You’ve got an amazing idea for a book but don’t know where to start? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all method for writing a book. In fact, if you ask published writers how to write a book, they’ll give you various, sometimes conflicting, answers to this question.
Your approach might depend on what you’re writing. Nonfiction writing, especially academic writing, might require extensive research upfront. Novels, on the other hand, may sometimes do without prior research.
However, writing every type of book usually requires the following steps (albeit not always in this order):
Decide on the subject matter
What are you actually writing about? Having a clear goal in your mind will help you immensely. Otherwise, you may end up with a stream of consciousness, something that’s not ideal if you’re not James Joyce.
Set up a writing space
Find a writing space where you’ll do your work. Having a go-to workspace helps establish a schedule.
Prepare an outline
Hone on your idea and work out the book outline. Whether it’s a novel or a nonfiction book, it’ll still be useful. Of course, it’s just a working outline, and it’s bound to change as you’re working on your idea.
Do your research
Writing always requires research. Some types of writing require extensive research before you start writing: nonfiction, academic writing, historical fiction, etc. As you’re writing, you may find out there are things you still need to look up—that’s completely normal as the research phase may still continue well into your editing process.
Write the first draft
Don’t procrastinate, and write. Set up a writing schedule and a daily word goal. For instance, 1,000 words. If you feel you won’t be able to write a day’s portion, try writing a couple of sentences. It’ll help you create a writing habit, making the work easier as you go along.
After you’ve finished your manuscript, let it rest for a while, and then work on your second draft. You can edit ten pages or a chapter every day, going through your writing. Sometimes, editing seems tedious, and you might start despising your book. Don’t get discouraged! After you’re through, you’ll feel much better. And if you want someone to give it another look, send it over to us.
If you need more help our founder, John Biggs, wrote a different, more-detailed take a few years ago.
Here is our post on How to Write a Book Proposal.
Thanks, Cory, for suggesting this topic for our newsletter! Cory’s recommending reading on the topic is “Write Useful Books” by Rob Fitzpatrick.
If you have any recommendations for our future posts, let us know.