If I had a pound for every time, I’ve been asked how to write a book I’d be a multi-millionaire. So many people around the world want to write a book – yet so few people do? Why?
I’ve spent several years coaching, mentoring and training aspiring authors and there are a few key reasons:
- A lack of time
- A lack of space
- A lack of confidence
- Not sure which book to write
- Not sure how to get started
These are subjects that come up in my writing tribes daily.
So, let’s get straight to the point.
Step One: Decide which book you want to write.
There’s a good chance that you’ve got a book in mind. Decide whether you want to write fiction, nonfiction, a memoir, a novel or a business book. There are so many types of books to write.
What appeals to you?
Have you wanted to write creatively – create a fiction story? Or is your desire to share your experience, information and knowledge with the rest of the world?
Action: Decide which you want to write first. There can be other books, blogs, articles, papers, speeches etc.
Narrow it down to fiction or non-fiction – that’s a great start.
Step Two: Decide which topic or genre to write.
If you’ve decided on fiction – do you have a character, a situation, a conflict or an experience you want to fictionalise?
If you’ve decided on nonfiction, professional or business book then what topic or subject?
Tip: If you’re not sure write every topic you can write about and group them into broad subject areas then consider the following questions while deciding:
- Which would your readers want to know about;
- Which do you know the most about;
- Which are you the most passionate about
Action: Decide whether you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction.
Step Three: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotters are the planners of the writing tribe. They like detailed plans and outlines. Some examples of plotters are James Patterson and JK Rowling.
Pantsers (which comes from ‘flying by the seat of your pants’) are those who choose not to plan their books. Stephen King and Margaret Atwood are pantsers.
Neither is right or wrong – it is simply about what gets those words on the page. If you’re not sure – try both and decide then.
A plotter can have anything from a spreadsheet with scenes and chapters outlined or a detailed outline of fifty or sixty pages with scenes, characters and even some dialogue planned.
If you decide you are a plotter the simplest way to proceed is to list each chapter – including an introduction and conclusion/summary for nonfiction, according to subject areas you’ve decided to include. Then fill in what you’d like included in those chapters.
Tip: Remember you can change those chapters whenever you choose.
If you are a pantser then it can be as simple as choosing a character and a situation and from there – just start writing. One famous example is Stephen King deciding on his character – an author is driving down a remote road and his car breaks down; he knocks on the door of the only house in the vicinity. He let the characters do ‘their thing’ and that became ‘Misery’.
Tip: If you are choosing nonfiction then I would strongly recommend you develop some sort of plan – even if it is only a one-page outline. Aspiring authors often try to shoehorn everything they know into their first book out of fear that they might not have enough information ‘to fill a book’. That is never true – most writers end up having to cut a great deal of irrelevant information or repetition out at the end of their draft.
Step Four: Start writing.
You need to write every day – even if it is only for 10 minutes a day. Writers need to get themselves into the habit of writing every day and it will make it easier to get into the creative side of your brain when you want to. The creative side of our brains is like any muscle – it works better the more you exercise it.
Put one word after another – you start, continue and finish your books exactly that way.
Tip: If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of an entire book – just do ten minutes writing today, then 10 minutes writing tomorrow and so on. Your only job is to complete that ten minutes writing every single day. That will get your book finished without the idea of producing an entire book at once.
Tip: Do not jump between the right and left sides of your brain – concentrate only on writing during your daily writing sessions. Leave editing, researching and reviewing until later – they are tasks completed by the logical side of your brain. If you jump between the creative and logical side of your brain you will stop your creative flow and more than likely end up with writers’ block.
Tip: You do not need to write chronologically – you can pick and choose what and when you write each part. Just ensure that you save it carefully so you can put it together at the end.
Step Five: Maintain momentum
It is the small things we do every single day that make the greatest changes in our lives. Keep to writing every single day, even if it only ten minutes at a time. Your growing wordcount will keep you motivated, and you’ll be astounded by how much you can get written in such short time.
Step Six: Finish.
You will know when you’ve finished your book. Either the loose ends in your novel will have been tied up and the conflicts for your characters resolved or you will have reached the end of your non-fiction book outline.
Now you will need to:
- Put it aside for some space
- Read it through in its entirety for a ‘sense check’
- Read through for typos and grammatical errors
- Read it out loud – boring but incredibly effective
Now you’ve finished the first draft of your first book. Congratulations.
I strongly recommend a professional editor if you choose to publish.
If you’d like more information on how to write a book check out my free, online writing tribes:
Fiction and nonfiction: https://facebook.com/groups/NicolesWritingTribe/
Nonfiction and business writing: https://facebook.com/groups/NonFictionWritingTribe/
You are very welcome to join us!