So you’ve decided to write a book and don’t know how to start writing. Becoming an author can be life-changing, not to mention it gives you the ability to impact thousands, if not millions, of people.
But here’s the painful truth: Learning how to start writing a book is no walk in the park. It can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out. The actual writing process is the hardest part about writing a book, and the fear of failure or rejection can be paralyzing. What if you’re terrible at it? What if nobody reads it? Do you even know how to start writing a book?
It takes courage and whole lot of patience to write a book, but anyone can make it possible, even if you’ve never written before. All you need to do is to follow a step-by-step plan, one that’s proven and tested by many successful writers. And we’re here to offer you a reliable blueprint on how to start writing a book and to get you on the right track. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Find your writing space.
You don’t need a sanctuary to learn how to start writing a book. In fact, some famous authors kick-started their careers right on their couch facing a pen and paper.
When setting up your personal writing space, you only need to do what you have to do, and that is to write. Of course, the more comfortable and private you can make your lair, the better.
Remember: Real authors can write anywhere. Others can write in cafes and restaurants, while others love the solace in their own backyard. Cut your writing teeth in any type of environment and anywhere else will seem glorious.
It can take months or even years but as you grow as a writer and start making money from it, you can eventually upgrade your lair. The point is, you don’t have to wait to start writing until you could find a great spot in which to do it.
Step 2: Keep your readers in mind at all times.
This part is often overlooked but is actually so important, you need to write it on a sticky note so you’ll never forget it every time you write.
Think reader-first. Everything you write and every decision you make about your book must run through this filter. It’s not about you, professional essay editors or agents, and certainly not your critics. Think of your readers first, last, and always. If your decisions are based on the reader-first principle, everyone else will eventually benefit from it.
Is a scene too mundane? If you think reader-first, you can overhaul or delete it.
Don’t know where to go, what to say, and what to write next? Decide on the reader’s basis.
Your answer lies in whatever your instinct tell you your reader would prefer. Think of the things that’ll intrigue them, move them, keep them reading and asking for more. Those will be your marching orders.
The next question is, who are your readers? What’s your target audience? How old are they? What are their general interests? Loves and hates?
When in doubt, take a good look in the mirror.
No, really. A sure-fire way to please your readers is to please yourself. Write something you’d want to read and trust in the thought there’s a hive mind out there that shares your interests.
Step 3: Decide what your book is about.
Figure out what your “big idea” is. Great writing is always about something and if you don’t have that, you’ll never get past your draft. Of course, you may already know what to write about, but you’re at a complete loss about how to get started. Either way, you can start by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- What do I want to write about?
- What’s important to write about?
- Who will want to read my story?
- Will I be able to carry out my ideas efficiently?
Getting answers to these questions can help you narrow down your best options. For example, if you’re juggling between different ideas for a book but have only one you’re truly passionate about and feel you can confidently pull off, then viola, you’ve got yourself a premise!
Meanwhile, if you’re stuck without ideas, answering the questions above can steer you in the right direction. Figure out the kind of books you enjoy reading, as well as the books that have made a huge impact on you. Who knows, you may want to write a book in the same vein.
Which leads us to the next step…
Step 4: Determine your genre.
Do your research
Once you’ve got your big idea figured out, it’s time to research your genre. At this point, if you’ve already decided to write a book you’d like to read, then you already have a leg up. Reading books in your favorite genre is by far the best and most effective way to learn how to start writing in that genre yourself.
Otherwise, you might want to consider choosing a couple of representative titles in various genres, and then analyze them. Try answering these questions:
- How long should the book be?
- How many chapters should they have?
- What does the structure of the story look like?
- What are the major themes of the story?
- Can I write a book with the same elements?
Find out what people are reading
At this point, you need to conduct research on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones to determine the most popular titles in your preferred genre. If you want your work to succeed, you need to be ready to compete with these best-sellers.
From there, read these books’ blurbs and figure out what makes them a best-seller. What makes them stand out? What do they have in common? Why do readers find them appealing? Can your book hold up to these standards?
Once you’ve figured these out, it’s time to think about how your work can offer something entirely new and unique. For instance, if you’re writing a suspense thriller, will you go for a sly unreliable narrator, or go with a series of shocking plot twists that your readers will never see coming?
Going above and beyond, and setting yourself apart from the rest, are the only ways to give your book a chance in today’s fiercely competitive market. Don’t take researching a genre for granted, as it will tell you where the bar is and how you can set it higher.
Step 5: Establish writing goals.
Set a daily word count
Prolific and highly successful authors, like John Grisham for example, started his writing career as a first-time Dad and a lawyer. In short, he was a busy man. Nevertheless, he made it a point to get up extra-early in the morning to write a page, every single day. Two years later, he published his first novel.
A single page is only about 250 to 300 words. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write a lot, as long as you write often. By setting a writing goal, you have something to aim for every day. Make it small but most importantly, make it realistically attainable so you can reach your daily goal and start building a momentum.
Set a daily schedule
Consistency is key. It makes the writing process easier, and keeps the creative juices flowing. Make sure to set a deadline when doing your work. At the same time, give yourself short breaks to do something else. Sometimes, you just need to step away from your work desk to clear your hear.
Take a day off if you must, but don’t take more than a day or you’ll lose momentum. Schedule ahead of time and never let a deadline pass. This way, you can ensure that you don’t have to think of anything else when you write. Because when it’s time to write, it’s time to write.
Step 6: Write an outline.
A great book begins with an outline. This is all the more important if it’s your first time writing a book. Because when you’re stuck, a solid blueprint can give you that much-needed push.
So how do great writers create an outline for their book? Simply take note of these essentials:
- Choose your format. There are many types of outlines. There’s the free-flowing mindmap, the intricate chapter-and-scene plot map, the character-based outline, and many more. If one type isn’t your cup of tea, try another. Any kind of outline is better than none at all.
- Prepare a beginning, middle, and end. Oftentimes, a lot of authors go about writing a book with a solid beginning, but end up with a clunky middle, and… a flop – if nonexistent – ending. By writing an outline, you can flesh these out and connect them to each other. Don’t forget that the greatest books ever written have well-earned endings, so try to build toward it from the very beginning!
- Know your characters. Struggling with character development? An outline can help you carve them out. Figure out how your characters interact in the story and how these will demonstrate who they are and what matters to them.
- Establish conflict points. Without conflict, a book doesn’t have a heart. Conflict points keep your readers hooked, conjures emotion and tension, and brings out the message you wish to convey. You don’t always have to know where exactly your conflict will manifest, but you should have a good grasp of how it will work throughout your book.
Step 7: Embrace setbacks as they come.
Getting stuck is inevitable. Be it a tricky plot hole, a sudden bout of insecurity, or god forbid, a writer’s block, all authors experience setbacks from time to time. Some folks can easily overcome this simply by freestyle-writing or waiting for that Eureka moment in the shower, but below are some of the most effective ways to get out of that slump:
- Go through your outline. By revisiting your outline, you can jog your memory and walk back through some story elements you may have forgotten, which could help you find that missing piece.
- Take writing exercises. It could be that you just need to get those words flowing before jumping right back into your story. To improve your writing skills, you can try out some creative writing exercises like using writing prompts, writing a stream of consciousness page, writing a story told to you, or even describing one of your dreams.
- Share your experience with others. Find a writing buddy or someone you can easily talk with about your writer’s block – be it a friend, family, essay editor, or fellow writer. Venting it out and bouncing ideas off other people helps a lot when you’re struggling with your writing process.
Step 8: Just keep writing!
How does one know when they’re done writing? The answer is, you don’t, not really. As a beginner, here’s how you can end your writing process:
- Accept failure. Completing a book doesn’t guarantee instant success. As you approach the end of your writing project, know that it will be difficult and you’ll most likely mess up. Learn to embrace failures and don’t be hard on yourself. Determination is what will sustain you – the drive and passion to move forward and to continue, not your or anyone’s elusive standards of perfection.
- Write another book. A lot of authors are embarrassed by their first work. But without it, a writer will never learn the hard lessons they might otherwise miss out on. So don’t be afraid to put your work out there. Fail early, acknowledge it, and then try again. It’s the only way to get better. Practice means perfect, which means you have to keep writing. Remember that every author started somewhere, and many of them have started by squeezing their writing process into the cracks of their daily routines. This may just be where you begin your journey, as well.
If you want learn how to start writing a book and to become a successful writer, you must create a writing blueprint and take ownership of your writing habits. By following these 8 simple strategies on how to start writing a book, you can complete a book in a matter of months and be on your way to becoming a published author. Best of luck!