If you’ve never written a book before, you may be wondering where to start, how to proceed, and what to do next. Have no fear. Here are the seven steps to writing a book:
1. Focus Your Book Idea
Focusing your book idea means knowing exactly what your book is about and being able to communicate it in one sentence. When you know what your book is about, writing it is easier. And obviously I’m a huge proponent of this because if someone hires me to ghostwrite a book, I can’t do it until we’re both clear on the book idea. So this is always the best place to start.
2. Make the Commitment
If you want to write a book, then you have to write. You have to make the project a priority, which means you’ll do whatever it takes to get it done. This is difficult for idea people and entrepreneurial types, who often have a million things going on at once and want to do everything. But to get your book done, be willing to set other, lesser priority projects aside temporarily. Sometimes you have to put writing your book on the calendar.
3. Develop a Working Outline
I know outlines aren’t for everyone. And it can be difficult when you’re just getting started to figure out exactly what will go where when you write your book. But think of your outline like your plan. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, and you wouldn’t climb a mountain without a plan. If you did, you’d likely end up frustrated and ready to give up. A book is a big project, so take time to make a plan that maps out the key parts of your book structure.
4. Write the First Draft
Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. If you want to write a book, you have to write. The best way to write a first draft is to get the words down as quickly as possible. I find drafting takes too long when I go back and try to revise before completing the first draft. Plus, knowing everything you need to structure and write a book is more difficult when you haven’t drafted it yet from start to finish.
5. Give it a Rest
Because drafting and revising are different, making a conscious shift in your thinking will make the revising and self-editing processes easier and more effective. One of the best ways to accomplish this is taking time away from the project. When I finish a manuscript, I might wait a week or two—even a month or more—before printing it out and reading it again. Separating myself from the manuscript made shifting from writer to editor easier and more natural.
6. Edit and Revise
Editing and revising your book manuscript, at least for me, involves editing on paper and correcting on the computer. When I self-edit, I start with big things, like book structure and content. And then, through a couple (or several) rounds of revisions, work on the chapters, paragraphs, sentences, and words. The editing and revision process may also involve working with an editor to develop the manuscript.
After editing and revising the manuscript, the last step to writing a book I take is I print it one last time and proofreading it on paper. I enter all the changes in the Word document, checking again as I go, and then run spell check. This is a great time to also get a proofreader or detail-oriented friend to proofread it too.
Taking All Seven Steps to Writing a Book
The best thing about breaking any process into steps is that almost anyone can follow them. It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing life right now. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you can follow these steps to writing a book.
Do you have book-writing questions? Please ask in the comments, and I promise to answer.