How to Write a Book
Have you always thought about writing a book, but it just seems so impossible? According to a survey conducted by The New York Times, 81% of Americans feel they have a book to write in them.
But most haven’t written it.
So, why aren’t you writing yours?
Writing a book can be a daunting and intimidating idea. The very thought of “I am going to write a book.” can feel incredibly overwhelming.
Where do I start? Do I just start writing? How much should I write? What if don’t know what to say? How do I publish? What if no one buys it?
I have seen amazing people, business owners, entrepreneurs, C-level executives, people who have built empires, question themselves.
What if I can’t write a whole book? What if no one reads it? Why would I be the one teaching people?
People who have written workbooks, manuals, blogs, and website copy are claiming they can’t write a book.
Yes, you can!
If I can do it, so can you. I wrote my entire book, Write. Get Paid. Repeat. in less than three months. This was while working full-time hours as a writer, editor, and book coach both independently and through Authors Unite.
How did I do it? By following these 5 steps to write a book from concept to complete manuscript!
You should approach writing a book like any other major project: by breaking it down into manageable steps and starting from the beginning.
This is one of those times when you really have to think past the big picture. Look into the forest to see the individual trees.
Much like every other difficult journey, writing a book starts with a single word.
Breaking down the book writing process into more achievable and approachable steps is the key to actually writing one.
You don’t just come up with an idea and start writing, because your idea will peter out, or you’ll come up against a dead end, or you won’t know what was supposed to happen next, or any other of a million excuses to stop writing.
If you are looking at a nonfiction book, perhaps in entrepreneurship, business advice, self-help, or more, you could end up with a book of any length. A 45,000-word book sounds like a lot, but when you realize it is about 180 pages, it sounds a lot more doable.
So, let’s pick a number for informational purposes and say that your book will be approximately 35,000 words, or about 140 pages. Broken down further, you are looking at writing about 3,000 words per week if you want to write it in three months.
3,000 words is already a more manageable number. You can break it down further.
The average blog post or article is around 800-1200 words. Emails are around 150 words. The average book page is 250-300 words.
According to Ratatype, the overall average typing speed for adults right now is 41 words per minute. That is 2,460 words per hour for an average-speed typist without stopping. Even if you take a break for half an hour, that is over 1,200 words!
When you look at it this way, you can spend two and a half hours per week writing to meet your goal of 3,000 words.
When we peel back each layer of writing a book, it becomes more manageable and easier to envision.
The 5 Steps to Writing a Book
1. When approaching a book idea, your first step should be to create an outline. Make it as detailed as you want, and think of it as a living document that can change and grow. Create a full outline, and include all your ideas and plans and then work with it until the order makes sense, it says what you want to say, and you make sure that topics are grouped correctly. You will also be able to see where you plan to break it into chapters, and it will help you stay on topic.
You can also use the “mindmap” technique, which is doing more of a diagram to get your information on the page in a more visual way.
It doesn’t matter if your outline is messy or imperfect, it’s about getting the information out of your head and onto a page!
Your outline is your first draft.
Your actual book should be an incredibly fleshed out version of your outline.
When I wrote my book, I started off without an outline. I know! Blasphemous! But I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
What actually happened was I got about 10,000 words in and hit a block. Writers’ block is real and it is annoying. You WANT to write, you may even know what you want to write about, but the right words won’t come. It’s a frustrating situation of having the words you need right on the tip of your tongue, but just out of your grasp.
I couldn’t get past the block and decide to just write. So, I took a day off. I stepped back and came to it with fresh eyes and a better attitude.
And I created an outline. I took the topics I’d already written about and the general ideas I had for the rest of the book, and I made an outline document. In it, I put the topics in the order in which I wanted to discuss them, and a couple bullet point notes and phrases to remind me of important things I wanted to mention.
The best part about an outline is the fact that whenever I was checking the news, watching a video, writing something for a client, or chatting with friends, if I was struck by a bolt of inspiration, I was able to throw a little 3-5 word note under the corresponding topic in my outline and come back to it later. I didn’t have to drop everything and add an entire section to my book lest I forgot the idea, nor did I jot it down on a scrap of paper and lose it to the bottomless depths of my purse (again).
Trust me. Step one: create and outline.
2. By putting time in your schedule and making writing a part of your routine, you will be able to write regularly. Even an hour every third day or 15 minutes daily, however you can to make writing a habit.
When you think about writing a book in 3 months, it sounds and feels crazy! But 3,000 words per week is very doable. It can be 440 words per day, which is less than that click bait article you just read on Facebook, or about the number of words in two emails.
They say it takes about 3 weeks to make or break a habit. And once you get in a habit of doing something like writing or going to the gym at a certain time or reading in bed at night, your mind and body adapt to the new routine, and you find yourself craving it.
Like most people, I am a creature of habit. I have the same morning routine every day, I tend to rotate the same 4 restaurants for takeout, do my grocery shopping at the same stores and in the same general pattern, and I’m sure you can think of several daily routines or habits right off the top of your head. Once I have incorporated something into my general routine, whether it took 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months to become habitual, then I get to the next stage: feeling restless or even guilty when I do not complete my routine.
As if I am checking on a to do list in my brain. Yes, I wrote pages today! Check!
Even if it’s just 15 minutes per day, sit down in front of your outline or where you left off writing and add to it. I did the vast majority of my book on Sundays, since that’s my me-day. I like to try to spend Saturdays with my husband and Sunday afternoons we do our own things separately. There were weekends I spent 2 hours staring at an almost-blank page and there was one banner Sunday when I wrote 12,000 in one day. I had laser focus and tunnel vision, and I just could not stop.
But even when I wasn’t sure what to write, I had that document up and was reading over it and working on it.
If you need a break from your book, keep your daily or weekly writing habit in place and write something else. Write a blog post, or an important business email, or an article for LinkedIn. Write in your journal or write a song or poem. Anything! But maintain your writing habit.
3. Make yourself accountable. Tell people you’re writing a book, or put money down on a publisher, or in advertising, or have a friend text you every other day asking how much you have written. Hold yourself accountable for writing every week. You can even hire an accountability coach to help keep you on track!
You accomplish two main things when you do this. For one, you are putting it out in the universe as your intention. You are making a declaration! Secondly, people will start asking you about it. “Hey, how is your book going?” “Hi, I heard you’re writing a book!” Every single time someone mentions it, you will either feel encouraged to keep writing – or guilty that you haven’t.
That is what accountability is for! To hold you responsible for continuing to accomplish your goals.
4. Don’t get hung up on word count, though. Keep in mind the general length of your book as you continue to write, but don’t force yourself to stop because you hit a certain length, or force yourself to continue after the book is finished just because you want a specific length. It’s not about length, it’s about the story itself, and you don’t want to cheapen it needlessly.
Word count is more for you to have a general starting point and to know how word count translates to book pages. You will also want to keep word count in mind when you approach editors for quotes, as their main way of creating a price for editing is the word count combined with the type of editing you’re looking for.
When I started writing my book, I was shooting for about 30,000 words. I kept it in mind as I wrote, so I could gauge my general spot. When I hit 15k, I knew I was likely around halfway there, and took a moment to read over the material and make sure I had enough written and enough left to write to get to where I wanted. But I also tried not to let 30k be any ultimate end-goal. If it was 35k or 45k, I would have been happy, too!
5. Write. Once you have the outline and you’re being held accountable, sit down every day, every week, and write. It is easier to delete existing or even poor writing than it is to have nothing on a page and start from scratch. Read over your outline, think about what you are trying to say, and just write.
Remember that it is significantly easier to edit and rewrite writing you aren’t happy with than it is to fix a blank page.
While the idea of writing a book may be challenging, intimidating, or even off-putting, you can definitely do it.
If you have a story to tell or a lesson to teach, there is someone out there who wants to hear or learn it. With over seven billion people in the world, there is truly an audience for everything and a need for great information.
At the end of 12 weeks, you will have a book. You may need revisions, you may want more time, but if you start now, in 3 months, you will have enough material for a book.
It’s all about breaking down the process into manageable steps, which sounds completely reasonable and logical, but is difficult to do when you’ve been thinking about writing a book since forever, and you’ve never really started because it is a huge project, and who has the time?
You have the time and the ability to start right now.
Start with 1 page, start with 100 words.
Start now, and surprise yourself.
Once you finish writing your book, you’ll want to find a professional editor, cover designers, interior formatters, book marketing specialist, and more. As I am an avid fan of the ease and swiftness with self-publishing, I chose to use Authors Unite to publish and market my book.
On launch day, August 17, 2017, my book launched with ads, funnels, promo sites and more all sending traffic to it. I got 12,331 downloads on launch day, propelling it to #1 in the entire “Nonfiction” category, as well as the “Entrepreneurship” and “Self-help” categories, and ending the day as #2 in the entire Kindle store.
My book has been a fantastic marketing tool for my business, which was the plan when I was writing it! Once I knew I wanted to write a book, I identified my goals for it, broke it down into steps, told people I was writing one so they would hold me accountable, and then made it part of my routine and just started typing.
If you have a story within you, you must tell it.
Tyler Wagner is the founder of Authors Unite where he helps people write, publish, and market their first profitable book. He has helped people create passive income, become leaders in their field, start businesses from their books, and much more. Since starting Authors Unite, he has helped 250+ people become profitable, bestselling authors. He is also the bestselling author of Conference Crushing, a book designed to help business people and entrepreneurs maximize their ROI at networking events, conventions and conferences.