How to Start Writing a Book Step-By-Step
Taking the leap from novice writer to full-fledged author can be daunting and overwhelming. Many people feel they have a book inside of them, but so few people actualize that feeling and see it through to fruition. If you’ve been pondering writing a book, but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s how to write a book for beginners, all laid out for your convenience.
Tips for Writing a Book for the First Time
One of the biggest tips we can give a first-time author is to solidify your goals.
You need to establish your main objectives. Are you looking to:
- Gain more industry credibility?
- Win more clients?
- Book more paid keynotes?
- Become known as a thought leader in your field?
- Increase your consulting rates?
- Create a resource for your clients?
Identifying your goals for writing your book will help you stay focused throughout the writing process.
Step 1 – Develop a Writer’s Mindset
If you want to be a writer, you need to think like a writer.
Writers are observant and able to distill their observations into words. Observe your surroundings; observe the people around you and their behaviors. Write down what you see down. This task may sound simple, but it can really help your craft.
Don’t let the editor in your brain take over, either.
Write freely, without judgment. Editing comes later. So in the beginning, you need to simply get the words out. Try to get in your flow and write everything that comes to mind. You’ll always be able to go back and revise your work later.
Get out of your own way and just keep writing!
How to Hold Yourself Accountable to Writing
You will need to commit to writing as often as possible.
Ideally, you will set aside time to write every single day— even if it’s just fifteen minutes. Make it a habit and it becomes easier and less daunting. Think of writing like a muscle you need to work to strengthen. Every bit counts, so put in the time and effort and you’ll see results. If it helps, set a recurring alarm or block out the same spot in your daily calendar to keep you accountable and organized.
The more you write, the easier it will become, and you’ll soon find your flow.
Step 2 — Determine Your Book Topic
Write what you know.
If you’re going to establish yourself as an expert and an authority in your field, you need to own your knowledge and position it in your book. Draw from your experiences and everything you’ve learned along the way.
Part of determining your book topic is writing your “about the book” description. This is the elevator pitch for your book. Do your best to include three things:
- What: What is the general idea?
- Who: Who will benefit from the book?
- Why: Why are you the best person to tell this story?
You’ll use this description later in your marketing, but writing it early will help guide the entire process, keeping you on track for aligning the book with your goals.
Identify Your Target Reader
In order to write effectively, you need to know who you are writing your book for— who is your target audience?
If your target audience is your current audience— whether that be clients or social media followers— you may approach your writing goals differently from if your target audience is potential clients and followers. Trying to reach a new audience of potential customers will guide your writing. It will affect everything from tone to content to execution, so it’s essential that you clarify who your target reader is.
Tips for Connecting with Your Target Market
Think about how you’ll get your book into people’s hands before you start writing. As an author, you are responsible for driving sales. This is true whether you self-publish or go with a traditional publishing house, and your personal brand will play a major role.
Do people already know you as an expert on whatever you want to write about? Make a plan to continue building your image as a thought leader on your book topic and expand your marketing platform. Consider things like creating/refreshing your website, blogging/guest blogging, guest appearing on podcasts, sending e-blasts, and being active on social media.
Establish your authority by building a strong web presence— this will both drive sales and attract a wider audience.
Step 3 — Choose Your Publishing Route
Do you want to be traditionally published or self-published?
While it may seem early in the game to make this decision, choosing your publishing route before you deep dive into the writing process will help you have a better idea of your journey to authorship. Traditional publishing is a vastly different experience from self-publishing and requires different steps. There are three main issues to consider when you’re deciding between the two.
If you want to go the traditional route, you’ll need a literary agent, a solid book proposal, and an impressive marketing platform. A publisher’s main goal is to profit from sales of your book, and they don’t like to gamble.
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
For decades, self-publishing had a negative reputation. But times change. Today, self-publishing is a great option for a variety of reasons and one we recommend to the authors we work with at Pithy.
Self-publishing allows for greater freedom, control, and creativity. Who can argue with that? As an added bonus, the process is typically much faster than working with a traditional publisher.
Step 4 — Write an Outline
While some writers prefer to wing it, we highly recommend you write an outline for your book.
You need a sense of where you’re going and why. This will aid you in every step of the way, and if you put in the time now, your efforts will be repaid tenfold down the road when it comes to editing. (Trust us! We’ve been helping authors write books for more than a decade.)
Start with a Brain Dump.
Create a bulleted list of all of the ideas that could be in your book. Don’t worry about the order. Spend at least a few days on this, with the goal of having 2–4 bulleted pages.
Group Similar Ideas.
Go through your brain dump and gather the parts that feel organically linked. This is how you form your chapters. You don’t need to use all the ideas from your brain dump. (Save some for your next book!)
Put your Ideas into the Right Order.
Arrange your chapters in an order that flows. Focus on creating a natural progression of ideas. Once your chapters are in the right order, get your bullet points in the right order.
Voila! You just finished your table of contents and outlines for each chapter.
Step 5 — Develop Your Content Library
If you want to write a book that aligns with your business or professional role, you’re probably not starting at net zero when it comes to content.
Compile everything in one spot to see what you have and how much you can use. Go through all your old content—past blog posts, articles, slide decks, and even great emails—and paste them into one document. Don’t forget about any audio or video content you may have. Transcriptions are cheap, and it might be helpful to have all your content in writing if you will cover the same topics in your book.
Culling from work you’ve already written and shared with the world will help you immensely with your writing process and keep you from getting too overwhelmed.
Step 6 — Write Your Chapters
If you focus on writing a whole book, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead, focus on finishing individual chapters one by one.
Use your outline to choose a subtopic and write that subtopic as if it were a blog post. After that, move on to the next one. Don’t forget to check your content library or blog for writing that may already fit. In many cases, you won’t need to write everything from scratch. You will need to add transitions, but that can often be easier after you write the meat of your topics.
At this point, you’ll also want to determine how you’d like to work with an editor. Would you prefer to write one chapter at a time and then send it to an editor? Or write all of your chapters and send them it in a batch? If you’d rather go chapter by chapter, you’ll need to hire an editor sooner than you would otherwise since they will need to be notified with every completed chapter.
How to Handle Imposter Syndrome
One of the biggest challenges for how to write a book as a beginner is fighting imposter syndrome.
You’ll likely feel it in waves, and you’ll need to tackle it effectively if you want to be successful in writing your book. Imposter syndrome does not serve you and will only hold you back from writing. Remember that every author has been in your shoes before—on page one of their very first book. To help you deal with imposter syndrome, go back to Step 2 and revisit why YOU are the best person to write this book.
You just have to stay determined and keep writing.
How to Handle Writer’s Block
Writer’s block plagues even the most experienced writers.
A great way to tackle writer’s block is to build yourself a solid routine. Experiment with timing and see when you are most productive. Figure out what time proves to be the most productive for you and write at that time every day.
Make it a true habit to avoid writer’s block.
Step 7 — Edit Your Chapters
Don’t keep editing the same thing over and over— this will keep you from making any writing progress.
Focus on the big-picture issues when editing your book for the first time. Pay attention to the flow, clarity, and voice. Do not worry about sentence-level edits yet. That will come later and preferably be tackled by a skilled copyeditor.
You may be tempted to cut costs and self-edit, but we really advise against this.
Instead, focus on the actual writing of your book and hire a professional editor. And don’t just ask a friend to proofread your book! You need a solid team who has professional experience working on books. These individuals will help you understand your market and what readers want, will give you the right insight to look at your manuscript critically (even helping you to identify what not to put in your book), and make your book the best it can be.
If you want to set your book up for true success and become a respected resource in your field, you need to hire a professional editor—don’t overlook this important step!
Step 8 — Publish Your Book
If you are going the traditional publishing route, your publisher will handle everything for you, but if you are planning to self-publish, you’ll need to take care of every facet of the publishing process.
You will need to manage many varied elements when self-publishing, including the following:
- Cover design
- Interior layout
- Distribution (Amazon/KDP, Ingram, etc.)
Know When to Get Support
If you self-publish, you’ll need to build your own team to handle everything you shouldn’t do yourself, like cover design and proofreading. And when you feel like a certain aspect of the project is starting to drain your enthusiasm, it’s smart to look into outsourcing it.
It’s best to get streamlined support when self-publishing your book, so plan on getting help! It takes a lot of different skill sets to self-publish successfully, so expect to work with a few people, or hire a team like Pithy to help you.
Budget plays a factor here, but getting help with tasks you have trouble with can keep you focused on the things you do best!
Step 9 — Book Launch Marketing
While we have marketing listed last, it really is something you should think about early in the book writing process.
You’ll want to build your platform early, as your book’s launch marketing will be more effective the more established your platform is. There are so many scalable options for marketing— like e-blasts, websites, social media, cross-promotions, podcasts— you may want to consider hiring a team like Pithy to handle this for you.
Leverage Your Network
You can build a marketing platform into your book by involving personal and professional connections in the writing process.
Compile a list of people you want to feature in your book and make a plan for reaching out to them. Interviews, case studies, and personal anecdotes go a long way to show you’ve done your research and considered multiple perspectives. When you share the great work done by others, they will want to spread the news about your book because it makes them and/or their company look good.
Leveraging your network is a huge help for marketing your book when it’s released.
Don’t Give Up
What separates authors from aspiring authors is not writing ability, intelligence, or having a particularly clever idea— what differentiates them is their ability to finish.
Authors persevere when things get tough. When they’re tired, overwhelmed, or they question whether they have anything worth writing about, they keep going. Don’t underestimate the power of mindset and good planning. Schedule time into your calendar to write, and do everything you can to stay focused, positive, and resilient.
You’ve got this; now go write!
Interested in getting help with your book? Send us a message today!