failed to finish your book before—maybe more than once—it could be that the basic premise was flawed. Maybe it was worth a blog post or an article but couldn’t carry an entire book.

Think The Hunger Games , Harry Potter , or How to Win Friends and Influence People . The market is crowded, the competition fierce. There’s no more room for run-of-the-mill ideas. Your premise alone should make readers salivate.

Go for the big concept book.

How do you know you’ve got a winner? Does it have legs? In other words, does it stay in your mind, growing and developing every time you think of it?

Run it past loved ones and others you trust.

Does it raise eyebrows? Elicit Wows? Or does it result in awkward silences?

The right concept simply works, and you’ll know it when you land on it. Most importantly, your idea must capture you in such a way that you’re compelled to write it . Otherwise you’ll lose interest halfway through and never finish.

Step 3. Construct your outline.

Writing your book without a clear vision of where you’re going usually ends in disaster.

Even if you ’re writing a fiction book an d consider yourself a Pantser* as opposed to an Outliner, you need at least a basic structure .

[*Those of us who write by the seat of our pants and, as Stephen King advises, pu t interesting characters i n difficult situations and write to find out what happens]

You don’t have to call it an outline if that offends your sensibilities. But fashion some sort of a directional document that provides structure for your book and also serves as a safety net.

If you get out on that Pantser highwire and lose your balance, you’ll thank me for advising you to have this in place.

Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, there’s no substitute for an outline .

Potential agents or publishers require this in your proposal . T hey want to know where you’re going, and they want to know that you know. What do you want your reader to learn from your book, and how will you ensure they learn it?

Fiction or nonfiction, if you commonly lose interest in your book somewhere in what I call the Marathon of the Middle, you likely didn’t start with enough exciting ideas .

That’s why and outline (or a basic framework) is essential. Don’t even start writing until you’re confident your structure will hold up through the end.

You may recognize this novel structure illustration.

Did you know it holds up—with only slight adaptations—for nonfiction books too? It’s self-explanatory for novelists; they list their plot twists and developments and arrange them in an order that best serves to increase tension .

What separates great nonfiction from mediocre? The same structure!

Arrange your points and evidence in the same way so you’re setting your reader up for a huge payoff, and then make sure you deliver.

If your nonfiction book is a memoir , an autobiography, or a biography, structure it like a novel and you can’t go wrong.

But even if it’s a straightforward how-to book, stay as close to this structure as possible, and you’ll see your manuscript come alive.

Make promises early, triggering your reader to anticipate fresh ideas, secrets, inside information, something major that will make him thrilled with the finished product.

How to write a book - graph

While a nonfiction book may not have as much action or dialogue or character development as a novel, you can inject tension by showing where people have failed before and how your reader can succeed.

You can even make the how-to project look impossible until you pay off that setup with your unique solution.

Keep your outline to a single page for now. But make sure every major point is represented, so you’ll always know where you’re going.

And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the basics of classic outlining or have never felt comfortable with the concept.

Your outline must serve you. If that means Roman numerals and capital and lowercase letters and then Arabic numerals, you can certainly fashion it that way. But if you just want a list of sentences that synopsize your idea, that’s fine too.

Simply start with your working title, then your premise, then—for fiction, list all the major scenes that fit into the rough structure above.

For nonfiction, try to come up with chapter titles and a sentence or two of what each chapter will cover.

Once you have your one-page outline, remember it is a fluid document meant to serve you and your book. Expand it, change it, play with it as you see fit—even during the writing process.

Step 4. Set a firm writing schedule.

Ideally, you want to schedule at least six hours per week to write your book.

That may consist of three sessions of two hours each, two sessions of three hours, or six one-hour sessions—whatever works for you.

I recommend a regular pattern (same times, same days) that can most easily become a habit. But if that’s impossible, just make sure you carve out at least six hours so you can see real progress.

Having trouble finding the time to write a book? News flash—you won’t find the time. You have to make it.

I used the phrase carve out above for a reason. That’s what it takes.

Something in your calendar will likely have to be sacrificed in the interest of writing time . 

Make sure it’s not your family—they should always be your top priority. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of your writing career.

But beyond that, the truth is that we all find time for what we really want to do.

Many writers insist they have no time to write, but they always seem to catch the latest Netflix original series, or go to the next big Hollywood feature. They enjoy concerts, parties, ball games, whatever.

How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?

Successful writers make time to write.

When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.

Step 5. Establish a sacred deadline.

Without deadlines, I rarely get anything done. I need that motivation.

Admittedly, my deadlines are now established in my contracts from publishers.

If you’re writing your first book, you probably don’t have a contract yet. To ensure you finish your book, set your own deadline—then consider it sacred .

Tell your spouse or loved one or trusted friend. Ask that they hold you accountable.

Now determine—and enter in your calendar—the number of pages you need to produce per writing session to meet your deadline. If it proves unrealistic, change the deadline now.

If you have no idea how many pages or words you typically produce per session, you may have to experiment before you finalize those figures.

Say you want to finish a 400-page manuscript by this time next year.

Divide 400 by 50 weeks (accounting for two off-weeks), and you get eight pages per week. 

Divide that by your typical number of writing sessions per week and you’ll know how many pages you should finish per session.

Now is the time to adjust these numbers, while setting your deadline and determining your pages per session.

Maybe you’d rather schedule four off weeks over the next year. Or you know your book will be unusually long.

Change the numbers to make it realistic and doable, and then lock it in. Remember, your deadline is sacred.

Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).

You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

You wouldn’t guess it from my 195+ published books, but I’m the king of procrastinators .

Don’t be. So many authors are procrastinators that I’ve come to wonder if it’s a prerequisite.

The secret is to accept it and, in fact, schedule it.

I quit fretting and losing sleep over procrastinating when I realized it was inevitable and predictable, and also that it was productive.

Sound like rationalization?

Maybe it was at first. But I learned that while I’m putting off the writing, my subconscious is working on my book. It’s a part of the process. When you do start writing again, you’ll enjoy the surprises your subconscious reveals to you.

So, knowing procrastination is coming, book it on your calendar .

Take it into account when you’re determining your page quotas. If you have to go back in and increase the number of pages you need to produce per session, do that (I still do it all the time).

But—and here’s the key—you must never let things get to where that number of pages per day exceeds your capacity.

It’s one thing to ratchet up your output from two pages per session to three. But if you let it get out of hand, you’ve violated the sacredness of your deadline.

How can I procrastinate and still meet more than 190 deadlines?

Because I keep the deadlines sacred.

Step 7. Eliminate distractions to stay focused.

Are you as easily distracted as I am?

Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the pictures of 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?

Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war.

That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.

The answer to these insidious timewasters?

Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.

Step 8. Conduct your research.

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .

Fiction means more than just making up a story .

Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.

And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert—as I’m doing here—getting all the facts right will polish your finished product.

In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.

The importance of research when writing

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research .

Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it.

Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.

My favorite research resources:

Step 9. Start calling yourself a writer.

Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. Who do you think you are, trying to write a book?”

That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past .

But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.

A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house.

Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic —who, of course, is really you. 

Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.

Are you a writer? Say so.

Step 1. Think reader-first.

This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.

Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.

Reader-first, last, and always .

If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.

When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.

Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.

Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.

Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.

Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.

So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?

When in doubt, look in the mirror . 

The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.

Step 2. Find your writing voice.

Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.

You can find yours by answering these quick questions :

That’s all there is to it.

If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.

Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .

Step 3. Write a compelling opener.

If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.

And neither is your angst misplaced.

This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.

How to Write a Book Image 5

Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.

It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.

Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:

1. Surprising

Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

2. Dramatic Statement

Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise

Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand

3. Philosophical

Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .

Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.

Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.

In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.

Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.

Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?

Thrust people into conflict with each other . 

That’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.

Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.

Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end . 

And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.

Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.

Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.

That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.

He or she needs to be told to shut up .

Turning off your inner self-editor

This is not easy.

Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.

Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.

It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .

I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.

A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.

That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”

Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.

Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.

Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.

The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.

Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.

So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.

THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.

I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .

I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.

Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.

Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.

Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.

That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.

They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.

This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.

The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.

If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.

For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.

But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.

Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.

It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.

Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Step 7. Write a resounding ending.

This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.

But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .

How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?

Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.

How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?

Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.

Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?

You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:

For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)

When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author. 

Step 2. Find a mentor.

Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.

Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.

Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.

Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .

There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .

Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.

In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.

2. Self-publishing

Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing. 

Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances. 

Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.

Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.

Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.

Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .

Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.

Best practices when formatting your book:

If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .

Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.

All serious authors need a website. Period.

Because here’s the reality of publishing today…

You need an audience to succeed.

If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.

If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.

And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.

Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.

Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You can do this .

Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)

I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.

Get your FREE copy by clicking the button below.

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How a Middle School Piano Lesson Helped Me Write My Book

Ilyon woo on frederic chopin’s fantasie impromptu and lessons of the past.

My breath still catches when I think about the first time I received comments back from my editor on an initial draft of the first chapters of my book, Master Husband Slave Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom .

Ellen and William Craft escaped slavery in audacious disguise: Ellen impersonated a wealthy white disabled man, or “master,” while her husband William acted the part of her “slave.” I had opened the book with I thought was the emotional epicenter of the story: the moment when William loses his younger sister, as she is sold away from him on an auction block. I had discovered more in the archives than I ever thought possible and this moment, years before William’s own journey of self-emancipation with Ellen, to me, seemed the best place to begin.

My editor sent me six pages of commentary. Clearly, she opened, in words that I have learned by heart, I had done a “staggering amount of research.” But I had buried the characters.  What I had created, as she vividly expressed, was a “scholarly tomb.”

Early in my journey with the Crafts, the historian Eric Foner had offered me this precious advice: “Don’t let the details overwhelm the story.” I had obviously failed to follow it. With all those staggering details getting in the way, Dawn concluded, quite simply, that I would have to start all over. And as I did, I revisited everything I thought I knew about writing, turning to other areas of experience, above all, music.

Once upon a time, before this book, I was an outliner, a faithful follower of recipes, to begin with another metaphor. My process was clear: bury myself in the archives. Fill pages, notecards, until I found the key moments upon which a story turned. Those would become the steps in my recipe, which I would then execute, line by line. With the recipe I had crafted in my book proposal now declared useless, I was left with a room full of ingredients, which I had no idea how to cook. And what Dawn was telling me was to cook as my family did—with feeling.

I should note that I come from a family of gifted, spirited cooks. My mother, my father, my brother, all have “the hand” as Koreans say—a hand that knows how to cook with feeling. Add a little here, taste, improvise. Let the ingredients tell you what they need. Not so me. I have learned to turn out serviceable meals, but not by any kind of magic. Give me a recipe, thank you, every time—the more precise the better. None of this “How to Cook Everything” stuff for me. In the end, though, it’s another activity beloved by my family—music—that helped me feel my way out.

When I was in middle school, about thirteen years old, there was a piece I desperately wanted to play: Frederic Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu. It was wild and dizzyingly fast—a horse untamed, unbridled. I asked my teacher if I could play it. Sure, she said, if you can learn the beat.

I soon found that what made for that rollicking, almost uncontrollable sound and feeling was that the left hand and right hand played beats against each other: three against four. Try tapping triplets with your left hand, three notes per beat, like: “strawberry strawberry strawberry.” Then, to the same beat, tap sixteenth notes with your right, four notes per beat, like “watermelon, watermelon, watermelon.” Now try tapping those strawberries and watermelons at the same time. For the middle school me, the task seemed impossible.

I was not above cheating. I asked my mother (a concert pianist) if she would tap out the beats so I could listen and learn—which is to say, copy. She refused. “You just have to feel it,” she said. I could not.

Finally my teacher said, I’ll give you one week, and if you can’t figure out, we’re going to have to move on. The solution, she told me, was not just to play one hand at a time and mash the parts together, but to listen for their moments of convergence.

I spent every spare moment tapping everything I could. My knees. Walls. Chairs, holding onto that shared moment, when 3 and 4 came together. And then, all of a sudden, it did. Reader, I felt it! I found my beat!

Decades later, as I faced my broken writing, my ripped apart recipe, my boring score, it’s the remembrance of this moment that became my deliverance. My editor told me that I could not start with all that back story, the past about the Crafts, as important as it was. Instead, I needed to move with the central action of the story as the present, then layer in the past. How to do this, when there was so much past to tell, and when so much of the past informed the present?

The past was in the left hand, the triplets, playing its own kind of tune. The present was in the right, the movement of the Crafts’ journey unfolding in time. What I realized as I remembered my piano lesson was that the stories of the past and present had to run not one before the other, but simultaneously—that it’s that simultaneity that would give the narrative vigor, speed. How to fold one into the other? Find those moments of convergence, the moments when past became present, when the present requires the past. And when I found those beats, the narrative began to move.

The music lessons, once I began to listen for them, unfolded one after another. A dear family friend, Ozzie Nagler, passed on this note from his flamenco guitar teacher: “You don’t have to fill in all the spaces.” Which is to say that the rests can be as important as the notes. I taped this note to my window.

There, too, taped below it, is Stephen Sondheim’s advice to Lin Manuel Miranda, recounted in a dazzling interview with Terry Gross: Rhythm demands variety. Change up the pace.  I tested the rhythm of every line, every chapter of my book, by reading my words aloud.

In this way, I began to conceive of my book as an orchestral score, a double concerto, so to speak, in which the Crafts’ melody, provided so richly in their own 1860 narrative, sings over, with and against many other voices, both harmonious and dissonant—notes of both past and present, played to the same beat, converging and, at last, becoming far more than three against four: an open score that is ready to read.

Ilyon Woo

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How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide

Kelly Morr

There’s no one right way to write a book. Some people participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and end up with a bestseller . Others start with a meticulous outline and structured plan. Some (usually not novelists) can get a publication deal on a pitch alone. This article is meant to talk through the various steps involved and help you decide the best way for you to write your book.

Table of Contents

Pre-writing: what are you writing and why, how to write a book in 13 steps.

Recommended book-writing tools

Write with confidence Grammarly helps give your writing extra polish Write with Grammarly

To quote the iconic 2014 film, Hamlet 2 , “Oh my god, writing is so hard!” 

And books are long. Most novels clock in around 100,000 words, which is approximately 400 double-spaced pages on your word processor. 

If you’re going to write a book, it’s going to be a lengthy process; if you want to finish, it’s important to have an end goal to motivate you. Ask: What are you writing and why?

This could be as loose and simple as you having a story in your head that you just have to get out. Or it could be practical and specific: You’re writing an ebook to drive downloads and revenue for your business. There’s no wrong reason to write a book; you just need to know what yours is.

What kind of book are you writing? 

Fiction books.

Fiction books tell stories that are all or mostly made up by the author. (We say mostly, because genres like historical fiction tell stories of true events, but the characters’ motives, exact dialogue, etc., is made up by the author.)

Nonfiction books

Nonfiction books are those that aim to tell factual narratives. This encompasses a broad, diverse number of genres and types of books. This is an inexhaustive list:

Ebooks, technical manuals, etc.

These types of books are mostly nonfiction, but are worth calling out separately as they’re generally published by businesses for a very specific audience. Their end goal is not for the reader to simply read the book, but to do something else once they’re done reading. 

>>Read More: 20 Women Who Paved the Way in Writing

What’s your end goal?

There are many things you can do with your book once it’s finished.

If you want to write a book for monetary reasons, that’s also totally OK. If that’s your goal, though, you need to do your research to understand what does and does not make money. Writing books is both an art and a craft. If your primary goal is financial, do market research: Understand who your customer (reader) is; know what they want; and know how to reach them.

>>Read More: What Type of Writer Are You?

How you write a book is a matter of personal preference and depends on the type of book you’re writing. For example, if you’re writing nonfiction history, you’re going to need to have a much more extensive research process than someone completing a collection of poetry. 

1   Do your research

If you’re writing nonfiction, research can involve doing historical, cultural, scientific, or other academic research. This research can entail reading other work, doing fieldwork, interviewing experts, or can take many other forms.

If you’re writing fiction, you may have to do some traditional research around any real events, people, locations, or other elements that make up your story. You may also want to do internal research to help prepare your story. This can include writing character sketches, making world-building notes, and so on.

No matter what you’re writing, it’s also very helpful to read other works of the same kind and genre. If you’re writing a science fiction novel with a nonlinear structure, read other sci-fi works or books with nonlinear structures. 

2 Determine what your book is about

We don’t mean the subject or general plot, but rather the big picture: themes, character arcs, what you’re trying to say about the world.

For fiction, this can take on the form of broad themes—for example, you’re writing a book about familial love or one that shows the impact of climate change.

For nonfiction, you should consider what makes your book unique. For example: this memoir gives a personal account of an important historical event; this book uses a new method of behavioral therapy to help readers get over a breakup. 

Now is when you start organizing your thoughts. Some fiction writers like to skip this step (or may return to it after writing a first draft), but others are meticulous planners. If you’re writing for work or nonfiction, this is a crucial step that will make completing your first draft much easier. 

Planning can look different depending on one’s personal preference. Here are a few ideas:

For example, if you’re writing a novel, you can start with a treatment to get a sense of flow. From there, you can break the treatment up into scenes, which go on index cards (either physical or virtual). The former helps you find the flow of the story and the latter to break the writing up into manageable pieces for production (you can also use the cards when editing—more on that later).

4 Write your first draft

Just. Get. Through. It. 

Some people swear by writing every day for an hour before work. Others dive deep into National Novel Writing Month ( NaNoWriMo ). Others dabble when they can. There is no right way to do this, only the way that works for you.

The hundreds of pages making up a completed book may seem like a lot, but even if you just write ten pages per week, that’s only forty weekends, or less than a year to draft a complete book.

Common issues that come up with writing your first draft (and how to get past them):

Maybe it’s just a day, maybe it’s years. But most people need to give their first drafts time to breathe so they can look at them with fresh eyes. 

6  Read with an eye for revision 

Your first read of your manuscript should be from a high level. Don’t focus too much on sentence-level corrections (if something reads as awkward, circle it, but don’t spend too much time trying to diagnose what’s wrong or you’ll lose the pacing of your book as you read).

You can complete this step with a printed-out copy of the manuscript, but that’s a personal preference. 

Here’s what you’re looking for:

Your goal with your first read is to come up with a plan for your second draft. This is where your notecards could come in handy again, to help you decide if scenes would work better in a different order. 

For writers who approach a first draft without an outline, this is usually the stage where they come back to their work and uncover structure, and make plans to change or adapt it in the second draft.

7 Write a second draft

This is not editing! At this stage, you are likely adding completely new chapters, getting rid of characters who didn’t add anything, or doing additional research to fill in a hole you didn’t realize existed when you were originally planning. 

8 Rinse and repeat steps 5–7

It’s normal to have to go through multiple drafts to iron out all of your issues.

9  Self-edit

This is the stage where you want to start looking at more paragraph , sentence , and word -level edits. 

A few things to focus on: 

10 Give your manuscript to some beta readers

Some writers may do this earlier in the writing process. That’s fine. No matter when you do it, there are a few things you want to think about when selecting beta readers and setting yourself up for success:

On that note: There are professional editors out there! If you can afford it, and think it would be helpful, by all means, hire one! 

11  Take and incorporate feedback

Getting feedback— especially if it’s critical —can be challenging. Your job is to listen. Resist defending yourself. Instead, focus on asking questions to better understand what a reader is telling you. Here’s an example:

Reader: I didn’t like Lorenzo. 

Writer: Why didn’t you like him? 

Reader: He just seemed kind of slimy. I didn’t like how he talked to his mom.

Writer: Do you think his actions were out of character?

Reader: No. That’s just not how I would have handled the situation. 

Especially when there’s feedback around liking or not liking things, make sure you understand. Sometimes you’re not supposed to like a character or a scene. A reader telling you they don’t like a character or scene might be great feedback, particularly if it was supposed to make them uncomfortable in order to advance the story or set the tone. 

One rule of thumb: You may disagree with some of the feedback you get. That’s OK. When this happens, try to see if you get the same feedback from another reader. If more than one person gives you the same note, there’s probably something to what they’ve said. If not, it may just be a matter of opinion. 

12 Come up with a title

Maybe you already have a great one! But if not, you probably need one now, because we’re just about done . . .

13 Prepare your manuscript for submission/publication/other

What this step looks like is going to depend a lot on what your end goal is. If you’re submitting a manuscript to agents or editors, look up standard formatting guidelines (generally a serif font like Times New Roman, sized 12-point, double-spaced, and with 1-inch margins). 

If you’re self-publishing, you’re going to have to get a bit more technical, and format your manuscript as an ebook (there are guides online; requirements may be different depending on what platform you’re using). 

If you’re publishing an ebook, you may be working directly with a designer to do page layout.

And for both self-publishing and ebooks, you’ll also have to think about cover design.

Finally, give the manuscript one more proofread (or three) to eliminate those little errors. 

Tada! You have now written a book.

And now the hard part (marketing it!) starts.

Recommended book-writing tools:

Here’s a tip: Use Grammarly’s Citation Generator  to ensure your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism when citing books in MLA , APA , and Chicago .

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How to Write a Book in 12 Simple Steps [Free Book Template]

BY Justin Champion | Nov 19, 2020 | Writing

You're ready to learn how to write a book…

And as a first-time author, you're nervous about this new journey because you want first-time success (who doesn't?).

But today's publishing industry has become noisy . There is endless information out there on writing a book, and with the rise of self-publishing , it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Here's how to write a book step-by-step:

If you’re ready to take the leap, become an author , and learn how to write a book the right way, start with this resource to get your wheels in motion.

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Get Our 6″ x 9″ Pre-Formatted Book Template for Word or Mac

We will send you a Book Template for US Trade (standard paperback size).

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As a first-time bestselling author, I can tell you that writing my first book was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.

I experienced a lot of growth and pushed through many hurdles, in my mind and process, and being able to learn how to publish is something I am truly proud of.

And I'm ready to share the steps with you, so that you can go on to write a book of your own, and find success as a first-time author.

Ready to start writing your book? Let's get to it!

Part 1: Successful Foundations When Learning How to Write a Book

In Part 1 of this article, we'll start with the basics. While the steps in this phase may seem to be unrelated to actually writing a book, they are very important.

In fact, setting yourself up for success will help you build the foundation needed to start , and finish, your book.

We'll talk about developing a writer's mindset to get you in a frame of mind that's conducive to writing. Then, we'll discuss how to create a writing space that will boost your writing productivity , and how to choose the best writing tool for your needs.

Tips for success as you write a book:

Step 1 – Develop a Writer’s Mindset

Writing a book takes time, work, and dedication. It’s easy to romanticize being a well-known bestselling author like J.K. Rowling or Octavia Butler. However, every author has a story on how they started out just like you or me and overcame adversity to get where they are today.

For example, Rowling, who had no job and was on welfare at the time, would take her children to a coffee shop and write.

Butler, who was a dishwasher and potato chip inspector at the time, would wake up at two or three in the morning to write and wrote herself mantras to keep her focused on her goals.

The first step in learning how to write a book is learning how to overcome mindset blocks, deal with self-doubt as a writer , and develop a healthy frame of mind that will help you achieve your goals .

write a book mindset quote graphic

Let’s review three things you can do to circumvent roadblocks and crush challenges to keep you focused on your goal — writing your book .

1 – Hold yourself accountable to writing your book

It’s not good enough to write only when inspiration strikes. There will be days where writing is the last thing you want to be doing.

But you have to treat your writing as if it were a job, or a duty. This means holding yourself accountable, taking action, and showing up every day.

Here's how to hold yourself accountable to writing:

I write early in the morning before I do anything else for 1-2 hours. I find that as I go throughout the day and work on other projects my mind isn’t as fresh or sharp by the end of the day. However, sometimes I have ideas throughout the day that I jot down in Evernote to jump-start the next morning with a working outline.

2 – Give yourself permission to be a writer

This might sound silly, but it's true: you need to give yourself permission to be a writer. Many aspiring authors get stuck in their mindset, which prevents them from initiating and completing their writing projects.

Even successful authors feel like they aren't good enough. Acknowledge your feelings, but then shake them off, and move on with your day.

Hear this: You don't have to be an expert to get started. You don't have to feel 100% confident to be a good writer. You don't even have to be all-knowing to teach others about your experiences or knowledge.

Here's how to give yourself permission to be a writer:

3 – Announce your intention to write a book

The best way to hold yourself accountable for your work is to let others know your goals . Is there someone you trust or a group of people in your network you can appoint to check in on progress?

Perhaps there is someone else you know who is trying to write or someone who is a seasoned writer who can serve as a mentor. If so, try to have regular check-ins with this person.

One way to keep these meetings consistent is to schedule a lunch or coffee date. Talk about your progress and perhaps any challenges you’re facing. They may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

I told my wife, Ariele, and several of my closest teammates from work about my intentions to write my first book. We had regular check-ins to talk about progress. Everyone helped keep me motivated and had different feedback that helped progress the book. Without them, it would have been a lot more difficult to write Inbound Content in the timeframe I did.

Step 2 – Create a Book Writing Space

The second step in how to write a book has to do with your environment. Where you choose to write will have a major impact on your writing productivity.

Find creative spaces where you can produce your best writing.

Sure, some might argue that they can write anywhere as long as they have the tools to write . But where we choose to write play a huge role in our writing motivation and focus.

Questions to think about: Where do you work best? What surroundings inspire you most? Identify them and make it a best practice to work there consistently.

creative book writing spaces graphic

Here are creative writing spaces to write your book:

My main writing location is the dinette in my Airstream. I do my best work when traveling; I wrote the manuscript for my book in six weeks as I traveled the U.S. and  worked full time from the road .

Step 3 – Choose your Book Writing Software

The next step in how to write a book has to do with writing tools .

In 1882, Mark Twain sent to a publisher the first manuscript to be written on a piece of technology that would transform the writing industry: the typewriter.

Nowadays, we have computers with word processing and the internet where you can find an endless assortment of useful book writing software and apps that are meant to help you be an efficient and effective writer. If you're writing a novel, check out this guide to novel writing software .

You may be tempted to overload on apps because you think it’ll help elevate your writing. But honestly, less is more . The truth is that the right tools and even self-publishing companies make writing and publishing easier and more enjoyable.

Instead of overwhelming you with all the possible apps in existence, below is a list of three tools I recommend adding to your writing toolkit today (and they’re free).

1 – Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the most versatile cloud storage services available today. But Google Drive is so much more than cloud storage. Here’s a list of ways you can use Google Drive to help you write your book:

Plus, Google will give you 15GB of free storage just for signing up.

If you’re new to Google Drive, here’s a list of resources that can turn you into a pro. (FYI, if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Drive account.)

2 – Grammarly

Grammarly is an editing tool that helps you identify grammatical errors, typos, and incorrect sentence structure in your writing.

Download the web extension and Grammarly will edit most anything you type in a web browser (yes, it will work with Google Docs).

You can check out this Grammarly review if you're on the fence about this one.

3 – Evernote

Inspiration can strike at any time. Capture those thoughts and ideas as they happen in Evernote. You can even sync Google Drive and Evernote . I recommend doing this, especially on your mobile device.

4 – A Notebook & Pen

Don't underestimate the power of good ole' fashioned pen and paper when it comes to writing a book, which is arguable the only essential writing tool out there.

Even if you write your entire manuscript on a trusty writing software program , you'll still want to have a dedicated notebook available for the times when inspiration strikes and you can't access a computer.

Every writer should have a notebook handy for random ideas and thoughts. You can jot these down in your notebook, then revisit them and digitally store them in your book writing software when you're back at the computer.

how to write a book step-by-step infographic

Section 2: How to Write A Book

Now we'll move on to how to actually start writing a book. This is the part that seems simple, but can be more difficult than you realize.

However, once you get through the process of actually writing your book, you will gain momentum to finish it, and eventually publish it.

We'll show you how to write a book in these steps.

Step 4 – Determine Your Book Topic

It all starts with an idea. What's your book idea ?

Maybe you already know exactly what you want to write about. Or maybe you have a million ideas floating on in your head, but you don't know exactly where to start.

One of the most common pieces of advice for aspiring first-time authors is “write what you know.” A simple phrase that’s meant to be helpful, yet it begs so many questions.

If you're struggling with a book idea, try jumpstarting your creativity by experimenting with these writing prompts.

Whether you’re writing a non-fiction how-to guide or a fictional post-apocalyptic thriller, you need to form a connection with your audience and you can do that through emotion. The best way to create emotion with your reader is to understand them.

Here's how to determine what you want to write about and how to write it in a meaningful way.  

1 – Identify your target reader

The key to producing meaningful content is understanding your reader. You can do this by creating a reader persona — a semi-fictional representation of your ideal audience.

To get started with your reader persona, consider answering the following questions:

The more you know about your reader, the better experience you can create for them.

When you set out to write a book, you have to think about your reader wants to know more than what you want to say. Make your book about the reader: what do they need to know in order to learn what you have to say?

My main audience is marketers and business owners at small- to medium-sized businesses . They’re strapped for time and don’t need another theoretical resource. They value real-world examples to help visualize what tips and strategies look like in action.

2 – Write about something that intrigues you

You need to write about something that spikes your curiosity, something that keeps you coming back day after day. Something that lights you up and that you're invested in.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you choose a topic to write about for the wrong reason, don’t expect to create something that people will love.

You need to be able to stick with it through dry spells and bouts of non-inspiration. Your own desire to hear the story will be what drives you through.

I’m a practitioner at heart and curious about finding ways to use content marketing to stand out and compete online. It energizes me to explain complex problems in an easy-to-understand way. Inspiration for this project is what kept me coming back to work on it day after day.

3 – Research potential topics

In our digital age, we can conveniently research topics from the comfort of our own home.

Google makes it easy to research just about any topic. Have multiple ideas for your book? Do a search on Google to learn more.

Here’s a list of ways to research your book concept on Google:

I performed extensive research before writing the manuscript for Inbound Content. It was important for me to understand what content was already out there, which content was performing well, and most importantly, how could I make my book unique. This is exactly why I included homework after each chapter to help my readers build an action plan that they could implement immediately, something I noticed wasn’t typical in other marketing books.

4 – Choose a topic you can write about quickly

Writing your first book is invaluable because it's a serious learning experience. The process of actually writing a book and completing it will make this book a personal success for you, because of how much you will learn about yourself and your craft in the process.

Don't get hung up on a topic. If you're struggling with deciding what to write about first, go with the topic that you know best. Choose a topic or experience that you can write about quickly, with limited resources.

Here's how to find a topic you can write about quickly:

Step 5: Write A Book Outline

Once you know what you want to write about, you’re probably eager to start writing.

Keep in mind these words from Mark Twain: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Let’s review what you can do to create a clear book outline for your book that you can use as a roadmap.

1 – Create a mindmap

You have an idea, now it's time to hone in on just exactly what that idea is. With a mindmap, you can drill your topic down into sub-topics. It will help you get all of your ideas out and onto paper.

Here are the steps to mindmap your book's topic:

Once you have mindmapped your idea , you should have a full page of brainstormed thoughts, ideas, and concepts. You can then review what you've written, and begin to organize them. This will come in handy when it comes time to actually start plugging in content for your book outline.

2 – Write a purpose statement

In one sentence describe the purpose of your book. A strong purpose statement will explain to readers why they should consider reading your book.

This will also help you stay focused as you begin drafting your outline and writing your book. It will prevent you from straying from related topics, and going off on tangents.

When you have trouble solidifying what your book is about , review your purpose statement.

Inbound Content‘s purpose statement: People who read this book will learn a step-by-step process on how to do content marketing the inbound way.

3 – Create a working title

A working title is a temporary title used during the production of your book. Identifying your book by giving it a name can help set the direction.

Once you finish your work you can revisit the title and update accordingly. Don't get too hung up on this step; think of the title as a placeholder. It isn't permanent, but it will be helpful to begin with one in mind.

If you need help thinking of a working title, use our Nonfiction Book Title Generator .

Inbound Content’s working title was Content Marketing Simplified. Once I completed the content, I updated it to something more fitting based on the content I created.

4 – Write an elevator pitch for your book

An effective elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds. For context, 30 seconds equals about 65-70 words.

Having a prepared elevator pitch will come in handy throughout your book-writing process. It will help you nail your book's purpose and topic, and it will help the concept become crystal clear not only for yourself as the writer, but for your potential readers, too.

As you ask family and friends to hold you accountable to writing, and as you connect with fellow writers, authors, and mentors, you will be asked about your book. Having a prepared elevator pitch will help you nail the answer without hesitation, each and every time.

Pro tip: Take the time to nail your elevator pitch. You want to be ready to have a clear, confident answer when people ask about your book.

how to write a book outline infographic

5 – Draft a working outline for your book

It's time to draft a working book outline! Just like the working title you created, this outline is a work-in-progress. The outline can change throughout your writing process, and that's okay!

However, it's super helpful to start with an outline so that you know where to begin, and have a general roadmap for where to go as you start writing.

Use the related concepts and sub-topics you organized in your mindmap, and start plugging in some content into your outline.

If you want to create a solid foundation for your book in just a few hours, consider this BookMap method . It’s a template you can follow to quickly pull together all the subjects you want to write about and organize them into topics that will become chapters of your book.

Your outline will do wonders for you once you start writing. It can help you avoid writer's block , and increase your writing momentum and productivity . Instead of wondering what to write about in the next chapter of your book, you'll already have an idea of where to start with your book's outline.

6 – Fill in the gaps with more research

After your working outline is completed, it's important to do further research on your topic so that you can fill in any areas that you missed or forgot to include in your original outline.

Research is important, but writing is more important when it comes to completing your book. So, make sure you balance time for research wisely.

Do not get too caught up in your research that it prevents you from writing your book. Take some time to research, but set a limit. Always go back to writing.

nonfiction book research infographic

Here's how to research when writing a book:

7 – Frameworks on how to write your book

If your book can follow a framework, this will make it easier to keep your writing organized and relevant.

By choosing a format or structure for your book's topic, you'll be able to align your outline in a way that will be helpful when you start to write each chapter.

Most nonfiction books can fall into a specific framework, or a blend of frameworks. It's better to start with a specific framework, then tweak it as needed as you continue writing.

Here are common nonfiction book frameworks to consider when writing a book:

Step 6 – Finish Writing Your Book Draft

For many, the hard part isn't getting started with how to write a book… it's in actually finishing it !

Commit to finishing your first draft, and you're already succeeding!

Here are our top tips to keep the momentum going as you start taking action after learning exactly how to write a book.

1 – Break your book writing into small chunks

Now that you have your book's outline and framework, it's time to get started with writing.

Like a marathon, your manuscript is essentially a puzzle made up of many smaller like-themed pieces. Your finished book may be 262 pages long, but it’s written one word or thought at a time. Pace yourself and stick to your consistent writing schedule .

If you approach your book writing by focusing too much on the larger picture, you can get overwhelmed. Write chapter-by-chapter.

Start with baby steps by chunking your writing into small pieces. Set milestones, and celebrate the small wins.

Here are some tips for breaking your writing into small pieces:

Pro tip: Set deadlines to complete the chunks of writing you need to meet your goal . This will help you better prioritize your blocks of writing time and word count goal.  

2 – Build the momentum to finish writing your book

Writing is difficult. Writing an entire book is even more difficult.

When you're in the weeds with writing your book, there will be days you want to give it all up.

There will also be times when you have writer's block, and even though you know what you should be writing about, it all sounds wrong as you re-read what you've written in your head.

Here's how to fight writer's block and increase your writing momentum:

3 – Collaborate with others

There's strength in numbers when it comes to accomplishing a huge task.

And, more importantly, it can help you feel less isolated in what can be a very solitary act. Writing a book can be lonely!

Let’s review three things you can do to collaborate with others when writing your book.  

1 – Connect with your original accountability partner or group

A great example of finding accountability partners is through a group or self-publishing company much like what Self-Publishing School does with their Mastermind Community on Facebook.

2 – Attend a writer's conference

Sharing space and networking with other writers can do wonders for your own writing habits and momentum. By attending writer's conferences , you'll be in a room full of people just like you.

Not only will you be able to network with and learn from expert authors who have been where you are, but you'll also be able to meet fellow aspiring writers going through the same process as you.

writers conference infographic

3 – Collaborate with thought-leaders on your subject

Ideal for non-fiction writers , this collaboration could mean asking well-known people in your industry to write a quote that brings value to your content.

create value quote dharmesh shah

Pro tip: When promoting your book launch on social media, consider creating a buzzworthy piece of content like an engaging blog article and have your audience share it.

Section 3: Bring Your Book to the Finish Line

Now it's time to put on your marketing pants and spread the word about your book!

Step 7: Include Front & Back Matter

There are elements outside of your book’s content that you’ll need to write, such as a preface, foreword, notes, etc. I suggest waiting until after you’ve written your book. This way, not only can you better connect them to your story, but you won’t waste time editing them in case you make changes to your manuscript.

Let’s review eight final touches you may or may not need to wrap up your book.

1 – Preface or Introduction

Draw in your readers with a compelling story. This could be a personal anecdote related to your topic. Tell them what the book is about and why it is relevant to them (think of your reader persona from earlier).

2 – Foreword

A foreword is typically written by another author or thought leader of your particular industry. Getting someone credible to write this can add a lot of value to your readers.

3 – Testimonials

Just like with the foreword, try and find respected, well-known people in your space and have them write a review about your book. The best way to promote yourself is to have someone else speak on your behalf.  

how to write a book back cover blurb photo

4 – Author Bio

How do you want to be portrayed to your audience? Readers love knowing personal details of an author’s life, such as your hobbies, where you live, or what inspired you to write this book.

Pro tip: The author bio on the flap of your book might be one of the first things people read when deciding whether or not to read our book. Keep it short, but make sure it packs a punch (just like your elevator pitch).

5 – Glossary

A glossary is an alphabetical list of terms or words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect with corresponding explanations. If you are writing nonfiction, especially a topic that uses a lot of lingo or uncommon words, make sure to include a glossary to create a better experience for your readers.

6 – Notes

If you are writing nonfiction , keep track of your sources as you research and write. A clear bibliography will only add to your value and credibility.

Being nonfiction that was based on a lot of research and experiments, I made sure to include a notes section in Inbound Content. It included citations, stats, image sources, etc.

how to write a book notes

7 – Images

Using images is a nice addition to your content. Images can create a more engaging experience for the reader while improving the communication of hard-to-grasp concepts.

how to write a book with images

Pro tip: Include a figure number on each image. This way you can easily reference it in your text. You can organize images by leading with the chapter number first, then image number after the bullet point. For example, the above image is image 22 in chapter 11 of Inbound Content.

8 – Edit Your Book

Once your manuscript is completed, it's time to edit your book, which involves self-editing first, then having a thorough professional edit done.

The success of your book will depend on its quality, and a thoroughly edited book is a solid way to increase your book's quality.

Even the best writers require editing, so don't feel discouraged by this process. In the end, you'll be glad you followed the editing process, and will have a completed, error-free book that you can be proud of.

1 – Self-edit your book

Remember when we told you not to edit your book as you wrote? Well, now's your time to shine in the editing department.

Once you're book is written, it's time to go through and read it line-by-line.

We recommend printing your entire manuscript out on paper, then going through each page and making edits. This will make it easy to spot errors, and will help you easily implement these changes into your manuscript.

There's a specific strategy to self-editing ; if you start this process blindly, it can be overwhelming, so make sure you understand how it works before diving in.

You'll want to read for structure, readability, and grammar and word choice. There are a few different ways to self-edit book, and it will depend on your own preferences.

Here's some tips to self-edit your book successfully:

Once you complete your self-edit, you can make your revisions on your manuscript, then get ready for the next round of edits.

2 – Hire a professional book editor

Now, it's time to hand your book off to a professional editor.

As meticulous as you may be, there are bound to be some grammatical or spelling errors that get overlooked. Also, a professional editor should be able to give you feedback on the structure of your writing so you can feel confident in your final published draft.

3 – Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's feedback

Now it's time to improve your book using your editor's feedback. Don't be discouraged when you get your manuscript back full of edits, comments, and identified errors.

Think of these edits as opportunities to improve your book. You want to give your reader a polished, well-written book, and to do this, you need to edit and re-write.

This doesn't mean you have to re-write your entire book. You simply have to go through your editor's feedback, and make any revisions you think are necessary.

If there is something you don't agree with your editor on, that's okay. In the end, it is your book, and you are in control of what you want to add or take out of the manuscript.

Just be sure your revisions are coming from a place of sound reasoning, and not pride.

4 – Finalize your book title

If you haven't done so already, it's time to revisit the working title you created for your book earlier in the process.

You need to finalize your book's title before you move on to the next steps!

If you need help deciding on a title, cast a vote with your target readers and mentors in your author network. Send an email out, post a social media announcement , or reach out through text with people that are considered your book's ideal reader.

Get feedback on your title by asking people vote for their favorite. Include the top three choices, then use the crowdsourced results to narrow it down even more.

Once you have a title selected, don't worry too much if you're not 100 percent sold on it yet. Even if the title turns out to not be effective, you can always change the title depending on the publishing platform you select.

9 – Choose a Compelling Book Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Please.  People are definitely judging your book by its cover. 

The cover design is generally the first thing that will pique a reader’s interest.

You can find freelance graphic designers to create a compelling book cover for you on many online marketplace sites like Upwork, Reedsy , and Snappa . You can even check with a local graphic design artist for a more hands-on approach.

Tips for creating an effective  book cover :

Keeping these best practices in mind, I chose a cover for Inbound Content that was simple but made the title pop and let the subtitle provide the promise to the reader.

book cover of inbound content by justin champion

Step 10 – Format Your Book

Now that you’ve written your manuscript, it’s time to format it so you can visualize the final product — your book!

Formatting your book is an important step because it has to do with how your book will appear for the reader. A successfully formatted book will not cut-off text, incorrect indentations, or typeset errors when printed or displayed on a digital device.

If you've already decided to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing , this is all on you. But if you're not tech-savvy and don't have the time to learn how to format your own book, you can hire a professional to do this part for you.

If you know how to format a book correctly and to fit your book distributor's specification, you can do so in Word or Google Docs. You can also use a program like Vellum Software .

Otherwise, we recommend hiring someone to do this professionally, as it's one of the most important aspects to get right. Check out Formatted Books if that's the case for you.

Step 11 – Prepare to Launch Your Book

Before you hit “Publish” it's time to do the groundwork to start prepping for your book's launch, and your ongoing book launch and book marketing strategy.

There are a few steps involved in this process, which we'll outline below.

1 – Build your book's launch team

This is an ongoing step that you can start doing when you are finished with your rough draft. As you send your book to the editor, designer, and formatter, you can organize a launch team in the meantime.

Your book's launch team is essentially a group of individuals that are considered your target readers. They will help you promote your book, and will be actively involved in the launch process of your book.

2 – Develop a marketing mindset

It's time to start shifting your mindset from writing to book marketing . Think about your strengths and areas of growth when it comes to sales and marketing.

Acknowledge any fears or self-limiting thoughts you have, then push past them by remembering your book's purpose. Know that the power of sharing your knowledge and experience through your book is stronger than any fear that might hold you back.

It's important to understand in the marketing phase that your mindset has a huge role in the success of your book. You can write the best book in the world, but if you don't channel some energy towards marketing, no one will know it exists.

3 – Create a book launch strategy

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to your launch strategy, so it's important to draft up a plan before you publish your book.

Your launch strategy is basically how you plan to create momentum with your book. Think of it like a business launch. There's always a big celebration to announce the launch of the business. It's the same for your book.

Step 12 – Publish Your Book

The self-publishing process steps will vary on whether you are publishing your book as an eBook only, or whether you plan to publish it as a print book.

It will also vary depending on which self-publishing companies you plan to work with. There are many self-publishing platforms to choose from, including Amazon's KDP and IngramSpark .

If you plan to work with a different book publisher , you'll want to follow their guidelines.

Once you've hit publish on your platform, you can start implementing your launch strategies and marketing strategies, which we'll cover in the next section.

Step 13 – Market Your Book

Now that your book has been published, it's time to sell it and get your words into the hands of as many readers as possible.

This is where your marketing strategies come into effect, and this is how you can really leverage your book sales and build a book business.

Here are six ways to market your book:

FAQ: How To Write A Book

If you read through this guide and have specific questions, here are some other Frequently Asked Questions we get often.

How long does it take to write a book?

The time it to write a book depends; on average, it takes self-published authors anywhere from 1-6 months, but that can be shorter or longer depending on your writing habits, work ethic, time available, and much more.

How much do authors make?

There is no set amount that an author can make. It largely depends on so many factors, such as the genre type, book topic, author's readership and following, and marketing success.

For a full report on this, please read our report on Author Salary

Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick strategy by any means. While a book can help you grow your business through techniques like a book funnel , unless you sell hundreds of thousands of copies of books, you likely will not earn six figures from book sales alone.

How much money does an author make per book?

The money an author makes per book sold is calculated by the royalty rate. The royalty rate varies depending on the publishing medium, and company.

Use this Book Royalties Calculator to get a better idea of your potential earnings.

How much does it cost to write and publish a book?

With Amazon self-publishing and other self-publishing platforms, the cost to publish is actually free. However, it costs money to hire professionals that actually produce a high quality book that you will be proud of.

For full details, read this guide on Self-Publishing Costs .

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can write a book and thanks to the rise of technology and self-publishing, anyone can publish a book as well.

Traditional publishers used to serve as the gatekeepers to publishing, holding the power to determine which books would be published – preventing many stories from not being shared, and many talented authors from not being recognized.

Thankfully, this antiquated system is no longer the only option. This also means that because anyone can technically publish a book, it is extremely important that you create a quality, professional book that's of the highest standard.

You Wrote A Book!

And that’s it! Those are the steps to take to learn how to write a book from start to finish.

You can and will write your first book if you put forth the effort. You’re going to crush this!

Trust the process, create a consistent writing schedule, and use this practical guide to help you through the journey.

Are you ready to write your book?

how to write on books

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Learn How to Write a Book in 8 Easy Steps

Jessica Brody

Many people believe that learning how to write a book requires a lot of schooling and raw talent. But that’s not true. Plenty of famous, successful writers don’t have master’s degrees in creative writing. Many new fiction writers have no prior experience in writing or publishing a book. There are only two things you need to write a book successfully: inspiration and determination. 

Inspiration will be the thing that gets you started. It’s the story idea or character that won’t leave you alone. Or perhaps it’s a love of writing that you want to take to the next level. But it’s determination – persistence, willpower, and the refusal to quit no matter what – that will get you to “the end.” 

It also helps to have a handy step-by-step list of everything you need to know about writing a book. So, here you go! 

Last Updated October 2022

Discover the secret storytelling code behind all successful novels and use it to outline, write, or revise your own | By Jessica Brody, Writing Mastery

1. Start with a “seed” of a book idea

Believe it or not, you don’t have to have the entire story figured out before you can start writing a book or short story. All great novels started as a spark or a “seed” of an idea. This could be an intriguing character, an ominous or magical setting, or a romantic or funny scene. It could even be as small as a witty piece of dialogue. All these are seeds that you can water and harvest into ideas for good books. 

When you first sit down to think about the type of fiction book you’re going to write, don’t worry about the details. You don’t need to know what genre it is, every character’s name, or what every moment of the plot will look like. Find a spark or a seed that you can grow. 

Need help coming up with an idea for your book? This short course will walk you through the four ingredients that make up all great book ideas. It will help you brainstorm your own!

2. Develop the main character

Once you have your idea “seed,” the easiest part to start growing it is with your main character. Decide who will be the primary person the reader will follow through the story. Who will introduce your reader to your world? Whose perspective will the reader see your story through? Once you decide who this is you can ask yourself more questions about this person. Here are some brainstorming questions to get you started: 

Answering questions like these will make your character take shape. It will give you a good idea of who your book will be about. Every good novel is essentially about a character who changes or transforms in some way. This is called a character arc . To establish a good character arc, you first must understand who your character is at the start of the story. This will help you figure out where they go and how they change. 

Looking for guidance on how to write characters who leap off the page? This comprehensive character master class will teach you how to write dynamic characters. It will walk you through the steps of developing your own.

3. Create a simple plot outline

Not every writer chooses to start writing a book with an outline. Some writers prefer to brainstorm a few details and start writing, figuring out the story as they go. Other writers prefer to map out an extensive outline before they write a single word. Some figure out every chapter in advance. It’s up to you. 

Starting with a basic outline of your story will help you succeed when you write the first draft — even if you don’t end up sticking to it.

The basic three-act structure

You can base your outline on the three-act structure. Most successful stories ever told have a three-act structure. You’ll find it in books and movies alike. If you sketch out a few ideas for each of your story’s three acts, you’ll have a basic plot outline. This will help guide you when it’s time to write your book. 

Here is an overview of the basic three-act structure: 

Need help outlining the story of your novel? Take this plotting master class . It will walk you through all the steps of outlining and writing a successful plot. 

4. Start the first draft

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” — William Faulkner

Person sitting in front of laptop

You’ve got your main character developed and your outline ready to go. It’s time to hit that coffee shop, library, or your favorite writing space, and start writing.

The most important thing to remember about the first draft is that it’s a discovery process. It’s not supposed to be good. It’s only supposed to be finished. This is where you are letting the story unfold. You are discovering things about your character, plot, and world. 

For that reason, the first draft is often messy and imperfect. As you write, you’ll find characters and plots growing in directions you’d never thought possible. You will often discard your outline as you experiment with characters, plots, styles, and forms. This is a place for you to break the mold and push yourself. Don’t bother being perfect. The faster you can jot down ideas on paper, the better. This rough collection of thoughts, ideas, and plotlines will eventually come together into a book. That will be after due editing and countless revisions, of course. For now, focus on writing anything.

It helps to set goals for yourself, like a daily word count goal. Try estimating how long your book will be. Typically fiction books are between 50,000 and 100,000 words. Divide by the number of days you want to spend writing the first draft. This will give you an estimate of how many words per day you’ll need to finish.

For instance, you could think your first draft should be 75,000 words. If you want to finish it in three months, you will have to write about 825 words a day to finish in that time frame. 

Setting word count goals for yourself can help keep you on task and motivated to write every day. This is important when the writing gets tough, which it’s bound to do. Every successful writer has struggled during the first draft, and you probably will too. Setting a daily word count goal and sticking to it can ensure you don’t quit halfway through. 

You don’t have to be a full-time writer to write a book. You just have to set aside time to write each day. For instance, every day before work, after dinner, or during your lunch break. It doesn’t matter when you write as long as you’re consistent. The more consistent you are, the more writing will become a habit. As it becomes a habit, the easier it is to sit down to write each day. 

Learn how to develop consistent and effective writing routines. This course is all about hacking your productivity. 

5. Take a break

Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s time for a much-needed break! Writing the first draft is not easy, so congratulate yourself and get some rest and relaxation. 

Taking a break is necessary for recuperating and refueling your creative tank. It’s also necessary for giving your brain some distance from the story. After you’ve taken a few weeks away from your novel, you’ll have a fresh perspective on it. Then, you’ll be able to revise it with more objectivity and more clarity. 

6. Read through your first draft without editing

Once you’ve given yourself some distance away from the novel, it’s time to read back through your first draft. During this initial read-through, try your hardest not to edit anything you’ve written. Read what you have, absorb, think about the story as objectively and critically as you can. Take lots of notes about what you would like to change and get to the end. 

This will help you understand the full picture of what needs revision. Revising without having the full picture in front of you will feel daunting. It might even lead to time wasted. You don’t want to spend two hours perfecting a chapter that you might have to cut later. 

7. Revise  

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story… When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. ” – Stephen King

Now that you have a full picture of the story and the work that you need to do, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. On the first revision, focus on bigger fixes that affect the entire plot or character arc. Wait on smaller fixes like word choice or sentence structure. This will keep the process from feeling too overwhelming. It will also help you focus on where you spend your revising time. 

Some questions to ask yourself as you work on the second draft are: 

Answering these questions will help you figure out what you can improve in the second draft. 

Feel free to repeat steps five, six, and seven as many times as you want. Keep going until you feel happy with the plot and the characters. Many writers complete several drafts before moving on in the process. 

8. Edit and polish 

The final step is to polish it up and make it shiny. With the previous steps, you’ve revised the story. You feel like the plot is working, the characters are interesting and dynamic, and the pacing is tight. Now is the time to focus on the smaller details. 

This is where, as Stephen King puts it, you must “kill your darlings”.

To make this murder easier, follow these tips:

Lastly, celebrate!

Congratulations – you’ve written your very first book. It’s time to shout from the rooftops. You’ve just accomplished what many people never accomplish. Well done!  Ready to publish your novel? Take this course for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to traditional publishing.

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Mar 2, 2023

ChatGPT decodes 'How to write a bestseller?'

Chatgpt's tips to write a bestseller.

Many people aspire to become famous authors, but only a few manage to achieve it. With AI's growing popularity, we asked ChatGPT how to write a bestseller. Here's what it said:

Choose a compelling topic

"Your topic should be relevant and interesting to your target audience. It should also be something you are passionate about," suggested ChatGPT.

Create a strong plot

"Your story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. It should be engaging and keep your readers hooked from start to finish," says ChatGPT.

Develop relatable characters

Apart from having a great theme and strong plot, you also need to develop relatable characters to keep your readers hooked to your story. "Your characters should be well-developed and relatable. Readers should be able to empathize with them and care about what happens to them," says ChatGPT.

Write in a clear and concise style

After deciding your topic, plot, and characters, you need to also focus on your writing style. "Your writing should be easy to read and understand. Use simple language, avoid jargon and unnecessary words, and make sure your sentences are clear and concise," suggests ChatGPT.

Edit and revise

Like most authors suggest, ChatGPT too agrees that editing is crucial for any book. "Editing and revising are essential to creating a polished and professional manuscript. You may need to go through multiple drafts before your book is ready for publication," says ChatGPT.

Build your platform

Once your book is published, the next step is to promote it well to the right audience. "Building your platform means establishing your brand and promoting your book. This includes building a social media presence, creating a website, and engaging with your readers," says ChatGPT.

Bonus: Hire a professional editor

"A professional editor can help you polish your manuscript and make it the best it can be," suggests ChatGPT.

Get feedback

And lastly, get feedback from readers and incorporate it into your writing. "Get feedback from beta readers, writing groups, and other professionals in the industry. This can help you identify areas that need improvement and make your book even better," says ChatGPT.

Thanks For Reading!

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how to write on books


how to write on books


How to Write a Book: 21 Crystal-Clear Steps to Success

Posted on Mar 7, 2023

by Chandler Bolt

Writing a book is hard without the right help. Without someone who’s done it before, you can end up making crucial mistakes.

You decided to write a book. Maybe you have a perfect idea (so you think, but we’ll get to that), have always wanted to write one, and just aren’t sure where the heck to get started!

The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is so much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon.

One of the easiest ways to start, is with an outline. ( Heads up – You can grab a free outline template below. I cover more about how to use this tool in Step 9 of this post – but go ahead and grab your outline guide now. It makes everything easier, later).

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Non-Fiction Book Outline Template

Finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

Sps Lm Embed Form Img1

Anyone who says learning how to write a book is easy has never  actually tried. If they did, they’d know writing a book takes a lot more than a helpful piece of grammar software . It takes help from someone who’s done it before.

This is why I’m weighing in, having written and published 6 bestselling books and replicated my process across thousands of students.

Let’s save you a ton of time, and many headaches, and dive into how to write a book.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…

You stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. To combat the boredom, you stand, stretch, and brew yet another pot of coffee.

And…a week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book? I haven’t even come up with a book idea yet!”

But now you’re ready to start writing a book —and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Here’s how to write a book step by step:

Ready to get started as a serious writer right now? Check out your free training below before reading the rest of this post!

Write A Book Fast.jpg

How to Write a Book Despite Procrastination

There are plenty of reasons why writing a book , whether you’re writing a fiction novel or a nonfiction book , puts most writers directly into procrastination mode.

These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:

Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.

You’re in illustrious company!

Ready to learn how to write your first book and go from blank page to published author in just 90 days? Then let’s get started!

Phase 1: Think Like a Writer

Before you sit down and type a single word, it will pay off if you take some time to address a few attitude questions and adopt the right mindset. Successful writers know, before your write a single word simply writing and getting words to flow isn’t the hard part. It’s so much more about being organized with the same structure and writing voice for the particular story they need to tell.

This is one of the most frequently overlooked steps in becoming a published author , which is a big reason why so many people fail to finish their books.

Take it from me—it’s worth your time to complete these steps. They will make the rest of your book-writing experience much, much easier, and more satisfying.

[ Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here! ]

Step 1: Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book

Before you open your laptop and start daydreaming about which photographer should take your best-selling author headshot, or about getting interviewed on Oprah, you need to answer one question:

What’s your reason for writing a book ?

Should You Write A Book.jpg

It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea . Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose. It might take writing a blog post to begin a journey that has you self-published in less than a year. Remember most likely you’ll want to approach this as a writing career rather than a single book you put out.

How do you begin writing a book?

I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Solidifying the purpose of fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.

Ok, you’re thinking— “Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.

However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY . Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator that will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings has long dissipated.

And this is a huge reason why so many of our students end up starting and finishing their drafts quickly—in 30 days in most cases!

These are some popular reasons for authors to write a book:

There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.

Your WHY will be unique to you.

Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.

Step 2: Stop the Excuses for Not Writing the Book

You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses .

When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success .

But you can overcome it.

It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.

Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than publishing an ebook , the next great American novel, or a passion project.

Excuse 1 – You don’t know what to write.

You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.

In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.

The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.

Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:

Once you have an idea narrowed down, you can go ahead and start your mind map and outline .

( Psst … If you missed your chance to grab your outline earlier in this post, here you go again. Inside the template are more detailed instructions for how to use an outline, and how to go from “no book idea” or “too many book ideas” to the “perfect first book idea” using a mind map. Don’t worry, I show you how to mind map your book also – inside the Book Outline Template instructions.)

Sps Lm Embed Form Img1

Excuse 2 –  You don’t have enough time.

Today, we’re all busy. I get it.

Plus, how long does writing a book take in the first place?

But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.

Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.

And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity . Think about it.

The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.

You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!


Excuse 3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading. 

Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.

In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.

Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.

And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).

Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:

Excuse 4 – You’re “not an expert.”

A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”

The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.

You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know— you’re expert enough to write a book.

So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.

Excuse 5 – Your first draft must be flawless.

A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.

Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.

Editing Process As Part Of Book Writing

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”

If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book .

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.

Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need:

All you need is one thing: a system for finishing your book.

There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.

As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.

This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”

Done Is Better Than Perfect Quote

Phase 2 – Set Yourself Up For Success

Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.

Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.

Step 3: Schedule Your Book Writing Time

Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”

Writing Habits.jpg

Develop a writing habit and plan it out

Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams.

In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.

Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.

Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.

Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.

Scheduling Your Writing Time

Look at Omer Redden , a Self-Publishing School student. He was working full-time at one job, had another part-time job, raising 3 kids, and moving across states—busier than most people—yet he found the time to write his book Give and Grow Rich: Change Your Mind, Change Your Money in 3 months. Using the Self-Publishing School process, he’s gone on to write 5 books, and his wife and kids are publishing books now too!

If Omer could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.

Choose the time of day you plan to write

You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.

If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.

Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities or waiting for a meeting to start.

Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.

Writing Method Quote

Set a deadline for writing your book

Setting an end date forces you to stay on schedule and keeps the forward momentum going . So consider giving yourself a deadline for your book.

You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?

One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book . If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.

If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.

Valuable Asset Alert!!

You can check out our word and page count calculator here to determine the target word count for your industry in order to work backward to plan your writing schedule!

Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book are how it comes to life.

If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.

The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.

Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have an extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.

It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.

That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.

Step 4: Create Your Writing Space

The physical space where you write your book is important. A dedicated writing space allows you to “flip the switch” and get focused on writing. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted. However, some get their best work done at coffee shops and love the ambient noise.

True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…

Writer'S Desk

…but I suspect that most of these authors would become even more focused and productive if they cleaned up their writing space to make it easier to focus on their writing. There is a common myth that a dedicated writing space can make the task robotic or take the “art” out of crafting your work. This may be true for some, but I’d say arrive at that conclusion after first mastering the basics of successfully publishing a few books.

Overhead Shot Of A Clean Desk

However, that’s just my opinion. The truth is that the “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity:

(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity .)

You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.

Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!

Step 5: Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools

Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?

Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.

Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of book writing software . If you’re wanting to become a New York Times bestselling author but don’t want to consider the best tools, you may be doing yourself a disservice.

Book Writing Software.jpg

Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with. Trust me, you want the right book writing software to make the process as frictionless as possible.

But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.

There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:

Microsoft Word

Google docs.

We’ll cover all of them for you below.

If you just want a time-tested program that works, Word might be the program for you. It’s the most widely used word processor in the world, which means it’s highly reliable and consistent. It also provides a lot of formatting options and even has a navigation pane you can use to easily find the chapter you’re looking for.

One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.

If you like advanced features, definitely check out Scrivener. It was created specifically for authors, and it contains all sorts of tools that are really helpful for those that write fiction or nonfiction.

For example, you can use the corkboard view to organize how you’ll write your book using virtual notecards:

The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.

If you do decide to go with Scrivener, it’s the professional writer tool I personally use and suggest.

You can think of Google Docs as sort of a “Word Lite” program that you can access online, for free. While it doesn’t boast as many features as Word or Scrivener, it’s the hands-down most convenient program out there for sharing and collaboration.

Because everything is stored online, you can access your work from anywhere. And it’s easy to share your work with others and collaborate by leaving comments in the margins:

The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.

Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.

Phase 3: Actually Write Your Book

OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing! Contrary to popular belief, writing books doesn’t have to be this huge task. If you’ve been following along, this is the moment you’ve adequately prepared for!

This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.

But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think— if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.

Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book .

Step 6: Come Up With Your Book Idea

Before you can start typing, you need to have a topic. That might seem obvious, but it can still be a stumbling block if you don’t know what to write about. This is an opportunity to do market research and come up with fresh ideas.

Fortunately, there are countless book ideas that could turn into bestselling books .

I recommend brainstorming a long list of book ideas. This way you’ll have a lot of options—giving you the freedom to choose the best possible book topic.

You can even utilize lists of writing prompts found here to get your mind moving in the right direction.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to come up with a book idea:

These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can write a book, even if they can’t think of an idea right away. Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”

That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!

It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.

Don’t Censor Yourself

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea . Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel —that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight-loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.

Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.

Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.

Take a Reader-Centric Perspective

While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:

Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own). The reader’s experience is what you should care most about. Essentially you’re not asking them to only purchase and read your book, you want the reader’s attention. I can’t tell you how many books I read, lectures I attended, where I didn’t put my attention into it.

Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.

Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.

Ask yourself questions about the reader:

When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.

How To Write A Book Quote By Stephen King

Step 7: Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First

By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:

With these tips in mind, take this assessment , then choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.

Step 8: Fill Out The Book Map

The BookMap is a free downloadable book outlining template you can use to quickly gather all the important information you’ll need for your book — fiction or nonfiction.

Outline With Bookmap

Essentially, the way it works is you’ll create a mind map—sort of a brain dump with a line connecting related ideas together—on your book’s topic.

Start your BookMap by writing your intended topic in the center. From there, answer the questions and add as many related ideas as you can think of. (Again, connect related ideas with a line.) The BookMap gives you the benefits of writing in free form and creating structure from all the connections you make.

Click here to learn more about the Book Map and download a free PDF template.

Step 9: Turn Your BookMap Into an Outline

Once you’ve completely filled out your BookMap, the next step is to group all the related ideas into categories. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to do this; just combine your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you.

One way to do this is to rewrite each idea on a fresh piece of paper, this time grouped together in related topics. Or, you could simply use different-colored highlighters to categorize your ideas with different colors.

Either way, the result is the same: when you’re done grouping your ideas, those categories will form the outline for your book—each category is a new chapter. So now you know exactly which topics to write about, and you know which points to cover in every chapter of your book.

how to write on books

If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!

Enjoy a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.

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Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method

You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.

For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.

When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate on areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline .

This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.

Step 10: Write One Chapter at a Time

You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book . The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.

And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:

Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline . You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.

Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.

If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.

Mark Manson Quote On Output

Step 11: Speak Your Book

This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?

Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:

As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.

Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.

Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.

Speed Up Your Writing

Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.

Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:

Phase 4: Avoid Potholes Along The Way

If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.

So nothing could possibly go wrong… Right?

Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book-writing roadblocks.

Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems .

Step 12: Avoid Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.

Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.

The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.

Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:

Step 13: Don’t Edit While You Write

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing.  

In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.

But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.

Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.

That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.

Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.

When you are ready to edit your book, check out this advice from writing coach and editor Tiffany Hawk .

Step 14: Push Past The “Messy” Middle

Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!

Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them. Staying motivated is the key here, becoming a successful writer means not getting stuck on first drafts.

It sounds obvious, but writing habits lead to good writing. Don’t lose interest, you’re on your way to becoming a great writer, don’t let self-doubt creep in. Get your entire manuscript done, remember to finish writing. A daily word count goal can help get your draft completed.

With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.

Phase 5: Launch Your Book Successfully

By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.

You’ve written a book.

But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.

Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.

It’s true that self-publishing your book on Amazon is a great way to go. But you can’t simply publish your book and expect people to find it. Instead, you need to dedicate some time to mastering the publishing and marketing processes on Amazon to sell more books . This is the only way to make sure that your book makes its way into the hands of the people who will benefit from reading your words.

If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.

Step 15: Hire A Good Editor to Edit Your Book

Finding an editor is important work. Having someone on your side that understands your writing style and the purpose of your book is essential. Additionally, the best editors remove unnecessary sentences in order to leave the reader feeling they understand what they should and get a clear line into the writer’s mind.

Several people, including myself, create tests in order to hire the right editor . There definitely is an art to it, consider the post linked above to find the process we recommend you use.

Step 16: Format Your Book Properly

Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.

If you missed our free outline template earlier in this post, here it is again.

Because fixing your formatting really is that much of a pain in the butt.

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The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?

Nonfiction writers tend to format their paragraphs, like this:

How To Write A Book Nonfiction Format

Whereas fiction books, like The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci below, use indentation instead:

Fiction Format Indents

Here are a few more book formatting tips:

Step 17: Come Up With A Title

The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:

Your book title.

You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.

How To Choose A Book Title.jpg

Here are a few tips on creating standout, marketable titles .

For a nonfiction book, your title should…

And for a fiction book , your title should…

It always helps to do a little research on Amazon. To do that, just head here and select your book genre on the left-hand side of the page:

How To Write A Book Title

Then you can take a look at some of the best-selling titles in your genre. You can even sub-niche down several times:

“History > Ancient Civilizations > Mesopotamia.”

Now pay attention to the titles and look for common themes or trends to use for your own book.

Remember that you’re just starting, so you can always change the title later. But for the time being it can help to have a “working title” (a temporary title that you may change before publication).

Step 18: Get A Good Cover

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.

Really, really important.

And a good book cover does 2 things:

Here are a few examples from some of my own books:

Cover Design Tips

Notice a couple of things. First of all, it’s orange—which helps it to stand out and grab attention. Second, it’s super clear what the book is about. The title is in the upper third of the book in large print, so you can read it even in a thumbnail.

Both covers were designed using the same basic principles. They’re simple, bold covers that stand out. They also have subtitles that clarify exactly what the book is about.

Now, this style of cover works great for my niche, but it won’t necessarily work for every type of book.

For example, it would make a terrible cover for a romance novel !

Why? Well, in short, it doesn’t look like a romance novel. Remember that part of a cover’s job is to tell people what the book is about. And in many genres of fiction and nonfiction, readers have come to expect a certain type of book cover.

In order to clearly communicate what your book is about to your ideal readers, you need it to fit in with their expectations—while also standing out enough to grab their attention. This is another reason why it pays to head over to the Amazon bestselling books list and study some of the most successful books in your genre.

What do those covers look like? Do they share a similar layout? Color scheme? Font style?

For example, if you were writing a romance novel, you would want to study these covers:

Screenshot Showing Book Categories And Titles

Find out what the most successful books in your genre look like, then imitate that look—but change it up just enough so that it stands out and grabs your readers’ attention. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers . Or, book a call with our team and learn how we can get some of these things done for you, including book covers, formatting, keywords and categories, and more.

Step 19: Build a Launch Team

Once you’ve chosen whether to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing, the real key to a successful book launch is building and leveraging a launch team.

So what is a launch team ?

Launch Team

In a nutshell, your launch team is a small team of people who are supporting your book. They could be friends, family, associates, online affiliates—anyone.

At first, your launch team might be limited to your immediate friends & family. That’s OK! Launch your book with their help, and work on continually building your launch team every chance you get.

When you build a launch team, you need to make 2 things clear for everyone:

Part 1 is pretty simple:

You want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family. This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.

Part 2 can vary from person to person :

What do your friends & family get in return for helping you?

In many cases, they get things like:

As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.

(This is called affiliate marketing , and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you. Learn more with this in-depth guide on affiliate marketing .)

But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.

Step 20: Get Ongoing Reviews

If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:

It loves reviews.

One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.

If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.

When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:

Image Showing Book Review Scores

Reviews are a fantastic form of social proof. They’re a credibility sign that lots of people have read your book and loved it—and that makes other people more likely to want to read it, too.

But you have to be careful about how you go about trying to get Amazon reviews. For example, you can get in big trouble if you try to pay for reviews, swap reviews with other authors, or offer free gifts in exchange for reviews.

You can solicit reviews, but they cannot be “incentivized” reviews.

So how can you generate more reviews without offering people something in return? Well, I’ve discovered a few tips that work incredibly well. Click here to learn my 8-step process for generating more Amazon reviews.

Book Reviews

Step 21: Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

I’d like to leave you with one final message:

The best way to learn how to write a bestselling book is to get help from somebody who’s been there before.

People often ask me how I was able to make so much money and sell so many copies of my very first book. And I always tell them the same thing:

Because I sought out a mentor. Someone to teach me a proven book-writing process that had been tried and tested. A book-writing system that was almost guaranteed to work, as long as I followed it properly.

Well, that’s the real secret to my success as an author. I sought out the help I needed to give my very first book a major head-start.

A Quote Image About Writing And The Creative Purpose

My Final Tip on How to Write a Book

And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.

If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE in this training→ .

Want to learn more about Self-Publishing School?

Every day, we help would-be authors go from “idea” to “published book” and authors go from “one book published” to “many books published”. You can learn more about us and our programs here , as well as read some Self-Publishing School reviews from our students.

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Chandler Bolt

Most popular blog posts, what is self-publishing school.

We help you save time, money, and headaches through the book, writing, marketing, and publishing process by giving you the proven, step-by-step process and accountability to publish successfully. All while allowing you to maintain control of your book–and its royalties. Learn to publish a book to grow your impact, income, or business!

how to write on books

if(typeof ez_ad_units != 'undefined'){ez_ad_units.push([[468,60],'tckpublishing_com-box-2','ezslot_3',141,'0','0'])};__ez_fad_position('div-gpt-ad-tckpublishing_com-box-2-0'); How to Write a Book: 11 Simple Steps to Writing a Book That’s Ready to Be Published

by Tom Corson-Knowles | 10 comments

how to write a book blog post image

But there are 11 key steps every writer should follow to make the process of writing your book a whole lot faster and easier.

Applying these simple steps will show you how to write a book faster, organize your thoughts with less stress , and ultimately create a better book that’s more likely to get you the publishing deal and sales you want.

For those of you who love to write or want to learn how to write your first book, I’ll share with you the 11 key steps to writing a book that’s ready to be professionally published.

Steps to Writing a Book image

How To Write a Book: A Guide for Beginners

The writing process is a mystery to most people. Even some of the most successful writers I’ve met are unable to really explain how to write a book!

If you ask them for advice on how to become a better writer, they’ll give you vague answers like “just write more” or “find something that inspires you to write.”

And while both of those answers ring true and are indeed powerful suggestions for those who understand and use them, this common advice is far too vague for most writers to get the best results possible.

What stops most writers from finishing their book isn’t a lack of hard work or inspiration; most of us just get stuck at some point in the writing process, and we need help getting un stuck so we can keep making progress.

At the end of the day, most writers just want to learn how to write better and faster with less effort and struggle. Writing can be incredibly challenging and frustrating without a clear plan.

Creating a clearly defined writing process and following these 11 steps will help you stay on track and get unstuck so you can finish your book and get it published.

While I can’t promise that you can create a great book that’s ready to be professionally published without any effort or struggle, I can share with you the detailed guide to getting the work done as effectively and efficiently as possible.

I want you to get the best writing results you possibly can—whether that means getting a book deal from a Big Five publisher or creating a high quality book that you would be proud to self-publish.

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1. Find Your Big Idea

Of course, the first step to writing a book is figuring out what you want to write about. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to know every sub-topic and detail that you’ll cover at this point, but you should settle on a “big idea” before getting started with anything else.

For nonfiction, it helps to think about  why  you’re writing a book in the first place. What is the problem you’re going to help readers solve? Why is it important? Why are you the best person to write about it?

For fiction, you may already have the seeds of an idea for a great story. But if not, you may find inspiration through creative writing prompts . These can lead to the birth of a character or a world you want to create and build your story around.

You can also look to real life for inspiration. Check out our list of ideas for writing a book to learn where you can find inspiration for both fiction and nonfiction.

2. Make Time

The next thing you need to do is look at all the things that are holding you back from writing a book. Chances are, you’ve probably thought about writing a book before, but never got around to it.

Maybe you never seemed to have the time, or maybe you just thought your writing wasn’t good enough. Whatever it was, make a plan to work around it.

If you’re concerned about time constraints, work out a schedule and plan time to write for at least an hour every day. This may mean getting up an hour earlier in the morning—but if you’re serious about writing your book, you’ll make it work.

Say goodbye to excuses!

3. Conduct Market Research

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, market research is an essential step toward writing your book.

Before you invest time in writing, you need to understand who your ideal reader is and what they want, so you can be sure to write a book that gives them that.

Study bestselling titles and browse book reviews in your market. This can give you a good feel for what works and what doesn’t, so you know what to do and what to avoid in your book.

4. Pre-Write (Create Your Book Template)

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For me, pre-writing is a huge key to my success as an author. Without this step, I would never have been able to write and publish 27 books in the last five years.

Pre-writing is the quick and simple process I go through to create a document for my new manuscript that looks like a book, feels like a book, and almost smells like a book in less than an hour.

So what is pre-writing? It’s basically pre-formatting your book to look like a book in order to prepare it (and you) for success.

For example, when I come up with a new book idea, I will take one of my free eBook formatting templates for fiction or nonfiction and create a new document for the book on my computer.

Then, I’ll go to the title page and change the title of the book to a new “title placeholder.” I don’t even need to know the title of the book yet. I just need to know what it’s about.

As an example, for my book The Kindle Writing Bible , the title placeholder started out as  How to Write More Nonfiction Books. A poor book title, I know, but it served its purpose.

This title placeholder is not meant to be the final title of your book. It’s meant to take the place of your title at the very beginning of the writing process so you can start to see your book taking form and coming to life before you even sit down to write it.

Think of pre-writing like building the frame for a house. Once you have the frame built, you can immediately see the shape of the structure. You can see it take form, and you can easily visualize how it will look when it’s finished.

Pre-writing takes a simple book idea and turns it into a concrete structure that exists in the real world, allowing you to see your dreams come true right before your eyes in a very short period of time.

Something magical happens when you create the template for your book complete with your title page, table of contents, copyright notice, author biography, and chapter headings. Even if there’s no content in the book, it still looks and feels a lot like a book, and it helps you realize that you really can do this.

By looking at a well-designed, carefully formatted template with the provisional title of your book on the first page (instead of staring at a blank screen), you’ll start to feel like a real author. When you feel like a real author, you’re more likely to act like one as well.

After creating the title page, I then go to the back of my book and edit my “About the Author” section, “Other Books by the Author”, the Review Request, and any bonus material I might offer.

When I’m done pre-writing (which usually takes me less than 20 minutes), I’ll often have 800 to 2,000 words in my book already written.

That’s before I’ve even start writing the book!

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty darn good when I look at the word count at the bottom of the page in Microsoft Word and see that I’ve already got a thousand words or more written before I have even started to write the book.

I learned a similar trick many years ago from a source I have long since forgotten. Basically, someone had told me to format my books in Microsoft Word to make it look like a book, complete with page numbers and formatting.

It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. I thought, “If I could have my word document designed like a professional book, it might just give me that extra inspiration I need to finally finish my book!”

Well, I tried that but I had no idea what I was doing. I had no clue how to design or layout a professional book, and so I never could get it right.

I fiddled with adding page numbers and changing margins, paragraph spacing, headings, font types, font sizes and more, but it never felt quite right. It didn’t do the trick for me because I had no idea what I was doing at the time.

When I finally figured out how to format and layout a professional manuscript ready for publishing, I created my free Kindle eBook formatting templates and it made a huge difference for me.

I encourage you to use our free Writing a Book Templates or create your own book writing template so you can create a new book document that makes the book come alive even before you start writing the first chapter.

This simple process will help give you that extra motivation to start writing, and to continue writing once your book actually looks like a book instead of a completely blank document that you have to magically fill up with words.

If you create the body of your book first, filling in the pages becomes a lot easier mentally and emotionally.

“Writing a book is a mental and emotional struggle. Do everything you can to maintain control of your thoughts and emotions, and writing your book will be a lot easier.”

It’s a strange little quirk of human nature that it seems so much easier to go from writing 1,000 to 50,000 words in your book than it is to go from 0 to 1,000 words.

My advice: get the 1,000 words down first and then start writing your book.

The truth is that I don’t always pre-write. Sometimes I get an instant flash of inspiration and just start writing. But that doesn’t happen very often.

What happens most of the time is that I pre-write my book, and then I move on to planning my book, and then to writing the first draft.

5. Outline Your Book

Planning a book image

Once you’ve created your book template, it’s time to plan your book.

I know planning can be boring, but it doesn’t take very long and it will end up saving you a TON of time in the long run, since you won’t have to worry about:

It’s tempting to just rush in and start writing your book, but a simple plan can save you an enormous amount of time as a writer.

There’s nothing wrong with being inspired or excited to write your book. If at any point you feel like immediately jumping in and writing your book, then by all means go for it.

These steps are not meant to hold back your creativity, but rather to create a structure that allows you to be more creative and more confident as you go through the writing process.

How to Plan Your Writing Like a Pro

If you want to learn how to write a book, you first need to learn how to plan. Planning is where you outline the basic ideas and points of your book. You can just write out the words to create a “book skeleton.”

Some people spend a lot of time planning their books. They’ll even write out all the chapter titles on index cards and have sections on each index card for major points or subheadings in each chapter. That’s all fine and dandy, but for me simpler is better (and a whole lot faster).

For example, when I started writing The Kindle Writing Bible , I started with this simple book outline:

Topic (passion, knowledge, expertise, experience, market research)

Writing (ghostwriting, interviews, how to write better, etc.)

That was it!

It took me less than 5 minutes to create that list of ideas to include in the book, and this incredibly basic writing plan inspired me enough to start Step 3: creative writing.

For those of you who crave a little more structure and guidance for your writing journey, you can create a much more thorough outline for your book.

Brainstorming Writing Ideas

Sit down with a pen and paper with no distractions and schedule at least 15 quiet minutes to think about the most important ideas, stories, and scenes that should be in your book.

When you brainstorm the big ideas or scenes for your book, your goal is not to filter anything. Instead, you want to be as creative as possible and not hold anything back.

Write down every idea you get during this brainstorming process, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or insignificant it seems.

After this brainstorming session, you can then go through your ideas and filter out the ones that don’t fit what you’re trying to create.

Questions for Brainstorming Nonfiction

Questions for Brainstorming Fiction

Creating Your Book Outline

After brainstorming all the main ideas that will be included in your book, you can create an outline for your book.

Your outline is essentially just a tool for organizing all the ideas you came up with during your brainstorming session.

Here are some questions to help you create a great book outline :

Outlines don’t need to be big, fancy, or detailed. The purpose of an outline is to help you get a clear idea of what’s going in your book.

This will help you be more productive when you sit down to write your book, since you’ll know exactly what you need to write about each day.

6. Creative Writing

Creative writing image

I call the process of writing the first draft of your book  creative writing because it’s all about using your creativity. It’s not about editing. It’s not about research.

It’s not about facts or figures, or charts or pictures, or graphics or references, or footnotes.

It’s about writing your ideas and thoughts on paper and letting your creativity flow unrestricted with no distractions!

Most new writers try to do too many things at the same time when they start writing their first draft.

You get this great idea for your book, write 200 words, and then your mind says, “Oh shoot, I can’t remember if there are 30 or 31 days in November!” And so you minimize your writing document, open up your web browser, and start Googling.

The problem with stopping in the middle of creative writing to research, edit, fact check, or rewrite is that it will DESTROY your writing output and productivity.

It’s like telling a young child to draw a picture and then every 5 minutes you offer them a cookie. The child is not going to be able to get that picture finished anytime soon, and it’s probably going to look like crap with all those crumbs on it.

When you start writing your first draft, just write!

Don’t research. Don’t close your writing document. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t try to edit while you type. Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t look at a dictionary. Don’t do anything that distracts you from writing the ideas down as they flow through your mind.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll find your writing productivity will increase dramatically. For me, my writing productivity increased several times over just by following this one simple rule: When you write your first draft, do nothing but write new words as you go.

How to Stay in Creative Writing Mode

7. Revise and Edit Your Manuscript

Editing image

Learning how to write a book isn’t just about the writing process—how you edit is equally important!

Once you’re “done” with creative writing, you will have a finished first draft of your manuscript.

Congratulations! Finishing your first draft is a huge step in the right direction. Most writers never get this far. Feel free to pop the champagne and celebrate.

Then, the next morning, your real work starts. It’s time to revise and edit your work.

This is where you’ll thoroughly study your manuscript to find and fix any typos, grammatical errors, factual errors, and other mistakes. You’ll research any facts or figures you forgot about and insert any hyperlinks and citations that you need for the book. You’ll also want to insert pictures, graphs or any other media type that you’d like to include in the book.

When I go through my first revision, I often find that I also need to write more. Maybe a section is too brief or unclear for readers, so I’ll need to elaborate on a point or even add ideas and resources that I hadn’t even thought about the first time around.

Sometimes I may add a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or even an entire new chapter. Be open to continuously improving your book and adding important information for your readers throughout the writing process.

I may also need to create new chapters, break up text, move passages around, or even delete sections of the book.

Even once your book has been published, you can continue to make updates to your book, especially if you are self-publishing.

If you tend to write too much or ramble on in your writing, check your manuscript to make sure everything included in the book is relevant, connected, and important to the reader. Longer books are not always better.

I recommend keeping your writing simple, sweet, and to the point. The less unnecessary information in your books, the better reading experience you’ll be able to provide for your readers.

Simplicity Is Key

For nonfiction, you want to make sure everything included in your book is helping your reader get the results they want.

If you’re writing a weight loss book, for example, make sure everything in your book will help your reader achieve their goal. Including irrelevant stories, facts, or information will only make it more likely for your reader to put the book down without the results they wanted.

Many nonfiction writers are insecure about how valuable their information really is. That’s why they’ll write a 350-page book that could have been completed just as well in 50 pages, saving the reader a heck of a lot of time.

For fiction, you want to make sure every sentence in your book is driving the story forward. Don’t mention small details or stories in the book that never connect to the storyline.

If a character tells a story, there better be a reason behind it (such as giving us insight into that character’s motivations or personality).

Your time is valuable. That means your reader’s time is valuable. Don’t waste it with fluff, irrelevant stories, or drivel.

For more on editing your own work, check out our guide to self-editing . Use the tips presented there, and always remember to read a printed version of your manuscript and read it out loud at least once to see mistakes and potential improvements that you would not have discovered otherwise.

8. Get Feedback on Your Manuscript

No matter how great you are at writing, you can always produce better work with a little help and insight from others.

Crowdsourcing and finding beta readers is a great way to get feedback from other people to help you improve your book. Most authors will give their book manuscript to their wife or family or friends, or even a fellow author and have them review it for typos, grammatical errors, fact checking, and other recommendations. That’s a wonderful way to get free advice and help on improving your book.

It’s not the same as hiring a professional editor (unless you happen to know a professional editor who’s willing to help you out for free), but it’s a great start. You can also ask your friends and followers on social media to read the book and give you feedback.

Realize that you’ll get the best feedback from your ideal readers. If you’re writing a science fiction novel, the best feedback you will get is from folks who buy and read lots of science fiction.

If you are brand new and don’t have any fans yet, you can start by connecting with your target readers on online forums, Facebook groups, and by asking for readers to review your work on social media and on your website.

This step isn’t necessary for every writer in every situation, but it can be very helpful, especially if you are inexperienced or working on your first book.

9. Professional Editing

Professional Editing image

Once you’ve gone through several rounds of revising and rewriting your book and gotten feedback from your target readers, it’s time to hire a professional editor to help improve your manuscript even more.

One of the biggest mistakes new authors make that can end up costing you a lot of money is sending a first draft to a professional editor at this stage.

If you send an unedited first draft to a professional editor, they’re going to end up spending so much time fixing typos, formatting errors, grammatical errors, and common mistakes that they won’t be able to do their best work.

What happens in most of these cases is that the editor has to charge you more—sometimes a LOT more—because they have to spend so much extra time wading through all the simple mistakes you could have easily fixed yourself, if only you had spent a little more time editing.

The other reason to avoid sending an unedited first draft to an editor is because it makes you look like a rookie.

Professional writers don’t send unedited work to editors; they know how important it is to revise their own work before getting a professional editor involved.

If you act like a professional writer, you will find that the best professional editors are more willing to work with you and won’t charge you quite as much.

You may also find that your team will be more willing to go out of their way to help you succeed when they see how much effort and work you have put into your book.

You can learn more about how to find a professional editor here  along with more information on how much a good editor charges for their services.

10. Formatting Your Manuscript

Ebook Formatting image

Now that you’ve edited your book, it’s time to format it.

Formatting a book manuscript is basically a simple process in which you design your document or book file to be the most attractive and most useful to your readers.

If you plan to get your book traditionally published, you can ask your agent for a checklist or guidelines on how to properly format your book for traditional publishing.

If you plan to self-publish your book on Amazon Kindle, you’ll need to format your book for the Amazon Kindle platform.

You can download the free Kindle formatting template for fiction here and the Kindle formatting template for nonfiction here .

If you plan to self publish your book in print using CreateSpace or another printer, I highly recommend hiring a professional book interior designer to help you layout and design your book for print. (We have a free paperback self publishing checklist to help walk you through the process.)

You can also try using the new Reedsy book formatting tool that can help you format your book for eBook and print (it’s free to use).

Whichever publishing route or tools you choose to use, your formatting needs to get done and it needs to be done right before you publish your book. Nothing will turn readers off faster or attract more bad reviews on Amazon than a book that’s hard to read due to poor formatting.

11. Stay Motivated

No matter which stage of writing a book you’re currently in, it’s important to stay motivated . Keep your eye on the prize by reminding yourself why you’re writing the book in the first place.

Embrace feedback (even the negative stuff!). Seek out a mentor who’s already been down this road—talking with someone who’s been through the experience of writing a book can help put things into perspective and help you push forward if you feel stuck.

Keep working on writing the very best book you can, and you’ll see results soon enough.

Write Your Book in 21 Days

If you’re up for a challenge, why not try writing your book in less than a month? I’ve written and published 27 books in the last few years and have several more in progress. At one point, I was consistently producing more than one book every 21 days, so I can tell you that it is possible!

I’ve published books anywhere from 40 to 400 pages (sometimes the shorter ones sell even better). So if you think you have to write a massive 400-page book, you don’t! Your book should be as long as it needs to be to fully tell the story (fiction) or help the reader solve their problem (nonfiction).

write a book in 21 days image

Here’s what I recommend to get started with writing your first book:

1. Brainstorm Ideas in 15 Minutes

Lock yourself in a room. No phone, no email, no interruptions for 15 minutes. Only a pen and a notebook. Come up with as many book ideas / topics / niches as you can think of. You should have at least 20. If you think of other ideas afterwards in the shower just add them to your list ASAP.

Write down these questions to spur ideas:

What topics would I love to write about?

What knowledge do I have that could help people?

What do I know now that I wish I knew when I got started with X (a business, relationship, problem, whatever)?

What ideas do I have that could sell well?

Why:  It’s important to get all your book ideas out ahead of time. Otherwise, halfway through a book you’ll get an idea for 10 other books and might get distracted. Get distracted with a great idea upfront, not halfway through.

2. Do Research and Get Feedback

Find out what your potential readers are actually looking for. You can follow our  book market research  process in order to better understand your market and how to make your book stand out from the competition.

You should also ask your marketing and business savvy friends which of your ideas sound most marketable. If you don’t have any marketing or business savvy friends, tune in to our weekly  podcast interviews with bestselling authors  and try to expand your network of entrepreneurs and creative people so you can get better feedback on your ideas.

Why : Feedback is crucial. Great feedback from smart people can help you confirm that your good ideas are really worth pursuing, and it can help you choose the best book idea for you to start with. The key is getting started. Once you get the first book done and selling well, you’ll be so excited you won’t want to stop writing books.

3. Choose Your Best Book Idea

Based on feedback (10%) and your passion/interest/inspiration (90%), decide which book to write first.

Why:  You better be inspired to write your book and share your story. Otherwise, you’re going to need someone else to motivate you to finish it and market it. Feedback should only be used to clarify your own thoughts and ideas and make them better.

Lock yourself in a room again. No phone, no email, no interruptions for 15 minutes. Come up with as many ideas that you want to share in the book as you can think of. If you think of other ideas afterwards in the shower just add them to your list ASAP.

Organize these ideas into a tentative outline (see Step 5 in the main tutorial above). This will help guide your writing process.

Afterwards, you should be so excited that you can’t wait to start writing and/or speaking into a voice recorder (also a good option in lieu of an interview or as a supplemental way of recording info for the book). I use QuickVoice app for my iPhone when on the go.

Publishing: The Next Step After Writing Your Book …

After your book is finished, it’s time to get it published!

There are so many options available for publishing your book, including traditional publishing, indie publishing, self-publishing, and publishing your book with TCK Publishing.

No matter which publishing route you choose, it’s up to you to create a publishing plan for success. To do that, you need to study and focus on what you can control as an author.

You can also check out our guides and resources on how to write a children’s book , how to write a biography, and how to write a memoir for more tips.

Did you find this information helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

Additional Resources for Authors:

Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.


Franca Bartholomew

I just love the way this was written. It is so easy to follow the steps. It has a fun edge to it that is so appealing and encouraging. I like the language, formatting and writing style. This is quite timely for me. Thanks and special blessings to you and the team!

Steve in Texas

Thank God I somehow randomly came across this page. This is everything I needed because I was stuck. Now I’m marching forward. You rock!

Kaelyn Barron

Thanks Steve, I’m so happy we could help! Best of luck with your book :)

Brenda Shanabarger

I’m writing a bestseller & need a editor/publisher. Based on rue facts. I expect it to be a movie as well.

Hi Brenda, we have lots of lists of qualified editors. What genre would your book be?

Lee Sebranek

I’ve been writing for years as my head is full of stories. I’ve read hundreds of books. Now that I’m up in my years, I’ve decided to follow your advice and see how it works.

Hi Lee, that’s great to hear! I’m so glad you’re ready to start putting those stories on paper! Please let us know if you have any questions along the way :) best of luck!

Sana Vosanibola

Thanks for these great book writing tips. On my way

Glad you enjoyed the post, Sana! :)

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Living the writing life means living with failure

Not all missteps in an author’s life are part of a longer road to triumph.

Writing is a hard way to make a living, which is why a whole ecosystem exists to help you feel like you’re succeeding at it. Hashtags like #amwriting provide steady pep talks for people wading through the muck of a first draft. Dubious-seeming ads on Facebook peddle frictionless methods for selling thousands of copies of your book, practically without your even writing it. Perhaps less dubious but certainly more expensive, writing retreats offer chances to workshop your novel with professional guidance beneath the Tuscan sun or some equivalent. You can do it!

Except sometimes — often — most of the time? — you can’t. And when you fail, the ecosystem generally prefers you keep that to yourself. Social media thrives on self-deprecating riffs about rejection, but writers tend to reserve their most despairing fits of self-pity for their diaries. One of my favorite examples of the form is by Bernard Malamud, who, upon learning that his contemporary Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976, sourly jotted: “Bellow gets Nobel Prize. I win $24.25 in poker.”

To confess failure messes with the narrative that writers have collectively built around success. That narrative fittingly resembles Freytag’s Pyramid, a classic shape for dramatic structure: rising action with some complications along the way, building to a triumphant climax and gently returning back to earth. For a writer, that means long solitary hours toiling away, then collecting rejections, until that magic moment when you can share your Publishers Lunch deal announcement on Twitter. (At which point you might safely joke about those past rejections.)

But like everything else in life, literary trajectories aren’t usually so straightforward and triumphant. Writers’ moods certainly don’t work that way; after all, Malamud wrote at least a half-dozen deathless short stories and a couple of classic novels … and still felt sunk. The literary life is less like Freytag’s Pyramid and more like a sine wave — peaks and valleys, small victories alternating with strings of failures. If you’re lucky.

As the Canadian author Stephen Marche puts it, gloomily, in a slender new book titled “ On Writing and Failure ”: “There is no promised land. There is only exile.”

In this regard, if nothing else, Malamud and I (and Marche) have a little in common. For much of 2021 and 2022, I labored on a nonfiction book proposal I was confident would score me a deal-blurb tweet of my own. After years of struggling to find a book-length subject that would be worth the time and energy of both me and a publisher, I was confident I’d finally sorted it out. It was a book about a cultural figure whose name you’d almost certainly recognize, with an (I thought) interesting angle that hadn’t yet been written about at length. I had an enthusiastic agent with a track record, access to the relevant archives, a proposal honed to a blinding gleam. I’ve written three books — a photo history, a ghostwritten humor book and a brief work of literary criticism. But now, finally, I’d be able to scale the pyramid and write what in my head I called my big-boy book. All that was left to do was ship out the queries and wait for a yes. I imagined a chiming, resonant ping.

Instead, I spent a good chunk of 2022 collecting rejections and getting reacquainted with the words “narrow” and “broad.” The pings were replaced with tuba blats: My project offered “too narrow a slice” of the subject’s life, one editor said; the “audience for a book with this framing and argument could be on the narrow side,” another said. “I didn’t feel as if the writing opened this up for a broader audience,” said one more. There were market concerns: “I worry we may face headwinds with it in our market”; the project had only “a comparatively modest market.” Kind words were tempered: “Well done, but I am afraid it’s just too small.”

Forget peaks and valleys. I had arrived in a deep underwater trench, one of those otherworldly ones where the fish are creepily bioluminescent and snaggletoothed.

It’s not a rare story. But it’s worth occasionally throwing some cold water on the heroic narrative of the author who fields dozens of rejections and eventually triumphs. Sometimes ideas aren’t as good as we think they are. Sometimes failures are simply failures. The ecosystem wants us to take valuable lessons from those rejections, understand them as valuable guidance. But what can I possibly spark with this dump of wet twigs moldering in my inbox?

In “On Writing and Failure,” Marche attempts to reset the way we talk about such struggles. He stomps Freytag’s Pyramid flat. “Rejection never ends,” he writes. “Success is no cure. Success only alters to whom, or what, you may submit. Rejection is the river in which we swim.” Samuel Beckett’s directive to “fail again, fail better,” is misunderstood as inspirational, Marche asserts: “To fail better, to fail gracefully and with composure, is so essential because there’s no such thing as success. It’s failure all the way down.”

Marche has plenty of examples of writers who have faced rejection and failure — and anxiety — in spite of success. James Joyce couldn’t get a lousy teaching gig; George Orwell despaired of how his work was misunderstood; you know how things ended for Ernest Hemingway. Marche relates a funny story about how Margaret Atwood, the last writer who ought to feel competitive with anybody, hastened to tell a gaggle at a literary party that she, too, had written for the New York Times.

“If it was like that for Orwell, why would it be any different for you?” Marche writes. Indeed. I felt like a failure for the book I couldn’t write. But the three books that crossed the finish line never entirely felt like successes either; when I reflect on them, I think primarily about their flaws and the stress of writing them. Talking with other writers, I know it’s a common feeling. Writing something new is often a prayer that you might escape the pangs of disappointment over the last thing you wrote.

Marche’s book isn’t a pep talk, but it’s not intended to cut you off at the knees. His sole prescription is stubbornness. “You have to write. You have to submit. You have to persevere. You have to throw yourself against the door. That’s it.”

I haven’t given up on the possibility of writing another book. But I’ve abandoned the fantasy of trajectories — the idea that if I did write that book, it would represent the culmination of something. In fact, it would only be evidence of itself. One thing in an array of other things. A blip in the face of the failures of the past. And no guarantee against the failures that are sure to follow.

Mark Athitakis  is a critic in Phoenix and the author of “ The New Midwest .”

On Writing and Failure

Or, on the peculiar perseverance required to endure the life of a writer.

By Stephen Marche

Biblioasis. 128 pp. $12.99

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

How to Write an Ebook Be Ready to Publish in 10 Simple Steps By Candice Lazar for AWAI

How to Write an Ebook

These step-by-step instructions will walk you through our proven 10-step process on how to write an ebook and take the task from “daunting” to “doable.” Everything from help choosing a good topic, to writing and editing … nothing is left in doubt.

The idea of writing an ebook can be incredibly exciting at first. Imagining the finished product can really light you up to get started …

Until you sit down and think about how to do it.

Then the overwhelm might set in. How are you going to go from just an inkling of an idea — or maybe even no idea at all — to a finished product?

Like the old cliché about eating an elephant (the poor elephant!) … and, like most other things in business and in life …

Writing an ebook is easiest if you take it one step at a time.

We’ve broken it down for you below. If you need deadlines to keep yourself on track and to keep making progress, you can set them for each of these steps.

10 Steps to Writing Your Ebook, Even If You Have No Idea Yet What It’s Going to Be About

Make a Commitment to Write Your eBook

This sounds straightforward, and it can be. But, in the face of work obligations and personal commitments that allow for little free time in your daily life, you might tend to let projects like this slide.

Don’t let this happen with your ebook. Make a commitment to yourself that you’re going to write it.

Remind yourself that it’s well worth it. Think of all the purposes it can serve! Your ebook will be:

Plus, selling your ebook can be a major source of passive income. Once you publish it, you won’t need to do anything else but collect your earnings.

Imagine making money while you’re on vacation at the beach … or hanging out with your kids … or even sleeping!

Great, you’ve decided to write an ebook! Now, what are you going to write about?

You may already be raring to go with your answer. If a particular topic really speaks to you, go for it! Move forward to the next step. It’s much more fun to write an ebook (or anything, for that matter) when you’re enthusiastic about the subject. The entire process will happen more quickly and easily.

If you don’t know yet what you want to write about, spend some time brainstorming. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you choose a topic:

You may notice a couple of recurring themes here — things you like and things you’re good at. If there’s anything that fits both themes, even better!

Again, writing your ebook will be faster and easier when you’re writing about something you already have experience with.

Bob Bly goes into more detail with the four things you need to consider when choosing your ebook topic  …

Still need some inspiration? Check out our list of 1,010 ebook ideas .

Ebook Writing Tip

Ebook Writing Tip

Be interested in your topic.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time creating this ebook, so choose a compelling topic that will hold your attention. Plus, your interest in the subject will come across to your readers and make the ebook more enjoyable for them.

By now, you probably have a few potential ideas for what your ebook should be about.

Now it’s time to see whether other people agree!

You’re going to narrow the field by gauging whether other people would want to read about your possible topics.

Start with some keyword research. Think of a few relevant keywords for your subject and then evaluate them. A lot of tools will give you some basic information about your keywords for free, like Google Analytics and Google Trends.

Verify interest in your eBook topic by researching on

If your findings are promising, keep going by researching the same keywords on to see if there are a lot of books on your topic. If there are, there’s an audience for it.

Do the books on your topic have a lot of reviews? It’s a good sign if they do — it means the audience is engaged.

Then consider whether there’s a “hole” in the information about your topic. Is there something about the subject that isn’t currently being addressed by the other ebooks out there?

You’ll be doing a huge service for your readers if they’re looking for information on a certain topic and you’re the one to provide it to them …

Which could translate into huge sales!

Finally, review recent articles and publications about your subject. What are they saying about it?

Choose an evergreen topic.

An evergreen topic is one that will always be of interest to readers.

Why does it matter? Because trends come and go, and news doesn’t stay new for long. Ebooks on current topics are great at the time they’re written, but once those subjects aren’t hot anymore, your readers will taper off.

But, with an evergreen topic, there’s no shelf life. Your ebook will stay relevant for far longer, and you’ll be able to make more passive income from it than you would from a time-bound topic. Plus, you won’t need to update it very often.

What kind of evergreen topics are most suitable for ebooks? “How to” books, where the author teaches the audience, are the most popular.

Now, using all the information you’ve gathered, make a final choice about your topic and then get ready to move on to the next step!

Now it’s time to write your outline. This will keep you organized and on track when you start writing, and it’ll help prevent you from forgetting anything you want to include.

Spend some time at this. It’s better to come up with too many ideas than too few. If your ebook starts to become too long, you can always decide to skip some of the subtopics and write separate ebooks for them later.

“Remind me,” you’re thinking. “What should I include in my outline?”

You’ve put together a list of all the raw material that’s going to make it into your ebook.

Now it’s time to organize everything.

Here are a few common options to keep in mind when you’re deciding how to arrange your ebook:

This is a popular format for many instructional ebooks and articles that explain how to do something. It makes it easy for the reader to look at the subheadings and gauge where they are in the overall process of learning what you’re teaching. The steps can be numbered, but they don’t have to be — it’s up to you.

This is another common way to arrange an ebook. It’s similar to a step-by-step process, but the items on the list don’t need to be done in a particular order.

Remember when you used to have to do research in a printed and bound encyclopedia? That list of alphabetized (yet unrelated) subjects gives you a rough idea of what your ebook will look like if organized this way. This format is good for giving readers a broad overview of your topic.

It’s easy to develop an ebook that answers common questions about your topic … and it’ll be even easier if you’re already known as an expert on the subject.

Even if you’re not, you can still write a question-and-answer ebook after conducting research and interviews.

Once you’ve formatted your ebook and put your subtopics in order, it’s time to create your table of contents.

Every ebook should have a table of contents, even if the ebook is short and deals with a narrow topic.

The table of contents should be as thorough as possible. Include both chapter headings and subheads. These should serve as signposts that guide the reader to the material they want to know about.

You might be thinking, “But I want them to read the whole thing!”

Of course you do.

But, you want them to decide to do that on their own. If you force the reader to read your ebook by burying the information they’re looking for, they’ll just be annoyed …

And, they might decide to stop reading altogether.

But, a detailed description of the contents will help them find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Your ebook will have more value to them because of it. They’ll be more likely to read beyond the parts they need to, and they’ll be more likely to recommend it to others.

You have a lot of flexibility while creating the table of contents for your ebook. Just make sure everything is arranged in the right order and that the contents include your keyword (plus other synonyms for it) being used in a natural-sounding way.

Ready to start your ebook? Bob Bly can help with his program, The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Writing Success .

Stay on track.

Once your table of contents is in order, write a few sentences under each heading and subheading about that particular topic. This will help keep you from straying too much from the topic at hand. It’ll also help you see if you’re being too repetitive somewhere.

The next step in writing your ebook is researching it. Chances are you’ve already got a lot of useable source material from when you were choosing your subject. But, if you can see from your table of contents that you need to find more, now is the time to get it done.

Start with your favorite search engine and then move on to Amazon. You’ll also want to check out community forums and social media pages about the topic.

For offline research, conduct interviews as much as possible. Ask for referrals and seek out members of your audience through the forums and social pages. You can also post on classifieds websites like Craigslist.

If you have a bookstore near you, go there to see what books and magazines they stock that can help with your research. Check for the same things at your local library, too.

When you started researching how to write an ebook, you probably didn’t expect writing to be the 8th item on a list of 10. But, by getting everything else done first, you’ll have made this part of your project much easier on yourself.

Time to Write - Pen and Paper Next to eReader

The “writing” part of your ebook will be anticlimactic.

Since you already know your topic, you won’t experience writer’s block! And, you can write your ebook by simply building on your table of contents, if you want.

Remember, it’s important for your ebook to include your keyword(s) throughout and in a natural way. But, don’t overuse them or force them into sentences that sound awkward. And be sure to use synonyms to keep your writing interesting and avoid too much repetition.

Remember these two goals for your ebook:

1) Your primary goal is to answer the audience’s questions — including the ones they don’t know they have.

2) Your secondary goal is to make yourself look like a professional and competent expert.

Everything you write in your ebook should support these two goals. If something doesn’t, then change or delete it.

Congratulations — you’ve just finished writing your ebook!

But, you’re not finished just yet …

It’s time to edit your ebook.

Now, if you have a budget, you might consider hiring someone to edit your work. It’s easier for someone else to be more objective about it. Plus, writing and editing are two different skill sets, so a professional editor might do a better job than you can.

If you don’t want to hire an editor, you can offer to trade favors with someone else who’s writing an ebook — you edit theirs, and they edit yours.

Or, you can do it yourself. If you go this route, wait a few days to get started. That ensures you’ll look at your copy with “fresh” eyes. Not only is it easier to feel more objective about your work after a few days off, but you’ll be more likely to catch mistakes.

Use tools like your word processor’s grammar and spell check. Check your readability score online to be sure your writing isn’t too difficult for an average reader to follow along with. And use free tools like the Hemingway App to help you create more powerful sentences.

You’ve got an official ebook — a finished, edited, professional piece of work. Take a moment to pause and celebrate … treat yourself!

But, don’t take too long …

Because you’re still not finished. You still need to package and release your ebook. Don't worry, we've got it all covered in our article, How to Publish an Ebook .

You … a published author!

Ready to write your ebook? Let "America's Top Copywriter" and ebook writing expert, Bob Bly guide you step-by-step through the entire process from choosing a topic to distributing your finished product. Click here for all of the details about his program, Ebook Writing Success.

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2 Responses to “How to Write an Ebook — Be Ready to Publish in 10 Simple Steps”

I am looking forward to writing an E-book this article is really helping me a lot me, keep doing this great work and keep sharing with us.

Guest (Harish Kumar) – over a year ago

I have really enjoyed reading this! I just came up with the title to my ebook and remembered reading the title to this article. At the time, I thought, "Hm, that's interesting," and just went on. Then, after deciding what kind of writer I wanted to be, I looked this up again. Great work!

Sutha Stan – 4 months ago

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How to Cite a Book | APA, MLA, & Chicago Examples

Published on February 26, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 23, 2022.

To cite a book, you need a brief in-text citation and a corresponding reference listing the author’s name, the title, the year of publication, and the publisher. The order and format of information depends on the citation style you’re using. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago style .

Use the interactive example generator to explore the format of book citations in MLA and APA.

Table of contents

Citing a book in mla style, citing a book in apa style, citing a book in chicago style, where to find source information in a book, frequently asked questions about citations.

An MLA book citation includes the author’s name , the book title (in italics, capitalized headline-style), the edition (if specified), the publisher, and the year of publication. If it’s an e-book , write “e-book” (or a more specific description, e.g. “Kindle ed.”) before the publisher name.

The corresponding in-text citation lists the author’s last name and the page number of the passage cited.

You can also use our free MLA Citation Generator to create your book citations.

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless MLA citation

Citing a book chapter in MLA

To cite a book chapter , first give the author and title (in quotation marks) of the chapter cited, then information about the book as a whole and the page range of the specific chapter.

The in-text citation lists the author of the chapter and the page number of the relevant passage.

An APA Style book citation lists the author’s last name and initials, the year of publication, the title and any subtitle (in italics, capitalizing only the first word), the edition (if specified), and the publisher. Add a DOI or URL to the end of the entry if available (e.g. for e-books or books accessed online ).

In an in-text citation, state the author’s last name and the publication year, and a page number if you need to show the location of a specific quote or paraphrase .

You can also use our free APA Citation Generator to automatically generate your book citations. Search for a title, DOI, or ISBN to retrieve the details.

Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless APA citation

Citing a book chapter in APA

To cite a book chapter , list information about the chapter first, followed by information about the book, including the book’s editor(s) and the chapter’s page range within the book.

The author of the chapter, not the editor of the book, is listed in the in-text citation.

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Chicago notes and bibliography style uses footnotes to cite sources instead of parenthetical citations. These notes refer to a bibliography at the end giving full source details.

A Chicago bibliography entry for a book includes the author’s name, the book title and subtitle, the edition (if stated), the location and name of the publisher, and the year of publication. For an e-book , add the e-book format (e.g. “Kindle”) at the end.

Chicago also has an alternative style, Chicago author-date . You can see examples of book citations in this style here .

Citing a book chapter in Chicago

To cite a book chapter , start with the author and the title of the chapter (in quotation marks), then give the title (in italics) and editor of the book, the page range of the chapter, the location and name of the publisher, and the year of publication.

All the information you need for a book citation can usually be found on the book’s title page and copyright page. The main things you’re looking for are:

You should also check if the book specifies an edition (e.g. 2nd edition, revised edition) and if any other contributors are named (e.g. editor, translator).

The image below shows where to find the relevant information on the title and copyright pages of a typical book.

APA book source info

The main elements included in all book citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

In Chicago style and in the 6th edition of APA Style , the location of the publisher is also included, e.g. London: Penguin.

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

The abbreviation “ et al. ” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.

“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in APA reference entries .

Use “et al.” for 3+ authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

Use “et al.” for 4+ authors in a Chicago in-text citation , and for 10+ authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website ), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation . You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style , you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos ), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

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Home » Writing » 50 book ideas for writing a book you can start today

how to write on books

Ask yourself questions

Your everyday life is a goldmine of material for your creative work. Ask yourself these questions to figure out your next book idea.

1. What challenges are you facing? 

Telling your story about where you struggle can help other people feel less alone. Think about goals and obstacles in your personal, professional, or creative life and how you approached them.

2. What are you learning right now? 

Share whatever you’re working on and however you’re learning it—whether it’s about relationships, health practices, work efficiencies, or athletic competition, other people might benefit.

3. What’s happening in your day-to-day life?

Are you going through a big transition? Is there a weekly routine or yearly celebration that means something to you? Don’t overlook these things. Sometimes what has the most universal meaning is actually the most particular and personal.

Look around you

Be an explorer of your world and the people in it. Ask questions. Make observations. Travel down these paths to find out where your best book ideas are hiding:

4. Compile your family history

Who in your family has a story that needs to be told? How did your family (and you!) come to be how you are? A family history book is the perfect way to tell your story.

5. Explore your hometown history

What are the stories of how your town came to be? Highlight the famous people that put your town on the map, or include fun facts about local landmarks and insider tips for places you love.

6. Share your personal history

What were the key factors in your personal origin story? Reflect on the events and relationships that made you who you are today. 

7. Draw attention to a meaningful cause

Have you done any volunteer work that deepened your understanding or perspective? Do you have stories of how your organization changed lives and made a difference? Get the word out!

8. Talk about special events

Maybe you’ve been to over 30 Pearl Jam concerts, and you have the set list and memory for each one of them. Maybe you hosted a speakers’ series at your school. Maybe you attended a rally, and the conversations inspired you.

9. Share your travel stories

Put together a travel book filled with your writing and discoveries made while visiting distant lands, then combine them with your photographs.

Become your own storyteller

10. try an experiment.

Do something for 30, 60, or 90 days and document your experience.

11. Write the story behind your favorite topics

What are your favorite books, albums, songs, films, or paintings? Use each of these as story starter ideas to craft a creative and relatable book.

12. Highlight your biggest success

How did you set this goal? What led up to your achievements, and who helped you along the way?

13. Reveal your biggest failure

What did you learn? How can you help other people deal with fear, failure, or recovery and be resilient? 

14. Do something epic, then write about it  

Raising $20,000 for cancer research, tackling a big life obstacle, summiting a peak, visiting all 50 states—if you have an eye on writing a book, you’ll do these things differently and keep careful records. Wanting a story to tell might also inspire some pretty incredible adventures.

Pick a non-fiction genre to get started

15. write a big idea book.

These kinds of stories focus on a new concept, tool, or learning that will change how people love, work, and live. Teach other people one big thing you know.

16. Make a list book

The lists you keep for yourself—like a gratitude list or a list of local restaurants—can inspire and inform someone else. Take one of your lists and make it into a creative book!

17. Publish an educational photo book

Pair your most impressive photographs with interesting captions or stories of the local geography, history, flora, and fauna.

18. Compile a series of letters

If you have been part of an enlightening correspondence (and the other party involved is willing to share their story, too), document your dialogue in a book.

19. Create an interview book

Compile interviews with inspiring individuals in your life, community, or professional field. Organize the book around a particular theme, or turn the conversations into a series of essays that change the way people think.

Consider content you have already written

You might already have created a body of work that can fill the pages of a book, it just needs to be compiled, organized, and formatted. The process of pulling these ideas together might even inspire another project of new material.

20. Print a series of blog posts

If you’ve already taken the time to compose daily or weekly articles, you’re well on your way! Look for a common thread or topic running throughout, organize your posts into chapters or sections, and take your stories to the next level—in print.

21. Make a book of postcards

The art of snail mail doesn’t have to be lost forever. Make a fun, quirky, or insightful coffee table book of postcards you’ve received or ones you’ve collected.

22. Publish love letters

Making love letters public is not for everyone—but if you and your beloved agree to the project, you just might find yourself with a one-of-a-kind collaboration featuring poems, stories, and reflections. You can also get creative and write a series of fictional love letters to people, places, objects, or events you adore.

23. Turn your journal entries into a book

The unique journal pages of artists, writers, photographers, travelers, and introspective individuals are a fascinating genre all their own. Sharing your personal reflections can inspire readers of all kinds.

24. Publish your own cookbook

Do your friends and families love gathering around your table to taste your culinary creations? Are you a foodie inspired by certain ingredients, dietary trends, family traditions, local or international cuisine? Share your favorite recipes.

Look to the non-fiction bestseller categories from Amazon

Here are some possible book-writing ideas that fall within categories that represent Amazon’s bestselling non-fiction. Try these on for size:

Biography and memoir book ideas

25. try making a new city home.

Most people can identify with the challenges of relocating to a new place—whether it’s a different city, state, or country. Take your readers through the ups and downs of that transition.

26. Share your 25 best or worst date stories

Do you have a history of finding love in all the right (or wrong) places? Do tell.

27. Write a biography of a family member

Chances are, there’s at least one person in your family with a unique, inspiring, or powerful life story to share. Maybe you have a distant ancestor or living relative who defied all odds to make an astounding journey, overcome hardships, find personal success, or pave the way for others.

Self-help book ideas

28. describe the experience of intuitive eating.

Have you made personal strides in your approach to healthy eating and food? Share your story of empowerment from start to finish.

29. Explore new rules for dating

Take a lighthearted, compassionate, or serious approach to a popular topic. Depending on your area of expertise, you might include research, personal anecdotes, observations, or interviews.

Religion and spirituality book ideas

30. design an inspirational gift book.

Gather all your favorite quotes and pair them with photography, illustrations, or designs to create a motivational book.

31. Publish a religious study or devotional workbook

Share the divine wisdom and traditions that you know best, including classic teachings and lessons for personal growth.  

32. Write a religious memoir

Create a memoir based on personal events, learning, or transformations that led you to your current religious beliefs.

Health, fitness, and nutrition book ideas

33. inspire someone with 10 life lessons in food.

Maybe you learned how to maintain a healthy weight, or you discovered how the food on your plate affects your mood, sleep, or overall health. Don’t keep your success a secret!

34. Summarize your experience of 30 days on a specific diet

Ketogenic. Intermittent fasting. Low sugar. Mediterranean. Gluten free. If you tried it, it’s time to tell all.

35. Compile a research summary of how to exercise

Use your scientist-meets-fitness skills to create a guidebook with training tips, health facts, and exercise inspiration.

Politics and social science book ideas

36. explore public policy, ideologies, or politics.

The debate lover in you already has plenty to say about these big topics, so you bring your persuasive book to life with data and insights.

37. Forecast political and cultural trends

This kind of book takes a knack for research—so use your authority as a demonstrated expert or passionate professional to tell it like it is (or like it soon will be).

Cookbook, food, and wine book ideas

38. collect recipes from the family restaurant.

Cultivate a love of cooking and share your special kitchen traditions, recipes, and food photography with an audience who’s craving more. (Just make sure to get the a-ok from the original chef!)

39. Print a guide to local wineries with photos and reviews

Malbec or Shiraz? Moscato or Chenin Blanc? You don’t have to be a sommelier to share your love and knowledge of great wines.

40. Explain 10 things you learned about cooking

What do you know about baking the perfect cake? Got tips and tricks for southern barbecue? Write what you know.

Business and money book ideas

41. tell your story of getting out of debt.

Did you learn financial lessons the hard way? People of all ages are eager to know how you did it.

42. Write about securing investments for a project

You organized a first-of-its-kind fundraiser or wrote a grant that saved the day. Offer your best money advice to project leaders everywhere.

43. Offer tips on how to earn a living from creative work

Think of it as your gift to the next generation of artists, writers, filmmakers, and photographers.

44. Share advice on running a large business

Money makes the world go round. What’s your secret to managing a successful company?

45. Show what you learned from the failure of a startup

Big dreams, harsh reality. If you had to do it all over again, what would you want to know?

Education and teaching book ideas

46. publish a classroom curriculum you designed.

Did you create lesson units that your students absolutely loved? What kind of project materials were successful, and how could other people use them? Make a workbook, ebook, or even a magazine that details your process.

Crafts, hobbies, and home book ideas

47. develop a guide to meaningful photography.

These days everyone fancies themselves a photographer , but there’s more than a filter to making great images. Tell them what to aim for.

48. Make an instructional knitting or sewing guide

If you can stitch like a pro, share your project tips and expertise in a practical craft book .

49. Create an interior design guide book

Put your creative instincts in print by sharing your style advice and favorite trends, from Boho chic to French country to modern minimalist.

50. Encourage people to learn a new hobby

Beginner projects in woodworking. One room, twelve ways. Introduction to jewelry making. Your creative skills and talents are invaluable to others who are just starting out, so lead the way!

What are You Waiting For?

Just Pick One Book Idea and Start Writing

Print-on-demand makes it easier than ever to create one copy or a thousand. Whatever your next project idea, think of it as just that: your next project, not your only one. If the first book you create isn’t the book you know you have in you to write or make, that’s ok! This is just your first book. Once you do one, you’ll have what it takes to do the next one and the next one after that. The key is to start the journey toward the book you want to write or make and know that the books that come before it can take many different shapes.

What are you waiting for? Start your book today !

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