Writing a book is usually a daunting task — but does it have to be? To help out first-time authors, I’ve compiled dozens of great stories & advice that all kinds of different authors (both non-fiction and fiction) have submitted to me, and I’m confident you’ll find at least 1 or 2 nuggets of gold within them. The contributions below were the result of many hours spent reaching out to different authors, as well as posting this query on some of the journalism websites I belong to:
What advice can you share for people trying to write a book for the first time? Personal stories welcome, along with any useful tips & anecdotes for how you completed a big writing project.
If you’re an author yourself, you’re also welcome to make a submission here.
I'm a published author of several novels, and a professional business writer. In my decades of experience, I've learned the following things about writing:
However, I still write for a living, and here are some thoughts.
1) As hokey and mundane as it sounds, be sure to write every single day. Even if you feel as though you are suffering from writers block, write anyway. It can be stream-of-consciousness, observations of the day, the good time you had with your friend. Just write. Don't leave the page blank. This, in fact, is how I approach articles that I'm stuck on. I write, and eventually, the angle and purpose come to me.
2) You don't have to have a perfect first draft. It's called first draft for a reason. You can clean things up in subsequent drafts. When I wrote my books, my first draft was always what I called my garbage draft. It was where I put all my thoughts about my story, characters, plots and so on.
3) Be sure to get feedback from others, but make sure that those others are on your side, and will provide constructive, rather than destructive, criticism. I depended on other (non-jealous) writers to help me out.
4) Be sure to let it go. The tendency of first-time writers is to hang on to the book, and continuing polishing, editing and tweaking. Don't do it. If you find you are re-editing the same sentence 20 times, it's time to let the manuscript go.
5) Proofread, proofread, proofread. Yes, publishing houses have their own editorial staff. However, for first-time writers, you want to present as polished a concept as you can, which means very few, if any, typos and correct grammar.
--Amy Sorter, The WordSorters
Just a little bit every day can make a huge difference — it doesn't matter if it's actual prose, part of an outline, or notes. I've coached some extremely reticent clients into working just half an hour a day, and before they knew it, they had a first draft.
A current client is aiming to write a book within the year. I had her start by writing a very high-level outline, which in turn inspired her to write blog posts that she plans to use in the book. She next took a deeper dive into the outline, fleshing it out a few more levels. Again, inspiration struck and she was able to knock out three more blog posts. By the end of the month, she not only had a solid outline for the book, she had the equivalent of 10k words written — the equivalent of two chapters.
Over the last two decades, I have ghostwritten and/or edited more than two dozen books, two of which became New York Times bestsellers. My own book, Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict, was a finalist for the BookLife Prize, awarded by the indie arm of Publishers Weekly. In addition to ghostwriting and editing, I also coach clients on their writing.
--Jenna Rose Robbins, jennarobbins.com
I've written a book. It was perhaps the biggest challenge in my life and I'm a wedding planner, gulp! With the time restrictions as I work with clients who are demanding, determined and many with a lack of patience, but yet, I found writing their stories to be mentally refreshing....you might say to prove to me that I'm not the crazy one.
Here are a few of my tips:
1. Take your time. I took 7 years (along with my associate who assisted a bit) to write down stories
2. I went back for years remembering their stories, as I wanted the stories to be as accurate as possible (but still changed their names and dates)
3. I would jot down bullet points of the things that happened to remember them when I could take the time to sit down.
4. Research publishers as I self-published and thought I was getting a GREAT deal, but the add-on costs added up quickly.
5. Use people you know and trust. My first editor was recommend as she has a master-degrees in writing and literature but when she edited my book, she took out all the funny....reading more like a medical journal than a humor book.
6. Understand the challenges as getting your book published in one thing, but getting into the hands of those who can sell it is the biggest challenge.
--JoAnn Moore, JoAnn Moore Wedding, Design and Event Planning
I am a licensed psychotherapist and children's author with two picture books published by Magination Press and a middle-grade novel releasing from Capstone in early 2021. I am represented by Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and am the County Coordinator for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
My advice to aspiring writers is first to develop a habit of writing every day, even if you are simply writing in your journal. If you have an idea for a book, don't be afraid to pour it out of you, but once you do, know that, unfortunately, it probably is not as good as your mother thinks it is. Some writers are plotter/outliners and others are pantsers-there is no correct way. Whichever you are, hone your talent by reading a lot of craft books, surround yourself with writers (there are organizations you can join and a lot of online writer forums to build a sense of community), find a critique group or partner and take their feedback, go to workshops and writer conferences-there are SO many resources for writers. Read, read, read in your genre-and learn to read like a writer, meaning study the craft elements the author uses. If you want to write picture books, middle-grade or young adult novels, know that it is a very different style of writing than for an adult audience. Keep writing and experimenting and don't give up. You only get fresh eyes once on a manuscript, so don't submit it to agents or editors until it has been read by peer writers and you've revised and edited well. It may take a lot longer than you want, but use that time to improve while your dream unfolds and keep writing!
--Merriam Sarcia Saunders, adhdparentclinic.com
I have written nine books - the most recent is titled Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies - and the web site link is provided below.
For those who want to write a book and have an idea of the topic - the most important thing to do is take the first step. If that means starting the research - then that is the first step. If it means putting a chapter outline together - that is the first step. If it means putting pen to paper - actually writing - then that is the first step.
After that, the process is one step at a time. It is important to keep the ultimate goal in mind - finishing the book and getting it published - but that is often too overwhelming. Just take one step at a time.
--Jill S. Tietjen, hollywoodherstory.com
First time authors should focus on developing the habit of writing above all else. Set a 5-10:00 timer 3-5x/week and keep the pen moving. Even if it’s nonsense, it teaches potential authors to stop censoring their words. This is how I began writing in Spring 2016; it took until August before the story built upon itself. I’ve now written 6 books and am in the process of publishing a trilogy.
Ass-in-chair is my motto, and helped me write my newest release, The Edited Genome Trilogy, in 9 months.
--Marcos Hernandez, authormarcoshernandez.com
I’m Garrett Calcaterra, author of The Dreamwielder Chronicles fantasy series, and ghostwriter of numerous novels and non-fiction books. Readers can learn more about my work at www.garrettcalcaterra.com. Here’s my advice, in case you would like to use it for OutwitTrade. Thanks for your time!
There’s no hidden secret when it comes to writing a book for the first time. It all comes down to maintaining a long, sustained work habit. You don’t need to write every day, as some experts claim, but you do need to have a consistent weekly schedule where you are writing 4+ hours a week, at a minimum. Anything less than that, and it’s almost impossible to maintain forward momentum and finish your book in a timely fashion.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to overcome is quieting your inner critic and getting a first draft finished. There will be times when you get bored with your manuscript or think it’s horrible or that no one will like it, so why should you bother? Push past those internal barriers and stick to your weekly routine. Give yourself permission to write a horrible first draft and just keep going, because if you can get that first draft done, you’ll have accomplished something 99% of aspiring writers never will. More importantly, you’ll have a tangible manuscript you can now work with to improve upon.
--Garrett Calcaterra, garrettcalcaterra.com
My first novel, Auto Clarity, was published by Hear It in January, and I have a few tips and anecdotes for your article.
- Face forward, but remember how far you've come - Novels are usually big, complicated projects, and you have to get down to the nitty gritty details and get your hands dirty to make every moment sing. When you're in the middle of it, you have to face forward and keep going until you get out the other side. It's easy to get overwhelmed in those moments, so while 90% of your time should be in the weeds, take a bit of time every day to see how much progress you've made.
- When your words fail you, draw - It happens to the most loquacious of us. You know what needs to happen in the scene you're working on, who needs to be there, where they are, and all sorts of other details, but you don't know where to start. I pull myself away from my keyboard and pickup a pencil instead. I'm a terrible artist, but doodling out the scene, maybe to visualize the layout of the room so I know where people are sitting, or maybe to see which details I naturally focus on when I sketch. Fifteen minutes of doodling can save me from sitting in front of a blank screen for an hour.
- Tweak your environment - I have a few different lamps in my home office, including a purple lava lamp, all connected to smart home plugs, so I can add a little ambiance to my environment. Switching of music playlists really enhances the effect. I like when my environment matches the mood and intensity of the scene.
--Brian Coughlin, Hear It LLC
My first book, The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money (Praeger), just came out in late February 2020. My tips are below:
Set milestones for yourself. For a long time, I thought, “I might have a book in me.” I got tired of hearing myself say that so I drew a line in the sand and told myself if I didn’t write a proposal by the end of the summer, that was totally fine but I had to stop saying I might write a book. I did write the proposal and kept moving. But it helped me to set an interim step with a (pretty generous) deadline. Otherwise, the idea of writing a book seemed too big to tackle.
Start writing. After letting the proposal sit for several months, I took an online writing workshop right after New Year’s. The workshop was intended to help people start the year off right with good writing habits. Each day, I had to post something to the group and wait for feedback. Because the timeline was so short, I felt no pressure to make anything perfect. I just had to produce something, and post it. Because my own expectations were low, it freed me to write without censoring myself. After my first day, when so much poured out of me, I decided to keep going and every day I wrote a starting point for a new chapter. This was such a productive process for me that even after the class ended, I kept going because I had ore chapters outlined than days in the class. Then, I had a starting point for almost every chapter.
Write what moves you. From there, I would pick up chapters as I felt like writing them. I wasn’t overly orderly or processed. I went with how I felt or what inspired me — wherever I had a way in to a specific topic, and went from there. This may not be the best approach, but in the early stages, it helped me get started. If I could only write for an hour one day, or squeeze out one paragraph, fine. At least I did it. Other days, I could write pages and pages. Eventually, you have to plug the holes and finish the parts you’ve left aside, but when you’re starting, go where you want to go to help you get into it.
Build your own process. When it came time to finish the manuscript and edit, I had a lot of material to work with. Perhaps it would have been smoother to write in a linear way — start and finish chapters in order. But for me, that just didn’t work. I wrote “horizontally”, across chapters, like a print maker dragging ink back and forth across the paper. I had conducted dozens of interviews to gather consumer stories, and had to decide where to tell each story or how to split some people’ stories across chapters, depending on the topic. It was like a puzzle that I couldn’t fully envision from the starting line. If I had it to do over again, I might try to plan that out better so I could get completed chapters done and off to editors or critical readers with more time to get and incorporate their feedback.
Track your progress. I was obsessive about word count, even knowing it was not a great measure (I could write a lot of crappy words). It gave me a sense of momentum and achievement. I trusted it would be easier for me to edit the crappy words than to face blank pages, so every day I counted up what I had done and calculated how far along I was to the ultimate word count goal.
Lower your expectations at the end. As my deadline approached, I got increasingly absorbed into the process. I started to understand how other writers had told me they hadn’t always taken time to shower or eat in the few months before the manuscript was due. I could barely say words out loud, finding basic dinner conversation almost impossible to follow let alone contribute to. The WORDs part of my brain was overflowing, and somehow it felt like if I opened my mouth the container for all those words would break. Thankfully, my husband took over feeding my family and tending to our kids. I was completely useless. And I truly don’t think I had a minute to spare, even in hindsight.
Finally, believe you can do it and that you should. Writing a book is too big a project to undertake lightly. It is too easy to get stuck wondering if anyone cares, or if it will be any good. You have the idea and you not only can follow through, but you should. If you have a story to tell, there is someone who needs to read it. Believe that. Commit to that. And then forget about it and write.
--Deb Gordon, debgordon.com
As a first time author, with a thriving business, it was hard to carve out time to just write. I would get overwhelmed, and end up not doing it. What helped get my book off the ground was to write the table of contents first, as an outline.
That way, I organized the chapter names and the subchapter information, and scheduled out time to add whatever came to my mind.
The second advice? Write first, edit later. It is very tempting to just write and edit, and that is a major time suck. The best way to get my book, Psychological Evaluations in Immigration Law [Being released July 15], off the ground, was to fight the temptation to write perfectly right off the bat, and just write write write.
Renata Castro, Esq – immigrationevals.org – Institute for Immigration Evaluation Training My book Psychological Evaluations in Immigration Law will be released July 15.
--Renata Castro, immigrationevals.org
My name is Len Saunders and I have authored 9 books. My advice is quite simple.
1. Find a topic that you are passionate about. For me, I have two genre that work for me. First, I write books about health and fitness, because it is something I have always enjoyed doing myself for over 40 years, so I want to help others on this topic. The second genre is writing children's picture books using experiences in my life as the topic in an effort to help children improve self-esteem. My favorite book I wrote which is dear to me is a book called Buddy and Bea. It is actually a story about my Mom and Dad written in picture book format. It teaches children about the circle of life in a loving and non-threatening way.
2. Find your place to be creative. For me, I get my best ideas when I am jogging outside in nature. For some reason, this gets my creative juices flowing and I come up with my best ideas. Other times, I go into a quiet room and do some yoga poses which affords me the time to think peacefully.
3. Finding a publisher can be a challenge. Just realize, in most cases, you may get 100 no answers to publishing your book before a publisher says yes. Just believe in yourself and be patient. Remember, if you don't want to find a publisher, it so easy to self publish a book now, so you WILL get your book out there to share with the world.
--Len Saunders, lensaunders.com
I would tell future authors to write down the most compelling scenes that are rolling around in their head, and in addition, why it matters to them. Whether they write a carefully crafted outline, or let the story in their head continue to develop as they take them to the page, having an idea of what they want their reader to understand is key.
Also, writers need to develop habits that work for them, not for someone else in a different circumstance. I wrote on the backs of envelopes and in notebooks while I carted my daughters to sporting events as a single, sole-supporting parent. I didn't need the guilt and pressure of someone telling me to wake up an hour early every day when I was already waking sometimes for a paper route before my fulltime job.
--Lizbeth Meredith, lameredith.com
I’m the author of 13 books, 11 published traditionally (Prentice-Hall, Doubleday, Newsweek, etc.) and the last 2 self-published with Amazon.
First time writers:
1) Do your research. Learn your craft.
2) Subscribe to Writer’s magazines (The Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets&Writers) or read in the library.
3) Go to Conferences. Network. Be friendly and collect numerous contacts.
4) Take class.
5) Know your market. If you write mysteries, hello, read mysteries!
6) Become friends with other writers for moral support and for publishing tips.
7) Find a friend in your circle who will be scrupulously honest and tell you what they think of your work. Have trusted friends who will become "first readers."
8) Be nice. Thank everyone who helps you - friend, teacher, relative.
--Jane Seskin, olderwisershorter.com
My name is Neha Gopal and I am the author of the epistolary novel, 10. After three years of writing and editing, I self-published the book last year on Amazon when I was 18 years old. I currently attend Texas A&M University and am pursuing my studies in journalism.
A big piece of advice I would give before beginning writing a novel is make sure you have a strong skeleton for the story. It is important to have a sense of direction for the book and have an idea of what you are going to write about each chapter ahead of time.
Another tip is to set a specific time to write the book everyday. Writing a novel takes discipline and patience! Do not give up when you have writer’s block, instead try and seek inspiration. Try to watch movies, read other books, or even listen to music that inspires you and gets your creative wheels going.
--Neha Gopal, @10_novel on Instagram
Read constantly and widely, but pay particular attention to reading recent books in your genre. It's great to get a sense of the market and what consumers' tastes are today.
Join a critique group to get feedback on your writing and listen to the feedback! My typical rule of thumb is that if at least three people are giving me the same comment, it's a comment worth listening to.
Be disciplined with yourself. Writing isn't the romantic pursuit it's made out to be in movies. Don't wait for the muse to inspire you. Instead commit to writing for a certain amount of time and/or a certain number of words.
Write because you have something to say, not because you want to be saying something.
Don't write a novel because you want it to be made into a movie. If movies are the medium you love, write screenplays.
Writing is rewriting. Care about your craft at a sentence and word level. Without words, your story may still mean something to you (after all, it's inside your head), but without clear sentences, it won't mean anything to anyone else.
Try to finish the story you start. It's very easy to get seduced by the allure of a new idea.
Write while traveling. If I'm on a plane and I'm awake then I'm writing.
--Finola Austin, finolaaustin.com
Despite having ADHD, I successfully completed a PhD dissertation in philosophy, and am now completing my ADHD fantasy novel, “Adventures Heading up and Down.” These steps will get you from “dreaming of writing” to “actually writing”:
First, rearrange your life: Inspiration is fickle. Professional writing requires consistent working habits, and would greatly benefit from a good, consistent night’s sleep. Still, be ready for inconsistency: a weak writing period does not mean you “lost it”. Specifically, beware of the “30% barrier”: this is about as far as our initial idea would usually get us in writing. From there on, a further, deeper development is required. This is why it may be a good idea to outline first, and start writing later.
Second, turn off your “inner editor”: the first draft of any text is awful. Expect and accept that; let yourself write badly, as long as you write! This is especially important in relation to beginnings: just start somewhere. You’ll change it all later, anyway.
Third, start writing! But how?
1. Jot down your initial idea and your motivation. Keep this note near you at all times, to stay focused.
2. From now on, note all ideas you have about the book, no matter how crazy or how obvious it seems. These notes will often chase away the horror of the blank page.
3. Arrange your ideas into categories: “main idea”, “examples”, “supporting evidence”, etc. For fiction use “plot”, “characters”, “themes”, etc.
4. Try to connect the dots: can you spot a logical line for an argument, or a plot emerging?
5. Either: start writing!
6. Or: elaborate and thicken your outline first: identify questions, problems and missing parts; go over everything you have so far and research new ideas.
7. Repeat stages 4-6 as necessary, in any order that helps you.
8. In writing, disregard the order of the chapters, sections or scenes. Never delete anything until the manuscript is complete; rather, move deleted parts to a separate place. You’ll be surprised at how many times, and how radically, you change your mind.
9. When should you start editing? Like the whole process of writing, this varies. Some will produce a full first draft before going over it all again, others – like me – tend to write and edit simultaneously or in batches.
--Adva Shaviv, added.kessem.com
My name is Edith G. Tolchin and I'm a multi-published author, longtime journalist and columnist.
1. Learn all you can about the publishing industry. There are many free websites to assist in doing this. There are also publications you can pay for that have helpful webinars such as Writers Digest.
2. Decide if you want to self-publish, or if you want to query literary agents to hopefully find you a publisher. Also, some publishers accept direct solicitations from writers. Know what you are looking for before beginning.
3. Beware of so-called publishers who ask you to PAY to publish your work.
4. No matter how good you think your writing is, ALWAYS have an editor edit your work before submitting for publication, or even before self-publishing.
5. Once you have landed a publisher (if you are not self-publishing), have a seasoned author or your attorney review the contract so you know what you're getting yourself into. For example, what is the duration of the contract? Will you receive royalties on e-books, also printed copies, as well as audiobooks? Many other things to consider.
--Edith G. Tolchin, edietolchin.com
The biggest challenge to writing a book is finding the discipline to actually organize your thoughts, sit down, and write it. I found that I would be inspired in the most inopportune times, in the car, at work, at dinner with friends, or even in bed! I convinced myself I could remember my thoughts but then discovered that the best lines and ideas would slip my mind, never to be found again. I decided to use dictate on my phone and the moment the thoughts hit me, I excused myself from whatever I was doing and simply dictated those thoughts into my phone. Then, when I got home I would sit and put those thoughts to paper and never missed a beat again!! Like any other project, make a plan, stick to it, organize your thoughts, and focus on that last page.
--Richard A Kiers, SWINDLED BY FAITH on Amazon
I'm a journalist, children's book author and non-fiction author. I'm also the co-founder of Ethicool, a children's book publishing company.
My top advice is:
- I've often used Google's infamous 10X innovation principles when I'm imagining what my book will be like. That is, I ask myself not how my creation can be just 10% better than what's out there, but how it can be ten times better. Having sky high goals like this helps prevent limiting beliefs 🙂
- Anytime I'm sitting down to write though, I do always create a SMART goal - as ultimately, creative work does need parameters (otherwise us perfectionists would never finish anything). So I create a small plan for myself on what is specific, measurable, attainable etc. so I can ensure I complete my work in a reasonable timeframe.
- For a lot of authors, their books are very personal and they can be quite precious about them. Throughout my career, I've had to learn to let this go and instead draw on the wisdom of the crowd to write my books. The rationale here is that I've told 20 people about my idea, and they all love it, I'll at least have 20 customers! Ultimately, the publishing industry is extremely competitive now so your books need to be brilliant, but also highly marketable.
--Teigan Margetts, Ethicool Books
My name is Donna F. Brown. I'm an author who recently published my book, Finding Medusa - The Making of an Unlikely Rock Star. This is an autobiography about my life as a musician, and how the music I created with my '70s rock band, Medusa, was finally discovered after 40 years, and received worldwide acclaim.
In response to your query on tips for writing a book: BOOK WRITING IS A LOT MORE THAN SITTING DOWN WITH PAPER AND PEN IN HAND!
Writing my book took six years and that's in addition to all the years I gave excuses why I shouldn't write the book! I wrote the book largely because I got tired of saying that I needed to write it.
Prior to writing the book, I considered my life to be fairly boring. In the process of writing, I discovered more than I bargained for:
1. My life wasn't as boring as I thought. I ACTUALLY DID SOME FUN STUFF, OVERCAME SEVERAL ADVERSITIES, AND ENJOYED INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES.
2. Outlines are a good idea. They help you stay on target and get to the heart of what you're trying to convey to readers.
3. Book writing is more than just writing,... and then this happened, and then that happened. In other words, how do you make an ordinary life sound extraordinary?
4. Writing the book is the EASY part! It's everything that comes afterwards that sucks! Publishing and marketing are, by far, the most difficult parts.
5. Research is needed. When writing about your life, research is still needed. How about the historical places you visited and events you participated in either willingly or unwillingly? When in doubt, refer back to #5!
6. You can never do too much editing! I had my book reviewed by a professional editor after self-reviewing my book at least one hundred times, and this editor still found typos. Also, be aware that you do not have to let the editor take away your voice, even as he or she is trying to rewrite your story in their voice. It's YOUR story.
--Donna F. Brown, FB page
I had been a regular blogger for about two years when someone mentioned that I probably had enough content for a book. That really brought the idea to the forefront and when I learned about a book-writing program run by Eric Koester, a professor at Georgetown University, I decided to join and commit to writing a book. Writing my book with a cohort of other first-time authors was great! Here were some of the lessons I learned:
- Let technology lighten your load. I used Otter.ai as a recording and transcription tool which made transcribing interviews much easier. I also used the accessibility tool on my Mac extensively when editing -- I let the computer read me text.
- In the book-writing program, I was given instruction on HOW to write a book including recommendations on technological tools to make it easier, e.g. a transcription tool for recording and transcribing interviews.
- I was connected with a publisher who provided editorial support, laid out the manuscript and provided a cover designer.
- Instruction on how to run a pre-publication promotional campaign for the book.
- Guidance on how to price the book and post it to the book distributor websites such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingramspark.
- How to promote the book post-publication including getting book reviews.
The book publishing journey can be lonely and at times, terrifying, when you're pouring out your innermost thoughts for others to read and judge. Going through the process with other authors who were experiencing it with me and being guided by experienced book sherpas made the process not exactly easy, but much easier than it would have been without their company on my journey. In fact, I don't believe I would have a published book if it weren't for the people who helped me through this program.
--Terry McDougall, terrybmcdougall.com
The best advice I can share for people trying to write a book for the first time is don't let the enormity of writing a book overwhelm you. It's really important to start by just breaking the book down into chapters and developing an outline or a list of what you want each chapter to be about including: subject, content, storyline, purpose, etc. Depending on the type of book you're writing, you don't necessarily have to have the exact order figured out just yet. When you look at each chapter as sort of a mini book of about 10-12 pages, it gives you a sense of motivation and accomplishment that, You can do this! And you can.
When writing a book, it's essential to add descriptive words. Make sure your adjectives are used to paint a picture in the reader's mind regarding the setting and the characters you are developing. Add emotion, because you want the reader to feel what the characters are feeling. I can't stress enough the importance of word choice; use your thesaurus! Also, most of the time less is more. If your sentence sounds too wordy, see if you can tighten it a bit by using less words to get your meaning across clearly.
Book elements to think about: character development, theme, setting, emotion, action, word choice, descriptive words, etc.
Also, your first draft will not be your final draft. You will edit, revise, add, remove, change, and edit again so many times you may even lose count. And that's okay! This is part of the writing process! Give yourself time. You got this!
--Marla McKenna, marlamckenna.com
My advice to anyone trying to write a book is to establish time chunks in the day – every day – to write. Whether you write one sentence or an entire chapter, write a little bit at the same time every day. Some days all I wrote was a sentence, others, I completed two chapters. The point is, when you get into a flow of regular writing time, your brain is trained to come up with ideas. Also, there is so stress, because this is what you are supposed to do at this time. I wrote my book in three months by writing at 8am – 9am every day. Some days were hard to get started, and I jumbled a bunch of nonsense on a page. The point is make the time and the words will come.
--Candess Zona-Mendola, MakeFoodSafe
I have two tips for writing a book.
First, don't write a book... write 35 articles. I was asked to write my first book, 99% Inspiration, after I gave an interview to a national magazine about ways to promote creativity in business. It was a daunting prospect until I parsed the book's subject matter into smaller pieces. Once I had identified 35 sub-areas or topics, it made it so much easier to write the book, since I already knew how to write an article. It also helped me create a writing schedule I could stick to.
In my two successive books: Idea Stormers, How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs, and 21 Days to a Big Idea, this same write the pieces strategy also worked!
Second tip: Sign a contract. I might never have written any of my books had I not signed a contract to write them. With the signed contract (and advance) in hand, I felt I had no choice but to write the damn book. It also forced me to push past the inevitable writer's blocks that occur in the writing process.
The bigger principle here is that if you're having resistance to writing your book, look to create some kind of personal accountability that forces you to write it. One of the best of these is a writer's group, where your writer friends fully expect you to bring new work to be critiqued at each meeting. Another accountability trick is to co-author a book. A third is to author a weekly blog... and then assemble the content of these blogs into a book.
--Bryan Mattimore, Growth Engine Innovation Agency
I would like to provide a few tips for someone writing their first book.
1. Pick an area, topic or personal experience you believe a person(s) can benefit from. For example, my first book is called, Stop The D.UM.B Stuff: A Woman's Guide For Being Responsible For The Relationships We Have And The Choices We Make.
I choose to write this book after I realized that even professional and smart women make mistakes when it comes to love and relationships. Personally, I was in a very stressful and toxic marriage despite the fact that I worked as a professor of social work, broadcast journalist and media personality sharing positive tips for women to avoid abusive relationships.
Fourteen days after returning from being on the Oprah Winfrey Show, I found myself in the emergency room getting stitches to my lower lips, looking at my bloodied mouth and tooth pushed back in my mouth. After coming to terms with this image of myself, I said, This is D.U.M.B. You are so much smarter than that
D.U.M.B. stands for DESTRUCTIVE, UNSETTLING, MISERABLE BEHAVIOR.
I knew something had to give and then I saw an article about a successful female doctor who made a very poor decision as she was trying to get the attention of her man. She tried to slide the chimney of his house, got stuck and die. Smh.
2. In writing my book, I knew I needed to write the way I spoke to people. I also used specific articles I had written for a local newspaper paper. The goal of the book was to be sincere, easy to read, filled with relatable stories and practical solutions.
3. I asked a published author who was also a friend the best way to write based on the size and messages of his book that reminded me of my mission. I had a deadline and he was my accountability partner.
4. I decided to self-publish using 48hr Print to cut cost. I had a book order for a women's conference and sold out. This win encouraged me to order more books to sale.
5. Since that time, I have at least 2 other co-author credits, booked a regular TV segment due to my first book, and I am currently in the process of editing my 4th book.
--Delores Jones, DeloresJones.com
As the author of 28 books, my advice for first time writers would be to make a date with yourself to write every day. Put it on your appointment book and turn down anything else that might interrupt that time. Don’t answer the phone, don’t check your email, don’t go on Facebook. Just write. Even if it is only for few hours. Even if you only write one page a day. And do it every day, seven days a week. Remember: Only one page a day can produce a book in a year or less.
When I was writing my first book, The Healing Power of Humor, I had no idea of how long it would take. So I turned down all invitations to see a movie or go out to dinner. I stopped sending birthday cards and only accepted or made phone calls that were necessary. I lost a friend because of it but they have since returned. And it helped me meet my deadline and produce a book that is now in a 40th-plus printing and ninth foreign language translation.
--Allen Klein, allenklein.com
I'm a personal finance expert/enthusiast/coach and the bestselling author of Financial Freedom: Breaking the Chains to Independence and Creating Massive Wealth, found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1082783188.
Answers as follows:
According to writer Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.” Yet so many people fail to actually make that dream a reality. This is likely for a number of reasons, but it all comes down to people just seem to procrastinate, put it off, and get bit by imposter syndrome, thinking that nobody will read their book or like what they have to say.
Writing a book does not have to be hard. In fact, Amazon makes it pretty easy to self-publish a book nowadays, which is why the self-publishing industry has rocketed in popularity, dwarfing that of the traditional publishing route.
My tips are as follows:
1. Carve out a few minutes a day - It doesn't have to be much, but if you can set aside even 5-10 minutes a day to write a few words down, you'll build the habit of writing and in due time will have yourself a book. When I was writing my book, I was very busy with my full-time job. However, I would wake up a little earlier or stay up a little later just to make sure I could keep the process moving. Whenever I'd travel for work, I'd use that time on the plane to write even more of the book. After all, you're just sitting there for a few hours and unless you pay for the Wi-Fi, you need something to take your time and attention. And when I'd be in my hotel room, I'd write even more. By finding a few minutes here and there and being disciplined about writing, you'll soon enough make your dream a reality.
2. Get an accountability partner - It can be hard to keep yourself accountable with your goals. This is why with any goal, it's important to get an accountability partner; someone who you can commit your goals to and periodically check in with for status checks to make sure you're hitting your goals. When you have to report to someone else, you feel like you're letting them down if you don't deliver as promised, so it helps push you to get it done. You can even establish a reward/punishment system as well, where you get rewarded for hitting your goals or punished for falling short. Anything to motivate you to get it done.
3. Join a community of fellow authors - Oftentimes, it can feel like you're in this alone, especially if you don't have any friends who have written a book. It helps immensely if you join a community of fellow authors. There are communities on social media sites like Twitter that are full of encouraging authors and aspiring authors that help push each other, give tips and feedback and more. Or you can join a program, such as through my friend Chandler's company Self Publishing School, that has coaches and a proven system to follow to go from idea to published book.
4. Brainstorm/Mind Map Ahead of Time - Before you start writing, have a general vision of what you want your book to look like. Determine what topics you want to cover, group them into sections and then go deeper into subsections. These will ultimately become your chapters and the content within them and gives you a plan to follow. It also helps to make sure you have enough topics to cover and the book flows in a cohesive and logical manner.
5. Write the first draft prior to editing - Before making any edits, just write the initial draft all the way through. When you stop and take time to edit along the way, it just slows you down and interrupts your flow. You will have to make multiple rounds of edits regardless of how much time you spent on edits the first round through, but when writing, it is so much more important to get the content down and then fine tune it later. With my book, I followed this method and even took it a step further. As there is some research in my book, I made notes in the book of where to go back in and add that research. That way, I could get the general content down first and then add the relevant facts from research after I had the main content down.
6. Use websites like Fiverr, Upwork and 99designs - Writing doesn't have to be an expensive process. You can find affordable freelancers for things like book formatting, editing and cover design through websites like Fiverr, Upwork and 99designs. Hire freelancers that are experienced and familiar with Amazon KDP's standards so you ensure that the final product is good for Amazon's production standards. This will also save you time since the first time you write a book, you'll have to learn all of those on your own otherwise. All in all, I paid about $610 total for book formatting, book editing and cover design using these sites.
7. Type the book in Word - You don't need anything fancy to write a book. Just type the manuscript in Word. Amazon accepts Word documents for book uploads.
8. Celebrate afterwards - Writing is a big accomplishment. Once you've finished, take a step back and celebrate your accomplishment! You did it! Have a party with friends!
I am an author and the founder and owner of 4-U-Nique Publishing. My books You Ain't Hungry Until I'm Starving and Vid's Viddles have appeared on several Bestsellers and Must-Read lists.
My advice for anyone who is trying to write a book for the first time is to Write from the heart. Don't think too much about what you are going to put on paper. Just let it flow. many times people get writer's block or do not start writing a book because they put too much pressure on themselves to write something that is perfect and they overthink the writing process. Take your pen and paper and just write. Let the words flow. You right from the heart first, then you go back and revise and edit from the brain next. After you write your book (no matter the genre) from the heart, you can also go back and organize and develop the book how you see fit. The most important thing is to begin.
The process of writing from the heart first is what keeps me from developing writer's block. It keeps my writings authentic and full of passion. The readers can feel the energy through the words that they read because the words came straight from the heart. Let your passion and heart guide you.
--Vid Lamonte' Buggs Jr, vids-world.com
I spent a decade asking published authors, How should I write my book? None could tell me how to write MY book, only how they wrote THEIRS. I had to experiment with techniques until I found one that brought results for me.
When I coach writers, I suggest they look at their own personalities and learning styles. Try what I do, but know that it's not the only way.
I need to wander around, gather information, and create a mess. I write long, disorganized manuscripts that require tons of editing. I have to feel my way into the words using the body-centered meditation practices I've studied for decades. If I attempt to outline, I wind up paralyzed. That's why Natalie Goldberg-style writing practice set my writing free.
I also needed deadlines and trusted writer friends to provide external structure. Taking classes that required me to submit work and hiring an editor to look over my revised drafts pushed me to the next level.
Some of my clients need the structure of outlining. They can't write the first word until they know where the story is going. They may not follow the outline, but creating one provides the security they need to get to the page.
Still other clients paint or dance or sing their way into their books.
I also suggest my clients find a book to serve as a model for whatever they are writing. I used WILD as the model for Depression Hates a Moving Target. I read and reread it, taking chapters apart to see how Cheryl Strayed put them together.
My point is that there is no one right way. I urge my clients to allow themselves the freedom to stumble and fail, to create a mess and get blocked. But never stop entirely. The first book (or the second or the ninth) might not be the one that sees the light of day. Keep writing. Believe you have something to say. Trust your unique voice, and never give up.
--Nita Sweeney, nitasweeney.com
I am the author of the children's book Oliver West! It's Time to Get Dressed!. I am so happy to give advice to those just getting started on their book journey. I am a self-published author and spent two years researching and learing about the industry prior to publishing my book. I am currently working on the second and third book in the Oliver West series as well as completing an activity/coloring book. You can see the book here: www.amzn.com/1733752501
Below you will find my advice which I would happy to expand on. I found it difficult to keep the word count low as I could easily write page after page on this topic.
The recommendations I can make to someone wanting to begin a book journey are:
Do research to be able to decide how you wish to publish. Be aware that currently most traditional publishers require manuscripts to be submitted by an agent. So if that is your choice, you need to learn about finding an agent or find a publisher that will accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Both hybrid and self-publishing require upfront funds. A hybrid (vanity) publisher will help you with tasks and logistics although will also have a large part of the control of the project, while as a self-publisher, you will be the one responsible for securing your team.
Always have your work edited so that you are presenting the most polished manuscript possible. Working with one editor is probably sufficient prior to querying an agent but you will use two or three for self publishing.
Begin building up your platform right away. This means getting followers on social media and subscribers to your website. Agents and publishers want to know that you have an audience to sell to which becomes even more important when you self publish.
Learn all that you can about marketing. Join groups, watch webinars and take courses if necessary. You’ll need to know how to sell your book. Most of this falls on the author for each of the publishing modalities. People can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists and it’s your job to make sure that they do.
There is more to learn with self publishing but it also allows more freedom and control over the process. Keep learning all you can and keep a positive attitude. There will be ups and downs on the journey and the end result will be a product reflective of how you handled the process.
--Kelly Louise, kellylouisebooks.com
Latest posts by Katie Holmes (see all)
- How To Be More Optimistic: Stories, Tips & Comments From 21 Different People - January 12, 2021
- Stories on the Benefits of Minimalism - January 11, 2021
- How To Control Anger - January 5, 2021
More from ‘founder stories’…
How To Become A Web Designer: Web Designers Share Their Stories
If you’re thinking about becoming a web designer, this is a compilation of stories on how successful web designers got...
How To Start A Band: Musicians Share Their Stories
This is a casual piece where I’d like to collect and publish stories on how different bands came about. Firstly...
Podcasting Stories: 33 Podcasters Share Their Journeys
This piece is a collection of great stories from different podcasters on why they started their podcast, how they got...
How To Start A Social Media Marketing Agency: 17 Agency Owners Share Their Stories
These days practically all businesses need a social media profile, and as such managing social media for companies is a...
Selling Art Online: 10 Artists Share Their Stories
This is a compilation of stories, tips and advice from artists who have made money selling their art online. Here’s...
15 Authors Share Their Stories & Advice
Here you’ll find all kinds of interesting stories from authors on their journey to getting published, as well as some...
How To Start An SEO Agency: 19 Agency Owners Share Their Stories
These days there are loads of SEO agencies out there. And while many of them are subpar, there are still...
How To Start An Ecommerce Store: 22 Ecommerce Store Owners & Experts Share Their Advice
Ecommerce is massive, with thousands upon thousands of people having created successful e-commerce stores. And in this day and age...
How To Write A Book: 30 Different Authors Share Their Advice
Writing a book is usually a daunting task — but does it have to be? To help out first-time authors,...
How To Become A Freelance Writer: 24 Writers Share Their Stories & Advice
Like becoming a virtual assistant, turning to freelance writing is one of the most appealing and seemingly easiest ways to...