So you have finally decided to take the plunge in writing your first book. While many would say the hardest part of writing is getting published, sometimes the most difficult part is actually, well, writing. In this article, I will share with you 10 easy steps for writing your first book.
As a successful author of three books, I will say that the challenging part for any writer is getting started. Books don’t write themselves; therefore, you have to invest all the time, energy, and resources you can afford to the creation this important piece of work. This requires discipline. You don’t just “sit down and write”— you must have a plan. You write a sentence, then a paragraph, and maybe if you get into a zone, an entire chapter. It’s a process.
Getting the work done isn’t complicated. Like anything you try to accomplish, you must take one step at a time.
LET’S GET STARTED!
In this post, you will learn the fundamental steps needed to write your first book.
I’ve split my 10 steps into 4 phases. Each phase is meant to help you organize your writing process and get you on the road to becoming a published author. With writing a book, there are four parts to this phase:
Phase 1: Getting Started
1. Make a decision about your book’s topic
Good writing is always about something. Think of your book in terms of a beginning, middle, and end. Write the argument of your book in a sentence, then stretch that out to a paragraph, and then to a one-page outline. After that, write a table of contents—this will help guide you as you write. Next, break each chapter into a few sections. Anything more intricate could confuse you later on.
2. Set a daily word count goal
Toni Morrison began her writing career as a professor and new mom — in other words, she was extremely busy. Nonetheless, she got up an hour or two earlier every morning and wrote a page a day. After a couple of years, she had a novel. A page a day is only about 300 words. You don’t need to write much—you just need to write frequently.
Creating a daily goal will give you a target. Make it small and reachable so that you can achieve your goal each day and start gaining momentum.
3. Establish a time to work on your book daily
Consistency makes creativity easier. You need a daily deadline to do your work — that’s how you’ll complete writing a book. Feel free to take a day off, but make sure to plan that ahead of time. Never let a deadline pass; developing a daily deadline and regular writing time will ensure that you don’t have to think about when you will write. When it’s time to write, it’s time to write.
4. Write in the same place every time
It doesn’t matter if it’s a desk, a library, or a kitchen table. It just needs to be different from where you do other activities. Determine your writing location and dedicate it as a “special place”— a place where when you enter it, you’re ready to focus. It should remind you of your commitment to complete this book.
Phase 2: Doing the work
Now it’s time to get down to business. Here, we are going to target the next three tips that’ll assist you in finishing the book:
5. Set a total word count
Begin with the end in mind. Once you have started writing, you will need to have a total word count for your book in mind. Think in terms of ten-thousand word increments and separate each chapter into roughly equal lengths. Here are some general guiding principles:
10,000 words = a pamphlet or business white paper. Read time = 30-60 minutes.
20,000 words = short eBook or manifesto. Read time = 1-2 hours.
40,000–60,000 words = standard nonfiction book / novella. The Mis-Education of the Negro is an example of this. Read time = 3-4 hours.
60,000–80,000 words = long nonfiction book / standard-length novel. Most Toni Morrison books fit in this range. Read time = 4-6 hours.
80,000 words–100,000 words = very long nonfiction book / long novel. The Color Purple falls in this range.
100,000+ words = epic-length novel / academic book / biography. Read time = six to eight hours. Malcolm X biography would fit this category.
6. Give yourself weekly deadlines
Set a weekly goal. Make it a word count to keep things objective. Celebrate the progress you’ve made while still being honest about how much work you have left. You need to have something to shoot for and a way to measure yourself. The only way I ever get any work done—creating a deadline and adhering to it.
7. Get early feedback
Nothing hurts worse than writing a book and then having to rewrite it because you didn’t let anyone review it. Have a few trusted advisers to help you figure out what’s worth writing. These can be friends, editors, family, etc.—just try to find someone who will give you honest feedback early on to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
Phase 3: Finishing
How do you know when you’re done? Short answer: you don’t.
So here’s what you do to finish this book-writing process well:
8. Commit to shipping
No matter what, complete the book. Set a deadline or have one set for you. Then release it to the world. Send it to the publisher, release it on Amazon, do whatever you need to do to get it in front of people. Just don’t leave it on your dresser or bookshelf. The worst thing would be for you to give up once it is written. That won’t make you do your best work, and it won’t allow you to share your ideas with the world.
9. Embrace failure
As you approach the end of this project, know that this will be difficult and you will most certainly make mistakes. Just be okay with flaws, and give yourself grace. That’s what will sustain you — the determination to continue, not your elusive standards of perfection.
10. Write another book
Most authors are ashamed by their first book. I certainly was. But without that first book, you will never learn the lessons you might otherwise miss out on. So put your work out there, fail early, and try again. This is the only way you get better. You have to practice, which means you have to keep writing.
Every writer started somewhere, and most of them started by cramming their writing into the cracks of their daily lives. That’s how I began, and it may be where you begin, as well. The ones who make it are the ones who show up day-after-day. You can do the same.
The reason most people never finish their books
Every year, millions of books go unfinished. Books that could have helped people or brought beauty or wisdom into the world—they never came to existence. In one way or another, the reason is always the same: the author gave up.
Every great writer needs a system they can trust. You and I are no different.
In other words, the writing process matters. It matters a lot. You have to not only finish your book, but write one worthy of being sold. If you want to increase your chances of completing your book, you need a proven plan.
Writing books has changed my life. It helped me clarify my thinking, find my calling as an author, and provided endless opportunities to make an impact on the world and make a living for my family
. I believe it can do the same for you as well. You just have to keep writing!