format a manuscript

Manuscript Format: Step-by-Step Guide to Format Your Manuscript

Did you know there are specific industry standards to adhere to in formatting your manuscript?

Not taking note of these rules can set you back immeasurably when it comes to becoming a successful author.

Speaking from experience as a professional development coach and former literary magazine editor: neatness and precision count.

Just like a hiring manager often throws out resumes that boast “attention to detail” while they are riddled with typos, an agent or editor can be just as quick to toss a manuscript because the writer failed to comply with basic formatting and submission requests.

And then your chances are shot…all because of formatting mistakes I’ll help you fix in this blog post.

manuscript format

Give your story the proper chance it deserves.

Here are the basic manuscript formatting standards:

  1. Title page formatting
  2. Single page manuscript formatting
  3. Formatting chapters
  4. Proper letter design
  5. Submitting your manuscript to editors, agents, and publishers

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in ourVIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more by clicking here! <https://self-publishingschool.com/programs>

Why Your Manuscript Format Matters

When a literary professional receives bulk submissions, they need to pare them down. The poorly presented options are often the first to go.

Don’t let sloppy work make you lose out on an opportunity.

But don’t worry! Today we’re going to go over every single thing you need to check for in a properly formatted manuscript.

Even if you haven’t finished writing your manuscript yet, you can save a lot of time by formatting it as you write!

[Pssst! If you want to check out some of our Students’ books, check out the SPS Library!]

#1 – Title page manuscript format

Step on the right foot by perfecting the very first thing everyone sees of your final manuscript: the title page.

Your title page should let the reader know what they’re reading, who wrote it, how to contact the author, and how long the piece is.

  • Contact information–your contact information goes on the title page of your manuscript for easy access.
    1. It should include your legal name, address, phone number, and email address
    2. The contact information should be positioned in the upper lefthand corner of the title page
    3. Single-spaced
    4. Left-justified alignment 
  • Title–the title of your manuscript
    1. Center-justified alignment 
    2. One-third to one-half way down the page
    3. If you have a subtitle, it should appear on the same line as your title
  • Author name–this is the name you are publishing the work under.
    1. Center-justified alignment
    2. One double-spaced line below the title (and subtitle)
    3. If you have a pen name, it goes here. Make sure you use your real name in the contact information section
  • Word count
    1. Rounded to the nearest thousand
    2. One double-spaced line below the author name
  • Agent’s information–if you have an agent already, their contact information goes in the upper lefthand corner, and the writer’s contact information moves to the lower righthand corner.

Here’s an example for what a title page for my book, without a literary agent, might look like:

manuscript format title page
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#2 – Single page manuscript formatting

After the title page, there are also specific ways to format each page of your manuscript.

Here are the rules for the rest of the document after your title page:

  • 8.5 by 11-inch pages
  • One-inch margins on each side
  • Single space after periods–if you’re trained the old way with double spaces after each period, you can easily search + replace the document to swap double spaces for single spaces
  • Use a “#” to denote scene breaks–do not use extra lines or other symbols to indicate a scene break
  • Left-justified alignment
  • Book genre-specific paragraph indention
    1. For works of nonfiction, like textbooks and instructional literature, manuscripts should be left-justified alignment with no indentation and a line between each paragraph. 
    2. For works of fiction, use left-justified alignment with half an inch indention and no line between paragraphs.
      1. To indent paragraphs, don’t use tab or space. In MS Word, “paragraph” > “paragraph settings” > “indentation” > “special” > “first line” > “0.5 inch”
      2. After you format the paragraph indentation once, it should do it automatically when you start a new line
  • Headers–at the top right of every page (excluding the title page), you should include the following information:
    1. Your last name
    2. The book title (or an abbreviated version of the book title)
    3. The page number (start page count on the first page of the actual story. Do not include a page number on the title page)
  • “THE END”
    1. “THE END” at the end of your manuscript indicates the end of the manuscript
    2. Center-justified alignment after the last line of your story
    3. Important for beta readers, editors, and agents to ensure no part of the story has been lost in transit

#3 – Formatting chapters

It’s easy to want to throw your chapters together, one right after another, but there’s a more specific means of formatting your manuscript for chapters specifically.

New chapters should not run onto the same page as another chapter.

This is how to properly format a chapter change:

  • New chapter page break–always start a new chapter on a new page
  • Chapter title page
    1. center-align justify the title of the chapter, even if it’s just a chapter number
    2. One-third to one-half way down the page
    3. Start the chapter one double-spaced down from the title

Following that format makes a manuscript much more palatable, just like having your text double-spaced. Any technicality that makes your manuscript easier to read is something you want to take advantage of.

Here’s an example new chapter page from my work-in-progress, Taogan:

#4 – Proper letter design

The words themselves should also be as simple and readable as possible.

Your typeface is not where you express your creativity. Maybe further down the line, your interior formatting can take some more stylistic routes, but for your manuscript, you want it plain and simple.

Here are the industry standards for letter design:

  1. Size: 12 point
  2. Typeface: Times New Roman (Sometimes other basic typefaces like Arial are also acceptable. Always check the submission guidelines for your particular case.)
  3. Color: Black
  4. Line: Double-spaced

#5 – Submitting your manuscript to editors, agents, and publishers

If you’re traditionally publishing (and therefore, must not be totally aware of the differences and benefits of self-publishing your book), you’ll send your manuscript to literary agents.

If you can’t follow their submission rules, you won’t get an agent.

format manuscripts

If you’re acting as your own agent, you’ll send your manuscript to editors and publishers.

Again, if you haven’t followed industry standards and their specific submission rules, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before they even have a chance to read your manuscript.

If you’re sending your manuscript to a professional editor you’ve hired yourself, you still want to follow these manuscript formatting tips–and the tips below for a digital submission.

The standard manuscript format is organized, readable, and professional, even if you find a situation where it isn’t a requirement.

Check the particular agent, editor, or publisher requirements, as each might have their own specifications for what to include and how to format.

Digital

  1. If you’re submitting a digital file of your manuscript, it should be a .doc or .docx, unless otherwise specified. This is the most popular file type for submissions, and Microsoft Word’s track changes feature makes it a favorite among editors and reviewers.
  2. For an initial submission, an agent typically asks for you to paste the first pages or chapter of your manuscript into the body of an email. Past this stage, they typically request a .doc or .docx of the full work.
  3. You may also be asked for a cover letter, author bio, or query letter with your submission.

Mail-in

Some submissions are still open for mail-in options. If you take a mail-in route, you’ll have to print your manuscript.

If you need to print a physical copy of your manuscript for a submission, be sure to follow these printing guidelines! 

  1. Single-sided
  2. High quality, bright paper
  3. High quality, dark ink

There are many technicalities involved with producing a clean and professional manuscript, but you can use the rules above to make your own checklist!

Go item by item to format your story properly.

If you’d like to bypass the submission process, consider self-publishing your book!

how to write a book

How to Write a Book Step by Step: With a Free Book Template

Writing a book is hard without the right help. Without someone who’s done it before, you can end up making crucial mistakes.

You decided to write a book. Maybe you have the perfect idea (so you think, but we’ll get to that), have always wanted to write one, and just aren’t sure where the heck to get started!

The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is so much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon.

Anyone who says learning how to write a book is easy has never actually tried. If they did, they’d know writing a book takes a lot more than a helpful piece of grammar software.

It takes help from someone who’s done it before.

Which is why I’m weighing in, having written and published 6 bestselling books.

Let’s save you a ton of time, and many headaches, and dive into how to write a book.

how to write a book steps

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…

You stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. To combat the boredom, you stand, stretch, and brew yet another pot of coffee.

And…a week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book? I haven’t even come up with a book idea yet!”

But now you’re ready to start writing a book—and we’re going to help make sure you do.

Here’s how to write a book step by step:

  1. Prevent procrastination when writing a book
  2. Adopt the Mentality of a Writer
  3. Preparing to Write a Book
  4. Schedule writing time
  5. Get book writing tools
  6. Writing Your Book
  7. Get Your Free Book Template
  8. Avoid Book Writing Mistakes
  9. Launching After Writing Your Book

Ready to get started as a serious writer right now? Check out your free training below before reading the rest of this post!

How to Write a Book Despite Procrastination

There are plenty of reasons why writing a book, whether you’re writing a fiction novel or nonfiction, puts most writers directly into procrastination mode.

These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:

  • You’re not sure how to get started
  • It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
  • You’re insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
  • You’re afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
  • You’re worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
  • You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book

Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.

You’re in illustrious company!

Ready to learn how to write your first book and go from blank page to published author in just 90 days? Then let’s get started!

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in ourVIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more by clicking here!

How to Write a Book Step 1: Think Like a Writer

Before you sit down and type a single word, it will pay off if you take some time to address a few attitude questions and adopt the right mindset.

This is one of the most frequently overlooked steps in becoming a published author, which is a big reason why so many people fail to finish their book.

Take it from me—it’s worth your time to complete these steps. They will make the rest of your book-writing experience much, much easier and more satisfying.

[Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here!]

#1 – Find Your “Why” for Writing a Book

Before you open your laptop and start daydreaming about which photographer should take your best-selling author headshot, or about getting interviewed on Oprah, you need to answer one question:

What’s your reason for writing a book?

It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose.

I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Solidifying the purpose fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.

Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.

However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator which will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings have long dissipated.

These are some popular reasons for authors to write a book:

  • Authority: To build credibility.
  • Money: For financial gain, business success, or to make a living writing.
  • Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
  • Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
  • To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
  • To give others an escape: If you write fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
  • To change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.

There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.

Your WHY will be unique to you.

Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.

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#2 – Get Rid of Your Excuses for Not Writing the Book

You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.

When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.

But you can overcome it.

It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.

Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than a publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.

Excuse #1 – You don’t know what to write.

You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.

In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.

The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.

Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:

  • Look at a list of writing prompts or story ideas and choose an idea
  • Write a list of all the things you’re most passionate about
  • Write down a list of everything you’re very knowledgeable about
  • Write a list of areas you want to be seen as credible in
  • Compile all of these lists and rank your ideas in order of what you’re most passionate about
  • Imagine which idea you’d be most proud to have your name on
  • Choose the idea you know the most about and are the most passionate about

Once you have an idea narrowed down, you can go ahead and start your mindmap and outline.

Excuse #2 –  You don’t have enough time.

Today, we’re all busy. I get it.

Plus, how long does writing a book take in the first place?

But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.

Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.

And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.

The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.

You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!

Excuse #3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading. 

Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.

In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.

Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.

And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).

Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:

  • Only read a chapter or two at night
  • Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
  • Be intentional about what you read
  • Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
  • Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time

Excuse #4 – You’re “not an expert.”

A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”

The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.

You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know—then you’re expert enough to write a book.

So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.

Excuse #5 – Your first draft must be flawless.

A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.

Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.

how to write a book

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”

If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.

#3 – Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect

The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that:

  1. You don’t need a creative writing class.
  2. You don’t need a writing mentor or coach (though it does help).
  3. You don’t need to read thousands of good books.

You only need one thing: a system for finishing your book.

There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.

As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.

This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”

how to write a book quote

How to Write a Book Step 2: Pepare to Write a Book

Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.

Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.

#1 – Schedule Your Book Writing Time

Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.

Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”

Step 1 – Develop a writing habit and plan it out

Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams. In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.

Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.

Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.

Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.

how to write a book scheduling example

Look at Laura Bennett, a Self-Publishing School student. She was working full-time, running a business, and working on her Master’s degree—busier than most people—yet she found the time to write her book Live Your Dream: How to Cut the Crap and Prioritize Your Purpose in 2 months!

If Laura could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.

Step 2 – Choose the time of day you plan to write

You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.

If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.

Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities, or waiting for a meeting to start.

Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.

how to write a book method

Step 3 – Set a deadline for writing your book

Setting an end date forces you to stay on schedule and keeps the forward momentum going. So consider giving yourself a deadline for your book.

You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?

One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book. If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.

If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.

Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.

Your book will have

words

pages

*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*

Average Time to Write This Book: 60 days

Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book is how it comes to life.

If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.

The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.

Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.

It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.

That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.

#2 – Create Your Writing Space

The physical space where you write your book is important. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted.

True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…

how to write a book desk example

…but I suspect that most of these authors would become even more focused and productive if they cleaned up their writing space to make it easier to focus on their writing.

how to write a book clean desk

However, that’s just my opinion. The truth is that the “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity:

How to Start Writing TipExecution
Minimize Distractions
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog
- remind everyone it's YOUR time
- Turn your phone off
- Close ALL web browsers
- Close your email
Get Comfortable- invest in a GOOD chair
- or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy
- fill the area with motivational quotes
- make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise- turn off all sounds if it distracts you
- turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate
- choose energizing music to help you focus

(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity.)

You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.

Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!

#3 – Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools

Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?

Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.

Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of writing software.

Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with.

But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.

There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Scrivener
  • Google Docs

We’ll cover all of them for you below.

Microsoft Word

If you just want a time-tested program that works, Word might be the program for you. It’s the most widely used word processor in the world, which means it’s highly reliable and consistent. It also provides a lot of formatting options and even has a navigation pane you can use to easily find the chapter you’re looking for.

how to write a book editing exampe

One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.

Scrivener

If you like advanced features, definitely check out Scrivener. It was created specifically for authors, and it contains all sorts of tools that are really helpful for both fiction and nonfiction authors.

For example, you can use the corkboard view to organize how you’ll write your book using virtual notecards:

how to write a book scrivener outlining

The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.

If you do decide to go with Scrivener, here’s a Scrivener tutorial for you to learn how to use it best:

Google Docs

You can think of Google Docs as sort of a “Word Lite” program that you can access online, for free. While it doesn’t boast as many features as Word or Scrivener, it’s the hands-down most convenient program out there for sharing and collaboration.

Because everything is stored online, you can access your work from anywhere. And it’s easy to share your work with others and collaborate by leaving comments in the margins:

how to write a book google docs example

The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.

Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.

How to Write a Book Step 3: Actually Write Your Book

OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing!

This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.

But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think—if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.

Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book.

#1 – Come Up With Your Book Idea

Before you can start typing, you need to have a topic. That might seem obvious, but it can still be a stumbling block if you don’t know what to write about.

Fortunately, there are countless book ideas that could turn into bestselling books.

I recommend brainstorming a long list of book ideas. This way you’ll have a lot of options—giving you the freedom to choose the best possible book topic.

You can even utilize lists of writing prompts to get your mind moving in the right direction.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to come up with a book idea:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
  • What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?
  • What are people coming to you for advice on?
  • What’s a topic you know a lot about or can’t stop talking about?

These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!

Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”

That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!

It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.

#2 – Don’t Censor Yourself

When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.

So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.

On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!

The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.

But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.

Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.

Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.

#3 – Take a Reader-Centric Perspective

While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:

Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own).

Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.

Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What would my reader be most interested in?
  • What would my reader most like to learn?
  • What are my reader’s biggest problems?
  • What’s the biggest question my readers are asking?

When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.

how to write a book stephen king

#4 – Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First

By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:

  • Which one can you finish the fastest? Usually, this is the topic where you have the most experience. This is a good thing to keep in mind because the faster you can finish your book, the faster you can get it out in the world where it can earn you money and help people. (And the faster you can get started on your second book!)
  • Which one are you most likely to finish? Usually, these are the topics you are more passionate about. For your first book, I highly recommend choosing a topic that you’re really passionate about to help make sure that you’ll remain interested throughout the entire process.
  • Which one is going to make you happy? This is a little harder to define, but it might be something that strikes a chord with you. Maybe there’s a certain book topic that stands out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then go for it! Remember, writing should make you

Now with these tips in mind, choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.

#5 – Come Up With a Title

The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:

Your book title.

You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.

Here are a few tips on creating standout, marketable titles.

For a nonfiction book, your title should…

  • Include the solution to the reader’s problem
  • Use a subtitle for clarity
  • Be unforgettable

And for a fiction book, your title should…

  • Be appropriate to your genre
  • Pique the reader’s interest
  • Take its inspiration from your characters

It always helps to do a little research on Amazon. To do that, just head here and select your book genre on the left-hand side of the page:

how to write a book title

Then you can take a look at some of the best-selling titles in your genre. You can even sub-niche down several times:

“History > Ancient Civilizations > Mesopotamia.”

Now pay attention to the titles and look for common themes or trends to use for your own book.

Remember that you’re just starting, so you can always change the title later. But for the time being it can help to have a “working title” (a temporary title that you may change before publication).

#6 – Fill Out The BookMap

The BookMap is a free downloadable book outlining template you can use to quickly gather all the important information you’ll need for your book — fiction or nonfiction.

how to write a book outline method

Essentially, the way it works is you’ll create a mind map—sort of a brain dump with a line connecting related ideas together—on your book’s topic.

Start your BookMap by writing your intended topic in the center. From there, answer the questions and add as many related ideas as you can think of. (Again, connect related ideas with a line.) The BookMap gives you the benefits of writing in free-form and creating structure from all the connections you make.

Click here to learn more about the BookMap and download a free PDF template.

#7 – Turn Your BookMap Into an Outline

Once you’ve completely filled out your BookMap, the next step is to group all the related ideas into categories. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to do this; just combine your ideas in the way that makes the most sense to you.

One way to do this is to rewrite each idea on a fresh piece of paper, this time grouped together in related topics. Or, you could simply use different-colored highlighters to categorize your ideas with different colors.

Either way, the result is the same: when you’re done grouping your ideas, those categories will form the outline for your book—each category is a new chapter. So now you know exactly which topics to write about, and you know which points to cover in every chapter of your book.

If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!

Just choose your type, fiction or nonfiction, submit your information and you’ll have a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.

Book Outline Template Generator

Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your novel.

Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!

Book Outline Template Generator

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

In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

#8 – Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method

You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.

For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.

When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate in areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.

This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.

how to write a book sticky note-method

#9 – Now Write Your Book…One Chapter at a Time

You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.

And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:

  • Complete a mini-BookMap for that chapter, brainstorming everything you know about this topic. (10 minutes.)
  • Organize your ideas and turn that BookMap into an outline. (10 minutes.)
  • Write or speak the chapter by following the outline you just created. (45-60 minutes.)
  • Repeat this process, chapter by chapter, until your book is completed.

Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline. You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.

Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.

If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.

how to write a book mark manson

#10 – Speak Your Book

This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?

Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:

  • Speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device such as Voice Memos or Audacity.
  • Get that audio file transcribed using a transcription service like Rev.
  • Read through the transcription and revise/polish it up.

As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.

Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.

Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.

#11 – Speed Up Your Writing

Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.

Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:

  • Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it.
  • If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section instead.
  • Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t stop you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
  • An accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.

How to Write a Book Step 4: Avoid Potholes Along the Way

If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.

So nothing could possibly go wrong…right?

Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book writing roadblocks.

Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems.

#1 – Beat Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.

Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.

The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.

Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:

  1. Circle back to your BookMap or outline and see if there’s useful info that sparks fresh inspiration. Sometimes it just takes looking back at the bigger picture to remind you where you’re going with your draft.
  2. Change up the physical way you’re writing; sometimes a simple shift can boost creativity. If you use a laptop, put pen to pad. Try some new music, a new location, or new beverage to sip at your desk.
  3. If you find you start writing slowly and warm up as time goes on, allow adequate time during your writing sessions to get the creative juices flowing.
  4. Review what you wrote yesterday to refresh your memory.
  5. Talk it out. Sometimes a quick conversation with yourself is enough to work through writer’s block. Or call a friend and bounce some ideas off them if you’re truly stuck.
  6. Remember that what you’re writing doesn’t need to be perfect—you’re writing a first draft. If you have a case of perfectionist syndrome, tell yourself it’s okay to write something you’ll think is terrible. Making something good is what second drafts and the editing process is for. Always remember: Done is better than perfect.
  7. Go for a walk. You might be surprised at how a walk outside, or a brief bit of exercise, helps refresh and recharge your creative juices.
  8. Read another author who has a style you like. Read their book for 10 minutes and then start typing, holding their voice in your head.

#2 – Don’t Edit While You Write

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing. 

In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.

But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.

Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.

That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.

Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.

#3 – Format Your Book Properly

Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.

The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?

Nonfiction books tend to use block paragraphs, like this:

how to write a look nonfiction format

Whereas fiction books, like The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci below, use indentation instead:

how to write a book fiction format

Here are a few more book formatting tips:

  • Avoid using hard indents. (Don’t hit “tab” at the beginning of a new paragraph; instead, change the paragraph settings to automatically give each paragraph the indentation you want.)
  • Only use one space after a period. (Using 2 spaces was necessary with typewriters, but not with computers.)
  • If you want to create a page break, do not hit “Enter” repeatedly until you reach the next page. Instead, use the “Page break” function. This is the only way to ensure that your page break will work even after people resize your book on their Kindle.

#4 – Keep Going, & Don’t Stop—You’re Almost There!

Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!

Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them.

With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.

How to Write a Book Step 5: Launch Your Book Successfully

By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.

You’ve written a book.

But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.

Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.

It’s true that self-publishing your book on Amazon is a great way to go. But you can’t simply publish your book and expect people to find it. Instead, you need to dedicate some time to mastering the publishing and marketing processes on Amazon to sell more books. This is the only way to make sure that your book makes its way into the hands of the people who will benefit from reading your words.

If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.

#1 – Get a Good Cover

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.

Really, really important.

And a good book cover does 2 things:

  • It grabs people’s attention.
  • It instantly tells people what the book is about.

Here are a few examples from some of my own books:

how to write a book cover design

Notice a couple things. First of all, it’s orange—which helps it to stand out and grab attention. Second, it’s super-clear what the book is about. The title is in the upper third of the book in large print, so you can read it even in a thumbnail.

Both covers were designed using the same basic principles. They’re simple, bold covers that stand out. They also have subtitles that clarify exactly what the book is about.

Now this style of cover works great for my niche, but it won’t necessarily work for every type of book.

For example, it would make a terrible cover for a romance novel!

Why? Well, in short, it doesn’t look like a romance novel. Remember that part of a cover’s job is to tell people what the book is about. And in many genres of fiction and nonfiction, readers have come to expect a certain type of book cover.

In order to clearly communicate what your book is about to your ideal readers, you need it to fit in with their expectations—while also standing out enough to grab their attention. This is another reason why it pays to head over to the Amazon bestselling books list and study some of the most successful books in your genre.

What do those covers look like? Do they share a similar layout? Color scheme? Font style?

For example, if you were writing a romance novel, you would want to study these covers:

how to write a book choosing a title

Find out what the most successful books in your genre look like, then imitate that look—but change it up just enough so that it stands out and grabs your readers’ attention. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers.

#2 – Build a Launch Team

Once you’ve chosen whether to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing, the real key to a successful book launch is building and leveraging a launch team.

So what is a launch team?

In a nutshell, your launch team is a small team of people who are supporting your book. They could be friends, family, associates, online affiliates—anyone.

At first, your launch team might be limited to your immediate friends & family. That’s OK! Launch your book with their help, and work on continually building your launch team every chance you get.

When you build a launch team, you need to make 2 things clear for everyone:

  • What are they agreeing to do for you?
  • What are they getting in return?

Step 1 is pretty simple: you want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family.

This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.

Step 2 can vary from person to person. What do your friends & family get in return for helping you? In many cases, they get things like:

  • A free copy of your book
  • Their name mentioned in the “Acknowledgements” part of your book
  • The chance to be part of something inspiring
  • The personal satisfaction of helping to create something meaningful

As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.

(This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you.)

But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.

#3 – Get Ongoing Reviews

If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:

It loves reviews.

One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.

If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.

When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:

how to write a book with reviews

Reviews are a fantastic form of social proof. They’re a credibility sign that lots of people have read your book and loved it—and that makes other people more likely to want to read it, too.

But you have to be careful about how you go about trying to get Amazon reviews. For example, you can get in big trouble if you try to pay for reviews, swap reviews with other authors, or offer free gifts in exchange for reviews.

You can solicit reviews, but they cannot be “incentivized” reviews.

So how can you generate more reviews without offering people something in return? Well, I’ve discovered a few tips that work incredibly well. Click here to learn my 8-step process for generating more Amazon reviews.

#4 – Get Help From a Mentor Who’s Done It Before

I’d like to leave you with one final message:

The best way to learn how to write a bestselling book is to get help from somebody who’s been there before.

People often ask me how I was able to make so much money and sell so many copies of my very first book. And I always tell them the same thing:

Because I sought out a mentor. Someone to teach me a proven book-writing process that had been tried and tested. A book-writing system that was almost guaranteed to work, as long as I followed it properly.

Well, that’s the real secret to my success as an author. I sought out the help I needed to give my very first book a major head-start.

writing a book purpose

My Final Tip for Learning How to Write a Book

And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.

If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE

BONUS: Check out this Self-Publishing School review by SelfPublishing.com

mindmap for a book

How to MindMap a Book Step-by-Step [Free Book Outline Template]

So you have a killer book idea….the next step is taking that small idea and learning how to mindmap for a book in order to set yourself up for success.

Coming up with a writing prompt or story idea that both will interest you and drive sales is probably the hardest part of self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the process of taking that idea and turning it into a book will be easy.

The first major step in that process is mindmapping, and in this blog, we’re going to explain the best ways of how to mindmap for a book.

how to mindmap for a book

Here are the steps to mindmap for a book:

  1. Understand why you need a mindmap
  2. Know the benefits of mind-mapping
  3. Choose your mind-mapping method
  4. Make a central topic in your mindmap
  5. Add secondary topics
  6. Branch out from the secondary topics
  7. Remember your mindmap will change
  8. Start your mindmap today

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in ourVIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more by clicking here! <https://self-publishingschool.com/programs data-lazy-src=

Why do we need to mindmap?

One might wonder why mindmapping is even necessary. First-time authors may find it tedious or boring while other full-time writers might be talented enough to get away with it.

Mindmapping may not be essential to a successful rough draft, but it makes getting to a refined manuscript a whole lot easier.

For a fun relatable metaphor, I would compare it to grocery shopping.

Do you really go to the grocery store without a plan or list of things to buy? Do you aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and just throw whatever looks good into the cart?

Maybe if you’re 10, and Mom’s buying, but most people would probably say they went to the store with the intention to buy certain items. In this comparison, the prepared list before heading to the store is your mindmap.

And from your mindmap, you create your book outline.

For that step, check this out:

Book Outline Template Generator

We’ve already put the brunt work in, creating front matter, and a fill-in-the-blank style book outline template that’s easy to use.

It even has guidance for what to cover in what chapters in order to plot a really good book readers will love.

Fill in your information below to get your outline template!

[Pssst! Want to see some of our students’ published books? Check out the SPS Library here!]

Benefits of Minmapping a Book

Creating a mindmap for your book is essential for setting your book up for success.

Three main reasons to mindmap:

  1. Helps to organize thoughts
  2. Begins to carve out natural book chapters & creates a story structure
  3. Continues the brainstorming idea process

Without your grocery list, it will take a lot longer walking up and down every aisle to make sure you have everything you want and need in your cart. There’s also a greater possibility that you forget something that you actually do need, and you won’t notice until you’re home.

You can also check out the training below in order to not on understand the importance of this step, but to get a better idea of what you need to set your book up for success:

training

#1 – Mindmapping helps organize thoughts of your book

After you initially devise the main idea or theme of your book, there’s probably a ton of loose thoughts in your mind of what you want to include.

Before losing them in the cobwebs of your head, write them down in your mindmap!

Mindmapping is all about getting every single, teeny-weeny thought or concept written down on paper. Then you can begin organizing which thought goes where. 

Doing this as you write is nearly impossible. Mindmapping helps get all your thoughts on one subject together in one place. That way, they are all grouped together in your book, and you didn’t forget any (like when you forgot to buy peanut butter at the grocery store).

New call-to-action

#2 – Mindmapping begins to naturally carve out book chapters

When authors perform the grouping part of mindmapping, they are actually beginning to form the chapters of their book. This happens so seamlessly, that they might not even realize it!

If you tried to skip mindmapping and subsequently, outlining, and just began writing the rough draft, you might not know where to begin.

Well, after mindmapping, because you wrote out all of your thoughts of every idea you had on each topic, you now know which topics are the most important and have the most supporting information.

Start your book with those bigger topics. When you make a switch in topics during your writing, you know it’s time to begin a new chapter.

#3 – Mindmapping ensures you don’t forget anything & provides structure

As I said in the grocery store example, it’s much easier to forget an item that you need in the refrigerator if you’re just aimlessly walking around the store looking for what you need.

If that’s how you approach your book, you will likely forget to discuss a topic or make a point that you wanted.

Devising a plan for your book through mindmapping helps guarantee that doesn’t happen. It also pushes you to continue brainstorming. You may believe you already have enough to cover a certain subject, but going through the mindmapping process will push you to think of even more great ideas to include when writing your book.

Now that you understand the importance of mindmapping, let’s dive into how to mindmap for a book.

Choose Your Method of Mindmapping Your Book

After learning the three key aspects of why mindmapping is necessary to write a strong manuscript, you’re ready to begin your mindmap. 

mindmapping a book

Now, there are essentially two different ways to mindmap. Let’s dive into each one!

The two different ways to mindmap for a book:

  1. Bubble maps on printer paper
  2. Post-it notes on a bulletin board

Each author should choose the mindmap technique that makes them feel the most comfortable.

Self-Publishing School teaches to avoid using a computer when performing the mindmap phase. I couldn’t agree more.

Surely, it can be done on a laptop or a tablet, especially an interactive one where the user can use his fingers to write and draw. But I find a good, old-fashioned paper and pencil to be the best way to mind map.

You can also use post-it notes if that’s your preferred style.

Mindmap Option #1 – Bubble map on printer paper

The last real requirement before beginning is a piece of paper without lines. Printer paper would work best. Because of the added flexibility of erasing, I would also advise a pencil instead of a pen, but that’s my preferred use of writing utensil anyway.

On the first piece of paper, write your book topic (make it as general as possible) real big in the middle and circle it.

Next, take the more specific topics and put them in smaller circles around the big circle in the middle of the page. Draw a line from each little circle to the big, center circle.

Now, you have the beginning of your mindmap. More than likely, each of those smaller circles are going to turn into your chapters. Essentially, you’re creating a roadmap for your rough draft.

Here are the keys to successful first bubble midmap:

  • Make your central topic in the biggest circle as general as possible.
  • The reasons you want to write the book or important arguments you want to present will make the best topics in the second-tiered bubbles.
  • Continue your roadmap, writing key aspects to include for each topic to fill out the mindmap.

When you’re finished, you are going to have something that looks a little like this:

mindmap example

How to Mindmap For Your Book Using the Bubble Method

Everyone has slightly different methods for mindmapping a book. What I’m taking you through is my experience, plus some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Keep in mind that this is just a base. The real benefit comes from making this process your own and finding what works.

#1 – Make a Central Topic

As you can see with the first mindmap I did for my first book, His World Never Dies: The Evolution of James Bond, my central topic is very, very general — James Bond.

If someone asked me what my book was about, I would be a lot more specific than that, but start very general in the mindmap. 

Staying general allows the secondary bubbles—the ones that directly link to your very general topic—to be the main subjects of the chapters in the book.

#2 – Secondary Topics Are Your Central Arguments

More than likely, the general topic is what the subject that you love, but your central arguments are the secondary topics of your mindmap.

They are also what is going to make your book unique.

Returning to my book as an example, I wanted to write a book about the James Bond film series. But many people have done that.

What makes my book unique is the secondary bubbles on my mindmap surrounding the generic topic. Those were the central arguments to my book, and eventually, they became my chapters.

#3 – Branch off from your secondary topics

Referencing my mindmap example again, you can see that each secondary bubble then has multiple bubbles of thoughts coming out of it.

This is where you start to see a “road” for your rough draft.

I wrote down every possible idea I had on each of my topics that links to my general subject. I basically kept writing and making more road until I ran out of paper.

A lot of the ideas I wrote here were already in my head, but I also came up with new ideas through the process of mindmapping.

I never would have came up with all of these concepts if I hadn’t taken the time to mindmap.

How to Mindmap Your Book With the Post-it Notes on Bulletin Board Method

The other way to construct a mindmap is with post-it notes on a bulletin board or wall. If you love post-it notes, this may be the best way for you.

The keys to a successful post-it notes map is the same as the bubble map. The only change is in the display.

mindmap a book post it notes

In the above example, each big piece of paper with a number in the middle marks a chapter and certain topic pertaining to your larger, general subject. Each colored post-it note applies to a chapter and is the same as the third-tiered bubbles from my own mindmap.

Both techniques will work. You choose which one is best for you!

After completing your first mindmap, you want to repeat this process for every chapter.

The post-it notes picture above is the beginning of the next step of the process, which is then mindmapping each chapter. If you prefer the printer paper mindmapping technique, then repeat the exact same mindmap except plug your more specific topic in the middle.

This allows you more space and enables you to get even more detailed with your roadmap.

Here’s the mindmap for chapter 1 of my book, His World Never Dies: The Evolution of James Bond.

Notice how I included even more details off the “masculinity” bubble in this mindmap than I did in the first one. The main mindmap was definitely a good starting point, but then diving into a mindmap for each major topic or chapter pushed me to brainstorm even further.

This will have the same affect on you and place you well on the path of writing a well organized rough draft.

Tip: Another way to think of your mindmap is to think backward from the outlining phase, which comes directly after the mindmap.

While the bubble roadmap and the post-it bulletin board are the most popular mindmaps, there are other techniques you could try! Here’s one more example of a mindmap:

mindmap for a book example

Yes, this looks more like a book outline than mindmap, but if you feel more comfortable with a list like this, then do that.

There’s no right or wrong to mindmapping. The important part is to really begin brainstorming that great book idea and begin organizing your thoughts into possible chapters. 

Last big key to a mindmap? Remember, it’s going to change

Let’s return to our grocery store list analogy to end our blog. Even with the best, most-detailed shopping list, we all tend to deviate from it sometimes. Whether an item that you don’t necessarily need is on sale or you find a different brand for cheaper price, audibles to the shopping list happen.

Keep that in mind when you’re mindmapping. This isn’t going to be EXACTLY how your final draft will go. The mindmap process is just supposed to place authors on a road to an organized and well thought-out first draft.