There are probably thousands or even millions of people out there, dreaming about finally writing the book they have been thinking about. Despite having the desire to make magic with words, many often struggle when confronted with the question, “what will I even write about? How will I write a book? I don’t even know how!”
In this post, we will answer both questions, albeit, the second question will be answered in relatively more detail.
The first half of the question is, in the majority of cases, a representation of the writer’s insecurity of not having subject matter to cover in the books. A quote, in gratitude to the great Sylvia Plath, answers – or rather resolves the issue quite poetically. She said:
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
As a writer, readers, and appreciator of a good book, I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Plath. There is no idea good or bad until you put it down in words and use your magic to bring it to life within the pages of a diary – or in the pages of MS Word for the modern kind.
How to Write a Book in 10 Steps
Now all that remains is the second half of that question. How to write a book!
Now, writing a book doesn’t have to involve a lot of intricate steps and forlorn thinking. It’s a matter of finding a category or niche you are knowledgeable about or passionate enough to research and then finding a story.
It’s not necessary that you write a tale of wondrous fiction. When you begin writing a book, it can be about anything. From a guide on fly fishing to a small collection of advice from the perspective of a life coach, there are plenty of topics to cover.
Let’s compress the process into 10 steps that make writing a book easy:
Step 1: Picking the Subject/Category/Genre
As much as people don’t like clichés, but when it comes to writing a book, the world is your oyster.
One way to approach this step is exactly how you would shop for books. What is your bookshelf mostly made up of? Are their easy-to-read Young Adult novels lining the shelves, or do you tend to delve more into historical fiction? Is it the dark and macabre style of H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Ellen Poe more to your liking? Or are you more into non-fiction?
As the king of horror, Stephen King puts it, “Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
This is another way of saying that when you choose your favorite subject to read, you already understand the audience well enough to know what they would like to read.
If you’re not a big reader but still want to write, a deep dive into your mind. If you’re a professional, a book concerning your area of expertise would be a great option.
Step 2: Research
Before giving your book a structure and outlining it, do some research. Read some books relevant to your chosen subject or similar to the idea you had come up with. If you’re writing fiction, this is where you would figure out your story, the background, characters, themes, etc.
This phase can be as long or as short as you would like. If your book covers cases, interviews, transcriptions, etc., your research phase will include collecting all the necessary information you will require to write the chapters.
Step 3: Create an Outline
This might be a little unorthodox piece of advice, but try going backward. Begin with the end of the book. Fiction writers will tell you that endings are often the hardest parts to write. Even though it seems easy as you have already out the story down, creating an ending that makes sense for the book, characters, and the readers is necessary.
You don’t have to be flummoxed thinking about the end. When you have it written down, you can begin writing the book.
Once you have the ending down, you can start at the beginning and create an outline. Map out the chapters, create mind maps that shed a little light on what each chapter will include, etc. Of course, this will all be tentative as storylines have a tendency to change and take even the ones conjuring them, by surprise.
Step 4: Writing the First Draft
Now you have the outline, research material and the ending, it’s time to write the book. Since this is the first-ever draft, this will be purely for you. This is the time to discover the story and flow of the book.
As you continue writing, you will make changes, discover new characters, discard plotlines, untangle loops, etc. this is where your thoughts and ideas will begin taking shape into a proper book.
Here are some tips that might come in handy at this phase of you writing a book:
- Set a total word count. There is no absolute rule defining exactly how long a book should be. However, there are some guiding principles that research has shown to work well among readers. We are not mentioning ebooks or whitepapers here as this article focuses on book writing:
- Standard fiction – 40K to 60K words
- Long Fiction – 60K to 80K words
- Long Novel – 80K to 100K words
- Academic book/ epic/ biography – 100K+ words
- Set daily or weekly deadlines. Writing a book requires quite a lot of self-motivation. Some structure and a routine will push you to pick up your laptop and actually some words done in the day.
- Get some feedback on your work. Don’t worry about negative feedback at this stage. Approach people whose opinions you trust and respect. Constructive criticism at this point will only make it easier when it comes to publishing the book.
Step 5: Take a Break
This step doesn’t need much elaboration but once you have the first draft complete, take a break. Just a weekend away or a visit to your favorite watering hole will refresh your brain so you can return with a clear head.
Step 6: Review
This is the stage where you should read and review the book, not as the writer. Be objective when you read it. If you think any part needs to be rewritten, do it. Analyze the writing as if you were the editor or publisher.
Does it flow well? Does it cover everything you wanted? Does the ending make sense?
Questions like these can help you determine what a potential reader might think about your book. This is where the book will be for your audience and not solely for you.
Step 7: Edit Away
Editing is where you will truly give your book a polish. From reducing adverbs to eliminating grammatical errors, putting in metaphors, using synonyms, cutting out the fluff, etc. will make your book more readable.
If you’re not sure you can do the job yourself, there are professional book editors ready to help. They have the skill and technical understanding of the language and third-party objectivity required for the editing phase.
Step 8: Submit to Agents or Self Publish
With the book complete, edited, and ready to see the world, it’s finally the step where you send it out into the world. You can either choose the conventional route of publishing and approach agents and publishers for your book.
If that is not something you wish to do, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a platform that has given many aspiring authors a place to showcase their works. The right way to do either of those is starting with some research.
Make sure you understand the process, weigh the pros and cons of both, and make a well-informed decision.
Step 9: Promotion
This mainly involves testing your marketing tactics and promoting your work of art. Whether you choose to approach the blogosphere, social media, Kindle Select, SEO, or other forms of digital marketing, make sure you utilize all avenues.
Instead of seeking validation through online visibility, aim to reach and build an audience. Be active on social media; check up on reviews, write blogs, etc. If you’re not well-versed in the realm of digital marketing, you can hire professionals who can assist.
Step 10: Persevere
And lastly, all that is left for you to do is continue building your audience. If another book is not on the horizon yet, try blogging and creating a conversation around your book through an online strategy. Engage in relevant discussions, visit panels and events, and keep the buzz alive.
While these 10 easy steps to writing a book present the process in a concise form, there is a lot of thought and work involved in writing a book. If you find yourself struggling, professional book writers and editors can help you along the process and finally have your ideas come to life.