How To Write a Book
As the author of seven published novels and one non-fiction book, I’m no stranger to writing. I get questions all the time asking me how to write a book and how to go about publishing. So I thought it might be time I wrote a blog on it. Whether you’re looking to write your first novel or you have a great idea for a business book, I hope the following will help.
Getting Your Idea
The most important thing for anyone to consider when writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, is what is your book actually about. What are you trying to say? What journey do you want to take your readers on? Remember, often the simplest ideas are the best.
I normally begin my books with a scrap of an idea. For my fiction it usually starts with a dream or a daydream about something fantastical, like a man who turns into a bird or a girl who’s invisible. For my non-fiction I’ll think about what people want to know about that I am in the position to help them with. Then you need to decide what thread will hold it all together. What is the message you’re trying to convey? Whether it’s deep and meaningful or silly, it doesn’t matter, but a theme of some kind needs to be there.
Developing Your Story
In my writing group we say you have planners and pantsers. Those who plan their stories and those who write by the seat of their pants. Although there’s no right way and it has to work for you, I always recommend at least doing some form of planning. I know very few people who can successfully write making it up as they go along. More often than not people never finish their stories as they’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. At least know the key points of your book before you start.
Then there are things that every writer does. The first thing is to bash out draft one. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I’ve never come across it nor do I know any published author who really talks about it. Writer’s block tends to be either overthinking what you’re doing or fearing what you’re about to do. So just bash out a first draft and don’t let anything stop you. If you’re not sure how to tackle that particular section, gloss over it for now. Just get the basics in place. Throw to page whatever comes to mind and see what happens.
It doesn’t matter how many words it is or how well it’s written, it’s about getting all your ideas down. And until you get to the end, you’ll never be able to complete your start. I guarantee you the start will change when you get to the end. It always does.
Then edit, edit and edit. Now you’ve got the basic words down, polish them up. My books normally increase by about 10,000 words from the first edit to the last one.
I always do three re-drafts before I let anyone else see it. But I limit it to that. You could keep going forever, so I say three is enough before I let my editor take a look. Then I send it out to beta readers - people I trust who will give me an honest opinion. The worst thing you can do is publish something without letting other eyes look over it first.
The final part, of course, is publishing. This is probably worth a blog in itself as it’s quite involved. Self-publishing is becoming the choice for many writers, even those who have been traditionally published in the past.
Publishing can be a very difficult stage, though. It is often just as hard work as writing the book in the first place. I mainly use Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark, but there are many other publishing platforms. Other than purchasing stock of my own books to sell and buying my own ISBNs, I haven’t put any money into publishing and the process is quite self-explanatory. But if you want to do this and you’re struggling, there are plenty of people who can help, and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
Finally, Know Why
I have met hundreds of people who tell me they want to write a book. Although I always encourage it, I urge you to ask yourself why. To write a book properly, it takes months. There’s the planning, the writing of it, perhaps six months of editing, and then, when that’s all done, you have publishing and marketing to consider. And there are no short cuts if you want a good final product.
If you want to write a book then surely you want someone to read it. If that’s the case, then you need it to be properly thought through with decent re-drafts and a professional edit. If your book is littered with errors and inconsistencies, if it doesn’t flow properly, or just isn’t easy to read, then it will never get a readership and any work you have put in will be wasted.
It might be a lot of work to write a novel, but when you get the final product in your hand it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. To see your 80,000 words actually for sale, the journey suddenly feels all worth it. I always have a little tear in my eye on publication day.
So my final piece of advice is this: if you want to write a book, don’t cut any corners, and make sure the final product represents all the hard work you’ve put in.