writing-schedule featued image

How to Create a Writing Schedule (In 3 Simple Steps)

Imagine this: you haven’t written anything in weeks. Months, even. You’ve been swamped with school or work, and even on your days off, you’re just not feeling inspired. Nothing’s getting written–maybe you’re making some playlists or moodboards, but words on the page? Impossible. 

Then, suddenly, inspiration strikes. You write fifty thousand words in a month. You’re feeling amazing! You can write after all! You’re a legend of productivity! 

And then, bam. The momentum fades, randomly, and you stop writing again. 

Does this sound familiar? I’ve definitely been there. And I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like this! 

You can take control of your productivity and your muses. All you need is a writing schedule. 

This guide to creating a writing schedule covers:

  1. Why writing schedules are important
  2. How to make a writing schedule that works for you
  3. Tips for sticking to your writing schedule
  4. Software recommendations for writing schedules

Why writing schedules are important

So, why put together a writing schedule? Why not just wait around for that flood of creative energy? You may be the type of person to generally resist routine, and the idea of setting up a writing schedule might seem like the fastest way in the world to ruin the fun. 

But let’s talk about how writing schedules can transform not only the quality of your work, but also your career as an author. 

Consistency and quality  

Writing on a schedule will keep you writing regularly. Some people argue that writers must write every single day—we’ll talk a little more about it later, but that’s not necessary. What is necessary is that you are regularly sitting down to write. 

This is going to keep your story fresh in your mind, so you won’t lose your connection to the story. It’ll also keep you practicing your prose, which will keep it sharp as can be. Writing is like any other skill: the more consistently you practice, the better at it you will be on average. 

The bottom line is this: the muses will not always come. There will be days that you don’t feel like working, and that’s part of being a human. But if you create and stick to a schedule, you’ll eventually train yourself to write when it’s time to write. You may not want to at first, but once you sit down, you’ll be much more likely to get some good work done. 

Accountability 

Writing on a schedule will also keep you accountable.

Regularly checking in on your projects, goals, and stories will remind you that they exist and that they need to get done. It’s easy to close the Word doc and forget the book exists, just like it’s easy to shove your newest hobby into some dusty cupboard and never touch it again. If you’re not regularly revisiting it, you’re going to forget about it, and you’re probably not going to make a lot of reliable progress. 

Writing multiple books 

Career authors need to write multiple books. If you’re crazy lucky, you may get famous from your debut novel, but even if this happens, you’re going to need to put out more work. 

Your platform will grow, ideally, as you continue to put out books. This doesn’t mean you need to put out twenty books a year or anything like that—it just means that you need to be publishing new work regularly. Keeping your momentum is vital to building your platform and sustaining your career, and having a writing schedule will guarantee that you’re constantly feeding that momentum. 

How to make a writing schedule that works for you

So, now that you understand why it’s important to create and stick with a writing schedule, let’s talk about how to make a schedule that’s perfect for you. You can customize your writing schedule to suit your lifestyle and your work style, and I’m going to show you how. 

Step 1 – Set a target date  

First, you want to set a target date. When do you want this draft finished? You may have a deadline from a cover artist or editor, but in all likelihood, it’s going to be up to you to decide when you want this draft done. 

Here are a few things to consider when you’re setting your target date: 

How long is the project? If it’s a massive epic, you might want to give yourself more time to allot for all of those words. If it’s a shorter project, you may not need a full year to draft.  

How much time can you devote to writing right now? If you have a ton of outside work to do, you may not have the luxury of being able to devote an hour or two hours to writing every day. You may want to have your novel written by the end of the month, but that might not be realistic. Set your target date with some wiggle room—it shouldn’t be so far out that there’s no pressure at all, but it should be achievable. 

What’s your publishing schedule look like? Certain months and even weeks are more advantageous for publishing, and you’ll want to take advantage of that, which means you have to plan ahead. If you want to publish your book in February, for example, you’ll want to work backward from there. After your first draft, how long will revisions, formatting, and presales take? Again, allow for wiggle room. 

Step 2 – Make a word count goal 

You may not know exactly how long your project is going to be just yet, and that’s okay! But even so, once you’ve set your target date, it’s time to set a word count goal. Most books average around 90,000 words, with epic fantasies trending much longer and young adult fiction trending much shorter. 

Personally, I like to set a goal for 50,000 words. I know my book will be longer than that, so I’ll be sure to hit 50,000 at some point, and when I do, I can set a new goal to finish the project. This also gives me a little dopamine rush when I meet my goal ‘early.’ 

Step 3 – Break the goal into chunks 

Now, you’ve got your target date and your word count goal. I am so sorry to tell you this, but it is now time to do some math. 

Count the number of working days between when you’ve set your goal and your target date. Then, divide your total word count goal by the number of working days. This gives you the number of words you need to write every day to meet your goal! 

Let’s run an example. Say I want to write 50,000 words in the month of October. My target date is October 31st, and I’m starting October 1st. I’m going to write Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, which means that in October, I have thirteen working days. 50,000 divided by thirteen gives me 3,847 words per day to meet my goal. 

Tips for sticking to your writing schedule

Feeling a little lost? Here are some tips and tricks for making sure that you stick to your new writing schedule. 

NaNoWriMo 

NaNoWriMo is most famous for its event in November, where participants write 50,000 words (or a first draft) in a month. But users can access the site at any time during the year! Put in your target date and your word count goal, and the site will tell you how many words you need to write every day to make it happen. You also get to update the site with your word count, which, at least for me, provides immense satisfaction. 

Habit-tracking apps 

Apps like Habitica, Todoist, or Google Tasks can help you set regular reminders to stay on task. You know how games like Candy Crush literally hook you on playing them regularly? These apps can do that to you, too, but with the work you need to get done. 

Connect with the online writing community 

It’s easier to stick to routine when you’ve got pals doing the same thing. If you don’t have any local writing groups, I’ve got great news: there are approximately one trillion writers online, and all you need to get in touch is a social media account. 

Make some other writer friends to hold you accountable, and post regular snippets or excerpts (if you’re comfortable) of what you’re working on. This way, you’ll need to make regular content to pick an excerpt from, you’ll grow your online platform, and you’ll get work done! 

If none of this is possible for you, you can even try getting a friend or family member to hold you accountable. A little compassionate support makes a world of difference. 

Set aside time to write 

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you have to literally set aside time to write. Just deciding you’ll write Mondays and Wednesdays will probably not result in you actually writing  on Mondays and Wednesdays. In all likelihood, you’re already filling that time with something else, and that’s what you’re used to, so it’s not likely to change. 

Figure out what time of day is best for you. If you have the luxury of doing so, pick the time of day you’re most productive. For me, it’s the morning. I’m pretty much useless after five in the afternoon, so I don’t schedule my writing time in the evening. If you have another job or other obligations, you may have to pick whatever time you can grab. 

Whatever time you pick, schedule it into your day, and make a point to do it at the same time every time. This will train your brain to know that at nine o’clock, it’s writing time, and you’ll find that writing will flow much more automatically as you get used to the schedule. 

Create a ritual 

The first step to creating a ritual is, as we discussed, setting a specific time to write. But it can also be helpful to have special tasks you do before or during your writing time—again, this will train your brain into recognizing that this is writing time. 

Maybe there’s a certain beverage you could make and enjoy while you write, or maybe you’ve got a certain pair of PJ’s that you always write in. Whatever it is, try to make it something that you enjoy, so you’ll look forward to writing. You can and absolutely should bribe yourself with hot cocoa whenever possible. 

Take care of yourself 

Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself. Burnout is real, and it does not care about your target date. It’s true that sometimes we don’t want to write and we should anyway, but if you find yourself completely unable to write, dreading your writing time, and having real anxiety surrounding your story, it may be time to take a break. 

Have other hobbies and interests, take care of your mental health, and build some wiggle room into your schedule so that if you need to take a week or a month off, you can do so without absolutely wrecking your schedule. And don’t beat yourself up if you need to take a break! Life happens.

Software recommendations for writing schedules

Some writing software is free. Some is paid. If you need to track your word count goal, finding the best software for your needs and the way you want to write is KEY!

Take our quiz below and get a recommendation of the best writing software for you.

critique-partner featured image

How to Find the Right Critique Partner for Your Writing

Think your rough draft is ready for editing but just not sure? Getting an early critique is a key step in the editing process, and critique partners are a great way to get that done!

Say you’re writing a novel, and you’re just not sure whether it’s any good. 

You have a close friend or family member take a look at your finished draft, or maybe you had someone read the first draft as you wrote it to cheer you on and offer their thoughts. But you’re finding that despite this, you’re still looking for a little more criticism and support before heading over to an editor or starting beta rounds. 

What you need is called a critique partner, and good news! We’re going to show you what they can do for you, where you can find one, and how to be a great critique partner yourself. 

This guide to working with a critique partner covers:

  1. What is a critique partner?
  2. What to expect from a critique partner
  3. How to find someone to critique your writing
  4. How to choose a critique partner

Learn How to Self-Edit &
What You Need to Hire a Pro Editor

Book Editing Checklist

Download your FREE guided checklist to help you self-edit, or to guide you and give you a baseline for setting expectations for copy editing and content editing services. Get it now!

What is a critique partner?

First things first: what’s a critique partner? 

In simple terms, a critique partner is another writer who offers you feedback on your work in exchange for feedback on theirs. 

Ideally, you’ll find a critique partner with whom you can grow and share multiple projects with, but you also might find a critique partner for one specific project, like a novel or short story. You might have one critique partner, or several, depending on your needs. 

Have you ever been a part of a writing workshop, where everyone offers feedback on one another’s work? This is a great example of a critique partnership. While a workshop can be a fun way to go about it, plenty of critique partnerships are one on one and entirely online. 

Alpha reader vs critique partner

Alpha readers are readers who take a look at the very first draft of your novel. This is often the most unpolished, rough version, still full of ‘insert scene here’ bits and things like that. These readers aren’t necessarily writers, though they might be, and an alpha reader isn’t expecting you to read their work because they’re reading yours. 

You might be looking for a critique partner to work with you on your first draft—your needs may vary, and you can enlist the help of a critique partner at whichever stage of the writing process you need. 

The key differences between alpha readers and critique partners are that alpha readers are specifically reading your first draft (critique partners can be recruited anytime), and critique partners will expect you to read and review their work, too. 

Beta reader vs critique partner 

Beta readers are readers recruited to take a look at a more polished, edited version of your draft. Ideally, you’ll recruit a pool of beta readers and assign them your work in sections. After they complete each section, they’ll answer a set of questions. You’ll have prepared these questions in advance, and they’ll cover areas on which you want feedback. 

What are the key differences between a beta reader and a critique partner? A beta reader will be recruited after you’ve done revisions (critique partners can be recruited anytime), and they often won’t be writers themselves (critique partners always are). 

What to expect from a critique partner

Now that you know what a critique partner is, let’s talk about what you should expect out of your critique partnership. This is how a critique partner should, ideally, help you, and how you should ideally help your critique partner! 

A writer’s perspective 

Perhaps most importantly, a critique partner offers a writer’s perspective. Beta readers and alpha readers are great for getting feedback from readers, but if you’re looking for critique, you probably want the opinion of someone who does what you do.

If you were an electrician having a problem at your place of work, for example, who would you ask for help? You’d probably ask a fellow electrician who knows as much or slightly more than you. You probably would not ask some random person who happened to be passing on the street—you’d want advice from someone who definitely knows what you’re talking about. 

Basically, critique partners know what you’re going through. They’re someone who can talk craft and offer tangible solutions to problems—it can be fun to brainstorm solutions with critique partners, especially if you find someone you really click with. 

Specific feedback 

A critique partner should also offer specific feedback. While a beta reader might say something like ‘the ending didn’t really make sense,’ a critique partner should get a little more involved. They should not only be letting you know which areas of the story feel like they could use some improvement, but they should also be able to tell you why they feel that way. 

Instead of “the ending didn’t really make sense,” for example, a critique partner might say something more like “Maxine seemed to be working to overcome her struggles at work, but at the end, these issues were unresolved, and instead there was a big scene with her brother. It didn’t feel like the story was leading up to that.” 

In the latter example, notice how the critique partner explains why the ending doesn’t make sense to them. 

Encouragement and respect 

A critique partner shouldn’t be afraid to tell you when you’ve got a weak spot in your story, but they shouldn’t be cruel, either. It’s equally important to know what you’re doing well, and a good critique partner will find those spots and mention them. Again, specifically. 

If your critique partner is only offering criticism and can’t identify anything in your manuscript that they like (or if you’re having the same problem with your critique partner’s manuscript), you may need to find someone else. It doesn’t help to have someone only point out your flaws, and missing one another’s strengths is just as much of a failing as missing one another’s mistakes. 

How to find a critique partner

Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find a critique partner. Here are just a few places you can get started in your search. 

Social media 

Places like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram are teeming with writers looking to connect. It’s free to make an account, and you’ll find a bazillion writers looking to make some writer friends. Check the popular writer hashtags for your respective platform and see if anyone’s looking for a critique partner. Sometimes you might find Facebook groups or specific hashtags dedicated to finding critique partners, which makes it easy. 

A quick note: if you go on social media and ask a stranger to be your critique partner out of the blue, there’s a chance they might say no, and that’s okay. If you’re asking someone you don’t know or haven’t spoken to before, make sure to be respectful and polite about it, just like if you were asking someone in person. 

Local writing groups 

You can also check your local writing groups. Your local library might host a writing workshop, or maybe your school or university has a class or club dedicated to creative writing. These places are great not only for making some in-person pals, but also for exchanging work with a variety of different people! 

How to choose the right critique partner

Finding the right critique partner can be pretty challenging. There are a ton of factors that can determine whether someone’s a good fit for you, especially if you’re looking for a long-term critique partnership. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re looking for new critique partners. 

Get to know each other 

First, make sure you and your critique partner get along. You don’t have to be best friends, but you’re going to be critiquing each other’s writing, and that can be a pretty personal business. You don’t have to wine and dine them or anything, but having a little chat to see if you like this person can keep you from signing on with somebody you don’t like or don’t really mesh with. 

Think about it like this: ideally, you’ll have a critique partner you can brainstorm with, hype up, and feel excited to work with. To do that, you’ll need to at least be friendly with each other. 

Compare projects 

It’s also important to make sure that your projects are in a similar ballpark. If you’re writing a contemporary romance, for example, it might not help to have a critique partner who doesn’t like romance and only writes military history nonfiction, which you hate. You want to be critiquing work that you’re familiar with and generally enjoy, and you want your critique partner to be in the same position. 

Why? Well, it’s as easy as this: you’re not going to be very helpful critiquing a genre you don’t like or don’t read, and the same goes for your critique partner. It doesn’t have to be an exact match—maybe you’re writing a contemporary romance and they’re writing a historical romance, for example—but you should at least be in the same wheelhouse. 

You also want to be at roughly the same skill level. A brand-new writer and a seasoned novelist probably won’t be super useful to one another. These pairings can also get frustrating and disheartening for both parties involved. 

Try a sample swap before you commit 

A sample swap can help you avoid tons of awkwardness down the line. You might meet someone, get along with them, and think they might make a good critique partner, but not have actually read any of their work yet (and they may not have read yours). You definitely don’t want to get started and find out that actually, you’re not interested in reading their work, or that you don’t care for their style of feedback. 

Before you sign up for a long-term project, try a sample swap. Exchange a chapter or a few thousand words and see how it goes. Every relationship in the world requires some communication and adjustment along the way, so it’s fine if things aren’t perfect. However, if the sample swap signals that you’re really not a match for one another, you may need to find someone else. 

Decide on a schedule 

This might sound obvious, but it’s honestly a life-saver. Decide on a schedule with your critique partner before you get started, and do your best to stick to it. 

This is one of the reasons in-person workshops can be so nice—they’re often scheduled at a set time, so everyone knows when they’re expected to have read and reviewed the work of their peers. 

Your schedule with your critique partner will depend on your schedules and needs. Maybe you’re both busy parents with other jobs, so you’ll only be able to do a chapter a month. That’s totally fine! Just make sure you set your expectations clearly, and if the schedule isn’t working, don’t be afraid to tweak and adjust it so that you’re able to respect one another’s time. 

Critique partners are a great step before finalizing your draft and submitting to an editor for review. If you’re getting close to the editing step, make sure to grab a copy of our editing checklist, below!

Learn How to Self-Edit &
What You Need to Hire a Pro Editor

Book Editing Checklist

Download your FREE guided checklist to help you self-edit, or to guide you and give you a baseline for setting expectations for copy editing and content editing services. Get it now!

SPS 133: How I Write Screenplays & Books While Training For Marathons with Bo Eason (former NFL Standout)

Join me today as I talk with Bo Eason. Bo Eason is a former NFL player, acclaimed broadway play writer and performer. He is also a story coach and his focus is helping others find the power of their personal story to become effective in persuasive communication. There’s No Plan B for Your A-Game: Be the Best in the World at What You Do is Bo Eason’s first published book.

Details on How to Impact and Improve Your Writing

Bo gives us the same advice he was given from his mentors: cut to the chase and get to the action. If you are trying to get to the action, then you are late. Your writing needs to be dynamic and spread it out, and one way is to have shorter paragraphs. For an easier to read book, means that more people will finish it. Also give yourself simple tasks.

It’s Okay to Fail and Have A Bad Idea

It can take one thousand worst ideas to get to the one good one. Don’t be afraid to fail and have bad writing and ideas. It may take a long time to get to the good stuff but all these bad decisions and wrong choices will reveal the right one. You’re an artist. This leads to having enough words to come up with a great book.

Show Highlights

  • [01:28] Bo talks about why he wrote this book and how it fits with his goals and business.
  • [08:10] The story behind how Bo’s play was purchased.
  • [09:54] Bo shares a critical tip on writing a play/screenplay.
  • [13:25] A general rule in screenwriting.
  • [18:00] Successfully launching your book as a first time author.
  • [20:54] Advice on creating versus marketing and maximizing your success.
  • [28:00] Using some of the concepts from Bo’s book that can help you write and publish.
  • [35:00] Bo’s parting piece of advice on writing.

Links and Resources

writing the first chapter featured image

4 Steps To Writing The First Chapter Your Book Deserves

First impressions are extremely important when it comes to meeting people, and the same goes for books. How many times have you come across a book with an intriguing cover and decent blurb, only to crack it open to page one and find yourself instantly disappointed? 

There’s a lot riding on the first chapter of your work. It’s the first impression a reader gets, and it’s often the deciding factor as to whether a reader buys your book. Having a killer start to your story is a must. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about your first chapter. We’ll go over how your stories should start, what your first chapter should include, and how to write an outstanding first chapter to hook your reader and, ideally, get them to not only buy your book, but read it all the way through! 

This guide to writing the first chapter contains:

  1. How to start a nonfiction first chapter
  2. How to start a fiction first chapter
  3. What to include in the first chapter of a nonfiction book
  4. What to include in the first chapter of a fiction book
  5. How to write a good first chapter step-by-step
  6. Need some help?


FREE TOOL

Book Outline Template Generator

Choose your Fiction or Nonfiction book type below to get your free chapter by chapter outline!

Enter your details below and get your pre-formatted outline in your inbox and start writing today!

CONGRATULATIONS

Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.

In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

How do you start the first chapter?

Let’s start at the very beginning (I hear it’s a very good place to start). How should your book begin? The answer varies depending on whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, so let’s go over some genre specifics. 

Nonfiction

In a nonfiction book, your first chapter should accomplish these three things:

1 – Introduce the topic 

The first chapter of a nonfiction book is usually called an introduction, which is a pretty good indicator of what you’re meant to do. You’re going to want to introduce the topic of your book right off the bat. If you’re writing about your childhood in rural Alaska, for example, the start of your book ought to set the scene. If you’re writing about a certain type of plane used in World War One, this should be mentioned at the start.

2 – Establish credibility 

You also want the reader to know why you’re an authority on the subject. If you’re a psychologist and you’re writing about relationship advice, mentioning that you’re a psychologist early on will give you credibility. The reader will know that you’re not just some random person spouting their opinions—you’re a professional, you’ve studied this, and you have actual advice to offer. 

3 – Hook the reader 

People talk about hooks in fiction, but it’s just as important in a nonfiction book. After all, nonfiction should also be interesting, even if it sets out to accomplish something different than fiction. You want your reader invested in learning about your topic, and that means you need to hook them early to keep them reading. 

Fiction

If you’re writing fiction, you’ll want to focus on three key elements: your first sentence, your first paragraph, and your first chapter. 

First sentence 

There’s a lot of pressure on the first sentence of a novel. While you don’t want it to be too heavy-handed or out of place, you do want it to be interesting and indicative of the rest of the novel. You want to establish the tone of your story as quickly as possible to let the reader know what they’re in for. 

First paragraph 

Like the first sentence, the first paragraph should establish the tone and some sort of conflict. It should also introduce a character, and preferably one of our main characters. We should at least meet someone who we will follow throughout the story—again, remember that the first chapter of your story is the first taste of what’s to come. You want this first page, especially, to let the reader know what’s coming. 

First chapter 

The first chapter, on the whole, has a lot of work to do. It should give us our setting, establish the tone of the story, introduce our main character or characters, and at least hint at our main conflict. Sometimes the main conflict doesn’t really kick off until the end of act two, or a few chapters in—that’s totally fine. But the first chapter should identify a problem that the rest of the book will solve, and this problem should tie to the overarching plot

Elements of a first chapter (what should be included in the first chapter)

Now that you know what you need to include in your first chapter, let’s get a little more into how to incorporate these elements effectively. 

Nonfiction

How to introduce the topic 

Like I mentioned before, nonfiction should be interesting. This means you want to introduce your topic in an interesting, engaging way. Starting your book with a stiff, technical description of a World War One fighter jet might be okay if you’re writing for a very specific academic audience, but if you’re writing for the general public, you’ll want to jazz it up a bit. 

The key thing here is not to bog your reader down. You don’t want to give them everything up front and overwhelm them with your entire knowledge from the start—you’ve got the whole book to explain yourself, so briefly sum up what you’ll be talking about and what the reader can expect moving forward. Then, make sure you actually move forward. 

How to establish credibility 

You might have a direct credential that lends your nonfiction book some credibility, like in the psychologist example I gave earlier. But if you’re not an accredited expert in your field, or if you’re writing something like a memoir, you can still establish credibility in the first chapter. 

Giving your reader a sample of your knowledge base is one way to do this—again, you don’t want to dump everything at once, but letting your reader know early that you know what you’re talking about will give you some credibility. 

Another way to lend yourself credibility? Write compelling prose. If your writing is solid and engaging, your reader will trust you to tell them something interesting.  

How to hook the reader 

Here are three quick tips for hooking your reader in the first chapter of your nonfiction book:  

  1. Start your first chapter with a compelling anecdote that introduces your topic. 
  2. Start your first chapter with a compelling statistic about your topic, which allows you to segue into an introduction to your book. 
  3. Start your first chapter with a problem involving your topic, which the book promises to solve. 

Fiction

We talked a little bit about how your first sentence, paragraph, and chapter are all important in a novel, but let’s talk about how to really make the most of these first few pages. 

Introduce your main characters 

Introduce your characters as naturally as possible. Avoid cliches like having two unnamed characters introduce themselves on page one. If you’re writing in first person, we should immediately know the names of everyone the POV character knows, and same goes for third person limited. For stories set in third person limited, we should also know the main character’s name immediately. 

Introduce your setting 

By the end of the first chapter, the reader should have a solid idea of what this world looks like and what sorts of challenges the people in it face. Is this a high fantasy world, or is it a spaceship? If we’re in contemporary America, what sort of town is this, who thrives here, and who struggles to make ends meet? 

Conflict should be firmly rooted in setting, so establishing setting in your first chapter will help give your reader a sense of the difficulties to come. 

Establish tone 

I touched on this earlier, but you also want to kick off your story with the appropriate tone. If you’re writing a grim, harrowing horror novel, your first chapter should set up the creepy atmosphere the reader will be seeing more of as they read. Tone also helps flesh out setting, and combining the two will help immerse your reader as quickly as possible. By the end of chapter one, the reader should know whether this is going to be a lighthearted romp or a tour through hell. 

Introduce conflict 

By the end of the first chapter, the reader should be introduced to some conflict. Ideally, this connects to the broader plot, and even more ideally, you’ll have had the chance to show off the character’s wants (what the character thinks they want) and their needs (what the character actually needs). 

How to write a good first chapter step-by-step

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure your first chapter is a success. 

Step 1 – Have a solid outline 

Outlining your book before you start will help you in a million ways when it comes time to draft. An outline tells you where you’re going, which helps you stay on track, and it also tells you where to start. Having a clear, confident starting point makes all the difference in writing a clear, confident first chapter. 

Step 2 – Write a killer opening sentence to hook the reader 

Your first sentence is your reader’s very, very first impression of your book. While it doesn’t necessarily have to do everything, it should be doing all it can to hook your reader. 

Pull out all the stops here. Open on a compelling conflict that relates to our main characters and the overall themes, or start with a powerful, evocative description. Shock the reader with a surprising statistic or show them how your topic relates to them in a way they might not realize. 

Step 3 – End with a question the book promises to answer 

At the end of your first chapter, your reader should have a ton of questions that can only be answered by reading the rest of the book. Broadly speaking, they should be thinking “what’s going to happen?” 

Think of the first chapter as a promise. You’re setting up a tone, themes, characters, and setting, and you’re promising that the rest of the book will deliver. End the first chapter with a problem or a question that makes your reader want to learn more.

Step 4 – Perfect your first page 

The first line is super important, but it’s not absolutely everything. A reader might not put down a book if the first line doesn’t absolutely shock them. However, the first page is vital. If a reader decides to flip the first page, it’s much more likely that they’ll keep reading. Flipping the page means they’re interested, and that means you have to get them interested on page one. 

When your book is finished, polish your first page—and, really, your first few chapters—to an absolute shine. Make sure you’ve got strong prose, compelling hooks, and absolutely no errors. Use the tips included here to make sure your first page is unique, interesting, and engineered to keep your reader eager to read your story all the way through. 

Need some help?

Grab our free outline templates for fiction or non-fiction below.


FREE TOOL

Book Outline Template Generator

Choose your Fiction or Nonfiction book type below to get your free chapter by chapter outline!

Enter your details below and get your pre-formatted outline in your inbox and start writing today!

CONGRATULATIONS

Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.

In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

If you have additional questions, or need additional resources, book a call with our Resource Team.

Our team can give you extra resources to help you on your author journey, learn about your book and your book goals, and, if you’re interested in learning more about Self-Publishing School, they can schedule a call for you with a Publishing Success Strategist to help you accomplish your goals.

most-popular-book-genres-on-amazon featured image

What Are the Most Popular Book Genres on Amazon?

Want to become a successful author as soon as possible? You need to learn what are the most popular book genres on Amazon. 

An increasingly enormous volume of readers do most or all of their reading through their Kindle. And this makes sense—eBooks are cheaper than physical copies, they don’t take up physical space in your house, and you can download them in a matter of minutes instead of going to a store to buy them or waiting for them to be shipped to your home. 

Ebooks are especially helpful for self-published authors looking to save a little money on the production of their book. Authors still need to hire a formatter and cover artist (unless they can do it themselves), but generally, it’ll be a bit cheaper for an eBook than for a physical copy. Additionally, self-published authors usually get a higher cut of their royalties from eBooks than they might from physical copies. 

Oh, and one more thing: if you figure out the most popular genres and categories on Amazon, you can make your book a bestseller and get ahead of trends to maximize your sales. 

How? That’s what we’re here to talk about today! In this article, we’ll cover which book genres and categories are most popular on Amazon, how you can find this information for yourself, and how you can use this information to build a full-time career as a self-published author. 

This guide to the most popular book genres on Amazon covers:

  1. The most popular book genres on Amazon
  2. Popular fiction genres
  3. Popular nonfiction genres
  4. Book categories
  5. How to find the most popular book genres
  6. Writing to market
  7. Tips on how to use trends

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

What’s the most popular book genre on Amazon? Well, it’s a little complicated. 

Amazon uses categories to sort their books, and there’s over 16,000 of them, which means they get pretty niche (we’ll talk more about categories in a minute). However, you can still search for books on Amazon by genre, and you can also navigate to the Amazon Bestseller Chart to see which books are most popular right now (though this doesn’t tell you which genres, on the whole, are selling the most books). 

Finding the most popular book genres takes some research.

After investigating, the twelve most popular fiction genres on Amazon are:

  1. Fantasy
  2. Science Fiction
  3. Dystopian
  4. Adventure
  5. Romance
  6. Detective & Mystery
  7. Horror
  8. Thriller
  9. LGBTQ+
  10. Historical Fiction
  11. Young Adult (YA)
  12. Children’s Fiction

What about nonfiction? The eighteen most popular nonfiction genres on Amazon are:

  1. Memoir & Autobiography
  2. Biography
  3. Cooking
  4. Art & Photography
  5. Self-Help/Personal Development
  6. Motivational/Inspirational
  7. Health & Fitness
  8. History
  9. Crafts, Hobbies & Home
  10. Families & Relationships
  11. Humor & Entertainment
  12. Business & Money
  13. Law & Criminology
  14. Politics & Social Sciences
  15. Religion & Spirituality
  16. Education & Teaching
  17. Travel
  18. True Crime

Most popular book categories

Categories are like subgenres, and they’re vital to understand and utilize if you want to up your Amazon sales.

Categories function as keywords and search terms as well as subgenres, which means that the algorithm will use them to recommend similar books to readers. These can get incredibly niche, and there’s no way to see a complete list of every category Amazon has to offer, let alone a list of sales figures. This means you have to do a bit of sleuthing to figure out which categories are currently selling the most copies on the site. 

The 20 most popular Kindle Store Categories are:

  1. Romance > Contemporary
  2. Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Women
  3. Romance > New Adult & College
  4. Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Romance
  5. Literature & Fiction > Women > Romance
  6. Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Coming of Age
  7. Romance > Mystery & Suspense > Suspense
  8. Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban
  9. Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Erotica
  10. Literature & Fiction > Women > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Women Sleuths
  11. Romance > Romantic Comedy
  12. Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Literary
  13. Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Literary
  14. Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction
  15. Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic
  16. Romance > Fantasy
  17. Romance > Paranormal > Werewolves & Shifters
  18. Romance > Holidays
  19. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Police Procedurals
  20. Literature & Fiction > Humor & Satire > General Humor

How to find most popular book genres

If you want to take a look at the bestselling books on Amazon right now, here’s how to find them. 

Step One: Open Amazon and navigate to ‘Best Sellers.’ 

screenshot showing best sellers header on Amazon

Step Two: On the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see a ribbon listing a ton of categories. Scroll down, find Kindle Store, and click on it. 

Step Three: You should be looking at Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers in Kindle Store’ page. You can click on a book to see its listing, which is what we’re going to do next. For this example, I’m going to click on The Keeper of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis. 

You’ll also see, on the left-hand side, a few options for sorting these results. This includes Newsstand, nonfiction, short reads, and Prime Reading—feel free to click around and explore different results for different types of reading. 

When I click on The Keeper of Happy Endings, here’s what comes up: 

example of the keeper of happy endings book categories on amazon

Step Four: See the writing above the book? This lists the category as Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction. These categories are listed by most broad to most specific. The type of item is a book, and the type of book is literature and fiction—more specifically, genre fiction. 

There’s a few things we can do from here to gather more information about this book’s categories and other books in those categories. 

Step Five: Scroll down to Product Details. This will give you a bunch of information about the book, but we’re looking for Best Sellers Rank. Here, we see the book is ranked #4 in the Kindle Store, and we see it’s ranked #1 in Historical Literary Fiction, World War II Historical Fiction (Books), and Historical French Fiction. 

screenshot showing product details for a book including categories

Clicking on any of these categories will take you to the bestseller pages for that specific category. For example, clicking on Historical Literary Fiction will show you the bestselling books listed under that category. This helps you see what’s selling in more specific categories, so you’re not trying to narrow it down from just ‘books.’ 

But let’s scroll back up to the book’s listing, where it says Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction and try finding more categories a different way. 

Step Six: Once you’ve scrolled back up and found Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction, click on Genre Fiction.

You should have a page that looks something like this: 

example of genre literature & fiction featured categories on amazon screenshot

Underneath ‘featured categories,’ we get a list of categories to investigate. If you scroll over these categories, a scroll will offer more specific subcategories. For example, here’s what happens when I hover over the ‘Historical’ category: 

featured categories historical hover over screenshot

If I click on this, it takes me to a page filled with categories listed under ‘Historical.’ 

screenshot showing amazon's historical fiction featured categories

You can click on any of the icons to see bestseller lists in these categories, or you can navigate to the left-hand side to search for more specific results. 

Writing to market using popular genres

Writing to market, plainly put, is writing books based on what’s popular right now. 

Let’s use Twilight as an example. Twilight, when it came out, absolutely dominated the young adult romance market. Immediately after it surged in popularity, a ton of Twilight look-alikes started taking to the shelves. In some bookstores, this led to the invention of the ‘paranormal teen romance’ category—Twilight revealed a huge market for a certain category of story, and authors were quick to capitalize. 

The most obvious con to adopting a write-to-market strategy is that publishing is a very, very slow process. It can take years to publish a book, and by that time, maybe no one cares about teen vampire romance anymore. Maybe it’s become cliche or cringe-worthy by the time your book comes out. And if you’re writing stories purely to hitch on to what’s popular, without any passion for the story itself, it’s going to be a slog. 

This doesn’t mean write-to-market doesn’t work, though—the invention of the ‘paranormal teen romance’ category proves that it definitely does. But how do you try this without burning out or falling behind? 

First, eBook publications happen much more quickly than their physical counterparts. A self-published romance author might publish six books a year. This fast turnaround means authors can stay on top of trends before they fall out of fashion. 

Second, it’s important to write books you do care about. And I don’t just say that because I have some really sappy feelings about art—again, writing books is difficult, and it’s going to be like pulling teeth if you don’t care about the story. Come up with story ideas you genuinely like in the categories currently doing well. They don’t have to match beat-for-beat with trendsetting books. They just need to appeal to readers looking for similar experiences. 

With all that said, let’s look at a few ways writing to market can help you. 

Fast track to full time 

Perhaps most importantly, writing to market can help you start your full-time writing career more quickly. 

And this makes sense—if you’re targeting your publications based on what’s popular, you’ve got a better chance at selling books.

It’s difficult for some to hear, but writing is, in fact, a business, and your book is a product. It’s easier to sell that product when there’s a demand for it, and writing to market means you’re directly targeting that demand. 

I mentioned earlier that you don’t have to pick story ideas solely because they’re trending, but what exactly does that mean? How can you create stories that you genuinely care about while still keeping an ear to the ground for upcoming trends? Here are a few tips to help you avoid burnout and keep your own writing interesting and personal for you. 

Use trends for inspiration 

Instead of forcing yourself to come up with stories that fall under bestselling categories, use those categories to inspire stories you’re excited about. And, ultimately, if nothing speaks to you, write the story you want to write—if you have a story in a genre that isn’t currently hot, you don’t need to throw it out! Keep it tucked somewhere and wait for the right time to release it. It’s almost guaranteed that the market will come back around, and when the timing is right, you can release it to an eager audience. 

Be a versatile, fast writer 

“But wait,” you’re thinking. “I wrote my book, and you’re saying I just can’t publish anything until hopefully, one day, my genre is the next big thing?” 

Not necessarily. 

If you want to maximize your Amazon profits as a self-published author, you’ll need to have a pretty quick turnaround.

Remember what I said earlier about eBooks enabling self-published authors to publish work more frequently? Using that to your advantage is going to make a world of difference for your career. 

Even more importantly, you should work on stories in different categories. Maybe your genre is romance, and you are absolutely not interested in writing in a different genre. That’s fine! Try working in different subgenres of romance. Maybe you’ve got a historical romance series, a contemporary small-town romance series, and a sci-fi romance series brewing. 

This will diversify your readership, which means more readers for more subgenres.  Second, it’s going to increase your chances of working within a trending category.

Choose categories for your book, not vice versa 

Finally, it’s important to remember that categories are functionally search tools. If you get to the top of a bestseller list in a niche category, this can help boost your book in Amazon’s algorithm. If you list your book under a popular category, you’ll benefit from all the traffic that category gets. This means that you should ultimately be picking categories with site traffic in mind. 

Obviously, you don’t want to lie. Don’t list your book as a contemporary small-town romance if it’s definitely not. But keep an eye on examples and lists like the ones shown above and see which categories you can apply to your book’s listing to improve its visibility on the site. 

Want to learn more about Self-Publishing School book coaches?

If you have additional questions, or need additional resources, book a call with our Resource Team.

Our team can give you extra resources to help you on your author journey, learn about your book and your book goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Self-Publishing School can help you write, publish, and market your books (or sell more books if you’re published already), they can schedule a call with one of our Publishing Success Strategists for you.

Your Success Strategist will ask questions about your book to understand if you’re a good fit for our programs and explain what we offer at Self-Publishing School. You’ll learn about our tailored courses, writing groups, mastermind community, and our amazing book coaches.

With one of the highest success rates in the industry (for an online school plus coaching and accountability program), we want to make sure that you are paired with the right coach and program for your book, or we’ll recommend other resources for you.

Curious, but not ready to book a call yet? No problem!

Check out the free online class below to learn more about how we started, mind map your book in real time (during the class), and learn the steps of self-publishing!

Free Video Training

Write & Launch a Bestselling Book in 90 Days – Even if You Only Have 30 Minutes Per Day!

Learn the exact step-by-step methods you need to cut through the noise, harness the Amazon algorithm, and self-publish your book successfully this year!

SPS 132: From Blogger To New York Times Bestseller with Matt Kepnes (aka. Nomadic Matt)

Listen in to today’s episode as I talk with Nomadic Matt about how he took his budget travel blog to over 100,000 followers on Instagram and created a NY Times Bestseller, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. When his life took a turn from a gap year to living as a digital nomad, Matt created a business from his lifestyle. Today, he has experienced over 100 countries in the timespan of a decade and runs his business as a digital nomad.

Writing His First Book from His Blog

When writing his book, Matt’s first goal was to take his blog information, curate the content, and add coupons to his book for travelers. Instead, an editor from Penguin found his book and asked him to turn his ebook into a print copy. Today, Matt has a third edition published with a fourth edition in 2023, which includes information on post-COVID travel.

The Difference Between Writing a Blog and a Book

For his book, he realized that he needed to do a bit of research on top of his practical experience traveling, such as website names. He also realized he needed to add more specifics with his book that he didn’t need to add when writing his blogs. “People don’t want to read 15,000 words on buying a backpack online.” For blogs, consumers want immediate, actionable steps they can take. When reading a book, readers want to know more about the process and fundamentals of traveling. 

Listen to discover the level of authoring you gain when writing a book, how it can increase your PR and legitimize your expertise, and how he hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Show Highlights

  • [02:00] How Matt came up with the idea to make his travel blog into a book.
  • [04:05] Putting together the outline for his travel book.
  • [08:44] Hitting the bestseller list with the second edition of his book.
  • [10:42] Book launch marketing and the top marketing strategies that sold the most books for Matt.
  • [14:50] Choosing a title for his book, how he decided on his SEO book title.
  • [16:30] How to ask for reviews for your book.
  • [17:35] Advice for bloggers looking to write their own book.
  • [24:09] How Matt’s travel books fuel his business growth.

Links and Resources

writing coach featured image

What Is a Writing Coach? (Complete Guide for Authors)

If you’ve read almost any book on a particular discipline, you know the importance of having the right people around you. The top professionals in any given field usually had at least one mentor figure, if not more, helping them as they came up. 

Anybody can have a dream. Knowing how to pursue the dream and actually pursuing it are two different things entirely.

Whether you’re writing your first book or just getting into the process, a writing coach can be a huge benefit to your journey. Not only do coaches know where you want to go and have a plan on how to help you get there, but they’ve worked through the process before. 

If you’re wondering if you need a coach, don’t know how to find one, or are generally just unsure what step to take next, this article is for you. 

Deciding to hire a writing coach is a big step in your writing process, so in this article we discuss:

  1. What does a writing coach do?
  2. How to find a writing coach
  3. Why would you need a writing coach
  4. How much does a writing coach cost?
  5. As you move forward
  6. Parting question

Athletes have coaches.

Musicians have conductors. 

Actors have directors.

And writers have coaches. 

That’s why they’re a coach, after all. 

Some of the most successful people have interacted with the best mentors and coaches. Hiring or working with a coach is not something that shows how little you know, but rather shows how much there is to know about your particular discipline—in this case, writing. That you are aware of this fact is a huge step in the right direction. 

Writing is like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool and not realizing that it leads to the ocean. Many writers can get confused and overwhelmed just chapters into their book, and be unsure how to continue.

If you started a book and haven’t finished it yet, had an idea and only made it halfway through, or struggled to finally write your ending chapter, you’re not alone. Writing is hard work and takes a lot of forethought and self-discipline. This is simply a fact of writing. 

Creating an entire world on a blank piece of paper is intimidating to say the least. 

What does a writing coach do?

A writing coach is a professional with the sole purpose of coaching you through your creative process. 

A writing coach is not an editor. 

A writing coach is not a ghostwriter

They are not alpha or beta readers (although they can read your work).

A writing coach may draw your focus to varying writing rules and current trends, but this is not their primary objective.

In fact, a writing coach’s goal is to help you through the process. They want to encourage you to continue. Be the cheerleader you need. Help you continue when you’re not sure you can. 

Think of a writing coach as a personal trainer. If you work with a personal trainer several times a week, their encouragement is a big part of your progress. 

Maybe you show up for training and they walk in, pumped to be there, and excited that you showed. When you leave they let you know they’ll see you in a day or two, and tell you that you did a great job.

The same is true for a writing coach. 

They’re not hired to give you developmental edits or line edit your work. They’re here to encourage you to make it through the process. 

Writing a book is a lot of work. It’s a tremendous undertaking. 

A coach may be just what you need. 

How to find a writing coach

Finding the right writing coach may seem daunting, but a simple Internet search can point you in the right direction. 

Just as it’s important to find the right personal trainer to work with, one you feel on the same page with, who “gets” you and you feel that connection with, the same is true for a writing coach. 

Their job is to be your encouragement, so connecting with the right coach is a crucial part of the process.

There are countless online writing communities where you can ask around. Connect with faculty at a writing conference or ask writing friends who they’ve worked with.

If you have a favorite author, you could search their website and check to see if they offer coaching services. If it is not listed on their site, peruse their contact page and consider sending them an email articulating who you are and that you would like to work with them.

Keep your email effective but succinct. Authors are very busy and if they’re open to the idea, showing that you respect their time will likely heighten your chances of working together.

If you don’t hear back, you can take that as a no and simply move on to the next person. 

Finding the perfect writing coach for you will take some time and effort, but it’s worth it in the long run.

However, if you don’t have time to do your own searching, good news! 

If you’re part of any program through Self-Publishing School, SPS has writing coaches with all of the programs.

Yes, you read that right!

Any program you are in through SPS, we have a writing coach for you. 

Simply login to your specific program and find the coach you need. 

Why would you need a writing coach

Now that you know what a writing coach is and how to find one, it’s important to ask, “Do I need a writing coach?” 

At this point it’s crucial to do some self-reflection and take the time you need to do so.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or open the Notes app on your phone, then answer the following questions. Take your time and answer as honestly as you can. 

  1. Do I have a hard time staying on track? 
  2. Do I want professional help with my book? 
  3. Am I a self-starter or do I benefit from encouragement? 
  4. Is my deadline feasible or will I need help meeting it?
  5. Do I usually finish what I start? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider hiring a writing coach. 

Remember, a writing coach is not an editor, but someone to encourage you in your journey. They will help keep you on track, encourage you when you feel like quitting, and heighten your chances of making it to the last page.

However, hiring a writing coach will help you get to the editing stage. To hire a professional editor, you must have a manuscript to edit. And to have a manuscript to edit, you must have it complete. 

The prerequisite to becoming a published author is writing a book. Many people set off to write a book, but few finish. 

All it takes to start writing is grabbing a pen or pencil or opening a blank document on your computer. 

What it takes to finish writing a book is time, effort, persistence, and overall grit. 

A writing coach can help you in all these areas.

How much does a writing coach cost?

How much a writing coach costs depends on their experience, what they offer, and a myriad of other factors.

If you hire a coach who has never coached before, has little experience, and offers you the bare minimum, they will cost significantly less.

If you hire a coach who has coached for years or even decades, has experience to back them up, and is ready to offer you all the help they can give, they will cost significantly more.

There are two ways to go about hiring a writing coach:

  1. The first is to ask how much a writing coach costs, and determine your budget.
  2. The second is to ask how much it costs you to try and do it on your own.

If your budget is relatively small, do the research you need to and hire a coach who fits your budget and offers as much as you can get for your price point.

If you have a bit of a bigger budget, ask how much it will cost you not to hire a great writing coach. How much time will you lose without the encouragement a writing coach can offer? How important is your deadline and can you meet it without a writing coach to help ensure that you do? Do you want professional help on your book?

If the price point is an issue for you, one-on-one coaching through Self-Publishing School is included with SPS life-time access programs, along with an exclusive community.

This involves group coaching multiple days a week. Through SPS, coaching is not generalized but is targeted at the specific stage you’re at in the process.

Usually the best coaching is the most specifically targeted, and SPS coaching will target your specific stage so you can get the most out of the coaching experience.

As you move forward

Choosing to move forward with hiring a writing coach is a big step toward your publication dreams.

Anyone can dream about writing a book. Most people can even start the process. Few people will make it through the halfway point, and even less will make it to the finish line.

Hiring a writing coach will help you not only start writing your book, but make it all the way to the end, with encouragement along the way.

Just as a personal trainer wants to see you progress in your training regimen, a writing coach wants to see you progress from having your book idea to seeing it completed. 

Parting question

Before you take the leap into hiring a writing coach, ask yourself one valuable question:

Do I want to finish writing my book?

If you like the idea of being a writer but are not intent on finishing your book, a writing coach will be more of a frustration than a help. The relationship will not be pleasant for either you or the coach.

If you answer yes, I do want to finish writing my book, launch yourself into finding your writing coach.

If you have a book burning inside you, a story aching to be told, and just aren’t sure how to make it to the final page, now is the time to take that step.

Your story needs to be told.

You know the steps necessary to do so.

The rest is up to you!

Enjoy the process of finding your coach, working together, and finishing your book. Receive their encouragement along the way and know that they are just as excited about you finishing your book as you are.

Wondering what the best path is for you?

Take our quiz and find out!

How To End A Story (Steps & Examples To Satisfy Readers)

Have you ever turned the page in a book and been disappointed that you’re on the final one?

A good book can never take too long to finish. What makes a great book comes down to many varying factors, but a great ending can make or break the entirety of a book.

Knowing what kind of ending is best for your story is part of the responsibility and pleasure of being a writer. It’s up to you to play around with varying endings and choose what is best for your story.

While there could be many good endings for your story, there is only one best ending.  

This guide to how to end a story covers:

  1. Elements of a good story ending
  2. Don’t break the tone or voice of your story
  3. Write an ending readers don’t expect
  4. Take your time, but not too much
  5. Reveal your ending, don’t tell it
  6. How to end a story that leaves readers satisfied step-by-step
  7. Examples of good story endings
  8. Need a little help?

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Fiction Book Outline Template

Ready to write? Get the parts of your story RIGHT and finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

You’ve probably read an ending that you couldn’t forget for days and even weeks after finishing the book. Maybe it was sad in the best way possible, it was comedy that you just couldn’t forget, it was a profound statement that has rolled in your head since, or the author revealed a plot twist you never saw coming . . . but somehow still made complete sense. 

You’ve also probably read an ending that made you put the book down in frustration. For the reader, there is not much worse than a terrible ending. There’s nothing quite like dedicating hours of time to reading a book only to finally reach the finish line and be disappointed.

While bad endings are not fun to read, they can help writers know what not to do. However, it can be much more enjoyable to look at what makes a great ending and read through examples of great endings. 

Writers are often encouraged to pour themselves into their opening line, paragraph, and pages.

It’s crucial for readers to maintain the same skill and dedication for their endings as they do for their openers. If an opener is about grabbing the reader’s attention from sentence one, page one, then endings are about keeping the reader’s attention. Satisfy your readers so well they think about the book long after they close it.

There are a few different types of endings. Traditionally, there is comedy or tragedy. Today you could end with a sad ending (tragedy) that hangs with the reader and makes them think. You could end with a twist that surprises the reader and leaves them stunned but pleased. You know you’ve done your job when a reader walks away saying, “I never saw that coming!” 

Every book is different, therefore every ending will need to be different. Choose what’s best for you and your story! 

When it comes to learning how to write a great ending well, let’s start at the beginning.

Elements of a good story ending 

The elements of a great story ending vary depending on the genre that you write as well as the purpose of why you are writing.

If you write young adult science-fiction, your ending will incorporate different elements than if you write historical middle-grade fiction. The same can be said for nonfiction, sub-genres, etc. 

However, there are some key factors that should be noted when deciding how to wrap up your previous 50-100 thousand words

Don’t break the tone or voice of your story

First, if you’re writing middle-grade fiction from the perspective of a young, energetic child, it’s important to write an ending that fits his personality. Regardless of what your specific ending looks like, it should be portrayed through the eyes of your prospective character.

This does not mean that you should not include a dramatic character arc from first page to last. A great character arc is one factor contributing to a great story. If your character has changed from page one to the last page, that will be a great benefit to your story. Simply keep in mind the tone of your character, as well as the voice of your story.

Write an ending readers don’t expect

Second, don’t give your readers the ending they expect, but don’t completely surprise them in a way they can’t recover from. Plot twists and surprises are part of the fun of writing, but they should not be done so dramatically the reader can’t recover. 

The reader should join the protagonist on the journey throughout the book, but they should still feel part of the same story at the last page. When you’re deciding what ending to include, brainstorm.

Whatever your first idea is, write it down, but don’t stop there. Go further. Think of a second idea. Then think of a third idea. Don’t choose the default ending. You’re the creative and you get to decide how to write a creative ending that both fits with your book but also satisfies your reader.

Take your time, but not too much

Third, ensure you give your ending the appropriate amount of time to tie up all the loose ends and give your reader a satisfactory ending. The reader should not feel whiplash closing the book. They should be able to discern that the story is wrapping up and the character has completed the quest, goal, or mission, and changed because of it. 

Think of an ending as a goodbye between your character and the reader. Too short of a goodbye and your reader will not feel any resolution. Too long of a goodbye and you could negate the power of your ending.

Reveal your ending, don’t tell it

Readers read to imagine a story world in their head, not to be told what happens. The adage, show don’t tell, can be applied to your entire manuscript, but specifically to your ending. 

While it may seem simple to sum up the ending of your fiction or nonfiction book by simply telling what happened, this isn’t fair to your reader.

They’ve invested their time in reading your book and now it’s time to pay off their investment by showing, not just telling, a memorable ending.

Give the reader time to enjoy their investment and sit in the payoff they’ve read the entirety of your book to reach.

Depending on your specific manuscript, a short epilogue may be necessary but ideally, you will want to show your endings rather than sum them up. This gives honor to the reader and their time investment, as well as demonstrates your writing capabilities. 

Show your ending in a way that satisfies, then write that last sentence and let the reader go.

How to end a story that leaves readers satisfied, step-by-step

How to end a story depends on the genre you write. If you’re writing nonfiction, your ending will look quite a bit different than if you write fiction. However, fiction techniques are often applied to nonfiction. Both are a story, one is simply true and one made up. 

Regardless of your genre, ending a story in a way that leaves readers satisfied is generally dependent on a few key steps.

Step one

It’s imperative to be aware of all the loose ends you need to tie up. Whether you’re writing a standalone novel or a series, fiction or nonfiction, make sure you leave the reader satisfied with answers, not asking questions. 

Step two

Finalize your character arcs in a way that makes sense for your story. If you’re writing fiction, make sure your characters have grown in the appropriate way. If you’re writing nonfiction, make sure your protagonist, whoever that is, has had a successful character arc. Growth needs to be revealed by the last page, regardless of genre. 

Step three 

Write the ending you want to write. Many endings could work for your story. But there is likely one that is best and that you want to write. Write the ending you’re most passionate about.

Passion reads well.

Examples of good story endings

The following are some examples of great story endings. *Spoilers ahead! 

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

“It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Notice the tone of the last lines. Your ending should reflect the tone of the rest of your book. This helps the reader feel that resolve, even on the final page.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

Notice which perspective character Dickens chose to use, and the optimism he ended with.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

“Are there any questions?”

This is an ironic way of nearly breaking the fourth wall and ending the story, while also inadvertently asking the reader: Do you have any questions?

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah  

“Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain.”

Summing up an entire novel in six words takes talent. It gives credibility to what the protagonist has been through, shows the resolve at the end of the story, but alludes to the fact that long after the book closes, the characters still remain.

Atomic Habits, James Clear

“Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”

These four words are essentially the book idea boiled down to a motto. If you write nonfiction, try doing this for your manuscript.

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

“You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

This is a fantastic summation not just of what the book was about, but the why behind writing it.

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

“I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools. I like a twist of meaning. I endure.”

Similar to the ending in The Nightingale, this ending calls out the plot twist while showing the growth of the character. 

How Far You Have Come, Morgan Harper Nichols 

“The questions kept me trusting the journey home was worth living for.”

Nichols’ entire book is poetic prose, and she stays aligned with the tone of her book by following the same voice all the way through the last line. She also leaves a touch of hope at the end. 

As you read the above examples, notice the tone in each one.

They differ depending on the genre of the book, but many of them also include a profound statement.

You could end your book with a statement similar to one of the above: Narrative, inner monologue, or even dialogue as Atwood did. 

Whatever method you choose to take, remember that you can always change it. All writing is rewriting and it is perfectly normal to edit an ending until it looks completely different than it did the first draft. 

Some of the best endings have likely seen the most edits. 

Best wishes on your ending and you make it shine!

Need a little help?

Check out our full Fiction Writer’s Handbook.

With 6 Lessons covering the fundamentals of fiction writing and how to lay out your book and story, this easy to use guide can save you a lot of heartache later on.

Acknowledgement Page, Copyright Page, & More!

25-page Fiction Book Outline Template

Ready to write? Get the parts of your story RIGHT and finish your book FASTER by downloading this FREE template that’s pre-formatted, easy to use, and you can fill-in-the-blank!

how to start a memoir

How to Start a Memoir (Inspirational Examples & Tips)

Sometimes, the hardest part of writing is getting started. 

In a fictional story, it can be difficult to tell when, exactly, to plunk the reader into the action.

When it comes to nonfiction, it can be tricky to look through the huge pool of information and decide how to introduce the topic. What goes first? How should I introduce the reader to this information? 

It can be just as tricky when it comes to starting a memoir. 

We’ll go over some examples and discuss what these examples do well, show you a few different ways to start your memoir, and walk you through a format to help you see your memoir through to the end! 

This guide on how to start a memoir covers:

  1. Examples of starting a memoir
  2. How to start a memoir step-by-step
  3. Start your memoir with a story
  4. Begin your memoir with stats
  5. Treat the start of your memoir like a novel
  6. What is the format of a memoir?
  7. Get a free class on how to write a memoir

Surprise! It’s not all about you….

Writing and Publishing
Your Life Story

Learn the 3 Core Elements in every great memoir – the hidden framework used in memoir bestsellers – and get started writing your own in this free online class!

As any fan of memoirs will tell you, memoir is an immensely powerful medium.

Reading compelling, real-life stories about other people can hit home like nothing else, so when you set off to write your own memoir, it can be daunting just to get started. Whichever part of your life you’re focusing on, how do you know where to start? 

Examples of starting a memoir

What makes for a compelling start?

Here are four examples of solid openings to memoirs: 

1 – The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through the dumpster.”

This opening launches the reader directly into action. The contrast between the narrator wondering if she’s overdressed and Mom rooting through the dumpster is interesting, but honestly, Mom rooting through the dumpster is interesting all on its own. We immediately want to know more. 

2 – Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic 

“The blood is still rolling off my flak jacket from the hole in my shoulder and there are bullets cracking into the sand all around me.” 

Here, we’re given an immediate sense of danger. We know that the speaker survives, since he’s writing this memoir, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t worried about him. This opening makes us want to know how he got into this situation, what this situation is, and how he’ll survive. 

3 – Bread: A Memoir of Hunger by Lisa Knopp 

“The only bread that I knew as a child was store bought, machine made, sliced, plastic wrapped, and white. My mother insisted that my two brothers and I eat a slice of the airy bread smeared with Blue Bonnet margarine as part of our supper. ‘Eat your bread and butter and then you can go play,’ she’d say, as if it were a green vegetable. ‘Crust, too. It’s good for your teeth.’”

The details make this opener outstanding. We have different descriptions of bread and a specific, familiar brand of margarine listed. Additionally, the interaction the mother has with her children is relatable. This opening uses relatability in her anecdote to establish rapport with the reader—we like her, and we want to learn more. 

4 – Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison by Piper Kerman

“International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly. I scurried from one to another, desperately trying to find my black suitcase. Because it was stuffed with drug money, I was more concerned than one might normally be about lost luggage.”

This opening sets the scene and cuts straight to a very compelling conflict: there’s drug money in the lost luggage. Again, this raises a million questions, and we expect to figure out what’s going to happen. At the same time, we’re not totally lost in this introduction. We have a guess about what’s going on based on the phrase ‘drug money’ and the fact that Piper’s in Brussels—we know that this is about selling drugs on an international scale. 

This is a great example of giving the reader enough information to know what’s going on without giving the game away. We still have a ton of questions, and we’re still going to read to find out what happens to Piper. 

How to start a memoir step-by-step

You may have already identified a few common threads in the examples I shared earlier. Compelling openings hook the reader with an interesting fact or conflict that raises questions the memoir promises to answer. 

But how do you write a good hook?

Here are three suggestions for how you can start your memoir:

1 – Start with a story 

Begin your memoir with an anecdote. It should be something which connects to the rest of the memoir—if you’re writing about your childhood in rural Kentucky, for example, the anecdote should be related to that. It should also connect to the themes you’ll explore throughout your memoir. 

Take a look at the opening to Bread: A Memoir of Hunger. Knopp uses specific detail and relatability to make her story pop and draw the reader in. That same story might fall flat without the dialogue and sharp descriptions. You don’t necessarily have to be relatable in your opening anecdote, but it is important to use all the rhetorical tools in your arsenal to hook your reader. 

Not sure how to do this? Focus on the senses. What does the scene smell like? Are there any distinctive visuals? What about taste, touch, and sound? Plant your reader in the middle of an interesting story, and they’ll want to see it through. 

2 – Start with stats 

Let me be clear: you definitely don’t want to open a memoir with an info-dump or an expository paragraph listing statistics and facts. You wouldn’t want to do this in any book, and especially not in a memoir, where readers are looking for a more creative, artistic experience. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t use statistics, though. If there’s a statistic about your subject that stands out, try using it to get your reader’s attention. Make sure to tie this statistic to yourself or the memoir’s themes as quickly as possible to keep the information relevant. 

3 – Treat it like a novel 

Memoir, unlike autobiography, isn’t concerned with minute facts and timelines. It’s more interested in expressing the symbolic truth of an event or period of time in someone’s life. For example, say you’re writing a memoir about the group of friends you had in college. You may gloss over detailed information about, say, your upbringing.  

In this respect, a good memoir tends to read more like a novel than like an autobiography. The people in it become characters, and the settings need to pop just like they might in fiction. Similarly, you should use dialogue, description, and supporting characters to your advantage. 

What does this mean when it comes to writing your opening? Think of it like you’re opening fiction. Look for tips on writing a good fictional first chapter and apply them to your story. 

What is the format of a memoir?

You’ve got all you need to write a fantastic start to your memoir! Now, let’s go over a quick format that will help you write the rest of it. Remember, your memoir should read like a novel—this format is designed with this idea in mind! 

1 – Opening 

The opening to your memoir should introduce the main ‘characters’ (yourself and other important people), themes, and settings. There may be places or people you won’t introduce quite yet because they don’t appear until later, and that’s fine! But we should definitely know who our narrator is, what their core conflict is, and what kinds of themes we’ll be exploring. 

2 – Story  

The ‘story’ in a memoir is the driving conflict. This is what made you sit down to write a memoir in the first place—it’s what the book is about. If you’re writing about your friends in college, for example, the story will follow that group, its formation, what you got up to, and how it fell apart. 

This may be one single story, told in a straightforward way, or you might play with the formatting. A story can be told through a series of essays, like in John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed, it can move through time linearly, or it can jump around. 

Just like writing a fictional novel, you’ll have to figure out what format is the most efficient, effective way of delivering the information you have to share. The bulk of your novel will be this section—think of it as the second act of a movie. This is where the characters respond to conflict, grow, change, and work up to the climax. 

3 – Climax 

In the climax of your memoir, the themes should come to fruition. This is where the central conflict peaks, leaving the narrator to use the tools they’ve learned so far to overcome this final obstacle. 

Obviously, in real life, we don’t really have ‘climaxes.’ Things don’t unfold, usually, in neat little arcs. But for the sake of memoir, you’ll have to sculpt a narrative from real events. If you’re writing about your divorce, for example, and the intense custody battle that ensues, the climax might be the day the judge finally gives her ruling. This is what we’ve been building up to throughout the story. 

4 – Resolution 

After the climax, a memoir should have a resolution to show how the narrator has changed. This is where you have the chance to really bring your themes home—the way the events of the story impacted your narrator will ultimately decide the message and tone of your memoir as a whole, so it’s important to pay close attention. 

For example: Say you’re writing a memoir about a custody battle, and throughout the book, the narrator has used manipulation and scheming to get his way. The judge decides not to give custody to the narrator. The narrator might reflect that this means the system is rigged and stupid, which tells the reader he didn’t learn from these events. Or, the narrator might reflect that this means he needs to change and become a better father—this gives the reader a totally different takeaway. 

Staying as true as you can to people and events is important in memoir. Getting at the emotional truth of something often means adhering to the actual truth as closely as possible. The resolution or takeaway, though, is one of those places where you can add some creative liberty. At the time, maybe you didn’t find those events particularly impactful, and you’ve only come to appreciate them in hindsight. Adding the clarification of hindsight can go a long way in creating symbolic meaning that will resonate with your reader. 

Do you have any memoir recommendations? Got any tips for writing a good memoir? Let us know in the comments! 

Get a free class on how to write a memoir

Sign up below and save your spot for our next memoir class!

Surprise! It’s not all about you….

Writing and Publishing
Your Life Story

Learn the 3 Core Elements in every great memoir – the hidden framework used in memoir bestsellers – and get started writing your own in this free online class!

SPS 131: Get Different With Your Book Marketing: How To Market In A Way That Stands Out with Mike Michalowicz

Listen to today’s episode as I talk with Mike Michalowicz, the creator of Profit First, used by hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe to drive profit. In addition, he is the creator of Clockwork, a powerful method to make any business run automatically. In his 2020 release Fix This Next, Mike details businesses’ strategies to determine their next step. His latest book, Get Different, gives you the tools to stand out in any market.

How Mike is Marketing His New Book Differently

When it comes to marketing, if we use the same marketing methods as everyone else, consumers will become habituated to that message. As a result, people will become complacent and not want to look at your marketing message. Mike looks at two components for marketing his latest book: mediums and methods.

Mediums and Methods for Book Marketing

While your medium is what you are using for marketing, the method is how you will market your book. For example, even though Mike still sends out emails, he creates a new email marketing experience that encourages his email list to take action.

Listen to discover how Mike creates his marketing message, why you need to be consistent with who you really are as an author, and how you can launch your book “audio only” first before you publish your hard copy.

Show Highlights

  • [03:37] How Mike is marketing his new book differently than his last book.
  • [05:26] Using mediums and methods to market your book.
  • [10:30] Be honest with who you are and what your idiosyncrasies are in your business. 
  • [20:05] Launch your audiobook first before your print copy. 
  • [22:50] How you can use Mike’s marketing philosophy to stay ahead of the book marketing game.
  • [29:00] Children’s books and how they are a saturated genre.

Links and Resources