Lucky for me, I didn’t give up on writing a book just because I didn’t know how to do it. Instead I sought out a mentor who knew what they were doing—and his advice helped me to write my first book and make it a huge success.
I’ve continued to use that system for all my subsequent books, which has helped me to write my books in just a fraction of the time it takes many other writers.
Now I’m paying it forward and sharing that advice with you.
The BookMap: Your Key to a Solid Book Outline
So many people want to write a book…but they get overwhelmed at the thought of all that work. They don’t know what to do or how to get started. As a result, the entire process seems impossible.
Well, that’s not going to be the case any longer. Not for you.
The BookMap is the key to getting your book project off the ground in just a few hours. It’s a template you can follow to quickly pull together all the subjects you want to write about and organize them into topics that will become the chapters of your book.
As you can see, the BookMap is a kind of mind map that’s been pre-filled with the most relevant questions you’ll need to answer to write your book. And no matter which version of the BookMap you’re using, you’ll notice that the center question is the same:
What’s your book topic?
So first, go ahead and choose a topic. What do you want your book to be about? For a nonfiction book, this could anything that…
Is a hobby of yours
Is related to your occupation
You are passionate about
You consider yourself an expert on
You’re curious to learn more about
And for a fiction book, think about what you’re inspired to write! Do you love mysteries, or coming-of-age stories? Are you fascinated with a particular event in history, a specific person, or a concept that can be dramatized in a novel?
Another tip is to think about the kind of books you love to read. That’s usually a good indication that you will enjoy writing that kind of book. If you love reading romances novels or science fiction books, then try writing one yourself! Because you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll be able to shortcut the learning curve and will probably be surprised by how great a story you can write in your very first try.
Once you have a topic, move on to step 2:
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 2: Fill Out the BookMap
Now that you have a topic for your book, the next step is to brainstorm everything you know about that topic by filling out the BookMap. This will help you get all the most important and relevant ideas down on paper, making them much easier to work with.
Here are some of the most important prompts to answer when you’re writing a book:
BookMap Prompts for a Nonfiction Book
What problems are you helping people to solve? A lot of people make the mistake of writing about themselves—the things they love, the things they find interesting—without stopping to consider what the reader wants. What are your reader’s problems and frustrations? How can you help them to solve those problems with this book?
Example: I know from experience that new moms have a hard time losing that baby weight—especially since you’ve got a little infant taking up all your time now. So I’m going to help new moms overcome this frustrating situation with a book that will help them make smarter choices in the kitchen and ultimately, feel better about themselves.
Lessons you’ve learned: Think about how you have personally grown over the years, as it relates to this topic. What are the biggest things that you’ve learned? How have your views changed and evolved over time? This can be an insightful thing to brainstorm, since it can help you get a better idea of where your readers are probably at right now and some of the challenges they’re facing.
Example: One thing I learned in the process of losing my baby weight is that you can’t beat yourself up every time you make a mistake. Doing that will only lead to more emotional eating!
Stories & examples: People learn best from hearing stories about real people overcoming real problems. What stories can you remember that will help you to illustrate your points more effectively?
Example: My friend Mindy tried to lose her weight through exercise alone, without changing her diet. And she continued to gain weight—until she finally realized that she needed to change the foods she was putting in her body.
Ideas to explore: What concepts or themes can you bring up in your book? Does your topic relate to any deep ideas or universal truths that might resonate with your readers?
Example: One idea I want to explore is the importance of self-esteem. Yes, it’s important to be at a healthy weight…but what really matters is the way you feel about yourself—no matter what the scale says!
Other books you’ve read: Have you read any other books on the topic? If so, did those books have any helpful messages you can include in your book?
Example: In Dr. Berg’s book The New Body Type Guide, he talks about how your hormones can impact your body shape. This could be a helpful thing for women to learn about, so they can realize not everything is under their control.
Topics to research: Are there any other topics you would like to include in your book, but you might need more time to learn more about? If so, make a note of them so you can remember to do a little research.
Example: I’d like to do more research on insulin and learn more about how carbohydrates affect fat storage.
Frequently asked questions: Are there common questions, myths, or misconceptions about your topic that people have? If so, your book gives you a great way to bust those myths and enlighten people with the truth. Try to think up at least a few common misconceptions.
Example: “Should I avoid eating fat?” This is a common question for many women. Some people think that eating fat will make you fat…but the truth is, eating healthy fats can actually help keep you feeling fuller, longer so you can stick to your diet.
Ready to get started outlining your non-fiction book?
Main characters: Who are the main characters in your story? Flesh them out and start to learn more about who they are and what their purpose is in your story. Make sure to include your protagonist, antagonist, and any important supporting characters.
Example: Sarah is a stubborn teenage girl who becomes convinced that her neighbor is a serial killer.
Background: Explore your important characters’ backgrounds. Where were they born? What was their childhood like? What’s the educational level? What are their beliefs? Where do they work? Flesh out your characters until they start to feel like real people.
Example: Sarah was betrayed by her best friend in 5th grade, and as a result she has a hard time trusting people.
Character development: How does each character change and grow (or regress) during the course of the story? What causes this change to occur, and what effect does it have on the other characters?
Example: Sarah learns to trust other people which helps her to escape from the killer and bring him to justice.
Theme: What larger ideas do you want to explore in this book? Betrayal, love, friendship? How do the events of your story shed a new light on these concepts?
Example: I want to explore the concept of trust, and why you can’t always do it alone in life.
Scene & setting: Where do your story take place? Is it a real location, a historical one, an invented one? Be sure to think about different factors like the climate, geography, culture, and government. How do these things affect the characters in your story?
Example: Sarah lives in a wealthy suburb where crime like this is very uncommon, which makes it that much more terrifying to Sarah’s parents.
Major events: What are the big turning points that take place in your story? Your best bet is to brainstorm a long list of dramatic events so you can choose the options that fit best in your story.
Example: At one point, Sarah sneaks into the neighbor’s house looking for clues—and she discovers a bloody knife in the basement! Before she can get out, however, she hears the front door open upstairs…
Climax: The climax is where your story reaches a crisis point. Tension and drama are at their highest, and the protagonist faces his or her worst fears—and they either succeed, or fail, for good. Don’t lock yourself into one climax here. Instead, brainstorm a few possible climax ideas so you can choose the best one.
Example: At the story’s climax, Sarah is forced to trust her new friend Alex to help her escape from the killer’s basement.
Conclusion: Your conclusion takes place after the climax, at the very end of your book. What happens to your characters when it’s all said and done? Do they live happily ever after, or face a tragic end? Once again, feel free to brainstorm several possibilities. You don’t have to lock yourself into one ending just yet.
Example: It’s a happy ending for Sarah, who survives the killer and grows as a person. But the ending is bittersweet because of all the tragedy the killer has left in his wake.
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 3: Organize Common Topics into Sections
Phew! Step 2 is a long one, I know. But trust me—by answering those questions, you just took a MAJOR step forward in completing your book.
You now have all the topics you need to write your outline.
The final step in this process is to look at your BookMap and combine all the related topics into sections. Those sections will become the chapters of your book.
There are a couple ways to do this. You could write them out on a separate piece of paper, keeping them organized by section. Or you could use different colored highlighters to connect the ideas in your BookMap visually.
No matter how you choose to do it, the idea is the same: combine all the related ideas together.
Nonfiction example: Maybe you have an anecdote that would serve as a great example for one of the lessons you want to share. In that case, group those 2 things together—they deserve to be in the same chapter.
Fiction example: Maybe one of your character traits really seems to resonate with one of the themes you want to explore in your book. If so, group those 2 things together—this way you’ll know to use that character trait as a way of exploring that theme in your novel.
Once you’re done with Step 3, step back and take a look at what you’ve completed.
In this free hour-long webinar, you’ll get the step-by-step launch roadmap that can take you from blank to page to a $10,000 book launch! You’ll learn the exact same system I use to write my books in as little as a week.
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 another pot of coffee. While you wait, you do some stretches, look outside and daydream about mowing the lawn. But then you stop. You told yourself today is the day you’ll finally start writing your book.
You take your cup of coffee back to your desk. Now you feel refreshed, and you’re certain the words will flow and you’ll write that perfect book your audience will love. But first, you quickly check Facebook. You say you’ll only take five minutes…
A week later someone asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book?”
There are plenty of reasons why writing a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, puts most writers directly into procrastination mode. Maybe you’re just not sure how to get started. Perhaps spilling your guts onto the page for the world to see makes you want to run far away from the nearest computer.
Or maybe you’re insecure about the quality of your writing, and you’re afraid of getting slammed by negative review after negative review.
Or even worse: you might be worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and all your hard work will have been a waste.
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 writers—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page. You’re in illustrious company!
And I’m here to help. You CAN write a book—you just need to know the steps to do it. And that’s exactly what you’re about to learn.
In this post I’m going to share the same system I’ve used to write my bestselling books in 90 days or less. And that system involves 5 main steps:
Adopt the Mentality of a Writer
Set Yourself Up for Success
Actually Write Your Book
Avoid Potholes Along the Way
Launch Your Book Successfully
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!
How to Write a Book Step 1: Adopt the Mentality of 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.
Write with a Purpose—Find Your “Why”
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:
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), 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 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.
While thinking of your own purpose, you may consider why other published authors have taken the leap to write their own books:
Authority: To build credibility.
Money: For financial gain or business success.
Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
Authority, money, networking, and passion may resonate with you; one of those might be your purpose. Or, your purpose may be something completely independent from this list. 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.
Get Rid of Your Excuses
You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for your book. And right on cue, something is going to begin: your excuses.
When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses become the obstacle to your success. It’s perfectly natural, and it’s part of being human.
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.
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 write 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. Start by brainstorming and let your thoughts run free.
And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive 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 is your own. And the best way to discover your own natural voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).
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 editing process is for.
Even experienced professional writers produce first drafts that end up covered in the red pen of an editor
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.
Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect
The thought of writing a book causes many people think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”
Well I’m here to tell you that:
You don’t need a creative writing class.
You don’t need a writing mentor (though it does help).
You don’t need to read thousands of good books.
You only need one thing: You need 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.
This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”
How to Write a Book Step 2: Set Yourself Up for Success
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.
Plan When You’ll Write
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.” 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.
Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan:
Plan writing sessions using your calendar.
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. Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.
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.
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.
Set a deadline for your book-writing project.
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. 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.
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.
Create Your Writing Environment
The physical space where you do your writing 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…
…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.
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:
Minimize distractions. Laundry, kids, the dog that wants to go for a walk, email—nope, not during your writing time. Focus on your writing, and the rest can wait. Some like to escape to a coffee shop because the buzz from the crowd and the caffeine keeps their fingers flying across the keyboard.
Choose a comfortable work space. Once your tush is planted firmly in your seat, you don’t want your physical discomfort to detract from your creativity. Pick a spot that’s not so comfortable you’ll fall asleep, but comfy enough to keep you typing for the duration of your allotted writing time.
Pick your favorite background noise. Find your happy ambient background. Whether that’s total silence or Pandora’s Party Music, we each know what background noise keeps us focused. Consider some meditation music with binaural beats to get you in the zone. Again, some people find heaven while writing at a coffee shop, while others find the chatter distracting. (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!
Equip Yourself with the Right 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 to writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of word processor.
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:
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.
One of the biggest downsides to Word is that it’s fairly expensive as far as word processors go.
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 your book using virtual notecards:
The biggest downside to Scrivener? Because of all the advanced features, it has a steeper learning curve than other word processors.
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:
The big downside to Google Docs? It lacks the more sophisticated features of Word and Scrivener.
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 your book can actually 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:
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.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when brainstorming book ideas:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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. I recommend brainstorming ideas and letting them simmer in the back of your mind.
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
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 genre on the left-hand side of the page:
Then you can take a look at some of the best-selling titles in your genre. You can even sub-niche down several times, like “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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
A accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.
(By the way, I’m hosting a workshop that will take a deep dive on this method and more called, “How to Launch a Book in 90 Days!” Spots tend to fill up quickly, so learn more and join us here!)
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.
How to 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:
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.
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.
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.
Review what you wrote yesterday to refresh your memory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 on ahead, 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.
Editing is an important skill, obviously. It can turn an OK book into a good book, and a good book into a great book.
But don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.
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.
Nonfiction books tend to use block paragraphs, like this:
Whereas fiction books use indentation instead:
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.
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. 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.
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, your book cover 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:
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:
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.
Build a Launch Team
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 add a person to your launch team, you need to make 2 things clear for them:
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 or 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.
Get Ongoing Reviews
If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:
It loves 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:
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.
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.
And now I’m sharing with you the opportunity to do the same thing. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.
One that draws readers in, takes them on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and thrills, then leaves them hungry to devour your next book, and your next, and your next?
If so, then I have good news:
With the right understanding of story structure, I believe anyone is capable of writing an amazing story.
Yes, that includes you.
And the key to making this process as easy and natural as possible is to start every novel with a good story foundation.
This is where most new writers struggle. Either they have trouble getting their story off the ground, or they can get it off the ground, but it nosedives partway through the book.
Either way, the cause is the same: they didn’t start their book from a good story foundation.
In other words, they were missing one or more of the three critical elements that every novel needs to succeed. I call these foundational elements, “The Story Foundation Trifecta.”
Let’s talk about it…
The Story Foundation Trifecta
First off, what IS the Story Foundation Trifecta? It’s a combination of three things:
An interesting premise
A sympathetic hero
A clear & compelling “A-story”
As you’re about to learn, these are the most critical and fundamental pieces to any successful story. As long as you have these three things in place, your story is bound to be engaging and entertaining.
In the rest of this post, I’ll explain what these things are and how you can improve these elements in your story idea. And to help you understand, I’ll be using examples from well-known stories such as The Hunger Games, The Matrix, and my own series GoneGod World.
Foundation #1: An Interesting Premise
Your premise is the foundation of your plot. The collection of situations or presuppositions that make up your story world.
That sounds complicated, so let’s put it in simpler terms:
Your premise consists of 2-3 seemingly unconnected ideas that have been meshed together to make something truly unique.
If you analyze really popular stories like The Hunger Games and The Matrix, you’ll realize they have great premises. And that’s a big part of the reason why they were so successful.
So how do you come up with an awesome premise of your own?
One common method is to use the “What If” technique. Here’s how that might look using The Hunger Games as an example:
The Hunger Games: What if, sometime in the future, there is a society which demands children must fight to the death once a year?
Immediately, the premise opens up a hundred other questions that your story may or may not answer.
What happened to create this world and contest?
What happens to the victors?
Your story may not answer all of these questions, and certainly Suzanne Collins – the author of The Hunger Games – doesn’t answer all of them. See how that works? You take a few different ideas and combine them. See how they might fit together.
In this case the premise is using the familiar idea of a gladiator story…but it’s mish-mashing that concept by having the gladiators be children.
Then when you throw in a couple extra elements, like…
Setting the story in the future
Including a love-triangle with the main character
Having a power struggle behind the scenes only the audience knows about
…you end up with a really great premise for a story.
Here’s another example:
The Matrix: What if reality isn’t what we think it is, and in fact we’re all connected to computers as human batteries for the robot world?
Here we’re taking the idea “reality isn’t what you think it is” and mashing it together with “we’re human batteries connected to computers.”
These are cool ideas on their own. But when you put them together, they become something really fascinating. With a premise like this, is it any wonder why The Matrix was so successful?
And here’s one more example, from my series of books:
GoneGod World: What if all the gods are gone, and when they leave they force all their denizens to go to earth?
Here I’ve combined the ideas of “divine creatures” and “refugees” to create a unique story premise out of two familiar ideas.
In this story, every sort of magical creature you can think of—dragons, faeries, etc.—is forced to become a refugee on earth. As you can imagine, this opens up all kinds of possibilities for interesting storylines and conflicts.
So that’s foundation #1 of the Story Foundation Trifecta: create an interesting premise. Now it’s your turn:
Exercise: Take a look at your favorite stories and identify their premise. Turn those premises into “What if” statements.
Bonus: Among the premises that you have identified, see if you can alter them slightly to turn them into something completely unique.
Challenge: Create 3 to 5 premise statements of your own, statements that ultimately create world, you’d love to write in.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you start cranking out really unique story premises.
Foundation #2: A Sympathetic Hero
Foundation #1 focuses on your plot. It’s a big-picture statement of what happens in your story.
But remember, stories don’t just happen by themselves. They happen to characters—to people. To human beings. (And sometimes, to elves and aliens.)
At the heart of every story is a hero who strives to meet an important goal. And the more your audience can understand and identify with that hero, the more likely they are to become engrossed by your story.
Now when you’re creating your hero, the three most important things to figure out are your hero’s…
“Key traits” refer to your character’s distinguishing features. Is your hero…
Strong as an ox?
Your character’s journey refers to the challenges they will be forced to overcome throughout the story. And we break that journey up into inner and outer journeys.
A few examples:
The Hunger Games: Katniss’s outer journey is to survive the games. Her inner journey is to mature as an individual, to let other people in, and to learn to accept help from others.
The Matrix: Neo’s outer journey is to defeat Agent Smith and the robot forces enslaving humanity inside the Matrix. His inner journey is to believe in himself and accept that he’s the only one capable of saving the human race.
Make sense? Great. Now go figure out who your hero is, give them a few key traits, and most importantly decide on their inner and outer journey. Then when you’ve completed that, you’re ready to move for…
Foundation #3: A Clear & Compelling “A-Story”
Once you know your story’s premise and have identified your hero, your next step is to use those 2 elements to create your “A-story.”
Loosely defined, your A-story is the main storyline in your novel. It’s the one story we need to see resolved in order for us to put down your book and feel satisfied at the end.
Your book can have multiple storylines—maybe you have a romance subplot, for example—but your A-story is the main story. The big problem that gets resolved at the end.
In most cases, your A-story is going to be the same as your hero’s outer journey. In The Hunger Games, for example, the A-story is Katniss’ trial to survive the games.
But your A-story can also tie into your hero’s inner journey. In The Matrix, the A-story deals in part with Neo’s struggle to believe in himself and become “the one.”
Here are some common A-stories for different genres:
Sci-fi: Repel the alien invasion
Action: Get revenge on the bad guys
Romance: Finally succumb to the love of your life
It’s important to know your A-story. This is the storyline that you need to focus on, to keep coming back to. This is the major conflict of your story, so don’t lose sight of it.
Exercise: Identify two or three unique A-stories that fit could each premise. Spend a few minutes contemplating how the premise and the A-story work together. (And also relish is how your A-story is better than the original 😊.)
Bonus: Could you alter one of the premises to fit with your own unique A-story? If so, you very well may have the a kickass story on your hands!
Challenge: Now that you have defined your premise in step one, identify 2-3 A-stories that could work within that premise statement.
You Know Your A-Story…Now, What’s Next?
OK, so you’ve gone through the Story Foundation Trifecta and figured out your premise, hero, and A-story. What should you do next?
In a word, you need to start outlining.
Now this does NOT mean you have to go through every single part of your story and create a step-by-step outline of everything that will happen.
You can do that, but you don’t have to.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of writers out there:
Plotters (like James Patterson)
Pantzers (like Stephen King)
Plotters are people who like to plot their stories in advance, while pantzers are people who don’t—they “fly by the seat of their pants,” coming up with their story ideas on the fly.
You might think that outlining is only important for plotters…but actually, that’s not the case. EVERY writer needs to come up with at least a basic outline before they start writing.
Even Stephen King, the most well-known pantzer out there, has admitted that he writes his stories with an end in mind.
So whether you want to write an in-depth, blow-by-blow treatment, or just a general outline to help give some direction to your pantzing, there are 5 Key Milestones that you’ll need to include in your story outline.
Once you know the 5 Key Milestones you need to include in your story, you’ll NEVER again feel lost while you’re writing. You’ll always know where to go next to keep your story moving in the right direction.
As a result, you’ll find it much easier to guide your readers through a story that feels complete and satisfying. So that when they finish reading the last page of your book, they’ll feel like they went on a meaningful journey with your hero—and that nothing was missing or incomplete.
“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler
We’ve all been there: You finally squeeze in some writing time in between all your commitments. However, when you sit down to write, something odd happens. You thought that a torrent of words would flow out — after all, you have so much to say. Yet, each word that comes out of you is dragged out. Writing feels less like fun, and more like bleeding. At the end of the hour, you find you’ve only written 100 words, and not the 500 words you budgeted.
Any writer understands how frustrating it is to schedule time to write, but to have almost nothing to show for that time.
I have some good news: This doesn’t have to be the case. You can set up your writing process in such a way that it’s guaranteed you’ll find your writing flow and have words stream out of you faster than you can catch them. You can make sure that your writing session is as efficient and effective as possible so that not a single minute is wasted.
Writing faster will not only mean that you complete your book’s first draft, which can be a life-changing achievement, it’ll also mean that you’ll be quicker at anything you write. Your blog posts, emails, letters, and even your social media updates will be written faster.
Here are all the practical tips I’ve gathered over the years to help me and my students write book drafts in less than 30 days.
Write Every Day
I’m going to start with an essential tip: If you want to write faster, you have to write every day.
Writing, like any craft, gets better the more you do it. The more you practice your writing skills, the faster the words will come to your mind and your fingertips. You’ll get better and quicker at connecting different pieces of knowledge, forming new ideas and improving your natural storytelling abilities.
You’ll also get quicker at the mechanical process of writing. You’ll develop a muscle memory for your keyboard and your writing speed will go up. Soon you’ll wonder how you could have ever survived at your slower words-per-minute speed.
What to write? You could update your WordPress blog every day, or a chapter of your book every day. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re writing. Action Steps
Choose what you’re going to write about every day, whether it’s blog articles, chapters of your book or even a personal journal.
Set your word count goal for each day.
Track how many words you are writing per hour or day.
However, even writing everyday won’t stop you facing that feeling you get when you see a blank page. To avoid that and guarantee your words flow every time you see a new page you need to create an outline.
Create an Outline
Here’s the writing world’s worst-kept secret: outlines work! To achieve any goal, you need to plan first. The same can be said for writing. Even if you’re able to crank out 3000 words an hour, it won’t matter much if your content lacks direction, as readers will get confused and drop your book. A solid outline gives you the direction you need to keep your readers engaged.
Writing a book is a lot of work, but we can cut out a ton of obstacles with a well-written outline that builds passion and purpose into your writing.
Here’s how an outline can double or even triple your writing speed:
1. Outlines Eliminate Writer’s Block
One of the reasons writers experience writer’s block is by not having an outline, or having a poorly written outline. If your outline is well-organized and fleshed out with all the ideas, chapters and sections flowing in logical sequence, chances are writer’s block won’t be an issue.
When you have to stop to think about what comes next, you’re no longer in writing mode. Instead you fall into confusion and frustration and then default to research mode.
“I know I can get through this if I just it look up…”You start doing everything else but writing. The next time you hit a wall, check the flow of your outline. Revise what you need to and keep moving forward. Be sure to do as much research as you can before the initial writing begins.
2. Outlines Provide an Organized Framework for Your Book’s Structure
Your outline is the roadmap for your book. Without it, your writing time is slow and grueling, like running up a mountain with a ball and chain. Sounds tough, right? A well-organized outline boosts productivity throughout the writing phase.
The secret to completing any big project is to break it into small manageable chunks, and an outline breaks this marathon project into small manageable writing tasks. You’ll write much faster when the chapters flow from one to the next and ideas are combined and clustered. When your outline flows with a well-organized structure you don’t have to stop to think about what to write next. Your fingers can keep moving in flow with the plan you created.
3. Outlines Give You a Bird’s Eye View
When you can see your book in its entirety on the page, you feel compelled to write as much as possible. Think of it as a race. You’ll perform much better knowing the exact distance you have to run — especially as you near the finish line and you have the end in sight.
Behind every great post and book is a bulletproof outline. Here are some steps you can take today to get started with this process. Action Steps For your book:
Spend some time today and go back and revise your book outline. If you don’t have one, make one.
Look at areas that could be better researched. Review the chapters that have ideas that require deeper development.
The aim is to make your outline the best it can be. Revise your outline as you go, but make sure your words keep hitting the paper.
For other writing:
Commit to this rule whenever you’re writing anything: Five minutes of outlining for every 500 words of content. Writing a 1,000-word article? Spend 10 minutes developing an outline. Writing a 100-word email? Spend a minute outlining your points. Every minute you spend outlining will save you a heap of time later.
“Write Drunk, Edit Sober”
Want to write better quality stuff? Then you’re going to have let go of your inner perfectionist.
Hemingway is often attributed with the quote, “write drunk, edit sober.” While I’m not advocating you become an alcoholic to produce content, you can adopt the figurative meaning of the quote.
The largest obstacle to entering that zen state where the words zip out of us effortlessly is our tendency to censor ourselves. We continuously correct what we’re about to say before we put the words on the page. Us writers tend to be perfectionists, yet this self-criticism gets in the way of our creativity.
A better strategy is to write a rough draft first. Think B- quality instead of A+. This is what Hemingway means when he says to write drunk. During the drafting phase you let go of caring about the quality of your work, but instead focus on the quantity. Aim to finish your daily writing goal, no matter how bad the draft is. The goal is not to have a perfect manuscript.
Once you’ve finished, then and only then, begin the “edit sober” phase. Here you can engage your inner critic. You can cut what doesn’t work and polish what does. It’s best to begin the editing phase with a fresh set of eyes, usually after you’ve taken a break. If it’s a short article, then sleep on your draft before editing. If it’s a book draft, then take at least a week off the project before looking back on it.
It’s hard to let go of that inner judge when drafting our work, but once you do, you’ll write significantly faster. Often when you look back on the draft that you thought was horrible, you’ll find it’s better than you thought. Not perfect, but better than you imagined. You’ll also see that there were some ideas you put in there that couldn’t have happened if you were writing as a perfectionist.
Also, if you’re still worried about the quality of your book draft, remember that you’ll hire an editor to polish your book to be the best it can be.
When you begin writing a piece, throw perfection out of the window and aim for a rough draft. Think B- work and not A+.
If you find it hard to lock up your inner perfectionist, set yourself a challenge to write a word count in a set time, like 500 words in 30-minute chunks.
After you finish your draft, put it away for a bit of time before you begin editing.
Write First, Research Later
Here’s a piece of great advice many journalists receive: write first and research later. It might be counter-intuitive, but before you close this page and think I’m crazy, hear me out.
When you begin writing you have one mission: enter flow. This is the state where the words come out of you effortlessly and you lose awareness of time flowing by. This is the key for quality and effective writing.
Once you enter flow, your mission is to stay there.
A sure way to get thrown out of the zone is to stop mid-sentence to find the capital of that country you want to reference, and then get sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
TK is short for “to come” and is a handy placeholder to use for research points you want to look up later. There are barely any words in the English language that have those two letters next to each other, making it easy to use the Command+F function to find these placeholders.
For example, let’s say you were writing about the Golden Gate bridge and couldn’t remember the date it opened and its length. You would write:
The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in TK and was the longest bridge with a main span of TK.
This takes 10 seconds to write, and you can stay in your flow and move on to the next sentence. If you had Googled each of those facts, the sentence would have taken you 60 seconds and taken you out of your flow. After you finish the draft, you can go back in and fill in the blanks:
The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and was the longest bridge with a main span of 4,200 feet.
When drafting, if you can’t remember a piece of detail, put TK as a placeholder, instead of going to Google.
During your editing phase, use Control+F to search for “TK” and replace each result with the relevant piece of research.
Schedule Brief Typing Practice Sessions
Think of your typing speed as the bottleneck between your brain and your piece of content, like the narrowest part of the road that’s causing a traffic buildup. Your fingers simply can’t type as fast as your mind is working.
Unfortunately, technology hasn’t yet progressed to the point where we can think of the words and they magically appear on the page, but with the help of a few fun and simple online games we can improve our typing speed.
I’ll share a secret with you: I used to not be able to type very well. I was like someone from the early 20th century, using two fingers to pound out my content. My typing speed was barely above 30 words per minute. Yet, writing was important to me, like it is for you, so I worked at it.
Even now, for ten minutes a day I play online typing games to test my writing speed and provide feedback on how efficient I am a typist. It’s a great way to master the skill of getting your word count up. Check out 10FastFingers or Key Hero.
Use Proper Sitting Posture
The position of your body has a lot to do with typing speed and efficiency. If you slouch in your chair you’ll cramp up and find it hard to concentrate. Here is how you should position yourself:
Make sure that you are sitting up straight — don’t lean or hunch over towards the desk.
Position your elbows at right angles to the keyboard — avoid bending your arms upwards or downwards.
It’s scientifically proven that the standing desk has major benefits for your health. Standing gives you higher energy levels and better blood flow. But that’s not all! It also boosts productivity and makes us more efficient when typing.
Writing faster will not only allow you to finish your book’s first draft faster, it’ll make you quicker at all forms of writing. You’ll be speedier at composing emails, recommendation letters, cover letters, social media posts and articles. Writing is also closely related to thinking. Being a faster and clearer writer will make you a faster and clearer thinker.
Follow the above tips on your next great article idea or book chapter and see how many words you can get out in a timed writing session. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your writing speed. Instead of your draft taking months to produce, you might find that you’ll be able to pound out full-length novels on the weekends.
The right book writing software can make all the difference in the world.
With the right software you can write faster and more effectively. You’ll be more focused, with fewer distractions. And just as importantly, you’ll have an easier time keeping your outline and notes better organized.
But to get there, you’ll have to make some choices. Authors have all kinds of options when looking for the best book writing software.
Should you stick with tried-and-true Microsoft Word? Move to Scrivener, the software of choice for many professional authors? Or maybe it’s worth giving Google Docs a try, so you can easily share and co-edit your book with an editor?
We’ll cover the best options in this article. For a quick overview, here are the 11 best book writing software options for writers:
Microsoft Word – Word Processor, $79.99
Scrivener – Word Processor, $45
Pages – Word Processor, $28
Google Docs – Online Word Processor, Free
Evernote – Note-Taking Software, Free
FocusWriter – Word Processor, Free
FastPencil – Word Processor, Free
yWriter – Word Processor, Free
Freedom – Productivity Software, $2.42/month
Hemingway App – Style & Grammar Checker, Free
Let’s get started by comparing the 3 book writing software “giants,” and then I’ll share some less well-known tools that might help improve your writing process even more.
First, though, there’s one thing you should spend some time thinking about:
Which Book Writing Software Features Are Most Important to YOU?
I’m not trying to sell you on any particular book writing software in this article. Instead my goal is to give you an idea of what’s out there so you can weigh the options for yourself. Who knows—you may even discover a brand-new tool you absolutely love.
There are 9 things to consider when deciding which program to use for your book. Depending on your needs, some of these questions may be more or less important to you:
Does it offer any extra features or other bells & whistles?
How about a distraction-free writing experience?
Is the program user-friendly?
Can you access your files no matter where you are?
How easy is it to collaborate with editors & team members?
In the end, the truth is that there are many great writing tools out there. It isn’t really a question of which tool is BEST. What it comes down to is: which tool works best with YOUR unique writing process?
The Big 3, #1: Microsoft Word Review
Before any other tools came along, Microsoft Word was the only option available. Everyone used it.
Today, even though there are many other word processors out there, Word is still the most widely used book writing software in the U.S. Millions of people continue to use it for their writing needs.
And it’s easy to see why. Word has a lot going for it!
It’s been around a long time. It’s trusty and reliable.
It also provides a relatively distraction-free writing experience. (Much better than working on Google Docs in your browser, for example, where you’re only an errant mouse-click away from the entire internet.)
If you just need to wake up in the morning and meet your word-count goals by keeping your head down and getting those words pounded out onto the page, then Word is a good choice. No fuss, no muss. It’s about as simple as it gets.
Word also offers some simple organization. Using headers, you can organize your book into chapters—and then you can navigate through them quickly using the Navigation pane:
If you’re a Word user and you’ve got your own system in place for writing books, then perhaps you need to look no further.
But Word does have some downsides.
For starters, it doesn’t always play well with Macs. If you use a Mac, then Word might cause you a lot of frustration with crashes and formatting. (Luckily, Apple offers a comparable program—scroll down to the “Pages Review” to learn more.)
Word is also pretty vanilla. That’s part of its appeal, sure, but it also means Word lacks some of the more advanced features you get with other programs like Scrivener and Google Docs.
(For example, Scrivener offers more advanced outlining functionality. And Google Docs makes it easier to share and collaborate on your files.)
All in all, Word is a solid contender for best book writing software. But there are many other choices out there.
Cost: $79.99 if purchased separately.
The Big 3, #2: Scrivener Review
You just learned that Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor in the world. But does that mean it’s the best?
Think about it this way. The fact that Word is so prevalent means that it has to cater to all sorts of users—students, businesspeople, writers, teachers, marketers, lawyers, the list goes on and on and on.
But Scrivener was created for one type of person only:
And if you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard of Scrivener. A lot of writers absolutely love this program, with its advanced features and distraction-free writing experience.
This 6-minute video gives you quick overview of Scrivener along with some highlights and screenshots:
In short, Scrivener gives you an insane amount of flexibility for writing, formatting, and organizing your book.
Blogger and author Jeff Goins swears by Scrivener after giving up Word. He says: “I wasted years of my life doing all my writing on Microsoft Word. But that’s all over now. I have finally seen the light.”
Entrepreneur Michael Hyatt says about Scrivener: “I now begin every piece of content—no matter what it is—with this tool. It has simplified my life and enabled me to focus on the most important aspect of my job—creating new content. I am more productive than ever.”
Scrivener has a ton of benefits for authors that we could fill up dozens of pages discussing. I’ll keep it simple and give you the top benefits here:
Helps with plotting for fiction authors
Easily export your data to other digital platforms such as Kobo, ibooks, etc. (this is one of the best features)
Provides outlining functionality that keeps your content organized
Powerful composition mode with distraction-free writing environment
Because Scrivener was designed for writers, it’s super easy to lay out scenes, move content around, and outline your story, article, or manuscript. Instead of keeping all your content in one big file, Scrivener allows you to create multiple sub-files to make it easier to organize and outline your project:
Scrivener is a fabulous tool for plotting out storylines. Using the corkboard view, for instance, you can recreate the popular “notecard method” for outlining your project:
But as awesome as Scrivener is, it’s not perfect.
And the biggest downside to using Scrivener is the steep learning curve involved. You aren’t going to master this program overnight.
But if you’re serious about your writing career, then investing the time to learn this program will be worth it. You’ll save time and energy in the long run.
And if you want to learn how to use Scrivener as quickly & easily as possible, we can help!
We offer a free training called Learn Scrivener Fast, where we teach you how to use all the most powerful features in Scrivener to supercharge your writing process…all in just an hour. To watch that free training, just click this image (it will take you to a separate page with the video training):
If you want to dig even deeper, you can also download the Scrivener Manual (550 pages), or watch the Scrivener YouTube tutorials they’ve put together at Literature & Latte.
Long story short: Scrivener is an investment. It will take some time to master. But once you do, you’ll never go back—it’s the single most powerful book writing software out there.
If you like what you see from Scrivener, you can buy it here:
We’ve looked at the appealing simplicity of Word and the in-depth power of Scrivener, but there’s another writing software that more and more people are starting to use: Google Docs.
Essentially, Google Docs is a stripped-down version of Word that you can only use online through a Chrome browser. It’s a simple yet effective word processor.
The beauty of this program (and Google Drive in general) comes in the ability to share content, files, and documents among your team. You can easily communicate via comments, for example:
This program keeps a complete history of all changes made to a document, so if you accidentally delete something you wanted to keep, simply click the link at the top of the screen that says “All changes saved in drive.” That will bring up the version history, where you can review all the changes that have been made to your book file and revert to a previous version if you so choose.
Google Docs doesn’t require any installation and can be accessed anywhere via your browser (or an app on your phone).
And here’s one of the best features: everything is saved on the server frequently and automatically, so you never have to fret about losing a version or draft of your work.
(Anyone who has ever lost a draft of a book understands how valuable this feature is!)
Plus you can access your work when you move from one location or another—no carrying a laptop or thumb drive around with you. When you share a book draft with others, like test readers or your editor, they can comment directly on the draft using the built-in comment functionality.
Out of the “big 3” book writing software tools, Google Docs is probably the least sophisticated when it comes to formatting and outlining tools. But it makes up for that with easy collaboration, sharing, and online access.
Think of Pages as the Mac alternative to Microsoft Word.
It has a variety of beautiful templates to choose from, has a simple design, and syncs with all devices from within iCloud.
Personally I love the ease of Pages. It works great for creating ebooks or manuscripts with a variety of tools you can get creative with.
FastPencil is a nice little platform with lots of tools. You can also use it for distributing your ebook. It is free to start writing with, but they offer paid services as well.
Everything happens online in your browser, which means you can access your files from any computer (as long as you’re connected to the Internet). Here’s what the word processor looks like:
Cost: Free (or you can pay for more extensive features)
FocusWriter is word processor for writers that is intended to eliminate distractions to help you get your book written quicker. It is a basic, lightweight text writer that was designed to to be completely free of the distractions.
In its fullscreen mode, there are no toolbars or additional windows, just a background and your text so that you can concentrate solely on writing your draft.
You can customize the image in the background to suit your project to help inspire your writing.
Not much more to say about FocusWriter. It’s simple and effective. If you need a lot of features, it probably won’t work for you. But if simplicity is your thing, then you may have found your perfect writing tool.
yWriter is a really popular word processor (intended mainly for novelists) with some impressive features (especially for a program that’s completely free).
It helps keep your project organized by giving you space to include notes on all sorts of things, like character notes, scene notes, scene goals, etc. You can specify whose point of view each scene will be written in, and you can see the word count of your entire novel broken out by chapter—all at a quick glance:
One thing that yWriter does differently than a lot of other programs is focus on scenes, rather than on chapters. A lot of writers prefer this, since scenes are usually fun chunks of story to work on. And using yWriter, you can rearrange all those scenes to compose a compelling novel.
I’d call it a Scrivener alternative that is free to use. But one downside is that it only works for Windows (at least, for now—an iOs version is currently in beta).
Evernote is a note-taking app. It’s a great way to keep track of your thoughts—like brainstorming ideas, outlining chapters, and jotting down inspiration when it strikes.
The mobile app is particularly useful for capturing new ideas when they strike, since most people have their phone with them 24/7. Here’s what Evernote looks like on a phone:
While you can use Evernote to write content—I’ve used it for writing blogs and other small sections of books—you wouldn’t want to use it as your main word processor. Its functionality is a bit too limited.
But as a way of keeping track of ideas, it’s a great find.
Cost: Free, but there is a cool upgrade for $5 a month that gets you Evernote Premium
Freedom isn’t technically a writing tool, but it sure can help improve your writing. It’s a productivity app designed to help eliminate distractions by blocking certain websites.
For example: let’s say you have a tendency to get distracted by social media sites. All you have to do us start a Freedom session that blocks all your social media sites—and then you won’t be able to visit them even if you wanted to.
Here’s what it looks like when you schedule a session:
Notice that you have a lot of options. You can schedule one-time sessions (starting now or later), or you can set up recurring sessions (for example, to block distracting sites every day when it’s time to write).
When you try to visit a site that’s being blocked, you’ll get this message:
This is a really liberating tool. Once you know you don’t have the option of visiting those distracting sites, you’ll find it easier to keep focused on your writing and you’ll be able to get a lot more done.
Cost: $2.42/month and up, or $129 for lifetime access. (Sometimes they offer discounts, so look around for a coupon code.)
Hemingway Editor Review
The Hemingway Editor is a unique kind of writing tool. It’s a style checker that’s designed to help tighten up your prose and make your writing clear and bold.
Simply paste your writing into the editor and scroll through. You’ll notice that the program highlights certain words & passages—like long, hard-to-read sentences, passive verbs, and phrases with simpler alternatives.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
(Yikes. Too bad Dickens didn’t have this app.)
What I love about this tool is how easy it is to use. Everything is color-coded and super easy to understand, so you can see at a glance where your writing could use a little elbow grease.
Cost: Free, or you can purchase the desktop version for $19.99.
Reading this, you may be wondering:
Dropbox? How is that a writing tool?
Trust me—it is!
While it’s true that Dropbox isn’t a word processor like Scrivener or yWriter, it is a very helpful tool for writers. Especially writers who write on more than one computer, who need to collaborate with other writers or editors, or who want an easy way to back up their work.
Here’s how it works.
When you set up Dropbox and install it on your computer, it will create a new “Dropbox” folder on your machine.
Any files that you save in this folder will be automatically backed up to Dropbox’s servers in the cloud, and will be automatically downloaded to any other computers that are synced to that same Dropbox account.
A lot of writers choose to save their book on Dropbox, so that it will be automatically backed up. And as you can see, it looks the same as any other folder on your computer:
Using this strategy, you can make it easier to share and collaborate on your files—even if you aren’t using Google Docs.
Cost: Free for a basic plan, or $9.99/month for extra storage.
Pricing: How Much Do These Book Writing Software Programs Cost?
I would recommend not worrying too much about the cost of these programs. After all, dropping $100 or less on a program is not that big a deal if it is going to help improve your writing for years to come.
That said, I know you work hard for your money—and you want to get the best deal you can! Here are the most recent prices for all of the tools in this article:
Dropbox is free for a basic plan, or you can pay $9.99/month for extra storage.
What’s Your Favorite Tool?
Take some time to check out each of these tools if you aren’t already using them. Stay focused on crafting your next book and stick with the book writing software that gives you the best results in terms of saving you money, time, and frustration.
Keep writing. Keep it simple. Best of all, enjoy the creative process!
Now that you have these awesome tools at your disposal, what is your favorite writing tool? What best suits your needs as an author? Can you speed up the writing process with any particular tool?
Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June of 2016. It was most recently updated for accuracy in April of 2018.
If you’re new to writing fiction, I may have just offended the pantz off of you — but hear me out!
Fiction authors tend to fall into one of two buckets when writing their books:
Bucket One: Pantzers are writers who basically only have a few vague elements about the story in mind when they start writing, but nothing else.
Armed with almost no details, they hit the keyboard, banging out a magnificent novel in no time. One of the most famous pantzers is Stephen King. In interviews, Stephen King has said that he often has an idea of the beginning, the premise, and a vague idea how it’s all going to end – and that’s all he needs to start writing his book.
Bucket Two: Plotters are writers who need to know every piece of their story, down to the minute detail, before they will write a single word.
They will know who each and every one of their characters are, what their motivations are, the chapters needed for the book, chapter sections, and in some cases, even paragraphs. Probably the most famous plotter out there is James Patterson.
Clearly, it’s possible to be successful whether you’re a plotter or pantzer. But here’s the harsh reality: whereas Stephen King and James Patterson sit on opposite extremes of the ‘Outline Spectrum’, most of us fall somewhere in between.
If you are a new author who has never written a piece of fiction before, how can you know if you are a pantzers or a plotter?
The answer is unfortunately you don’t. And the deeper answer is, the more you write, the more you will tend to go to one end of the spectrum or the other. I started out my writing career as a pantzer, but the more I write, the more novels I publish, the more and more I’m becoming a plotter.
So, who you are as an author changes.
But that still doesn’t answer the question: Are you a pantzer or a plotter?
My best advice is to be something in between. Someone who looks beyond the “outline” of a novel, and identifies something much more important in their story…
The 5 Key Milestones.
How you outline your novel is absolutely moot if you can’t identify these five critical milestones in your story — and that’s what we’ll be discussing today.
Got your pen and paper ready? This guide will not only cover the milestones but challenge you to start documenting your own. Once you’re done, you’ll be ready to get down and dirty with your novel’s outline… pantz or plot style.
How to Write a Novel: The 5 Key Milestones of Every Successful Novel
Most novels and movies have five key points that make up the core of their story.
What’s more, these milestones are something that readers have subconsciously been trained to look for when digesting a piece of fiction. In other words, if you don’t have these five key moments, your reader is likely to turned off of your story because it didn’t meet expectations set by the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories they have already digested before yours.
Let’s take a look at the milestones:
How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #1: The Setup
This is where you make your story promise.
You tell your reader what kind of story it will be – a comedy drama, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi – and you give a few clues as to what they can expect. Whatever you said in these initial pages must be followed to the end of your story.
A stone-cold drama cannot turn into a slapstick comedy by the end of the story. That doesn’t mean a stone-cold drama can’t have humor in it, it just means that you can suddenly pivot and become an Adam Sandler movie.
Also, during the setup, we learn a little bit about…
The world they live in
We get a sense of where the story is heading.
One mistake made by first-time fiction authors is that they do not properly set up the story expectations and the reader goes in expecting one thing, only to get another.
Nothing annoys readers more and so it is essential that during the setup phase of your novel, you set the expectations that you will meet during the book.
Example: In the Hunger Games, we meet Katniss. From her surroundings, it is obvious that she is poor, and as soon as she steps outside of her wooden shack we see hovering drones.
Within the first few pages of this book, we have learned three essential things:
This book is a drama
Katniss is our heroine and she has a miserable life
SURPRISE! There are drones and other technologies that indicate this to be a sci-fi
We are about to read a dystopia set sometime in the future
What does your story’s setup look like?
What story promises do you make?
Create a list of everything your reader needs to learn in order to enter your story’s world.
How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #2: The Inciting Incident
The inciting incident is the moment in your story when your hero’s life changes forever. It is the ‘no-going back’ moment, where nothing that happens afterwards will return your heroes world back to normal.
Katniss volunteers, Neo takes the blue pill, Dorothy lands in OZ … the aliens are here!
As soon as your inciting incident happens, your story should be full throttle towards the climax.
The most common mistake first-time authors make is that their inciting incident is reversible. That means that something could happen that would return the hero’s life back to normal.
No, no, no!
Your inciting incident should as final as the severing of a limb or a death of a loved one. Nothing should be able to reverse the effects of your inciting incident has on your hero.
Example: Katniss volunteers! In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is irreversible because – quite literally – soldiers grab Katniss, whisk her away from her world, and into the world of the games.
There is no escape.
And even if she could get away, she would be hunted by the Capital for the rest of her life. With those two simple words, “I volunteer!” her life has changed forever.
What is your inciting incident?
Is it strong enough?
Are there ways you could up the stakes or shorten the timeline?
How can you make it your inciting incident as impactful and irreversible as possible?
Brainstorm several inciting incidents… Don’t settle for one. Take a look at your inciting incidents and ask yourself this: Which one of these is the harshest, deadliest inciting incident of the bunch. Then pick that one.
Note: There is an exception to this rule when it comes to romances.
With romances, the inciting incident is almost always win the two lovebirds meet. (Not always, but for the vast majority of romances, this is the case.) With romances, try to create an inciting incident that simultaneously shows how perfect these two people are for each other while setting up the numerous reasons why they can’t be together.
How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #3: The First Slap
Now, we are away to the races!
Over the next few chapters, your character should be making a series of gains and losses, where the aggregate result is that their situation is slightly better than what it was at the moment of the inciting incident.
The reason why we need this upward trajectory is because we are setting up the reader for the first slap.
The first slap is the moment when everything that our hero has gained is lost in fell swoop. Your hero is brought down to zero. In other words, all gains are lost, and your hero’s situation has never been bleaker.
The greater the fall, the more engaged your reader will be.
Example: In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s world is brought down to 0 when she actually enters the Games.
Between the inciting incident on the first slap, Katniss has made several gains, garnering the attention of the Capital and making some friends along the way. But none of that matters the moment she enters the Games – and what a moment it is.
Challenge: Brainstorm what your first slap can be. Like with the inciting incident, try to come up with 3-5 scenarios and pick the one that is harshest.
Take a look at all the events that could potentially happen between the inciting incident and the first slap. This is a loose mind map as you are not committing to anything at this point, but do try to get a sense of whether or not your hero will be making gains and losses (with a net value of gains) and try to assess whether or not the first slap is harsh enough to truly wow your reader.
Remember, you want your readers to hate you for what you’ve done to the characters they love.
How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #4: The Second Slap
Your hero has rose to the challenge! She has successfully thwarted the big evil that has been thrusted upon her by the first slap and she is doing well.
…Now it is time to bring her back to 0 again.
The second slap should be as harsh, if not harsher, than the first slap. This is the moment when the reader should be looking at your book and thinking, “Wow, this author is mean. Diabolical villain mean!”
But there are two essential differences between the second slap and the first. In the second slap we are setting up for the climax, which means that the hero needs to have an out. In other words, there should be some semblance of hope.
Example: In the Hunger Games, the second slap is when the Game Masters announce that two tributes can survive the Games should they both be from the same district.
Katniss goes looking for Peeta, only to find him mortally wounded – he is bleeding to death and won’t survive the next few hours, let alone the rest of the Games. We know enough about Katniss to realize that Peeta dying is the worst thing that could happen to her (besides her own death).
But there is hope!
An announcement is made that there is something at the cornucopia that the Tributes need, and Katniss just knows that there is medicine there for Peeta.
Challenge: Brainstorm several seconds slaps and pick the harshest one. Then ask yourself – where is the hope and how will it lead into the climax?
How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #5: The Climax
The rollercoaster that you’ve put your reader on is almost over.
The reader has gone from an engaging setup where they get to learn about your characters and world to the inciting incident where everything is turned on its head. Then they are subjected to the first and second slaps where you embrace your inner sadomasochist in order to punish your hero and give the readers the thrills they so richly deserve.
Now it is time to wrap it all up with the climax.
There is only one rule to the climax. A rule that must be adhered to, no matter what genre you are writing in…
Make it amazing! The climax should be the moment where your reader puts down the book and goes, “Holy S&*%! That was awesome!”
Example: The climax in the Hunger Games is the final confrontation between Katniss and the remaining Tributes, as well as the monsters that the Game Masters send after her. It is wrought with danger and excitement. But what makes the climax truly kickass is the poisonous berries at the end.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Hunger Games today and read it! You’ll immediately get why this scene is so amazing.
Challenge: Brainstorm your kickass climactic scene! Show us how amazing, smart, resourceful, powerful your hero is when overcoming their final obstacles.
There you have it, the framework to creating a kickass story. This method is particularly effective for first-time authors who are still finding their writing feet (or should I say typing fingers) and is an awesome resource that experienced writers can rely on time and again when planning their stories.
The 5 Key Milestones combined with a spot-on Premise and A-Story will tell you where your story starts, where it is headed and how it will end. In other words, if you do the exercises above, you should have everything you need to get your novel to the finish line.
(If you haven’t planned your Premise and A-Story, do so using these guidelines.)
And with those elements in place, there’s nothing stopping you hitting that keyboard.
Before we go, I’d like to leave you with one last piece of advice. All of the above are guidelines … a roadmap, if you will, to help your story stay on track and get you to the finish line. But be warned, your characters will surprise you, your plot will take unexpected twists – don’t worry, that’s where the magic is.
If your character does something that you didn’t expect, then your reader will most likely be blown away by their actions.
If your plot has a twist worthy of Six Sense or Fight Club that wasn’t in your outline, then your reader will walk away, entranced by your writing skills.
Go with it, enjoy the process, because your readers certainly will enjoy what you produce.
That said, do pause for a moment to take a look at the unexpected elements and see if they affect your 5 Key Milestones. If something unexpected happened somewhere in between Key Milestone 2 and 3, for example, then see how, or even if, it will affect Key Milestones 4 and 5. Adjust accordingly – then write boldly.
And if you need a bit of extra help, I’m going through these 5 Key Milestones in a lot more detail in an upcoming webinar I’m going to conduct with Chandler Bolt. Get the full scoop and register to join us (before we fill up!) here.