How to Write a Book: 5 Steps
You want to write a book. And you should. Writing a book will transform your life in so many positive ways. Guaranteed. This article teaches you the entire process for how to write a book.
When you get to the end of the process and hold a book in your hand with a glossy cover that has your name on it, you can celebrate big time because you’ll have:
- A product to sell. You can earn a living or make side cash selling your books.
- A platform. A book is an excellent way to establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
- The ability to massively positively impact hundreds to thousands of people. A book allows you to share your unique methods and knowledge. You help solve the problems of others.
Then there are these byproduct benefits, which in some ways are superior…
- The content becomes you. When you research a topic deeply you learn new information that makes your life better.
- You up-level your writing skills. This translates to superior communication in all areas of life. You’ll be a better oral storyteller. You can use your epic writing skills to express yourself charismatically on social media, email, and text too.
- You learn what barriers stop you and how to break through them. What holds you back in writing is a clue to what holds you back in other areas of your life. When you break through your writing struggles you then learn new ways to tackle similar challenges.
So, you can’t write a book and not have it be a seriously positive experience. But to reap all these benefits, you must start. And keep going. And get to the end. It’s a long complex journey. If you’ve never done it, it’s daunting.
Book writing is much like riding a bike. Before you experience balance you don’t know what it truly means. You only understand it in concept. You have to go through the entire book writing process to access all the life-changing benefits listed above.
And like learning to ride a bike, it’s much easier when you have a mentor to guide you. So I wrote this article to break down the entire book writing process, step-by-step.
I’m a New York Times bestselling writer and Wall Street Journal bestselling writer. I’ve written nine books to date. I’ve been published and have self-published. In the process, I’ve developed my own systems to make book writing as effortless and fun as possible.
At the end of this article there’s a link to an online masterclass where I coach you through Step 1 so you can start today.
But before you do that, you need to understand the entire process for how to write a book. Read this article first so you understand what’s involved in actualling getting from blank page to book.
How to Write a Book: 5 Steps
Step 1: Always start with a Book Vision Doc
Some experts say: “Want to write a book? Just start writing.” Others will tell you to write a book proposal. Both are dead wrong. Start with a Book Vision Doc.
What is a Book Vision Doc? It’s an internal brainstorming document that you use to get flat on your book topic, understand the readers you’re writing for, and define your personal WHYs and vision for your book.
Without one you’re vulnerable to these book writing pitfalls:
- You struggle to stay motivated. You aren’t eager to put in the work it takes to bring your book from start to finish
- You get lost as you write. You struggle with the direction of your content
- Your book doesn’t connect to your target demographic. Have you written out your reader avatars?
Most first time writers don’t have a Book Vision Document. It’s why they don’t finish their books. And their great ideas never are realized in book form. How sad. Especially when their ideas could impact thousands of lives and…make them money. It’s also why most writers write bad books that don’t sell. What a waste of time. Don’t let this be you.
How do you create a Book Vision Doc?
A Book Vision Doc is a multipurpose tool. And it’s fun work to do. You’ll:
- Define your book topic
- Define your ultimate vision for your book – think into the future, how has the world changed for you because of your book you’ve finished your book?
- Define the readers your targeting
Now, let me give you some basics points on why each component is critical.
Define your book topic
Fully flush out the topic of your book. Does your book topic “have legs”? is industry lingo for assessing if your topic is needed and relevant today. Questions to ask yourself:
- Is there are demographic is desparate for your book?
- Does it solve a major pain point?
- Do similar books on the same topic exist? If yes, what is your unique spin?
Of course you think your idea is awesome. Does anyone else? Here are three ways to validate your topic:
- Do your research. Google is a simple tool for this. Type in search phrases linked to the topic of your. Find out how many people are searching for content related to what you want to write about. Also, search for similar books on online retailers such as Amazon.com. And read the reviews. A great site for this is GoodReads.com. Pro tip: Read the top three books linked to your topic. Gain a deep understanding of what’s already available so you know how to make your book stand out.
- Interview people in your target demographic. The more you know about the people you’re writing for, the better you can write for them. Uncover their pain points. Use sites like Quora.com to see what questions people are asking around your topic of interest.
- Run your topic through the ‘So What?’ test. Tell friends, colleagues, family members, and strangers about your book. See if you get a “Wow!” from them. Tell them to play devil’s advocate. Encourage them to say “So What?” if your book truly doesn’t inspire them. This is how you narrow down your topic and get to your big idea.
Keep in mind: A book topic that is too unique, too cutting-edge, too niche, might seem like a good idea to you but it usually isn’t. It’s better to show that a book like yours has sold before. That’s how you know there is a demand. You want to hit a sweet spot with your book topic. Find a popular topic but offer a new perspective.
Define your ultimate vision for your book
Narrow down your book topic. Once you do think forward into the future. What’s your ultimate vision for this book? Go deep when you do this work. Take your time. It will serve you later. And it will keep you motivated and focused.
Define the readers you’re targeting
The Book Vision Doc should also include descriptions of the groups of readers you’re targeting. You use this as a guide so you always know who you are writing for.
Creating a Book Vision Doc is critical work. I never start a book without one. If I do, I often get lost and lose motivation as I write. Don’t skip this step. If you do, you’ll make your life a lot harder.
Step 2: Publisher or Self-Publish?
How will you get your book read? That’s the whole point of a book. Books are meant to be read. If you don’t have a plan or understand the two routes available to you, you might waste a lot of time writing a book that never gets in front of many readers.
So, here are the two routes to consider:
- Sell your book to a publisher
Trust me, you don’t want to spend one year or more writing a book that only a handful of people ever read. When I started as a writer, I did this. It was frustrating.
Learn about how to go through and publisher and how to self-publish. Know your sales strategy. The earlier the better. This helps you build a following of potential readers as you write.
Step 3: Establish deadlines
Manuscripts range from 60,000-80,000 words. If yours is less than that it’s not a true book. How long will it take you to write a book that size based on your current schedule?
Set a date. Then work backwards to calculate how many hours a day you need to write to hit your deadline. Create a written schedule with targets. When will you have 25% of your manuscript written? How about 50%?
Most people need deadlines to hold themselves accountable. This is especially important if you’re not getting paid to write your book.
Step 4: Write
Once you have a Book Vision Doc that contains your topic, vision, and reader profiles (Step 1), you’ve thought about how you will get your book read (Step 2), and you have set your deadlines (Step 3) it’s finally time to write. Here’s what you need to know about the writing process:
Write every day
Well just about. Weekends off are okay. Or a day here and there. But it is important to schedule your writing time and stick to it. Develop an accountability structure before you start. Also consider: What if you procrastinate during writing time? How will you ensure you fit that time in later that day instead or double up the next day?
My top strategies for making writing a habit:
- Make your writing time feel indulgent. Make writing a fun ritual by pairing your daily practice with a coffee or tea or by lighting a candle or playing music when you write. Make your writing environment inviting, inspiring, and soothing.
- Learn before you write. To be inspiring, get inspired first. Most writers don’t do this. Learn something that excites you before you write. This helps you get excited before your writing session and then helps you get into a creative mood.
- Schedule your writing time. Carve out a daily time to write. Stick to it. Have a back up plan if you miss it. Tell other people. Not wanting to dissapoint others is a great accountability structure.
- Reward yourself for writing. After you write for an hour go do something you love to reward yourself for your new habit. Rewards help lock in new habits.
- Write anywhere, all the time. If you struggle with too many rules, get your writing time in in smaller chunks. Write when you’re on the subway or bus. Or, when you get a great idea before bed pull your your phone out and make a note. Make writing something you stop and do multiple times a day for 15-20 minutes. These little incremens of time add up.
- Write in the morning. Your brain has a cognitive bandwidth. Writing at the end of the day can be a struggle because you’ve been thinking all day and your brain needs a rest.
- Refer to yourself as a writer. Once you start to identify with that label you’re more apt to act like a writer. Tell everyone you are writing a book. Call yourself a writer and you’ll behave like one. Plus, what do writers do? Write every day.
- Join a writer’s group. Write with other writers. Join groups where you can swap ideas. Learn from experienced writers. Go to a mentor when you get stuck. They will break you out of writing funks fast.
You won’t always feel like you’ve had a successful writing session each time you sit to write. Sometimes you may sit and work on one paragraph for an hour. Doesn’t matter. Did you sit and work? Then, you win.
Pro hack: If you consider yourself a better speaker than writer, or you have time on your daily commute to record your voice, another way to get your book done is to first record it. You can transcribe it using platforms like Temi.com. Later you will still have to sit down and structure it properly and add more vivid language to it, but this method is easier for some people.
Always start with a framework
You must have a book outline. Not starting with a book outline is like building a house without a foundation. So after you settle on your book topic, build your table of contents. Here’s how…
Ask yourself these two questions:
- What will my reader have learned by the end of this book?
- What do they know before they start reading?
Then you reverse engineer your content. This is how you decide what each chapter will be. Think of your book as a solution to one major problem. Each chapter solves mini problems within the larger one.
Once you have an outline for your book. You do the same for each chapter. Reverse engineer your content.
And always start with an outline. I can’t stress this enough. Write down the bullet points for your arguments. Never write without a structure. You will get lost.
Write in phases
After you’ve outlined a chapter, write it. Write free form first. Let all your ideas out. Messy first, polish later. The first phase of writing is about getting ideas from your head to the page.
Then, you do a second pass. Read through your chapter and make sure it sounds good. Make sure it’s structured correctly. You might need to do this a few times.
Once you’ve done this, you can read your chapter and edit for grammar. Then again, for emotionality and tone.
You will read each chapter over and over, likely more than ten times before you are happy with them. That’s the process.
Think of book writing like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist. First they clean the plaque, then they do a tartar treatment, then they rinse and check again to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Finally they bring in the polisher.
Write in phases. Focus on different aspects of the chapter each time.
Step 5: Hand your book over to an editor
Always get a professional to edit on your manuscript. There are different types of editors at different price points. Based on how good of a writer you are you’ll need to decide what edits your manuscript needs. Here are your options:
- Basic editor that does cursory edits. An editor like this will simply read your manuscript and make grammatical edits and very basic structure edits.
- Development editor. This form of editor does more invasive work. They not only edit for correct grammar and punctuation but they suggest structural changes to make the book flow in a way that maintains reader engagement.
- Book collaborator, co-writer or ghostwriter. These people are expert storytellers. They are trained in many techniques and they’ll write with you, and for you, and hold your hand through the entire process.
It’s also always a good idea to have readers read as you write. Share your work. Test your content. Evaluate how it’s received and tweak from there. This way, when you finish your book you’ve validated the content.
Step 6: Cover design
Only create your own cover art if you have graphic design experience. For an inexpensive cover design you can use Canva.com. To hire an inexpensive graphic designer use sites like Fiverr.com or 99Designs.com.
The good news about cover design if you’re working with a publisher is that they’ll do this work for you.
Now you can celebrate!
After Steps 1-6, celebrate. You have a book. You’ve worked incredibly hard. Now you have a product to sell.
And it’s time to move into the next phase. You’ll need to market, promote, and sell your book. The process is different if you self-publish or go through a publisher. There is much to know on this, so I’ve written other posts.
Remember, book writing is an iterative process. Stay focused on the massive benefits you’ll reap at the end. Take one action at a time. Be patient.
And first, nail down your vision. Create a Book Vision Doc. You can do this work right now. I’ve created a free training video and PDF template for you.
This free tool gives you laser-focus on your content and marketing strategy. It contains your WHYs for writing your book, which keeps you motivated. And if you’re writing a book proposal for publishers, it makes that easy too. Plus, it’s easy and fun to do.
Access your free lesson + worksheet. Build your Book Vision Document now.