How to write a book is a question so many ask both themselves and others on a regular basis. Some people are natural writers, while others need to work at it, but many feel they have a story to tell.
For some, they want to write an epic work of best-selling fiction. Others feel the need to tell their personal story to the world. Others still want to write something creative and captivating that is rooted in truth.
Whatever you are feeling compelled to document in your new book , knowing how to write a book well is crucial to get your words in front of an audience. There are some things that most, if not all, writers will do:
- Create your space
- Find a good idea
- Plan and outline
- Do research
- Start writing
- Find a mentor
- Know why you're writing
- Seek out constructive criticism and feedback
- Be part of a community
- Create a good foundation (characters, plot, setting)
- Establish a routine
- Hire an editor
- Find a designer
Some things will depend on your own personal preference. It is in a combination of these elements where you will find your process. You will figure out how to write a novel, a memoir, or whatever you are after. This step-by-step process will be especially useful if you're working on your first book.
1. How to Write a Book: Your Space
Learning how to write a book effectively should begin before your pen even hits the paper. Having a good writing space is essential to good productivity.
You need to have a place set aside that is just for writing and free from distractions. Having an entire room or office for this purpose is ideal, but not realistic for everyone.
Even if all you have is a little corner for your desk, make the space your own - whatever that means. Put up some photos or posters that encourage and inspire you.
If you thrive on simplicity, leave everything blank. Organize your supplies and ensure everything is in its place. This will allow you to get straight to writing each time, without having to search for anything.
Your space can also include music. Many writers draw inspiration, focus, and/or motivation from music.
For some, this will be their favorite artists. Others will prefer music specifically designed to calm and invigorate them.
Regardless of your preference, experiment with music and see how it can help you.
2. Write a Good Book With a Good Idea
A good book will never come to fruition if you don’t have a good book idea to begin with. You can do something with any idea, but sometimes the idea isn’t enough for an entire book.
Sometimes what you’re looking at is more of a short story or a detailed blog post. Books are long, so knowing how to write a good book includes having an idea that can be appropriately fleshed out.
If you’re not sure your idea is good for a book, try creating a bit of an outline for it. It doesn’t have to be detailed or fancy, but enough to tell you if you have enough to work with.
Think about how the book will start and end, and see if you can expand the middle. For a novel, come up with your main plot points and ask yourself if they work.
For a nonfiction book, start brainstorming chapter titles - do you have enough?
Good ideas can come from absolutely anywhere. From a sentence in another book to a piece of conversation you overhear in a coffee shop.
If you aren’t getting hit with any inspiration, there are a few things you can actively do to try and get that spark:
- Reinvent a scene from a book you like, making a side character the main character.
- Find some writing prompts and run with ones you like.
- Create a backstory or history for the next stranger you see while out and about.
- Purposely eavesdrop on public conversations around you and make up answers for the pieces you don’t understand.
- Create characters out of the people in your life. Put those characters together and have them interact.
- Ask yourself if there was an impactful time or experience in your past that you can draw from.
- Do you have any skills or knowledge that could be useful to others?
- Have you made any grave, large-scale mistakes that others could learn from?
3. Planning/Outlining With a Book Writing Template
Every writer has a different process, and yours will evolve and develop the more you write. If you are just starting out, however, there are some steps you can take into consideration as you go through the first stages of writing your book.
Even the most dedicated of pansters know that some level of planning is needed to craft a book that is truly good and complete. Sitting down with a blank page and writing with nothing to go on does have its advantages.
It gets your imagination flowing, and might end up creating a really cool new character or setting. It can be fun to let go of all inhibitions and write with no expectations.
But, rarely does this alone result in a cohesive, well-developed book.
Outlining comes in many different forms. Some writers will spend as much time outlining as they do writing the entire book! Others will only make a brief plan that can be changed and re-worked easily and often.
As you learn how to write a novel you will figure out what works for you, but some elements of an outline can include:
- Predetermined plot points (usually between 2-4)
- Chapter outlines and scene ideas
- Character sketches (for fiction)
- Information on relevant people to be included (for non-fiction)
- Setting and location information
- Relevant facts
- General brainstorming
An outline of some sort is especially important when writing fiction because you need to know where your story is going.
Depending on the complexity, plot holes can run rampant if you’re not careful. Characters need to be properly developed and fleshed out.
Those who prefer an outline that is briefer may simply lay out their plot points, figure out the main characters, and go from there. There is no right or wrong way to outline, as long as it helps you know where the story will end up.
One of the best ways to plan and outline is to use a book writing template. Templates are flexible and will allow you to do as much or as little planning as possible. It starts by guiding you through each section or chapter.
Following the steps I've outlined in this post will help you craft a wonderful book without forgetting anything. Using a template along with these steps will help you keep track of them all and make sure you're doing everything in the right order:
Templates take the guesswork out of planning your book. It gives you a guide for each step and section, without limiting your creativity and individual process.
Like outlining, the research process will vary depending on what exactly you are writing.
If you are writing a personal memoir or autobiography, minimal research will be needed. On the flip side, creative non-fiction or a true-crime piece will require extensive research. You will need to ensure that all details and events are correct.
Many works of fiction also require large volumes of research. Historical fiction will need a great deal of physical accuracy - things like real events, people, locations, and dates.
Some novels explore a deeply emotional and/or physiological set of themes. For these, you will need to do research into the mind and behavior of certain conditions or types of people.
Even if you are not a fan of outlining and don’t do much of it, proper research is essential to creating a believable narrative. The subject matter will dictate exactly how much is necessary, but it's always necessary.
5. Start Writing
Once you have done the necessary planning, outlining, and research, it is time to actually write your book. This part of the process will also look different for every writer.
Some prefer to write in strict chronological order and they don’t stray from it. They write the first page and go from there. Others will decide on their ending first and write the rest of the book towards that. Others still will jump right into the middle with the most dramatic and action-packed scenes, and work outwards from there.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. You may end up sticking to a certain style for every book you write. You may also find that a different approach works for different types of writing. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and do whatever works for you.
It will also be beneficial to the success of your book if you create a writing schedule. You may have a consistently full schedule, or you might have plenty of free time. Either way, setting goals and sticking to a daily process will help you finish the book in as timely a manner as possible. Keeping to a regular schedule and building good habits around it helps eliminate procrastination.
Do this by setting aside some time to write each day. For some this may be two or three hours in the evening, for others it might be 20 minutes in the morning.
Do something that works well with your schedule. Next, set a daily or weekly word count goal. Start low and work upwards if you find yourself exceeding it each day.
Writing a book is a long process and a big commitment. There are so many elements that it can be overwhelming to see it all looming in front of you at the beginning. Fortunately, there is much novel writing software available for writers that can be helpful, and take some of the pressure off.
|1. Microsoft Word||Word processor.
Simple and linear.
Useful for shorter pieces of professional writing.
|2. Squibler||Word processor.
Simple but powerful.
Many organization options.
Store notes and research.
Drag and drop chapters/scenes.
Get help with publishing.
Focuses on basic grammar and punctuation.
Catches spelling mistakes.
Advanced checks available with upgrade.
Focuses on readability.
Scans for adverbs, passive voice, complex words.
Analyzes sentence structure.
The actual writing of your book will be made easier if you use a program that is designed specifically for this purpose. Microsoft Word is the most common word processor, but it is not ideal for novel-length works.
It is simplistic and linear which makes organizing chapters and scenes difficult. Trying to move things around or change the order will require a lot of scrolling, copying, and pasting.
Luckily, there are several other options that are much more suited to long-form writing. One of these is Squibler.
This is a simple but comprehensive program designed with novelists in mind. It has a basic interface that is easy to understand, but it is packed with features that will maximize productivity.
It's also the perfect program to use when attempting Nanowrimo. Their goal lines up with Nanowrimo's concept o drafting an entire novel in a single month. A big idea, sure, but not impossible.
One of the most powerful things about Squibler is its ability to write each chapter, and even each scene, as a seperate piece. This allows for easy and seamless organization. All you have to do is drag and drop to change the chronological order of your story or to move a scene to a different chapter. You can track a daily word count goal to keep yourself accountable.
For those who thrive on the outline, Squibler offers space for storing and organizing your notes and research. It is all built into one so your outline will be accessible at any time as you write your book.
When you're ready, Squibler has some excellent tools to assist you in the self-publishing process if that's what you decide to pursue. The formatting options they provide are perfectly compatible with Amazon and Kindle which are two of the top self-publishing platforms.
Editing is one of the most tedious, time-consuming, and often frustrating parts of the writing process. While it is entirely unavoidable, it is possible to make it easier.
For starters, there is Grammarly. Grammarly is an app that scans your work and checks for grammar. It will pick up basic mistakes such as:
- Missing or unnecessary commas.
- Other misused punctuation like periods and exclamation points
- Misspelled word
Grammarly will do all of this for free. You can plug your work into their online editor, or install the chrome extension. Installing the extension will allow Grammarly to work everywhere.
It will check your writing and correspondence across all your daily activities:
- Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Projects such as blog posts, articles, and other web content. It will check your work as you write or you can paste it into your chosen blogging platform.
- Emails, instant messages, and other forms of communication.
As long as you have an internet connection, Grammarly is with you.
Grammarly also offers some other integrations that are available to download or activate separately:
- Grammarly for Microsoft Office. This also includes integration with Outlook.
- Grammarly for Windows. This app puts Grammarly right on your desktop.
- Grammarly for Google Docs. This is currently in the beta testing stage, but Grammarly will check your work right inside your Google Doc.
These apps and integrations are all also free.
Grammarly offers its users a lot of free services, but they do have a premium upgrade available. This upgrade unlocks a list of additional features:
- Advanced punctuation checks
- Context and sentence structure analysis
- Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
- Genre-specific style checks
- A plagiarism detector that scans more than 16 billion web pages
The premium upgrade comes with three pricing options. The more you are able to pay for at once, the more you’ll save in the end:
- Monthly at $29.95/month
- Quarterly at $19.98/month (billed in installments of $59.99)
- Yearly at $11.66/month (billed once a year at $139.95)
Grammarly premium is a sound investment for those looking to take their writing to the next level and save huge time on editing. Especially if you are a newbie, Grammarly is a perfect addition to your efforts to learn how to write a book.
Grammarly focuses on your grammar and overall structure, Hemingway scans for readability. There are five main things it focuses on:
- Adverbs. It suggests keeping adverbs to a minimum if you use them at all.
- Passive voice. It also suggests using minimal passive voice.
- Complex phrases. It highlights words or phrases that are complex and suggests using a simpler alternative.
- It highlights sentences that are hard to read. This can include run-on sentences and those that are too long or wordy.
- It goes one step further and highlights sentences that are very hard to read. The basic “hard to read” sentences can sometimes be left alone when tone or style are taken into consideration. These “very” hard to read sentences should not be ignored.
Improving these five things make for better readability. It gives your writing a good flow and allows readers to more easily understand what you are saying.
The Hemingway editor is available to use for free online. It allows for an unlimited word count and unlimited uses.
The editor also has some formatting options. This means you can do your work right in the editor itself and make it look presentable. When you are done you can copy and paste your work, format included.
If you’d prefer though, you can also paste your completed work into the editor and it will flag the whole thing at once.
The online Hemingway editor is free to use, but they also offer an upgrade. For one payment of $19.99 you can get a number of bonuses:
- The biggest advantage is the desktop app. Available on Mac and Windows, you can download the editor and enjoy unlimited offline access. It also allows you to save your projects.
- You can publish directly onto WordPress or Medium if you wish.
- You can also format and prepare it for publication anywhere else on the web.
- It allows you to export your work into MS Word or other editors.
- You are able to send a highlighted piece of work to others. This is great for collaboration purposes.
While Hemingway doesn’t make allowances for tone and style, it offers valuable insight into your writing and how it can be improved.
It is especially useful for blog posts, essays, or other professional articles. It can be used to edit fiction, but you must keep in mind its lack of consideration for personal stylistic freedoms.
Programs like Grammarly and Hemingway will help you catch things. Grammarly will look for errors in grammar and spelling. Hemingway can offer suggestions on sentence structure, word choice, and overall readability.
This is a way to get a fresh set of “eyes” on your work that will often pick up the small things that you missed.
6. How to Write a Book with a Mentor
There are few things more valuable than learning from professional writers who have already made it. Whether you have never written a book before, or a seasoned writer looking to enhance your knowledge, there are many ways a mentor of some sort can help you through the process of writing:
- Receive consistent and honest feedback. These people aren’t here to sugarcoat anything.
- Accountability. A mentor will help you create realistic goals and set a practical schedule. They will also keep you accountable for meeting these goals by pushing you through those bouts of writer’s block and lack of motivation
- Support. Being a writer isn’t an easy life and it involves plenty of rejection and frustration. You will have someone who understands exactly what you are going through, and can reassure you in the darkest moments.
There are a lot of successful, published authors out there who are more than happy to help out aspiring writers and those who need some guidance. There are a few different ways you can seek out a mentor:
- Through local writing programs in your town or city - start with libraries.
- Some college/university writing courses offer mentorship programs.
- Some online forums/websites exist for this purpose.
- Reach out to the author themselves if you have someone specific in mind.
7. Know Why You Want to Write a Book
All of the book writing software in the world can’t tell you why you want to write a book. Only you know exactly why you’re writing. And knowing why is one of the most important steps.
On the surface, it may seem like a no-brainer. However, if you really ask yourself, you may find you struggle with the answer.
Spend some time discovering why you are writing your book.
- Are you sharing a personal experience?
- Are you an expert in something?
- Do you want to help people?
- Do you want to tell an epic story?
- Is there a deeper message you want to share?
Knowing why is crucial to seeing your book through to the end.
New York Times Bestselling author Stephen King puts it simply: "A story should entertain the writer, too."
If you don’t generally enjoy what you're doing, if there is nothing driving it, you will eventually lose interest and motivation. Knowing why keeps you going. Knowing why drives your determination to get it done. It will make the difference between a good book and a great book.
Use a Book Writing Template
If you're struggling with ideas or motivation, it might be helpful to take a look at a book writing template for help. Templates will have guides, suggestions, and ideas for each chapter or section of the book.
It can help you dive into your story and figure out where it's going.
This general fiction template will work to get you started on a novel in any genre or style.
When you know why your readers will also know why. If your book is written without passion or drive, a reader will be able to tell. They may leave it a bad review or not even finish it all.
When your readers can tell why you wrote your book, they will be invested. When in the hands of the right audience, they will share your passion. The right readers will love and embrace your message.
8. Don’t Fear Criticism
So many writers never put their work out there in a serious manner for fear of rejection and negative reactions. This is where many writers get themselves stuck and never advance in their career.
Don’t be afraid of criticism! Tough, thorough critique from good writers who know their stuff is one of the best ways to improve your skills. They can give you writing tips that matter.
In fact, in addition to not rejecting criticism… you should seek it out. Send your writing to friends and tell them to be brutal. Post your work online and ask for complete honesty. When posting online, be strategic.
There are multitudes of platforms and communities for you to choose from. Some will get readers for your work no problem, but most of these people won’t have any technical knowledge.
If its real criticism you are after, look for a strong and active community of other writers. Of course, you don’t have to tolerate disrespect or any comments that are overtly cruel or demeaning but do not shy away from good quality criticism.
9. Be Part of a Community
Mentors can offer great support and advice. Proper constructive criticism will help you see your flaws and improve your skills.
In addition to these things, many writers will benefit from being part of a writing community. This will differ from mentorship and criticism as it isn’t always just about you and your own work.
Writing communities can exist locally and be accessible in person, or there are plenty of online spaces available if you prefer to stay at home. Perhaps you will do a little of both, but either way, a good writing community is essential to thriving as a writer.
Writing groups can be a place to get some good feedback and criticism, but it is also a chance for you to both get and give support in other ways. Meeting and/or talking with a group regularly will help you feel less alone as a writer.
You will see other writers experiencing similar struggles, and you can help each other through them. You can give advice as well as seek it.
It is also quite possible that you will forge solid friendships with some fellow writers. You can help each other through difficult parts of the writing process, such as brainstorming and research.
In addition to helpful criticism, it can also be a place to get some positive feedback. Other successful writers can read your work and tell you what is good about it. This can be just as necessary as criticism in building confidence and recognizing your strengths.
10. Make Your Book Next Level With a Quality Foundation
Knowing how to write a book is one thing. Writing a good book is a whole other ball game. Anyone can put some words together and call it a book. Learning how to write a good book is a process.
So, you want to know how to write a book and make it good. You’ve gathered your supplies, set up your space, and bought some book and/or novel writing software.
Now, you start crafting. Notice I didn’t say writing.
If the book you’re writing is a novel, you can’t ignore the most important elements of story: plot, characters, and setting. They are essential skills to gain for fiction writers learning how to write a novel.
Even in a nonfiction book, however, you’re still crafting a narrative. What you're saying may be hard fact, but you’re still toying with characters and plot. You're still creating an image in your reader's mind.
Before you do any significant amount of writing, you need to be familiar with these essential elements of a good book. Even if you are fervently against outlining, you still need to know what you’re doing.
There's no easy way to write your own book. No matter how you slice it, writing a bestseller will take hard work.
Much of creating and developing characters will come with experience. But, there is still lots to learn before trying it for the first time. There are many things to consider when writing a good cast of characters:
- Understand the difference between round characters and flat characters, and how to use each effectively.
- Understand the difference between static and dynamic characters, and how to use each of these to your advantage.
- Regardless of type, a character needs to be relatable to be likable. Knowing how to create a relatable character will also help you be deliberate about writing an unlikable character.
- Give your characters deep thoughts, strong opinions, and realistic flaws.
- Get inside the character’s heads. This can be done with a character development sheet. Some also conduct “interviews” with their characters, and craft responses based on what they already know about the personality.
This list only scratches the surface. Writing strong, effective, and relatable characters is a true craft. It will take plenty of practice and lots of rewriting to get it done properly.
Just as important as the characters, is the plot. At its core, the plot is the sequence of events that take place in your story. But, the plot has to be written well in order for the book to be successful.
Like character development, plot development takes time and practice to learn. It is a good idea to read up on some basic elements of plot development, though, before attempting it on your own.
- Plot and story structure go hand-in-hand. Familiarize yourself with the different types of story structure.
- An appropriate setting is essential to a good plot
- Every plot needs conflict. There are no exceptions to this.
- Point of view must be determined - different points of view have their own list of benefits and drawbacks.
- Learn the basic stages of each plot: Exposition, development (rising, inciting, and falling action, complications, increased tension), and the resolution.
Again, this list is not exhaustive but it is a good place to start if you’ve never written through an entire plot before. These terms and ideas are ones you will become increasingly familiar with as you embark on your book writing adventure.
Even in a story that is more focused on the characters or events, writing books with a strong and atmospheric setting is always important.
Help the readers to understand your world without going overboard on the detailed descriptions. Finding that balance can be tricky.
Some tips for creating a good setting:
- Time is a construct we all live by and therefore, it needs to be accounted for in your story. The time of year as important as the city your story takes place in. The time of day is often important in certain circumstances. Elapsed time also needs to be explained. Do you jump ahead two months? This needs to be known to the reader.
- Geographical location is, of course, essential information. Be as specific as possible. "America" isn't good enough - you'll need to include state and probably city.
- Think about creating mood and atmosphere. The setting can have a significant impact on the way your characters feel or perceive things.
- Include all the senses. The setting isn't just about how a place looks. Consider how it would smell, sound, and feel to the touch. What are the tastes like? Is the city famous for a certain type of food?
Elements of Nonfiction
Nonfiction writers would be wise to take in all of the above advice. Even when telling a true story, it's still a story and you want it to read well.
In addition to these elements of good storytelling, however, are some important things that all nonfiction books should take into consideration.
- Provide a solution to a problem. People read fiction for fun and entertainment. Nonfiction serves a specific purpose in their life. Make sure you are giving them what they’re looking for.
- Include actions they can take. You may be an expert on the subject at hand, but people can only do some much with straight information. Ensure your book contains straightforward steps they can take towards the goal you are encouraging.
- Be transparent. If you are writing something from personal experience, share your entire experience and be honest about it. Be open about your failures and how your readers can learn from them. This will build trust and show them that it can be done.
- Be an authority. When someone spends their money on something, they want it to be worth it. Don’t attempt to write about something that you don’t have all the necessary knowledge on - and experience if applicable. If you have relevant credentials, make sure your readers know this, it will help them trust you.
11. Establish a Routine
Producing a good quality piece of work in a reasonable amount of time is not something that just happens. You need to create a plan and establish a routine.
Analyze your current schedule and figure out how much time you can dedicate to your writing sessions each week, and each day. If you are serious about finishing your book and need to change your current schedule to accommodate it, then do that to the best of your ability.
Once you have carved out some time, start dedicating the time to writing. It is best to stay as consistent as possible. Write at the same time every day and make it a writing habit. Soon, this routine of writing will become natural and it won’t feel like a struggle or a burden.
It is also a good idea to set some manageable goals for yourself. Taking your schedule and alotted writing time into consideration, create milestones for your book. This can take several different forms:
- Commit to writing one chapter per week
- Commit to completing your first draft by a certain date
- Set a certain word count for each day
These are just a few examples. Whether you measure the goals by word count or deadlines, it will help you stay motivated and on track. The best thing to do is start easy and work your way up.
If you set a crazy and unrealistic goal, it will only serve to discourage you when it is repeatedly not met. If you are able to easily meet the first goal, increase it a little bit. For example, aim for a higher word count or try for two chapters each week.
12. Hire an Editor
Even the best writers in the world need an editor. Whether you are operating on a huge budget or almost nothing at all, an editor is a necessary expense.
It doesn’t matter how much of the editing process you go through yourself, your work will always need another set of eyes. Even the best book writing software won’t catch everything.
If you want to save some money, try handing your manuscript to friends and beta readers first. They can help you weed out the last of the grammatical mistakes. Good readers may also be able to help you with more complex things like sentence structure and plot holes. Don't send the editor your first draft or even your second draft - this will cost you too much money.
Once this is done, the editor will have less work to do. This will cost you less money, but you still need to hire them.
Every so often, the odd grammar mishap will slip through the cracks. Most of the time, this is easily forgiven. However, if a single book is riddled with misused punctuation and terrible wording, it will not do well.
The best selling books are ones that are clean, polished, and professional. Hiring an editor will not only make your current book better, but they will help you learn how to write a good book.
If you pay attention to their corrections and critique, you can make yourself better next time. You will, in the process, become a better writer.
13. Find a Good Designer
In addition to needing an editor, recruiting a solid designer is essential. Unless you are one yourself, don’t neglect to find a designer who can create a solid, customized book cover for you.
A beautiful, eye-catching book cover will bring in more sales than some people realize. That cover is the first thing that catches someone’s attention. It’s what entices them to flip it over and read the synopsis.
Without giving them that urge to flip it, you won’t have readers. First impressions matter. For this reason, it's advisable to find a professional, full-time designer who knows what they're doing.
The book cover is more than just the image you choose to put on the front. There are many elements of a book cover and they all need to be considered:
- The book title.
- The book’s subtitle (if applicable).
- Author name.
- Front cover main design/image.
- The layout of the back cover - Can include a synopsis, author info/photo, reviews/endorsements/praise for the book or author.
- The spine.
- Inside flaps (if applicable).
A good designer will come up with a suitable, high-quality, and captivating image for the cover. They should be able to create something that is unique and specific to the book itself.
But, they will also need to arrange the other elements of the cover in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and logical.
Once you have chosen a designer, don’t be shy about speaking up. Even the best designers won’t get it right the first time, every time.
If you don’t like the image, tell them why. If the font isn’t working for you, say something. Your designer is there to work with you to make the book perfect.
Trust their experience, but voice your opinions. At the end of the day, it is still your book.
Go Forth and Figure out How to Write a Book!
There are so many elements to writing a book. So many things you need to learn and a lot of skills that new writers must develop. Following the simple steps outlined here will get you started, but the learning never stops.
Many writers have gone before you and come out as successful authors. There are some things that are proven to be effective, but in the end, it’s largely going to fall on you to develop a style and process that works for you.
Seek help, listen to advice, read up on what works, but the best thing you can do is start writing! Put some words down and go from there.
There will be a lot of trial and error involved, but at some point, you need to just do it. You can research the process all you want, but you’ll never figure yourself out if you don’t get to work.
As you write, you will figure out what you like. You will decide what order you want to do things in, and you will learn which tools and writing software work best for you. This will make your second book easier.
Once you find your flow and do it a few times, you will have your own insight to share with others! The world of writing is constantly evolving, and anyone who has written anything - big or small - has valuable experience to share.