Admit it, each one of us has aspired to be a writer at some point in our life which is why this month is about the 16 Super Simple Steps for Writing Your First Book.
There is a natural instinct in us that encourages us to get our voice out. Writing, I believe is a strong form of communication. If you are thinking about writing, I will say “Do It! Now is the time!”
You are just one book away from your dream of becoming a writer. It is very daunting to start, write and publish your first book. But if you pass this stage, and do it right, your experience will make it easy for you to continue writing.
You will be amazed at how many people start writing a book and get lost somewhere in the middle. No one is going to care about the book you almost wrote. Therefore, I believe it is very important to do it right the first time.
But how to do it right?
How to write your first book?
Where to start?
How to continue writing?
How to actually finish the book?
The questions are endless and the answers are long. But let’s get to it.
In this guide, I will share some very simple but practical steps that will help you in writing your first book.
We will walk through all the steps from Pre-Writing, writing, and Post-Writing.
So, Let’s start, my Writer!
1. Identify the Writer inside You
“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”
There are a few types of writers. Each of them is hard-working and passionate. But each has a different process and a different goal.
Mr. Born Writer: Born with a natural gift to write, and passionate to use that gift. He will write with enthusiasm and go with the natural flow.
Ms. Best Seller: Passionate and ambitious, she will do her comprehensive research and will aim to write a book that gets the appraisal.
Mr. Eyes on the Prize: Ambitious and focused, his goal is to deliver books and e-books fast to start earning profits. He will research his market and write a book that sells.
Ms. Writer-preneur: She is the one who has got it all. The gift, the ambition, the passion, the focus, and the goal. She will research the market, research for an agent, an editor, and a publisher. She will write a book that excels in quality and sells like hotcakes.
No, I am not going to tell you that one type is better than the other, because it is not. They are just different people with different aims.
But there is one thing common in all of them: the aspiration to be a writer!
And there is one thing they all have to do: work hard for this.
If you are here, it means that you have the aspiration to be a writer.
And, this guide is for you!
2. Embrace the Writer within You
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
When you have identified your aspiration to be a writer, now is the time to embrace the writer within you.
To do that start calling yourself a writer.
What? Too soon?
Well, what keeps most people from actually starting and seriously continuing their book is the fact that they are too scared to tell people around them about it. You may be afraid that you will give up in the middle. Or that you may fail in writing and realise this wasn’t your cup of tea. This gives you a safe way to fail.
So, cut off your safety net. And embrace the writer inside you.
Say it out loud, “I am a Writer, and I am writing a book.”
This will be the day that you will stop thinking and start writing.
3. The Process of Writing
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Every person has their own process of writing. Writing your first book is going to be tough.
Writing is the journey, and the book is the goal.
Now I won’t say that writing is an art and you are the artist.
That wait for the revelation and it will all come to you.
No, you will have to devise a process that works for you.
- Set up a writing space. You don’t need anything fancy. Just a place where you can sit and focus.
- In my experience dedicating a space for writing helps to stay on the plan. You know when you are there, you will avoid all distractions and work on your book.
- Use this space for everything related to your book. This includes your planning, your writing, your research, and your editing.
- The biggest challenge these days is the disturbance caused by our phones and social media. You can use Freedom to avoid disruptions. This app blocks all your distractions and allows you to focus on writing.
4. The Tools for Writing
“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.”
Unlike the old times, you don’t need a pen and paper (unless that’s your thing) or a typewriter to write a book.
Modern times call for modern tools. And fortunately, we have great tools at our disposal. You may be familiar with some of the basics like a computer, printer, your journals, stationery and whatever you need.
You can also use some free and paid software programs that can help you in writing. No, they won’t write the book for you, you still have to write. But these tools can come in handy in writing your book and then your books.
- It is a great collaborative tool that allows you to work with a team.
- If you are working with an editor, you can view the changes, comments and suggestions live as they are making it.
- You can also accept or reject those changes. This makes things a lot easier, and the tasks less tedious.
- It also synchronises your work.
- You can integrate other plug-ins and software programs to Google Docs.
- It is a free tool.
- It is a great writing and book-organisation tool for writers by writers.
- It allows you to organise your notes, research, and outlines in a place. So no more juggling between files and journals.
- You can also avoid the hustle of printing as it will print your whole manuscript in a single click.
- It might take some time to get familiar with this tool.
- It can easily integrate with any device.
- The price is $45 for Mac and $40 for PC.
5. Where to Begin?
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
Let’s first talk about what you don’t need to begin:
- You need to wear big glasses.
- You need to be a book-worm.
- You need to have a born gift for writing.
- You need perfect command on grammar.
- You need a typewriter, a cigarette, a cup of coffee and the mood.
What you actually need to begin writing:
- You need to make a plan and set goals leading to the final goal i.e. book.
- You need the tools to help you with your writing and editing.
- You need to find your writing style and discover the process that works for you.
- You need to keep working on your plan and never give up.
- It is a good idea to research a little about contacting an agent and publishing.
6. The Big Bang Idea
“In any art, you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better, but the tendency should always be upward instead of down. And don’t ever imitate anybody.”
Ok Fellow Writer, let’s talk about the big idea. You may have a lot of ideas for your book, or you may have none. In both cases, you need to find and fix on ONE IDEA.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, to start your book you will need an idea or a theme.
Choose something unique.
You will see that there are thousands of books written on that unique idea already. Don’t be discouraged by this. It is hard to find something that no one has ever written about.
- Choose an idea that you think is interesting and has some uniqueness to it.
- Your goal is to approach that idea in your own unique way.
- Once you have decided on an idea, don’t go back. If you keep juggling between themes you will never be able to start.
- Write the idea/argument/theme of your book in a single line.
- Then stretch it to write a passage, and then a little more to write one page.
- Add some more elements to it and make a rough sketch about the development of the idea.
7. Making the Outline
Arthur C. Clarke
“If the artist did not know his goal, even the most miraculous of tools could not find it for him.”
Now that you have developed a rough sketch, sit down and make an outline.
- Think of the structure of your book.
- Plan a beginning, middle and ending.
- Make an outline with chapters. You can use Roman Numbers or Headers with Phrases or Complete Sentences.
- When you know in which direction you have to proceed, you will be less likely to be lost.
- Your outline will keep you on track.
- Don’t forget to decide your ending at this point. It will give you a great sense of how to develop your story.
- Don’t worry, this is just an outline. You can revisit it to make changes as your book starts to take shape. Just remember to not stray too far from the focus line.
8. Wear your Imagination Hat
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
Now that you have an outline, think about how you can add some uniqueness to it.
Don’t wait for this, start writing. You will be surprised by the plethora of ideas that will come to you. Just stay on the plan and keep focusing on your writing. Note the ideas that you think can add a great element of surprise to your book.
Think of your readers and what they might expect and not expect from the book so far. In fiction, this can be a very surprising twist of events. In non-fiction, you may add something really interesting and entreating that will hook the reader to continue.
No matter what the genre of your book is, try to make sure that the reader learns something from it. Use your imagination to engage, surprise and startle the reader. Or use your knowledge to inform, educate, and enlighten the reader.
9. Wear the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Hat
Arthur Conan Doyle
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”
You are writing a book on a subject, so you have to prove your authority on it. Now I am not saying that you can only write a book after getting degrees on a subject. You should just make sure that whatever facts you are putting in the book are verified and come from an authentic source.
In fiction, describe your surroundings accurately. Even if you are writing about an imaginary world make it believable with the right facts.
In non-fiction, any statistics, definitions, and studies you mention should come from a credible source.
So research my friend. Put up the sign of 221B outside your living space, wear your Sherlock hat and get to the business.
10. Find your Voice
Daphne Du Maurier
“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
This is very important. find your narrative voice. It is more important for fiction. You have to decide if a narrator will be telling the story or a character.
The voice you choose will help you add uniqueness to your writing.
For non-fiction, it can be a great idea to give your narrator a personality (in your head). It can be someone like you or someone very different from you. Make your narrator confident, intelligent, humble and funny.
Choosing the voice will help you write with an entirely different angle.
11. Begin with a Bang!
“Never open a book with weather.”
Give your book an interesting beginning. The beginning of your book determines whether or not the reader will go on reading it.
Write a beginning that will hook your reader. It should make them crave to learn more about what happened next.
Take a look at some of the iconic beginnings:
‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
–George Orwell, 1984
‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’
–Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
‘124 was spiteful.’
–Toni Morrison, Beloved
‘Where now? Who now? When now?’
–Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
“What are you growing here?” the upholsterer lugs an armchair up the walkway to the house but his quick eyes are on the land.’
–Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
‘Justice? You get justice in the next world. in this world you have the law.’
–William Gaddis, A Frolic of his Own
12. Write, Write & Write-Set Goals
George Bernard Shaw
“My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.”
Once you are all through this, you can start writing freely. This step seems as easy as you can now write and build the writing within the outlines.
- Effectively, it will feel like going from point A to B, B to C, C to D,…and so on.
- Stay focused on the goal and stick to the outline. Don’t deviate too much from it.
- Make it a goal to write a certain number of words each day. A novella or non-fiction will be somewhere between 40,000 to 60,000 words. Go 20,000 words above it for a novel or a long book of fiction.
- Set a target for yourself to write, let’s say 8000 words every day. Then follow the plan and reach the target.
- Set weekly goals to determine that you will eventually finish XYZ chapter and read it in a week.
- This will make it easier for you to actually finish the book. Trust me, a lot of people get stuck somewhere in the middle of the book.
13. Leave Room for Procrastination
Charles M. Schulz
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
It is understandable and inevitable to get lazy, need a break or just procrastinate.
Relax, this happens to even the greatest of writers. You are writing your first book. The process of creation is overwhelming. The fear of never being able to commence is daunting. You have every right to stop for a deep breath. Just make sure that you eventually go back to writing (don’t take a long time off).
Moreover, readjust your schedule according to the delay. This will make you accountable and you will resist the urge to stop next time.
14. End it with another Bang!
“If a story is only what it seems to be about, then somehow the author has failed.”
As I have mentioned earlier, write your ending before starting the book. It will give you a sense of direction and keep you moving towards it.
By the time you get there, there will be other developments. You will have to tweak the ending accordingly. But that one step can be helpful in finishing the book.
When it comes to the ending, make a definitive end. When writing non-fiction books, make sure your reader got something, learned something more than they expected.
In fiction, make sure they are surprised but also got a sense of closure.
‘It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.’
–J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
–Toni Morrison, Beloved
‘He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.’
–Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or,
The Modern Prometheus
15. Edit Like Your Life Depends On it!
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
Now that you have finished your book, start editing it. This is more difficult than you think.
- Firstly, you have to check your grammar, spelling, and sentence. Grammarly Premium can be a great tool to help you. Just remember to double-check everything and not lose the life and essence of your sentences while editing them.
- You also have to edit your writing. Remove parts that seem to get too long, too boring, or too far fetched. I know it is difficult to delete those sentences you wrote with love. But, be brutal and focus on the goal.
- Also, check the coherence in your story or non-fiction. Be your own judge. Read it like you are reading a regular book and then decide what changes you will want to see in the book.
- Editing may take longer than you anticipate. You may end up rewriting a lot of sections. Take your time to do this right.
16. Get Your Friends or Foes to Beta-Reading Your Work
Harper Lee (with Truman Capote)
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
Get people to beta-read your book. Beta reading means that the reader will read it keenly and provide his feedback or critique. You can also ask questions about the quality of writing or the engaging power of the content.
This feedback will be priceless to improve your writing and edit your book further before you take it to your agent.
Congratulations! You have Finished Your First Book! (Drumrolls in the background)
Now comes the part where you meet your agent and plan the publishing and marketing of your book.
Let me know if you need to learn more about the process of book writing, and I will write another blog post on it.
Till next month,
I remain truly yours,
Serving since 28th December 2008.