How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide

So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.

But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.

You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.

But what if you knew exactly:

  • Where to start…
  • What each step entails…
  • How to overcome fear, procrastination, a nd writer’s block …
  • And how to keep from feeling overwhelmed?

You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever. 

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 200 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 50 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.

  • How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

  • Establish your writing space.
  • Assemble your writing tools.

Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book

  • Break the project into small pieces.
  • Settle on your BIG idea.
  • Construct your outline.
  • Set a firm writing schedule.
  • Establish a sacred deadline.
  • Embrace procrastination (really!).
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Conduct your research.
  • Start calling yourself a writer.

Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself

  • Think reader-first.
  • Find your writing voice.
  • Write a compelling opener.
  • Fill your story with conflict and tension.
  • Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
  • Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
  • Write a resounding ending.

Part 4: Editing Your Book

  • Become a ferocious self-editor.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Part 5: Publishing Your Book
  • Decide on your publishing avenue.
  • Properly format your manuscript.
  • Set up and grow your author platform.
  • Pursue a Literary Agent
  • Writing Your Query Letter
  • Part One: 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.

Step 1. Establish your writing space.

To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n 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.

How to Write a Book Image 1

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.

Step 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 po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r 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 , edi tors, 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
  • Printing paper
  • Paperweight
  • 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!

How to Write a Book Image 2

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.

  • Part Two: How to Start Writing a Book

Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.

Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill 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 you r 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 b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.

Step 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 will lose interest halfway through and never finish.

Step 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 an d 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, pu t interesting characters i n 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 . T hey 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.

How to write a book - graph

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 .

Step 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.)

Successful writers make time to write.

When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.

Step 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.

Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).

You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

You wouldn’t guess it from my 200+ 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.

Step 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.

  • Freedom app
  • FocusWriter

Step 8. Conduct your research.

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .

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 importance of research when writing

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.
  • : 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.

Step 9. Start 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.

  • Part Three: The Book-Writing Itself

Step 1. Think reader-first.

This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.

Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.

Reader-first, last, and always .

If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.

When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.

Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.

Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.

Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.

Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.

So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?

When in doubt, look in the mirror . 

The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.

Step 2. Find your writing voice.

Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.

You can find yours by answering these quick questions :

  • What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
  • Who’s the most important person you told about it?
  • What did you sound like when you did?
  • That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.

That’s all there is to it.

If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.

Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .

Step 3. Write a compelling opener.

If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.

And neither is your angst misplaced.

This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.

How to Write a Book Image 5

Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.

It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.

Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:

1. Surprising

Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

2. Dramatic Statement

Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise

Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand

3. Philosophical

Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .

Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.

Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.

In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.

Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.

Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?

Thrust people into conflict with each other . 

That’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.

Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.

Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end . 

And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.

Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.

Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.

That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.

He or she needs to be told to shut up .

Turning off your inner self-editor

This is not easy.

Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.

Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.

It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .

I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.

A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.

That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”

Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.

Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.

Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.

The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.

Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.

So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.

THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.

I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .

I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.

Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.

Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.

Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.

That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.

They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.

This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.

The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.

If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.

For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.

But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.

Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.

It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.

Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Step 7. Write a resounding ending.

This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.

But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .

How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?

  • Don’t rush it . Give readers the payoff they’ve been promised. They’ve invested in you and your book the whole way. Take the time to make it satisfying.
  • Never settle for close enough just because you’re eager to be finished. Wait till you’re thrilled with every word, and keep revising until you are.
  • If it’s unpredictable, it had better be fair and logical so your reader doesn’t feel cheated. You want him to be delighted with the surprise, not tricked.
  • If you have multiple ideas for how your book should end, go for the heart rather than the head, even in nonfiction. Readers most remember what moves them.
  • Part Four: Rewriting Your Book

Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.

How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?

Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.

Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?

You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:

  • Omit needless words
  • Choose the simple word over one that requires a dictionary
  • Avoid subtle redundancies , like “He thought in his mind…” (Where else would someone think?)
  • Avoid hedging verbs like almost frowned, sort of jumped, etc.
  • Generally remove the word that —use it only when absolutely necessary for clarity
  • Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain , as in, “She walked through the open door.” (Did we need to be told it was open?)
  • Avoid too much stage direction (what every character is doing with every limb and digit)
  • Avoid excessive adjectives
  • Show, don’t tell
  • And many more

For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)

When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author. 

Step 2. Find a mentor.

Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.

Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.

Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.

Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .

There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .

Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.

In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.

2. Self-publishing

Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing. 

Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances. 

Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.

Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.

Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.

Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .

Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.

Best practices when formatting your book:

  • Use 12-point type
  • Use a serif font; the most common is Times Roman
  • Double space your manuscript
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences
  • Indent each paragraph half an inch (setting a tab, not using several spaces)
  • Text should be flush left and ragged right, not justified
  • If you choose to add a line between paragraphs to indicate a change of location or passage of time, center a typographical dingbat (like ***) on the line
  • Black text on a white background only
  • One-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides (the default in Word)
  • Create a header with the title followed by your last name and the page number. The header should appear on each page other than the title page.

If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .

Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.

All serious authors need a website. Period.

Because here’s the reality of publishing today…

You need an audience to succeed.

If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.

If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.

And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.

Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.

Step 4. Pursue a Literary Agent.

There remain a few traditional publishers (those who pay you and take the entire financial risk of publishing your book rather than the other way around) who accept unsolicited submissions, but I do NOT recommend going that route. 

Your submission will likely wind up in what is known in the business as the slush pile. That means some junior staff member will be assigned to get to it when convenient and determine whether to reject it out of hand (which includes the vast majority of the submissions they see) or suggest the publisher’s editorial board consider it.

While I am clearly on record urging you to exhaust all your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing (in other words, paying to be printed), as I say, I do not recommend submitting unsolicited material even to those publishers who say they accept such efforts.

Even I don’t try to navigate the publishing world by myself, despite having been an author, an editor, a publisher, and a writing coach over the last 50 years.

That’s why I have an agent and you need one too.

Many beginning writers naturally wonder why they should share any of their potential income with an agent (traditionally 15%). First, they don’t see any of that income unless you’re getting your 85% at the same time. And second, everyone I know in the business is happy to have someone in their corner, making an agent a real bargain.

I don’t want to have to personally represent myself and my work. I want to stay in my creative lane and let a professional negotiate every clause of the contract and win me the best advance and rights deal possible.

Once under contract, I work directly with the publishing house’s editor and proofreader, but I leave the financial business to my agent.

Ultimately, an agent’s job is to protect your rights and make you money. They profit only when you do.

That said, landing an agent can be as difficult and painstaking as landing a publisher. They know the market, they know the editors, they know what publishers want, and they can advise you how to put your best foot forward.

But how do you know who to trust? Credible, trustworthy agents welcome scrutiny. If you read a book in your genre that you like, check the Acknowledgments page for the agent’s name. If the author thinks enough of that person to mention them glowingly, that’s a great endorsement.

If you’re writing in the inspirational market, peruse agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide . If you’re writing for the general market, try The Writer’s Market . If you know any published authors, ask about their agents.

The guides that list agents also include what they’re looking for, what they specialize in, and sometimes even what they’re not interested in. Study these to determine potential agents who ply their trade in your genre. Visit their websites for their submission guidelines, and follow these to a T.

They may ask for a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, or even sample chapters. Be sure not to send more or less than they suggest. 

The best, and most logical place to start is by sending them a query letter. Query simply means question, and in essence the question your letter asks is whether you may send them more.

Step 5: Writing Your Query Letter.

It’s time to move from author to salesperson.

Your query letter will determine whether a literary agent asks to see more, sends you a cordial form letter to let you down easy, or simply doesn’t respond.

Sadly, many agents stipulate on their websites that if you hear nothing after a certain number of weeks, you should take that as an indication that they’re not interested. Frankly, to me, this is frustrating to the writer and lazy on the part of the agent. Surely, in this technological age, it should be easy to hit one button and send a note to someone who might otherwise wonder if the query reached the agent at all.

But that’s the reality we deal with.

So, the job of your one-page single-spaced email letter is to win a response—best case scenario: an invitation to send more: a proposal or even the manuscript. 

Basically, you’re selling yourself and your work. Write a poor query letter and an agent will assume your book is also poorly written.

Without being gimmicky or cute, your letter must intrigue an agent. 

Your query letter should:

  • Be addressed to a specific person (not to the staff of the agency or “To Whom It May Concern”)*
  • Present your book idea simply
  • Evidence your style
  • Show you know who your readers are
  • Clarify your qualifications
  • Exhibit flexibility and professionalism

*If you see a list of agents in a firm, choose one from the middle or bottom of the list. It could be that they get less personal mail than the person whose name is on the door. Who knows? That you single them out may make them see your query in a more favorable light.

For some great advice on writing a query letter, check this out:  

  • You Have What It Takes to Write a Book

Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You can do this .

Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)

I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.

Get your FREE copy by clicking the button below.

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  • Writing Novels

How to Write a Book

Last Updated: September 29, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD . Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.  There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,802,635 times.

Anyone with a story to tell can write a book, either for their own enjoyment or to publish for all to see. Getting started is often the hardest part, so set up a good workspace, create a regular writing schedule, and stay motivated to keep writing something every day. Focus on developing a “big idea” that drives your narrative, as well as at least one unforgettable character and realistic conflicts. Once you’ve written and revised your manuscript, consider your publishing options to get it into readers’ hands.

Staying Focused and Productive

Step 1 Clarify why you’re writing a book.

  • Writing a book is both a vocation and an avocation—that is, both a job and a passion. Figure out why you need to write, and why you want to write.
  • Keep your goal or goals in mind as motivation. Just remember to keep them realistic. You probably won't become the next J.K. Rowling by your first novel.

Step 2 Set up a...

  • While moving from a cafe to a park bench to the library may work for you, consider setting up a single workspace that you always—and only—use for writing.
  • Set up your writing space so you have any supplies or references that you’ll need close at hand. That way, you won’t lose your focus looking for a pen, ink cartridge, or thesaurus.
  • Pick a sturdy, supportive chair —it’s easy to lose focus if your back aches!

Step 3 Schedule writing into your daily routine.

  • The average book writer should probably look to set aside 30 minutes to 2 hours for writing, at least 5 days per week—and ideally every day.
  • Block out a time when you tend to be most alert and prolific—for instance, 10:30-11:45 AM every day.
  • Scheduling in writing time may mean scheduling out other things in your life. It's up to you to decide if it's worth it or not.

Step 4 Establish daily and weekly writing goals.

  • For instance, if you’ve given yourself a 1-year deadline for writing a complete first draft of a 100,000-word novel, you’ll need to write about 300 words (about 1 typed page) every day.
  • Or, if you are required to turn in a doctoral dissertation draft that’s about 350 pages long in 1 year, you’ll likewise need to write about 1 page per day.

Step 5 Write without worrying about editing.

  • You’re nearly always going to spend at least as much time editing a book as you will initially writing it, so worry about the editing part later. Just focus on getting something down on paper that will need to be edited. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes!
  • If you simply can’t help but edit some as you write, set aside a specific, small amount of time at the end of each writing session for editing. For instance, you might use the last 15 minutes of your daily 90-minute writing time to do some light editing of that day’s work.

Step 6 Get feedback early and often.

  • Depending on your circumstances, you might be working with an editor, have committee members you can hand over chapter drafts to, or have a group of fellow writers who share their works-in-progress back and forth. Alternatively, show a friend or family member.
  • You’ll go through many rounds of feedback and revisions before your book is published. Don’t get discouraged—it’s all part of the process of writing the best book you can!

Creating a Great Story

Step 1 Start with a big, captivating idea.

  • Start with the “big picture” first, and worry about filling in the finer details later on.
  • Brainstorm themes, scenarios, or ideas that intrigue you. Write them down, think about them for a while, and figure out which one you’re most passionate about.
  • For instance: “What if a man journeyed to a land where the people were tiny and he was a giant, and then to another land where the people were giants and he was tiny?”

Step 2 Research...

  • For instance, a sci-fi adventure set in space will be more effective if the technology draws at least a small degree from reality.
  • Or, if you’re writing a crime drama, you might do research into how the police typically investigate crimes of the type you’re depicting.

Step 3 Break your big idea into manageable pieces.

  • For instance, instead of waking up thinking “I need to write about the Civil War,” you might tell yourself, “I’m going to write about General Grant’s military strategy today.”
  • These “manageable pieces” may end up being your book’s chapters, but not necessarily so.

Lucy V. Hay

Lucy V. Hay

Look at breakdowns of movie plots for insights into common successful story structures. There are many good sources, like Script Lab or TV Tropes, to find plot breakdowns of popular movies. Read these summaries and watch the movies, then think about how you can plot your story in a way that is similar to the movies you really like.

Step 4 Develop at least...

  • Think about some of your favorite characters from books you love. Write down some of their character traits and use these to help build your own unique characters.
  • If you’re writing nonfiction, dig deep into the complexities and all-too-human qualities of the real figures you’re writing about. Bring them to life for your readers.

Step 5 Emphasize conflict and tension in your narrative.

  • The main conflict—for instance, Captain Ahab’s obsession with the white whale in Moby Dick —can be an entry point for a range of other external and internal conflicts.
  • Don’t downplay conflicts and tension in nonfiction works—they help to ground your writing in reality.

Step 6 Make sure everything you include advances the story.

  • Your goal is to never give your readers a reason to lose interest. Keep them engaged and turning those pages!
  • This doesn’t mean you can’t use long sentences, descriptive writing, or even asides that deviate from the main storyline. Just make sure that these components serve the larger narrative.

Publishing Your Book

Step 1 Keep revising your...

  • Seeking publication can feel a bit like losing control over your manuscript, after all the time you’ve spent working and re-working it. Keep reminding yourself that your book deserves to be seen and read!
  • If necessary, impose a deadline on yourself: “I’m going to submit this to publishers by January 15, one way or the other!”

Step 2 Hire a literary...

  • Evaluate potential agents and look for the best fit for you and your manuscript. If you know any published authors, ask them for tips and leads on agents.
  • Typically, you’ll submit excerpts or even your entire manuscript to an agent, and they’ll decide whether to take you on as a client. Make sure you’re clear on their submission guidelines before proceeding.

Step 3 Look into self-publishing...

  • You can self-publish copies on your own, which may save you money but will take up a lot of time. You’ll be responsible for everything from obtaining a copyright to designing the cover to getting the actual pages printed.
  • You can work through self-publishing companies, but you’ll often end up paying more to get your book published than you’ll ever make back from selling it.
  • Self-publishing an e-book may be a viable option since the publishing costs are low and your book immediately becomes accessible to a wide audience. Evaluate different e-book publishers carefully before choosing the right one for you.

Sample Book Excerpts

writing the books

Write Your First Book with this Expert Series

1 - Begin Writing a Book

Expert Q&A

Gerald Posner

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • Keep your notebook and pen beside your bed, and keep a journal of your dreams. You never know when a dream of yours could give you inspiration or a story to write about! Thanks Helpful 34 Not Helpful 4
  • If you want to add a true fact in your story, do some research on it first. Thanks Helpful 26 Not Helpful 4
  • Ask some other authors for some tips and write them down. Thanks Helpful 20 Not Helpful 4

writing the books

  • Avoid plagiarizing (copying another author's work). Even if you do it as artfully as possible, eventually someone will track down and piece together all the copied parts. Thanks Helpful 35 Not Helpful 3

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Thanks for reading our article! If you'd like to learn more about writing a book, check out our in-depth interview with Gerald Posner .

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About This Article

Grant Faulkner, MA

To write a book, first think of an idea that you’re excited to write about. It could be anything – a memoir about your life, a fantasy tale, or if you're an expert on a topic, a non-fiction book. Once you’ve come up with an idea, you'll want to cultivate good writing habits to bring your book to life. First, make writing into a routine rather than an activity you need to fit into your busy schedule. Try to consistently write at the same time and place every day. Second, set a daily word or page goal so that you know exactly when you are finished writing each day. Last, don’t feel pressured to create a perfect first draft because it's much easier to edit perfectly than it is to write it perfectly the first time around. Focus on producing and writing as much as you can. Then, go back and spend time editing on another day. Once you have written and edited a draft that you like, seek feedback from your family, peers or mentors. If you want to self-publish, research how to do so online. You could also consider hiring an editor to help you through both editing and the publishing process. If you want to know more about how to write a non-fiction book, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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The Write Practice

How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide (with Free Book Idea Worksheet!)

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

You want to write a book. Maybe you have a great story idea. Maybe you have a big idea you want to share with the world. Maybe people have told you, “Your life should be made into a book!” But first, you have to learn how to write a book.

writing the books

The problem for the first-time author is figuring out how to get started. What are the writing habits you need to finish the actual writing for an entire book? And what comes next for your writing goals: traditional publishing? Self-publishing? Becoming a New York Times bestselling book? A long and illustrious writing career?

Because after coaching thousands of writers to write and finish their books, and also writing fifteen books of my own, I know exactly how much hard work it takes to finish a book.

It's not enough to want to write, you need to know how to write a book.

You need to have the right process. The write process, you might say (sorry, I had to!).

In this guide, we're going to learn everything about how to write a nonfiction book, from how to defeat procrastination and find writing time, all the way to revising and the editing process—and even to the publishing process.

If you've ever wanted to write a book, whether a memoir, a big idea book, or a self help book, you're in the right place.

If, on the other hand, you're a fiction writer and have a main character who you know is going to take the world by storm, we have a complete guide on novel writing here . For you nonfiction writers, though, read on for all our best writing tips.

And that free book idea worksheet ? Here's your FREE download: Book Idea Worksheet

Quick Tip: The Best Tool to Write a Book

Before we get started, here's a quick tip for writing a book, Microsoft Word just doesn't cut it.

My favorite writing tool is Scrivener, a book writing software used by the most successful writers. Scrivener helps you stay organized, set word count goals, and keep better track of your writing sessions. Check out our full review of Scrivener here.

How to Fail Writing a Book

In 2011, I had one of the best years of my life. That year, I wrote my first book, became a full-time writer, got my first book published , became a bestselling author, and had 80,000 people read my writing.

But it didn't happen overnight. I had dreamed about and had been working toward those goals for eight years before that: eight years of failure, of trying to write books and not being able to finish them, eight years of wanting to be a writer but not knowing how to actually do it .

Since then, I've written fifteen books, including one book that recently hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list.

You might be thinking, “That's cool, Joe. But you're clearly a talented writer. Writing is hard work for me.”

To be honest, it doesn't come easy to me. In fact, if I told my high school English teachers I'm a writer, they would probably be shocked.

The difference is that I found the right process. It's a step-by-step process that works every time, and it will work for you too.

In this guide, I'm going to share the process that I've used to write fifteen books, become a professional writer, and hit the bestsellers list.

But it's not just me. I've also trained thousands of people in our 100 Day Book program to finish books using this process, too.

It works, and it will work for you, if you follow it.

That being said, if you're still not sure you can actually do this alone, or if you just want some extra help along the way, check out 100 Day Book . In this program, we've helped thousands of aspiring writers turned authors to accomplish their dream of writing a book, and we'd love to help you, too. Click to learn more about 100 Day Book here.

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Writing a Book

Here's the process I finally learned after that decade of trying to learn how to write a book and failing, the same twelve steps that have helped me write fifteen books.

come up with a book idea

1. Come Up With a Great Book Idea

If you're here, you probably have a book idea already. Maybe you have several ideas.

And if that's true, great! Pat yourself on the back. You've made it to step one.

Here's what to do next: forget any sense accomplishment you have.

Yes, I'm serious.

Here's what George R.R. Martin said:

“Ideas are useless. Execution is everything.”

Because the thing is, an idea alone, even a great idea, is just the small step to write your book.

There are a lot more steps, and all of them are more difficult than coming up with your initial idea. (I'm sorry if that's discouraging!)

You have an idea. Great! Next, it's time to learn how to execute the way successful authors do. Let's get started with step 2.

(Don't have an idea yet? Check out this article: How to Write When You Don't Have Ideas .)

write a premise

2. Write Your Book Idea In the Form of a 1-Sentence Premise

The next step to taking your idea and turning it into a book is to summarize your idea into a single-sentence premise.

But wait, what's a premise ?

A premise distills your entire book idea down to a single sentence. This sentence becomes the foundation of all your writing efforts and will be helpful even into publishing process.

Your premise is also the most important part of a book proposal, so a good premise can actually help you get published.

Here’s an example of a nonfiction premise from my book The Write Structure , which got half a dozen responses from agents.

The Write Structure utilizes The Write Practice’s ( award-winning methodology to show creative writers how to write their best novels, memoirs, short stories, or screenplays by following story structure principles used and taught by writers for hundreds of years.

Each nonfiction book premise should contain the following three elements:

  • A problem . The problem the book aims to solve (in this case, how to write a good novel, memoir, short story, or screenplay)
  • A person . Who is the person sharing the solution to that problem, e.g. you
  • A solution . What is your unique process to solve that problem

By simplifying your book down to a single sentence, you create a strong, achievable foundation to your entire book. Not only will this simple step help you during the writing process, it will also help you throughout the publishing process, too, which we'll talk about more in a bit.

Ready to write your premise? To make it easier we have a free worksheet template that will guide you through writing a publishable premise: Download the worksheet here.

Or get a copy of our Write Plan Planner , and have a physical tool to guide you through the writing process. Check out the planner here.

3. Choose Your Publishing Path

When you're writing nonfiction, you have to choose your publishing path earlier than creative writers because most nonfiction books are picked up by publishers before they're written.

In fact, it's a red flag in the eyes of traditional publishers and literary agents if you've finished your book before you pitch them. They want to see a book proposal first, and have a hand in the shaping of the book.

That means, if you're writing nonfiction, and you want to get traditionally published, before you go write your own book, you must write a book proposal.

However, if you're writing a memoir, you may need to finish writing the book before you seek publishing. Memoir exists in something of a gray area in the publishing world, with more self-help focused memoirs requiring a proposal, and more creative memoirs acting more like a novel, where the writer would finish them first.

Which publishing path is right for you? Here are the two main requirements for traditional publishing for nonfiction books:

  • Platform . Do you have authority within this topic? Do you have a following, via social media, speaking, podcast, YouTube, an email list, or some other platform of at least 10,000 people?
  • A tested idea with mass market appeal . Does your idea line up with your platform? Does it have mass market appeal?

If you can't answer “yes” to both of these questions, then you might consider self-publishing, working with a small press, or hybrid press after you complete your book. Or taking a break from your book to build your platform and target audience, perhaps by building an author website and starting a blog. (For more on this, check out this guide on how to build a platform via a blog .)

You might be wondering, at this point too, how do you write a book proposal?

Book proposals vary across writers and publishers, but here are some of the major components:

  • 1-Sentence Premise (see above)
  • 2-4 paragraph synopsis
  • Outline (Table of Contents)
  • Tone and Writing Style
  • Platform Description and Marketing Info
  • 2-3 Sample Chapters

For more on this, check out Jane Friedman's excellent guide on how to write a book proposal .

Now, once you've chosen your publishing path and you're ready to begin writing a whole book, how do you actually finish it? The next steps will all but guarantee you reach The End of your book.

outline your book

4. Outline Your Book

Even you if you don't decide to traditionally publish, I still recommend working through most of the elements of a book proposal listed above, especially the book outline because it will make the writing process so much easier.

Your book's outline will vary widely depending on your genre, your writing style, your book's topic, and your method.

However, there are some tried and true structures that exist in nonfiction books. Here are some suggested structures you can use:

Introduction . Most nonfiction books include a short (2,000 to 3,000 words) introduction. They usually outline the main problem you will be focusing on in the book. They may also introduce you as the author and your authority, and outline the unique solution you will be guiding readers through in your book.

8-10 Chapters . Nonfiction book chapters dive deeper into the problem and give principles or steps to solve that problem. Chapters can have a variety of different structures, but here is my personal favorite, used frequently by Malcolm Gladwell:

  • Opening story
  • Analysis of the story
  • Universal principle
  • Closing story (may be the conclusion of the opening story)

Conclusion . Conclusions usually restate the problem and show how you solved that problem, often ending with a concluding story and a call to action to encourage the reader to go out and put the ideas you've shared to use.

Easy right? Not exactly, but creating this outline will make the rest of the writing process so much easier. Even if it changes, you'll have a resource to help you get unstuck when the writing gets hard.

If you want a template for your outline, as well as a step-by-step guide through the book writing process, get a copy of our Write Plan Planner . This is the exact process that I have used to write fifteen books, and that thousands of other authors in our community have used to finish their book all in a beautiful, daily planner . Check out the planner here.

set a deadline

5. Set a Deadline

This one might surprise you. Because most people think that once you've got your idea ready to go, you should just start writing and not worry about the period of time it takes.

Nope. Not even close.

The next step is to set a deadline for when you're going to finish the first rough draft of your book. But you might be wondering, how long does it take to write a book in the first place?

How long should you set your deadline for?

Some people use NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to set their deadline for them, writing 50,000 words of book in the thirty days of November. That being said, it's very challenging for most people to finish a book in thirty days.

Stephen King, on the other hand, said the first draft of a book should take no more than a season, so three months. With all due respect to Stephen King, I think that's a little fast for most people.

We give people 100 days , which seems to be just long enough to write a first draft without getting distracted by everything else the world wants you to focus on (looking at you, social media).

So for you, give yourself a week or two to prepare, then set your deadline for about 100 days after that.

There you go! You now have a deadline to finish your book!

break up your deadline

6. Break Your Deadline Into Weekly and Daily Word Counts

You can't pull an all-nighter and finish writing a book. Trust me, I've tried!

Instead, you have to break up your deadline into smaller, weekly, and daily deadlines so you can make measured progress over your writing period. This step breaks the work into manageable pieces.

This step also requires a bit of math. Here's how to do it so you can actually stay on track:

  • Figure out your book's ideal target word count goal (check out our word count guide )
  • Figure out how many weeks until your deadline (e.g. 100 days = 14.5 weeks)
  • Divide your book's total word count by the number of weeks (e.g. 45,000 ÷ 14.5 = 3,103 words per week)
  • Next, figure out how many days per week you're going to write (e.g. 5 days a week)
  • Finally, divide your weekly word count goal by the number of days you'll write to get your daily word count goal (e.g. 3,103 ÷ 5. = 621 words per day)

If you can hit all of your weekly and daily deadlines, you know you’ll make your final deadline at the end.

P.S. You're much more likely to actually meet your deadlines if you take a stand and set a consequence, which I”ll talk about next.

take a stand

7. Take a Stand

Deadlines are nice, but it can be too easy to follow Douglas Adams' advice:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

There are two tricks that will help you actually meet your deadline, and it's essential to do these before you start writing or you'll never finish your book.

The first one is a little scary, but will make a huge difference.

Once you've set your deadline, go tell everyone you know. Post your deadline on social media, saying something like this:

writing the books

Here. We'll even make it easy for you. Just click the share button below to tweet this and fill in the blank with your deadline:

Don't have social media? That's okay. Just email five friends. These friends will become your accountability partners to ensure you finish your book.

Important: I don't recommend talking about your book idea. Talking about the idea can actually remove some of the motivation to actually work on your book.

But I highly recommend talking about your book's deadline because humans naturally avoid letting each other down. When you make a public promise to do something, you're much more likely to do it!

So go ahead. Share your deadline. You can do this right now. Don't worry, we'll be here when you get back.

Then, move on to the next trick to keep your deadline.

set a consequence

8. Set a Consequence

You might think, “Setting a deadline is fine, but how do I actually hit my deadline?”

The answer is you need to create a consequence. A consequence is a bad thing that happens if you don't hit your deadline.

Maybe you write a check to a charity you hate, like the society for the euthanasia of puppies, you give it to a friend, and you say, “You have to send this check if I don't hit my deadline.”

Or maybe you say you're going to give up a guilty pleasure if you don't hit your deadline, like ice cream or wine or TV or your favorite phone game.

Set a really tough consequence for your final deadline, and then set a couple of less severe consequences for your weekly deadlines.

Whatever you choose, make it really hard to not hit your deadline.

Why? Because writing is hard! If you want to write a book, you need to make not writing harder than writing.

By creating a consequence, you make not writing harder than the actual writing, and this simple trick will make you much more likely to finish.

set an intention

9. Set an Intention

This is the last step before you start writing, but secretly one of the most helpful.

Set an intention.

Studies have shown that when you have a goal, like working out more or writing a book, and you imagine where , when , and how much you're going to do something, you're much more likely to actually do it.

So do this with me:

  • Close your eyes, and imagine your ideal writing space , the place you're going to spend your writing time. Maybe it's a coffee shop or your home office or a chair beside your favorite window.
  • Next, imagine what time it is . Is it the morning? Afternoon? Late at night after everyone's gone to bed?
  • Finally, picture yourself writing, and watch yourself reach your daily word count goal . Imagine how it feels to accomplish your goal. Great? A relief?
  • Then, write all of that down, locking your intention in place . Now that you have a set writing schedule, follow it!

Notice that this is the tenth step.

Most people start here, but without the groundwork you've laid in the previous nine steps, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Don't skip the first nine steps!

Once you do begin writing, keep this in mind:

First drafts are universally bad .

Don't try to write perfect sentences. Don't go back and edit endlessly.

No, instead write as fast as you're able. Get to “the end” as quickly as you can. Use writing sprints .

Try to write as imperfectly as you can, not because you want to write a bad book, but because this is how writing always is: you write a bad first draft and then revise it into a better second draft—and finally, three or five drafts later, you've written a good book.

The difference between aspiring writers and published authors is that published authors know you can't do good writing until you write a bad draft first. Get through it as quickly as you can!

If you're not a natural writer , consider dictating your book into a recorder, and transcribing it afterward. There's no reason you have to physically type out your book. Transcribing it is a perfectly viable way to create a good first draft.

revise, rewrite, edit

11. Revise, Rewrite, and Edit

After you finish your first draft comes the real hard part.

I know what you're thinking. The first ten steps weren't hard enough?

Yes, of course they were hard. But for some reason, second drafts can be just as hard, if not harder, than first drafts. I've had some of my biggest mental and emotional breakdowns in my life while working on the second draft of a book. There's just something about second drafts that are much more mentally challenging than first drafts.

Here, it's a good idea to get an editor who can give you feedback. (Need an editor recommendation? We have a team of editors we work with here at The Write Practice. Check out our process and get a quote here .)

Once you've finished your second draft, I also recommend getting beta readers, people who can read your book and give you feedback. For more on this, check out our guide on how to find beta readers and use their feedback effectively here .

Depending on your topic, you might also consider recruiting some sensitivity readers to read your book, too.

After you've done all of this, I have one last writing tip for you to ensure you actually finish writing your book—and it might be the most important of all.

Don't stop

12. Don't Stop

Most people want to write a book. I hear from people all the time that think they have a book in them, who believe that they have a story that needs to be shared.

I very rarely talk to people who have finished a book.

Writing a book is hard.

It's SO easy to quit. You get a new idea. Or you read your writing and think, “This is terrible.” Or you decide, “I'd rather be catching up on Netflix, not spending my nights writing.”

Because of this, you quit.

Here's the thing though: the only way to fail at writing a book is to quit .

If you don't quit, if you just keep writing, keep following this process we've outlined above, you will finish a book.

It might not be a good book (yet). But that's what editing is for.

It will be a first draft, and a finished draft at that . You can't write a second draft and start to make your book actually good, actually publishable, until you write the first draft.

So write. Don't stop. Don't quit. If you follow these steps and don't stop, you'll finish.

We'll be here supporting you along the way.

More Resources on How to Write a Book

Still feeling stuck? Have more questions about how to write a book? We've put together a library of book-writing resources. Take a look at the articles below.

Book Writing Tools and Programs

  • 100 Day Book . Get a mentor, 100+ writing lessons, deadlines, and accountability and write your book in a program that works. Thousands of authors have finished their books in 100 Day Book, and we'd love to help you too. Click to sign up for 100 Day Book here.
  • The Write Plan Planner. Containing everything we've learned about how to write a book over the last 10+ years, this step-by-step guide will walk you through our proven book writing process. Click to get your daily book writing planner.
  • Best Book Writing Software . A variety of the best tools for writing, publishing, formatting, and marketing your book.

How to Write a Book Fast Articles

I shared above why I believe that first drafts should be written quickly, in just a few weeks. Still not sure? In the articles below, dozens of other writers share how they wrote fast first drafts, plus you'll get all the tips and strategies they learned along the way.

  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 10 Steps
  • How to Write a Book FAST
  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days
  • How to Write a Novel in 6 Months
  • The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in 2020
  • How to Right a Book in Nine (Not So) Easy Steps
  • How to Finish a Novel With a Swim Buddy
  • How to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word

How to Write a Book by Genre

Every genre comes with specific expectations that must be fulfilled. Here's how to craft an amazing story in your genre.

  • How to Write a Novel
  • How to Write a Memoir
  • How to Write a Mystery Novel
  • How to Write a Suspense Novel
  • How to Write a Thriller Novel
  • How to Write a Romance Novel
  • How to Write an Adventure Book
  • How to Write a Coming of Age Novel
  • How to Write a Young Adult Novel
  • How to Write a Self-Help Book
  • How to Write a Book That's Based on a True Story
  • How to Write a Book Like Stephen King
  • 20 Sci-Fi Creative Writing Prompts and Story Ideas

Okay, no, Stephen King isn't a genre. But he's well worth learning from!

How to Write a Book When Writing Is Hard

Let's face it: writing is hard . Every single writer struggles at some point in their book. The important thing is not to quit . In the following articles, writers share how they persevered through the hard parts, and how you can too.

  • How to Write a Book While Working Full Time
  • How to Write a Book When You Don't Have Ideas
  • How to Write a Book When You’ve Got Writer’s Block
  • I Never Thought I Would Write a Book. Here's How I Did It Anyway
  • How to Write a Book: The Everest Method
  • 10 Obstacles to Writing a Book and How to Conquer Them

How to Write a Book With a Specific Style

Your book comes with its own unique quirks and challenges, especially if the story you're telling is a series, or is told from multiple perspectives. Here's how other writers have navigated these choices.

  • How to Write a Book from Multiple Perspectives
  • How to Write a Book Series Without Messing Things Up
  • How to Write a Novel That Readers Can't Put Down

How to Write a Book and Publish It

Writing is meant to be shared! In these articles, writers break down the publishing process so you can finish your book and share it with the world.

  • How to Write and Publish a Book for Free
  • How to Write a Book Description That Will Captivate Readers (And Sell Books!)

Publishing Resources

Once you've finished writing a book, how do you get it published. Here are some resources to help.

  • Amazon KDP. Self-publish your book on Kindle to the world's biggest book marketplace.
  • Book Cover Design . Find a book cover designer among our favorite designers.

Commit to the Book Writing Process, Not Your Feelings

Are you ready to commit to finishing your book?

I don't want you to commit to a book idea. Ideas are seductive, but then you get a fresh idea and the idea you've been working on becomes much less interesting.

You probably have had inspiring moments of writing, when everything feels like it's flowing. But I don't want you to commit to a feeling. Feelings are fickle. They change by the hour.

No, instead commit to the process.

If you follow these steps, you will finish a book. It won't be easy. It will still be a challenge. But you'll do it.

Can you imagine how great it will feel to write “The End” on your own book? Think about the people you will touch because you finished that book. Let's get to it together.

Are you going to commit to writing a book? Let me know in the comments !

The first part of Step Three is to create a 1-sentence premise of your book.

Spend fifteen minutes today to rewrite your book idea into a single-sentence premise. Then, share your premise in the Pro Practice Workshop here.  (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here ).

Finally, after you share, make sure to give feedback to three other writers.

Happy writing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

How to Write a Memoir: How to Start (and Actually Finish) Your First Draft

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POSTED ON Nov 28, 2023

Justin Champion

Written by Justin Champion

You're ready to learn how to write a book…

And as a first-time author, you're nervous about this new journey because you want first-time success (who doesn't?).

But today's publishing industry has become noisy . There is endless information out there on how to write a book, and with the rise of self-publishing , it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

If you’re ready to take the leap, become an author , and learn how to write a book the right way, start with this resource to get your wheels in motion.

As a first-time bestselling author, I can tell you that writing my first book was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.

I experienced a lot of growth and pushed through many hurdles, and being able to learn how to publish is something I am truly proud of.

And I'm ready to share the steps of how to write a book with you, so that you can go on to write a book of your own, and find success as a first-time author.

Ready to learn how to write a book? Let's get to it!

Need A Nonfiction Book Outline?

Here's how to write a book in 12 steps:

  • Develop a writer’s mindset a. Hold yourself accountable to writing your book b. Give yourself permission to be a writer c. Announce your intention to write a book
  • Create a book writing space
  • Choose your book writing software a. Google Drive b. Grammarly c. Evernote d. A notebook & pen
  • Determine your book's topic a. Identify your target reader b. Write about something that intrigues you c. Research potential topics d. Choose a topic you can write about quickly
  • Create a book outline a. Create a mindmap b. Write a purpose statement c. Create a working title d. Write an elevator pitch for your book e. Draft a working outline for your book f. Fill in the gaps with more research g. Frameworks on how to write your book
  • Finish writing your manuscript a. Break your book writing into small chunks b. Build the momentum to finish writing your book c. Collaborate with others
  • Include front & back matter a. Preface or introduction b. Foreward c. Testimonials d. Author Bio e. Glossary f. Notes g. Images
  • Edit your book a. Self-edit your book b. Hire a professional book editor c. Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's feedback d. Finalize your book title
  • Choose a compelling book cover
  • Format your book
  • Prepare to launch your book a. Build your book's launch team b. Develop a marketing mindset c. Create a book launch strategy
  • Publish your book
  • How To Write A Book: FAQs

In this article, we'll start with the basics. While the steps in this phase may seem to be unrelated to actually learning how to write a book, they are very important.

In fact, setting yourself up for success will help you build the foundation needed to start writing a book .

We'll talk about developing a writer's mindset to get you in a frame of mind that's conducive to writing. Then, we'll discuss how to create a writing space that will boost your writing productivity, and how to choose the best book-writing software for your needs.

Here are some tips for success as you write a book:

  • Develop a writer's mindset . This is all about embracing a mentality that will inspire you to start (and finish) writing your book.
  • Create a writing space . This is all about how to set up the ideal writing environment that fits your routine.
  • Use a tool to write your book . This is all about deciding on what you will use to write your book.
  • Get support . A strong support network, a community of peers, and a book-writing coach could be the difference between a published book and an unfinished manuscript.
  • Use templates where you can. We provide you with a proven book outline template in this post. But there are templates for cover layouts, formatting, and more. Don't recreate the wheel! Use these and build upon them to make them your own.

YouTube video

1. Develop a Writer’s Mindset

Learning how to write a book takes time, work, and dedication. It’s easy to romanticize becoming a bestseller like J.K. Rowling or Octavia Butler. However, every author has a story on how they started out and overcame adversity to get where they are today.

For example, Rowling, who had no job and was on welfare at the time, would take her children to a coffee shop and write.

Butler, who was a dishwasher and potato chip inspector at the time, would wake up at two or three in the morning to write and wrote herself mantras to keep her focused on her goals.

The first steps in learning how to write a book are overcoming mindset blocks, dealing with self-doubt as a writer , and developing a healthy frame of mind that will help you with your writing goals .

Write A Book Mindset Quote Graphic

Let’s review three things you can do to circumvent roadblocks and crush challenges to keep you focused on your goal.

Hold yourself accountable to writing your book

It’s not good enough to write only when inspiration strikes. There will be days when writing is the last thing you want to be doing.

But you have to treat your writing as if it were a job, or a duty. This means holding yourself accountable, taking action, and showing up every day.

Here's how to hold yourself accountable to writing:

  • Set a writing goal. If you don't have a goal, procrastination will get the best of you. Determine a writing goal, including how many days a week you intend to set aside time to write, and set a deadline or due date for when you'd like to have parts of your book.
  • Block off chunks of time to write every week.  If you’re looking for a place to start, consider one to two hours per day five days per week. The more often you write, the more you’ll develop a habit for it, and making time for writing won't be that much of a struggle.
  • Set a daily word count goal.  Consider how many words you want to write each week. Use this Word Count Calculator to determine the goal you should aim for, depending on the type of book you are writing. For example, if your goal is 3,000 words per week and you have five chunks of time blocked off to write per week, then you’d need to write 600 words per day to achieve your weekly goal.

I write early in the morning before I do anything else for 1-2 hours. I find that as I go throughout the day and work on other projects my mind isn’t as fresh or sharp by the end of the day. However, sometimes I have ideas throughout the day that I jot down in Evernote to jump-start the next morning with a working outline.

Give yourself permission to be a writer

This might sound silly, but it's true: in order to learn how to write a book, you need to give yourself permission to be a writer. Many aspiring authors get stuck in their mindset, which prevents them from initiating and completing their writing projects.

Even successful authors feel like they aren't good enough. Acknowledge your feelings, but then shake them off, and move on with your day.

Hear this : You don't have to be an expert to learn how to write a book. You don't have to feel 100% confident to be a good writer. You don't even have to be all-knowing to teach others about your experiences or knowledge.

Here's how to give yourself permission to be a writer:

  • Get inspiration from other writers . When you're just starting to learn how to write a book, you might feel alone in your journey. But take comfort in the fact that other successful writers all started at the bottom, just like you. Many of them overcame seemingly impossible hurdles, but persisted with their writing dreams, anyway. Research some of your favorite authors, and read up on their stories to discover the issues they overcame to find success.
  • Accept where you are . Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt, and then release them. It's okay to experience moments of feeling discouraged, but it's important that you don't let those feelings hold you back. Accept that you are beginning your journey and that this is a learning process.
  • Use positive affirmations . Your thoughts have a huge influence on your abilities. What you think starts to become your reality, so make your thoughts good. Use positive affirmations about yourself and your writing abilities to pump yourself up. You can even read inspirational writing quotes from famous authors for motivation.
  • Overcome imposter syndrome . Even expert authors and writers feel like imposters every now and again. While it's okay to experience feeling inferior, you have to eventually get over those thoughts and push on towards your goals. Connect with other aspiring writers, get yourself a mentor, and join writers conferences or writing communities.

Announce your intention to write a book

The best way to hold yourself accountable for your work is to let others know your goals. Is there someone you trust or a group of people in your network you can appoint to check in on your progress?

Perhaps there is someone who is a seasoned writer who can serve as a mentor. If so, try to have regular check-ins with this person.

One way to keep these meetings consistent is to schedule a lunch or coffee date. Talk about your progress and perhaps any challenges you’re facing. They may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

I told my wife, Ariele, and several of my closest teammates from work about my intentions to write my first book. We had regular check-ins to talk about progress. Everyone helped keep me motivated and had different feedback for me. Without them, it would have been a lot more difficult to write Inbound Content in the timeframe I did.

2. Create a Book Writing Space

The second step in how to write a book has to do with your environment. Where you choose to write will have a major impact on your writing productivity.

Find creative spaces where you can produce your best writing.

Sure, some might argue that they can write anywhere as long as they have the tools to write. But where we choose to write plays a huge role in our writing motivation and focus.

Questions to think about: Where do you work best? What surroundings inspire you most? Identify them and make it a best practice to work there consistently.

Creative Book Writing Spaces Graphic

Here are creative writing spaces to write your book:

  • Coffee shops (classic)
  • Beautiful park or somewhere in nature
  • A dedicated writing nook at home

My main writing location is the dinette in my Airstream. I do my best work when traveling; I wrote the manuscript for my book in six weeks as I traveled the U.S. and worked full time from the road.

3. Choose your Book-Writing Software

The next step in how to write a book has to do with writing tools.

In 1882, Mark Twain sent to a publisher the first manuscript to be written on a piece of technology that would transform the writing industry: the typewriter.

Nowadays, we have computers with word processing and the internet where you can find an endless assortment of useful book-writing software and apps that are meant to help you be an efficient and effective writer. If you're writing a novel, check out this guide to novel-writing software .

You may be tempted to overload on apps because you think it’ll help elevate your writing. But honestly, less is more . The truth is that the right tools and even self-publishing companies make writing and publishing easier and more enjoyable.

YouTube video

Instead of overwhelming you with all the possible apps in existence, below is a list of three tools I recommend adding to your writing toolkit today (and they’re free).

Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the most versatile cloud storage services available today. But Google Drive is so much more than cloud storage. Here’s a list of ways you can use Google Drive to help you write your book:

  • You can organize all aspects of your project in folders (research, outline, manuscript drafts, etc.)
  • You can host files for your projects like images, photos, etc.
  • You can use Google Docs as a word processor. And we have a book writing template , specifically for Google Docs.
  • You can enable offline access and work on your files even when you don’t have an internet connection, such as when you’re traveling.
  • You can collaborate easily with others, avoiding version control issues.
  • You can access it from just about any device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, you name it).

Plus, Google will give you 15GB of free storage just for signing up.

If you’re new to Google Drive, here’s a list of resources that can turn you into a pro. (FYI, if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Drive account.)

Grammarly is an editing tool that helps you identify grammatical errors, typos, and incorrect sentence structure in your writing.

Download the web extension and Grammarly will edit most anything you type in a web browser (yes, it will work with Google Docs).

You can check out this Grammarly review if you're on the fence about this one.

Inspiration can strike at any time. Capture those thoughts and ideas as they happen in Evernote . You can even sync Google Drive and Evernote. I recommend doing this, especially on your mobile device.

A Notebook & Pen

Don't underestimate the power of good ole' fashioned pen and paper when it comes to learning how to write a book, which is arguably the only essential writing tool out there.

Even if you write your entire manuscript on a trusty writing software program, you'll still want to have a dedicated notebook available for the times when inspiration strikes and you can't access a computer.

Every writer should have a notebook handy for random ideas and thoughts. You can jot these down in your notebook, then revisit them and digitally store them in your book-writing software when you're back at the computer.

4. Determine Your Book Topic

Now we'll move on to how to actually start writing a book. This is the part that seems simple, but can be more difficult than you realize.

However, once you get through the process of actually writing your book, you will gain momentum to finish it, and eventually publish it.

Learning how to write a book starts with an idea. Shat's your book idea ?

YouTube video

Maybe you already know exactly what you want to write about. Or maybe you have a million ideas floating on in your head, but you don't know exactly where to start.

One of the most common pieces of advice for aspiring first-time authors is: “Write what you know.” A simple phrase that’s meant to be helpful, yet it begs so many questions.

If you're struggling with a book idea, try jumpstarting your creativity by experimenting with these writing prompts.

Whether you’re writing a non-fiction how-to guide or a fictional post-apocalyptic thriller, you need to form a connection with your audience — and you can do that through emotion. The best way to create emotion with your reader is to understand them.

Here's how to determine what you want to write about and how to write it in a meaningful way.  

Identify your target reader

The key to producing meaningful content is understanding your reader. You can do this by creating a reader persona — a semi-fictional representation of your ideal audience.

To get started with your reader persona, consider answering the following questions:

  • What’s the reader’s age? Are you writing a self-help book geared towards mature adults, or are you writing a guide for teenagers? The age of your reader will set the tone for your writing and book's context.
  • What’s the reader’s education level? Are you writing a book for PhD candidates, or for recent high school graduates? Depending on the answer, your writing style, verbiage, and word choice will vary.
  • Does the reader prefer visuals? Think about your book's potential topic and if visuals like charts, graphs, tables, illustrations , screenshots, or photographs will be expected.
  • What is this reader interested in? When you write a book, it's less about what you want to say, and more about what your reader needs to know. As you start to brainstorm a topic and write your book, always have a reader-centric approach.

The more you know about your reader, the better experience you can create for them.

When you start learning how to write a book, you have to make your book about the reader. What do they need to know in order to learn what you have to say?

My main audience is marketers and business owners at small-to-medium-sized businesses. They’re strapped for time and don’t need another theoretical resource. They value real-world examples to help visualize what tips and strategies look like in action.

Write about something that intrigues you

You need to write about something that spikes your curiosity, something that keeps you coming back day after day. Something that lights you up and that you're invested in.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you choose a topic to write about for the wrong reason, don’t expect to create something that people will love.

You need to be able to stick with it through dry spells and bouts of non-inspiration. Your own desire to hear the story will be what drives you through learning how to write a book.

Research potential topics

In our digital age, we can conveniently research topics from the comfort of our own homess.

Google makes it easy to research just about any topic.

Here’s a list of ways to research your book concept on Google:

  • What content already exists? Are there already books written on this topic? If so, which ones performed well? Why did they perform well? Is there anything interesting about their content that enhances the reader’s experience? Is the market over-saturated on this topic?
  • What influencers exist on the subject? Are there well-known authors on this topic? Who are they? What can you learn from them?
  • What do you need to learn? Are there specific things you need to learn to create a rich, meaningful narrative (ex. geography, culture, time period, etc.)?

I performed extensive research before writing the manuscript for Inbound Content. It was important for me to understand what content was already out there, which content was performing well, and most importantly, how could I make my book unique. This is exactly why I included homework after each chapter to help my readers build an action plan that they could implement immediately, something I noticed wasn’t typical in other marketing books.

Choose a topic you can write about quickly

Writing your first book is invaluable because it's a serious learning experience. The process of actually writing a book and completing it will make this book a personal success for you, because of how much you will learn about yourself and your craft in the process.

Don't get hung up on a topic. If you're struggling with deciding what to write about first, go with the topic that you know best. Choose a topic or experience that you can write about quickly, with limited resources.

Here's how to find a topic you can write about quickly:

  • Write what you can teach right now. If you had to teach a lesson on something right at this second, what could you confidently teach? This is a topic you know well, that requires limited additional research, and what you can quickly create content for.
  • Write about a powerful experience. Each individual is unique in their experiences. Everyone has gone through something that changed them. Reflect on your life and think about one experience that sticks out about your life.
  • Write about a life lesson. What has life taught you? What unique observations have you made about the world? You can use this information to learn how to write a memoir .

5. Write A Book Outline

Once you know what you want to write about, you’re probably eager to start writing. But you need a writing guide first.

Let’s review what you can do to create a clear book outline for your book that you can use as a roadmap.

Create a mindmap

You have an idea, now it's time to hone in on just exactly what that idea is. With a mindmap, you can drill your topic down into sub-topics. It will help you get all of your ideas out and onto paper.

Here are the steps to mindmap your book's topic:

  • Get a blank piece of paper and pen.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Write your topic in the middle of the page.
  • Jot down all of your ideas related to your book's topic.
  • Do not stop writing until the timer goes off.

Once you have mindmapped your idea, you should have a full page of brainstormed thoughts, ideas, and concepts. You can then review what you've written, and begin to organize them. This will come in handy when it comes time to actually start plugging in content for your book outline.

Write a purpose statement

In one sentence describe the purpose of your book. A strong purpose statement will explain to readers why they should consider reading your book. For me, I was writing a book to grow my business .

This will also help you stay focused as you begin drafting your outline and writing your book. When you have trouble solidifying what your book is about , review your purpose statement.

Inbound Content‘s purpose statement: People who read this book will learn a step-by-step process on how to do content marketing the inbound way.

Create a working title

A working title is a temporary title used during the production of your book. Identifying your book by giving it a name can help set the direction.

Once you finish your work you can revisit the title and update accordingly. Don't get too hung up on this step; think of the title as a placeholder. It isn't permanent, but it will be helpful to begin with one in mind.

If you need help thinking of a working title, use our Book Title Generator .

Write an elevator pitch for your book

An effective elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds. For context, 30 seconds equals about 65-70 words.

Having a prepared elevator pitch will come in handy throughout your book-writing process. It will help you nail your book's purpose and topic, and it will help the concept become crystal clear not only for yourself as the writer, but for your potential readers, too.

As you ask family and friends to hold you accountable to writing, and as you connect with fellow writers, authors, and mentors, you will be asked about your book. Having a prepared elevator pitch will help you nail the answer without hesitation, each and every time.

Draft a working outline for your book

The next step in learning how to write a book is drafting a working book outline. Just like the working title you created, this outline is a work in progress. The outline can change throughout your writing process, and that's okay!

However, it's super helpful to start with an outline so that you know where to begin, and have a general roadmap for where to go as you start writing.

Use the related concepts and sub-topics you organized in your mindmap, and start plugging in some content into your outline.

Your outline will do wonders for you once you start writing. It can help you avoid writer's block , and increase your writing momentum and productivity. Instead of wondering what to write about in the next chapter of your book, you'll already have an idea of where to start with your book's outline.

Fill in the gaps with more research

After your working outline is completed, it's important to do further research on your topic so that you can fill in any areas that you missed or forgot to include in your original outline.

Do not get too caught up in your research that it prevents you from writing your book. Take some time to research, but set a limit. Always go back to writing.

Nonfiction Book Research Infographic

Here's how to research when writing a book:

  • Use online resources by doing a Google search on your topic.
  • Read other books that have been written about your topic.
  • Listen to expert interviews, podcasts, and audiobooks related to your topic.
  • Read scholarly articles and academic journals within the subject or industry.
  • Search archives, collections, historical journals, data records, and newspaper clippings to get clear on events, dates, and facts about your topic, especially if you're writing about the past.

Frameworks on how to write your book

If your book can follow a framework, this will make it easier to keep your writing organized and relevant.

By choosing a format or structure for your book's topic, you'll be able to align your outline in a way that will be helpful when you start to write each chapter.

Most nonfiction books can fall into a specific framework, or a blend of frameworks. It's better to start with a specific framework, then tweak it as needed as you continue writing.

Here are common nonfiction book frameworks to consider when writing a book:

  • Modular: Use this framework if you have a lot of information or concepts that can be grouped into similar topics, but don't need to be presented in a specific order.
  • Reference: Use this framework if your book will be used as a reference that makes it easy for readers to quickly find the information they need.
  • Three Act Structure: Use this framework if you plan to use storytelling in your book, where you have three main parts like a Set Up, Rising Action, and Resolution.
  • Sequential: Use this framework if your book reads like a “how to” with a specific set of steps.
  • Compare & Contrast: Use this framework if you need to show your reader how two or more ideas or concepts are similar to or different from one another.
  • Problem & Solution: Use this framework if readers need to be able to clearly identify a problem and understand the solution.
  • Chronological: Use this framework if each main section of your book represents a specific time or order of events.
  • Combination: If your book will fall under two or more of the above frameworks, then you will need to use a combination framework that's adjusted to your book's specific topic.

6. Finish Writing Your Book Draft

For many, the hard part isn't getting started with how to write a book… it's in actually finishing it!

Commit to finishing your rough draft , and you're already succeeding!

Here are our top tips to keep the momentum going as you start taking action after learning exactly how to write a book.

Break your book writing into small chunks

Now that you have your book's outline and framework, it's time to get started with writing.

Like a marathon, your manuscript is essentially a puzzle made up of many smaller like-themed pieces. Your finished book may be 262 pages long, but it’s written one word or thought at a time. Pace yourself and stick to your consistent writing schedule.

If you approach your book writing by focusing too much on the larger picture, you can get overwhelmed. Write chapter-by-chapter.

Start with baby steps by chunking your writing into small pieces. Set milestones, and celebrate the small wins.

Here are some tips for breaking your writing into small pieces:

  • Write one chapter at a time . Focus on one piece at a time, not the entire puzzle!
  • Set deadlines to complete each chunk of writing . Break your goal down into smaller sections, then set individual deadlines for each section.
  • Structure your writing time. Follow a routine for writing that includes time for research (if needed) and review. For example, if you dedicate two hours each day towards your book, set 30 minutes aside to review your outline so you know what you're writing about, then 30 minutes to research anything that you need to clarify, then one hour to actually write.
  • Celebrate small goals. As you accomplish milestones towards your end goal, schedule and celebrate your small accomplishments. It can be something as simple as going out to dinner, buying yourself a small gift, or doing a little dance.

Build the momentum to finish writing your book

Learning how to write a book can be difficult.

When you're in the weeds with writing your book, there will be days you want to give it all up.

There will also be times when you have writer's block, and even though you know what you should be writing about, it all sounds wrong as you re-read what you've written in your head.

Here's how to fight writer's block and increase your writing momentum:

  • Don't edit as you write. Writing and editing require your brain to work in two very different ways, so don't do it! It'll slow you down, and keep you at a standstill. Keep writing, and save the editing for later.
  • Switch up your scenery. If you usually write at home in your own writing space, maybe it's time to freshen up your writing environment. Try writing in a public park, or at a coffee shop or library on the days when writing is the last thing you feel like doing.
  • Take a break. It's okay if you're too mentally worn-out to write. Take a small break, and then get back to it. When we say small break, we mean take a day or two off from writing (not a month or two!).
  • Get creative inspiration elsewhere. Binge-watch an exciting new show, read a novel, take a walk in nature, go to an art gallery, or be around people you love. While you aren't writing when you do these things, it can help your brain reset and recharge so you can return to your book.
  • Write about something else. Sometimes, when we're so engulfed in our book's topic, it can be self-limited. If you're feeling less excited about writing when it comes to your book, maybe it's time to flex your writing muscles in a different way. Try doing some creative writing exercises, journal, or write a poem.

Collaborate with others

There's strength in numbers when it comes to accomplishing a huge task.

And, more importantly, it can help you feel less isolated in what can be a very solitary act. Writing a book can be lonely!

Let’s review three things you can do to collaborate with others when writing your book.  

Connect with your original accountability partner or group

A great example of finding accountability partners is through a group or self-publishing company much like what Self-Publishing School does with their Mastermind Community on Facebook.

Attend a writer's conference

Sharing space and networking with other writers can do wonders for your own writing habits and momentum. By attending writer's conferences, you'll be in a room full of people just like you.

Not only will you be able to network with and learn from expert authors who have been where you are, but you'll also be able to meet fellow aspiring writers going through the same process as you.

Writers Conference Infographic

Collaborate with thought leaders on your subject

Ideal for nonfiction writers, this collaboration could mean asking well-known people in your industry to write a quote that brings value to your content.

Pro tip: When promoting your book launch on social media, consider creating a buzzworthy piece of content like an engaging blog article and have your audience share it.

7. Include Front & Back Matter

Now it's time to put on your marketing pants and spread the word about your book!

There are elements outside of your book’s content that you’ll need to write, such as a preface, foreword, notes, etc. I suggest waiting until after you’ve written your book. This way, not only can you better connect them to your story, but you won’t waste time editing them in case you make changes to your manuscript.

Let’s review eight final touches you may or may not need to wrap up your book.

Preface or Introduction

Draw in your readers with a compelling story. This could be a personal anecdote related to your topic. Tell them what the book is about and why it is relevant to them (think of your reader persona from earlier).

A foreword is typically written by another author or thought leader of your particular industry. Getting someone credible to write this can add a lot of value to your readers.


Just like with the foreword, try and find respected, well-known people in your space and have them write a review about your book. The best way to promote yourself is to have someone else speak on your behalf.  

How To Write A Book Back Cover Blurb Photo

How do you want to be portrayed to your audience? Readers love knowing personal details of an author’s life, such as your hobbies, where you live, or what inspired you to write this book.

Pro tip: The author bio on the flap of your book might be one of the first things people read when deciding whether or not to read our book. Keep it short, but make sure it packs a punch (just like your elevator pitch).

A glossary is an alphabetical list of terms or words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect with corresponding explanations. If you are writing nonfiction, especially a topic that uses a lot of lingo or uncommon words, make sure to include a glossary to create a better experience for your readers.

If you are writing nonfiction, keep track of your sources as you research and write. A clear bibliography will only add to your value and credibility.

Being nonfiction that was based on a lot of research and experiments, I made sure to include a notes section in Inbound Content. It included citations, stats, image sources, etc.

How To Write A Book Notes

Using images is a nice addition to your content. Images can create a more engaging experience for the reader while improving the communication of hard-to-grasp concepts.

8. Edit Your Book

The next step in learning how to write a book is editing. This involves self-editing first, then having a thorough professional edit done.

The success of your book will depend on its quality, and a thoroughly edited book is a solid way to increase your book's quality.

Even the best writers require editing, so don't feel discouraged by this process. In the end, you'll be glad you followed the editing process, and will have a completed, error-free book that you can be proud of.

Self-edit your book

Remember when we told you not to edit your book as you wrote? Well, now's your time to shine in the editing department.

Once your book is written, it's time to go through and read it line-by-line.

We recommend printing your entire manuscript out on paper, then going through each page and making edits. This will make it easy to spot errors, and will help you easily implement these changes into your manuscript.

There's a specific strategy to self-editing; if you start this process blindly, it can be overwhelming, so make sure you understand how it works before diving in.

Here are some tips to self-edit your book successfully:

  • Read your manuscript aloud as you edit.
  • Start with one chapter at a time.
  • First, go through and edit the chapter for structure revisions.
  • Second, find opportunities for improving the book's readability.
  • Third, make edits for grammar and word choice.

Once you complete your self-edit, you can make your revisions on your manuscript, then get ready for the next round of edits.

Hire a professional book editor

The next step in learning how to write a book is handing your book off to a professional book editor .

As meticulous as you may be, there are bound to be some grammatical or spelling errors that get overlooked. Also, a professional editor should be able to give you feedback on the structure of your writing so you can feel confident in your final published draft.

There are many different types of editing , so think carefully to determine who you should hire.

Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's feedback

Now it's time to improve your book using your editor's feedback. Don't be discouraged when you get your manuscript back full of edits, comments, and identified errors.

Think of these edits as opportunities to improve your book. You want to give your reader a polished, well-written book, and to do this, you need to edit and re-write.

This doesn't mean you have to re-write your entire book. You simply have to go through your editor's feedback, and make any revisions you think are necessary.

If there is something you don't agree with your editor on, that's okay. In the end, it is your book, and you are in control of what you want to add or take out of the manuscript.

Just be sure your revisions are coming from a place of sound reasoning, and not pride.

Finalize your book title

If you haven't done so already, it's time to revisit the working title you created for your book earlier in the process.

You need to finalize your book's title before you move on to the next steps!

YouTube video

If you need help deciding on a title, cast a vote with your target readers and mentors in your author network. Send an email out, post a social media announcement , or reach out through text with people that are considered your book's ideal reader.

Get feedback on your title by asking people to vote for their favorite. Include the top three choices, then use the crowdsourced results to narrow it down even more.

Once you have a title selected, don't worry too much if you're not 100 percent sold on it yet. Even if the title turns out to not be effective, you can always change the title depending on the publishing platform you select.

9. Choose a Compelling Book Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Please.  People are definitely judging your book by its cover. 

The book cover design is generally the first thing that will pique a reader’s interest.

You can find freelance graphic designers to create a compelling book cover for you on many online marketplace sites like Upwork, Reedsy , and Snappa . You can even check with a local graphic design artist for a more hands-on approach.

Tips for creating an effective book cover:

  • Whitespace is your friend.  Make it a best practice to choose a design that pops, but doesn’t distract.
  • Make it creative (non-fiction) or emotional (fiction).  Do your best to connect the art to the story or use it to enhance the title.
  • Consider a subtitle.  Think if this as a one-sentence descriptor on what this book is about.
  • Test two or three designs.  Send a few designs to your trusted accountability group to get their honest first impressions and feedback.

Keeping these best practices in mind, I chose a cover for Inbound Content that was simple but made the title pop and let the subtitle provide the promise to the reader.

Book Cover Of Inbound Content By Justin Champion

10. Format Your Book

Now that you’ve written your manuscript, it’s time to format it so you can visualize the final product — your book!

Formatting your book is an important step in learning how to write a book, because it has to do with how your book will appear to the reader. A successfully formatted book will not cut off text, incorrect indentations, or typeset errors when printed or displayed on a digital device.

If you've already decided to go with self-publishing vs traditional publishing , this is all on you. But if you're not tech-savvy and don't have the time to learn how to format your own book, you can hire a professional to do this part for you.

If you know how to format a book correctly and to fit your book distributor's specifications, you can do so in Word or Google Docs. You can also use a program like Vellum Software or Atticus .

Otherwise, we recommend hiring someone to do this professionally, as it's one of the most important aspects to get right. Check out Formatted Books if that's the case for you.

11. Prepare to Launch Your Book

Before you hit “Publish” it's time to do the groundwork to start prepping for your book's launch, and your ongoing book launch and book marketing strategy.

There are a few steps involved in this process, which we'll outline below.

Build your book's launch team

This is an ongoing step that you can start doing when you are finished with your rough draft. As you send your book to the editor, designer, and formatter, you can organize a launch team in the meantime.

Your book's launch team is essentially a group of individuals who are considered your target readers. They will help you promote your book, and will be actively involved in the launch process of your book.

Develop a marketing mindset

It's time to start shifting your mindset from writing to book marketing . Think about your strengths and areas of growth when it comes to sales and marketing.

Acknowledge any fears or self-limiting thoughts you have, then push past them by remembering your book's purpose. Know that the power of sharing your knowledge and experience through your book is stronger than any fear that might hold you back.

It's important to understand in the marketing phase that your mindset has a huge role in the success of your book. You can write the best book in the world, but if you don't channel some energy towards marketing, no one will know it exists.

Here are six ways to market your book:

  • Paid advertisements
  • Free advertisement opportunities
  • Local or in-person events
  • Content marketing on Google and Amazon
  • Be a guest on podcasts and websites
  • Speaker opportunities

Create a book launch strategy

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to your launch strategy, so it's important to draft up a plan before you publish your book.

Your launch strategy is basically how you plan to create momentum with your book. Think of it like a business launch. There's always a big celebration to announce the launch of the business. It's the same for your book.

12. Publish Your Book

The self-publishing process steps will vary on whether you are publishing your book as an eBook only, or whether you plan to publish it as a print book.

It will also vary depending on which self-publishing companies you plan to work with. There are many self-publishing platforms to choose from, including KDP on Amazon and IngramSpark .

If you plan to work with a different book publisher , you'll want to follow their guidelines. You should also learn how to copyright a book to protect yourself against plagiarism.

Once you've hit publish on your platform, you can start implementing your launch strategies and marketing strategies, which we'll cover in the next section.

FAQs: How To Write A Book

If you read through this guide and have specific questions on how to write a book, here are some other questions we get often.

How long does it take to write a book?

How long it takes to write a book depends on a number of factors. on average, it takes self-published authors anywhere from 3-6 months, but that can be shorter or longer depending on your writing habits, work ethic, time available, and much more.

How much do authors make?

There is no set amount that an author can make. It depends on many factors, such as the book genre , topic, author's readership and following, and marketing success.

For a full report on this, please read our report on Author Salary

Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick strategy by any means. While learning how to write a book can help you grow your business through techniques like a book funnel , unless you sell hundreds of thousands of copies of books, you likely will not earn six figures from book sales alone.

How much money does an author make per book?

The money an author makes per book sold is calculated by the royalty rate. The royalty rate varies depending on the publishing medium, and company.

Use this Book Royalty Calculator to get a better idea of your potential earnings.

How much does it cost to write and publish a book?

With Amazon self-publishing and other self-publishing platforms, the cost to publish is actually free. However, it costs money to hire professionals that actually produce a high-quality book that you will be proud of.

For full details, read this guide on Self-Publishing Costs .

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can learn how to write a book. And thanks to the rise of technology and self-publishing, anyone can publish a book as well!

Traditional publishers used to serve as the gatekeepers to publishing, holding the power to determine which books would be published. This prevented many stories from being shared, and many talented authors from being recognized.

Thankfully, this antiquated system is no longer the only option. This also means that because anyone can technically publish a book, it is extremely important that you create a quality, professional book that's of the highest standard.

How To Write A Book Step-By-Step Infographic

You Wrote A Book!

And that’s it! Those are the steps to take to learn how to write a book from start to finish.

You can and will write your first book if you put forth the effort. You’re going to crush this!

Trust the process, create a consistent writing schedule, and use this practical guide to help you through the journey of learning how to write a book.

Are you ready to write your book?

writing the books


The proven path from blank page to 10,000 copies sold

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How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide

We all have a great book idea burning inside of us.

In fact, most of us dream about learning how to write a book .

We imagine how writing a bestseller will change our lives. How it will advance our careers. How it will make us an authority on a topic we enjoy.

A 2021 poll conducted for National Novel Writing Month showed that 54% of people would love to write a book about their own life story. But, only 15% have been able to get started and still more struggle to finish.

The truth is many of us don’t actually make it to the writing phase.

The epic ideas, thoughts, and stories we wish to tell don’t come to fruition because of the inability to act on this dream.

This inability to act can manifest as  writer’s block , but could also be more deeply rooted in limiting beliefs having to do with readiness or imposter syndrome.

As a New York Times bestselling author with numerous published books, I understand how hard it can be to overcome to take that first step to  start writing .

Table of Contents

  • Find Your Why: Reasons To Write Your Book

Set Up Your Writing Space

Dedicate the time to be a better writer, get to know your target audience, choose the right book topic, know how to make your book a bestseller, create a book outline to begin the writing process, dedicate extra time to working on your book title, learn how to fight writer’s block, create your first draft, edit your book, publish your book, write your next book, start writing your book today.

I also know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. When you know how to write a book and have the right tools and support to get through the book writing process, your dreams of writing your first book can come true.

Use the following book writing and publishing guide of the 12 most important steps you can take to plan, produce, and launch your own book.

Find Your Why: Reasons to Write Your Book

If you have a great idea of what to write about for a book, you should write it. It’s as simple as that.

Not only are you doing your future readers a disservice by not sharing your creation, but you are also holding yourself back from reaching your full potential.

You will stay motivated through the writing process as you remind yourself of the reason you are writing a book. What is your why?

Here are just four of my favorite reasons  why you should write your first book and how writing will change your life in ways you never even imagined:

  • Writing a book provides a great opportunity to share something meaningful with you.
  • Writing a book is a way to help others improve their lives.
  • Writing a book is one of the best ways to gain lasting credibility.
  • Writing a book helps you discover who you are and ignite your passions.

This sounds simple enough, right? So then the real question becomes, “why don’t more people start writing?”

This is a tough question to answer, but I believe much of it has to do with direction…or lack of it.

For most people, writing and publishing a book may seem like an insurmountable task. Figuring out  how to stay motivated when writing your book can be challenging, especially if you do not have the right processes and guides in place.

However, just like any other seemingly insurmountable task, the journey from start to finish is best handled one step at a time. Through regular, focused writing practice, you can begin to put pen to paper to compile your piece with a step-by-step process, one page at a time.

One of the most important steps to how to write a book begins before you put any words on paper. Take the time to set up a proper writing space so each writing session can be productive.

As you create a dedicated writing space, your goal is to minimize distractions and maximize inspiration.

If you have a spare room, turn it into your dedicated writing space. If you do not, find a space that is comfortable and as free of distractions as possible.

Some successful writers prefer writing in public spaces like coffee shops, libraries, or parks. The white noise of coffee shops can keep your mind focused on your writing. Writing your book in a library can prevent you from the distractions of your cell phone or being at home. An outdoor area not only gives you healthy natural sunlight but being among nature can also be inspiring.

The best writing location for you is a personal choice, and it does not always have to be the same place if you find you need a break from your normal writing environment.

If you are setting up your dedicated writing space at home, add a desk and supportive chair. A sit-stand desk and an ergonomic chair can counter the effects of sitting for long periods of time and invite you to your writing space.

Small touches like adding plants help you create an inspiring writing environment. Add your favorite artwork, photographs, or books, but keep it simple. You want each of your writing sessions to be productive and free of distractions.

Many successful writers prefer writing at a computer while others always start with pen and paper. You might begin writing in your notebook at a coffee shop and transfer your notes to your laptop. If you are more productive spending all of your writing time at a keyboard, do so.

Book writing software can help you streamline the writing process. It cuts down your writing time with helpful tools like spell checkers, auto-save, grammar tools, plagiarism checkers, and ways to organize your chapters.

Some book writing software has built-in productivity features that help you stay free of distractions. Others can help you publish your book. If you decide to use book writing software, choose one that is user-friendly and meets your needs.

The next step to how to write a book is to set aside time to develop your writing skills.

Writers come from all walks of life, and some of the most successful authors in the world often lived half their life with no real intention of ever writing a book.

Although there is no set formula for how to be a good writer, the difference between average writers and good writers comes down to the way they approach their craft. 

Being a good writer requires you to write often, read more, and polish your writing skills

Write Often

Great writing stems from consistency and regularity. If you can establish a daily writing routine with regular writing sessions, you will be well on your way to making significant strides toward finishing your book. 

The best way to get started is to find a structure that works for you. 

First, set the scene.

Set up your writing space where you will be able to do your best work, whether that is in your home office, a corner of the living room, your local coffee shop, a coworking space, or your back porch. 

Second, choose an ideal time to write. If you have the most unstructured time available to you in the early morning, perhaps that timeframe could be devoted to your craft.

On the flip side, if the idea of putting pen to paper before winding down for the evening seems more appealing, an evening writing schedule might be more suitable. 

And, last but not least, set a goal for how much actual writing you’d like to accomplish every day. 

It doesn’t have to be a lot. You might also aim to give yourself a target word count to hit, perhaps something between 250-500 words. 

Regardless of the structure, you create, make sure that it provides you with the most freedom and flexibility to succeed at writing more often.

The fuel for writing books comes largely from reading good books.

Whether you love horror or hate it, Stephen King is widely recognized as one of the most successful authors in the genre.

With almost 70 novels and hundreds of short stories under his belt, King has built a life on the foundation of sharing spooky stories that have captivated millions. 

In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , King describes his writing process and offers tips for aspiring novelists. One of the biggest pieces of often-overlooked wisdom he offers focuses on the importance of being an avid reader in order to be a sensational writer. 

On this topic, he says, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself.

But, if you don’t want to take King’s word for it, here are some other reasons why reading more makes you a better writer:

  • It is a learning opportunity to study the works of other professional writers in the same field. 
  • The more styles of writing you read, the more you’ll be able to recognize and borrow certain strategies and weave them into your own writing process.
  • It can help you source ideas for different languages and vocabulary to use.
  • It can help you fine-tune your own unique writing style and voice.

And as a final note, walking a mile in a reader’s shoes can also help you feel more connected with your audience.

If you invest your time in reading more of your genre, you will begin to understand firsthand what motivates readers to continue reading.

You’ll discover the answers to questions like:

  • What answers are they searching for?
  • What problems do they hope to resolve by the end of the book?
  • How do specific sections of the story mirror pieces of their own life?
  • What makes the information or the characters so relatable?

Take a Writing Class

While you certainly do not need a degree to be a professional writer, learning good writing skills and how to make best use of writing tools will help you tremendously to learn how to write a book.

Whether you are writing fiction or writing nonfiction–or even just starting out with a blog post or short article–learning the tools of the trade will boost your writing career.

And this is not just my opinion. Studies show that being a good writer depends on repeated practice.  

Many writing classes are available online for free, so it is easy to fit them into your schedule.

Taking the time to learn effective writing skills will not only help you strengthen your writing muscles, but you will also gain a community of other writers that can inspire you with fresh ideas.

To be a successful writer, choose a story to tell and learn how and who to tell it to.

First, you need to identify what story you will tell. A lot of great book ideas come from brainstorming what you are interested in. Make a list of things you enjoy doing, things you know how to do, topics you are an authority on or at least know a lot, and things people come to you for advice or help with.

Once you’ve decided on your topic, knowing how to write a book that will reach the people you want to read it depends on getting to know your target audience.

It is important to understand your audience in order to continue to successfully create new pieces of your work they can’t wait to get their hands on. 

This is perhaps the most important step in the process of how to write a book. Because when you write, the book is never about you. It’s about what you can share with the audience you wish to serve. 

To determine your target audience, it is first important to consider:

  • Which genre you’d like to write for
  • Which books within that genre you’d like to be compared to
  • Who your ideal reader might be

Once you’ve determined your unique answers to these questions, you can begin sourcing information from people within your network.

There is a chance that your personal or professional network could be very closely aligned with the audience you wish to reach. You could even begin with this audience and expand or revise it as you continue to edit and change portions of your soon-to-be bestseller.

All in all, it is a writer’s job to get to know their audience. It takes work, but all of that work is what will make your book great.

My next how-to write a book guideline is to choose your topic wisely.

Once you have committed to being a better writer and have identified your target audience, now it’s time to choose an appropriate topic or a story for the audience you’ve selected.

It is critical that the topic be unique enough to set your book apart but general enough to appeal to a wider group of people that still fall within the same umbrella as your audience.

Take the idea of writing a book on social media marketing, for example. It’s general enough for your audience to understand, but you need to pitch it from a different perspective.

Perhaps your book could be focused on a specific theory on why you should only post to social media on Tuesdays. Now, this is a very unique train of thought, so if you choose this route, be sure that you can back up your ideas in grounded evidence as to why you believe this…but you get my point.

And most importantly, choosing the right book topic for your audience is meaningless unless you are passionate about the topic yourself.

Not only is it much easier and more natural to write a book about something you actively believe in, but it is also more entertaining for your reader because they’ll be able to feel your level of involvement and interest in the topic just by scanning a couple of sentences.

Simply put, your audience won’t believe what you’re saying unless you believe it first.

Along with choosing the right topic that you are passionate about and will keep your reader’s interest, knowing how to write a book also involves understanding key concepts that turn good books into bestsellers.

Network With Other Published Authors

Since fellow writers have been through the process of taking a book from ideation to creation numerous times, they are a wealth of knowledge and can offer you expert guidance and tips about any step in the writing process and publishing process.

Assuming they are a talented, successful writer, this is almost always a good thing and will put you on track to becoming a bestseller yourself.

Plus, reading and familiarizing yourself with the works of other bestselling authors that you look up to is one of the best ways to develop your writing skills.

By getting to know the works of authors in your own genre, you’ll develop a knack for understanding different successful writing formulas and be able to begin piecing together engaging stories that readers cannot wait to get their hands on.

On top of that, you’ll also begin to recognize stylistic patterns that specific authors use to define their work and stand out from the crowd. 

Best case scenario, you will pick up some of their  writing tips and tricks to use in your own works. Worst case scenario, you may be struck with some additional inspiration on how to approach and alter your own writing techniques and style choices.

Either way, you can’t lose.

The more people who know about your book, the greater chances it has of becoming a bestseller. The word will spread when readers find a good book, but there are also things you can do to bring attention to your book.

The best way to get the word out about the great work you have created – or are in the process of creating – is to network with other seasoned authors.

Determine What Bestseller List You Want To Be On

So, you want to be a bestseller. But do you know what kind of bestseller do you want to be?

For example, do you see yourself topping the digital charts on Amazon? What about clinching the top spot on the New York Times list? Or perhaps sitting pretty high up the book list that is put out by the Wall Street Journal?

There are so many bestseller lists that it is impossible to track how many there are. To make matters more confusing, each one also has different criteria for determining which books make the cut and which do not.

Some bestseller lists measure the number of sales of a certain book over a specific period of time, while others are curated by a certain group of people responsible for choosing which titles should make their list. 

In any case, if you are trying to be recognized as a bestseller, you should come into the process of book writing with an idea of which list you’d like to be on. From there, you can perform research to better understand the qualifications you will need to meet to be considered for a ranking.

Other Bestseller Considerations

While the above considerations should be the main priority when thinking about ways to make any bestseller list when writing a book, you’ll also want to keep a few other things in the back of your mind while creating. 

One of those things is the quality of your writing. To make a book a bestseller, it is essential that your writing is both clear and captivating so your readers do not lose interest. While the story you tell is certainly important, so is the way you tell it.

Your prose doesn’t necessarily have to sing like Shakespeare’s, but it does need to be polished enough that people thoroughly enjoy reading what you write.

You’ll also want to take a look at your marketing strategy. Is there anything you could change in order to get more eyes on your work?

Consider what places your audience usually shops for books of this nature, if your potential buyers are on social media or if they prefer to see most of their ads via billboards, fliers, or in a newspaper.

A successful journey starts with a good road map. A bestselling book begins with turning a good book idea into an outline you can follow before the actual writing begins.

Finding a way to organize all of your thoughts at the front end of writing a book will guarantee your success later. This sounds like a tedious step, but trust me, knowing how to write a book outline can make or break the direction you take your piece or how much time it will take you to complete.

A  book outline is essentially a map that guides authors to the end of their book-writing journey as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. A good outline should help set the stage, organize the scenes, and clarify how the entire story or message comes together.  It also will eventually  form the table of contents for your book.

How much planning you end up doing is largely up to you. Some authors prefer to have a detailed outline that is well fleshed out from start to finish while others create a basic outline, preferring instead to let the book unfold as they write it but having the foundational structure in place.

Regardless of the outline you choose to create, once you build your outline piece by piece, you will then be ready to write your book page by page, and, eventually, you’ll progress from one sentence to your first drafts to a finished product ready for publication.

How to write a book outline is slightly different when your write fiction versus writing a nonfiction book. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Writing fiction

When you write a book on a fictional topic, your outline helps you plan out your characters, scenes, setting, plot, climax, and more. You can approach writing your novel outline in many different ways, but whichever approach you choose, include these essential elements:

  • Craft your premise by writing a one-paragraph summary of what the novel will be about.
  • Decide on the setting of your book and do your research so your writing will be accurate.
  • Determine who your characters are and write detailed profiles about what they look like, who they are, what they are interested in, and what their personality traits are.
  • Lay out your plot by creating a timeline of events that includes the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
  • Add pivotal scenes into your plot so you will know what needs to happen where. You might add these as you go along as well when the inspiration hits you, including dialogue and other details.

Writing non-fiction

Writing an outline for your non-fiction book involves identifying the purpose of your book and writing down the main ideas, principles, and concepts you want to convey. Nonfiction writers include these elements in their book outlines:

  • Identify the main idea or purpose of your book. What problem are you trying to solve that the reader has or what do you want them to know or do?
  • Create a structure for your book that will lead to the solution to the problem. You might need to set up background information first, for instance, or you might outline a step-by-step process. This structure will lend itself to forming chapters after you start writing, or you can include your chapters in your outline.
  • Revise as needed.

The purpose of your outline is not to write an entire manuscript but to create a structure you can follow to get from your big idea to an entire first draft, all while heading in the right direction that will keep your reader’s attention.

When you pour your heart and soul into writing a book, you want people to read it. Often the first impression readers get of your book is its title. You want to craft a title that will encourage someone to open the cover and read the entire book.

Assume 80% of people will read your title, while only 20% will end up reading your book. That means you should spend extra time working on an emotional and impactful title.

You might have a great title for your book long before your write your rough draft, or you might until you finish writing or are even in the editing process.

Regardless, aim for a title that grabs attention, is easy to say, gives an idea of what the book is about, and is memorable.

Make a list of 20 or so book ideas. If you are writing a book that is fictional, think of the names of your characters, places, memorable phrases, and plot twists in your book for inspiration.

For your nonfiction book title, think of your target audience’s pain points and how you are solving them. Unlike fictional book titles that can be more inventive and imaginative, the title for your non-fiction book should give the reader a clear idea of what the book is about.

While it is usually not against copyright laws for your book to have the same title as another book, you want to avoid this for confusion, especially with popular titles. You can do this with a deep search on the internet. Book titles can be trademarked, however, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Dummies series.

Check the database of the US Patent and Trademark Office online to ensure your book title has not already been trademarked.  

Consider adding a subtitle as well. This can help your title stand out by allowing for a short title, but clarifying with a longer subtitle.

Nearly anyone who tries to write a book knows that writer’s block can hit and put up a roadblock to your progress.

Writer’s block can sometimes come from self-doubt. You might stop writing because you fear no one will want to read your story. That is simply not true. Write it anyway, you have something important to say and there are people who need to hear it.

You might also get writer’s block from not hitting your daily word count goal or being overwhelmed with how many words need to be written to complete your first draft.

Don’t allow discouragement to keep you from doing a great thing. Everything worth doing takes time and effort. Renew your motivation by taking a break, reading motivational quotes, or talking to a trusted, inspirational friend or family member.

You might also lose interest in your book idea. If this happens, whether after just writing the first few pages or deep into your book, you may need to revise your approach.

First, be sure what you are writing about is interesting to you. If not, it will be very difficult to  stay motivated when writing a book . Second, determine if there are parts of your outline that should be omitted. If you are bored writing it, chances are your readers will be too.

Head over to my blog post for more tips on  overcoming writer’s block .

Use your outline to craft your first draft. Don’t worry about how perfect it is or if you are including everything you need.

As you get into the writing habit, you will find you are inspired with ideas you may want to insert into an earlier or later part of your story. That is what a first draft is for, to allow your book to be a living, thinking, changing document.

Use your personal writing voice for your book. Do not try to write like other authors, although you can learn from their good writing habits as well. But make sure your first draft captures who you are and what you want to convey. Chances are this will not be your only book. You will want your voice to emanate from and be recognizable to your readership.

When you feel you have written the particular story you want to convey in your first draft, you will then focus on editing and revising.

When I write a book, I write quickly and leave the editing process for later. This strategy has helped turn my book ideas into over 70 books.

My motto is to write feverishly and edit meticulously.

When you get into your writing routine and first start writing a new page or a new chapter, it should come as an uninterrupted flow of conscience.

Don’t worry about how good it sounds or how many mistakes there are – simply write. Write feverishly until that page or chapter or whatever section you are working on is done. This is also a good way to combat  writer’s block .

Later, you can go back and carefully edit your work, pruning away unnecessary content, polishing your writing, and weeding out mistakes. In the beginning, though, it’s getting your thoughts onto paper into a rough draft that is the most important.

Self-editing, hiring an editor, or combining both processes are options to you.

It’s always best to review your work yourself first, to ensure you have addressed all of the ideas you want. If you continue solely with self-editing, use one or more of the many writing tools available to you. These will help you catch spelling, grammar, and technical errors, and some can give you advice on voice and tone.

You can also hire a professional editor to make sure your entire book is polished from cover to cover. This is especially helpful when you are self-publishing.

Learning how to write a book will turn your big idea into a bestseller. Once you finish writing, it is time to get it in front of your readers.

In the past, publishing a book meant convincing publishing companies to look at your work and like it enough to publish it under their name.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, and even the world’s most successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Luisa May Alcott had to deal with countless rejections and years of waiting before they were able to finally publish their book.

In many ways, though, this process is a thing of the past. Today you can self-publish, work with a publishing company, or use a publishing service like Amazon.


Self-publishing is the practice of publishing a book without the help of a traditional publishing company. Choosing this option might sound challenging, but in fact, there are a variety of convenient options that make publishing a book quick and easy.

You can pay for and arrange all aspects of the publishing process on your own, or work with a company that handles some of these tasks for you. Just note that if you work with a non-traditional self-publishing company, you may need to pay for specific services or turn over some rights to your book.

Self-publishing is often the more affordable option for those who are focused on the financial aspect of bringing a book into the world. 

The process of  self-publishing a book is actually quite simple, and, if you take the time to do it right, the results can be just as effective and spectacular as any book published by one of the major publishing companies.

Publishing Companies

A publishing company is an entity that is responsible for handling the printing, distribution, and storage of an author’s book. 

Within the publishing company, there is typically a publisher who is tasked with finding books that are likely to sell well. They act as the direct line of communication between the author and the publishing company and are responsible for creating contracts with authors they would like to sign.

Once a publisher has signed a contract with an author, the publisher will move forward with the process of printing the book and preparing it for sale.

There are two specific kinds of  publishing companies that an author could consider – traditional book publishing companies and self-publishing book companies. Each operates in a different way and offers aspiring authors their own unique set of processes, services, and contracts for the work they are seeking to publish.

Traditional Book Publishing Companies

Traditional book publishing companies have been around for years. They used to be the sole gatekeepers that one would need to impress in order to get a book published. The process involved pitching your creative work to a company or publisher who would then make a final decision on whether or not to take a chance on your book.

Oftentimes, this process was long and tedious, and the author might have to pitch to multiple companies in order to get their book in front of their audience.

Though times have changed, and some of these companies have adapted well to the digital age, their essential roles remain the same.

Some of today’s most well-known traditional book publishing companies include Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing companies are less established and take a different approach to the publishing process than traditional publishing companies.

Their primary role is to assist authors with the process of publishing books independently. These companies help with printing or digital preparation, as well as the distribution of works.

Some of the best self-publishing companies include Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, and Xlibris. However, a number of other options are also available.

How to Publish a Book on Amazon

The  benefits of Amazon’s book publishing platform have appealed to many authors in recent years. 

Amazon’s self-publishing has made it incredibly easy for anyone to market their book on the largest book-selling platform in the world. Through the variety of services that Amazon offers, you can publish your fiction or nonfiction book in digital, print, and even audio format.

Really, the only parts of the process that Amazon doesn’t have a hand in are your book cover design and formatting, although it does have a built-in cover creator.

A few standout perks that set Amazon’s publishing platform apart from the competitors are:

  • The ability to easily reach millions of readers
  • A free way to publish e-books and paperbacks
  • A quick and efficient way to publish books in only a few days
  • Self-publish vs. contract with a traditional publishing company

Now that you’ve written and published your first book, why not do it again?

Learning how to write a book makes writing the next book even easier.

Note what worked well in your first draft and throughout the whole process and what needs improvement.

Once you start getting book reviews, it is also very helpful to read these. While some reviewers will not give constructive criticism, the majority of readers will give honest and helpful reviews.

Use their words to analyze what your target audience is looking for. If them mention something they wish your book had, see if you can provide that in your next book. Try also to incorporate the positive things they raved about your first book. It is all about finding needs and meeting them.

My final piece of advice for your book-writing journey is to tell you to go for it!

The main difference between those who are published authors and those who are not is that published authors actually followed through with their dreams, taking it one sentence at a time using a proven book writing strategy.

If you can do that, you’re on the verge of seeing your name on the front of a bestselling book. For step-by-step guidance on how to bring your bestselling book to life, check out my  Book Writing Template .

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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter , Facebook , Pinterest , Linkedin and Youtube .

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Book Marketing for Self-Publishing Authors

Home / Guides / Book Writing / How to Write a Book in 2024: The Ultimate Guide for Authors

How to Write a Book in 2024: The Ultimate Guide for Authors

  • Should you write a book?
  • Outline the Book
  • Write the Book
  • Edit the Book
  • Get Feedback
  • Publish & Market Your Book!

Writing a book is a long process, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Many writers benefit from having a checklist of things they need to do. Enter: This comprehensive guide. I will guide you through the planning stages, the writing process, the editing phase, and the marketing phase (though you should start marketing your book long before it’s finished). And before we get there, I’ll help you determine if you should even write a book in the first place. Considering you’re here, the answer is most likely “ yes! ” Can anyone write a book? Yes, anyone can write a book. All you need is determination, a willingness to learn, and a story you want to tell. Bookmark this page or copy and paste it into a text document so you can check off each step as you make progress along your book writing journey .

  • How to write a book
  • Best ways to plan ahead
  • A lot of writing tips
  • Industry standards and expectations
  • Software recommendations
  • Outlining tips
  • Editing and proofreading tips
  • How to market your book

Links in this article may give me a small commission if you use them to purchase products. There’s NO extra cost to you, and it helps me continue to write handy articles like this one.

It’s common to hear between friends, “I’m going to write a book one day.”

But there are several steps in between that statement and the actual process of writing books.

I want to get this idea out of the way: you can and should write a book!

Most people want to write a book but never get around to it. Well, you can do it.

If you don't think you can, or you think you're not talented enough, remember that even the Stephen Kings and Neil Gaimans of the word started out with a skill level of zero, and you're probably more skilled than that!

Don't get me wrong, writing can be hard. But it's learning to deal with those hard things that make you a better writer. So let's discuss how you can make it happen.

Before you set deadlines or create your writing space, there are a few things you should do:

  • Figure out why you’re writing
  • Don’t give yourself excuses to not write
  • Determine your big ideaw
  • Create a budget for your book writing
  • Establish accountability
  • Announce that you’re writing a book!

Nail Down Your “Why”

Why are you writing this book? Answer this question, and your writing process will have a sense of direction. Many authors have a story they need to tell. It’s in their heads. They can’t stop thinking about it. Whether it’s because of the compelling characters, the fantastical new worlds, or the powerful central theme, a good book writer must tell the story in their head. If you’re in it for fame and fortune, you won’t find it here. Only the top New York Times bestselling authors gain fame or fortune. Most authors make between $40,000 and $80,000 per year — though it’s worth noting that earning an author’s salary can take years of establishing yourself within the industry. You should also determine what you want this book to become. Questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you want this book to appear in brick-and-mortar stores across the country?
  • Are you happy to display in local bookstores and libraries?
  • Is this an online-only book?
  • Do you want to turn writing into a career or a one-time affair?
  • Is this the beginning of a series or a one-off story?
  • Do you want to write a book that’s great for people in a social media group you’re a part of and their friends?

Overcome Common Barriers to Writing Your First Book

Before they become a problem, you need to overcome common barriers to writing a book. You can toss a rock and probably find a “writer” who started a book or, more often, has an excellent idea for a book they’re never going to write. But you’re different. You need to tell this story, and you’re looking up resources to help you get started. These are some of the most common excuses for not writing a book and how to overcome them:

  • I don’t have the talent. No one knows how to write a book before they learn, practice, and experiment. Until you try, you’ll never know if you genuinely have the stuff it takes to be a successful author.
  • I can’t concentrate. Yes, distractions abound: kids, work, Facebook, hunger, messy desk, neighbors, the dog. Find a way to overcome the distractions and just concentrate if you really want to tell this story.
  • No one will want to publish my book. Though traditional publishing is difficult to achieve, independent publishers and self-publishing offer additional venues for success.
  • I can’t write without a deadline. Then give yourself a deadline! Tell your spouse or a friend that you intend to finish your manuscript within 6 months. Or announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit — wherever peers can keep you accountable.
  • Taking time to write makes me feel guilty. You shouldn’t feel guilty doing what you love, what you feel you need to do, or what could earn you a salary in the future.
  • Writing is too hard. Writing may prove a harrowing task. It can take a long time (though there are ways to write faster ). But there is nothing quite like the rewarding feeling of having written a book.
  • My grammar is terrible. Use proofreading software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid . Also, the more you write, the better you get at grammar — and quickly.
  • My life is too dull to write anything interesting. They say, “Write what you know.” But honestly, that’s what research is for. Write what interests you. It doesn’t have to be about your life. Write to escape your (supposedly boring) life.
  • People won’t like what I write. Thick skin is required for writing. Unfortunately, some ignorant or insecure people may put you down — whether for your book or for the simple fact you’re a writer. But let the ridicule roll off you like water off a duck’s back.
  • My back hurts. Sitting in a chair for long hours to write can make your back hurt. Come up with a system where you can lie down to rest or walk around to mobilize your back every hour.
  • Fiction offers nothing of value to society. This is just flat-out untrue. Art is society’s record of history. Fiction evokes emotion that causes a reader to feel something. A book’s central theme is powerful for its intended audience — and for some, life-changing.

Determine Your Topic

To determine your topic, answer these questions:

  • What do I want to write about?
  • What is important for someone (like me) to write about?
  • Can I effectively tell this story?
  • Who would want to read about my story?

For nonfiction, it’s customary to choose a topic about which you have particular expertise. For readers who buy your book, determine what information to include that will best benefit these readers. For fiction, you can determine your genre(s), then your subgenre(s), then what would make your story unique. Each genre comes with its own tropes that readers expect you to deliver. Is your book idea good? Does it serve anyone? Does it add value, whether by entertaining, informing, or teaching the prospective reader? If you’re having trouble determining your topic, check out these resources:

  • Plot Generator
  • Writing Prompts
  • Best Book Title Generators
  • Short Story Prompts by Squibler

Validate Your Book Idea

Before you completely narrow down your story or topic, you need to know if it's a good idea or not. To do this, you need to run through four steps:

  • Step 1: Learn if and how many people search for your book idea
  • Step 2: Learn if the idea is profitable during the book topic validation process
  • Step 3: Discover how hard the competition is for your book
  • Step 4: Rinse and repeat

If you find your book topic is not profitable, you can still write it. But if that's the case, you will have to resort to different marketing tactics. You will need to focus on finding the right market somewhere other than Amazon, and getting them interested in reading your book.

Read more about validating your book idea here.

Create a Budget

Don’t let this step scare you. If your budget is $0, that’s okay. But you need to create a budget, so you know what you’re willing to spend down the road. What might you spend money on as an author?

  • Research software for authors, like Publisher Rocket
  • Book writing software, like Atticus
  • Proofreading software, like ProWritingAid
  • Book formatting services, like Ebook Launch
  • Email service, like GetResponse
  • Cover design services, like Damonza (if you’re self-publishing)
  • A human editor (if you’re self-publishing)
  • Book reviews from paid influencers
  • Various marketing efforts
  • Promotional giveaways
  • A professional looking website

What should an author not spend money on?

  • Literary agents — An agent should only make money when you make money. Beware agents who charge upfront fees. They are preying off of authors who desperately want to publish their book .
  • Vanity publishers — If an indie publisher asks for an upfront charge, they are probably a vanity press, and you do not want to use their services. These seldom result in a profit.
  • Beta readers — Although it’s nice to buy them lunch to talk about the book, when you find people to beta read your book, they are reading for enjoyment. They’re getting a free book out of this. If you pay them, that’s getting into professional editor territory, and most beta readers probably aren’t qualified for that.
  • A human editor and proofreader — If you’re traditionally publishing, the publishing house will most likely pay for the editor.
  • Cover design — If you’re traditionally publishing, the publisher will most likely pay for the cover design. This item may end up in your final budget if you’re self-publishing.

How much money does an author make per book? A first-time, self-published author might make between $5,000 and $20,000 on their first book, not including expenses. A traditionally published first-time author can expect up to $5,000 without a massive existing audience.

Establish Accountability for When Things Get Hard

It’s important to establish accountability for when the going gets tough. Who will support you through your writing process? Find a reliable person in your life that's experienced in book writing or can help encourage you along the journey. Ask them to ask you about how your writing’s coming along. Some days, you will hate them. Other days, you will thank them. Also, plan for how you’ll handle writer's block , discouragement, falling behind, etc. For example, if you didn’t reach your daily word count goal, plan on going over your goal next weekend. Or, if you get writer’s block, work more detail into your outline or take a walk to clear your head.

Publicly Announce What You’re Doing

You need to publicly announce that you’re writing a book. Not only is this a marketing must that gets your friends and family buzzing about your book, but it also creates public accountability for you. Sound terrifying? Remember, if you’re going to be an author, this is the first of many marketing steps you’ll need to take. It’s also one of the easiest (and least expensive). If you need a community of like-minded authors, I'd recommend fully investing in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a great way to push yourself and gain accountability. Don’t get scared by this step. You may worry about what people have to say about you writing a book. Writers need thick skin, and this is an excellent exercise in accepting congratulations and ignoring naysayers. For instance, I recall a fellow author’s grandfather commenting on a Facebook post: “Hope it works out for you. But if it doesn’t, I can always get you a job down at Duke Energy.”

My friend didn’t let the comment bother him, instead accepting that his grandfather didn’t understand that writing and even self-publishing is an entirely legitimate career path nowadays. Is it worth only selling your book on Amazon? Yes! As a self-made author who primarily markets on Amazon, I cannot recommend this route highly enough.

Make a Plan

Before writing your book’s outline, here are 8 crucial steps all great writers should use to plan ahead:

  • Create a writing space
  • Set a schedule
  • Determine word count goals
  • Set deadlines
  • Do your research (market, genre, topical)
  • Discover your voice & tone
  • Choose the best book writing software for your project
  • Get in the author mindset

Create a Writing Space

When you create a space for writing, it will mentally help you to set aside that space for only writing. Your writing space should not be the same as your home office or your relaxation space. If you write your book in the same place as you watch TV, the temptation of TV easily overpowers your will to write. If you work in the same area as you write, it’s difficult to distinguish the two in your subconscious. Of course, you don’t always have to write in the same place. Although some writers need to be in one place at a single desk to get in the headspace, many authors can write from multiple locations with no problem. A good space for writing might be:

  • A dining room your family doesn’t use
  • A home office no one is using
  • A desk in your bedroom (facing away from the bed)
  • A coffee shop
  • On the porch
  • At the park

Set a Schedule

Every author can benefit from setting a designated writing time. Determine when you can work on your book and set a schedule. Some authors love sticking to a strict schedule. For others, a schedule is just a helpful guideline. At first, you may want to experiment with various lengths of time and days of the week. Figure out how long it takes you specifically to write what you want to write in a given day. Some writers may need to relegate their writing to 8 hours on Saturday. Others may have the luxury of spending 2 hours writing, 5 days a week. For inspiration from successful authors, check out Medium’s article: The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers (and How You Can Use Them to Succeed) .

Determine Word Count Goals

You should determine your word count goal for each writing session. Average word count goals for bestselling book authors range between 500 and 2,000 words a day. Again, for some authors, this strict word count goal is helpful. For others, it is nice to have a general goal to target — there’s no need to stress out if you don’t reach it. Of course, your word count goal is flexible. It depends on your writing schedule, your genre, your experience, your discipline, how far you are in your book, and your own personal writing habits. Many book writing tools, such as Atticus allow you to set daily word count goals and keep track for you.

Side note: Check out this fascinating article for more info: The Daily Word Counts of 19 Famous Writers .

Set Deadlines

A deadline for your writing makes you accountable. It gives you a tangible target. It drives you. How many of us didn’t do the college paper until the night before it was due? Well, you can’t write a book in one night, but the sentiment still applies. Setting a due date — even if it’s arbitrary — motivates you to keep writing, keep writing, every day on your schedule, and continue to reach your daily word count goal. Set up a way to track your time and word count progress. Atticus allows you to set an overall word count goal and a deadline to reach that overall word count. (I know I keep gushing about Atticus, but it just has so many amazing features .) Here’s a great article on How Long It Takes to Write a Book & Do it Well .

Do Your Research

Do not skip this step. This is not boring. It is necessary. You need to do your research on the market, your genre, and the specific topic you’ve chosen to write about. If you don’t, sales numbers and the quality of your book will suffer. Depending on your genre, whether you write fiction or nonfiction, and your familiarity with your future readers, you will probably need to conduct:

Market Research

Genre research, topical research.

Get to know your audience. Market research tells you what readers want. It may also predict the sort of sales you can expect. Market research might tell you that few people are interested in stories about a sentient clump of dirt. How would you market and sell that book ? Consider catering your story to the market research you discover. This isn’t selling out. This is catering to a particular audience. Figure out what your readers are looking for. Often, readers will respond to an audience avatar, which is a character the reader can really relate to. If you’re writing a fantasy book, I strongly recommend working dragons into your story. Dragons sell. The word “dragon” sells. A picture of a dragon on the cover sells.

If you’re writing a children’s book , don’t be afraid to bank on traditions: Boys love superheroes, and girls love princesses. If you’re writing a nonfiction book , try to reach an untapped market. A friend of mine is writing a book on a specific category of mobile software development that he couldn’t find any books on. He taught himself and now wants to teach others what he learned.

Genre research is critical. You need to deliver certain unspoken promises to your audience. Each genre has its own expected tropes and unspoken promises that you need to know to satisfy your reader. Find out what is typical for your genre:

  • Character archetypes
  • Word count/chapter length
  • Story structure
  • Common themes

Pro tip: Check the Amazon bestsellers list in your genre for hugely helpful research. If you write a romance book, for instance, and you don’t deliver on the expected tropes of romance, you’re going to get negative reviews and fewer sales. There is a fine line between unique and unsatisfying. Check out these great articles on genre research:

  • Tropes Readers Adore Across 15 Fiction Genres
  • 101 Horror Tropes
  • 7 Thriller Tropes That Have Stood the Test of Time
  • 101 Romance Tropes For Writers
  • Kid Novel Tropes
  • 101 Fantasy Tropes

Fiction or nonfiction, most books require some foothold in reality. Topical research entails the research you must do to fully understand what you’re writing. Readers can tell if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Even if a reader isn’t an expert, lack/misuse of jargon, an illogical timeline, or not following your own rules will key the reader in that you didn’t do your topical research. Then, you will lose credibility with the reader.

You don’t need to be a degreed expert on police procedures to write a police drama. You don’t need to scientifically study a unique type of plant to write about a forest. You don’t have to learn every detail of the War of 1812 to write a historical drama around that time. But it needs to be evident in your writing that you have taken the time to research important aspects of your book’s topic. If you can interview an expert, that’s an added bonus. You could even put that on the back cover or the foreword bragging that you did the in-person research. You need to get readers to trust you as a writer as early in your tale as possible.

Discover Your Voice & Tone

Discover your unique voice and the tone you’re most comfortable writing in. This may change between books, particularly if you swap genres or if you’re a nonfiction writer who now writes fiction. Find your unique words. Determine if humor has a place. How literary will your prose be? Read other books in your genre for inspiration. For example, one of my author friends decided to use “is/are/am/be” as little as possible in his prose, then go crazy with it in his dialogue — giving the dialogue a distinctly relaxed feeling separate from the prose. Another example is Jane Austen’s unique voice. I think of Elinor in Sense & Sensibility. Her intellectual, judicious voice was one of the first examples in the literature of the character speaking for themselves instead of an author avatar. If you benefit from writing prompts to discover your voice, try out Daily Prompt on iOS. Word to the wise: Deciding to employ unique grammar techniques is risky. Some readers are sticklers for grammar and may put down your book if it contains what they perceive as grammatical “errors.” For some readers, these choices are a distraction. For some authors, though, these changes are necessary or more aesthetically pleasing.

Choose the Best Book Writing Software for Your Project

You may already have Microsoft Word downloaded to your computer or be comfortable with Google Docs because you use it for work. But I implore you to choose the best book writing software for writing your individual project.

I use Atticus for all my fiction novel writing. MS Word may suffice, but it is definitely inferior to Atticus’s robust features emphasizing organization and customization.

Several book writing tools are available to try. Some cost a one-time fee, while others cost a monthly subscription fee. (I suggest the one-time price tag.) Be careful using Google Docs to write a novel. Once you get above 15,000 words or so, Google Docs slows down. It is designed for short-form, collaborative documents — not lengthy books, though their technology is improving. Below are 4 pieces of software for writing your book:

Microsoft Word

Read my more in-depth article on the Best Book Writing Software .

Use Atticus. It is unmatched in overall capability. Not only does it allow you to write great books, but it comes with tracking software to help you form effective writing habits, and it's a robust formatting software , which means you'll never need to use more than one program to handle the entire novel production process from start to finish.

Read my full review of Atticus .

How much does Atticus cost?

  • Atticus costs $147 as a one-time fee. This includes all current and upcoming features, including all writing, formatting, and collaboration features.
  • It works on virtually all platforms, including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chromebook.

Scrivener is the next best thing. It has great organization and customization, but it has a steep learning curve, but only because it is such an amazing piece of software. You can upload all your research files (including images and audio) into the Binder sidebar, so everything shows up in one window. You can split-screen within Scrivener, bookmark files, or simply write with its distraction-free Composition Mode. Read my full review of Scrivener . How much does Scrivener cost?

  • Scrivener costs $49 (one-time) for Mac or Windows.
  • It’s $19.99 for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).
  • Reduced pricing of $41.65 is available for “students & academics.”

There is a full 30-working-day free trial that only counts the days you use the app. Use Kindlepreneur’s unique discount code (KINDLEPRENEUR) to get 20% OFF your purchase.

  • Download Scrivener 3 for Mac
  • Download Scrivener 1 for Windows , which is on par with Scrivener 2 for Mac (update coming in 2021)
  • Download Scrivener 1 for iOS , which is also on par with Scrivener 2 on Mac (a handy tool for on-the-go writing with an iPad or iPhone)

Ulysses is a sleek, easy-to-use, yet customizable book writing tool. Your project syncs automatically between devices, or you can store projects locally. Not only does it look great, but it also utilizes a drag and drop functionality with its Library feature. Unfortunately for Windows users, Ulysses works only on Apple products. The price has gone up in recent years. Ulysses now costs $5.99/month or $49.99/year. However, they do offer a free 2-week trial.

Microsoft Word is the industry standard for word processing. Most people think of MS Word when you say “word processor.” However, it’s meant for memos and business letters — not novel writing. Most writers probably use MS Word because it is so ubiquitous. Heck, the famous DOC/DOCX file format originated from Microsoft Word. Stephen King uses MS Word to write his book manuscripts, as do other authors. But there are many helpful word processors out there that boast more robust features ideal for writing a book. Word is cumbersome and only suitable for writing in a linear fashion. For many writers, it is helpful to write out of order or switch around the order of scenes and chapters. In MS Word, this is very inconvenient. How much does Microsoft Word cost? Microsoft Word costs $139.99 as a one-time purchase. Alternatively, you could spend $6.99/month (or more) for a subscription to Microsoft 365, including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and 1 TB of cloud storage on OneDrive.

Get in the Author Mindset

To get in the author mindset, a million authors will do a million different things. Figure out what you specifically need to do to get into the writing mindset, and do that every time you get ready to write. What might help you get into that author mindset:

  • Walk around outside (my favorite brainstorming method)
  • Turn on relaxing or mood-setting music ( YouTube has every playlist imaginable, including ambiance scenes to transport you anywhere you wish you were writing)
  • Read a book
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Read your outline where you’re about to start writing
  • Sit outside and breathe in the fresh air
  • Write in a journal
  • Doodle in a notebook
  • Close everything else on your computer
  • Clear your desk

Now that you’ve done the hard work of preparation, it’s time to outline your book! This is where we diverge from planning that applies to fiction and nonfiction and focus more on an outline for a fiction novel. (If you’re writing a nonfiction book, skip to section 3 for helpful writing tips.)

Yes, you need to outline your book — whether it’s vague or very detailed. For some authors, a very general outline can give your story direction and focus, like a roadmap. For others, a highly detailed outline prevents writer’s block, improves pacing, avoids plot holes, and saves time editing after the fact. How do you begin to write a book? You begin to write a book by writing the book’s outline. Writing an outline ahead of time can preemptively prevent writer’s block, plot holes, and pacing problems. And you can always edit your outline later; it’s a living document.

  • Choose an outline type
  • Pick an outlining software
  • Actually write the outline

Check out my in-depth guide: How To Outline A Novel .

Choose an Outline Type

There are many types of novel outlines. Some are more detailed than others, so pick the outline type that best fits your individual needs:

  • A synopsis outline looks the most like an essay. When you write a synopsis , you need to summarize everything that matters to the story in 2-3 pages.
  • A beat sheet outline lists the “beats” of the story into individual paragraphs or bullet points. A beat is a change in tone, motivation, character development , etc.
  • A mind map shows the spatial relationship between characters, story beats, timelines, and chapters. You can map out any number of story elements on your mind map.
  • A scenes and sequences outline lists out all the scenes and sequences in your story, in whatever order you want. Switch the order and experiment with scene progression. This outline can be detailed or vague.
  • A character outline puts character development first. List out the critical moments in your character arcs. Check out How to Create a Character Profile .
  • A skeleton outline lists out the key plot points in your story. It is the most sparse approach to outlining.

Pick an Outlining Software

Whatever outlining software you pick, it should help you. That’s the only requirement. The best outlining software can be the same as your novel writing software. But some authors find it useful to utilize software explicitly designed for novel outlining.

  • Scrivener offers ready-made, built-in templates for plotting out all sorts of books and genres. Using these templates, you can organize your thoughts into an effective novel outline.
  • The Novel Factory is a structure-heavy novel outlining software. Easy to use, genre-specific templates, robust export capabilities — the main downside is that it isn’t available on Mac. Read my full review of The Novel Factory or download The Novel Factory today . Use my coupon code KINDLEPRENEUR to get 20% off your subscription.
  • Plot Factory is useful outlining software that offers straightforward templates, character creation features, world-building capabilities, and many more. Read my full review of Plot Factory or download Plot Factory today . Use my coupon code KINDLEPRENEUR for 35% for the first 12 months!
  • Plottr is a handy outlining tool that offers templates such as the 8 Sequences Method, Hero’s Journey , 12 Chapter Mystery Formula, and so much more. Read my full review of Plottr .
  • Microsoft Word offers a bunch of book outline templates that make creative writing easier. Plus, if you download any outline template from the web, you can likely open it with Word.
  • Google Docs is fantastic for collaboration . If you work with another person on your book outline, Google Docs autosaves to the cloud every few seconds across multiple devices at once.
  • Evernote helps you take notes in a modern, sophisticated way. Write down your notes however you want, share notes with others, and access Evernote across unlimited devices.
  • Ulysses creates projects out of fragments, such as chapters or scenes — a structure that lends itself to outlining in segments.
  • bibisco is a word processor that emphasizes character. Before you start writing, bibisco encourages you to fully map out your character beats and character arcs — great for character-led outlining.

Create the Premise

You need to create a premise for your novel. This gives your writing direction, helps with marketing, and provides you with an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-second pitch about what makes your story interesting, unique, and worthy of attention. To create the premise of your novel, write down the following:

  • Main protagonist
  • Main antagonist
  • Secondary characters
  • Character motivations
  • Central theme
  • Inciting incident
  • The book description (seriously, you want this written before you write the book)

Now brainstorm. Write down all your thoughts, even the bad ones. Don’t censor your ideas. There are no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming. Break up your book into smaller pieces. Determine the natural progression of your main idea and central theme. Finally, consider your reader’s perspective. Is this book’s central idea what your readers want? Figure out the intersection between what you find most interesting and what audiences find most interesting. Now you have created a premise that will give your writing focus and direction. You can use this premise to entice potential readers, editors, agents, or publishers.

Craft the Setting

The setting is where the story takes place. The setting should enhance character development, plot points, mood/tone, atmosphere, suspense, the passage of time, etc. You must craft a setting that is:

  • Interesting
  • Evocative of some emotion
  • Vital to the central theme
  • Important to your character(s)
  • Well-fleshed out
  • Well-researched

Even if you don’t write down everything about your setting in the actual book, you need to understand everything about your setting. Readers can tell if you’re making the setting up as you go or if you know more than they do about where the story takes place.

Construct the Characters

Next, construct your characters , the story element with which most readers connect the most.

You must give each significant character (at least the protagonist and antagonist) a satisfying character arc. Many readers will care more about the character development than the plot development! The plot should serve characters as much as characters contribute to the plot. Give each major character:

  • Motivations
  • External conflict(s)
  • Internal conflict(s)
  • Complex relationships with other characters
  • Backstory (avoid cliches, which are very easy to include in backstories)
  • Distinct traits , including physical and personality attributes
  • Strengths and weaknesses (character flaws are essential!)

You can base characters on real-life people, but I recommend not basing your character entirely on an individual person that you know. Instead, take inspiration for one character from multiple real-life people.

When you put your character through challenging situations, remember that you should construct characters that make bold choices that move the plot forward. Your main character should be more than just an observer.

Develop the Plot

Now that you have your outline type, outlining software, premise, setting, and characters, it’s time to develop your plot.

A plot is what happens in a story.

  • In the beginning, decide what exposition you need to occur in the plot before the inciting incident. How will you introduce your main character(s)? How will you get readers to care about the main character(s)?
  • After the inciting incident that starts the central conflict of the book, what rising actions occur? There should be twists and turns, surprising character development, and satisfying payoffs to promises made by the genre choice or premise.
  • To avoid the mid-novel slump, continue to put your character through hardships and mini-conflicts that engage the reader and keep up your story’s pace.
  • Usually, before the climax, the main character faces their lowest point. This is where he or she hits rock bottom.
  • The climax should solve the main conflict of the novel. It should be the most intense, satisfying section of your book.
  • The resolution is usually pretty short. What character arcs and side plots need to be resolved? Are there any unanswered questions?
  • Finally, a denouement is the very ending. What is the last thing that happens in your book?

Some authors may benefit from writing their plot on a physical piece of paper or index cards to start with. It may help to use a plot structure, especially if this is your first time writing a novel. You can use any of these templates (or none of them — it’s your book!):

  • Three-Act Story Structure
  • Hero’s Journey Template (by Joseph Campbell)
  • The Snowflake Method (by Randy Ingermanson)
  • Save the Cat Beat Worksheet (by Blake Snyder)
  • The One-Page Outline

It may sound simple, but writing a book takes hard work and determination. You have your goals, your space, your topic, and your research. Now you need to write that book!

Read my article on How to Start a Story that Hooks Readers Right Away . As long as you have an outline, writer’s block and procrastination shouldn’t be significant problems. Whenever you sit down to write, go to whatever scene in your outline speaks to you most. Yes, you can write a book out of order — and it’s easy to do with a detailed outline. Some authors may write in a very linear fashion. Depending on the narrative, it may be necessary to write every chapter and scene in order. There are many rules of writing a book, including industry standards for formatting, grammar, and avoiding cliches. I cover 20 major writing rules below, but there are also many “rules” of writing a book that you can choose not to obey, as long as you have a good reason. How many pages should a book be? A book can be any number of pages, depending on audience and genre. A novel is defined as at least 40,000 words (or about 150 novel pages), though most authors aim to double that word count. Fantasy and science fiction tend to be longer. Nonfiction books vary wildly, depending on how long it takes to thoroughly discuss the topic. Because you have the outline from the previous section, I’m not going to take you through how to write a beginning, middle, and end to your story. I’ve already covered how to outline those. However, I think this is the place for handy tips and tricks that every author should know.

Follow These Writing Principles

Although most of these are strong suggestions, not necessarily must-dos, these writing principles can guide you through your writing process and result in a higher quality book. 20 writing tips, tricks, industry standards, and guiding principles for authors:

  • Come up with a book title before you write. A title can give you direction, guidance, and focus. However, change it if need be. In the middle of writing, or after you’re finished, experiment with various title options. Check out this Book Title Generator .
  • Pick a subtitle for marketing purposes. A subtitle can increase your novel’s visibility by including valuable keywords that are great for searchability and marketing purposes.
  • Choose a basic typeface. When you’re writing a manuscript, stick with Times New Roman. When you’re submitting your manuscript to a publisher or a literary agent, they don’t want to see fancy fonts or weird formatting.
  • Don’t start with a cliché. Beginning clichés include waking up, looking in a mirror, lots of dialogue, a dream sequence, a weather description, backstory, and similar book beginnings you’ve heard many times. Some experts even argue against starting with an action scene or prologue, but I would disagree. Those last two can be done well.
  • Don’t start with an info dump. This is a common mistake for new book writers. They want to orient readers into their story’s world and setting. They want to immediately describe everything about their characters that they worked so hard to develop. But you need to start your novel with a hook, a little mystery, and an action (not an action scene, to be precise). An info dump on the first page will scare off readers, editors, agents, etc.
  • Stick to one perspective. If you want to write in a first-person perspective, stick to it. Same for third-person — but with the added caveat of omniscient vs. limited. Beginner’s tip: Don’t use the first person for a first novel; it can easily come off as amateurish and overly introspective. Also, most writers should never use more than 1-3 POV characters. George R.R. Martin is the rare exception.
  • Stick to one tense. Your book should probably be in the past tense. Present tense books from first-time authors tend to read as amateurish. However, young adult books may work in the present tense. Whatever you choose, stick to it. Do not go in and out of present tense. Read this article on when to use “had/have/has” in past tense flashbacks.
  • Use adverbs sparingly. Adverbs may be a crutch for many inexperienced authors. Instead of an adverb, you should use a powerful verb that expresses gripping action without needing an adverb. For example, instead of your main character “loudly saying” an important line of dialogue, perhaps she should “exclaim” it.
  • Avoid “to be. ” Like avoiding adverbs, avoid “to be,” and its conjugates is/am/are/was/were. Use them whenever necessary, of course. But “to be” may signal passive voice and can often be replaced with a more powerful verb.
  • Be careful with pronouns. Pronouns are great tools for avoiding repetition. However, you don’t want to confuse the reader with multiple he’s and she’s and they’s. When you finish a chapter, read it aloud and see if you confuse yourself with any pronoun usage.
  • Ensure every chapter has conflict. Without conflict, your reader feels no stakes or urgency. Every single page should feature conflict and the progression towards its resolution. When you’re about to write a chapter — or finish one — ask yourself if that chapter has/had conflict. No? Then cut it. (Or rework it.)
  • Make every sentence reveal character or advance the action. This is Kurt Vonnegut’s incredible advice that still holds true today. If a sentence doesn't accomplish one or both of these things, remove it. If the paragraph still makes sense, leave that sentence out.
  • Never answer every question. From the first page, your readers need a question that demands an answer. You can introduce any number of questions, but never leave all the questions answered. An unanswered question is what makes readers want to keep reading. Answer a question here and there to satisfy readers with a sense of progression, but never answer every question.
  • Avoid lengthy sentences. Sometimes, a long sentence is needed. More often than not, however, readers digest shorter sentences better. Especially in action scenes, suspenseful sequences, or heated arguments, lengthy sentences disrupt the momentum.
  • Format your dialogue correctly. Commas and periods almost always go inside quotation marks. Check out my article on formatting dialogue for more in-depth info.
  • Use dialogue tags sparingly. Dialogue tags, like “they said” or “she answered” or “Taylor sang” can be useful. However, replace dialogue tags with action tags from the speaker for more spice and less repetition. For instance, don’t write [Greg said, “Where are you?”]. Write [Greg cupped his hands around his mouth. “Where are you?”] instead.
  • Don’t use flowery dialogue tags. “Said” is basically an invisible word. You can use it over and over without the reader noticing. Don’t replace it with more exciting words: elucidated, informed, filibustered, clarified, etc. These can easily distract the reader and ruin the flow of the conversation.
  • Give your characters bold choices. Make sure your characters are making bold choices that progress the plot. No one wants to read about a casual observer in an otherwise fascinating narrative. The main character should directly affect the story.
  • Create likable characters. You readers will root for your characters if the characters do likable things. Have your character show kindness to someone who is bullied. Have your character tell the truth in the face of a lie. Have your character save a cat from a tree (any Blake Snyder fans?).
  • Create unlikable characters. Inversely, you probably want readers to hate certain characters in your book. Have your antagonist bully someone smaller or weaker than him/her. Have your antagonist lie, even if it’s petty and seems insignificant. Give your antagonist snarky comebacks to everything people say. But be careful — you don’t want too many unlikable characters. The most fun part of these characters is working in their comeuppance into the ending of your novel.

Take a Break Before Editing

Once you’ve finished your first draft, take a break. You deserve it! You’ll likely go through a second draft, third draft, beta reader draft, professional edit draft, and another professionally edited draft before you get to your final draft. But those will all be easier than writing the darn thing. You’ve conquered the behemoth. You’ve finished a book. No one can take that away from you. Now sleep in for a few days.

Editing your book may take a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful.

You must edit your own book; then , you must hire a human editor. There’s no getting around it. No professional author publishes his/her first draft: not James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, or Joyce Carol Oates. You need to edit your own book to be the best it can be before an editor makes it even better. You need to hire a human editor to go over your book, or readers will be distracted by every little mistake you missed: grammar, spelling, word choice, amateurish writing style, all sorts of errors. Now here’s where the article diverges into 2 paths:

  • If you’re traditionally publishing, the publishing house will pay for a human editor.
  • If you’re self-publishing, you will need to pay for a human editor.

When editing, it’s almost always better to cut than to add. Although it can feel like you’re cutting off parts of your baby, some subplots, useless characters, lengthy descriptions, and directionless twists hurt your story more than they help it. Let’s break up the editing process into 3 steps:

  • Developmental edits
  • Scene edits

Developmental Edits

When editing, you should deal with developmental edits first. These are big picture edits that become clearer after the entire narrative has been created. For a nonfiction book, these edits frequently involve the clarity, focus, and consistency of your primary theme. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Are there places the information or storytelling bogs down the pace?
  • Is my voice consistent throughout the book?
  • Are there any gaps in my content or places where the flow feels disorganized?
  • Does my book meet the need of my audience or just my own vision?

Read Cascadia’s breakdown of developmental editing for nonfiction books . For a fiction book, developmental edits include making changes to your:

Your characters should have clear motivation , distinct characteristics, believable choices, and satisfying character arcs. Readers experience your book through the characters’ eyes, so characters are usually your most important story element. Changing characters may mean changing many scenes or even adding scenes to elucidate their traits and motivations. Your plot should be engaging, believable, satisfying, and free of plot holes. Your plot should follow a plot structure and genre expectations. If your plot doesn’t check any of these boxes, consider editing your story’s overall plot. This might mean cutting out or adding entire chapters. Make sure there are no loose ends or plot points that go nowhere. Your ending should be preceded by a build-up, foreshadowing, set-ups, and a clear central theme summed up by said ending. Your conflict should engage the reader, further the character development, and make them want to keep turning pages. Consider editing your central conflict if you see ways to strengthen your conflict. Every chapter needs to have a conflict, as well as advancing the overall conflict. Look through your table of contents , and ask of each chapter, “What is the conflict happening in this chapter?” Your theme needs to be clearly conveyed, usually via your plot, characters’ motivations, and conflict/resolution. If you think your themes don’t come across clearly enough, you may need to adjust certain scenes to clarify your central theme. Beta readers are really helpful in determining whether your themes come across.

Scene Edits

We’ve got our big picture developmental edits out of the way. Now let’s dive into scene-by-scene edits, a critical step for editing fiction. Here’s a checklist for when you do your scene edits:

  • Each scene and sequence should contribute to character development or the central conflict. Scenes can contribute to worldbuilding, backstory, and atmosphere, but no scene should go by without character development or conflict development.
  • Always start a scene in media res (in the middle of the action). It helps with pacing, keeps readers engaged, and offers up a mini-question for you to answer right away.
  • Always end a scene with a cliffhanger, however small. Keep your readers asking questions and turning those pages.
  • Make sure every scene is correctly oriented in time and location. Readers need to know where and when everything is happening. Near the beginning of each scene, insert a brief physical description of the unique qualities of where the scene takes place.
  • If one scene is a lot longer than other scenes, ensure that your physical descriptions aren’t overly long, or that your dialogue doesn’t go on and on, or that your action scenes aren’t slow-paced.
  • If one scene is shorter than other scenes, determine whether the pacing is too rushed, whether you skipped establishing time and location, or whether that scene could be combined with another.
  • Every scene needs a consistent voice, a consistent POV, and a consistent tone.
  • Of course, show, don’t tell in every scene.

Now you can proofread and edit your book, line by line. If you don’t have the dexterity to pour over every sentence for grammar, spelling, word choice, and more, then you can use proofreading software like ProWritingAid or Grammarly . Hemingway is another valid option, but it’s my third choice compared to the other two. List of common errors you should fix in copy edits:

  • Passive voice
  • Too many commas
  • Filter words (which are most common when writing in the first person)
  • Too many adverbs
  • Inconsistent voice or POV
  • Too many pronouns, especially the nonspecific “it”
  • Sentences that go on, and on, and on
  • Improper subject-verb agreement
  • Misused words
  • Repeated words
  • Overused jargon

Stop Editing Your Own Book

Once you’ve edited and edited and edited, know when it’s time to stop. You’ve done well. You’ve spent the time necessary to improve your manuscript. Now reward yourself with a week’s rest.

Authors may have big egos.

Not you, of course — other authors…

But it is essential to separate yourself from your work and get feedback from beta readers, professional proofreaders, and editors. You can get feedback from anyone, but I recommend you seek feedback mainly from folks who know something about writing, publishing, or book marketing. Librarians, avid readers, English majors — these people may give you the most constructive feedback.

Enlist Beta Readers

Enlist beta readers to give you feedback. Find willing beta readers on social media , friend groups, and anywhere else you can imagine. Alternatively, you can find a critique partner. This is basically a beta reader for whom you also beta read. Usually, critique partners have some experience in the field, so they can prove very helpful. Plus, most are free. How many beta readers should you have? You should have at least 3-5 beta readers, but some new writers cast a wider net for more feedback opportunities. Unfortunately, some beta readers may never get around to reading your work. They are doing this for free, so don’t harbor too many grievances. I do recommend creating some kind of guide, like a few questions to ask themselves as they're reading. A deadline can also help. Although you want feedback, don’t necessarily make any changes until 2 or 3 beta readers give you the same feedback. Some authors enlist beta readers after they’ve hired a professional proofreader. But I say that’s not necessary.

Hire Editor(s)

You need at least one professional human editor to look over your work. And yes, this is after you’ve edited it yourself. You need to present your best work to a human editor and let him or her make it even better. If you’re publishing through a traditional publisher, they will hire editors in return for a share of your royalties. If you’re self-publishing, this is a necessary (and tax-deductible) expense. And I won’t lie to you: Full-time editors cost money. A copy editor or line editor is different from a proofreader. Here are the 4 types of editors , in chronological order of when they should be hired in your editing process:

  • Developmental editors are the first editor you should hire. They can be the most expensive, but they look at your whole book and help you know what big picture changes you should make to improve your overall story.
  • Line editors focus on the flow of ideas, transitional elements, mood, tone, voice, and style throughout your entire book. They make sentences crisper and tighter by fixing redundancy and verbosity issues and improve awkward sentence and paragraph construction without a full rewrite.
  • Copy editors make changes to the text, including spelling, grammar, word choice, syntax errors, and punctuation use. (“Copy editing” means something different in the UK; there, it’s akin to proofreading.)
  • Proofreaders search for last-minute spelling, grammar, and minor formatting mistakes. A professional proofreader looking over your formatted book should be the final step before publishing.

Of course, you don’t need to hire all four editors. I recommend hiring a developmental editor early in the editing process, a line editor near the end of the editing process, and a proofreader with formatting experience right before publishing. How do you find a great book editor? The best way to find a book editor you can trust is often a word-of-mouth referral from an accomplished author. You may also try book editing services that connect you with fantastic editors for your book. How much does an editor cost?

  • Developmental editors may cost $1,000 and $8,000, depending on your manuscript length and the individual proofreading professional.
  • Line editors charge between $600 and $2,000.
  • Copy editors run between $300 and $1,200.
  • Proofreaders will set you back between $200 and $1,000.

Check out these helpful articles:

  • Book Editing 101
  • Book Editing Blueprint (a fantastic class I’d recommend!)
  • List of the Best Book Editors and How to Select Them
  • Best Proofreading Software
  • Best Proofreading Services You'll Ever Find

Build Your Launch Team

Your launch team ( ARC team ) is a group of people who help your book launch prove as successful as possible. Members of your launch team leave (glowing but honest) reviews on Amazon and share the book’s launch with their circle of influence. The more book reviews you have, the more Amazon suggests your book to other readers. Also, good reviews of your book mean more people are likely to buy your book. A launch team could include:

  • Beta readers
  • Friends/family who want to support you
  • Fans of your previous work
  • Readers of your blog
  • Followers on your social media
  • Critique partners
  • Business contacts
  • Fellow authors

When you recruit launch team members, make sure they know what to do on launch day/week and kindly hold them accountable for following through. Offer freebies to encourage follow-through.

Publish & Market Your Book!

Finally, it’s time to publish your book. And don’t forget you have to market your own book, too — whether you’re going through the self-publishing or traditional publishing process.

When you publish your book, make sure you format your book correctly , nail your back cover blurb , have a stellar book cover (traditional publishers will usually pay for this), and properly organize the front matter and back matter . Hopefully, you know that you have to start marketing your book long before it hits shelves and the online marketplace. Be sure to check out my podcast about book marketing . Here are some articles you can read to learn more about book marketing:

  • Book Marketing 101
  • Kindle Keywords for Self-Publishers
  • Ultimate List of the Best Book Review Blogs
  • How to Use Surveys to Sell More Books
  • Best Email Services for Authors
  • How to Sell Your Books in an Indie Bookstore

Dave Chesson

Related posts, writing a book for the first time a breakdown of the complete process, how to write the best novel outline of 2024: 6 easy steps, sell more books on amazon, amazon kindle rankings e-book.

Learn how to rank your Kindle book #1 on Amazon with our collection of time-tested tips and tricks.

3 thoughts on “ How to Write a Book in 2024: The Ultimate Guide for Authors ”

Loved this format, Dave – am currently editing my next book, so could skip right to that section for tips. The bloggers list will also come in handy for me very soon, so that’s much appreciated too!

I really enjoyed this article. There were many good points I never considered. I am a new writer. I self-published my first book in 2008, it is on Amazon. I am working on a second novel and it is in the revising stage. I cannot afford an editor, so I hope my editing will be enough. I plan to submit to Amazon.

Thank you so much for the hard work you put into making this information available for authors or soon to be authors, it was much needed.

I laughed over the idea of outlining software. Really? I do my initial outline in longhand in my plots notebook, where I also describe the characters. I wouldn’t feel connected to them if I did them onscreen. Then I outline 6 chapters ahead, on the end of my document, erasing or moving events around as I go with the chapters written. It sounds like someone has come up with a way to make authors spend more. If I want to write out of order, I add a scene or convo to the plot outline to slot in. Word is quite flexible enough! You don’t need any fancy software. Indeed, you can do it longhand with a separate notebook for outlines. And then edit the first time on transcription, which is more efficient than writing to screen. Only arthritis makes me abandon the habit.

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How to Write a Book in 10 Simple Steps | Forbes Books Guide

Man Writing a manuscript

How many people think they have what it takes to write a business book? Thousands of writers have started books, but never finished. Writing a book can be overwhelming for many writers without authorship experience. Learn how to write a book in 10 simple steps with expert advice from Forbes Books .

1. Establish Why You Want to Write a Book

Why do you want to write a book? Before Forbes Books selects an author to be a member, we ask them to answer  this question. When you’re thinking about writing a book, ask yourself three questions .

  • Why do I want to write a book?
  • Do I have expert knowledge to share with the world?
  • What am I passionate about?

A business book is typically at least 40,000 words . This goal is difficult to reach without guidance from professionals. Forbes Books helps our members finesse, narrow, or expand their book topic to reach their goals. 

Are you writing for family legacy or would you like to entertain? For example, if you’re writing a book to leave for your family, selling books probably won’t be your biggest concern. 

However, if you’re wanting to influence readers and become an Amazon bestseller , your book needs to be structured for maximum engagement . This means using best practices, combined with new ideas to position your book to sell. 

As you could imagine, this is much harder than it sounds, but positioning your book to achieve maximum engagement is what we do.

In order to stand out from the crowd, you must offer your target audience something of value . Value can be in the form of pure entertainment or ideas that can improve your professional skills. 

2. Determine on an Overarching Idea for Your Book

Many of our authors are doctors, CPAs, business leaders, and CEOs. Before we even get involved, authors should already have an overarching (30,000 foot) view of what they’re wanting to write about. 

If you’re a medical doctor, write about how your specialty can help people become healthier. If you’re a CPA, consider how your skills can help people with financial literacy. Once you have your overarching idea, it’s time to conduct your research to hone in your title and ideas.

3. Conduct Research on Book Topic

Before you ever put pen to paper, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible with your knowledge and organization. Every great book started with hours (and hours) of research about the specific topic. There are two forms of research you’ll want to complete before writing a book. 

Competitor Analysis

If you’re a cardiologist that wants to share your insights into a healthy life, you’ll want to read similar content. For example, Google “ cardiologist recommended books ” and start reading as many books in your genre as you can.

Top Selling Cardiovascular books

We recommend looking for the type of content in each book and determining if you have similar knowledge. Look at the titles in each book and think about how you would structure your book based on other published authors. 

Reading books from your peers will help understand the major themes of their book. Look at the number of chapters, pages, and media they’ve used in their book, as well. This will give you an idea of how long your book should be. Furthermore, this will help you establish your writing goals. 

Market Analysis

After you’ve read enough books on your potential topics, it’s time to see how consumers are viewing your topic. We recommend you start with a simple Google search for the best or most popular books in your genre. For example, a cardiothoracic surgeon should type in something like “best cardiovascular surgeon books”. 

Top 24 cardiothoracic surgery books on Google

Google provides you with the most popular books in the cardiothoracic genre. Reading some of the best sellers will help you understand what separates the best from the average.  

Research Amazon b est sellers for your genre because Amazon is the most popular place in the world to buy books. We always recommend studying the top books to get an understanding of the titles, themes, cover design, and interior design.

If you look at the top four books for this genre, you’ll notice they’re all guides to understanding a specific topic. So, if you’re a heart surgeon and want to write a book, you’ll want to write some type of guide. 

Conducting market research is a must if you want to share your knowledge and sell books. For example, an autobiography in the cardiovascular genre isn’t going to sell enough to make an impact on your target audience.

Conducting market research and competitor analysis while maintaining other responsibilities can be difficult for business leaders. The Forbes Books marketing team boasts decades of combined experience in market research and competitor analysis. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help, read our Digital Media & Engagement services page .

4. Create an Outline For Your Book

Creating an outline is one of those practices that may seem like it’s a waste of time. However, outlining is an essential step authors take for creating a retail-worthy book. Before you ever write one word in your book, write a rough outline. 

Many writers might think they don’t need an outline, but it’s important to ensure your organization is perfect. One common mistake we often see with new authors is the “ marathon middle ” of their books. Authors without detailed outlines make the mistake of front loading their content, instead of offering value throughout the book. 

woman speaking in front of male and female coworkers

What Types of Outlines Are Great for Books?

The most common outline used for authors is the Alphanumeric outline . Using this outline allows you to organize each chapter into Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic Numerals, and lowercase letters. An Alphanumeric outline gives you a blueprint for each chapter and the sub topics inside them. 

Some people (like myself) do a better job of organizing their thoughts in an interactive way, such as a mindmap . Using a mindmap to outline your book will not only help you organize your book, but also can be more comprehensive. 

Using a mindmap in conjunction with an Alphanumeric outline provides multiple perspectives to hone in your content. 5. Emphasize a Conflict and Resolution To Provide Value

Every good book starts with a good story. Readers want to be conflicted and be touched emotionally by the story. People love stories with someone overcoming extreme adversity. Think about Forbes Books author, Andres Pira and how he went from being Homeless to a Billionaire . 

Andres’ story is incredible, but we have many other authors, like Mari Tautimes , who embodies resilience, persistence, and adversity. You can listen to Mari Tautimes’ life-lessons and how she overcame her circumstances to become a successful CEO on Forbes Books Audio . 

Forbes Books podcast with Mari Tautimes

There are three things you can do to set your book up for success. Remember, your introduction is your first impression and we only ever get one first impression. 

Get Your Readers’ Attention with a Great Hook

There are many things you can do to get your readers’ attention, but it depends on the writer’s voice, style, and purpose for their book. 

  • Use empathy to connect with your audience by telling them a personal story
  • Use unique statistics to prove your point and enlighten the readers
  • Start with a prolific quote that emphasizes your topic
  • Ask a question you think people are thinking about

Detail the Context of Your Book

After your hook, you’ll need to detail what separates your book from the rest. How do you bring tangible value to your audience? Your readers want to know exactly what you’re going to do for them, and they want it asap. 

The biggest thing to think about when writing a business book is how you can address a common problem people have. Readers need to know they’re going to get something they can use to better their lives. 

Highlight Your Keywords

Whether it’s the title, headings, or the content, you need to establish your keywords and highlight them in your book. This is more important if you want to publish your book online (ebooks, audible) because of Google Search . 

Regardless of how you want your book distributed, having a set of keywords you want to highlight will help organize your thoughts . Your keywords should be key topics that your target audience wants to learn about.

6. Establish a Writing and Reading Routine

One of the 20th century’s most prolific authors, Stephen King , once stated, “ If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that .”

Simply put, writers must be avid readers to gain new perspectives and knowledge that the public doesn’t have. Establishing a routine to read and write is the most important step you can take to be a successful writer. 

How do I create a writing and reading routine? Lay out your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. Once you know your schedule, set out at least 30 minutes every day for reading . 

However, you don’t need to write every day to become an author. In fact, writing every day is a good way to burn yourself out before your book is finished. We recommend setting aside two to four  hours a week for writing . 

7. Create Writing Goals

There are two types of goals that writers should focus on; short-term and long-term goals . A long-term goal is set out over months or years, whereas a short-term goal is a daily or weekly goal. 

A great short-term goal to set is writing 1,000 words per week (4,000 words per month). Using short-term goals is the best way to ensure you’re not overwhelmed or discouraged by the lengthy process. 

A long-term goal would be to finish your manuscript in 10 months ( 40,000 words ) by using your weekly goals. Creating tangible and realistic goals will only help you stay locked in during your process.

Professional writing a business book

8. Establish an Editing Routine

Editing is the most time-consuming process of writing a book. Establishing a routine to edit is just as important as a writing routine. One of the major faults of many writers is they either try to edit too much or not enough. 

We’d recommend using tools, such as Grammarly , ProWritingAid , or Hemingway App for editing. 

Our recommendation is to edit weekly instead of editing every day you write. This will save you time, energy, and most importantly, keep you in the rhythm of writing. 

As writers, we believe it’s more important to write when your mind is right, instead of breaking up your train of thought. This will help with preventing writer’s block, as well. 

At Forbes Books, you’ll work with a professional editorial team to ensure your manuscript is well organized and free from error.

Person proofreading a manuscript

How Can You Amplify the Message in Your Book?

Many publishing companies encourage writers to give their business book manuscript to their friends and families. At first this seems like a great idea, but there are problems with this strategy. For example, do you know if your friends and family are a part of your target audience? 

It’s likely your business connections will bring greater feedback than your family and support your manuscirpt’s circulation. Try sending a book advance to the people in your business network. Word of mouth is by far the best form of amplification. Sending these advanced copies of your book will encourage your professional network to share your book and recommend it to others. 

9. Decide on Your Publishing Program: Which is Better?

There are three types of publishing for business books; traditional, self-publishing and independent publishing . Forbes Books offers an independent model, allowing our members to fully own and control their book. 

Traditional Publishing

  • No up-front costs to publishing
  • Professional publishers offer elite level promotion and publishing plans
  • Major publishers have authoritative media contacts for top-tier books only
  • Highest chance to get books in brick & mortar bookstores


  • Around 1% of books get signed to major publishing houses
  • Lengthy process requiring lots of  oversight
  • Minimal creative control since publishers take the bill
  • No ownership of your book manuscript
  • Niche topics are much harder to get published
  • The publisher determines how the book is marketed to the public
  • Could take up 2 years to publish

Independent Publishing

  • Full ownership of your book
  • Customize all aspects of your book plan
  • Publish a book in less than 14 months
  • Complete marketing control 
  • Ideal for niche topics
  • Higher opportunity for profit than traditional publishing
  • Complete creative control
  • There will be higher up-front costs
  • Independent publishing has higher overall costs


  • More creative control than traditional publishing
  • Higher earning potential because you handle the entire process
  • No deadlines or gatekeepers telling you what you must do
  • The most time-consuming process out of the 3 types of publishing
  • Learning the book publishing process by yourself is very difficult
  • Hiring professional editors, PR firms, or other important professionals is very expensive
  • Unless you have professional connections, you’ll need someone to help market your book

10. Create a Book Promotion Strategy

Even after you write a manuscript and design a book cover, you still have to promote your book. Planning your book release brings on a whole new set of problems that can be overwhelming without professional help. 

According to our Sr. Director of Book Marketing & Promotions , not all types of promotion should start at the same time. For example, if you’re creating promotional content and updating assets online, you’ll need 6 months of promotion before the release .

However, there’s an entirely new campaign for selling the book as the release date gets closer. We recommend 6-8 weeks of active promotion before the release date to sell on online platforms.

Why Choose Independent Publishing With Forbes Books?

So there are pros and cons to traditional, self-publishing, and independent publishing. However, how many publishing companies are going to give you full ownership of your book? 

Forbes Books is all about giving our members full control over their projects while guiding them the entire way through. We offer multiple publishing plans for prospective authors to fit the busy life of a CEO. 

Independent publishing is a lot like self-publishing, except you’ll have access to some of the best editors, marketers, and PR. We not only give our members 100% rights to their book , but we nurture, guide, and ensure each book represents the best in business.

According to Quora , there are about 1 million books published in the U.S. every year . How many books have you heard of this year? Anybody can market a book and spend thousands with paid ads. 

Our focus at Forbes Books is quality book creation. We focus on starting each business book idea with the end goal in mind. This allows our team to create a Master Blueprint that walks each member through the process, step-by-step. 

The best part about this process is the level customization we offer each member. If you’re a CEO or business leader, you can count on Forbes Books to create the best possible book for you. 

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an Advantage Media or Forbes Book’s author, reach out to our team today !

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How to Write a Book: A Complete Guide for New Authors

Climbing a mountain, seeing the pyramids, learning to cook, writing a book – these are but a few life goals that many of us share. In the minds of many, the book writing process is the most daunting of all. 

Having the ability to write fiction and master the editing process can be one of the most rewarding things a person does in his or her entire life, but it can also be one of the most challenging, trying, frustrating, and often thankless endeavors. 

Simply put, it’s not for everyone. But just about anyone who really wants to write a book can do so. In fact, in many ways, it’s easier than ever, thanks to book writing software that can take dictation, catch errors, and help keep things moving, and of course thanks to the great ease of researching allowed by the internet.

On the other hand, all the challenges writers have faced for untold generations still exist: finding the time to work, creating characters and a setting readers will believe, finding the right words to get your ideas into a shape others will receive, and, of course, the hardest part of all: sticking with the actual writing until the book is done. 

We’ll never know how many novels, memoirs, or plays were abandoned and uncompleted, but it’s a safe bet that they outnumber all the published works!

If you think you want to write a book despite all the challenges, then let’s stop right there: don’t think it, know it. Now, if you know you want to write a book, then let’s roll. 

Before the writing process: The why

The most important thing you need to ask yourself, before you take any further steps, is why you want to write a book. Because while there are many good reasons to want to write a book, there are a few good reasons why writing a book may not be the best idea.

To begin here, let’s consider a few arguments in favor of you taking the plunge (AKA the often-heroic time and effort needed) and writing a book.

Do you want a writing career?

First, if you simply really, deeply want to write a book, you have your book idea, and you know you just won’t be fulfilled unless you do this thing, then do it. Go for it, no other reason needed than your own “I want to write a book!” Self-publishing is always an option, so there’s nothing at all to stop you.

Second, even if you’re not consumed by the desire to have written a book but you happen to have a good book (or books) within you, based on an idea you had, a life experience or the life story of someone you know of, or perhaps your expertise in a field that just begs for you to pen a nonfiction book, then you may want to go ahead. In this case, it’s the book demanding you write it, not you simply wanting to have a finished book to your credit.

Third, writing a book can be a source of income. Don’t quit your job and bank on your new career as a professional writer (and definitely don’t quit your day job or buy a new car or anything of the sort until you are well established), as writing can be a hard way to make a living at all and an even harder one at which to enjoy a stable, steady career. 

But if you can add writing into your existing life balance, it may just add in some revenue if it turns out you’re a decent hand at writing. And in fact, you can even make decent money via self-publishing, provided you’re also rather good at self-promoting.

Why you shouldn’t write a book

Before you begin writing, we do need to talk about a few reasons why perhaps you should not write a book.

If trying to write a book is going to add undue stress to your life, if you are already spread thin in terms of time and emotional stamina as it is, then don’t try to write a book, at least not right now. 

Life changes over the years, and it will quite likely be a better time to start writing later. That said, short stories, poems, nonfiction essays, and the like? You can always write such shorter form work now, no grand commitment needed.

If you are considering writing a book at the behest of someone else but your heart’s not in it, then find a polite way to say no and to redirect the person elsewhere – your aunt with the “amazing” life story can always hire a paid professional writer as a ghost writer.

And finally, if you want to write a book just because you want to have written a book, then it’s probably in your best interest to let the notion go. Writing an entire book just to check that box, as it were, is almost surely going to yield a book most people would just as soon not read. Even if it took you less than a year, save yourself the time and effort until you get an idea for the book, not a book, and know that it’s OK to live a perfectly happy life having never written a book at all.

None of this is to discourage you from writing fiction, a memoir, a children’s story, a YA novel, or anything else, it’s just to get you thinking about the why of it all, because after all, it’s a lot of work, whether you’re writing nonfiction or a fantastical story that takes place in a world you create yourself. That way, when you finally write those first words, you’ll know you are committed to sticking with the writing habit and writing routine until you get to the last words, even if it’s a long slog.

The first step: Reading books. Lots of books

book writing

For your own book, you know your story, your characters, your setting, all that. So why would you need to do a good deal of reading before you get to writing? Well, if you’re a regular reader already, maybe you don’t. But if it has been a while since you read much, then it’s time to crack some books open. And it’s not just my opinion. It’s good practice that is espoused by many of the greatest writers out there. 

This is especially important if you are writing in a genre, such as crime fiction, fantasy, or romance, or so on. Read other works in the same genre for inspiration, to see what readers are enjoying (and what’s selling), and to make sure you actually enjoy the genre as much as you think you do. 

Read to learn new words, to see new writing styles. Read to gain a better appreciation of what makes dialogue work in a particular story (and when it doesn’t – almost every book ever published has its problem points!). Read to find out how many words are in the most popular books written by a New York Times bestselling author. Information is power!

Reading other books isn’t the only way to prime your mind for writing, but it is a great start. And also to make sure what you’re writing ends up as original a work as possible as you hone your writing style, sometimes also called the writing voice.

The two kinds of writers: The gardener and the architect

Granted, lumping all writers ever into but two categories is a messy business. One could come up with dozens of more specific subcategories and fit writers into them, and also of course many writers cross the lines, working via one approach for one novel, another in the next, and even blurring the process during the course of working on one project in some cases.

But for our purposes, we’re drawing a single line down the middle and demarking two types of writer: the gardener and the architect. You can switch sides as you please, but as you start a given project, you have to be in one camp or the other if you expect success.

The architect

Let’s talk about the architect first. An architect can’t leave anything to chance: do so, and the pipes and wires will be installed all wrong, the windows and doors at rakish angles, the walls askew, and the very foundation of building unsound, the whole structure likely to collapse. 

The writer who follows the architect’s approach knows where her book is going to end before she even starts it. She knows how to focus , she makes plans, she makes notes, maybe even outlines. She writes character sketches, location descriptions, and on it goes. 

In short, she has a roadmap for the whole story right from the start. If this sounds like it saps creativity, it doesn’t; rather it provides a framework into which you can pour your best prose, your most pointed dialogue and poetic phrasing. 

The problems for the architect is that if a great new idea comes along, it may not be able to fit in, and if a pre-planned plot point falls flat or a character just isn’t working, it can be hard to fix the story without going too far astray from the plans.

The gardener

how do you write a book

The gardener takes a markedly different approach to writing. For them, the work done beforehand isn’t specific, it isn’t planning, per say, but daydreaming. It’s wondering. It’s picturing and imagining but it’s not committing to any given story arc or character trait or any of it. 

The gardener wonders and ponders for a long time, and this is the planting of the seeds. Then they get to work, and this is the watering and feeding and tending; it is the growing of the garden, in other words. And when they finish writing and the entire manuscript is done, that is the harvest. 

The gardener knows what is planted and has an idea of what will grow, but is ready to be as pleasantly surprised by the exact shape the book takes as it grows. The gardener approach can unleash creativity to its fullest bounds, because you’re never tied to any one plan. But it can also allow you to write yourself into a hole in ways that the architect will seldom if ever experience, given the plans drawn up from the start.

Exactly what type of writer are you?

Is one approach better than the other? Well, in some cases, yes. If you are going to write nonfiction books, it’s probably better to plan it out pretty well. There will likely be chronology to consider, quotes to include, facts to factor in, and of course lots of citation and attribution to keep track of.

On the other hand, if you are writing fiction, all those plans may well trap you and end up feeling limited. So do consider a hybrid approach in both cases: planning out, perhaps, the beginning and the denouement of your novel well and then letting things wind their way a bit in between, or using detailed outlines for the chapters of that nonfiction book but letting yourself enjoy the prose writing within each section.

Setting up your writing space and establishing writing habits

The first thing to keep in mind when considering how you will establish a dedicated writing space and writing habits is to tell yourself not to be too rigid about them. 

Yes, when writing books it’s a great idea to have a dedicated space in which and time at which you write, but if you anchor to these too fully, you’ll begin giving yourself excuses to skip writing when everything is not in place.

Private spaces

For most people, writing is a quiet, solitary activity and as such the ideal writing space is one in which you can be alone and with relatively little sound. A private writing cabin by the lake is ideal, but likely not an option. So instead this space can be a desk in an office, the dining room table if the house is calm, your garage, the deck, a library alcove, or anywhere else that’s readily accessible and does not usually warrant interruption.

Public spaces

On the other hand, some people thrive on working in busy spaces, inspired by the sights and sounds and action around them. Thus the common (and accurate) trope of the writer working in a coffee shop or a bench on a busy city street. 

Not only can these environments work well for some writers, but in other cases you may simply need to get out of your living space to get into a writing headspace and to truly capture the reader’s interest, so take what you can get and make it work, be it a quiet park or bustling diner.

i want to write a book

Don’t sweat the word count, just put in the time. It’s better to write a paragraph you love than a chapter you hate. But better still? Write a page you’re pretty happy with, and that you can edit into something great later on. Because often it’s in the editing where the book truly comes into its own.

Writer’s block is not real… but it can feel that way

Again, writer’s block is not a real thing, not in the way that a tonsil infection or broken laptop or other tangible things that can interrupt your flow are. 

But getting stuck wondering how to end a chapter, difficulty making a new character feel real, trouble with dialogue or scenery description, uncertainty how to weave an interviewee’s quotes into your nonfiction piece – these are all real difficulties you can and will face if you write enough.

For the sake of argument, we’ll just call all those and more “writer’s block” anyway, as we’re talking about how to move past it and get on with your writing process. And indeed one of the best ways to overcome writer’s block is through a process, is through disciplined writing habits. 

If you sit down at the same time in the same writing space ready to do the work every day (or most days), your mind will become primed to shift into writing gear, build on fresh ideas, and you may never even hit a snag. Just make sure you stay with it for at least 20 to 30 minutes of writing time during each writing session. Almost overwhelmingly, you’ll find that successful writers are disciplined writers that follow the same structure during their routine. (And hey, the same goes for lawyers, explorers, painters, boxers, detectives, and on it goes.)

Keep things fresh

Next, you can avoid getting stuck on one project by keeping things fresh through variety. If you are stuck working on a chapter in your novel, write out that poem you thought of while stuck in traffic. Or dash out a journal entry about your day. Or write a short story about a subject and characters entirely unlike the project at which you’re stumbling. 

Not only can switching gears refresh and recharge you to keep on with your primary book ideas, but you may actually end up with a great piece of writing from the secondary work you did. (You know Robert Frost’s arguably most famous poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” right? Well, had the poet not been working all night long on a different piece. He dashed off “Stopping” in a matter of minutes in the morning in the year 1922.)

Take breaks

writing books

And finally, if you’re stuck hard and fast and you’re starting to get frustrated, stop writing. Not entirely, of course, just for the moment. Take a break; take a day off, even. 

Worse than not being productive during one or two writing sessions is developing a larger frustration with writing in general; that may see you lose interest and give up instead of just giving it a rest. Take a walk, call a friend, watch a show, read a book, just take a break, then get back to it.

Okay, you wrote an entire book! What now?

Done with your book? Amazing, congratulations are well due! Take a breath, relax, feel some pride. Now back to work! After giving yourself a few days away from the book, or maybe even a couple of weeks, go through the whole thing and make any and all edits you think will improve it.

Now get that book into the hands of someone you trust – someone who isn’t looking to hurt your feelings, of course, but won’t be afraid to do so if honesty leads to such. Get a few people to read the book and give you notes if you can, and cross-reference their input, weighing your own feelings, too.

Once the book is in a form you feel you and your crew can’t make better, it’s time to consider whether you will self-publish or try to go big and get a publisher to take your book on. This is true for nonfiction writers and poets alike. Get yourself an agent. Which will not be easy, by the way.

To find an agent, do the research. Look in acknowledgement sections of books similar to yours and see who the author thanked, then read up on what that agent likes and go through the steps. Prepare to be met usually with silence, occasionally with rejections. But keep at it, because once you get someone in your corner, you are much closer to getting a book on shelves.

It’s never too late

William Wordsworth (aptly named, right?) is one of the most famous poets of one of the most famous groups of poets, the English Romantics. He was born in the year 1770 and died in 1850 and, while prolific throughout much of his life, many of the poet’s most famous and enduring poems were written when he was over the age of 50.

Raymond Chandler, an icon of the noir writing of the first half of the 20 th century, didn’t start writing until he was 44. And Toni Morrison didn’t have a single novel published until she was 40 – a couple decades later, she was a Nobel prize winner. The same thing could be true for you!

If that’s not inspiration enough, then read some quotes about writing from successful writers or, better yet, read some books about writing written by masters of the craft, like Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , to name one.

And as mentioned earlier, as you work, don’t sweat the daily word count goal – Flaubert often obsessed over single sentences for entire days before they fit a style he felt suitable for their novel. And don’t stress if you get stuck – first drafts are meant to be just that, drafts. Switch gears and write something else for a bit, or charge ahead even if you know a sentence or two aren’t great and then edit the hell out of them later. 

It’s never too late to write a book… until it is. But you won’t be around to know about it then, so do it now. Read, plan, ponder, get excited, then start writing. And don’t stop until the book is done. If you enjoy yourself in the process, you can go ahead and write another one. And another.

  • how-to guide
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Steven John is a writer based near New York City (after 12 years in LA, four in Boston, and the first 18 just outside DC). When not writing or spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, he frequently jogs and bikes, sometimes gets in a kayak, and occasionally climbs mountains. He writes for several major outlets, and his novels can be found on his website


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The Complete Guide to the Book Writing Process

Writing your book doesn’t have to be a difficult, complex process..

There’s no magic formula for how to write a book. Different authors have taken different paths to success, and you’ll need to adapt this guide to your own needs and strengths. But you can break down the book-writing process into six rough stages, and this guide takes you through them.

The guide covers everything you need to know, from your first glimmer of an idea to the moment you can finally hold your book in your hands. Whether you’re a writing beginner or a pro ready to take on a new project, you can use it to map your journey.

Take the advice of a top-tier publishing company. It’s time to put pen to paper and start writing that book you’ve imagined for years.

Set Yourself up for Success

Figuring out how to write a book — your particular book — is hard. You need to find the space in your world and the resources that will help you stay on track .

Find Your Workspace

When you think about the physical act of writing, what do you envision? What does your ideal office look like, and what tools do you need?

Carve out a writing space for yourself. Some people do their best work among others, and other writers require absolute privacy. You might work at a home desk, a kitchen table, or the corner booth at the local coffee shop. Find a clear, clean space where you can slip into writing mode.

You should also pick out a word processor and any other writing tools you need. Take an hour or two to explore your options. Sometimes the right platform can make a huge difference.

Find Your Practice

There is exactly one quality that makes someone a writer. They write. It’s easy to think about writing, but you need to create the habit of writing to make real progress.

It is crucial for the book writing process to settle on the right schedule for you to consistently write. Assign yourself blocks of writing time, and pencil them into your schedule. Treat them with the respect you’d give any other commitment.

Frequency matters as much as duration. It isn’t easy to finish a book when you only work in fits and starts. If you have a busy schedule, try to write for fifteen minutes at the same time every day. You’ll still need to find larger blocks of time but stay in touch with your project between them.

Find Your Community

Writing can be lonely. Your best sources of support and feedback are other writers. Join a writing group , and find beta readers, cheerleaders, and people to whom you can talk about your book and any challenges that arise.

Check out local libraries, schools, and community centers to find groups in your area. There are also many online writing resources and communities available.

NaNoWriMo deserves particular mention. In addition to the month-long writing marathon in November, the organization has community message boards, which are a great place to find groups.

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Develop the Idea

What’s your book about? If you have more than one idea, start with the one you feel most prepared to write. Once you know how to write a book, you can take advantage of your momentum and move on to other projects.

Let Yourself Brainstorm

Give yourself some space to think and jot down notes. Draw mind maps for nonfiction topics or detail fictional settings and characters. You could also try freewriting. Set a timer and write without stopping or editing a word. Ramble away and see what emerges.

Craft a Rough Logline or Pitch

Loglines are one-or-two-sentence summaries of novels, movies, or television shows. A compelling logline can make your book, and you should workshop yours until it’s perfect. It’s the tagline that readers will use to decide whether to read the jacket copy, let alone the book.

Why start this early in the process? As the book evolves, so will the logline. Two reasons to do so are:

  • It’s good to practice talking about your book. Give yourself a quick blurb that you can pass on to writing groups, friends, etc.
  • By distilling the conflict or concept of your book, you sharpen your focus for the actual writing process.

The same goes for a nonfiction book pitch.

Do the Research

Even fiction books require levels of research . These allow you to write convincingly, to make your characters and world feel real. And nonfiction books often require even more substantial research.

Develop a note-taking system that allows you to find the information you need at will. You don’t want to waste time repeating your research.

Don’t wait until the research is complete to begin writing the book. You’ll discover new questions in the process of writing and need to research as they come up. Research can also become a bottomless hole into which you disappear. There will always be something else that you could read. Start writing anyway.

There are days that you’ll feel inspired. There are days that you won’t. As said, writers write. There’s no substitute. You have to string those sentences together on bad days as well as good.

Write Your Zero Draft

Intimidated by the idea of a first draft? You’re not alone. Free yourself from the expectations that accompany a completed draft. Write a zero draft first.

The zero draft matters because it’s meant to teach yourself how to write the book. You start telling yourself the story or articulating your ideas. You experiment. You write pages that could appear in your book but probably won’t.

The zero draft can go from beginning to end, or it can be more of a hodgepodge. It’ll be a mess, and you never have to show it to another soul.

Write Your Outline

You may be a “pantser”, a writer who prefers not to plan, flying by the seat of their pants. You may write your outline after the first draft, using it to tweak the narrative of draft two. That’s fine.

But at some point, you’re going to want to sit down and plan out your book. You want your story or argument to unfold logically and at the right speed.

Even if you have a solid grasp of the book’s structure, templates can come in handy. Use a novel template to chart out story beats or a nonfiction outline that lays out popular book arcs. By mapping your book onto these, you get a valuable new perspective and can see potential trouble areas.

Write Your First Draft

Time to write something that looks a lot like a book.

Your writing process may not be linear. Some writers prefer to jump around in early drafts. Others start with the opening line. However you get there, the first draft should be a complete version of the book.

Remember that it’s supposed to be a rough draft . It won’t be a polished final product, and that’s all right.

Don’t Stop Writing

Writing is hard. You’ll need to power through the obstacles to writing a book . Life happens and steals your time and energy. Stories go off track. Essays bog down. You’ll have to endure crises of confidence and periods of frustration.

Just keep going.

Once you have the first draft, you switch your target from “done” to “good.” Turn that draft into a polished piece you’re proud to claim.

Let yourself take a short break between drafts. Doing so allows you to come back with fresher eyes. Set a date for restarting to make sure that you get back to work when you’re ready.

Rethink Your Title

Working titles can be anything. You can label that document with a theme, a character’s name, or even “My Book.”

But eventually, you’ll need a strong title — one that grabs readers’ attention and gives them some idea of what to expect. Pay attention to common titling conventions , particularly if you’re writing nonfiction.

Revise Your Manuscript

Revision should be what the word suggests — a new vision for your book. Most final drafts look different than first drafts. Your first idea isn’t always your best, and the book may go through any number of drafts before it’s done.

Edit yourself first. Be honest, as you ask yourself:

  • What’s not working yet?
  • What characters or themes need more attention?
  • Where does the story lag or race?
  • Do you have more research to do?
  • Are you presenting your ideas or narrating your novel from the best viewpoint?

Give yourself some room to play and try out different things.

Incorporate Critique

Once you’ve solved any problems you can handle on your own, you need to get input from others. This is where your beta readers and writing workshops can be most helpful. In addition to giving you advice on the trouble areas you’ve identified, they can tell you where they struggle with the book.

Learning how to give and receive feedback is a crucial part of learning how to write a book. Pay extra attention to any notes you receive from more than one source.

Don’t get defensive and stay open-minded. Even if you disagree with a comment, it still might trigger a realization on your part. On the other hand, don’t try to incorporate every single opinion you receive either. You’re the authority when it comes to your project, and your vision drives it.

Consider hiring an editor at some point in the process. Expert editors can elevate your book, identifying impactful changes to strengthen your manuscript.

Polish Your Manuscript

When you’re done with the more dramatic changes, you still need to polish the final product. You can:

  • Edit at the level of the line.
  • Tighten your prose, cutting unnecessary words and fixing awkward sentences.
  • Check for inconsistencies. If your heroine is wearing a sundress, don’t have her slip a note into the pocket of her blue jeans.
  • Perfect the grammar and fix typos.

Nothing makes a text look more amateurish than poor copyediting. Even if you’re an English teacher, you might want to hire a copyeditor. When rereading your own work, your eyes are more likely to skim past errors.

Turn Your Manuscript Into a Book

It may not seem like it now, but you will eventually finish the manuscript. Congratulations! You’ve done the hardest part.

You’re not done quite yet. After all, your goal was to write a book, not a manuscript. You could try to go the traditional publishing route and find an agent, but more and more authors are turning toward self-publishing.

Format and Design the Book

Technically, you can convert a text document into an ebook on your own, but a professional book design gives your book an edge. Palmetto’s book interior formatting ensures the best reading experience for all your soon-to-be fans.

Add any necessary images to the book. You might also use a professional illustrator to add a special touch to high-impact areas such as the book title page.

Get a Professional Cover

Covers matter — amateurish designs can deter readers from investing their time and money in your book. Take pride in your work and give your manuscript the book cover design it deserves.

Share It With the World

You’re ready to send your baby out into the world. Self-publishing can be a nerve-wracking process, but there are things you can do to increase your chances of success.

Publish With Palmetto

Self-publishing with Palmetto gives you access to an incredible array of professional services. We require our authors to use our interior formatting and cover design, ensuring high-quality, appealing books.

Publishing with Palmetto also gives you access to our on-demand book printing . Order only the copies you want for yourself, and then let us handle printing needs as they arise.

Launch Your Book

If you want people to love your book, you have to let them know it exists first. Palmetto’s book marketing packages prepare you for a successful launch. We can handle:

  • Marketing copy
  • A press release and distribution
  • Your website
  • Promotional products

Get your book noticed with a targeted marketing strategy appropriate to your genre and audience.

Continue to Market It

Successful authors do more than writing. They also engage fellow writers and readers. As an author, you should:

  • Cultivate opportunities for promotion
  • Write a blog
  • Develop your social media accounts
  • Talk to local libraries and bookstores

Find a level of engagement that you can sustain and commit to it.

You’ll also need to solicit reviews. Ask readers to review your work on Amazon and Goodreads. Contact book bloggers and influencers. Reviews increase your exposure on seller platforms and convince potential readers to give your book a try.

You Know How To Write a Book — Now Do It

Writing may be easier said than done, but Palmetto’s editing and self-publishing services can demystify the process and give your work a professional finish.

The most important part of writing a book is fully committing to it. So make the decision to start. Clear the necessary room in your house and your life, and then go for it. Writing a book isn’t easy, but there are a few things more rewarding.

At Palmetto Publishing, we believe in you and your manuscript. Contact us , and let’s discuss how to make your book a reality.

Start Your Publishing Journey

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Become a Writer Today

How to Write a Book: A Definitive Guide for New Authors

Learning how to write a book for the first time is a challenge, but you can easily become an author.

In this article, I offer a step-by-step process for writing your first book faster.

Over the past few years, I wrote a three-part series of books about writing called Become a Writer Today. I also published The Power of Creativity, a novella and several short stories.

I’ve faced many painful mistakes while writing books, and I’ve also learned a little bit about how to write a book. In this guide, I’ll explain exactly how to write a book based on my experiences and lessons from talking to other authors on the Become a Writer Today podcast .

I’ll also reveal some of my mistakes and offer proven book writing tips. My speciality is nonfiction book writing. That said, you can apply some of the lessons from this guide to fiction too.

1. Develop Your Book Writing Skills

2. create a dedicated writing space, 3. decide why you want to write a book, 4. commit to writing your book, 5. research your ideal reader, 6. study other books in your niche or genre, 7. gather your book ideas, 8. establish what your book is about, 9. decide what type of author you are, 10. interview experts for nonfiction books, 11. set a cutoff date for your research, 12. establish your book’s controlling idea, 13. select your book writing apps, 14. outline your book, 15. break writing into small chunks, 16. write everyday (if you can), 17. finish your messy first draft … fast, 18. accept you’ll make mistakes, 19. manage your book writing time, 20. set a deadline, 21. fight writer’s block, 22. track your progress, 3. before editing your book, let it sit, 24. write the next draft, 25. budget for self-publishing your book, 26. hire an editor, 27. hire a proofreader, 28. publish your book, how to write a book this year: the end, can anyone write a book, how much does an author make per book, do you need a publisher to write a book, is it better to write or type a book.

How to write a book

Book writing, like any skill, takes time to develop. You need to learn skills like writing the first draft, self-editing, arranging your ideas and so on.

Your strengths and weaknesses, life experiences and even the books you read play a crucial role in shaping the author you will become.

Don’t worry if you get things wrong. Stephen King threw the draft of his first book in the bin. His wife fished the book, Carrie, out of the trash and encouraged him to finish and publish it.

It took me three years to write my first novella and a year to write my second book. After that, I got faster.

Tip: Blogging and journaling are great ways to practice writing and explore ideas for a nonfiction book.

Do you have a dedicated place in your house to cook? Or perhaps you have a large couch in front of your television?

____-WHAT______ can be an easy and fun activity if you have a dedicated space. The same is true for writing.

Want to write a best selling book? Create a dedicated writing space where you can work on your first draft without interruption.

Ideally, your space will be sparse and devoid of distractions. That means no televisions, game consoles or other items that don’t support your writing.

You could put inspirational posters on the wall or look out onto your garden.  Conversely, many successful authors prefer working while facing the wall because the outside is distracting.

Even if you don’t have space in your house or office, you could go to a library or coffee shop each day. Poet Raymond Carver wrote many of his early poems in his car.

You could also listen to some soft, soothing music in this space to get you in the groove. When working, I like listening to rainfall on repeat using noise-cancelling headphones. Remember, a perfect writing atmosphere varies from one author to another.

Tip: You could also go to a library or coffee shop each day. The poet Raymond Carver wrote many of his early poems in his car. As long as you can work without interruption, you’re good. 

Most people forget to mention how lonely the writing process feels. Authors spend hours researching, revising and sitting alone in a room with only words and ideas for company.

If you’ve never written a book, the isolation is difficult to get used to, but it’ll pass as you get into the process of writing the book. The people close to you might understand what you’re doing, but don’t count on it! One new writer struggling with his book emailed me to say:

“ One of the reasons I have not gone farther with writing is because my family sees me working at a computer, or like today with a cell phone, and thinks I’m goofing off. “

Handling isolation and staying motivated is easier if you know why you’re writing a book in the first place. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is my book a passion project ?
  • Am I writing this book to improve my writing skills?
  • Will this book help me advance my career or become an expert in my field?
  • How will I serve existing or new readers with my work?
  • Is a book the best medium for me to express my ideas?
  • Do I want to generate a side income from my book, and if so, how much?
  • Do I have a plan for marketing, promoting and distributing my book?
  • Will this title help me advance my dream for writing full time?

Find at least four to seven reasons why you’re writing a book in the first place. Referring to your list will keep you motivated when you feel isolated or others question what you’re doing.

I wrote The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book because I wanted to:

  • Practice writing and improve my craft
  • Help other writers and readers
  • Deepen my knowledge of various topics
  • Earn a side income from sales.

Tip: Keep your list of reasons alongside your book notes so you can review it regularly. 

Writing a book is a time-consuming creative project that demands months (or even years) of time. Ask yourself if you have the mental resources, creative energy, and time to do it.

You must write every day and sacrifice other pursuits or rearrange your day so you can put writing a book first. When I wrote my first book, I gave up playing Call of Duty and Halo because I didn’t have the time to write and play games.

Stick to your commitment when the writing feels more like work and less like a passion, even when you don’t feel inspired. After all, it’s not easy to write the first draft, never mind become a “ New York Times bestselling author.”

Adopt the mindset of a professional writer who doesn’t call in sick or give up because he or she doesn’t feel like doing the work. You must become a professional who finishes writing. Learn more in our explainer on how long it takes to write a book .

Tip: Commit to working on your book every day by writing in the same place at the same time, either early in the morning or late at night.

what readers want

A reader buys a book because they want to be informed, inspired educated or entertained. Connecting with your intended audience is critical when you want to publish your manuscript. You must cater to a certain demographic, so having a clear idea about your intended audience can go a long way in shaping your book.

For instance, J.K. Rowling wrote her Harry Potter books primarily targeting teenagers and young adults reading for pleasure. Her books catered to a universal audience and became a cult phenomenon due to her magical storytelling abilities. Always keep your intended audience in mind and consider how they might feel or react to your book.

Figure out what you’re going to say that’s different. If you want to entertain, educate or inform readers, you must offer something no one else can.

Tip: If you’re writing nonfiction, consider surveying someone who represents your ideal reader or interviewing them.

As a savvy writer, your job is to find out your audience’s wants, likes and dislikes. Spend an hour or two browsing Amazon and finding Kindle books about your topic. Look for books in your niche with a sales ranking below 30,000 in the Kindle store.

Typically, these books sell at least five copies per day, meaning they’re popular with readers and earn a return for the author. Read at least the top ten books in your niche, taking note of the titles, categories and ideas behind each book. Study both good and bad reviews for these books to see what readers like and dislike and how you can improve.

An author can also easily combine several ideas from various books and remix the information with their writing.

Robert Greene, author of Mastery and The 48 Laws of Power, said he reads 300-400 books over the 12-24 months before starting a project. He uses a flashcard analogue system to record lessons and stories. In a 2013 Reddit AMA, he said,

“I read a book, very carefully, writing on the margins with all kinds of notes. “A few weeks later I return to the book and transfer my scribbles onto note cards, each card representing a critical theme in the book.”

You might not be writing a book as dense as Greene’s, but research is an integral part of learning how to write a book.

Tip: Learning how to analyze a book is a great way of understanding the conventions of that genre.

If you’re writing nonfiction, readers expect accuracy and research. If you’re writing fiction, and your story takes place in real-world locations, details matter. Every good author has a system for arranging ideas for their current and future books.

Try these options: 

  • Learn how to journal
  • Keep a personal Zettelkästen
  • Use a mind map
  • Keep a commonplace book using index cards like Greene

The main lesson is to have some sort of system for storing and arranging each book idea in one place. 

Tip: Review your Kindle notes from other books at least once a week. You’ll be amazed by what you forget.

Get a blank piece of paper and spend an hour asking and answering questions like:

  • Who is this book for?
  • What’s the big idea behind my book?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • How is my book different from other titles?
  • Why should people spend their money (or time) reading my work?
  • What can I offer that no one else can?

Nobody has to read your answers, so be honest. They’ll help you write a more concise first draft. Free writing can help with this step too. Unless you’re writing fiction or literary nonfiction, craft a positioning statement for your book that describes it in one sentence.

Here are three templates:

My book helps ________________ who ________________ get ________________.

My book teaches ________________ how to ________________.

My book helps ________________ who ________________ achieve ________________.

My positioning statement for The Power of Creativity is, “My book helps people who don’t think they’ve any ideas to become more creative.”

Doing this extra work upfront will help you avoid spending hours writing, only to find later you hate your idea. If you’re self-publishing your book, your positioning statement and book proposal will also help you market your book.

Tip: Road test positioning statements by writing and publishing short articles related to that topic on popular blogs and other writing platforms like Medium. 

There are two types of authors: pantsers and plotters.

Pantsers are writers who sit down in front of the blank page with only a vague idea of where they are going or what the story is about. They write from the seat of their pants, inventing things as they go along, and are happy to see where their characters take them. They write with a connection to God, their muse or their subconscious.

Stephen King is a pantser.

Plotters spend weeks or months planning their book ideas. They decide what they want to write about in advance. They also have a clear view of their story before they begin. When plotters sit down to write, they have a firm idea of what they’re going to say and the research to back it up.

Robert Greene is a plotter.

I’ve tried both approaches, and there’s nothing wrong with either. You’ll discover what type of writer you are, and your writing voice will emerge if you turn up and do the work.

Remember, as Seth Godin says, “Everybody’s writing process is different.”

After years of painful rewrites, unfinished manuscripts, and pulling my hair out, I found out I’m a plotter. I like to know what I’m writing about in advance. I NEED to know what I’m writing about in advance. Today, I’m convinced being a plotter lends itself well to most types of nonfiction writing.

You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to start writing a nonfiction book, but you will become one by the time you’re finished. To start, you just need patience and the ability to write clearly.

Tip: Identify a subject or an area of expertise about which you can write at length and let your imagination soar. Freewriting is one way to explore your interests before planning or starting a book.

Years ago, part of my job as a journalist involved interviewing politicians, business people and even authors. The interviews that caused me the most problems were more than 60 minutes long because they took hours to transcribe.

Don’t make my mistake.

Interviews can help you research a nonfiction book faster and add credibility to your work. However, if you’re interviewing subjects, keep your interviews between 30 and 60 minutes and work out in advance what you want to ask interviewees.

Tip: You can save a lot of time by getting your interviews transcribed for a dollar a minute using Rev.

How much research is too much? Greene’s books are dense, nonfiction books of more than 500 pages filled with historical stories and psychological insights. In other words, research forms the backbone of what he writes.

Consider a typical Frederick Forsyth novel, the english novelist of books like The Jackal . He dedicates entire chapters to describing the origins and operations of an intelligence agency. This process indicates in-depth research.

Your book might not depend on so much research upfront. Remember, research can turn into a form of procrastination.

Tip: You can always fix gaps during the editing process.

You might want to write a children’s book, or a book about a sport or a diet regime. Or you might want to tell a personal story or offer a guide to a complex topic like teaching science to kids.

Your job will feel a lot easier if you get yourself a chainsaw. For authors, that chainsaw is the controlling idea behind their book.

Your thesis statement or controlling idea should offer a glimpse into the subject you’re writing about and the viewpoint that guides your book. You can figure out your book’s controlling idea by spending an hour asking and answering some simple questions:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • Who or what is the subject of my book?
  • From what point of view is my book?
  • What is the core value underpinning my book?
  • How is my book different from everything else that’s out there?

Your thesis statement will help you assess whether each chapter achieves its purpose during the editing process. It will help you build your book on a firm foundation.

Here’s the controlling idea for The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book:

“With the right ideas, skills and hard work, you can become a successful non-fiction author today.”

Tip: Consider two to three books from your preferred genre . Use the back jacket copy or book blurb to extract their controlling ideas.

The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book: An Easy Guide to Researching, Creating, Editing, and Self-Publishing Your First Book (Become a Writer Today 3)

  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Collins, Bryan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 12/03/2017 (Publication Date) - Become a Writer Today (Publisher)

For outlining, consider using an app like Dynalist or creating a mind map. Scrivener is my preferred choice for long-form writing as it’s easy to drag and drop book chapters. Ulysses is another good choice. 

That said, MS Word and Google Docs work too. Then I use Vellum for laying out final drafts and self-publishing.

I also recommend using a plagiarism checker like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to check your nonfiction works for inadvertent mistakes. Ultimately, the tool is less important than the process.

Tip: Check out our guide to the best book writing apps. 

Outlining a book is an ideal approach for most nonfiction authors and plotters. You can create an outline using an index card or dedicated software like Dynalist or MindMeister.

Here’s how I did it: I

  • Outlined my most recent book in advance in longhand. 
  • Started by reading dozens of books about creativity, writing and productivity for a year before deciding to tackle this topic.
  • Freewrote about the book for an hour or so.
  • Extracted the ideas I wanted to write about. 
  • Turned the ideas into provisional chapter titles and recorded them on fifty index cards, one for each potential chapter.
  • Created a rough list of ideas on each card in the form of five-to-ten bullet points. 
  • Noted other books and stories to reference.
  • Pinned these index cards to a wall near where I write so I could live with this outline for a few weeks.
  • Spent several more weeks working on the outline before transferring it to my computer and expanding upon each bullet point.

Write an outline to help guide you in the right direction, making sure your chapters follow a logical progression.

Don’t write an outline and expect it to solve all your problems when working on a first draft. When you write an outline, all you are doing is creating a blueprint that you can use as a reference.

Tip: Create an outline based around the three-act structure. Book writing apps like Living Writer include this. 

Writing a book is much like running a marathon. A new runner doesn’t attempt to run 26 miles as part of the first session. Achieving that level of endurance requires many sessions to build the discipline and strength to finish a marathon.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of you? Break your work down into smaller milestones that you tackle one by one.

Books are made up of chapters, sections, paragraphs and sentences. Today, write a few paragraphs about a single idea or piece of research for your nonfiction book. Tomorrow, write about another idea. And so on.

As long as you move forward with your first draft each day, you will reach the end of your first draft.

Tip: Use the Pomodoro Technique to manage your writing sessions.

Do you need to write every day? If this is your first book, it’s unrealistic to expect you can write every day for several months. Instead, aim to write five or six days every week.

Cultivating a writing habit becomes crucial when you reach this juncture. A good writing habit ensures that you set aside time each day for creative work.

If you haven’t written much before, set a more achievable daily word count target along the lines of 300 or 400 words. Then, with some basic math and a calendar (I use Google’s), you can work out how long writing the first draft of your book will take and set yourself a deadline.

Tip: I recommend new authors use competitions like NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool.

Writing the first draft of a book is intimidating. You look at the blank page in front of you and wonder how you’re going to fill this page and hundreds of other pages to come.

Don’t overthink it.

Instead, find somewhere you can write quietly for an hour and do all you can to get the words out of your head and onto the blank page.

The first draft is sometimes called the vomit draft (Eww!) or the rough draft because you just need to get it out! Don’t stop to edit yourself, review what you’ve written or see if what you’re saying makes sense. The first draft is also a time when you can nurture and develop your writing habit.

If you decide you’re going to set aside two hours each morning, writing the rough draft becomes a schedule you stick to. I find it helpful to set a target word count for my writing sessions. I usually aim to write 1,500 words in an hour, set a timer and open Scrivener.

(Don’t want to use Scrivener? Check out our guide to the best book writing software. )

Then I keep my fingers moving until I reach the target word count or until the buzzer sounds. While you’re writing your first draft, keep your outline and notes nearby to guide you through each section in your chapter. You might be interested in our overview of first draft examples .

Tip: Speech to text software will help you write the first draft faster.

A rough draft, like the name suggests, includes flaws. As long as you have a skeleton idea that you can refine and rework, your rough draft is a success.

A writer shared this sentiment with me a few weeks ago:

“My writing isn’t good enough; I feel like I’ll never finish my first draft!”

First of all, the job of your first draft is simply to exist, so don’t worry about the writing.

That comes later.

If you feel like you’ll never finish, start in the middle of the chapter that’s causing you problems.

Here’s why:

Introductions explain what you’re about to say next, but how can you write an introduction if you don’t know what comes next? Similarly, conclusions wrap up what you just said, but how can you write one if you don’t know what you just said!

Your story needs a good beginning, a juicy middle portion, and a cracker of an ending. Jumping straight into the middle of a chapter will help you gain momentum faster. Maybe your main character finds out about a secret that will change the course of the story. Or perhaps a major event threatens the very existence of your protagonist’s universe.

Jump into the middle, then figure out how to write the introduction. Take writing your first draft chapter by chapter. Write your book with the sole intention of putting the story that is stuck in the recesses of your memory onto a paper.

Don’t worry if all of it comes out at once and some chapters seem unfinished. That’s the purpose of rewrites, editing and revisions. When you write your book, ideally you should enter a state of flow.

In this state, your fingers move automatically over the keyboard. Sentences become paragraphs, and paragraphs become chapters.

Don’t write your book with the sole purpose of getting it to the top of some best sellers list or a big payday. Instead, write it to create something readers love.

Tip: If you’re unsure what to do about a mistake, write the letters “TK” beside it. It stands for “to come” except with a K. You’ll easily spot this annotation during the editing process as no other words begin with these letters.

I wrote my first book when I was working in a job I disliked, just after my wife had our daughter. I didn’t have enough free time to write for eight hours a day. Even if I did, I lacked the mental discipline to do it.

Starting out, I wrote every night after 9 p.m. when the kids were in bed. However, I quickly found that when I put writing last in the day, it was least likely to happen. I cannot stress the importance of hard work. It’s the key to completing any daunting task, and writing a book, at least for a first-timer, demands it.

Now I set aside time in my calendar for writing every morning at 6 a.m., and I do all I can to stick to this. It helps that my daughter is now five.

If you’re a new writer or you’ve never written a book before, you’re probably balancing writing your book with a job and family commitments. So pick a time when you’re going to write every day, block-book it in your calendar, and do all you can to stick to it.

Managing your creative time also means saying no to other activities and ideas—if they take you away from the blank page. Getting from page one to The End is a long race, and it sometimes gets lonely, but the hard work will pay off.

Tip: Eliminate distractions while writing using software like Freedom App or RescueTime. Still need help? Read our guide to productivity for writers .

Professional writers work to deadlines. Some writers complain that deadlines loom like a guillotine and find them off-putting.

Your story will not jump out of that blank page on a bright sunny day and say, “Hey, I am ready to be published!” A typical nonfiction book consists of between 60,000 and 80,000 words, and a typical novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 words.

(You can write shorter books if you’re self-publishing.)

If you want to write a nonfiction book, and you commit to writing 1,000 words every day, it will take you 60 days to write the first draft if you write daily.

Tip: Put deadlines into your calendar for a first draft and for sending your book to an editor.

Many new writers worry about writer’s block. They say things like:

“How can I get the words to flow?” or “I can’t think of anything to say.”

Writer’s block is a serious issue for some new writers, but it’s easy to conquer.

In his book, On Writing, King says he deals with writer’s block by throwing a new problem at a character. If you write fiction, your protagonist might get lost in a forest and meet a villain.

Freewrite about what this encounter looks like. Introducing plot twists, small tragedies, a background story or even a new character will help you get over writer’s block.

If you write nonfiction, explore a setback or challenge you faced while trying to achieve a specific outcome. Extract a story from your journal if it helps. Stopping to refill the well is another good way to conquer writer’s block.

Tip: When stuck, put your first draft down, read other books that inspire you, visit an art gallery or listen to a podcast by someone you admire. Also, check out the best writing books for advice.

Wordcount tracker

One of the biggest tips I can give you for writing your first book is to track your daily word count and how long you spend writing each day. Writing and publishing a book takes months, depending on the subject, so set small milestones for yourself.

Ernest Hemingway recorded his daily word count on a board next to where he wrote so as not to kid himself. Tracking your daily word count will help you measure your productivity and see how far you need to go to reach your target for writing your first book.

A target daily word count is less important when you’re writing the second and third drafts or self-editing your book. During these rewrites, concern yourself with shaping your ideas and working on the flow and structure of your book.

At this point, it’s more helpful to track time spent each day rewriting or editing.

No matter the stage of your book, you should:

  • Review your word count and how long you write
  • Identify if you reached any milestones like finishing a chapter or section
  • See what’s holding you back
  • Figure out what you need to write or research next

Remember, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done. Check out our self-editing checklist for more.

Tip: Track your word count in a spreadsheet. During the editing process, track time spent working on each draft.

When you’ve finished writing your first draft, let it sit on your computer for a week or two, and do something else.

Celebrate your success! Your hard work has paid off.

After spending weeks or months working on an idea, I find that the work becomes too hot to touch, let alone edit.

When you let your writing sit for a while, the ideas cool down, and your memory of it fades. Once you’re ready, print out a draft of your book, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, and read your draft in one or two sessions.

When you read the draft, you’ll look at it and think, “Oh yeah, I remember this.” Best of all? You’ll be able to see the book’s strengths and problems you missed previously. Highlight and underline sections with a red pen that you need to change.

Look for words and sentences to change and ideas to remove and expand upon. Don’t change them now! Mark your manuscript with a pen and continue reading. Also, don’t feel disheartened if your prose disappoints. Ernest Hemingway arguably said, “First drafts are shit.”

The American novelist and editor Sol Stein likened reviewing the first draft to performing triage on a patient.

Tip: Reading the first draft aloud will help you hear instances of weak writing.  You can still ignore the grammar nazis though.

Great writing is rewriting.

Before you get into small changes during a rewrite like tweaking a chapter title or editing a sentence, fix your book’s big problems. What does this look like?

While I was rewriting my creativity book, I dumped two unnecessary chapters and wrote a new one. I also found additional research to back up holes in my arguments. Only then did I get into performing line edits.

While rewriting, ask yourself:

  • Does my introduction invoke curiosity in the reader?
  • Have I told stories in my work?
  • How can I strengthen my arguments?
  • How can I bring an original insight to my work?
  • Do I invoke at least one of the five senses on each page of my work?
  • What’s the weakest part of this chapter? Can I cut it?
  • Have I eliminated as many unnecessary adverbs and adjectives from my work as possible?
  • Have I removed every cliché?

You might perform the process of writing, reviewing, editing, and rewriting several times before you’re happy with your book. Take it sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter.

As you work, your book will teach you how to write it. This is also a good time to reexamine your writing style and check if you maintain a consistent style throughout your book. You can develop your craft by analyzing books and stories.

But what if you still need help?

Stephen King advises,

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Even marathon runners stop to refuel. Plan your breaks because procrastination is inevitable. Relax, refresh, and then get back to your book.

Tip: While working on later drafts, enlist the help of a family member or friend for input. Later on, hire an editor and ask them to provide frank feedback. Our guide to long-form writing also adapts this process.

I’ve written before about the cost of self-publishing a book.

Writing a book is free (unless you count your time), but publishing a book is not. So budget for hiring an editor, proofreader, and cover designer. Recently, I spent:

  • $2,000 on an editor for a 60,000-word book about creativity
  • $500 on a proofreader (or try Grammarly until you can afford one)
  • $250 on a cover designer

What else did I budget for? Well, because I’m self-publishing this book, I set aside several hundred dollars for Amazon book ads. Even if you’re on a tight budget, you must understand that working with an editor, proofreader, and cover designer is the entry cost.

Here’s the truth:

If you want to write something readers enjoy, invest more than just time in your book.

Tip: Check out our guide to the cost of self-publishing a book.

You might be able to write the first or second, or even third draft alone, but at some point, you need outside help. When you’re immersed in a writing project, it’s difficult to see gaps in your research, stories that don’t work or chapters that are too long.

If you’re encountering roadblocks, you can waste a lot of time trying to get around them yourself. Editors are trained professionals whose job is to turn manuscripts into something readers enjoy.

A good editor will help you write a far better book and improve your craft as a writer. They’ll also help you speed up the process of rewriting your book.

Like any professional, editors are not free. You’ll have to hire one in advance and give them several weeks to review your book. Depending on your book’s length, you can spend anywhere between 500 and several thousand dollars on an editor. 

Getting frank editorial feedback about your work is difficult to take. Sometimes, you can ignore criticism, but your editor’s feedback should be about the work and not about you.

After a book cover, budgeting for an editor is one of the most important things you must-do if you’re going to publish the book you’ve just written.

Tip: Check out our podcast interview with Natasa Lekic of NY Book Editors. 

You could try proofreading as well, but I don’t recommend it. It’s time-consuming, and because you’re so close to the material, you will inevitably overlook some typos and mistakes.

I wasted a lot of time trying to proofread my drafts only to have readers email me about the typos. I don’t know about you, but typos keep me up at night! In the end, I hired a proofreader, asked them to fix my book, and re-uploaded the proofed version to Amazon.

Instead, I recommend hiring a proofreader or giving chapters to beta readers, family and friends to check. Hiring a proofreader will cost several hundred dollars, depending on the length of your work.

Giving chapters of your book to eagle-eyed friends and family shouldn’t cost you much (beyond returning the favor!).

Tip: You can proofread early drafts using software like ProWritingAid and Grammarly. We still recommend working with a professional proofreader before pressing publish though. Read our grammar checker review .

I recommend Scrivener and Vellum for preparing a final draft for publication. There’s a modest learning curve to both tools, but it’s time well spent. Alternatively, you can hire a book designer for a few hundred dollars.

You’ll also need to hire a cover designer, and I recommend 99 Designs. Adding a book review will also come in handy to attract those readers who do a drive-through by skimming your summary and cover.

Getting a book review from an established author or lots of readers will help you sell more copies. If you need help with this, consider joining the Author Marketing Club.

If you have an email list or blog, you could offer readers free review copies of your work. It’s relatively easy to upload your e-book and cover to Amazon and other bookstores like Kobo or Draft2Digital.

Tip: Build pre-buzz for your book by writing guest blog posts on other sites. It’s relatively easy to turn nonfiction chapters into posts with some editing.

Learning how to write a book takes a tremendous amount of hard work and mental discipline.

That’s one reason why many would-be authors spend more time talking about writing than doing the work. Once you finish your work and publish it, congratulations!

Now, you’re a professional author. But remember …

Successful nonfiction writers put their books on the marketplace and move on.

You will always see a gap between what you want to create and what you end up writing, but you can narrow the distance with each new title. After all, the best way to sell the most recent book is to write an even better one next time.

How To Write a Book: FAQs

Lots of people say they have a book inside of them but less than 5% of people will write one. The good news is you can write a book with a little hard work and perseverance.

If you learn the basics of advertising, you can expect to earn between $250 and $1000 from your first book. Publish on Amazon and you will earn up to 70% royalties on your book. Traditionally published authors earn between 10% and 12%.

Anyone can write a book. And, thanks to self-publishing platforms, anyone can publish their work too. On the other hand, if you wait until you find a publisher before starting your book, you risk not writing much at all. Plus, you’ll put off gaining the practice and experience of a creative who works consistently.

Some popular authors, like Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates, enjoy writing long-form by hand. Other writers prefer typing up their manuscripts. Either is ok. However, typing is usually faster. And unless you have a budget for a typist, you’ll have to create a digital draft at some point.

writing the books

Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.

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Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
  • Dreyer’s Englis h by Benjamin Dreyer
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk, White, and Kalman
  • The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison
  • How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

writing the books

Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

writing the books

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5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

writing the books

From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

writing the books

A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

writing the books

From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

writing the books

From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

writing the books

From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

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Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

writing the books

From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

From the book: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

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30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

writing the books

From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

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Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

writing the books

From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

writing the books

From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

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Language » Writing Books

The best books on how to write, recommended by eric olsen.

From their egos and anxieties to the way they work, writers have more in common than we might think. The journalist and editor takes us inside the writing process and reveals who gives the best advice for aspiring authors

The best books on How to Write - Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson

Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson

The best books on How to Write - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The best books on How to Write - The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates

The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates

The best books on How to Write - The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

The best books on How to Write - The Eleventh Draft by Frank Conroy (editor)

The Eleventh Draft by Frank Conroy (editor)

writing the books

1 Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson

2 on writing: a memoir of the craft by stephen king, 3 the faith of a writer by joyce carol oates, 4 the courage to write by ralph keyes, 5 the eleventh draft by frank conroy (editor).

If someone were to read all of these books you’ve chosen, would they come out with a good idea of how to write? How did you select them?

I’ve been going through them the past couple of days, just refreshing my memory, and looking at them all in one big chunk. What a young or beginning writer is going to get out of all of them is how similar all writers are in many regards – when it comes to process, fear, neuroses, and the pleasures that are derived. These are books by well-known writers; they give examples of other well-known writers. They show how writers, at even the highest level, obsess about the same things that the rest of us obsess about.

I was going to ask if they contradict each other. But you’re saying they’re actually surprisingly similar in terms of advice?

When we did the interviews for our book We Wanted to Be Writers , several people talked about the pleasure in losing control as you write. The work begins to write itself. Ralph Keyes, in The Courage to Write , makes note of the fact that writers have huge egos, which is true. But what a lot of the writers that I spoke to said is that they try to reach a state where they’re not an ego any longer, the work takes over and the writing begins to write the writer, rather than the other way around. One of the points of difference that struck me is that in one of these books, The Faith of a Writer , Joyce Carol Oates talks about how the writer has to be in control. But other than that one point, everybody had the same basic things to say about what’s important in writing and what a writer faces on a daily basis. The Courage to Write by Keyes is different from the other four books in that it’s dealing specifically with fears, the others are more “how to” books. But otherwise they all get at the same points.

You’re a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, probably the most prestigious writing programme in the United States. Is writing something you can learn?

Boy, that is the question. On the workshop’s own website, the introductory paragraph says (and I paraphrase) or used to say: “We agree, in part, with the consensus that writing can’t be taught.” In one of the chapters in our book, We Wanted to Be Writers , we begin with that statement and discuss it. More recently, Samantha Chang, the workshop’s director, was interviewed on PBS and the moderator asked her, “Do you think writing can be taught?” Sam’s answer was something like, “Not really. If I just brought chicken soup to class every week the writers would get better.”

This is an ongoing debate, which has been going on since the workshop was first started 75 years ago. Among the people that we interviewed, the consensus was that there are a lot of aspects of writing that certainly can be taught. You can speed up the process of maturation of young writers, by talking about the mistakes you made in your career. As a teacher, you can speed up the process towards getting better. When I was an editor, the consensus was that a good editor could improve a piece by 15%. In the realm of teaching and learning writing, there’s a general consensus – among those who think it can be taught – that you can take a good writer, and make him or her a little better. There are always ways that you can help a writer along. You’re not going to take a mediocre writer and turn him or her into a great writer, and there are also some things that can’t be taught, like the basic desire to be a writer. That seems to be a given. You’re not going to make someone want to be a writer. Sometimes what goes on in a writing workshop is that you convince the writer that he doesn’t want to be a writer. That is a kind of teaching too…

Your first book is the Ron Carlson book, Ron Carlson Writes a Story . It’s very practical, isn’t it?

Yes, that’s what I love about it. This whole book is, “Look! Here’s how to be a better writer.” I love how he uses one story, The Governor’s Ball , and his own experience of writing that story, to talk about the process of writing. What I found fascinating too is that he does such a neat job of talking about letting the story write itself. Here’s a guy for whom each sentence that came next was a total surprise. It was an exploration – he was just following the story as it went along. When I’m doing my writing, this is what I long for – those moments when I don’t know what is going to come next, and the story tells me what comes next. I write novels, which I don’t think write themselves quite in the way a really short story, like the one Ron is writing about, might. But I just love his very clear and precise description of the way he puts the story together.

Including even mundane things, like how you name your characters…

Yes, that’s really interesting, as is his emphasis on the importance of detail, and the inventory that he talks about. This is a terrific book for any young writer or even a not-so-young writer. Even if you’ve been writing for years, it’s good to be reminded of these things now and then.

I like Carlson’s take on the rule about writing that we’re all taught in high school, that you should “write what you know”. In the book, he says that whenever he’s asked about this, he replies: “I write from personal experiences, whether I’ve had them or not.” He argues that teachers are trying to prevent students from writing a crazy science fiction story or some cliché they saw on television, but not, in fact, to completely restrict writing to events that have happened to you personally.

Ron talks about three sources of story idea. In describing how he wrote The Governor’s Ball , Ron talks about how he drew on his own experiences, the experience of others, and stuff he just made up. Some of the authors, like Joyce Carol Oates, are, I think, of the school that serious writing is done from your own personal neuroses and experiences and fears and torment. That’s where the serious stuff comes from, or so we’re told by serious, “literary” writers. The guys that write science fiction and mysteries, they just make everything up, and that’s not as important as the other kind of writing. I’m not sure I’d go along with that.

So they disagree with Carlson and say you really do need to stick to your personal experience to write well?

Yes, and when I was at Iowa as a young writer, in the mid-1970s, I didn’t want to write about myself, or my life. I got some crap for that in the workshops, because the real serious stuff was supposed to be people writing about their dysfunctional families. Because when you’re 22 years old and starting to write, what can you write about from personal experience except your own dysfunctional family? I didn’t want to write about my dysfunctional family. I wanted to write science fiction. But you couldn’t submit science fiction at Iowa (except Joe Haldeman, who’d already published). It was forbidden. So I would write other stuff, but it was never about me, or drawn from my own experience.

Let’s talk about the Stephen King book On Writing . This is such a good read. It’s part memoir and I didn’t realise a lot of the stuff about his life – like what a difficult background he came from, and that he’d had problems with alcoholism and drug addiction. I couldn’t believe the bit where he drinks the mouthwash, and his wife calls him on it…

Now I’m getting into my dysfunctional family. My old man had some issues with alcohol, too. I remember once, when he was on the wagon, that he also had a momentary lapse involving mouthwash. Yes.

You also live through it all with King, as he makes it as a writer – all the rejection letters and then, his first acceptance letter for a story. Also, later, when he gets the telephone call the first time he is paid a lot of money. It’s really moving.

Yes. This book is like Ron Carlson’s only three times longer. What I love about it is that King really takes you into his own process, and then leaves you these little titbits of “how to” stuff. There was one in particular I made a note of, on page 175.

“Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else. In most cases, these details will be the first ones that come to mind.” That struck me. A lot of writers pile on details. This notion, just pay attention to your own thought process. What are the first details that come to mind? Those may be the best. That’s tremendously helpful advice. It had never occurred to me before, and I’ve been writing for 30-odd years. This book is full of little things like that about how he works, just tossed off.

He also really hates adverbs, doesn’t he?

Oh, everybody hates adverbs!

That’s normal is it?

Yes, all writing teachers hate adverbs. I don’t know why. What’s wrong with a little adverb every now and then? Actually, somewhere not too long ago I read a defence of adverbs. I don’t know what to think of adverbs. Why does our language have adverbs if we’re not supposed to use them?

Explain this part of the King book to me. He doesn’t like plots, but instead talks about uncovering a fossil. But the fossil struck me as rather like a plot. I wasn’t quite sure of the distinction.

My feeling is that it gets back to writing as discovery. For instance, I’m working on a novel at the moment, as I always am, and I’ve been trying to outline it. Even though I’m trying to outline it, I know that’s a mistake. For one, if an outline gets too detailed it takes away the discovery. Two, when I start to write, if it goes well, I end up tossing the outline. Stories have plots, you have to have a vague idea of where you’re trying to get, but I think what King is getting at is that you have to be open to discovery. When I interviewed John Irving for our book, he told me that he writes the last sentence first. And then he writes towards that. I imagine that’s exactly the opposite of what Stephen King does. Maybe what King means is that if, as Ron Carlson describes, you really open yourself and let the story take over, it will plot itself.

For example, the novel I’m working on is a murder mystery. From the start, you have to know the particulars of the murder, so you can work your way toward it. But along the way, even though I’m trying to get to a particular end, I’m praying for those moments when the story starts telling itself. Out of that, however chaotic and uncertain it might be, you get a plot. But the plot is the structure of the narrative. Things happen to people, you have surprises, and you have a beginning, a middle and an end. In a way it’s how King defines plot. I don’t know if I’ve addressed the issue of the fossil or not – but I think it means openness to the possibilities.

King also has tips on where to write – your desk should not be in the middle of the room, for example.

I love that stuff.

Is that the consensus? Do you learn that at Iowa as well?

No! But we were always asking one another, where do you work? When do you work? What is your room like? What is your desk like? Trying to get clues… I love it when writers talk about where they write, when they write. In the book, I ask people about it, and then I tried to take pictures of them, sitting at their desks. Joyce Carol Oates, in her book, talks about where she writes, which is a big glassy, open porch. I’m sure she looks out on trees…

Yes, so tell me about her book, The Faith of a Writer.

When I started reading it I thought it read like something she might have tossed off on a Saturday morning. Actually, it’s a series of essays that she wrote over several years. It’s a little bit like King’s or Carlson’s books – it’s her talking about how she works and it’s full of really nice little details. With Joyce Carol Oates, you’ve got to figure, OK, whatever she’s doing, it’s the right thing to do for a writer! She also talks a lot about other writers.

I noticed bits in the book about James Joyce and DH Lawrence.

Yes, and there’s a chapter in there called “Reading as a Writer” which, for me, is the best part of the book. I really recommend it to young writers. The whole book is about reading as a writer, and all the stuff Joyce Carol Oates has been reading. When does she find time to read? It’s about what she’s reading, how it influences her writing and what insights she gets about the creative process from what she’s read. She not only reads all these great writers, but she also reads their diaries and criticism about them. She just has a wealth of insight. She emphasises again and again just how important it is for a writer to read. And to read not only good writers, but bad writers as well. Stephen King says the same thing. There’s nothing more heartening for a young writer than to read a bad published novel, because you read it, and you think, “My God! I can do better than this.” How exhilarating! “This got published? I can get published too!” So you read good writers to see how they do it, and bad writers to see how not to do it.

It seems so self-evident, that if you’re going to be a writer, you need to read. But a lot of the people I interviewed for our book teach writing. Several of them commented that many young writers don’t read that much, which seems insane. I reread the chapter “Reading as a Writer” last night, and by reading what she says about her reading, you can see how as a writer you’re supposed to read, which is just a nice thing to be reminded of.

Stephen King is also this obsessive reader, who just sits there in his room and reads and reads. That wasn’t my image of him.

Poor Steve, he’s a terrific writer, and writes a lot, but the mainstream literary world doesn’t take him all that seriously. I haven’t read anything by him in a long time, but what pieces I have read by him I really liked. I like science fiction and mysteries – that supernatural kind of stuff just never did it for me. But, like Oates, whatever King is doing, it’s sure working. Let’s learn from him!

Let’s talk about the book by Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

This whole book is about all the things that writers are afraid of. I think if you’re a young writer you have all these anxieties, which just gnaw at you constantly, and you think, “My God! What a neurotic wreck I am.” But what you get from reading Keyes is that all writers are neurotic wrecks. And beyond that, you need to be a neurotic wreck to be a good writer, because the fears and the anxieties you have energise the prose. That’s Keyes’s whole point. It’s really an interesting thing to read about. I love the fact that a big chunk of the book is this inventory of fears, and all the things that writers are worried about and scared about. Right now we’re at the stage with our book, We Wanted to be Writers , where I’ve already gone through several different fears. Now it’s been printed, I’m scared to death that the first call I get from somebody who knows me is going to be, “Hey! Did you know about the typo on page 38?” Because then, for the rest of my life, the only thing I am going to remember about this book is the typo on page 38. Keyes talks about that particular fear. There are dozens of things writers have to be afraid of, from the start to the finish, and I got a big kick out of it because it was so true. To have someone articulate these fears for you, and list them, is comforting. It’s not nuts. This is what it means to be a writer. So I think it’s a really good book. Then he has a section about how to put the fears to work.

How does one put them to work?

I’m not sure that section works quite so well. It’s more words of comfort: “OK, you’re nervous, you’re facing a blank page, you’ve got page fright (like stage fright). Use that anxiety to focus your work on the moment.” It’s easier said than done. But it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone.

Your last book is Frank Conroy’s The Eleventh Draft. He is a former director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and he invited 23 former professors and students to write essays about the craft, with “deliberately vague” instructions to write about writing.

Yes, and some did and some didn’t. A couple of the people in here are people I interviewed – they were my classmates when I was at Iowa, like TC Boyle and Jayne Anne Phillips. Frank wasn’t the director of the workshop when we were there, but I got to know him later when he was. This book is all over the place – each person’s contribution is unique. A lot of the writers talk about the workshop itself, the experience, the workshop method. I think for a young writer in particular, who may be contemplating going to the workshop, it’s a good book to turn to, to give a taste of what it’s about. Because I don’t think it’s changed all that much.

There’s one chapter, by Francine Prose, called “On Details”, which is one of the most “how to” chapters. Like Carlson and King, her chapter talks about the importance of detail and how you handle detail. This is a particularly useful chapter, again, for young writers. In picking these books I was thinking of young writers, but every time we start writing something, we’re starting out again, so in a way we’re all beginners.

Can you give me more detail on how to do details?

My son is an investigator for a public defender’s office. His job is to interview alleged perpetrators of crimes and victims and witnesses, and get their stories. He’s dealing in detail all the time. They’re always looking for ways to get their clients off. How do you know when a person is lying? If you’ve been accused of a crime, you have the right not to talk. But he says that people always start talking and talking, thinking they can talk themselves out of the rap. They give all these details, and they start lying. You can tell a person is telling the truth when the details are fairly limited. Usually when we experience or observe something, we don’t really remember that much. When you’ve done a lot of these interviews, you begin to know that when there’s a paucity of detail – maybe just one or two little details that stand out in the person’s mind – you can be fairly confident that this is the truth. But if there are a whole lot of details it’s usually a lie. That is exactly what Francine Prose is talking about, when she writes about good detail in fiction. It’s exactly right. How do you know if you’ve got the right amount of detail? Which goes back to Stephen King and what he said about detail – that usually the first details that come to mind are the right details. Once you have those, stop layering on. Which actually is good advice to liars, too. The first details that come to mind, as you lie to the police, are the best details. Stop there. Stop elaborating. Otherwise they’re not going to buy it.

September 12, 2012

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Eric Olsen

Eric Olsen has published hundreds of magazine articles, a few short stories and six nonfiction books, including, most recently, We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop . He received his MFA in fiction in 1977 and also served as a Teaching/Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

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Author Interviews

How the art world excludes you and what you can do about it.

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Elizabeth Blair

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In her new book Get the Picture, journalist Bianca Bosker explores why connecting with art sometimes feels harder than it has to be. Above, a visitor takes in paintings at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London in 2010. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images hide caption

In her new book Get the Picture, journalist Bianca Bosker explores why connecting with art sometimes feels harder than it has to be. Above, a visitor takes in paintings at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London in 2010.

When Bianca Bosker told people in the art world she'd be writing a tell-all about their confounding, exclusive ecosystem, "bad idea," they responded.

"They didn't come right out and threaten my safety or anything," she writes in Get the Picture , "My reputation, well-being, and livelihood as a journalist —that, however, was another story." Judging from the book's recent reviews , she need not worry too much.

Bosker's motivation for writing the book was partly frustration. "I didn't know how to have a meaningful experience of art and that bothered me," she tells me, "But also like I think the art fiends that I got to know, it's not just that they look at art differently. They behave sort of like they've accessed this trapdoor in their brains and I envied that."

Get the Picture by Bianca Bosker

Other journalists might have relied on research and interviews. Bosker went gonzo. She spent five years immersed in the New York art scene, working as a gallery assistant and helping artists in their studios. After getting a license to be a security guard with the state of New York, she got a guard job at the Guggenheim.

Bosker didn't necessarily set out to write a takedown of the art world, though the result is pretty much just that. She writes about the time a performance artist sat on her face. And recounts a conversation with a dealer who said her mere presence (he didn't like her clothes) was "lowering my coolness." It's unvarnished, awkward and eye-opening.

Borderline hostile

"Working at galleries, I became initiated into the way that the art world wields strategic snobbery to keep people out. And I think it's deliberate and I think it's unnecessary," says Bosker.

Take the wall texts you often see at art museums. While they might be well-intentioned, Bosker believes they're part of an over-emphasis on context .

"For the last 100 years or so, we've been told that what really matters about an artwork is the idea behind it." Bosker says that "art connoisseurs" were very interested in "where an artist went to school, who owns her work, what gallery had shown it, who he slept with" and was surprised by "how little [time they] actually spent discussing the work itself."

Of those wall labels, "I thought they were annoying, like borderline hostile ... they just drove me crazy."

At a recent visit to the Guggenheim, we saw one that included the phrase:

"...practice explores the liminal spaces of human consciousness..."

Bosker shudders. "If I had a dollar for every time someone in the art world used the word 'liminal,'" she laughs. One artist she worked with told her, "'Reading the wall labels is like you're trying to have a conversation with the artwork, but someone keeps interrupting.'"

As a museum guard, Bosker occasionally took the matter into her own hands.

"I would actually try and stand in front of the wall labels so that people wouldn't just fall back on the approved interpretations. They would challenge themselves and really wrestle with their own eye, which is so strong," she says.

Small galleries deliberately keep out the 'schmoes '

If museums make some people feel unwelcome, Bosker learned that small, contemporary art galleries can be even worse. One that we visited in downtown Manhattan was hard to find. That's typical, Bosker explains.

She says a lot of galleries "deliberately ... hide themselves from the general public ... I worked for someone who referred to general public as 'Joe Schmoes' and I think there are a lot of ways to keep out the schmoes, and where you put your gallery is a big one."

Now, to be fair, those galleries are in the business of selling art.

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Gallery owner Robert Dimin likes that Bianca Bosker is unmasking "our opaque art world" with her new book Get the Picture . DIMIN hide caption

Rob Dimin, another gallery owner Bosker worked for, does not refer to the general public as "schmoes" but he does like that his new gallery is tucked away. It's on the second floor of a building with just a small plaque by the entrance.

Dimin's last gallery was a storefront. "You [were] more likely to get people that had no intention or idea about the art or really interested in the art, just maybe kind of stumbling in," he says, "There [were] moments when we were on the street level that people would come in and just have phone conversations on rainy days because it was an open space."

People walking into a gallery to get out of the rain aren't usually interested in buying art. But Dimin admits that the art world is "opaque" and he's glad Bosker is unmasking it. There are parts of it even he doesn't understand.

"Even as an art dealer, it sometimes is confusing," he says, "Like, why is X, Y and Z artists getting acquired by every museum and having these museum shows? What is challenging for a person like me who's been in this business for 10 years, I can only imagine a person not within the industry having more challenges."

How to have a meaningful experience with art

Intentionally confusing, elitist, cloistered. While Bosker's new book likens the art world to a "country club," she says her feelings about art itself haven't been diminished.

"Seeing artists in their studios agonize over the correct color blue, over ... the physics of making something stick, lay and stay, really convinced me that everything we need to have a meaningful experience with art is right in front of us," says Bosker.

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Bianca Bosker takes a close look at a work by Julianne Swartz at the gallery Bienvenu Steinberg & J in New York. Bosker says it's OK to "walk around a sculpture ... just don't touch it." Elizabeth Blair/NPR hide caption

Bianca Bosker takes a close look at a work by Julianne Swartz at the gallery Bienvenu Steinberg & J in New York. Bosker says it's OK to "walk around a sculpture ... just don't touch it."

Here are a few tips she has for readers looking to evade the snobbery:

"My philosophy had always been when I went to a museum ... a scorched earth approach to viewing. I was like, 'You have to see everything. That is how you get your money's worth.'" Bosker says "museum fatigue" is real and compares it to eating everything at an all you can eat buffet. "No wonder you feel a little ill at the end of it."

"If you find one work and you just spend your entire half hour, hour, hour and a half at that piece, you've done it. And I think that that can be oftentimes an even more meaningful experience."

Find five things

Don't 'get' art? You might be looking at it wrong

Don't 'get' art? You might be looking at it wrong

"An artist that I spent time with encouraged me to, in front of an artwork, challenge yourself to notice five things. And those five things don't have to be grandiose, like: 'This is a commentary on masculinity in the Internet age.' It could just be, you know, like this yellow makes me want to touch it." Taking the time to notice those things will help viewers think about the choices an artist has made, Bosker believes.

"I think being around art ultimately helps us widen and expand our definition of what beauty is. And I think beauty ... is that moment when our mind jumps the curb. It can feel uncomfortable, but it also is something that draws us to it. ... It's something that all of us need more of in our life. And art can be the gateway to finding more of it. It doesn't have to happen with the traditionally beautiful artwork."

Get as close to the source as possible

"What we see when we go to a museum is not necessarily the best that culture has to offer. ... It's the result of many decisions by flawed human beings. And one way to get around that is to widen your horizons. ... Go to see art at art schools, go see art at the gallery in a garage and just kind of go close to the source."

This story was edited for audio and digital by Rose Friedman. The web page was produced by Beth Novey.

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How an Author Perfects her Dialogue

Kiley reid’s new book  come and get it  lets the characters speak at the top of their game..

Gabfest Reads is a monthly series from the hosts of Slate’s  Political Gabfest  podcast. Recently, David Plotz talked with Kiley Reid about her new novel,  Come & Get   It , and discussed how Reid gets her dialogue to sound so real.

This partial transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Plotz: I do think what makes your writing so singular and so distinctive is that you have an incredible ear. And I’m envious of it, as someone who’s been a writer for some of my life and never had an ear like that. How do you listen? How do you create these voices in your head?

Kiley Reid: It’s a bit of a game. Because as I’m sure that you’ve done, if you’ve transcribed anything because you’ve recorded something, you very quickly realize that we do not speak chronologically. We go off on tangents, we say, “um,” and “like,” and “oh my gosh.” And there’s a lot of things that we’re doing in between the things that we’re actually trying to say.

So, while I’m writing, getting hyper-realistic dialogue is really important to me, but it becomes a game of doing [two] things: One, it’s showing characters, for the majority of the book, at the top of their intelligence, showing their best selves—what they  think  is their best self. And number two, it’s making sure that their best self still isn’t grating to a reader.

When I’m doing interviews with students and getting inspiration, they may say ‘like’ or ‘um’ in the thousands. And so, I want to include some of those likes or ums, but I also don’t want to make fun of those students. This wasn’t a satire this time around, but I want to make it true. So, there’s a lot of give and take there.

I also think just being a writer, you need to put yourself in the position of being a listener and writing down something exactly the way you heard it. That’s the kind of things that I like to read.

Why do they have to be at the top of their game? Why is that important?

I think it’s important to be a democratic and generous writer. Otherwise, you look like you’re making fun of your characters. And I think every character can be interesting depending on the different light that they’re in. And I’m just not really super interested in fiction that says, look at these dumb kids. Especially because they’re not dumb. I want to see them at their best. And then later when they make mistakes, those mistakes hit a little bit harder.

I also feel like there’s a conjuring act here. Because as you said, I guess you wrote it in Iowa; you have lived in Philly; you’ve lived in Ann Arbor since you were in Fayetteville. But you’re conjuring up people who are just mostly Southern, and certainly are the kind of students who would be at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. How do you get back to them when you’re not with them?

I do a lot of interviews when I’m writing. And this time around I had a research assistant, and that was incredibly useful. I probably formally interviewed about 30 people and then maybe 20 others on top of that, just making sure I was getting things absolutely right.

So, I interviewed some old students, some of my friend’s students, people who went to Arkansas, people from Chicago, baton twirlers. I interviewed a number of people.

And people always ask me, “How do you get people to tell you things?” I’m sure you know people just like talking about themselves. And people were very gracious to me, and I’m really thankful for that.

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BRICS Law Journal

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Chief Editor

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Elena Gladun

Russian scholar in the field of constitutional law, environmental law and Arctic law, the author of more than 60 peer reviewed articles, books and book chapters and other internationally recognized works.

Doctor of Law, Professor at the Public Administration Department of the University of Tyumen (Tyumen, Russia). Fulbright Scholar of the “Arctic Initiative Program”, the founder and the coordinator of the Arctic Initiative Center of Tyumen University. Prof Gladun teaches several master’s degree courses, including “Law and Policy for Sustainable Development of the Russian Arctic”, “Global Environmental Management”, “Legal Regulations of Petroleum Industry in Russia”. A member of International Editorial Board of the Brazilian Center for Mediation and Arbitration (Brazil); a member of Arctic Centre Scientific Advisory Board (Finland).

Research interests: rights and interests of indigenous peoples, legal regulations of natural resource use and sustainable development.

Interdisciplinary research projects: “Scenario Development of the Northern Indigenous Peoples in Russia” (2018-2020), “Environmental Perceptions and Values of the Northern Indigenous Peoples” (2017-2020), “Russian Policy Supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arctic” (2016-2018), “Environmental Protection in the BRICS Countries” (2016-2018),  “Sustainable Land Management and Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change” (2011-2016); “Water Quality and Sustainable Ecosystems in the Conditions of Environmental and Climatic Change in Western Siberia” (2012).

Actively involved in educational and research projects with international universities – the University of Münster (Germany), Tallinn University (Estonia), Ocean University of China, University of Alaska and University of Central Florida (USA), University of Johannesburg (South Africa), Lapland University (Finland) and many others. The leader of international outreach projects: “The Way to the North” and “BRICS Writing Retreat”, Annual International Youth Forum “Route of Friendship”, all focused on cultural, language and social communication of students and scholars.

Personal website:

Web of Science Researcher ID: V-5072-2018

Scopus Author ID: 8344770300

ORCID: 0000-0003-2525-6638

Editorial board

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Danil V. Vinnitskiy

Professor of Tax Law at the Ural State University of Law, the head of the Department of Tax and Financial Law and the Eurasian Research Centre for Comparative and International Tax Law (Yekaterinburg, Russia). Member of the Academic Committee of the European Association of Tax Law Professors (EATLP) and of the Presidium of the International Association of Financial Law, which unites scholars from CIS countries. The General Editor of the “Russian Yearbook of International Tax Law”, member of the scientific councils of a number of the Russian Federation state bodies, an expert for the RF Constitutional Court. The author of more than 200 publications, including 11 monographs, 7 textbooks on tax and financial law, articles and other works in Russian, English and other languages, published in the main law journals of Russia and other countries.

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Sergei Marochkin

Doctor of Law, Professor at the Department of Theory of State and Law and International Law, University of Tyumen (Tyumen, Russia). The Head of the Laboratory for International and Comparative Legal Studies, Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation. The author of more than 150 scientific publications on various aspects of international law in Russia and abroad, a number of editions and chapters on international law including of international publishing houses (Oxford University, Cambridge University, BRILL).

Research interests: effectiveness of international law, law implementation, interaction of international and domestic law, legal system of the Russian Federation.

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Elena V. Titova

The Director of the Institute of Law, the Head of the Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law, South Ural State University (Chelyabinsk, Russia).

Retired judge of the Constitutional Court of the Chelyabinsk Region. Currently serves on the Board of Elections of the Chelyabinsk region, with a casting vote. A member of scientific councils of several governmental bodies of the Russian Federation, including the working group on legislative support of the digital economy under the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Editor-in-Chief of “ Issues of Law ”, an authoritative Russian journal.

Leader of the International Interdisciplinary Research Project “LegalTech: Regulation of the Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Digitization of Law and Smart Law for Smart Industry” at the Institute of Law of South Ural State University (National Research University).

Author of more than 60 research articles and books on digitalization of law, legitimate behaviour in the field of constitutional legal relations, citizen participation in the state affairs.

Scopus Author ID: 57201640405

Web of Science Researcher ID: L-9935-2018

ORCID: 0000-0001-9453-3550

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Juliya Kharitonova

Doctor of Law, Professor of Legal Science, Professor of Business Law Department, Law Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University. Russian scholar and author in the field of civil and digital law, business law, and legal education. She has authored more than 180 peer-reviewed articles and contributed to several textbooks and other works on business, civil, digital, corporate, and intellectual property law.

A member of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Arbitration Court of Moscow; a member of the Commission of Moscow regional branch of the all-Russian public organization “Association of Lawyers of Russia” on legal regulation of economic activity; a member of the Expert Council of the Association of Russian Banks on legal regulation of digital technologies; a member of the Editorial Board of “Journal of Business and Corporate law”, “Law and digital economy”. Arbitrator of the ICAC at the RF CCI. Engaged in legislative activities in Russia and different international scholar projects.

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ORCID: 0000-0001-7622-6215

ResearcherID: K-7495-2016

IstinaResearcherID (IRID): 30475815

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Mikhail Antonov

Professor at the Law Faculty of the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (Saint Petersburg, Russia) where he teaches legal theory and comparative law. The Executive Editor of the Rossiiskii ezhegodnik teorii prava , member of the editorial board of the Pravovedenie , the Review of Central and East European Law , the Rechtstheorie , and of a number of other international scientific journals. Research interests: contemporary legal theory, normativity in law, sociological jurisprudence, theory of sovereignty. Russian university degree of specialist in economics (Presidential Academy of Public Administration, 1999) and in law (Saint Petersburg State University, 2000), Master in sociology (University Paris V, 2005), PhD in Law (Saint Petersburg State University, 2006). Member of the Saint Petersburg Bar Association.

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Scopus Author ID: 26657125900

ORCID: 0000-0002-6462-2664

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Kseniya Ivanova

Doctor of Law, Master of Economics in Accounting, Analysis, Auditing. Postgraduate studies in “Territorial Administration” (University of Lorraine, Metz, France). The Director of the Center for Local Self-Government at the Institute of Administration and Regional Development of RANEPA. Member of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Public Chamber of the Tyumen Region. The author of more than 10 legal expertise on bills, more 50 scientific and educational issues.

Research interests: municipal law, municipal service, local democracy and self-government, public initiatives of citizens, “digital municipality”.

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Ksenia Belikova

Doctor of law, professor of the Department of Civil and Labor Law at Law Institute of Peoples’ Friendship University (Moscow, Russia). Doctor theses with the theme “Legal Framework of the Trade Turnover and the Codification of Private Law in Latin American Countries”; PhD theses with the theme “Legal Framework of the Competition Environment in MERCOSUR Countries”. Member of the editorial boards of: «Boletín Latinoamericano de Competencia»; scientific periodicals and journals “Legal initiative”, “Jurist”, “Current issues of law”. Member of the Dissertation Council Д212.203.36 at the PFUR University (, collaborator at Club latinoamericano de competencia and Mediterranean competition council (; expert of the periodical “Competition and Law” (, member of BRICS Think Tank Council and Scientific Council of National Committee on BRICS Research (see 

Research interests: BRICS, European Union, MERCOSUR, North and Latin American countries and Russia

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Paul Kalinichenko

Doctor of Legal Science (Kutafin Moscow State Law University - MSLA, 2011) in International and European Law, Professor of the EU law Chair of the MSLA. Visiting Professor of the European Study Institute at the MGIMO (Moscow, 2006), Coordinator of the Research Center for the European Law at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (Kaliningrad, 2012), Head of European Law Department of the Diplomatic Academy at the Russian Foreign Ministry (2013).

Research interests: EU external relations law, EU environmental law and EU economic law, legal aspects of the Russia–EU relations. Legal advisor in European affairs of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia (2010) and a legal advisor in European law of the Eurasian Economic Commission (2012).

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The most comprehensive and authoritative history site on the Internet.

Irving Berlin

By Paula Anne Greten

Israel Beilin was born on May 11, 1888, in the western Siberian town of Tyumen, Russia. Called Izzy, he was the youngest of eight children of Moses Beilin, an itinerant cantor, and his wife, Leah. It was a dangerous time for Jews in his homeland. The 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II, for which Jews had been wrongly blamed, had unleashed ever-increasing violent waves of pogroms that would continue for decades. Beilin and his family came face to face with the horrors of the systematic persecution and slaughter of Jews in Russia when, in 1893, the family home was deliberately burned to the ground. Izzy was only 5. He and his parents were forced to flee the country in the hope of finding a better existence in the United States.

Life in a New York tenement was hard for the Baline family — the new name apparently a misspelling of Beilin on documents prepared by an Ellis Island clerk. Mother, father and seven children (the eldest had remained in Russia) lived in a tiny windowless apartment. While the income Israel’s father made as cantor at the local synagogue provided only a mere subsistence, the family was nevertheless together and safe. Admiring Izzy’s ‘clear, true soprano voice,’ the elder Baline encouraged his son to develop his musical talents at an early age.

When Israel was 8, his father died, apparently of natural causes, putting a strain on an already meager family budget. As soon as he was able to help support his family at age 13, Izzy quit school and worked for pennies as a street singer outside cabarets. During the next few years, he performed as a chorus boy in thea-trical productions, a stooge in vaudeville, a singing waiter and a song plugger who introduced new songs in music stores by singing them. He had little education and could never read or write music with ease. His shining assets were his talent and the strong determination of a hungry young man eager to put food on the table.

As the years passed, Izzy continued his hard work and eventually, at age 19, he wrote his first collaborative song as the lyricist of ‘Marie from Sunny Italy.’ Whether a printer’s error or the writer’s conscious choice, the sheet music for the song attributed the words to I. Berlin, and ‘I’ soon stood for Irving. Exactly when and why Israel Baline became Irving Berlin is unclear. Four years later, in 1911, he published his first big hit, ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band,’ and attracted fans from all over the world. He had absorbed everything around him, concentrating on learning all he could about music and lyrics, and it was beginning to pay off.

In 1912 Berlin fell head over heels in love with the perfect girl. Dorothy Goetz meant the world to him, and he saw nothing but a rosy future when she consented to be his wife. They were married later that year and enjoyed a blissful honeymoon in Cuba. Irving finally seemed to have everything for which he had worked so hard. Then disaster struck: Five months after their return to New York, his beloved Dorothy died, perhaps of typhoid fever she had contracted in Cuba.

Berlin was so devastated that he entered what he called a composing ‘dry spell,’ and went abroad to seek relief. He seemed to be defeated until, encouraged by his brother-in-law and former songwriting partner, Ray Goetz, he decided to write about his grief rather than run from it. The result was a beautiful, bittersweet waltz, ‘When I Lost You.’ Berlin later admitted it was the most personal song he ever wrote. It also marked his return to Tin Pan Alley and the rebirth of his musical career. Success followed success and he soon became a major Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songwriter. Money came rolling in at an annual rate of about $100,000.

Lucrative opportunities opened up on Broadway and elsewhere. Berlin had already written songs for the famous Ziegfeld Follies (and continued to do so until 1927), and by World War I he had produced the scores for two Broadway shows, including Watch Your Step . His songs had generated wide international appeal.

During World War I, while serving as a private in the U.S. Army at Long Island’s Camp Upton, Berlin bolstered military morale by writing the music for a 1918 show titled Yip Yip Yaphank, featuring ‘Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.’ This song spoke to the hatred Berlin, a lifelong insomniac, and thousands of other draftees felt toward Army hours and reveille. ‘God Bless America’ was originally composed for Yip Yip Yaphank . When it didn’t fit with the other songs, however, he set it aside. Some 20 years later, while preparing to write a peace song for Kate Smith in 1938, he remembered it and dusted off the piece. He wrote new lyrics, and the revamped song made that Armistice Day particularly memorable.

His natural talent for business led him into music publishing. In 1919 Berlin split from his publishing partner, Ted Snyder, and established his own publishing house. Its first publication was ‘A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,’ still popular today as a background melody for fashion shows and beauty contests. By 1920 he had obtained great fame and enough money to build his own Broadway theater, the Music Box, which was specifically designed to showcase his works. In the years following, he produced, wrote and presented annual shows referred to as The Music Box Revue , in the manner of other musical revues of the day, such as George White’s Scandals and Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies . He was so prolific that Ziegfeld and other producers picked up many of his songs for their shows.

Fourteen years after his first marriage, Berlin fell in love again, and in 1926 he married Ellin Mackay. They had three daughters, Mary Ellin, Linda Louise and Elizabeth, and one son, Irving Jr., who died in infancy on Christmas Day in 1928.

Berlin’s career lasted for 54 years. He is indisputably regarded as the most successful and prolific popular songwriter of his era. His large body of work includes the scores for 19 Broadway musicals, the best known being the Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts (1925), Annie Get Your Gun (1946) and Call Me Madam (1950). Meanwhile, when the era of talking pictures began in the late 1920s, Berlin was summoned to Hollywood, where he would write music for 18 movies, including three of 10 films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936) and Carefree (1938) — as well as Holiday Inn (1942) and Easter Parade (1948).

Throughout his career Irving Berlin was rarely a musical leader or innovator, but he always seemed to have his finger on the American pulse. His works were simple, usually easy to sing, and they spoke of universal subjects — love, loyalty and generosity — to which his listeners could easily relate. Especially known for his elegant ballads, he also composed dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that followed American popular music styles for much of the 20th century.

He created ragtime songs, songs based on the various dance crazes in the 1920s, optimistic songs during the Depression, big band swing numbers at the end of the 1930s, and musical theater scores like those of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the ’40s and ’50s. Amazingly, many of his songs outlived the eras for which they were created. An example is ‘White Christmas.’ Written in 1942, it is still the best-selling single song in American history. Berlin’s other timeless classics include ‘Easter Parade,’ ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ and ‘Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).’ One commentator remarked that Berlin had a ‘chameleon-like ability to adapt to the latest trends and styles in popular music.’ This helped to sustain his popularity for several decades, with more than 1,500 songs to his credit.

The determined composer became respected in the music world despite never having learned how to read music or play the piano properly. During the years when he should have been in school, he was busy surviving on the streets any way he could. Nevertheless, he plunked out tunes on the piano and wrote the lyrics. Then he would engage an assistant to transcribe the musical notation and arrangements into proper form. Berlin only knew how to play the black keys (the key of F#) on his piano; he compensated by using a special transposing piano with a lever that mechanically changed the key signature and, consequently, the vocal range of the song.

Writing songs was never an easy task for him. No matter how many years passed and how much experience he had, he could never shake himself free of the feeling that, as he once commented, ‘My life depends on my accomplishing a song.’ Berlin was always under nervous strain when composing. When he wrote the verse and refrain to ‘God Bless America,’ an associate said he worked very hard, ‘like a woman in labor and about to give birth.’

Berlin was well aware that his songs were not as sophisticated or clever as those of the composers he admired — George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter. Even though he had gained millions of loyal fans around the world, throughout his life Berlin had a deep insecurity about the quality of his music. Once, a woman who met Berlin at a party exclaimed, ‘I guess there’s no one who has written as many hits as you have!’ He replied, ‘I know there’s no one who has written so many failures.’ Perhaps his childhood experiences — initially cruel, and then impoverished and challenging — taught him that good times and comfort could be fragile, temporary luxuries.

Irving Berlin became a familiar and honored part of American life and remains beloved today. Just the mention of his name can provoke a warm smile of recognition. Appropriately, he was honored many times for his loyalty to the United States, and for his accomplishments and generosity. In 1945 President Harry Truman awarded him the Army’s Medal of Merit for his patriotism during the two world wars. In 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him the Congressional Gold Medal for ‘God Bless America’ and his many other patriotic contributions to popular music. In 1977 President Gerald Ford awarded him the Medal of Freedom for his contributions during times of national conflict. In addition, through his foundations, Berlin donated millions in royalties to the Army Emergency Relief fund and to the country’s Boy and Girl Scouts.

When he retired in 1974 at 86, Berlin donated his unique transposing piano to the Smithsonian Institution in Washing-ton, D.C., and his World War I Army ‘doughboy’ uniform to the Museum of American Jewish Military History, also in Washington. He lived out his last years in New York City, almost as a recluse, seeing few friends and mainly communicating with the outside world by telephone.

Berlin declined to attend a gala celebrating his 100th birthday on May 11, 1988, though he tacitly approved of the event. The all-star tribute at Carnegie Hall featured such varied stars of the musical world as Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Leonard Bernstein, Nell Carter, Shirley MacLaine, Marilyn Horne, Isaac Stern, Natalie Cole and Willie Nelson, as well as notables Walter Cronkite and Garrison Keillor.

Irving Berlin died peacefully in his sleep on September 22, 1989, one year after the death of his wife Ellin, with whom he had shared 62 years of marriage. He was survived by his three daughters, nine grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and his unforgettable place in the annals of American history.

This article was written by Paula Anne Greten and originally published in the August 2006 issue of American History Magazine.

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Writer, Mother, Ex-Wife: Leslie Jamison Is a Self in ‘Splinters’

In her powerful new memoir, the author examines a life composed of conflicting identities — and fierce, contradictory desires.

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Charles Finch is the author, most recently, of “What Just Happened,” a chronicle of 2020.

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SPLINTERS: Another Kind of Love Story , by Leslie Jamison

We live in a golden age of autobiographical women’s writing. Real equality in publishing is still elusive, but the straight male inner world that was so meticulously, relentlessly documented in prizewinning books of the past century, from Roth to Styron to Ford, has been forced at last from its position of unchallenged supremacy. In its place has arisen a group of brilliant women, inclusive of trans women, with their own ideas for the form, among them Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Valeria Luiselli, Margo Jefferson, Alison Bechdel, Rachel Cusk, Carina Chocano — and Leslie Jamison.

Jamison, now 40, is the author of a new memoir called “Splinters.” It tells the story of her divorce and first years as a single mother. In her previous books, the finest of which remains “ The Empathy Exams ” (2014), Jamison often used hybrid forms, crossing autobiography with journalism and essays; in “Splinters,” however, as if the urgency of motherhood has retired the need for those inflecting techniques, she tells her tale straightforwardly.

Nevertheless, her true subject has stayed intact: the tormented ambiguity of all action, ethical and aesthetic and personal, and the consequent divisions of the self, what Virginia Woolf called the “ butterfly shades ” of consciousness. “One piece of me said, It’s unbearable ,” Jamison writes about being apart from her baby. “The other piece said, It’s fine . Both pieces were lying. Nothing was fine, and nothing was unbearable.”

As “Splinters” begins, Jamison and her husband, “C,” are in the initial stages of their separation: “At drop-offs, as I stood with the baby in the stroller beside me, he called from the vestibule, Why don’t you eat something, you anorexic bitch. Or he said, Don’t you [expletive] talk to me. When I said, Please don’t speak to me like that, he leaned closer to say, I can speak to you however I [expletive] want.” In another drop-off scene he spits at her.

This is bitter proof of how monstrous love can turn. But Jamison, whose powerful mind is geared toward dialectic, finds as ballast for that injury an immense, nuanced, often physical hope in her newborn daughter. “Sometimes I felt the baby belonged to me absolutely,” she writes. “Sometimes when she lay sleeping beside me in her bassinet, I ran my fingers along my scar in the darkness: the thick stitches, the shelf of skin above like an overhang of rock. It was just a slit that led to my own insides, but it felt like a gateway to another world. The place she’d come from.”

Soon, Jamison returns ambivalently to teaching (“I never felt doubled. I felt more like half a mother, half a teacher”) and begins seeing new men (whom, like “C,” she calls by distancing nicknames — “the tumbleweed,” “the ex-philosopher” — as if to declare the privacy of her reflections from them). “Splinters” is about how she is fragmented — splintered — into these different selves. “Part of me yearned for my daughter,” she writes. “But another part of me wanted only to be a woman on an open highway — with her feet on the dashboard and a man’s hand on her thigh.”

The recent high-water mark for this kind of book is probably “ I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness ” (2021), by Claire Vaye Watkins, a blazing comet of an autobiographical novel, which is also about motherhood. “Splinters” doesn’t possess its energy or drive; Jamison’s “The Recovering” (2018), a dense and courageous book about her alcoholism, did, but this is a more cautious, mercurial project.

Perhaps that’s because it shows an author in transition, not just a person. Jamison’s excellent prose has always retained the aura of the M.F.A. — the sacral feelings about writing as a vocation, the incredibly careful similes, as if a firing squad awaited each one in judgment. In some lines of “Splinters” (“That summer, I was invited to a literary festival on Capri”) this style threatens to give way under the weight of the book’s scarcely acknowledged privilege. Yet at other times, Jamison finds a voice that is wilder, angrier, funnier, free. “Lush milk nights and rumpled clothes,” she writes with fraught joy, in one of the many moments in “Splinters” that act as a passport directly into the experience of motherhood, “chapped lips and soaked bras.”

For a long time, “woman writer” was an epithet in literary culture. Jamison and her peers are something much subtler: writers investigating womanhood as a category in the world, a way of being perceived, a set of challenges and fears. In part, the subject of this beautiful, bittersweet memoir is the pressure of that task. “It’s true that I didn’t want her to be away from me, even for a moment,” Jamison writes of her daughter during her hospital stay after giving birth. “But it’s also true that once she was gone, I pulled out my laptop.”

SPLINTERS : Another Kind of Love Story | By Leslie Jamison | Little, Brown | 263 pp. | $29

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E lena Gladun is a Doctor of Law, an associate professor at the Institute of State and Law, the University of Tyumen. Her other positions at the same university are the executive editor of the BRICS Law Journal since 2016 and the Advisor to the President of the University of Tyumen (2012-2015). Since 2014 up to present time, she has been leading the Research Division of the Institute of State and Law “Legal and economic frameworks for sustainable development of the northern territories in Russia” and supervises research projects, grant writing activities and faculty networking in the relevant area of study.

The educational background of Elena Gladun is Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Tyumen (1992-1997), Law Department at the University of Tyumen (1995-1999) and a Post-graduate school at the Law Department of the same University (2002-2004). Her dissertation thesis topic is “Division of powers in the field of subsoil use in a federal state (study of the Constitutions and laws in Russia, the United States of America and Canada)”

In 2012-2015, as the Advisor to the President of University she was a decision-making person for the University international strategy. For example, Elena determined priority areas of the University internationalization process, collaborated with University stakeholders to support internationalization of educational and research projects. Her main responsibility was to build networks with international universities and to represent the University administration in international projects.

Currently, Elena is a local coordinator of the University of Arctic (UArctic) / and a contact person and coordinator of North-to-North exchange program within UArctic. She has launched the Arctic Initiative Center with the functions to coordinate Arctic-related projects, to assess educational programs, grants competitions, scientific research, student events on Arctic topics.

Elena actively participates in educational and research projects with foreign universities – the University of Münster (Germany), Osnabruck University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Tallinn University (Estonia), Stockholm University (Sweden), Univesity of Wolverhampton (Great Britain), and also with the international companies.

Elena’s international collaboration experience includes teaching at the University of Wyoming (USA), Wolverhampton University (United Kingdom), Tallinn University (Estonia); five year of team work with the German Universities, co-authorship in the research papers. Recently she has carried out a joint research in the area of public participation in local government with the University of Central Florida. Presently, Elena takes part in the Arctic Law Thematic Network (the Sub-group of Philosophy of Law in the Arctic) and Erasmus Mobility Program with Tallinn University.

Her main research interests are natural resources management and environmental law; indigenous issues in the process of industrial development of the Arctic territories; nature management and environmental protection in the Arctic. She has published about 50 papers in peer reviewed journals and has taken part in more than 30 Russian and international conferences.

Elena has got more than ten years of experience in studying indigenous issues and arctic communities in the northern areas of the Russian Federation (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District) and abroad (USA, Norway). This has been resulted in 17 papers devoted to the indigenous peoples; for example, she is a co-author of the book titled “Guarantees of Rights and Interests of Indigenous Peoples in the Russian North” (Tyumen State University, 2007) and the book “The Interconnected Arctic” (international co-authorship, Springer Polar Sciences).

Elena teaches courses in Russian and English, including:

  • Law and Policy for Sustainable Development of the Russian Arctic (course in English, LLM, 2017- present), worked out jointly with the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, University of Münster, Germany
  • Global Environmental Management (oil and gas sector) (course in English, LLM, 2012 – present) taught in Russia and abroad (University of Wolverhampton, Great Britain, 2011)
  • Legal Regulations of Petroleum Industry (course in English, LLM, 2014 – present)
  • Environmental Law (course in Russian for a range of programs – LLB, LLM, BSc, MSc, 2002 – present)
  • Land Law, Land Use Management (courses in Russian for LLB, LLM)
  • Natural Resources Managementas a professional training course in Russian taught in 2005 – 2015.

In 2014 Elena launched an extracurricular international project of Tyumen University (International Summer School “Way to the North”). It is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of northern territories of Russia (Tyumen Region, Khanty-Mansiik Autonomous District, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District) bringing together students and professors from the USA, Germany, Norway and other European countries. It is the unique opportunity to travel to the Russian North, to see the historical and archeological sites, to stay with the northern indigenous peoples and to build a network with Russian young people, researchers and businessmen.

Other extracurricular activities are

  • International Midterm School “Sustainable Development of the Arctic Regions” (Fulbright Program, High School of Economics and Tyumen State University joint project, 2016)
  • International School “Sustainable Land Management and Land Use Scenarios” (jointly with the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, Free University of Berlin, Germany, 2016)
  • Annual International Youth Forum “Route of Friendship” – cultural, language and social communication of students (2013-2016)

Elena has carried out a range of interdisciplinary research projects: “Sustainable Land Management and Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change” (2011-2016); “Water Quality and Sustainable Ecosystems in the Conditions of Environmental and Climatic Change in Western Siberia” (Laboratory of Water Quality, Stability of Water Ecosystems and Ecotoxicology, Tyumen State University and Russian Academy of Science, 2012). She is the author of several draft bills for the Legislature of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District– State Support Measures to the Indigenous Peoples’ Communities (2006), Reindeer Herding (2013), among others.

Professional development:

  • University Leadership Strategic Program “Transformation of the University towards the excellent education: organization and design” (Tyumen State University, 2018)
  • Professional Development Program “Internationalization of the University: Challenges and Perspectives” (Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, 2012)
  • Professional Development Program “Approaches to the Sustainable and Innovative Development of Educational Institutions” (University of Nordland, Norway, 2011)
  • Course “Host Governments & Oil Companies: their Strategies and Tactics in International Upstream Petroleum Licensing”(Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law Policy, Dundee University, Scotland, 2008)
  • Courses “Codes of Law in Russia: Land, Forest, Water Resources”, “Environmental Regulation in the Indistrial Sector” (St Petersburg, Educational Centre Integral, 2008)
  • Professional Development Program “Economic and Legal Problems of Oil and Gas Sector Development in Western Siberia” (Russian Science Academy, 2008)
  • Course “Legal Regulations of Industry in the Region” (Tyumen Environmental Centre, 2007)
  • Course “Building Good Community-Company Relations” (The Canadian Institute of Recourses Law, 2003)
  • Junior Faculty Development Program (Law School, University of Wyoming, USA, 2001-2002)
  • 2018-2019 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Program
  • 2015-2019 Erasmus+ Program (Academic mobility with Tallinn University, Estonia)
  • 2017 Russian Non-governmental Organization “Knowledge” (Open lecture award)
  • 2016-2017 V. Potanin Fund Award (Course development project)
  • 2007-2008 Award of Russian Ministry of Education and Research for Innovation Initiatives (Text-book writing and professional development)
  • 2002-2004 Central European University Award (Civic Education Project)
  • 2001 Award of Federal Educational Bureau of USA for post-graduate education in the USA University (Junior Faculty Development Program 2001-2002)

In 2015 Elena was awarded a Letter of Honor by the Russian Ministry of Education and Research.


With the support of the Vladimir POTANIN Foundation



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