There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
~ Ernest Hemingway
How to write a book is not especially difficult but it can seem insurmountable to those facing the long uphill climb to starting and writing their first book.
I have written a short story and 3 novels so far. 2 of my novels are published. You can find my short story Money ain’t Nothing as well as my novels Dust on his Soul and First Feature by following those links if you’re interested.
I’ve also written a non-fiction for small businesses looking to increase their presence online and gain a bigger customer base that way.
I say this only to let you know that I have found some techniques that have worked well for me in writing all these books. I believe that some of these very same techniques and strategies on writing a book will work well for you too.
In essence if you want to know how to write and publish a book there are really only 3 steps.
1. Sit down with pen and paper or computer,
3. Don’t stop until finished
That’s the essence of writing a book, and I’m only being half facetious. Of course there is much more to it, and I imagine you are here because you are looking for tips for writing a book and I’m going to give you some.
Build your arc
This is not Noah’s Ark, this is the arc of the book you are writing. What exactly does this mean.
When writing a novel or a book of fiction, it is a good idea to flesh out the story. If you’re writing a literary novel this is not as crucial as when writing genre fiction like a mystery.
For example, if you are writing a murder mystery it is a very good idea to flesh out in a few pages the whodunit, the whydunit and the whatdunit. Who committed the crime, why did they do it and what or how did they commit it.
Part of building your arc is also about developing character sketches for your main and even peripheral characters.
In a murder mystery for example you want to know your protagonist – or hero – your antagonist – anti hero – as well as other characters who are involved. It is especially important that you understand the motivation of your murderer, but it is also helpful to have a few red herrings involved too, who else might have reason to kill?
Regardless of story type, keep the details of characters close at hand so you don’t make mistakes of fact as you write your story.
This is one of the first steps to write a book and if it is a work of non-fiction then you want to still have a brief summary of what the book is about. Are you writing a weight loss book or a book about investing, then capture the main points you want to explore in your work.
Building your book with bricks
By building your book brick by brick I mean taking your arc as well as character sketches and putting them into specific situations.
We know how the story will unfold… that is our arc. Now we need to build the skeleton of that story. The arc is the soul, we need to place the soul in a body, that body starts with the skeleton.
Here I am talking about writing brief summary sketches for each of the chapters. You are not bound by this for the rest of the book, but it does help when you want to know how to start writing a book where to begin.
There are no firm rules here. In a murder mystery, there is nothing to say that the opening chapter has to have the murder. So take some time to write a brief paragraph or so of each chapter’s events.
If I’m writing a new murder mystery for example one of the chapter summaries might be along the lines of: Det. Parker enters the dining room and ascertains the scene. The murdered body has been taken to the morgue. Chantelle the nosy neighbour confronts him asking questions. What does he see in the room? What is Chantelle up to?
See how open ended in many ways the chapter briefs are? I’m setting the scene but allowing a lot of room for exploration.
In a non-fiction book your chapters serves as reminders of the points you want to write about. If writing about investing you might have chapters talking about stocks, bonds, options and your own special techniques etc.
Let the monkey on your back be your task master
At this stage you have given your book a basic shape. It has a skeleton it is beginning to look like a person, to continue my analogy.
Now we have to put meat on them bones. The question how long does it take to write a book can be answered broadly. The first 2 steps shouldn’t have taken longer than a week or two. Now we get to the meat of the matter. A book shouldn’t take longer than 6 months to a year to write the first draft of.
But it is a marathon and this is why so few folks manage to complete a book they want to write. It is tedious and hard work.
The best thing you can do in order to finish writing your book is to set a daily schedule. A schedule helps maintain momentum and without it you will write in fits and starts. Forget about muses and inspiration. Doesn’t happen.
Depending on how busy you are, aim for 500 to 1,000 words written a day.
If a novel is considered around 60,000+ words then at 500 words you will have it written in 120 days. That’s 4 months, though many novels and yours too might go 80k to 100k+ words. Don’t worry about it, aim for a minimum of 60k words and let the novel write itself as long as it needs to.
One of the biggest tips on writing a book I can offer is to just keep writing. We aren’t editing, this is no time for editing and allow your inner critic time out from his cage.
Just write your quota each day. Briefly review the previous day’s work if you need to in order to get back into the story but under no circumstance should you be editing at all, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. You’ll get depressed and never finish.
A spit and a shoe shine and you’re ready to publish
Only after you’ve finished the complete book from beginning to end is it time to edit and review.
Uh uh, not so fast their Chippy, we’re gonna let the book simmer for a couple or few months before we go in to slash and burn.
You need to give yourself some room away from the book before you come back to it. You want your intimacy to have been forgotten when you come back to review your stellar work! Then edit ruthlessly, rewriting sections as you see fit.
Then give it to a trusted friend to review and edit. Then you take their input and rewrite and edit a second time.
You’re almost ready. But now you need to give it to a professional editor to work the real magic on it. Then you rewrite according to that input and you are then, and only then finally able to offer your work up to the buying public.
I’m a huge fan of self-publishing and taking back ownership of the work and the whole process. On another day perhaps I’ll talk about how best to publish your book. In the meantime, get writing 🙂