Writing a book, getting it published, and becoming a bestselling author sounds like a dream. As readers, we know the power authors have; they can create magic and spread love through characters and new worlds. We know how much we look up to authors, how much we are in awe of them, and how much they inspire us. And what better way to give to the world, than to encourage a stranger?
But a lot of people get held back from writing a book. Some because they find it not promising, others because they feel it is tough to learn how to write a book. While writing can be a complicated process, it is easy to conquer with practice, much like any other skill.
If you want to write and publish a book and get it out in the world to let everyone hear your voice, you can. And that is the first rule to remember before you write a book- you can. No matter how overwhelming, uncomfortable, and stressful it gets. This post can surely throw some light on how you can start.
How To Write A Book?
So, let us blurt you decide to write a book. What happens next?
When You Don’t Have A Plot Idea
If you lack any idea about how to write a book, the first thing you need to do is gather your thoughts. To begin with, select a genre. For that, it’s best to focus on one that you are well-read on and have an inclination towards; it could be self-help, historical drama, or romance.
If you have some specialized knowledge in a field, you can write about that. Let your mind ooze in thoughts and ideas for a while, before you settle on one big idea.
Once you have the genre figured out, read up! Read more and more books of that genre, even if you already have. The way to write better is always to read more. But this time you need to be doing active-reading, where you aren’t just reading as a reader, but also as a writer.
Pen down ideas and thoughts. Keep doing this until you find what it is you want to write about. When you are setting the very foundation, your book will be built on; it’s okay to be slow, hesitant, and picky. Remember- a creative process cannot be rushed.
When You Have A Plot Idea
You might get a book idea first, and decide that you want to write one later. That’s natural, and in most cases, exactly how it happens. Your next thought would be to learn how to write a book.
All authors have their methods. Some prefer to start a book with an outline, J.K. Rowling, for instance. Others delve into it and let their words lead the way, like Stephen King.
No way is right or wrong. It’s for you to decide what will help you write better, even if it is harder.
If you already made a plot in your mind and find it more productive to write without forming an outline first, dive head-first into it. Keep writing, even if you’re unsure. Once you start, you’ll have a rough idea of where you want to head.
With this strategy, it’s best to follow your writing gut and go where it tells you. The first draft may not be perfect. You can tweak the story or plot-points when you go through it again.
Other writers prefer outlining before they start writing a book. If you’re unsure what method works for you, it’s better to make a rough outline before you start. But forming a proper shape, detailed or not, can be challenging.
If you don’t get it right, you may lose the motivation to start writing. And if you hate planning and love writing, this may seem like a bad idea to you. So here’s how you can create an outline that will be fun and helpful.
How To Create An Outline
Creating an outline is the first step in the starter pack of how to write a book. It serves as a blueprint, a way out when you get lost in the maze of your own words. It can be a detailed flowchart, an illustration, or a few words on a piece of paper. Here is an idea about how you can create an outline, feel free to improvise:
Take a chart paper, even if you think you don’t have much to say. The more space, the better. Take out a bunch of pens, colors, brushes, whatever rows your boat. Divide the space into three parts, plot, character, and setting each.
Roughly, write or draw what your story is about in twenty or thirty words. If it is about a young war veteran trying to find a job in a post-war world, write that down so that when you feel lost in the book or are unsure about where to head, you can remember what the book’s skeleton is. Now, leave the rest of this space empty. You’ll revisit it later.
Next, approach the characters. You can never honestly know your characters before you complete a book, and an outline is where you can begin to.
To start, describe their personality, style, and conflicts to make them as human and relatable as possible. Define their goals, long-term and short-term. Think about their strength, powers, weakness, and soft spots.
Give them a favorite food, a quirky habit, a hobby. If it helps, think about your family members, friends, the people you are close with. What makes those people themselves? These traits will give your character more depth.
After you have given your main characters personality traits, place them in the story, and think about their conflicts. What external-conflicts are they facing, what internal-conflicts are they battling?
For instance, a war veteran’s external-conflict after the war would be the struggle of finding a job and paying his bills and the feeling of helplessness that comes out of it. His internal-conflict may be that he doesn’t feel respected anymore with job rejections, after being hailed as a hero in war. If the war-veteran is your main character, you need to give him the physique of someone who has served in the war, maybe an injury.
After defining your characters as much as you can, you can move on to the setting.
Where is your story set? Analyze the geography of that place. Are there lakes or forests, where your characters can hang out? Does it rain often? Is it summer or winter? You may be writing about a fictional world as well.
In that case, make your fictional world as real as possible. For instance, in the Percy Jackson series, the book starts with a map of Camp Half-Blood. While including a map is not necessary, it goes to show how Riordan thought out the camp in detail, making it easier for you to envision it.
You can illustrate a rough map for your own convenience. If not, you can still jot down details of the place, down to how it sounds, smells, and feels like.
With a detailed description of the critical elements of your story, you can move back to the actual plot. This is where you free-flow. Divide it into three sectors again- the beginning, middle, and end. You can write down your book chapter by chapter, scene by scene (that would require another chart paper), or part by part.
Each sector can have a rough outline, even if it is a vague few words. With an ending in mind, you will know which direction to take when you write. And you can leave out some writing space to be filled out later with more details.
There, you now have an outline of your book! Whether it is detailed, a few words, or a bunch of doodles, it will help you understand the book better. The outline is the base of the book, and no matter how downhill you feel the book is going, it will always have that base to land on.
Also remember, the outline is not a constraint. It can be tweaked, changed, or thrown out altogether. The book is yours to write; the shape is just a guide. If you feel like it hampers or slows down your creative process, toss it out!
How To Start Writing A Book
The first struggle after learning how to write a book is actually to start the writing process. It is hard, even intimidating, to get those creative writing juices flowing. Like Neil Gaiman said, “There is no first draft worse than a blank page.” Also if you’re unsure of how to start, or feel like you are not doing a good job, don’t forget that the first time you write a book will be far from perfect.
A first draft is just the first version of your book. The tool for improvement is editing, and you can only start editing when you have a first draft in hand. You don’t have to write a great book right off the bat, you just have to write.
To start, figure out where you feel most creative and yourself. Is it inside your room, next to your cat? Is it in the dining room, where your family is chattering or moving around you? Is it in a park where you are surrounded by constant business?
Is it the coffee-shop where that hot cup of coffee with a cupcake helps you think better? Head to that place for your writing session with your writing instruments, and get to work.
Here are some writing tips for when you’re writing your book:
- The show, don’t tell– Many authors, especially for fiction books, emphasize this when talking about how to write a book. The readers don’t want to feel like they are reading. They seek to escape from the real world through your words, and so you have to give them that by using less talk and more show.
For instance, to display that a man is angry, don’t use- “The man was frustrated.” That doesn’t give the reader the degree or intensity of the emotion. Instead, say, “The man punched the wall, leaving an imprint of his bloody knuckles.” This makes readers feel closer to the character.
- Stick To A Tense and POV– Switching tenses and points of view are common mistakes among first-time writers. If you start writing with a past tense, don’t switch it up to a present-tense later. It reads poorly and makes your book appear amateur. Similarly, if you start writing with a first-person point of view, don’t change it to a third-person point of view later.
- Don’t Over-complicate It– A common misconception about books is that it should be rich with adverbs, adjectives, and fancy words. But sentences that are easy to read sit well with readers. If you try to sprinkle a sentence with too many adverbs and adjectives, it takes away its power.
For instance, “He found it easier to sell cars that were very beautiful and very fast,” instead of, “He found it easier to sell attractive cars that were speedy.”
- Add Tension– The “underdog” character always gets the most attention and love. Readers get attached to characters who have a conflict to battle. Put your protagonists in situations that are uncomfortable, troubling, and even life-threatening. That requires you to be ruthless with the characters.
In the case of non-fiction, while tension can’t be created, you can use relatability to captivate a reader. Readers connect when they relate when they see themselves reflected in the books they read. This is the prime reason for the success of self-help books.
- Believe In Editing– A good book is made by less of writing and more of editing. This is crucial to remember when learning how to write a book. The first draft is a piece of clay you can shape into any form you want.
Don’t stress on the words and sentences being perfect. In the beginning, your job is only to get the terms out of your head. Rearranging them into an ideal book happens when you edit. Stephen King said it well, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”
Congratulations, you have managed to learn how to write a book. Now, comes the next big challenge: publishing.
First off, don’t pressure yourself to get the book published quickly. After you have finished writing, finding a publisher, striking a deal, printing copies, and selling is a long, even excruciating process.
How To Get Published
Money as a factor gets in the way of people writing books. They also let the fear of rejection. Learning how to get published is what follows after you learn how to write a book. After all, what’s a book if it doesn’t get out there, right?
That’s not necessarily true. Even if you’re a first-timer, publishing your book after having written the book can be a tough process, but still, don’t worry too much about it. Even if your book is amazing, it’s possible publishers or agents don’t accept it and that wont be your fault. Here are some ways you can get published:
1. Get A Professional Editor (Optional)
After editing on your own, you can hire a professional editor. It’s an investment, with a high return but a lot of money. Apart from being expensive, it is also hard to find a professional editor who will accept your entire manuscript immediately.
Getting it done by a professional also takes time. You can choose to completely ignore this step.
2. Keep Your Materials Ready
Publishers don’t always ask for the entire manuscript upfront. To make your submission more appealing, it’s helpful to include the following:
- Blurb– A rough and short synopsis, like the one that is printed on the back of a book.
- Detailed Synopsis– A detailed synopsis (1000-2000 words long) that gives away the entire story, along with the ending of your book.
- Book Proposal– Optional, although publishers/agents may ask for it upfront. This is usually expected from published authors. It is complex to design but doable on your own. Click here for some tips.
- Sample Chapters– Usually, consisting of a prologue, and a few chapters according to your preference.
- Query Letter– This is the pre-requisite step you need to write before you submit to any agent.
3. Send Directly To Publishers
There are multiple publishing houses, and all of them have websites with an email-id, where you can directly submit your manuscript. Make sure you carefully go through the guidelines of submission first to check what documents they require.
4. Hire An Agent
A literary agent is a third-party person who will send your submission to publishers and help you through the entire process after acceptance. They either charge some fee or take a royalty, but it’s easier to get accepted through an agent.
Self-publishing is common. Your book will surely find its way to the market but won’t have a publisher attached to its name. The author has to pay for printing, marketing, and sales. Printing copies by self-publishing is expensive and has a low chance of return.
However, there are success stories in self-publishing too. Click here to learn how this can be done.
With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can get your e-book out on Amazon Kindle. The process costs next to nothing and gives you more control. However, the chances of return are low.
These are the most common methods to get published. You can click here to know some more.
Was this article any help to you learn how to write a book and how to get it published? There is never a step-by-step procedure you can follow to learn how to write a book. Every writer has their way, whether they learn it or not. When writing, there is nothing more important than authenticity.
As a first-time writer, making money shouldn’t be your list. The literary world is a flaky business, making many hesitant to join it. But that reason isn’t worthy enough to stop you from writing or learning how to write a book.
Whether you are successful to make money off it or not, it is your way of creating a legacy. And the feeling of finishing your entire book, right from writing to editing, is so rewarding, you’d wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Click here for tips from established authors on how to write a book, or watch this video