Writing a book is a big deal. It takes a lot of time and effort, especially if you want to do it right, which means creating something that people will find entertaining or useful and then polishing, marketing, and promoting it.
It all begins with an idea — a concept. It might start with a few characters or an intriguing plot you’ve dreamed up. It might start with an audience you want to write for or a topic you want to explore.
Many writers start writing as soon as an idea strikes. This approach works for some people, but for most of us, it’s a road to nowhere. If we attempt to write a book every time we get a good idea, we constantly leave previous ideas half-finished. If we don’t stop to think about whether the idea is viable, we may get in over our heads or write a book that’s unpublishable or unsalable due to market saturation or lack of interest.
Tips for Writing a Book
There is no right or wrong way to write a book. Ultimately, each author has to figure out how to tackle the project, and what works for one writer might not work for another. But there are some simple techniques and strategies that many authors have found useful, and there are steps involved that are essential if you intend to bring your book to a reading audience.
These tips for writing a book are designed to help you think about your project before you commit to it and to outline some key tasks that must be tackled in the process of writing a book from concept to publication.
- 1. Start with a Concept
- You might have ten great ideas every day or just one brilliant idea in a decade. The trick is knowing which writing ideas to develop. Before fully committing to a book-length project, make sure it’s the right one for you, something you’re passionate about and can spend months or years cultivating.
- 2. Identify Your Audience
- There’s a difference between knowing your audience and writing for a market. If you love Star Trek, maybe you should write science-fiction novels; it would be logical to assume that your audience will consist of Star Trek fans, and since you are a Star Trek fan, you’ll automatically understand your audience. But don’t look at the best-seller list, determine that paranormal romance is all the rage, and set out to write a book in the genre just because you think it’s hot right now. There’s a strong likelihood that by the time you finish your book, the fad will have passed and everyone will be reading historical war stories. Write what you love, and know your genre.
- 3. Test Your Ideas with an Outline
- An outline can be as simple as a few key bullet points or so elaborate that it spans dozens of pages. Many writers don’t use outlines at all. Outlines are like road maps; they provide you with a sense of direction, a route you can use as you draft your book. You have to decide if you work better with outlining or discovery writing. Try both and find what fits.
- 4. Decide How to Publish
- You might wait until after you finish your book before deciding how to publish (self-publishing or traditional publishing), but there are benefits to giving it consideration beforehand. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you may be able to get a book deal (and an advance) before you start writing if you go with traditional publishing. If you’re writing a novel and plan to self-publish, you might want to learn about the self-publishing process while you’re writing your book.
- 5. Draft Your Book
- While it’s true that you’re ultimately writing for an audience, most writers agree that as you write your first draft, you should actually write it for yourself. Look at this way: you too are a reader. If you write a book that you’d love to read, others will love to read it too.
- 6. Think About Marketing
- If you write a book, people will read it, but only if you tell them about it first. Marketing is all about making sure people are aware of your book. This is when you find your audience. All authors have to engage in marketing. If you have the resources, your involvement may mean hiring a PR agency to handle the bulk of the marketing for you. But most of today’s authors find that they have to spend more time marketing than writing.
- Bonus marketing tip: you can start building a marketing platform long before you finish your book (maybe even before you start writing it).
- 7. Revisions: Edit and Proofread
- Don’t send your first draft to anyone. That includes beta readers, agents, and editors. Don’t even show it to your mom. You might need to rewrite entire chapters. You might need to rearrange relationships in a novel or lop off some of your favorite scenes. Your job is to produce the best book possible. So take the time to make changes that improve your work before you let anyone else lay eyes on it.
- 8. Engage Beta Readers and Apply Feedback
- Once you’ve got a book that you think is ready for readers, send it out to some trusted friends. The best beta readers are well read. Try to find readers who are familiar with your genre. Get people with exquisite grammar skills. Invite their feedback. Ask them how you can make your book even better. Then weigh their suggestions and implement the ones that will improve your book.
- 9. Polish Your Final Draft
- Once your manuscript is in good order, go through and give it a final polish. Nobody likes to read a book peppered with typos. There is an audience that won’t even notice your typos, but you’re not doing them any favors by delivering a faulty product. If you self-publish, then you’ll want to bring in a professional editor during the polishing stages.
- 10. Publish and Sell
- Writing a book is only the first half of your first mission as an author. Once you get it written, you have to get it published. And then you have to sell it. Do some research on traditional and self-publishing. Look into marketing strategies for authors. Prepare for the ride, because it will be a wild one.
Think of these tips for writing a book as general guidelines. Take what you need or what you think will be useful for your particular project.
Got any additional tips for writing a book? Share your insights and experiences with writing a book-length manuscript by leaving a comment, and keep writing!