How to start writing a book in 8 steps.
When I first started writing, I had no clue what I was doing – I mean really NO clue! I had this great idea powered by great enthusiasm, but no real education on the matter. I threw myself in this writing endeavor to quickly realize I had to stop and correct my approach. I don’t regret anything because I learned a lot from these mistakes, but I also know I will take a very different approach for my next book. With that, I want share with you what I should have done, in hopes it will benefit you and save you lots of time and potentially some major headaches. So, let me share with you 8 simple steps on how to start writing a book.
Here are the 8 tips:
1. Read, read, and read some more!
Reading is essential to becoming a good writer. It will allow you to find what works and what doesn’t. You will get insights/examples on how to write good stories and develop a better judgement on your own writing.
2. Know your genre.
Are you writing your memoirs? A short story? A novel? Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your approach will be different. The writing won’t require the same effort so it is important for you to identify your genre before getting started and determine the total word count and type of outline you need if outlining is important to you.
For example, writing a Romance novel usually requires writing 50/60K words total. When you write Fantasy, you are expected to have a 80/100K word count per book (except if your name is George R. R. Martin then you can probably go up to 150K lol). These are industry standards and yes, you can go more or less, but if you want to be traditionally published, it’s usually better to stick within these numbers.
3. Do some ground work.
Research your idea/topic using as many outlets/mediums as possible. If you want to write a thriller, maybe you’ll need forensic expertise.
If you want to write non-fiction, you should probably research the market on your topic and compare with what’s already out there. Go online to see if your idea is new or if it will be lost in the middle of thousands of other similar books.
When writing Fantasy, you may want to draw a map, create characters sheets and place settings to build your world so the book remains consistent. Creating such sheets is very helpful.
I wrote about Scrivener two weeks ago and this tool is truly amazing to keep your work organized.
4. Create an outline.
There are 3 different types of writers: some who will outline everything, so the writing flows; some who will just write and will figure it out along the way; and others, like me, who like creating an outline, but with some flexibility as I always end up changing something from my original idea.
I don’t want an outline that limits my imagination, but an outline that can keep me on track and truly help my productivity. A few outlining methods are available (i.e K.M. Weiland’s method, Snowflake method, structure or sign post techniques…). You should look into the various types of outlining to find the one that works best for you (again if this is right for you).
There are conflicted points of views on this topic, but I would always suggest to do what’s best for you because you will always find people addicted to them and some who can’t stand them.
5. Start writing and set realistic goals.
Most people fail in writing because they have no idea where to start – trust me; I’ve had my share of doubts. When I faced this challenge I told myself “Just start writing, and you’ll figure out the rest later.” This would be my best advice to anyone who starts writing a novel for the first time.
Set yourself a word count per day and a number of days per week where you will commit to writing. No matter what happens, stick to these goals, but be realistic and maybe start with 200 or 500 words a day. Each word counts so there is no failure, but only steps towards your goal.
6. Make yourself accountable.
Setting deadlines is important because it keeps you going. Taking the first step is hard, but you also need to cross the finish line. When I started writing, my friend and I would set a deadline. I needed to provide 3 chapters (roughly 10K words) every two weeks. This was a tremendous help for me. I’m at a point where I no longer need encouragement to write, but I needed this at first.
I often hear “How did you find the time to write a book with a toddler, a full time job and no family around to help?” Well, I could make excuses OR I could start thinking how to better manage my time. Life happens for everyone and we can easily get carried away, but someone once said: “When your WHY is big enough, you’ll find your HOW.” The need to write became so great that I found a way to make it happen.
Every night, I wrote a little bit (nothing crazy) and would write over the weekend for 1 – 2 hours while my baby would nap. On weekends, my husband also helped by giving me an entire afternoon/morning to focus on writing. This helped me a lot and that’s how I made/still make it work.
7. Write every day and be consistent.
Create a routine to help you easily get into the right mindset. You’ll achieve your goal faster if you are consistent. Writing a book takes time so it requires a great deal of perseverance and dedication to complete this journey.
I write anywhere, at any time, and sometimes in the most random places (parking lots and even bathrooms). But some writers thrive better working in their own special place. Find what’s best for you and stick to making writing a ritual.
8. Don’t try to get it right the first time.
The first draft is really about getting the words out. Write as if you’re telling the story to a good friend or family member, but do not try to get it perfect. You should only worry about the form and getting it right during the editing process. For now, pour the words and your heart out. Don’t hold back!
Once you complete your first draft, don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate this achievement and set your work aside for a few weeks.
Do not start editing right away! You will need distance with your work to make it perfect. I don’t pretend being an expert as I’m still learning, but reading several articles from experts, I do believe these tips will serve you well.
Finally, there are things to consider prior to completing your first book and you should use that time to consider it, but I’ll go over it in another post.