Deciding to start writing a book is intimidating, especially if you’re a beginner. The Web Bizzare is Here to help you out!
When you’re not sure how to start writing a book, it can paralyze you.
What if nobody reads it?
What if your writing is terrible?
Who are you to think you can write a book?
These thoughts are so common. They’re the default, actually, but then how can so many people be publishing despite them?
It takes some grit to write a book, but we know that every person is capable of making it happen, even if you’ve never written before, and we have the tools to help you.
Beginning the process of writing a book and presenting it to a worldwide audience is very exciting but also a little scary—especially if you mess it up and end up making a fool of yourself.
Here is a GREAT example For Reference.
It’s a fear we all have, trust me…
You have amazing book ideas that you want to share with the world, and you’re more motivated than ever to educate your readers about them!
This is how you can start writing a book today:
- Start by setting up your writing environment
- Develop a writing habit to start
- Create a book outline to start writing
- Focus on writing your book ONLY
- Maintain your focus at the start
- Schedule book writing time
- Deal with writing distractions
- Start writing your book!
Once you begin, you may realize that writing a book is hard work. There are many obstacles that can prevent you from writing and can create stress leading to anxiety.
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.
Before You Begin Writing 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.
#1 Establish your writing space.
To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career on 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.
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.
#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 post on book writing software and my writing tools page for 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, editors, 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:
- Paper clips
- Pencil holders
- Pencil sharpeners
- Note pads
- Printing paper
- Tape dispensers
- Cork or bulletin boards
- Reference works
- Space heaters
- Beverage mugs
- You name it
- Last, but most crucial, get the best, most ergonomic chair you can afford.
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!
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.
How to Start Writing a Book
1. Break your book into small pieces.
Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! But your manuscript will 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 your 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 be expanded to an outline, you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.
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.Click here to download a PDF version of this post.
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 and 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, put interesting characters in 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. They 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.
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.
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?
- A favorite TV show?
- An hour of sleep per night? (Be careful with this one; rest is crucial to a writer.)
- A movie?
- A concert?
- A party?
Successful writers make time to write.
When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.
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.
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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.
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.
8. Conduct your research.
Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
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 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:
- World Almanacs: These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names.
- The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus: The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want to onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
- WorldAtlas.com: Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.
9Start 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.
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Figure out how to end your book.
You need enthusiasm to undertake the project of writing a book, but in my experience, it’s folly to get too carried away and simply start writing the book without a plan. Just as Rowling’s first pages of Harry Potter never made it to the book, your ideas are bound to shift over time — either because you think of new great ideas or because you realize the ideas you had to start aren’t as great as you believed.
You might not have believed in outlines during your school days, even for a 20-page essay. However, writing a book is like writing 20 different 20-page essays, all of which should work cohesively to complement and further that basic theme or idea you began with.
Sometimes it is okay to wing it. As Brandon Sanderson writes, planned writing can help you with foreshadowing or planning a series, while more spontaneous writing allows you to tell jokes and add humor in places when the opportunity arises.
“There’s no one perfect way to do this,” Sanderson says. “George R. R. Martin described some of the extremes in terms of ‘Gardeners’ and ‘Architects.’ Gardeners grow a story, without a firm idea of where they are going. Architects tend to build an outline as a frame and work from it.
“I’m (usually) an architect. I’ve found that the best way to get the kinds of endings I like. I have to know where I’m going before I start.
“That said, an outline has to be a living thing of its own. I need the flexibility to knock out entire sections of it and rebuild them; I do that frequently.”
Two important notes here: The first is that no one is (or ought to be) entirely either a gardener or an architect. Sanderson describes himself as an architect, but he admits that he needs the freedom to let the outline grow the way a gardener would. Martin is probably more of a gardener, given how he grew the series from a single sentence, and yet in his 60 Minutes interview, he talks about creating histories, maps and structures for his series. He even has a Game of Thrones expert to consult with whenever he has questions about continuity.
You can choose your own balance. I typically prefer writing the book to outlining, but there’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you need to pivot, rendering the first 200 pages of your book useless. I had to rework major sections of the book due to my lack of foresight, leading to months-long delays that I might have avoided if I had spent a few days, or even weeks, figuring out how to write the book ahead of time.
The more complex your book idea, the more time I recommend you spend planning how to write your book. For example, my story involved two narratives alternating and intertwining in various ways. Changing something in one storyline affected the other, meaning that every alteration was sort of like a game of Jenga — the whole book could fall apart if I pulled out the wrong building blocks.
Take a look at Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series — a 10-book epic covering dozens of characters, storylines and times that could be as many as 4 million words — and you’ll see why his outlines are more complex. Here’s an image of one Stormlight book’s format.
“You see, Stormlight books have a kind of strange format,” Sanderson writes. “I plot them in this bizarre fashion that likely makes sense only to me.”
Sanderson also creates written outlines, detailing scenes, images, names and phrases he wants to include. You can check out an early version here.
Rowling also created a spreadsheet-style outline when writing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The outline explains when each chapter in the novel takes place, the title of the chapter and what happens in that chapter. She then explains how the plot of the chapter advances the six fundamental subplots of the book.
Try Rowling’s outline or Sanderson’s. Try the Snowflake method. Come up with your own style on how to stay organized, but an outline and a plan will help you see the bigger picture. Just as you want to stay on-brand with your business offerings, you should use the backbone of your book to create a cohesive story all the way through.
Don’t try to write the whole book in one sitting.
You’ll fail, and then you’ll get discouraged. Unless you’re writing a small booklet (say, fewer than 10,000 words), you probably won’t be able to finish in a week or even a single month. The key to finishing a book is committing to making consistent progress.
I’m a big believer in keeping track of your word count, both on a daily basis and overall. The daily word count keeps you accountable, while the overall number allows you to get a bigger picture. The average book has about 250 words per page, so you can easily keep track of how long your book will be by thinking that every 1,000 words is equal to four pages.
When writing the first draft of my book, I aimed for 1,500 words per day, inspired by the fact that Stephen King tries to write six pages every day. I wasn’t perfect, of course, but I was able to finish a 118,000-word draft (a little short of 500 pages) in about five months.
It’s realistic for everyone to write 1,500 words per day. You might have a day job, a side hustle, a family at home or a hundred other things that take away from the number of hours you can spend sitting alone at a writing desk or cafe table. Just create a goal for yourself and be mindful about hitting that goal as often as you can. In my experience, it’s the surest and most efficient way of writing books.
If you get stuck, move to a different part of the book. Try editing something you wrote earlier, or jump to a different scene. Do research for the chapters you want to write next. Just keep writing and moving forward.
4. Edit the book.
When I was in school, I hated to go back and edit my writing. It was boring because I had finished creating and needed to shift my brain to a more technical, objective mode of thinking. More than that, it was disappointing, because the words never looked as good on the page as they had felt while I wrote them.
That disappointment is exactly why it’s critical to edit your work. Novelist Sam Sykes posted on Twitter (only somewhat jokingly) that there are seven stages of writing a book:
- This is good.
- This is okay.
- This is bad.
- I am bad.
- I am the worst.
- Holy crap, kill me.
- This is okay.
You’ll probably never feel as good about your book as you do while writing the first draft. That doesn’t mean that your first draft is the best — remember, Rowling remembers precisely the first time she started writing Harry Potter, even though those pages didn’t make the final version.
It’s only upon reflection that you can see that the execution of your idea doesn’t quite measure up to the grand image you had in your head. You can get closer to that vision only through dedicating yourself to improving and edits. There are plenty of resources you can use to learn more about editing, and each case will probably be different.
When I wrote my book, it took four drafts before I felt confident enough to submit the work to literary agents. Here’s what I did with those drafts:
- Write the book, beginning to end. I didn’t have a very good story just yet — the beginning didn’t match the ending that I eventually settled on, and the characters didn’t seem quite real yet. But, I worked out the plot and how the important characters ought to interact with one another. I figured out the format of the book and how the separate narratives would eventually merge over time. My first draft weighed in at approximately 118,000 words.
- Fill out the book and create more detail. Whenever I got stuck or frustrated during the first draft, I chose to move on and leave a section or chapter blank. I had a particularly difficult time working out how to convey an important confrontation — I simply didn’t know enough about my characters and the book I was trying to write during the first draft. Going through a second time, I better understood my goals, and that understanding allowed me to write with more confidence. I filled in all of the blank places, creating a complete but overly long story. This draft was approximately a whopping 190,000 words.
- Cut and sharpen the book. Now that I had the full story on the page, all I had to do was tell it more precisely. Like a sculptor chiseling away at stone, I got rid of my filler words.
- Show others the book. No matter how good you are at writing books or editing books, it’s crucial to get feedback from other readers. These readers will point out things you would never have thought of — parts that seem obvious to you might actually be confusing, sections that you meant to sound comical only come off as annoying. My fourth draft was very similar to the third, both in content and in length, but it was a better story because of others’ help.
5. Accept the book.
This can be the toughest step of all. So many entrepreneurs are perfectionists who want to get their product or offering exactly right before they send it to market. If you want your book to be published at a traditional publishing house, and you don’t already have a big following or previous book experience, you will need to wow your audience.
That said, going over the same sentence over and over again probably isn’t going to make a difference. Making big changes means big-time commitments, and it’s simply unproductive to try to re-work the same concept 100 different ways. You’ll wear yourself out on stuff that doesn’t make your book significantly better, and then you’ll burn out.
Understand that your book probably isn’t going to be perfect. Not everyone is going to like every part of it. As King said in his book, On Writing, “You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”
You already understand that your business has a niche, your book ought to have one, as well. If just one percent of the U.S. loves your ideas enough to buy your book, you’ll make it to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.