So you decided to write a book.
Every writer’s dream is to see their name shine on the New York Times Bestseller list. Not everyone gets to see their name in print, and even fewer get on the prestigious lists. Being an author changes the way people perceive you. Nevertheless, writing a book is not an easy task. Writer’s block, feeling overwhelmed with the task and feeling bored with your own idea are very real problems and can pop up when least expected.
But knowing how to start and writing will eventually get you to the end. The key is to follow a path that has proven to be useful. Outlined below are 21 steps you can follow with a foolproof outcome.
Let’s jump right in.
Before You Begin Writing
- Claim your writing space
You don’t need an Instagram-worthy beachside condo to write your next book (although it does sound very enticing). Finding a creative space to write might be a good idea, but it is not a requirement. Great authors started from very simple spaces like cafes and kitchen tables. Depending on the kind of environment you like to work in, choose a comfortable table and chair and a writing surface that will not distract you.
- Identify the genre of the book you want to write
This is the most crucial step of your book writing process. You can write any kind of book, but you would sell a lot more books on a topic you feel passionately about and have extensive knowledge about. Your book can fall into four literary genres: fiction, non-fiction, drama & poetry.
Try answering the following questions to identify your genre:
– Is book writing your end goal, or do you need to teach people something with your book?
-Do you want to create passive income from your book or become a full-time author?
-Do you need the book to supplement your business and add to your net worth?
Getting a clear idea of how you want the book to eventually function will help you identify the topic for your book.
- Re-tune your mind to start writing
Your mind is your biggest asset, and it is here where you first start working. Expect your book to be difficult to write and make you feel overwhelmed. You may also feel terrified of being unable to make it to market and a failed effort. Knowing your limitations only prepares you for the worst.
As these emotions emerge, so does self-doubt. Make sure you build your confidence about making it as an author. Tell yourself you are an author and believe the self-talk.
Your mind can trick you by creating a multitude of excuses. One day you may feel your story is not worth telling; the next day, you may feel you don’t have enough time or that your draft should be flawless. Re-tune your mind by reminding yourself about the topic and permitting yourself to write a vomit draft (your first imperfect draft).
- Get your writing tools in order
Writing tools will look different for every author. Make sure you have all the tools near you when you sit in your writing space to create your work.
Some people find it easier to hand write first and then type out their work, while others feel comfortable working with a keyboard directly. Although Microsoft Word is the industry standard for writing and editing, you may have a preference for a different software.
Additionally, assemble your stationery and necessary books, so you are not interrupted during work. You may need paperweights, tape dispensers, a bulletin board, a fan, a heater, a lamp or light source, a beverage, a mug, napkins, and tissues.
The Writing Process
- Create your writing plan
If you wanted to cook dinner, you would look for the recipe, get the ingredients and then cook. You would plan out the cooking procedure before putting the pan on the stove.
Similarly, for a book, you need to create a goal and break that goal into smaller units which can be achieved easily. Your smaller goals could look like: completing x number of chapters in y number of days or writing x number of words (irrespective of chapters) in z number of days. By breaking up your book writing project into smaller units, the task doesn’t look like a mammoth, and you get to focus more on writing.
- Figure out your book’s objectives and audience
Think How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The right concept at the right time to the right audience makes a high impact. Dale’s book doesn’t offer something unique; it explains simple life rules. However, the book provides actionable insight and invites readers to apply the learning in real-time. This made the book very relatable and well-liked.
Today’s audience is more diverse and more fragmented than ever before. The objective of your book should be to serve a fragment or a certain section of the audience and not try to cater to everyone. Or else you will end up creating a book that is too general. Find the audience you want to write for and see what they enjoy reading.
- Narrow down the book’s idea
Once your audience is narrowed down, choose a few topics you can work with. Write them down and create your concepts around the topics. You may or may not want to write them down for a visual.
Narrow down on the topic that you feel compelled to write about. It will feel complete, and your concept will have a beginning and end.
- Create an outline
Once your brainstorming session is complete, start writing by creating an outline. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction, an outline will help keep your story on track. A book of poems is usually written after most or all poems of the book are complete. The outline merely functions as the table contents, which is a good idea to use. For a book about drama, it is a good idea to create a separate outline for each drama you want to include.
Outlines cluster important ideas and concepts under different headlines. Without an outline, it will take much longer to finish your work.
- Create a writing schedule
Set a time and writing goal for yourself. Unless you do it consistently, your book may never see the light of the day. Sit in your writing space and type out strings of words consistently.
Many authors will swear to being consistent on a daily basis. However, it is not a requirement. You can be consistent 3 times a week and still finish your book.
Set a minimum writing goal if consistency doesn’t work for you. A recommended 250 words per hour is a good starting point. If you get to write for only 1 hour per day, you write 250 words which is one page of your book per day!
- Start your book
The introduction of the book is what will keep the reader interested. Make it their while’s worth. Most people will pick up a book and just read the short introduction or first few pages to get a hint of what the book is about.
Make the first few pages about the reader, their problems and stories, and a better future. If you need to write about yourself, ensure you are not overdoing it. Outline what your book is offering. Make sure your introduction doesn’t offer a story to no end, isn’t too long and isn’t only about the author’s life.
- Set a deadline
Create a sacred deadline and try to stick to it. Ask someone in your family to hold you accountable for the deadline. Use a calendar to keep you updated. Make sure your writing deadline ends months before your book goes for publishing.
- Know that things may slip and slide- enter procrastination!
Procrastinating is as normal as eating and drinking. It happens to the best of us, and the best remedy is – to accept it.
Then go back to your writing schedule and make adjustments to it without violating your deadlines. Make sure you don’t put off writing your book indefinitely just because you procrastinated too long.
Eliminating distractions like the internet and phone while working will also help you complete your work faster. Block your apps temporarily while writing to enhance your focus and reduce time slippage.
- Conduct good research
When writing fiction or drama, people assume it’s just making up a story. However, a lot of research goes into making the fiction sound believable. For non-fiction, it is a given that research makes it not just plausible- it makes it authoritative and trustworthy.
You can listen to online resources, read books, listen to expert interviews, read scholarly articles and search newspapers, data records, and historical journals to gather credible research for your writing.
- Stay focused
Once you start writing your book, the idea is to keep going. Make sure you stay motivated to stick to the writing plan and write without editing. Your first draft, also called the vomit draft, is bound to look unfinished and unruly. If you can fight the temptation, do not read what you have written until you have finished the book. Your brain can either create or edit and cannot do both at the same time. Going over your work repeatedly will only stall your creative process.
- End your book
Write the conclusion your reader came to the end for. Your ending should be a clear summary of the book or a perfect ending to a fine storyline. It should address all lingering issues or have a call to action. Do not introduce new content or tell your readers off somehow.
- Find a Title for your Book
Find a title that works for your book. A bad title is better than having no title at all. Come up with a working title that you can alter later during editing.
- Find a clear voice and delivery with good writing principles
Many authors write books to share their voice with the world. So how do you know what your voice sounds like? Think of a conversation you had with your friends. How does your voice sound when you talk to them? What are your tone and delivery? Translate that quality into your writing.
In addition to finding your voice, use good writing principles. Use descriptive language to evoke imagery but keep your sentences short, simple and direct. Make your reader see and sense what you are trying to convey.
- Applaud yourself- the vomit draft is complete!
This is a big deal. Your basic template and idea are out on a manuscript. Stop and reward yourself with some relaxation and me time. Set the work aside for a while. This will give you some perspective when you start the editing process.
- Edit for the audience
The book is all yours but remember, you wrote the book for an audience. You can think of all the stories and self-sufficing realities when writing but when you edit, make sure you keep your reader in mind. Your reader has a short attention span, is impatient and doesn’t know anything about your subject. You will need to grab their attention one paragraph at a time.
This is a process you as the author will need to perform yourself.
- Edit for correctness and conciseness
Once you are through with editing for an audience you will need to professionally edit for correctness, clarity and flow. Your goals may include having the correct order/structure of events/happenings in the book, making sense of the flow, grammar and punctuations, and ease of understanding and usage. You can have more goals set out for your book’s editing process.
For this stage, hire a professional book editor who will suggest the edits to you. Working with editors takes time so make sure you know what kind of editing you require for the book.
- Book Publishing & Marketing
The last step is to get your book published.
Create a book cover with an effective design. Consider adding a subtitle or tagline that explains or adds a description. Consider using more than one cover art design and choose one to run with.
If you are going the traditional route, you will have the option of getting your book edited and designed by an in-house team. However, if you decide to self-publish, you will work with freelancers.
Many self-book publishing platforms like KDP offer decent royalties on book sales. However, the guidelines of work and payouts at traditional book publishers are different. You can choose to work with both depending on the contract terms with each.
The next step will be book marketing as extensively as you can. Irrespective of the platform you chose to publish with, it is your book and your brand. You can use free advertisement opportunities, paid advertisements, local events, Google ads and speaker opportunities on podcasts, websites and events to market your book extensively.
Don’t be the author who decides to write 60% of the book and then quits it simply because they don’t feel motivated by the message. Remember that people want to enjoy a good book, and you have an obligation to yourself to bring such a book to them. Keep writing and publishing. The world needs to read it.
By Elisa Frag