One of the main things that separates humanity from the animals is our ability to formulate, speak, and write down concepts and thoughts through language. The power of books is immeasurable, providing a way for your words to live on long after you are gone, and a way to directly implant your thoughts into someone else’s head. Fortunately, in the modern day, it has become easier than ever to write a book, with many different means and methods to choose from.  

Five Steps to Success

However, it’s important to not just sit down and start banging out words like Jack Kerouac or Hunter Thompson, typing maniacally night after night instead of sleeping. While this method might work for some experienced writers, most writers benefit from planning and strategizing their writing ahead of time. This helps keep your book organized and structured, and will prevent you from ending up with a pile of unfinished manuscripts, each waiting for an ending that will never come.  

Structure an outline or summary

Without fail, the first tip any author will give you about starting a book is to plot it out somehow. This can take many different forms, from a rough, handwritten outline, to an excel-style spreadsheet outline, to a storyboard layout of imagery you want to write about.  

Make it your own, and follow your personal style when beginning this step. Try and figure out who the main characters of your book will be, or if it is non-fiction, what general elements and thoughts you will cover. Try and summarize your book in one or two simple sentences that accurately convey a synopsis of what the book will be about – if you can’t do that yet, then you may need to brainstorm more until you have a complete idea of how to summarize it simply.  

Plan your beginning and your ending

While neither your outline nor your ending will be set in stone, it is very helpful to have a basic idea of how your book will begin and end. This will help prevent you from ending up with a book that is too complicated, convoluted, or full of plot holes to finish.  

It’s important to remember that first impressions are everything, and most readers and (especially) publishers put a lot of stock in the first 15 pages or so. Therefore, it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time on the first chapter, to make sure that readers are drawn in and will stay with you until the end.

Some authors prefer to scaffold their writing like an architect, while others prefer to let it grow organically and see where it ends up. Which one works best for you will depend on your personal writing style.   

Write like it’s going out of style

This is the meat of being an author, and the stage where you will spend the most time. Once you’ve outlined, summarized, and generally structured your beginning and ending, it’s time to sit down and write. 

This can take anywhere from weeks to years, depending on what type of book you are writing and your experience. Some tips are to find a writing style that works for you – some prefer pen and paper, some choose older word processing software, and still others a modern laptop. Try to minimize distractions like the internet, and find somewhere quiet where you can sit and focus for hours without interruption.

Edit your manuscript

Editing can be a tedious and difficult job, and many authors utilize the services of professional editors. However, even if you are going to have the book edited, it’s still critical for you to go back and reread it a few times, so you can revise and make general corrections for spelling and grammar.  

The revision process is almost as important as the creation process, so don’t neglect this stage of the writing process.

Finish the book, accept it, and look for publishers

One of the hardest things about writing a book, any author will tell you, is finishing the book. Like most artists, it’s surprisingly easy to get sucked into perfectionism, where the book is just never quite good enough.  

Don’t fall into the trap of continuous, eternal editing and revision. The mark of a true artist versus an amateur is that the true artist knows when to stop. Once you have reached this point, it’s time to begin shopping around for publishers, sending it to friends and family for tips, or offering it online to readers.

The number one step that people fail to do is to simply write. Even if you don’t like it, just getting words out on paper will give you the momentum to continue, and can produce a product worth editing and revising into something you are truly happy with. So get your pen and paper, typewriter, or laptop out, sit down without any distractions, and just start writing – you never know what will come of it!