So you want to be an author, eh?
Maybe writing a book has always been your dream.
Maybe you saw other people succeeding in self publishing and said to yourself, “Why not me?”
Or you realized the truth that becoming an author will boost your credibility, audience, business leads, and income to a new level so you desire all of that.
The reasons to write a book are long and obvious. But learning how to write a book is the trickier part, especially if you’re new to this thing.
The good news is you can get there no matter where you’re starting from.
Just last summer I went from complete darkness to teach myself the ropes of writing a book, and then published my first book in September 2015.
This process produced so many personal and professional results that I actually gained the freedom to quit my job after I became an author and then wrote a second book in March.
Ok, enough about me. The point is that you don’t need to teach yourself like I did and if you stick with it then you’re going to be an author—I have no doubt about it.
Alright, back to you and writing your book. The logical first move is to obviously come up with your book idea.
If you’re still looking then don’t worry because I created a free guide to help you find your book idea in 15 minutes or less.
If you already have your book idea in mind or want to check the quality of yours, make sure you drill it down until you identify your book’s specific audience and the specific benefits to the reader.
Once you complete this, you’re on your way to writing your first book. Let’s move on to step 1.
Step 1: Planning For Success
You’re probably all amped up feeling a mix of nerves and excitement as you’re getting ready to start writing your book. But sorry to burst your bubble. We can’t get started writing yet.
Supposedly Benjamin Franklin coined the saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This phrase applies well to life and to drafting a book.
Too many aspiring authors are stuck in the aspiring stage and never become an author because they get stuck at a certain point.
They miss a few days in a row, which turns into weeks and months, and then they stop writing altogether and put their book on the back burner for someday. Someday could mean next year, in five years, or a decade from now, but they don’t accomplish what they wanted to. And they don’t get the rewards and satisfaction because of it.
I don’t want that to be you and neither do you. So before we get started writing, first we need to make a plan and schedule deadlines to ensure your book gets written. And this makes sense if you think about it.
For example, NASA does not send astronauts to space without a plan and without a return date. That would be a death sentence if the astronauts spent too many months in space because the spaceship would eventually run out of fuel, they would have no food left, or they would die by some other means.
Instead, the entire mission is calculated for the course direction, oxygen levels, time spent in space, the amount of food, and thousands of tiny details. These missions succeed because of the work upfront and the astronauts executing because their life depends on it.
Now your life doesn’t depend on your work upfront and sticking to your writing deadlines, but your book’s life does.
Realize that the more work you do upfront, the easier the book writing process will go. So let’s set up a foolproof plan to ensure your book gets written.
1. Decide what time you’re going to write.
I find that waking up early to write before the busy day starts is the only time I can guarantee I’ll get it done. When I drafted my first book while working a 8am to 5pm sales job, I’d wake up at 6am and write until 7am. No matter what unplanned events happened during the day or night, this hour was mine to write.
While some writers are most productive in the morning, that doesn’t limit you to writing after the sun rises. If you struggle to wake up early but you’re allowed to take long lunch breaks at work, draft your book then. If you have a long commute to work on the subway, write during this time. And parents often have too much going on during the morning and day that they get their writing in after their kids go to bed.
My only warning about writing at night is your energy level and focus will be lower after a long day. This can cause you to not get as much done as you hoped.
But only you know your schedule and what time you do your best writing. So as long as you commit to a set time to write each day you can move on.
2. Decide where you’re going to write.
This is not often thought about, but where you write affects your focus and productivity. A distracting environment will disrupt focus and waste an entire day of writing.
For example, if you’re a parent is it the best idea to write at home when the kids will be asking for you every five minutes? Probably not. Or if you work best in silence, is it a good idea to write in the crowded, loud Starbucks? No, because a small, quiet cafe would work better.
So experiment writing at different places—a coffee shop, a local library, or somewhere else—and find what works for you. I personally love to write at a big bookstore like Barnes & Noble because seeing all the books on the shelves inspires me. Whatever you do, don’t write on your bed—it’s a trap. And once you find your productive spot, stick to it until you finish your book.
3. Set a deadline to finish your book.
Projecting the completion date for your book before you start writing may seem odd, but there’s a reason for it. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish any goal is to start with the end in mind and then work backward on how you’re going to reach it. When there’s a clear vision and math behind it, it’s easier to execute.
This method also applies to drafting a book. Say your goal is to finish your first draft in 30 days (that’s certainly enough time if you’re writing for an hour each day.)
Since today is April 11, you would set a deadline to finish your first draft by May 11 at 20,000 words. The way you’re going to get there is to write 667 words each day for 30 days straight, which would get you to 2,010 words. (Or you could write 1,000 words a day and get to 30,000 words.)
The main point is that you write in your allotted time each day—or five days a week at the minimum—and reach your daily word count.
Step 2: The Writing Process
The plan is in place, so now it’s time to start writing. Follow these steps to achieve productive writing sessions.
1. Create an outline.
No matter what type of writing process you use, an outline will be your book’s foundation. So you first want to create an outline by jotting down everything you want to cover in the book.
This is the time to do some research and work smarter by reading books similar to your idea and seeing how they go about constructing their content. This research can help you form new ideas to cover and improve your knowledge on the subject.
Once you brainstorm long enough—don’t overdo it and risk never writing your book—narrow these ideas further so you can organize your book into specific chapters with a logical order.
Then use the writing processes below to fill in the outline and complete your first draft.
(Although you can choose your title at any time, if it would help you to know your title then read this post: What Makes A Good Book Title.)
2. Hold yourself accountable to write under deadlines.
One way to hold yourself accountable already came up—a daily deadline to write for a certain amount of time or a specific word count. Deadlines will help you stick to your goals. So commit to writing for 60 minutes straight or drafting 1,000 words each day. If you have time to write for two hours then more power to you! But it’s better to write for one hour each day instead of writing two hours on one day and missing the next two days. One of the key habits of successful writers is writing daily.
Also give yourself weekly deadlines like 7,000 words or something like finishing three chapters. When you break your book into sections, it helps you focus on the task at hand and ignore the overwhelming size of the project. You also realize how each day plays a part in progressing to the weekly goal and first draft completion date.
And then make your goals public by telling your friends and family, “I’m writing a book,” to give yourself social pressure to do what you say. Tell them to set a reminder in their phone to ask you about your book a week from now. Plus, ask them to call you on the deadline date for the first draft. Having others hold you accountable can help you get over the hump.
Another writing option.
You’ll still need to create an outline and give yourself deadlines, but after doing that you can write your book by not writing it. That’s right, you can speak it into existence!
If you’re a better speaker than writer, use a software like Dragon Dictate to dictate your book in real-time. If you can pull this off for draft one, you’ll save yourself hours of time—as it’s much quicker to speak than write.
Or you can use an iPhone app like Voice Memos (pre-downloaded on your phone) to record your voice as you talk through each chapter of your book. Voice Memos doesn’t dictate the words though, so you would need to type your spoken words yourself onto your computer. While this isn’t as convenient, the advantage is you get to pick and choose what you want transcribed and what you’ll leave out.
Do you need to eat every day? Yes. Do you eat every day? Yes. So put your book in the same mental framework and tell yourself you need to write every day. It’s easier said than done, but the solutions above work if you stick with them.
Step 3: Staying Motivated To Finish Your Book
You’ve planned it out and have begun to dig in and write. But how do you stay motivated to finish? These tips help me.
1. Remember why you decided to write this book.
There’s no way you set out to write a book for the heck of it. As I mentioned in the introduction, common reasons to write a book include building an audience, gaining credibility, making money, or sharing a message. Many people write a book for multiple reasons.
So it helps to imagine the future rewards after publishing your book.
When I’m writing I always think about the people I’m going to influence with my message. Even if it’s only one person, the idea that my book is going to change someone’s life empowers me to finish strong. Use this same mindset when you’re writing.
Also, it’s inspiring to know that after all this hard work that you’re going to have the title author next to your name, which no one can take away. I’m positive your parents, siblings, and friends will be extremely proud of you. Most importantly is the personal satisfaction you’ll feel from setting a big goal and climbing the mountain to achieve it.
Lastly, becoming an author isn’t all about the money. But remember the sooner you finish, the earlier you can reap the profits from your book.
2. Use the fact that writing inspires more writing.
If you’re struggling to write, it’s likely that you’re self-editing and rewriting too much so you’re getting in your own way. Instead, give yourself the leeway to write whatever comes to mind, knowing in the back of your head that it can always be rewritten later. (This article shows how to edit a book and hire an editor.)
Once you get in a rhythm with this relaxed mindset, allow the momentum to carry your typing hands the entire time. Since writing inspires more writing, the only thing you need to do is get started.
3. Maintain the mindset that you’re finishing this book through hell or high water.
Don’t give an inch to your inner voice who doubts your ability to finish the book or doubts the final product.
Take ownership that you’re going to finish this book and no one, including yourself, is going to stop you. Kick that doubt out of your mind and look back at all your progress from the beginning to stay positive.
An attitude like that won’t fall to procrastination or get stuck trying to get rid of writer’s block. It does whatever it needs to finish.
Potential Book Writing Roadblocks
I’d be lying if I said everything will go perfect during this period. Because writing a book is a difficult task even if you plan ahead, use a solid writing process, and stay motivated.
However, if you know what roadblocks are coming and how to overcome them, you’ll finish your first draft.
Roadblock 1: Thinking you don’t have time.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you did the work upfront to plan ahead and set aside a time to write each day. But you may be busier than you thought when you’re writing with a day job. And now can’t find enough time to get your writing in. If this is the case, you have to make some small sacrifices to get your first draft completed.
Wake up an hour early each day or write before bed and go to sleep an hour later. Other changes could include cutting out Netflix or tv until your draft is finished. Or write for two hours on Saturday and Sunday. I know there are far busier people than you who have written a book in their spare time. So it’s not that you don’t have time, but you’re choosing not to make time.
Roadblock 2: Thinking it has to be perfect.
Your first draft is designed to be a big dump of information from your brain to the computer. The main goal is to come up with the content. There can be holes in your book, bad transitions, and unfocused sections. That’s expected for a first draft!
So there’s no reason to get discouraged that your document isn’t perfect. You’re going to edit this book yourself to sharpen it up, you’ll get feedback from your peers, and then an editor will offer suggestions to improve your book. (I describe how to hire an editor in the post How To Edit A Book.) Your first draft won’t look much like your finished version that goes out to the public. And sticking to the goal of perfection will derail any plans of publishing a book in this lifetime.
Roadblock 3: Falling into apathy.
“I’ll do it tomorrow,” is the most dangerous statement for aspiring authors. Not that missing a day of writing is so bad in itself, but the potential cascade effect of this statement leading to no writing for weeks, months, and years is lethal.
While we all think we’re going to live to 100 years old, or at least 80, that may not be the case. Life is fragile. So don’t risk leaving your dreams unaccomplished. Go after them now with urgency.
It’s for this reason that I recommend writing every single day. This habit gives you a sense of urgency and also strengthens your writing muscle. If your schedule only allows five days, then that’s understandable. But even then I’d try to write for 15 minutes on the two “off days.” Apathy is a dangerous plague for many people, so don’t give it the chance to infect you.
After writing a book, the next step is editing your book, learning how to self publish a book, and marketing it.
Once you complete everything, you can publish your book and officially be an author. Plus, you’ll have the confidence and the lessons learned from this experience to help you write another book and do it better the next time.
And unless you’re a famous self published author who makes it big after one book—like E.L. James did with Fifty Shades of Grey—the way you polish your craft and get paid high royalties is through publishing multiple books.
Those who make progress in any field do it with focus and consistency for years.
So continue to meet your daily writing goals and continue to write books, then you’ll get all that you wanted and more out of your author career.
Once you complete your book, then learn how to self publish a book to make it official.
Want to take the first step to become a bestselling author? Check out my author coaching program.