How to Write a Book: A Step-by-Step Guide
Dust off your writing chops and get to it! You can write the book you've been dreaming about when you break it down into manageable steps.
Make a commitment
The first step to how to write a book is to believe that you actually can. And that you should. Whether you want to tackle a novel, a compilation of essays or short stories, or your non-fiction opus, you’re going to need confidence and commitment. Author and consultant Bryan Collins recommends committing to your book project as if it’s your job and carving out time to write every day. If you’re passionate and determined, you can work those writing hours into your schedule. Committed writers get up early, write into the night, and make time during their regular routines. You’ll need to commit to making your book project a priority.
Home in on your idea and scope
You might want to dive right in when you look at that first blank page. After all, you’ve committed to writing your book. But the second step to how to write a book focuses on getting centered on your book idea. If you’re writing in the non-fiction genre, you’ll need to narrow large topics into manageable and detailed sections or chapters. The same focus applies to fiction. A book may seem like a huge project with unlimited length that can hold everything you’ve dreamed up. But you’ll need focus and direction. As you get started, zero in on your primary threads, topics, and concepts. That way, when you do start to write, you have a focused path to guide you. Find out the grammar rules you can safely ignore.
Do your homework
Lisa Bogart, author of Knit with Love and several other books, explains that when she started on her first book she didn’t know the business of writing. She had big dreams, but learning about the craft, in addition to publishing, was crucial. Bogart says, “there are no good shortcuts. Learn all you can as you pursue your writing dreams.” When you’re just learning how to write a book, take it step-by-step and allow time for education. Consider who your readers will be and how you’ll appeal to those people.
Set the big deadline
When you’re figuring out how to write a book, you may think typing every day will get you to the end. But you’ll have a better chance of success if you have a set goal with a deadline. Choose a future date that is realistic and reachable. The process could take several paths or detours along the way to your final deadline, but don’t write into a void. Decide on a realistic timeline for your book and give yourself end date. Don’t miss the unexpected life lessons this grandmother learned while writing her memoir.
Plan out your schedule
Bestselling author Jerry Jenkins recommends that you create a schedule for your writing time. Schedule it into your calendar or set an alarm as a reminder. You’ve already committed to completing your book and you’ve set your larger goal. Now it’s time to map out the road to get there. You might tell yourself that you can squeeze in some writing during your lunch break or before bedtime, but it may not happen if you don’t build it into your schedule. If you make it part of your routine, you’ll stick to it. (And if you don’t, take solace in the fact that some very famous writers were major procrastinators.)
Create an outline
When author Peggy Frezon submitted her first memoir she was told she needed a story arc. She went back and revised her manuscript with all the facets of the story in mind. Her book sold. Frezon recommends that first-time authors “take time to construct an enticing outline or story map (for both fiction and nonfiction). This will help you create narrative cohesion and tension, and keep your reader hooked.” Frezon recommends you craft your books with an outline for rising and falling action and conflict and resolution until the final scene. She’s published five books, including her latest Faithfully Yours for Kids—a follow-up to Faithfully Yours: The Amazing Bond Between Us and the Animals We Love.
Develop detailed sketches
The steps for how to write a book are so much more than the actual writing. You’ll also need to flesh out your story arc or outline with character and setting sketches. You’ll need to figure out the directions for plot points, timelines, themes, and all contributing details. Nonfiction books will also benefit from focused and detailed plans for the book’s content and chapter structure. Think of sketches, profiles, and research as detailed maps or recipes for the story arc, outline, or structure you’ve established. Don’t miss the grammar myths your English teacher lied to you about.
Write like a warrior
Now that you have your goal and schedule, your outline and your sketches, you’re finally set to begin. You’re ready to write. Book authors know that facing the blank page day after day can be daunting. You have to arm yourself with stamina and the courage to carry on. Kerry Neville, the author of Remember to Forget Me, offers the following advice to new writers: “Write like a warrior, through fear and into courage. My mantra? I write not because I am courageous but because I am afraid. I discover my courage in the writing, and am no longer silenced by fear.” So when you’re nervous to start and finish your pages or word count for the day, keep going. Write until your courage shows up. Did you know that having a lucky pen could make you a better writer?
Finish that messy first draft
If you worry too much about perfection, you might never finish your book. Push through hard days by allowing yourself to get the words out in any condition. You will revise them later, and in fact, that’s one of the keys to how to write a book. For your first draft, you need to get the writing done. Write sloppily if you have to. Write when you’re tired and uninspired. If you’re struggling, don’t quit. Meet that deadline and stick to your schedule. Some of what you write will be totally unusable. That’s OK. Your first draft can be a mess. You’ll fix it.
Revise, revise, revise
You’ve heard it before and there’s no way around it: writing is rewriting. Books don’t get typed out in a form that’s ready for publication. Most writers go through several rounds of revisions and rewrites before their work ever sees another set of eyes. Leave time in your schedule to let your work sit in between revisions so you can give it the fresh perspective it deserves. Find inspiration in these most quotable books.
Get trusted feedback
Now that you’ve written a solid second, or even third, draft you’re ready to let someone you trust see your work. Consider hiring an experienced editor. Even professional writers benefit from a set of expert eyes. An editor experienced in your book genre can see problems and potential that you can’t. Many writers pay an experienced editor for feedback at this stage.
Write yet another draft
After you’ve gotten feedback—or several sets of it, you’re ready to hunker down and do another revision. The same steps apply here. You’ll need to set a rigid schedule and stick to it. Writing a book can be a huge pleasure, but you have to take the steps to do it right.
Find an agent
You’ve written your book. You received feedback. You’ve revised and rewritten. You’ve polished and shined. Now you’re ready to find an agent and grab that book deal! Harry Bingham at Jericho Writers recommends that you target your agent search. Choose between 8 and 12 agents to start out, sending each of them a stellar cover letter and a great book synopsis. At this point, you finally get to sit back and wait for your potential agents to request sample pages, sample chapters, and the full manuscript and to finally, offer you representation. Your agent will help you submit your book to publishers—and that’s when you’ll finally get your book deal. Next, find out the 70 words and phrases you’re probably using all wrong.