How to Write a Book
If you are a first-time writer, the entirety of getting your first book or novel out can be intimidating. The multiple processes, on top of the pressure of needing to be on your "A-game" in terms of story-crafting, can be overwhelming.
As an undeniably long-drawn process, it requires determination, discipline, and patience through it's multiple stages. But if you approach it a step at a time and with a reliable blueprint tp start, planning, writing, revising, pitching, and publishing a book of your own is most definitely possible.
Steps to Writing a Book
1. Decide on your writing space and place
Starting out by finding yourself a conducive physical place and writing platform or interface is imperative to your focus and productivity. Ideally, the physical place should be free of external distractions, be relatively quiet, and allow you to focus on your task at hand. You writing material, software, or platform on which you choose to write and work on should provide you the necessary tools to plan, write, and revise your work with ease.
There are multiple software and interfaces out there for writers to choose from, all offering varied tools that suit different needs. Most book writing software help make your writing more efficient by taking the burden of tedious formatting off of your shoulders, providing story planning and research tools, and saving your work securely. If you have yet to find a platform that is apt for you and your writing needs, take time to explore the plethora of options that are available and pick one that best suits your specific needs as a writer.
2. Do robust research.
This stage of your writing will take a significant amount of time and energy. Conducting all-rounded, robust research, for both fiction and non-fiction work, is essential.
For non-fiction work, it goes without saying that there will be historical, cultural, academic research that needs to be done through multiple avenues such as reading previously published work about your chosen subject matter, conducting interviews, carrying out fieldwork, gathering secondary research materials, and so on. For fictional work, writers would have to gather material about people, places, events, etc. and have these inform their story and the world they could be trying to build. This research process also includes developing character profiles, creating images of how they could look like, and adding details to the world you are trying to build for your readers.
No matter what genre you choose to embark on, make it a point to read as many other works of the same or similar story-type, genre, and structure as possible. Getting a good understanding of the work that's already out there can help you decide your place and position amongst these writers and works, help you figure out which direction you would like to go in, and also allow you decide what you do not want to do as well.
3. Decide on your larger themes and message
Before thinking about whether the main crux of your story would pull your readers in and hold their attention, what your book is about should excite you first. The themes and overall message of your book must capture and impassion you such that you feel compelled to continue writing and building upon them.
Decide on the bigger picture and whether you resonate with it; be it your overall themes or subject matter, the main and secondary characters, the POV, the general direction of your book and how it culminates, and the message that you would like your readers to take away, before stressing about more minute details. This can be applied from books of multiple genres. Be it fiction or non-fiction, settle upon the bigger ideas that you feel inclined towards
If you have already decided what your book is about, and you're trying to decipher if this is the best route to take, consider asking yourself a few questions such as :
- Why is the story interesting to me?
- Why is the story important to me?
- What attracted me about this big idea first?
- Who do I want to speak to through my book?
4. Prepare an outline
Some writers write on a whim or plan as they go, while some prepare a detailed outline before diving into any form of creative writing. Planning beforehand will not hurt.
Story outlines can take many forms; from detailed chapter outlines, to branching mind-maps, to simple bullet or point-form beat sheets. No matter what sort of outline you make, being able to see the bigger picture and a rough roadmap of towards the end goal will certainly help. what’s important is that you have a roadmap for your future writing sessions.
Some outline ideas you can explore include :
- Bullet or point-form lists to make sure you have a good ideas of your main thoughts and ideas.
- Chapter breakdowns to get a better understanding of the flow of events in each chapter.
- Index cards with details so that you can group and organize segments in your story, and later string them together to form a timeline.
- Treatments for a more nuanced and detailed breakdown that covers major plot points or ideas of your book.
5. Clear your headspace
Being in the right headspace before embarking on the arduous process of constructing a book from start to finish is crucial. Take time to prepare yourself for the possible setbacks that you might encounter along this journey. Approaching book writing with the right mindset will make this process much more smooth sailing than starting out rocky and unsure of your milestones and end goal. Be clear of your objectives so that you have a better idea about how to go about meeting them. Hold yourself accountable to your writing and this journey by setting aside a fixed amount of time everyday on your book. Give yourself the space to falter, but make sure to pick yourself back up again and recalibrate about how you can move forward. Create an obligation to yourself and your passion for writing, and stay determined to fulfill this obligation.
6. Divide and conquer
If you have an outline or plan in place before writing, this step would be made a little easier. Work on your writing in portions and segments. Breaking it down into individual working portions will take the intimidation out of the task of writing an entire book.
Portion your work out into manageable pieces and set milestones according to outline, and plan your writing schedule so as to complete different segments by a given deadline.
7. Write your first draft!
Embarking on your first draft can seem like a gargantuan task. Many writers face a starting block because of nerves, or not knowing where to begin. As you start crafting your first draft, keep in mind that it is normal to encounter bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, and even a writers’ block. At this juncture, it is important to manage your personal expectations. Comparing yourself to other writers, books, and even other writing experiences of your own will do this process no good.
Don't fret while working on your first draft, and refer to the outlines you made to get yourself back on track. You can also spend time reading other works that you feel fall within similar thematic categories, genre, or structure you're going for.
8. Maintain a routine and writing momentum
Now that you're in the midst of writing your first draft, you will get a good gauge of your pace, process, and what you can realistically get done in a day. Use this as a guide to plot your pace for the rest of your writing journey and plan a consistent writing schedule that you can work with. Set deadlines that are reasonable, and pat yourself on the back along the way for sticking to these deadlines. Whenever need be, don't forget to step away from your desk for a break, change up your writing environment, and keep yourself inspired.
9. Revise, and write your second draft
In your quest for the best story and work possible, you will go through multiple revisions. This requires stamina and honesty, as you look at your work over and over again and make decision as to what you can retract, add, or change. While you re-work, here are some things you can pay attention to :
- Re-word overused descriptors
- Iron out character inconsistencies (for fictional books)
- Over complicating segments or words, simplify them is possible to make the reading experience smoother
- Look out for redundancies
- Make your writing as sensory as possible
- Look out for logical, story loopholes and tie them up
Your second draft also gives you a good opportunity to think back to the larger themes and message you started this journey with, and check if this version is somewhat in line with those. Think about the tone that your first draft has adopted, the individual segments that you broke your work into and their effectiveness as well; a strong opening, a convincing and impactful body, and conclusive and satisfying ending, and your overall writing experience.
10. Ask for advice and feedback
It is up to your choice and discretion if you would like to take up the editing processes yourself. But you can also approach fellow writers, editors, and friends to take a look at your second draft.
Approaching a professional, someone you look up to, or are inspired by in the writing field can be a great step in your editing process. The timely and technical advice that they would be able to offer at this stage could help you tie up some loose ends and correct mistakes you could have overlooked.
11. Work on a third draft
Go back in for your next draft, after a initial first draft and revising it to produce your second draft. Take this chance to zoom into the more minute details, and be relentless with working through parts you are still skeptical about or feel can be fine-tuned.
There is no fixed number of drafts or revisions that you have to go through before settling on a final version. This is up to your own judgement and satisfaction. If you find your writing or story-telling not improving, and you start feeling like you might editing for the sake of a revision, this could be a good point to pause and decide if you want to continue making changes.
12. Prepare front and back matter, and finalize formatting
In a book, the "front matter" (sections that come before your story), your main or principal text, and "back matter" (sections that follow your story) can be prepared after you are done revising and editing your main work. You will definitely be going back in to make edits and if you set this at the preliminary stages of your writing.
These include things such as your preface, introduction, for your front matter and author biography, glossary, and a bibliography if applicable in your back matter.
13. Finalize formatting
Formatting can be a little bit of a hassle. Some writers choose to format as they write, and some leave this to the end after getting the creative aspects of their story settled. Formatting your book is vital in making sure that your pork is readable, presentable and is packaged to professional standards before you approach agents or publishers. If you wish to not have to manually format it, or not engage a professional to do so, you can consider using JotterPad.
JotterPad can help with formatting your writing as you go along. It rids you of the hassle of going back in to fix formatting multiple times, and adheres to industry-standard formatting guidelines for multiple kinds of writing; books, novels, screenwriting, blog, and academic papers.
The Markdown tool that JotterPad equips writers with makes the necessary adjustments in terms of formatting for you, and you can export your work to multiple formats or choose to publish it to multiple platforms.
14. Source for agents and publishing avenues
Once you have locked the final version of your book and completed the necessary formatting furnishing, you can take your mind off the writing and your story and looking for avenues to get your book out there. You can start sourcing for reputable agents and publishers, coming up with a book proposal, and submitting it to a handful of publishing houses on your own or through an agent. With the advent of many online reading platforms and marketplaces, you can even explore the option of e-publishing.
Writing and publishing a book is no easy feat. The stamina and passion you need to be able to pull through these multiple processes needs to be unbounded. No matter your background or experience, these steps can guide you in this journey and help you stay on track.