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Last updated on Feb 07, 2023
How to Write a Book (with Tactics from Bestsellers)
What’s the secret formula to tapping into your creativity and writing a book? Some authors would tell you there is no single path to authorship , as every writer’s journey is unique. However, almost every bestselling author will have highly effective writing patterns and habits that help them reach their writing goals . In this post, we'll share some of their most commonly used tactics for starting and finishing a book.
How to write a book:
1. Start with a book idea you love
2. research by reading genre-prominent books, 3. outline the story, 4. write the opening sentence , 5. write the first draft, 6. set a schedule with achievable goals, 7. find a good writing space, 8. pick a "distraction-free" writing software, 9. finish your draft, 10. edit the manuscript, 11. publish your book for readers to buy.
There's a long, exciting road ahead. So let's get started.
The one thing you absolutely need to write a book is, of course, an idea. If you don't have that, you'll never get past the first page of your draft.
You may already know what you want to write about, or you may be at a total loss. Either way, you can settle on a “big book idea” by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- What do I want to write about?
- What do I feel is important to write about?
- Who will want to read about this story/subject?
- Will I be able to carry out this idea effectively?
Your answers to these questions will help you narrow it down to your best options. For example, if you have several different ideas for a book, but only one that you're truly passionate about and feel you can pull off, then voilà — there's your premise!
On the other hand, if you lack ideas, these questions should steer you in a firmer direction. Think about the kinds of books you love to read, as well as books that have made a significant impact on you. In all likelihood, you'll want to write a book in a similar vein.
Tools to help you find an idea
If you're grasping at straws, consider using creative writing prompts or a plot generator to get the ball rolling! You might stumble upon an interesting concept or story element that sparks a “big idea” for your book. (And if you're still uninspired even after trying these tools, you may want to reconsider whether you really want to write a book after all.)
Which writing app is right for you?
Find out here! Takes 30 seconds
Once you've found your big idea, the next step is to research your genre. Again, if you're writing the book you like to read , you already have a leg up! Reading books in your genre is by far the best way to learn how to write in that genre yourself.
But if not, you'll want to select a couple of representative titles and analyze them. How long are they and how many chapters do they have ? What does the story structure look like? What are the major themes ? Perhaps most importantly, do you think you can produce a book with similar elements?
Find out what people are reading
You should also conduct market research on Amazon to determine the most popular books in your genre. If you want your book to succeed, you'll have to contend with these bestsellers. Go to the Amazon Best Sellers page and find your genre in the lefthand sidebar:
Then read those books' blurbs to figure out what really sells. What do they all have in common, and why might readers find them appealing? Does your book hold up to these standards?
Finally, think about how your book can offer something NEW. For example, if you're writing a psychological thriller, will there be a particularly sneaky unreliable narrator , or maybe a series of twists that the reader never sees coming? If you're writing a nonfiction book , do you have a unique take on the subject, or a particularly deep well of knowledge? And so on.
Going above and beyond is the only way to give your book a chance in today's hyper-competitive market. So don't skimp on the genre research, because this will tell you where the bar is and how you can surpass it.
If you want to write a great story , you need to outline it first. This is especially important if it's your first book, since you need a solid blueprint to rely on when you get stuck! (Because believe us, you will get stuck.)
Get our Book Development Template
Use this template to go from a vague idea to a solid plan for a first draft.
So how do you go about creating that outline for your book? We actually have a whole other post on the subject , but here are the essentials:
- Pick a format that works for you. There are so many different types of outlines: the free-flowing mind map, the rigorous chapter-and-scene outline, the character-based outline, and so on. If one approach doesn't work for you, try another! Any kind of plan is better than none.
- Have a beginning, middle, and end. Way too many authors go into writing a book with a strong notion of how their story should start... yet their middle is murky and their ending, nonexistent. Take this time to flesh them out and connect them to one another. Remember: the best books have endings that feel “earned,” so you should try to be building toward it from the start!
- Consider your conflict points. Conflict is at the heart of any good book — it draws in the reader, conjures tension and emotion, and ultimately reflects the themes and/or message you want to convey. You don't have to know exactly where your conflict will manifest, but you should have a pretty good grasp of how it works throughout your book.
- Get to know your characters. If you haven't done much character development yet, your outline is the perfect opportunity to do so. How will your characters interact in the story, and how will these interactions demonstrate who they are and what matters to them?
If you'd like to outline your story directly in a writing app, we recommend using the pre-made templates in the free Reedsy Book Editor. Simply create your account with one click below and start creating the building blocks of your story — right away.
FREE OUTLINING APP
The Reedsy Book Editor
Use the Boards feature to plan, organize, or research anything.
Let's get into the actual writing and make a dent in your first draft . One of the most important parts of writing a book is starting the story ! It's no exaggeration to say your first few pages can make or break your book — if these pages aren't good enough, many readers will lose interest, possibly never returning to your book again.
First off, you need an opening hook that grabs the reader's attention and makes it impossible for them to look away. Take a look at the first lines of these hit bestsellers:
“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
“Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.” — The Da Vinci Code
“If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at 10 a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother's hand.” — Swing Time
All of these books fall into different genres, yet all their opening lines do the same thing: capture the reader's attention. You can imitate them by making a similarly strong, slightly furtive statement in your opener!
From there, your job is to maintain the reader's interest by heightening the stakes and inciting the plot . You should also make the reader care about the main characters by giving them distinct personalities and motivations . (Note that “main” is a key descriptor here; never introduce more than a couple of characters at a time!)
Of course, there are infinite ways to write your first chapter. You might have to experiment with lots of different opening lines, even opening scenes, to find the right balance — but it's worth the effort to set the stage perfectly.
If you struggle to write consistently, sign up for our How to Write a Novel course to finish your novel in just 3 months.
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Many writers believe that the key to writing an amazing book is style: impressive vocabulary, elaborate sentences, figurative language that would make Shakespeare swoon.
We're here to dissuade you of that notion. While style is great (as long as your prose doesn't start to become purple ), substance is far more important when writing a book — hence why you should focus primarily on your plot, characters, conflict(s), and themes.
Make sure your book is all killer, no filler
Of course, that's easier said than done, especially once you've already started writing . When you get to a patchily outlined section, it's tempting to keep writing and fill out the page with literary gymnastics. But that's exactly what this content is: filler. And if you have too much of it, readers will become frustrated and start to think you're pretentious.
This is another reason why outlining is so important. You need to KNOW your story in order to stay on track with it! But besides outlining, here are a few more tips for making substance a priority:
- Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action. This advice comes straight from Kurt Vonnegut, and it's 100% true: if a sentence doesn't accomplish one or both of those things, try removing it. If the passage still makes sense, leave it out.
- Be conscious of your pacing. Slow pacing is a symptom of excess description. If the events of your book seem to move like molasses, you're probably using too much style and not enough substance.
- Use a writing tool to reduce flowery language. Speaking of great American novelists, Hemingway is a fantastic tool to help you write like the man himself! Simply paste your writing into the app and Hemingway will suggest ways to make your prose more concise and effective.
Tell us about your book, and we'll give you a writing playlist
It'll only take a minute!
Keep readers in mind while writing
Want to write a book that people will really enjoy (and buy)? Well, this is pretty much the cardinal rule: you should always be thinking about your audience and trying to write “reader-first.”
For example, sometimes you'll have to write scenes that aren't very exciting, but that serve the overall story arc . Don't rush through these scenes just to get them over with! Even if they don't seem interesting to you, they contribute to the reader's experience by building tension and preserving the pacing — and the reader deserves to relish those things.
Create 'fake' people who will want to read your book
When considering your readership, you should also keep a proto-persona in mind for marketing purposes. These are constructed personalities that marketers use to better understand their target customers. The more your book can cater to this hypothetical reader, the easier it will be to sell!
Maybe you're writing a true-crime account for zealous true crime readers . Such readers will have pored over countless criminal cases before, so you need to include unique details to make your case stand out, and craft an extra-compelling narrative to engage them.
Let's move on to practical ways that you can improve your writing habits. Word count goals play a huge part in creating an effective writing process, especially if you're trying to finish your book in a certain amount of time .
You should create word count goals for both your individual sessions and per week — or per month, if that's how you prefer to think about your writing output. For relatively novice writers, we'd recommend the following word count goals:
- 500-750 words per day
- 1,500-2,500 words per week
- 6,000-10,000 words per month
These goals are based on a pattern of 3-4 sessions per week, which is reasonable for a beginner, but still enough to make commendable progress. Even if you only follow our minimum recommendations — 500 words per session at 3 sessions per week — you can still easily finish your book in less than a year!
Speeding up the writing process
If you're looking for how to write a book as fast as possible , your word count goals should look a little more like this:
- 1,500-2,000 words per session
- 9,000-15,000 words per week
- 35,000-50,000 words per month
The figures above adhere roughly to NaNoWriMo , the event in which participants write an average of 1,667 words/day to complete a 50,000-word book in one month . It's hard work, but it's definitely possible to write a book that quickly; hundreds of thousands of people do so every year!
But as any author who's done NaNo can attest, it's also a pretty grueling experience. Most authors find it exhausting to write such great quantities for so many days in a row — and they still have to edit copiously once they're done.
If this is your first book, make sure you take your time, set manageable word goals, and gradually build to bigger goals.
Use writing sessions to establish a schedule
Having a healthy writing routine is the only way you'll actually hit those word count goals — not to mention it fosters a better relationship with writing overall! To establish a healthy routine, ask yourself these baseline questions first:
- When do I have the most free time in the day/week?
- What time of the day do I tend to be most productive?
- How can I space out my writing sessions effectively?
- Will I realistically be able to balance my writing goals with other responsibilities?
The best way to set up your routine is to take advantage of your pre-existing schedule and natural patterns. So for example, if you already go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, perhaps the best time to write would be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Or if you find yourself most creative late at night ( many of us do! ), you can plan late-night sessions over the weekend/before your day off, so you can sleep in the next day.
Ultimately, you just want a well-balanced writing routine that facilitates productivity, yet keeps you from burning out. If you find that writing for several days in a row is too much for you, space out your sessions more or try to shake things up by moving to a new writing space. If you can't keep up with your goals, it's okay to reduce them a little.
Yes, writing a lot is important, but it's not more important than your mental health! Remember that writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint, and that a consistent, healthy approach is absolutely vital. Here are some tips for making the most of your writing routine.
Don't skip more than one session in a row
Life happens, and sometimes you won't be able to make a planned writing session. However, unless it's a serious emergency, you should try to get back in the saddle for your next session. Otherwise, you'll lose too much progress and feel discouraged, which typically leads to skipping even more writing sessions, and eventually giving up.
Track your progress
With our free writing app, the Reedsy Book Editor , you'll see the numbers update automatically depending on your activity: you'll see how many words you added and deleted on any given day. Depending on the overall goal you set for your manuscript, you'll also see your daily targets adjust depending on how much you've written so far.
Use a site blocker to stay focused
Distraction is the enemy of routine, and the biggest distraction in our modern world is the Internet. To that end, download a site-and-app blocker to use during your writing sessions so you won't be enticed by social media or adorable cat memes. We'd recommend Freedom , as you can schedule block sessions in advance and even keep track of your productivity within the app.
How to Build a Solid Writing Routine
In 10 days, learn to change your habits to support your writing.
Another major component of how to write a book is where you write, hence why it gets a separate section. If you want to complete an entire book, you absolutely must find a calm, focused space for your writing.
This may be in your house, a coffee shop, a library, a co-working space — wherever you can work productively and without interruptions. It should also be a place that you can access easily and go often. Working from home is the most convenient option in this sense, but it may be difficult if you have family around, or if you don't have a designated “room of one's own” (i.e. an actual office, or at least a desk).
What does a good writing space look like?
Try out different locations to see what works for you. Indeed, you may find that you like to rotate writing spaces because it keeps you energetic and your writing fresh! But wherever you go, do your best to make the space:
- Quiet (noise-canceling headphones can be very helpful)
- Clean (no clutter, especially if you do chores to procrastinate)
- Non-distracting (nothing too fun around to tempt you away from writing; turn off your phone so other people won't bother you)
- Your own (cultivate a nice atmosphere in your home office with posters and plants, or simply take the same seat at your local café every time — truly carve out a “dedicated writing space”)
We've already talked about a few different pieces of software to help you with writing a book. But if you haven't found the right app or program yet, never fear — there's plenty more where those came from!
Book writing software is a topic we've actually written an entire post about , but it's worth touching on a few of our favorite writing tools here:
Scrivener is the downloadable writing software of choice for many writers, and for good reason: it has an exceptional interface and tons of useful features. You can outline chapters with its drag-and-drop system, create labels for elements you want to track, and use various templates to plan AND format your book. If you want to feel like a true professional, you can't go wrong with Scrivener — and it's even free to try for 30 days.
Or if you're not much for outlines because your thoughts are all over the place, Milanote can help. The super-flexible interface allows you to “mind map” just as you would longhand, and rearrange different sections as you please. When writing, you can see all your notes at once, so you don't have to stress about forgetting things. It's a very refreshing, intuitive way approach that's worth a try for all disorganized authors.
Speaking of intuitive, what's more intuitive than simply writing on a piece of paper, no distractions — just like the old days? Meet FocusWriter, which allows you to do exactly that. The full-screen default interface is a sheet of paper on a wooden desk: no bells, no whistles, no distractions whatsoever. Seriously, this one will get you in the zone.
The Reedsy Book Editor 📖
We couldn't leave out one of the coolest word processing, editing, and formatting tools on the market! All jokes aside, the RBE lets you cleanly format your book as you go, so you can watch it take shape in real-time. You can also add sections for front matter and back matter and invite collaborators to edit your text. Plus you can toggle on goal reminders to make sure that you're on track with your writing schedule. Once you finish writing, you can export the files of your book. But don't take our word for it: you can try the RBE for free right here .
FREE WRITING APP
Set goals, track progress, and establish your writing routine in our free app.
Getting into the groove of writing a book can be difficult. When there are a million different things to distract and discourage you, how can you keep going with your writing routine and finish your book?
Based on ours and other writers' experience, here are a few motivational strategies for you to try:
- Make a list of reasons why you want to write a book. Having a tangible reminder of your true purpose is one of the best ways to motivate yourself, so think hard: Do you want to send an important message? Reach a certain group of people? Or do you simply yearn to tell this particular story? Write down all your reasons and keep them as an ace in the hole for when your motivation dwindles.
- Find someone else to write with you. Getting a writing buddy is another great way to stay motivated! For one thing, you get some camaraderie during this process; for another, it means you can't slack off too much. So ask your writer friends if they'd like to meet up regularly, or join an online writing community . With the latter, just make sure you exchange progress updates and proof that you're actually writing!
- Reward yourself at important milestones. Sometimes the best motivation is the prospect of treating yourself. If you respond well to this kind of motivation, set a goal, a deadline, and a reward for meeting it: “If I can write 10,000 more words by the end of the month, I'll go out for an amazing, fancy dinner with all my friends.” This kind of goal is also helpful because you can tell your friends about it, and that very act will hold you accountable.
For even more advice on how to staying motivated through the writing process, check out this Reedsy Live from author and writing coach Kevin Johns!
Don't give up
Remember how we said you'd inevitably get stuck? Well, that's what this step is all about: what to do when you hit a wall. Whether it's a tricky plot hole, an onslaught of insecurity, or a simple lack of desire to write, all writers experience setbacks from time to time.
There are countless ways to overcome writer's block , from freewriting to working on your characters to taking a shower (yes, that's a legitimate tip!). However, here are some of the most effective techniques we've found:
- Revisit your outline. This will jog your memory as to planned story elements you've forgotten — which may help you find the missing piece.
- Try writing exercises. It's possible you just need to get the words flowing, and then you can jump get right back into your book. Luckily for you, we have a whole host of great writing exercises right here!
- Share your experience with friends. This is another great role for your writing buddy to fill, but you can easily talk about writer's block with your non-writing friends, too. If you're struggling, it always helps to vent and bounce ideas off other people.
- Take a short break to do something else. Yes, sometimes you need to step away from the keyboard and clear your head. But don't take more than a day or so, or else you'll lose momentum and motivation.
Most of all, remember to take setbacks in stride and not let them get you down. As platitudinous as that might sound, it's true: the only thing that can stop you from writing a book is if you, well, stop writing . So keep calm and carry on — every day brings new opportunities and you'll get through this.
Your aim at this point is not to emerge with an instant masterpiece. The quality almost always emerges in the edit.
You can write all day, all night, to your heart's content... but if no one else likes what you've written, you might end up heart broken instead. That's why it's crucial to request feedback on your book, starting early and from as many sources as possible.
Begin by asking your friends and fellow writers to read just a few chapters at a time. However, apply their suggestions not only to those chapters, but wherever relevant. For example, if one of your friends says, “[Character A] is acting weird in this scene,” pay extra attention to that character to ensure you haven't misrepresented them anywhere else.
Once your book is finished, you're ready for some more intensive feedback. Consider getting a beta reader to review your entire book and provide their thoughts. You may want to hire an editor to give you professional feedback as well. (Find out about the different types of editing, and which type your book might need, in this post .)
Finally, it might sound obvious, but we'll say it anyway for all you stubborn writers out there: feedback is useless if you don't actually listen to it. Separate yourself from your ego and don't take anything personally, because no one wants to offend you — they're just trying to help.
You’ve persevered to the end at last: brainstormed, outlined, and written a draft that you've edited extensively (based on feedback, of course). Your book has taken its final form, and you couldn’t be prouder. So what comes next?
Well, if you’ve taken our advice about catering to your target readers, you may as well give publishing a shot! We have a full guide to publishing right here — and if you’re thinking about traditional publishing, read this article to decide which is right for you.
Get help from publishing professionals
Publishing is another rigorous process, of course. But if you’ve come this far to find out how to write a book, you can pretty much do anything! Invest in stellar cover design , study up on marketing , or start writing an irresistible query letter that will get you an offer.
Whichever route you take, one thing will remain true: you’ve written a book, and that’s an incredible achievement. Welcome to the 0.1% — and may the next book you write be even greater than the first. 📖
13/12/2019 – 15:33
thank you for helping me find a new way to write my book
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How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide
So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.
But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.
You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.
But what if you knew exactly:
- Where to start…
- What each step entails…
- How to overcome fear, procrastination, a nd writer’s block …
- And how to keep from feeling overwhelmed?
You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever.
The key is to follow a proven, straightforward, step-by-step plan .
My goal here is to offer you that book-writing plan.
I’ve used the techniques I outline below to write more than 200 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 50 years. Yes, I realize writing over four books per year on average is more than you may have thought humanly possible.
But trust me—with a reliable blueprint, you can get unstuck and finally write your book .
This is my personal approach on how to write a book. I’m confident you’ll find something here that can change the game for you. So, let’s jump in.
- How to Write a Book From Start to Finish
Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book
- Establish your writing space.
- Assemble your writing tools.
Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book
- Break the project into small pieces.
- Settle on your BIG idea.
- Construct your outline.
- Set a firm writing schedule.
- Establish a sacred deadline.
- Embrace procrastination (really!).
- Eliminate distractions.
- Conduct your research.
- Start calling yourself a writer.
Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself
- Think reader-first.
- Find your writing voice.
- Write a compelling opener.
- Fill your story with conflict and tension.
- Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
- Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
- Write a resounding ending.
Part 4: Editing Your Book
- Become a ferocious self-editor.
- Find a mentor.
- Part 5: Publishing Your Book
- Decide on your publishing avenue.
- Properly format your manuscript.
- Set up and grow your author platform.
- Pursue a Literary Agent
- Writing Your Query Letter
- Part One: Before You Begin Writing Your Book
You’ll never regret—in fact, you’ll thank yourself later—for investing the time necessary to prepare for such a monumental task.
You wouldn’t set out to cut down a huge grove of trees with just an axe. You’d need a chain saw, perhaps more than one. Something to keep them sharp. Enough fuel to keep them running.
You get the picture. Don’t shortcut this foundational part of the process.
Step 1. Establish your writing space.
To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n my couch facing a typewriter perched on a plank of wood suspended by two kitchen chairs.
What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do.
And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.
Naturally, the nicer and more comfortable and private you can make your writing lair (I call mine my cave), the better.
Real writers can write anywhere .
Some authors write their books in restaurants and coffee shops. My first full time job was at a newspaper where 40 of us clacked away on manual typewriters in one big room—no cubicles, no partitions, conversations hollered over the din, most of my colleagues smoking, teletype machines clattering.
Cut your writing teeth in an environment like that, and anywhere else seems glorious.
Step 2. Assemble your writing tools.
In the newspaper business, there was no time to hand write our stuff and then type it for the layout guys. So I have always written at a keyboard and still write my books that way.
Most authors do, though some hand write their first drafts and then keyboard them onto a computer or pay someone to do that.
No publisher I know would even consider a typewritten manuscript, let alone one submitted in handwriting.
The publishing industry runs on Microsoft Word, so you’ll need to submit Word document files. Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, both will produce the kinds of files you need.
And if you’re looking for a musclebound electronic organizing system, you can’t do better than Scrivener . It works well on both PCs and Macs, and it nicely interacts with Word files.
Just remember, Scrivener has a steep learning curve, so familiarize yourself with it before you start writing.
Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it.
Tons of other book-writing tools exist to help you. I’ve included some of the most well-known in my blog po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r your reference.
So, what else do you need?
If you are one who handwrites your first drafts, don’t scrimp on paper, pencils, or erasers.
Don’t shortchange yourself on a computer either. Even if someone else is keyboarding for you, you’ll need a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents , edi tors, publishers.
Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed.
Try to imagine everything you’re going to need in addition to your desk or table, so you can equip yourself in advance and don’t have to keep interrupting your work to find things like:
- Paper clips
- Pencil holders
- Pencil sharpeners
- Printing paper
- Tape dispensers
- Cork or bulletin boards
- Reference works
- Space heaters
- Beverage mugs
- You name it
- Last, but most crucial, get the best, most ergonomic chair you can afford.
If I were to start my career again with that typewriter on a plank, I would not sit on that couch. I’d grab another straight-backed kitchen chair or something similar and be proactive about my posture and maintaining a healthy spine.
There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative and immerse yourself in writing while you’re in agony . The chair I work in today cost more than my first car!
If you’ve never used some of the items I listed above and can’t imagine needing them, fine. But make a list of everything you know you’ll need so when the actual writing begins, you’re already equipped.
As you grow as a writer and actually start making money at it, you can keep upgrading your writing space.
Where I work now is light years from where I started. But the point is, I didn’t wait to start writing until I could have a great spot in which to do it.
- Part Two: How to Start Writing a Book
Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.
Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill be made up of many small parts.
An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time .
Try to get your mind off your book as a 400-or-so-page monstrosity.
It can’t be written all at once any more than that proverbial elephant could be eaten in a single sitting.
See your book for what it is: a manuscript made up of sentences, paragraphs, pages. Those pages will begin to add up, and though after a week you may have barely accumulated double digits, a few months down the road you’ll be into your second hundred pages.
So keep it simple.
Start by distilling you r big book idea from a page or so to a single sentence—your premise. The more specific that one-sentence premise, the more it will keep you focused while you’re writing.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you can turn your big idea into one sentence, which can then b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.
Step 2. Settle on your BIG idea.
To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer.
You need to write something about which you’re passionate , something that gets you up in the morning, draws you to the keyboard, and keeps you there. It should excite not only you, but also anyone you tell about it.
I can’t overstate the importance of this.
If you’ve tried and failed to finish your book before—maybe more than once—it could be that the basic premise was flawed. Maybe it was worth a blog post or an article but couldn’t carry an entire book.
Think The Hunger Games , Harry Potter , or How to Win Friends and Influence People . The market is crowded, the competition fierce. There’s no more room for run-of-the-mill ideas. Your premise alone should make readers salivate.
Go for the big concept book.
How do you know you’ve got a winner? Does it have legs? In other words, does it stay in your mind, growing and developing every time you think of it?
Run it past loved ones and others you trust.
Does it raise eyebrows? Elicit Wows? Or does it result in awkward silences?
The right concept simply works, and you’ll know it when you land on it. Most importantly, your idea must capture you in such a way that you’re compelled to write it . Otherwise you will lose interest halfway through and never finish.
Step 3. Construct your outline.
Writing your book without a clear vision of where you’re going usually ends in disaster.
Even if you ’re writing a fiction book an d consider yourself a Pantser* as opposed to an Outliner, you need at least a basic structure .
[*Those of us who write by the seat of our pants and, as Stephen King advises, pu t interesting characters i n difficult situations and write to find out what happens]
You don’t have to call it an outline if that offends your sensibilities. But fashion some sort of a directional document that provides structure for your book and also serves as a safety net.
If you get out on that Pantser highwire and lose your balance, you’ll thank me for advising you to have this in place.
Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, there’s no substitute for an outline .
Potential agents or publishers require this in your proposal . T hey want to know where you’re going, and they want to know that you know. What do you want your reader to learn from your book, and how will you ensure they learn it?
Fiction or nonfiction, if you commonly lose interest in your book somewhere in what I call the Marathon of the Middle, you likely didn’t start with enough exciting ideas .
That’s why and outline (or a basic framework) is essential. Don’t even start writing until you’re confident your structure will hold up through the end.
You may recognize this novel structure illustration.
Did you know it holds up—with only slight adaptations—for nonfiction books too? It’s self-explanatory for novelists; they list their plot twists and developments and arrange them in an order that best serves to increase tension .
What separates great nonfiction from mediocre? The same structure!
Arrange your points and evidence in the same way so you’re setting your reader up for a huge payoff, and then make sure you deliver.
If your nonfiction book is a memoir , an autobiography , or a biography, structure it like a novel and you can’t go wrong.
But even if it’s a straightforward how-to book, stay as close to this structure as possible, and you’ll see your manuscript come alive.
Make promises early, triggering your reader to anticipate fresh ideas, secrets, inside information, something major that will make him thrilled with the finished product.
While a nonfiction book may not have as much action or dialogue or character development as a novel, you can inject tension by showing where people have failed before and how your reader can succeed.
You can even make the how-to project look impossible until you pay off that setup with your unique solution.
Keep your outline to a single page for now. But make sure every major point is represented, so you’ll always know where you’re going.
And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the basics of classic outlining or have never felt comfortable with the concept.
Your outline must serve you. If that means Roman numerals and capital and lowercase letters and then Arabic numerals, you can certainly fashion it that way. But if you just want a list of sentences that synopsize your idea, that’s fine too.
Simply start with your working title, then your premise, then—for fiction, list all the major scenes that fit into the rough structure above.
For nonfiction, try to come up with chapter titles and a sentence or two of what each chapter will cover.
Once you have your one-page outline, remember it is a fluid document meant to serve you and your book. Expand it, change it, play with it as you see fit—even during the writing process .
Step 4. Set a firm writing schedule.
Ideally, you want to schedule at least six hours per week to write your book.
That may consist of three sessions of two hours each, two sessions of three hours, or six one-hour sessions—whatever works for you.
I recommend a regular pattern (same times, same days) that can most easily become a habit. But if that’s impossible, just make sure you carve out at least six hours so you can see real progress.
Having trouble finding the time to write a book? News flash—you won’t find the time. You have to make it.
I used the phrase carve out above for a reason. That’s what it takes.
Something in your calendar will likely have to be sacrificed in the interest of writing time .
Make sure it’s not your family—they should always be your top priority. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of your writing career.
But beyond that, the truth is that we all find time for what we really want to do.
Many writers insist they have no time to write, but they always seem to catch the latest Netflix original series, or go to the next big Hollywood feature. They enjoy concerts, parties, ball games, whatever.
How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?
- A favorite TV show?
- An hour of sleep per night? (Be careful with this one; rest is crucial to a writer.)
Successful writers make time to write.
When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.
Step 5. Establish a sacred deadline.
Without deadlines, I rarely get anything done. I need that motivation.
Admittedly, my deadlines are now established in my contracts from publishers.
If you’re writing your first book, you probably don’t have a contract yet. To ensure you finish your book, set your own deadline—then consider it sacred .
Tell your spouse or loved one or trusted friend. Ask that they hold you accountable.
Now determine—and enter in your calendar—the number of pages you need to produce per writing session to meet your deadline. If it proves unrealistic, change the deadline now.
If you have no idea how many pages or words you typically produce per session, you may have to experiment before you finalize those figures.
Say you want to finish a 400-page manuscript by this time next year.
Divide 400 by 50 weeks (accounting for two off-weeks), and you get eight pages per week.
Divide that by your typical number of writing sessions per week and you’ll know how many pages you should finish per session.
Now is the time to adjust these numbers, while setting your deadline and determining your pages per session.
Maybe you’d rather schedule four off weeks over the next year. Or you know your book will be unusually long.
Change the numbers to make it realistic and doable, and then lock it in. Remember, your deadline is sacred.
Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).
You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.
You wouldn’t guess it from my 200+ published books, but I’m the king of procrastinators .
Don’t be. So many authors are procrastinators that I’ve come to wonder if it’s a prerequisite.
The secret is to accept it and, in fact, schedule it.
I quit fretting and losing sleep over procrastinating when I realized it was inevitable and predictable, and also that it was productive.
Sound like rationalization?
Maybe it was at first. But I learned that while I’m putting off the writing, my subconscious is working on my book. It’s a part of the process. When you do start writing again, you’ll enjoy the surprises your subconscious reveals to you.
So, knowing procrastination is coming, book it on your calendar .
Take it into account when you’re determining your page quotas. If you have to go back in and increase the number of pages you need to produce per session, do that (I still do it all the time).
But—and here’s the key—you must never let things get to where that number of pages per day exceeds your capacity.
It’s one thing to ratchet up your output from two pages per session to three. But if you let it get out of hand, you’ve violated the sacredness of your deadline.
How can I procrastinate and still meet more than 190 deadlines?
Because I keep the deadlines sacred.
Step 7. Eliminate distractions to stay focused.
Are you as easily distracted as I am?
Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the pictures of 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?
Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war.
That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.
The answer to these insidious timewasters?
Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.
- Freedom app
Step 8. Conduct your research.
Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .
Fiction means more than just making up a story .
Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.
And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert—as I’m doing here—getting all the facts right will polish your finished product.
In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.
The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research .
Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it.
Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.
My favorite research resources:
- World Almanacs : These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names .
- The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus : The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want to onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
- WorldAtlas.com : Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.
Step 9. Start calling yourself a writer.
Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. Who do you think you are, trying to write a book?”
That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past .
But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.
A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house.
Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic —who, of course, is really you.
Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.
Are you a writer? Say so.
- Part Three: The Book-Writing Itself
Step 1. Think reader-first.
This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.
Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.
Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.
Reader-first, last, and always .
If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.
When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.
Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.
Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.
Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.
Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.
So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?
When in doubt, look in the mirror .
The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.
Step 2. Find your writing voice.
Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.
You can find yours by answering these quick questions :
- What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
- Who’s the most important person you told about it?
- What did you sound like when you did?
- That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.
That’s all there is to it.
If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.
Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .
Step 3. Write a compelling opener.
If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.
And neither is your angst misplaced.
This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.
Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.
It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.
Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:
Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man
2. Dramatic Statement
Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise
Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand
Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss
Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .
Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.
Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.
In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.
Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.
Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?
Thrust people into conflict with each other .
That’ll keep your reader’s attention.
Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.
Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.
Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end .
And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.
Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.
That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.
He or she needs to be told to shut up .
This is not easy.
Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.
Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.
It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .
I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.
A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.
That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”
Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.
Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.
Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.
The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.
Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.
So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.
THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.
I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .
I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.
Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.
Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.
That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.
They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.
This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.
The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.
If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.
For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.
But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.
Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.
It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.
Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.
Step 7. Write a resounding ending.
This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.
But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .
How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?
- Don’t rush it . Give readers the payoff they’ve been promised. They’ve invested in you and your book the whole way. Take the time to make it satisfying.
- Never settle for close enough just because you’re eager to be finished. Wait till you’re thrilled with every word, and keep revising until you are.
- If it’s unpredictable, it had better be fair and logical so your reader doesn’t feel cheated. You want him to be delighted with the surprise, not tricked.
- If you have multiple ideas for how your book should end, go for the heart rather than the head, even in nonfiction. Readers most remember what moves them.
- Part Four: Rewriting Your Book
Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.
Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.
How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?
Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.
Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?
You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:
- Omit needless words
- Choose the simple word over one that requires a dictionary
- Avoid subtle redundancies , like “He thought in his mind…” (Where else would someone think?)
- Avoid hedging verbs like almost frowned, sort of jumped, etc.
- Generally remove the word that —use it only when absolutely necessary for clarity
- Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain , as in, “She walked through the open door.” (Did we need to be told it was open?)
- Avoid too much stage direction (what every character is doing with every limb and digit)
- Avoid excessive adjectives
- Show, don’t tell
- And many more
For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)
When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author.
Step 2. Find a mentor.
Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.
Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.
Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.
Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .
There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .
Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.
In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:
1. Traditional publishing
Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.
Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing.
Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances.
Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.
Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.
Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.
Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .
Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.
Best practices when formatting your book:
- Use 12-point type
- Use a serif font; the most common is Times Roman
- Double space your manuscript
- No extra space between paragraphs
- Only one space between sentences
- Indent each paragraph half an inch (setting a tab, not using several spaces)
- Text should be flush left and ragged right, not justified
- If you choose to add a line between paragraphs to indicate a change of location or passage of time, center a typographical dingbat (like ***) on the line
- Black text on a white background only
- One-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides (the default in Word)
- Create a header with the title followed by your last name and the page number. The header should appear on each page other than the title page.
If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .
Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.
All serious authors need a website. Period.
Because here’s the reality of publishing today…
You need an audience to succeed.
If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.
If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.
And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.
Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.
Step 4. Pursue a Literary Agent.
There remain a few traditional publishers (those who pay you and take the entire financial risk of publishing your book rather than the other way around) who accept unsolicited submissions, but I do NOT recommend going that route.
Your submission will likely wind up in what is known in the business as the slush pile. That means some junior staff member will be assigned to get to it when convenient and determine whether to reject it out of hand (which includes the vast majority of the submissions they see) or suggest the publisher’s editorial board consider it.
While I am clearly on record urging you to exhaust all your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing (in other words, paying to be printed), as I say, I do not recommend submitting unsolicited material even to those publishers who say they accept such efforts.
Even I don’t try to navigate the publishing world by myself, despite having been an author, an editor, a publisher, and a writing coach over the last 50 years.
That’s why I have an agent and you need one too.
Many beginning writers naturally wonder why they should share any of their potential income with an agent (traditionally 15%). First, they don’t see any of that income unless you’re getting your 85% at the same time. And second, everyone I know in the business is happy to have someone in their corner, making an agent a real bargain.
I don’t want to have to personally represent myself and my work. I want to stay in my creative lane and let a professional negotiate every clause of the contract and win me the best advance and rights deal possible.
Once under contract, I work directly with the publishing house’s editor and proofreader, but I leave the financial business to my agent.
Ultimately, an agent’s job is to protect your rights and make you money. They profit only when you do.
That said, landing an agent can be as difficult and painstaking as landing a publisher. They know the market, they know the editors, they know what publishers want, and they can advise you how to put your best foot forward.
But how do you know who to trust? Credible, trustworthy agents welcome scrutiny. If you read a book in your genre that you like, check the Acknowledgments page for the agent’s name. If the author thinks enough of that person to mention them glowingly, that’s a great endorsement.
If you’re writing in the inspirational market, peruse agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide . If you’re writing for the general market, try The Writer’s Market . If you know any published authors, ask about their agents.
The guides that list agents also include what they’re looking for, what they specialize in, and sometimes even what they’re not interested in. Study these to determine potential agents who ply their trade in your genre. Visit their websites for their submission guidelines, and follow these to a T.
They may ask for a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, or even sample chapters. Be sure not to send more or less than they suggest.
The best, and most logical place to start is by sending them a query letter. Query simply means question, and in essence the question your letter asks is whether you may send them more.
Step 5: Writing Your Query Letter.
It’s time to move from author to salesperson.
Your query letter will determine whether a literary agent asks to see more, sends you a cordial form letter to let you down easy, or simply doesn’t respond.
Sadly, many agents stipulate on their websites that if you hear nothing after a certain number of weeks, you should take that as an indication that they’re not interested. Frankly, to me, this is frustrating to the writer and lazy on the part of the agent. Surely, in this technological age, it should be easy to hit one button and send a note to someone who might otherwise wonder if the query reached the agent at all.
But that’s the reality we deal with.
So, the job of your one-page single-spaced email letter is to win a response—best case scenario: an invitation to send more: a proposal or even the manuscript.
Basically, you’re selling yourself and your work. Write a poor query letter and an agent will assume your book is also poorly written.
Without being gimmicky or cute, your letter must intrigue an agent.
Your query letter should:
- Be addressed to a specific person (not to the staff of the agency or “To Whom It May Concern”)*
- Present your book idea simply
- Evidence your style
- Show you know who your readers are
- Clarify your qualifications
- Exhibit flexibility and professionalism
*If you see a list of agents in a firm, choose one from the middle or bottom of the list. It could be that they get less personal mail than the person whose name is on the door. Who knows? That you single them out may make them see your query in a more favorable light.
For some great advice on writing a query letter, check this out: https://janefriedman.com/query-letters/
- You Have What It Takes to Write a Book
Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
You can do this .
Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)
I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.
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How to Write a Book Essay
Book essay writing is an omnipresent assignment imposed by many professors, especially if you are dealing with literature constantly. An essay on a book is usually a way for your teacher to get proof that you gained something from analyzing this book. They want to make sure that you read the book, thus having some personal thoughts that you’d like to express. Also, writing an essay is quite helpful for developing your skills at articulating thoughts. If you want to know how to write a book essay, then we are here to help you understand it in detail.
What to Consider Writing an Essay on a Book
What is different from your usual essay, is that you need to express your thoughts after reading a certain work and then choose a direction to go from. It is a combination of character analysis combined with your personal feelings on the work that ultimately culminates in the creation of an expressive critical essay on a book. But how to write an essay about a book? Mind you, a professional essay on a book consists of certain criteria, that like chemical compounds create a proper reaction from a reader’s perspective:
- This is the flair that you base your essay upon. This is when you’re creativeness comes to play, you want your essay to be unique
- The way you structuralize sentences and pick certain words for your essay.
- The basic structure of an essay, which usually consists of an introduction, main body, and conclusion.
- Your essay bears an informative approach, being somewhat emotive to express personal thoughts on a particular book.
📚 How to Prepare for Book Essay Writing
Before writing an essay about a book, you need to think clearly about which plan to use, so that the flow of thoughts lines up into coherent, logical sentences.
How to start off an essay about a book? Immediately after receiving the topic of the essay, ideas and images will begin to arise in your head (of course, if you have read the work). On a rough sheet of paper, sketch the phrases or words that first come to mind. Then they can be developed into a whole essay.
So, think carefully about what you want to say about the topic. Then write down your thoughts on paper in a column. And then decide in what order you want to display these thoughts on paper. This is necessary for a clear and distinct structure of the work.
Read the Book Exhaustively
So how to start an essay about a book? Naturally, the main path to successfully writing an essay on a book is to more or less know the contents of the story. We’re not talking about remembering every single character trait or knowing the gist of each internal monologue. Just focus on what you find alluring about the story, trying to create the idea from a scene that you enjoy in particular. Then you can connect this scene to the character development, thus proving a point that even the smallest scene can influence the overall conclusion of the story. Plus, not knowing the story will make you unable to bring in examples, thus making you obliged to order an essay online .
Make Up One’s Mind About the Topic
How to write a book analysis essay perfectly? Another important thing about approaching a book essay is setting up an idea you’d like to share with the readers. Do you want to lead to a positive conclusion, something philosophical, or go in the direction that no one previously dared to? The idea here is that you need to create a point to focus on and try not to digress from it as much. Do you want to show how the hero struggles with basic human needs? If so, then don’t describe scenes where they do the opposite.
Prepare an Outline
How to write an analysis essay on a book? You have to think of a good outline. An outline is a sort of plan that you don’t want to diverge from. Planning is one of the fortes of humanity and without it, your essay might sound clunky and chaotic. Jumping randomly from point to point won’t get you high scores. Imagine creating an overarching ladder where your point gets stronger and stronger due to the logical nature of your essay. Think about how you want to start your essay, the quotes to strengthen your point, and the natural conclusion you’d like to bring your readers to. This is the gist of an outline.
Don’t Forget About Quotes
Another important aspect of how to write a book analysis is quoting a character to properly refer to a particular scene. An essay usually implies that you have access to all the resources you need, so it wouldn’t pose difficulty to look up a direct quote of a character that correlates with your thoughts. This is extremely important for professors as they want to be persuaded that you know what you are talking about. This is especially true if they are a fan of the story you are writing an essay on. People usually look for like-mindedness, being extremely happy about seeing someone agreeing with them.
📑 How to Structure Your Book Analysis Essay
How to introduce a book in an essay? Like any essay, a creative writing paper in literature consists of several elements:
- Definition of the problem, its relevance.
- The formulation of one’s position.
- Arguments that support it.
The structure of the final essay on literature should be clear. Do not make too many paragraphs, but do not break the text into many small passages.
How to Start a Book Analysis Essay?
In the introductory part, the information should be written as if it were read by someone completely unfamiliar with the problem. Here you need to reveal the topic, the problem, and the relevance of the essay. The questions you can put in front of you will help with this:
- What work are you writing your essay/essay on?
- What do you know about the author of the work?
- What is the genre of the work (comedy, drama, novel, etc.)? What aspects would you like to explore in your work?
Writing a Thesis Statement
How to start a paragraph about a book? You are in need of a thesis statement. A thesis statement is the main element for creating a perfect introduction and is your cornerstone to transition to the main body. It is a sentence where you state the main point of your essay, wanting to announce what it is that you are going to analyze. Thus the path to succeeding with the thesis statement is to make it correlate with your conclusion. In fact, you might even start writing a conclusion first, and then write a thesis statement based on it.
Create a Body Paragraph
Here it is necessary to highlight the thoughts that the work evoked, the emotions toward the chosen character or its circumstances.
Each idea will have to be supported by examples from the original text of the work. If you say that the problem of war worries the character, then you need to give examples in which this excitement is conveyed to the reader.
The main part is, for the most part, your reasoning about what you care about in the whole story. Show the evolution of your thought here, from what point in the work it originated, how it evolved, and what conclusion it eventually led to.
Book Essay Conclusion
And this is the finale you lead your readers to. So how to write a conclusion for an argumentative essay ? You create a final point based on everything you’ve been describing in the main body, reinstating the main point in the introduction. Mind you, that conclusion shouldn’t have any new information that wasn’t previously described. You just want to make your thoughts ironclad and protect those from basic criticism.
Need Help Writing an Essay on Books?
How to write an essay on a book when you are not invested in it? If you have an issue with creating an essay on books, then we are more than ready to help you out here. Not everyone is ready to read a book for the sake of making a teacher happy. Sometimes literature can be unbearable with a student who has no interest in or time to engage with it. Nevertheless, your assignment needs to be done and if a perfect score is something you are aiming for, then our paper writing services are the way to go.
Our team is made of literature experts that can learn the book in-depth, knowing exactly what your teacher might be looking for. We stick to the structure described in this article, coming up with a quality outline, and then writing a proper essay that is full of argumentation and persuasiveness.
What is the purpose of a book analysis essay?
A book analysis essay is usually created to write your thoughts on a particular book, trying to prove a personal statement concerning it. Perhaps you’d like to dive into the inner thoughts of a character, analyzing what elements led them to a particular path. You can go the other direction and analyze the writer’s style, complimenting them on creating this rich world. Furthermore, a book analysis essay can be full of critique for nobody is obliged to love everything.
How to talk about a book in an essay?
The main idea of writing an essay about a book is stating the point that is yours and yours only. The path to success is all about loving what you write, instead of feeling obliged to do something. If you just want to create something for the sake of just making an assignment, then your essay can feel bland. If you don’t like the work you need to write an essay on, then go with this direction and bring your fair share of critique.
How to start an essay on a book?
Asking yourself how to start an essay on a book? An essay usually starts with an introduction. You start it with a philosophical sentence that usually invites the reader to reminisce about the contents of the book. This is where you usually state the purpose of your essay, outlining the main point that you are further going to prove in the main body.
How many paragraphs are in a book essay?
The format for a book essay can differ from professor to professor but usually, it has five paragraphs or so. You don’t need to create a huge memoir on a particular book. Rather, you pick some narrow aspect hidden within it and try to condense your thoughts into one page. The most important aspect here is to not make it watery, repeating your point with no progress.
How to write an analysis paper on a book with a good outline?
The outline is the blueprint for creating your essay. This is where you want to create your main point, and then plan how you are going to prove it with particular examples from a book. An outline exists to properly structuralize your essay, without feeling random.
Argumentative Essay Introduction
In essay writing, the toughest part is always starting it. Most students agree: when you get the introduction paragraph right, you become much more confident about writing the rest of the paper. And, when it comes to more specific academic… Read More
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Unlike many other forms of essays, an argumentative essay is one in which writers try to convince their readers of something with the help of multiple examples, in-deep subject analyses, and case studies. To write an effective work within this… Read More
How to Write an Essay on a Book
Book essay writing is an omnipresent assignment imposed by many professors, especially if you are dealing with literature constantly. An essay on a book is usually a way for your teacher to get proof that you gained something from analyzing… Read More
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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.
There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.
The essay writing process consists of three main stages:
- Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
- Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.
Table of contents
Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.
The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .
For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
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Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:
- Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
- Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
- Do your research: Read primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
- Come up with a thesis: The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
- Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.
The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.
1. Hook your reader
The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.
Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
2. Provide background on your topic
Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.
3. Present the thesis statement
Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:
As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.
4. Map the structure
In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Write your essay introduction
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Length of the body text
The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.
To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.
That idea is introduced in a topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.
After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.
Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.
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The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :
- Returns to your thesis
- Ties together your main points
- Shows why your argument matters
A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.
What not to include in a conclusion
To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:
- Including new arguments or evidence
- Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
- Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
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My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.
I use paragraphs to structure the essay.
I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.
Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.
I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.
My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.
I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.
I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .
My essay has an interesting and informative title.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).
Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.
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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.
In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.
Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
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