How to start writing a book

How to start writing a book

Happy New Year! Did you resolve to write a book? A few of my friends have, and I am answering their questions here on the blog — sharing with everyone the coaching I am giving them. They’ve already asked about software options, structure, and scheduling.

Watch the Client Kit category for periodic posts that will help writers get their first non-fiction book-length work out into the world. I’ll tell you what is working for my friends, and how they’ve adapted these ideas to their purpose and style.


Getting started

The most important step you can take for your book is to START! Banish all your insecurities, the idea that your ideas are still too much in flux, the pressure to do it right… Get going for goodness sake!

Sit your butt in the chair and lay those fingers on the keyboard.

Don’t even worry about starting at the beginning. Start with the concept that is burning in your mind. Write it all out. Then write out the next burning issue. When another idea interrupts you, open another file and jot down your thoughts for later. If the second idea pours out more easily, just continue with that one.

Do. not. worry. about. language. Just get the ideas out. You have permission to write incoherent nonsense the first time around. Spell it any way you like.

The next day, sit down and write the next idea that is burning a hole in your brain. Do not revise. Keep writing.

Then, after a day (or weeks) away from the words, make a backup of your original and give it a once-over. I’ll give you more suggestions on revising in another post.


The publishing process is going to look like this:

  1. Write (or speak or blog)
  2. Revise
  3. Reorder (find order)
  4. Revise via a workshop or trusted and critical readers, perhaps a paid editor
  5. Line editing by a pro (stylistic or copy editing)
  6. Design and pre-publishing
  7. Proofread
  8. Publish

Get a printable checklist and timeline

How long will it take?

Months to years. Unless you are going at this full-time and have the money to pay for quick turnaround. If you have a publish date in mind, work out a schedule and commit to getting the words out. At least half the time should be allotted to revising, editing, and design. That’s right: getting to the final draft is half the work. You can do it. Just get going.

If you are quoting others or using others’ images, remember that it will take months to get permission from the copyright holders. Start asking for permission to use their material at step 4 at the latest. More on that later.

Do plan on consulting a publishing professional before you release your work (publish it). At the very least, get advice on the legal aspects of publishing so that you avoid copyright infringement, libel, and other snags. Get a checklist for finding the right editor in this other post.


Photo by neepster used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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