Writing a Book for the First Time [Includes Template]

By Steph Fraser | Posted on April 18th, 2019

Writing a book is something many have a true desire to do. But, getting started can be tough especially when you are writing a book for the first time.

Everyone will develop their own unique process eventually when learning how to write a book.

However, there are some things you can take into consideration the first time around. There are steps you can take and tools you can use to make writing a book for the first time easier and less overwhelming.

Writing a Book for the First Time Will Never go as Planned

There are two types of first-time writers:

  • The ones with the nerves. These writers do have a burning desire to write something new and brilliant. They have a story inside of them just begging to come out. But, they are so unsure of themselves. They aren’t confident in their abilities as a writer. They look at the impending process and they worry. These writers tend to plan and plan and plan until they can’t plan anymore. They focus on this stage because it’s easier. There is less pressure. Often, these books take a long time to finish.
  • The overly ambitious. These writers have never written a book before and yet they sometimes think they have more figured out than they actually do. These first-timers have all the confidence in the world. They think highly of themselves as a writer. They believe it’s going to be a breeze. While confidence is good, their thinking is often not realistic. They get into the book and they slam into reality. They get frustrated. Many will give up because the process is not living up to expectations.

These are the two extremes. Many people will fall somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of how you go in, though, it is important to know that it will not go as planned. Might as well just accept that now, because that’s the way it is.

Your plans will fall apart at some point. Your plot will come crumbling down, or your main character will develop emotions you didn’t want them to have.

You might have planned to dedicate two hours each day to your writing, but life will happen. There will be days where you can’t write for as long as you want to. You will have days where you hate everything you’ve written all week.

The list of possibilities can go on forever. The point is, don’t beat yourself up when things go awry. Take a deep breath. Refocus yourself, and keep going. Learning how to write a novel or book is always going to be a process.

Writing a Book Will Never Be the Same Twice

It is also important to understand that writing a book for the first time will not be like any other time. As you progress in your career as a writer, you will develop a process that works for you.

You will create your own way of organizing research, brainstorming, and outlining. You will find tricks and tools that help you become better.

That said, no two book writing experiences will be the same.

If your experience writing a book for the first time goes horribly, this is great news. If you had a great time, this may be discouraging. Either way, it’s the reality. No two books are ever the same, so writing them won’t be either.

Even Stephen King, master of fiction, admits about writing:

The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

If something worked out great one time, there is no harm in trying to emulate that trick or process. But, don’t get upset if that particular thing doesn’t work for your next book.

Especially when dealing with fiction, there are so many variables. Characters are essentially people we have created in our own minds. No two characters are ever identical (one would hope anyway). So, don’t expect them all to behave the same way.

Keep this in mind as you finish up your first book. Nothing is set in stone. Go forward with an open mind and embrace the different quirks of the next project.

Use a Template

Even if you’re a seasoned writer who knows full well how to write a novel, the process can still look long and daunting when you’re staring at a blank page. If you’re learning how to write a book for the first time, I recommend using a template.

A book writing template will provide you with direction. It will keep you on task, and make sure you’re doing everything properly. It gives you some guidelines to follow without inhibiting your creativity:

general nonfiction template

The template will really take a lot of the pressure off, especially during the planning stage. It will also eliminate some editing if used properly, as it will structure the story well and help you avoid confusion.

First Drafts are Never Great

Anyone who has ever written a book will tell you this. Even the best and most professional authors sometimes produce a crappy first draft.

This is because the initial creation of your story isn’t about quality writing. It is about quality creation. The first step to any good book is to write it all down. So, start by writing without worrying. Write like nobody is reading, because nobody is!

Critique and feedback are one of the most important parts of writing a book for the first time or the tenth time. But, if there are certain parts you want to keep private because they are so bad then you can do that. Rewrite until you feel a little better about them – but rewrite later.

Not Everyone Outlines the Same Way

If you’re considering writing a book for the first time, you have probably heard about the outline.

Everyone has a different opinion on the outline, so try not to stress about it. In general, outlines are effective, productive, and useful. They are highly recommended by most, but the amount of detail you add is up to you.

Some people outline to the point of near-insanity, while others keep it quite brief and flexible. It is important that you remember: there is no right or wrong way to outline! It is not wise to go into your book with no planning whatsoever, but do what works for you.

Don’t let any other writers tell you how to outline. Feel free to take advice and pointers, of course. But, don’t worry if one professional’s way of outlining doesn’t appeal to you.

You Need an Idea

It’s true that this goes without saying. No book ever gets written without an idea. It’s not quite as simple as it may seem on the surface, though. Most ideas will be good for something, but not every idea will make it through an entire book.

Consider these tips and thoughts when coming up with your idea:

  • Decide what type of book you are writing – fiction, nonfiction, true crime, etc.
  • Determine your genre.
  • What do you daydream about?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Are you an expert in anything?
  • Do you want to help people with your book?
  • Do you want to tell an epic story of unrivaled fiction?
  • Will your idea last 50,000 words minimum? (This is a short book).
  • What books are your favorite? Can you draw inspiration from them?
  • When in doubt, search up writing prompts. These are often good at kick-starting your imagination and flexing your creativity.

Having a Good Story Structure Will Help When Writing a Book for the First Time

Story structure is important to any book, there is no doubt about that. It may be a little extra important to those who are writing a book for the first time, though. Writing a story is hard enough, it will help if you have some direction.

Spend some quality time planning the story and figuring out your structure. It’s okay if you keep it easy and simple the first time around. A story structure doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

There are several simple, easy to follow story structures that are great for first-timers – if in doubt, stick to one of them.

Don’t Neglect Your Characters

Strong and believable characters are crucial to any good book. Even works of nonfiction will have “characters” of sorts. You may be writing about a real person, but you still need to insert them into the story well. They need to have relatable backstories and emotions that make them human.

The Importance of Character Development in a Book

Characters are especially important to the development and progression of a novel but are important even in nonfiction. Nonfiction, while true and factual, still builds a narrative. Learning how to write a book will not be complete without acquiring some character developing skills.

You can create the best plot and have the most dynamic and magical settings, but flat, uninspired characters will kill it all. Spend some quality time with your characters before doing much writing, you will be glad you did.

One of the best things you can do is fill out a character development sheet.  This is a simple exercise that will reveal a lot of information about your characters. Small details like their favorite TV show and their go-to snack. There are also bigger things like their past, their childhood, their family, etc.

writing a book for the first time

The little things might not seem important, but they are. Even if something like their favorite food doesn’t come up in the story, it still allows you to know them better. Likes, dislikes, and interests can say a lot about someone’s personality and character.

Laying out all the details on a character development sheet is a great place to start, but there are many other things to consider as well.

Character Developing Tips:

  1. Identify the main role of each main character as it relates to the story.
  2. Show, and don’t tell. Reveal information to your readers through the character’s actions and reactions.
  3. Create a strong, effective dialogue.
  4. Give them goals and motivation.
  5. Give them flaws. Lots of flaws.
  6. Your characters can be scared of a few things – spiders, heights, dying alone in a big city surrounded by people but having no one, that kind of stuff.
  7. Let them change and transform by the end of the story.
  8. Let them fail.
  9. Make them suffer. Some people don’t like writing gruesome, horrifying scenes, but they can be necessary at times.

Microsoft Word is Not Your Only Option (Nor is it the Best)

A lot of first-time writers will stick to what they know from school and just get to writing in Microsoft Word.

This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sure isn’t the best either. Microsoft Word has its benefits and it is a fantastic choice for a lot of different types of writing. Writing a book, however, probably isn’t one of them.

If you are new to the world of writing, it’s time to get acquainted with your other options. Many programs and word processors have been created with writers and authors in mind. This offers writers a lot of freedom.

Squibler

Squibler is a modern, no-nonsense book writing software that shares your goal: write and publish that book without wasting time!

It takes you through the entire process and lets you organize it all in one place. There is a spot for notes and research. You can create your outline right there and keep it on hand for reference.

writing a book for the first time

When you are ready, Squibler offers a great system of separated documents to create your chapters. Write in any order you want, and arrange them properly later! There is no pressure and no time wasted by scrolling endlessly.

Lastly, Squibler helps you publish when the book is ready. They have options for eBook formatting as well as support for print publishing. Whatever route you have decided to take, Squibler can help you!

Scrivener

Scrivener is like Squibler, but the setup is different. Scrivener is much more complex and robust. There are all kinds of tiny little features available. These are things created to help you stay organized and write the best book you can. Some of these features include:

  • A virtual corkboard, great for outlining.
  • Many templates are available.
  • Support for notes, research, brainstorming, and writing the book itself.
  • Pop up note pad for random inspiration.
  • Import files.
  • Distraction-free mode.
  • Compile and format for eBook publishing.
  • And many more.

Lots of people find the abundance of features useful. There are writers who love the little details and will find a use for all the features. Other writers may prefer a simpler, linear way of organizing their book, which is where Squibler is ideal.

Whichever book writing software works best for you, just know that you have options. Find some tools that fit your style, and use them to your advantage!

Writing a Book for the First Time is Fun!

Don’t get so caught up in the process and the details that you forget to enjoy yourself. Writing a book is great fun, and it should always stay that way. Remember to breathe a little and let it be fun. You will have a better experience, and the book will be more likable with a bit of passion behind it.

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