How to Write a Book: 21 Crystal-Clear Steps to Success
Writing a book is hard without the right help. Without someone who’s done it before, you can end up making crucial mistakes.
You decided to write a book. Maybe you have a perfect idea (so you think, but we’ll get to that), have always wanted to write one, and just aren’t sure where the heck to get started!
The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is so much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon.
One of the easiest ways to start, is with an outline.
(Heads up – You can grab a free outline template below. I cover more about how to use this tool in Step 9 of this post – but go ahead and grab your outline guide now. It makes everything easier, later).
Anyone who says learning how to write a book is easy has never actually tried.
If they did, they’d know writing a book takes a lot more than a helpful piece of grammar software. It takes help from someone who’s done it before.
This is why I’m weighing in, having written and published 6 bestselling books and replicated my process across thousands of students through our Become a Bestseller program.
Let’s save you a ton of time, and many headaches, and dive into how to write a book.
If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…
You stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. To combat the boredom, you stand, stretch, and brew yet another pot of coffee.
And…a week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book? I haven’t even come up with a book idea yet!”
But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.
Here’s how to write a book step by step:
Ready to get started as a serious writer right now? Check out your free training below before reading the rest of this post!
How to Write a Book Despite Procrastination
There are plenty of reasons why writing a book, whether you’re writing a fiction novel or a nonfiction book, puts most writers directly into procrastination mode.
These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:
- You’re not sure how to get started
- It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
- You feel insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
- Afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
- Worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
- You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book
Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.
You’re in illustrious company!
Ready to learn how to write your first book and go from blank page to published author in just 90 days? Then let’s get started!
Phase 1: Think Like a Writer
Before you sit down and type a single word, it will pay off if you take some time to address a few attitude questions and adopt the right mindset. Successful writers know, before your write a single word simply writing and getting words to flow isn’t the hard part. It’s so much more about being organized with the same structure and writing voice for the particular story they need to tell.
This is one of the most frequently overlooked steps in becoming a published author, which is a big reason why so many people fail to finish their books.
Take it from me—it’s worth your time to complete these steps. They will make the rest of your book-writing experience much, much easier, and more satisfying.
[Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here!]
Step 1: Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book
Before you open your laptop and start daydreaming about which photographer should take your best-selling author headshot, or about getting interviewed on Oprah, you need to answer one question:
What’s your reason for writing a book?
It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose. It might take writing a blog post to begin a journey that has you self-published in less than a year. Remember most likely you’ll want to approach this as a writing career rather than a single book you put out.
How do you begin writing a book?
I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Solidifying the purpose of fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.
Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.
However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator that will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings has long dissipated.
And this is a huge reason why so many of our Become a Bestseller students end up starting and finishing their drafts quickly—in 30 days in most cases!
- Authority: To build credibility.
- Money: For financial gain, business success, or to make a living writing
- Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
- Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
- To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
- To give others an escape: when writing fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
- Have the power to change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.
There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.
Your WHY will be unique to you.
Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.
Step 2: Stop the Excuses for Not Writing the Book
You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.
When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.
But you can overcome it.
It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.
Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.
Excuse 1 – You don’t know what to write.
You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.
In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.
The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.
Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:
- Look at a list of writing prompts or story ideas and choose an idea
- Write a list of all the things you’re most passionate about
- Write down a list of everything you’re very knowledgeable about
- List the areas you want to be seen as credible in
- Compile all of these lists and rank your ideas in order of what you’re most passionate about
- Imagine which idea you’d be most proud to have your name on
- Choose the idea you know the most about and are the most passionate about
Once you have an idea narrowed down, you can go ahead and start your mind map and outline.
(Psst… If you missed your chance to grab your outline earlier in this post, here you go again. Inside the template are more detailed instructions for how to use an outline, and how to go from “no book idea” or “too many book ideas” to the “perfect first book idea” using a mind map. Don’t worry, I show you how to mind map your book also – inside the Book Outline Template instructions.)
Excuse 2 – You don’t have enough time.
Today, we’re all busy. I get it.
Plus, how long does writing a book take in the first place?
But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.
Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.
And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.
The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.
You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!
Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.
In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.
Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.
And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).
Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:
- Only read a chapter or two at night
- Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
- Be intentional about what you read
- Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
- Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time
Excuse 4 – You’re “not an expert.”
A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”
The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.
You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know— you’re expert enough to write a book.
So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.
Excuse 5 – Your first draft must be flawless.
A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.
Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.
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