The time has never been better to write and publish a book. If you are thinking of writing a book but you are stressing out over all the steps to write, publish and launch to market, you should seriously consider enrolling in one of the best self-publishing courses available today.
Although all the best online courses here come highly recommended, the course content and purpose of each course varies depending on:
What you need as an author.Are you writing your first book? Scaling up your author platform to 6 figures a year?
Your budget.How much cash are you willing to invest in your self-publishing business?
Your expectations. What are you expecting by taking an online publishing program? A strong return on ROI? Can the course deliver on its promise?
If you’re a business owner looking to make a solid ROI and see how a book can help grow you business, just fill out the ROI calculator below.
Book Launch ROI Business Calculator
Just input your core offer product or service average order value to see just how much you can scale your business in the next 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years by writing and self-publishing a high quality book with Self-Publishing School!
*These results are calculated based on Self-Publishing School's Become a Bestseller and Sell More Books program costs in the ROI calculations and with our students' average books sold per day at a 5% book to appointment (or landing page) conversion rate and a 20% closing rate—book sales profit not included in final numbers. Individual results may vary.*
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But, before we dive into the best self-publishing courses on the market today, let me ask you this:
Thousands of authors—just like you—have a dream to see their books in print, on a bookshelf, or for sale online in the Amazon store, the largest ebook retailer in the world.
To get your book to the publishing stage takes a lot of work. If you are not familiar with everything needed to self publish a book, you could end up spending more money than planned or, unknowingly fall into the hands of a deceiving vanity press publisher that waits for new authors desperate to publish.
Don’t let haste or desperation lead you to a bad decision. Check out the best courses here and any questions, contact support through the course so you can be confident you’re making the right decision.
Why Self-Publish Instead of Traditional Publishing?
So yes, self-publishing can be a great path to launch your writing career. You can work from home, set up a writer’s temporary workstation at your local Starbucks, or hunker down in a library hammering away at perennial bestseller after bestseller.
Now, you might be thinking to just do it yourself without any help from a self-publishing course. I did this too, and I made a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided had I invested in a course with a built-in blueprint.
This is why I have put together a solid list of the best self-publishing courses on the market today. Only the best made this list because I know what it is like to waste money on courses that went nowhere.
I have personally been inside each of these courses so I can share with you first hand the pros and cons of each.
Why take a self-publishing course?
Good question. Take into account the marketing, networking, and getting the book ready for print. The steps are many and it is a big investment of your time and effort.
Do I need a course to write a book? Can’t I do this myself?
Yes, you can. But…
Publishing can be difficult with lots of moving parts. You start to feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air! And if you’re already spending the time to get it done, why not do it right.
The good point of joining a course is, you are not alone. And, without support, a launch teamto help launch your book, it is easy to make a lot mistakes could otherwise be avoided.
So, this is why we bring you this list of professional experts, each with years of book writing experience and marketing confidence, sharing with you the best strategies for writing, launching and selling more books. And yes, despite the flood of material out there these days, you can make money from self-publishing…if you do it right and learn from the best.
Making the Cut: The 7-Point Criteria for Choosing the Best Self Publishing Course
The instructors for each course are multi-bestselling authors with the sales and platform to show it. They are trusted by the industry with solid reputations for being honest and driving their business with integrity.
The course content is current and up to date. In an industry that is constantly changing, publishing courses can become outdated within a year. The courses here are updated regularly with additions and updates every few months.
Based on industry reviews and student satisfaction, the courses are praised and recommended by authors who have been through the programs.
The strategies and business practices of the owners do not break any rules pertaining to Amazon’s rules and are morally sound.
I have personally taken these courses and recommend each one.
The material, content and overall course is professionally packaged and high quality.
Support: When you run into trouble, you want to know that you can talk to someone and get everything sorted quickly and efficiently. No-fuss.
Take note: Several courses are open for a limited time only at certain times of the year. The enrollment period is usually every three months, but this varies.
Self Publishing School with Chandler Bolt
Self-published entrepreneur and bestselling author Chandler Bolt quit college back in 2014 and set out to write a book called The Productive Person. The book was hugely successful and Chandler soon set up an online course to help authors self publish their books…in just 90 days!
With this comprehensive go-at-your-own-pace blueprint, the school has created an easy-to-follow system to take you from first time author to course creator with three pillar courses available.
Breakdown of Course Content
When self-publishing school first started out they had a basic course for writing and publishing a book. There are now four premium courses to choose from on the platform, including a full fiction course piloted by successful self-published fiction author RE Vance.
Become a Bestseller—Blank Page to Published Author and Everything Inbetween: From blank page to published author, write your book in 90 days with this course. There are 3 modules to walk you through the program with over 4 hours of video, bonus content and an outsourcer rolodex to assist with hiring professionals for all phases of the book production along with over $1,000 in exclusive Self-Publishing School student discounts and specials.
Mindmap / Outlining
Target Audience Deep-Dive
Book Production Instructions/Guides
Marketing and Publishing
Expert Interviews with Industry Experts
Milestones to Track Your Progress
1-on-1 Tailored Coaching for YOUR Book
Fundamentals of Fiction & Story: For all the fiction writers looking to learn everything you need to in order to write a high-quality fiction book that actually sells! Fiction is a different game than non-fiction, and Self-Publishing School knows that, employing a bestselling fiction coach to work through plot, the craft of writing, and selling.
Writing, editing, and mindset
Launching your book
The business of writing
Children’s book module
Expert Interviews with Industry Experts
Milestones to Track Your Progress
1-on-1 Tailored Coaching for YOUR Book
Sell More Books: For authors that have already published a book and are focusing on book marketing and promotion to achieve sales results. Most often, these are business builders using their book to grow their business or those looking to make being an author their full-time job.
Email Marketing Strategies
Author Brand Strategies
Advanced Marketing Strategies
Expert Interviews with Industry Experts
Milestones to Track Your Progress
1-on-1 Tailored Coaching for YOUR Book
Course Building for Authors: Building a course from your book? This premium course is made specially for those authors ready to take their platform to the next level.
Plan & Develop Your Course
Create and Upload Your Course
Market and Sell Your Course
Expert Interviews with Industry Experts
Milestones to Track Your Progress
1-on-1 Tailored Coaching for YOUR Book
Each course comes with its own customized, professional workbook. The best part of these courses is that you will be assigned a personal coach after being accepted into the program.
Cost to Enroll: Speak to an SPS representative to discuss best course options and pricing, as each program price varies.
Availability: If you meet the course requirements you can start right away
Target Author: Writing your first book, advanced or pro authors, business owners or future business owners. SPS has courses to cover any level.
Enrollment Availability: If you qualify for access to the course, you will speak to a self-publishing representative who will set you up with the best course to meet your publishing goals.
The one-on-one personal coaching that comes with each course. You will get the best results by working with a professional student success coach.
One hour clarity call with your coach to drill down into your book idea.
Up to 4 weekly live online mastermind group trainings & Q&A, one with Chandler Bolt himself
Customized workbook comes with each course
Mastermind Facebook Community of 2500+ active participants.
4 premium courses to meet your publishing goals
Self Publishing School has a long track record of successful students that have written, launched and turned their dreams of being published into a reality. The course is fast-paced and doesn’t waste time on details.
Authority Pub Academy With Steve Scott and Barrie Davenport
Steve Scott [also known as S.J. Scott] is one of the biggest names when it comes to self-publishing. He has been marketing online for a long time and when the eBook craze started back in 2011, Steve was one of the first authors that as in there doing it.
With the combined talents of two bestselling authors, Authority Pub is everything you would expect it to be: A self publishing course that is focused on teaching authors to write and publish, not just a book, but focuses on building out an author platform.
In today’s overwhelming jungle of books, with thousands being published daily, Steve Scott recognised the importance of turning your book platform into a brand and a book business.
This is the strength and focus of this course, and there is loads of videos, downloads and information taught from two authors that have been engaged in the self-publishing business from the beginning.
Module 6: Advanced marketing and Scaling Up Your Author Library
Authority Pub is a plethora of knowledge and both Steve and Barrie have learned everything through years of trial and error. Authority pub is a “one-stop resource to help writers streamline the whole process.”
Cost to Enroll: $597 or 2 payments of $348
Target Author: If you are just writing your first book, or already published and looking to scale up your author platform with more content and strategies that increase long term growth, Authority Pub is for you.
6 Reasons to Enroll with Authority Pub Academy:
Advanced supplementary materials includes WordPress blog setup mastery, Canva tutorial, email walkthrough using Aweber and Evernote tips for productive writing
Course content professionally delivered via high definition videos supported by quality downloads
Solid case studies and examples of writers who have made it work
Effective advanced marketing strategies to scale up your books
The course removes any guesswork and provides students with a clear roadmap
30 day “try it, test it, apply it” money-back guarantee
As a traditionally published author who used to write for a big firm, Mark Dawson started self-publishing his action and thrillers and, to date, has sold over a million copies. Mark has published 25+ books, has three series in the works, and is constantly launching bestseller after bestseller. His monthly earnings in 2015, according to an interview in Forbes.com, Mark Dawson was being paid $450,000 a year for his works.
So, who better to learn the craft of self-publishing than an established author with both a library of successful bestsellers and the income to show it. This brings us to Self Publishing 101, Mark Dawson’s course for authors.
If you are new at self publishing or have been publishing for awhile, this course has something for everyone. You will learn the basics as well as advanced marketing strategies to scale up your author platform.
With Self Publishing 101, you’ll will write, launch and market a quality book that sells. Although Mark Dawson is mainly a fiction author, the course can be customized for nonfiction writer’s. The same marketing strategies apply to both.
Breakdown of Course Content
Inside Self Publishing 101, the course is broken up into 8 modules that includes:
As additional bonuses, there is also a tech module that walks through how to build a website, lead magnets, email service providers, and formatting your book.
The best part of this course is the system Mark teaches for email list building through an author website. Building an email list is critical to the success of any author, and Mark and his team have these bases covered.
Cost to Enroll: $497 or 12 monthly payments of $49.00. Comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Availability: Closed after enrollment begins. Cycle is every 3-4 months.
Target Author: Beginner, intermediate and advanced authors looking to build a rock-solid fan base through email list building and advertising.
6 Reasons to Enroll with Self Publishing 101
Deep dive into the Amazon algorithm
Focuses on subscriber communication and building an email list
Bonus tech library with an introduction to using advanced apps and tools
Active Facebook group with high response time
Additional “Writing Copy for Facebook Ads” module
Reasonably priced course for the value it delivers
Your First 10k Readers with Nick Stephenson
If you are looking for a comprehensive, in-depth, no-holds-barred course on marketing tactics, Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers is that course.
The course assumes you already have a book, or a library of books, and now you want to take what you’ve got and line it all up in order to grow your list to a 10k readership…and beyond.
Your First 10k Readers is really better suited for the more seasoned author. It gets into the nitty-gritty of the Amazon algorithm, merchandising, keywords and niche marketing, email marketing, landing pages, giveaways, and what Nick calls “You’re secret sauce.”
So yeah, there’s a lot going on here.
Let’s take a look inside.
Breakdown of the Course Content
The course consists of 6 modules that you can work on at your own pace. The modules are:
Module 1: Rule the Retainers.
This includes Amazon Algorithms, Merchandising, Broad Reach VS KDP Select, and Pricing.
Module 2: Generate Endless Traffic.
This includes Keywords & Niches, Using Free Books, Smart Promotions, and The Author Dream Team
Module 3: Convert Traffic Into Fans
This includes Traffic Funnels, Optimize Your Website, Giveaways, and Events Marketing
Module 4: Build Engagement and Sell—Without Being “Salesy”
This module includes Why Readers Don’t Buy, Priming the sale, Scarcity, the Secret Sauce, Social Media Mastery, Getting Reviews, and Auto-Responders
Module 5: Launch Strategies
This module includes Launch Teams, Building Buzz, and Launch Day
Module 6: Facebook Advertising
This module includes Intro to Power Editor, How to Track Results With Pixels, and Ninja Tricks.
In addition to the 6 core modules, there is also a wide range of bonus content that includes rock star author interviews, email swipe files, and tools of the trade bonus section.
Cost to Enroll: $597 or 12 monthly payments of $59.00. Comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Availability: Enrollment anytime.
Target Author: Intermediate and advanced authors needing advanced tactics to scale up author platform and build your publishing business into an empire
With a successful blog and five bestselling books, it isn’t any surprise that Jeff has a writing course to market to his raving fans of authors: Tribe Writers.
Jeff’s course is packed with material. With the formula presented in Tribe Writers, you as the author can create your own path to creativity. There are twelve steps of a tribe writer that allows you to tailor fit the best plan while keeping your unique voice.
Tribe Writers is broken up into four individual modules:
Module 1: Honing Your Voice
Module 2: Establishing a Platform
Module 3: Expanding Your Reach
Module 4: Getting Published
In addition to the four modules, you also get:
Exclusive interviews with over a dozen authors, bloggers, and publishing experts
Access to the Tribe Writers community of 6000+ members
Live conference calls to ask questions and get help
Downloadable PDF workbook that summarizes every lesson
Admission to a private Facebook group only for students
The modules take about 2 weeks to get through but you can move at your pace.
This course comes with five additional bonuses to support you including You Are a Writer eBook + Audiobook and The Perfect Book Launch.
Where Jeff’s Tribe Writers is different from the other courses is, a strong emphasis on honing your ideas and creativity as a writer to create a unique brand. There is a strong foundation for support and networking with hundreds of other authors.
Best 6 Reasons to Enroll with Tribe Writers
Loaded with tools to help get you started
Community of writers to help you when you get stuck
Lots of valuable content and expert interviews included
Designed to show you how to find your voice and audience
Monthly conference calls to keep you on track
“12 steps of a Tribe Writer” that clearly outlines the expectations of the course.
Ready to Write and Publish Your Bestseller?
All of these courses are excellent in their own way. Depending on your budget and writing goals, you might choose one over the other.
Now that we have taken an in- depth look at the best self publishing courses for you to write your bestseller, you have a solid idea of what to expect from each course. The question is: Are you ready to write your book?
The best writing course you decide depends largely on your goals as a writer.
Do you want to build a solid library of books and focus on your author platform? Authority Pub Academy could be your best match. Let Steve Scott and Barrie Davenport guide you towards your success of being a multiple bestselling author.
Do you want to learn the essence of email list building, creating an author website and setting up landing pages that convert readers into subscribers? Self Publishing 101 could be the best choice to make.
Need more advanced marketing tools from one of the best in the business? Your First 10k Readers is the path you might consider, and…
Interested in a course that focuses on honing your creative writing talent while showing you how to connect with your unique voice? Tribe Writers with Jeff could be the best option.
Or, you might decide you need two courses and combine together for maximum impact. Self Publishing School can show you how to go from blank page to published author in 90 days. But Nick Stephenson’s course can teach you the more advanced analytics and how to really build out an online book business.
So now, make a choice. You have been sitting on this long enough. Your book won’t write itself and if you have written it already, take it to the next level.
Life is short.
Take action now.
It’s your time to write that next perennial bestseller!
Many people think they need to do something massive or be famous in order to write about their lives…
That’s not true at all.
In fact, more people can relate to regular, non-famous people and their struggles than they can those who have been in the limelight.
The reason writing about your life is important is because you have a story. You have something worth sharing that can actually change the lives of others through your trials and tribulations.
Even if you’re not ready to write a memoir, you still have something valuable to share—knowledge gained through the years or maybe you just experienced a short, influential event in your life that you believe can help other.
No matter what that story is, you can and you should tell it.
How do I write a book about myself?
One of the hardest things in life is looking inside ourselves. We spend so long looking outward, to everyone else, that when we finally decide to take a peek inside, it’s hard.
Not to mention writing a book about yourself.
The most important thing to write a book about yourself is to get really, really honest and dig into the raw and deep parts about yourself.
Nobody wants a book about you that’s all sunshine and rainbows because that’s not real life.
So here are a few steps to write a book about yourself:
Decide if you’re ready to write a book about yourself
Spend some time self-reflecting
Decide which specific experience of your life you want to focus on
Create a mindmap of the things that pop up after step #3
Take those ideas and start creating a book outline, then follow the rest of this blog post
How do you write a true story?
True stories can be tricky because you have to decide if you want people to know it’s a true story about your life. In that case, writing a memoir might be a better idea for you.
There are a few things to think about if you want to write a true story:
Do you want it to be nonfiction, more like a memoir?
Do you want it to be a chronological telling of your life, an autobiography?
Do you want to write a fiction book with certain elements of your life?
Can you truly be truthful without being biased?
It’s often not advised to write a fiction book about your life because your characters can often fall into the archetype of a “Mary Sue”. Meaning, a perfect character with no flaws.
This happens because it’s difficult for us to be unbiased about ourselves. But if you can write a true story while giving the character based on yourself real flaws, it can work.
How to Write a Book About Your Life in 10 Simple Steps
So you’ve discovered you have something to share with the world…but what you don’t know is how the heck to make it happen.
Here are our top tips for writing your life story.
Take a few minutes to free write or journal each day, focusing on one memory. A good writing prompt for this free-write session is to write about a significant 24 hours in your life. This is just to help you get started. The memories written down from this significant moment in your life will be use later to build upon to create your nonfiction narrative.
Even if you don’t ultimately use this particular memory in your overall narrative, getting into the habit of writing down memories will benefit you as a writer and help keep those memories fresh.
After you’ve written down a variety of memories—whether they’re a part of an overall narrative or a collection of essays—they now need to be organized into a coherent story in order to actually write it.
Since you’re writing your life story, technically the plotline is already there; it just has to be written down and organized in a manner that will speak to your audience.
However, if you are the more organized type and not a “pantster” like other writers, outlining what memories you want to include in your life story may help get the writing juices flowing.
Not only can an outline help you get clear on the message and order you’ll write your book, it can also help you form writing goals that will set up a writing habit. These are two keys to actually finishing your book.
Other writers struggle with writing unless they have an outline or book template, even if it’s a book outline of their own life. It all depends on you, the writer.
#3 – Pick your genre
“Creative nonﬁction has become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities.” – Lee Gutkind, What is Creative Nonfiction?
There are several book genres that fall under the nonfiction genre: memoirs, essay collections, autobiographies, motivational books, and more.
Since you are writing a book about your life, it might feel like you have to put it in the “memoir” genre, but that’s not always the case.
In fact, it might hurt your book sales to mislabel your book as a memoir when it’s actually more of a self-help in a specific category.
An example of this is While We Slept by our own coach here at Self-Publishing School, Marcy Pusey.
While this author does label this book as a memoir, it also fits in several other categories. These Amazon categories will help you 1) reach a wider audience and 2) help you tell the story in a way that will speak to those readers.
If you’re struggling to decide whether your book about your life is a memoir or autobiography, this can help:
The main difference between memoirs and autobiographies are their focus. Memoirs focus primarily on one specific time, or “memory” of one’s life, like a battle with a disease, traveling to a foreign country, or adopting a special pet.
Autobiographies, or “biographies of oneself,” focus primarily on your entire life from start to finish—from when you were born until you die, or at least until the current moment in your life with details about achievements or notable moments.
Autobiographies also tend to be a bit more factual than creative, though there have been some very well written autobiographies published.
What if neither of these makes sense for my book about my life?
Maybe you don’t have a specific period in you want to focus on, but don’t necessarily want to tell your entire life story from start to finish. This is where a collection of personal and/or lyrical essays may be more of your style.
Think Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me? Kaling is still telling her life story, or at least memorable moments in her life story, without necessarily being one complete narrative. Collections of personal essays are like the nonfiction version of a collection of short stories.
If you are still uncertain about which nonfiction subgenre to write your life story in, this is a major topic covered in the Self-Publishing School VIP course. They take you through choosing your categories that will help your book sell the most.
#4 – Research
Regardless of how you begin writing your life story—with free-writing or outlining—research can help you build on memories to create a fuller story and establish you as a credible writer.
Memories are fickle, and we don’t always remember things correctly, especially if you are writing about something that happened many years ago.
Researching for a book can seem like a daunting task. In fact, out of all the research you’ll end up doing, only a very small percentage will end up in your story. In order to find that small percentage, however, you need to do your research.
Here are some tips for book research when writing a book about your life:
List memories or facts you’re not 100% certain about
Ask family members or others close to you for details
Get quotes from those people if necessary
When writing and you come across something you need to research, simply make a note to research and keep writing so you can write faster
#5 – Identify characters and perspective
The people you have met in your life influenced you in some way, and as such, they will influence how you write your life story as well.
Here are some tips to organize these characters for your story:
Make a list of people, also known as “characters” in this case, who you want to include in your story
Write down their description: physical appearance, age, background,
Write down their relationship to you (and if you’re close or distant to them)
This will assist you in describing them in your narrative through the rule of “show don’t tell“, that way readers can visualize them and understand how they affected your life personally.
The only thing you may have to alter is a character’s real name, or names.
Changing names can protect a person’s true identity in their story. Unless you have permission to use someone’s true name, change it and include a disclaimer at the beginning of your story. Make a note in your character list of names you change, that way you can keep track of who’s who.
Also, just because this is your life story—so technically, it’s told from your point-of-view—doesn’t mean you can’t explore the perspectives of the other characters in your story.
Keeping other character’s point-of-view in mind will give your story more dimension, and will help you to avoid a one-sided, train-of-thought narrative.
#6 – Add speculation
Use “speculation” to fill in gaps in your life story. Not sure if one of your character’s motivations? Is your memory of the event a bit foggy? Using what you already know, combined with the research you’ve conducted, speculate to the best of your ability.
Here is an example of writing speculation:
“I am not sure why my parents chose to end their marriage after 15 years together. They were always private people, and after their brief announcement to me about their separation, neither of them spoke a word to me about it ever again.
Perhaps they were trying to spare me the heartache of the ordeal. I often wonder if my father’s time in the service made him distant from mother; that was the case with me. Maybe my mother, like me, became lonely as a result of that.”
Words and phrases like “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “I wonder if” show your reader that you, the narrator, are speculating.
Try to find creative ways to speculate, as well. You are, in a sense, still telling a true story; you’re using what you know to create a hypothesis about something that is still a mystery to you.
If you were to claim this hypothesis were true without facts to back it up, you could get end up in trouble.
#7 – Determine the setting
Readers want to know where your life story took place, or the setting. Like fiction, you need to consider how the setting of this story affected you as a person.
Here are some questions to help you discover the setting of your book:
Where was this place?
What did it look like?
Did you enjoy living/visiting there?
Do you remember any smells from the area?
What was the culture like there?
Were you a spectator of that culture or immersed in it?
How did the setting contribute to your experience?
What mood did that setting elicit?
Details like these affected your life tremendously—maybe more than you realize—and therefore must be included in your narrative, just as they would be if this was a fictional story.
Not only that, but this helps paint a much clearer picture for your readers and creates a more entertaining experience.
When you forget to write dialogue…the book can end up reading like a very boring textbook.
Dialogue is what gives the writing—and the story itself—life.
But that leaves the challenge of writing accurate dialogue. Unless you used a tape recorder or video to record a conversation, chances are you’re not going to recall previous conversations word-for-word.
Just write down what you remember to the best of your ability, and paraphrase if you must. If you are still on good terms with the person you’re speaking within your memory, try contacting them to be sure that their memory of the conversation is similar to yours. You can even ask them to approve any written dialogue that’s in quotes if it’s not 100% accurate to what was really said.
Write dialogue the same way it would be used in a fiction book and remember to use correct dialogue formatting and tags.
#9 – Prepare for negative pushback
Not all of us have sweet stories with cute pets. Sometimes our memories and experiences are on the dark side—for example, The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison.
This memoir focuses on the time in the author’s life where she has a sexual (and incestuous) relationship with her father. She received a huge amount of negative reactions to her story.
If you are going to write and publish a personal and scandalous true story about your life, steel yourself for these kinds of negative reactions, particularly from those in your life unhappy with you telling the story to begin with.
It’s easy to think an introduction isn’t important because so many people skip them, but did you know your book’s introduction is actually a vital sales tool if you’re a non-fiction author?
That’s why we’re here to teach you how to write a book introduction that will actually boost book sales.
But first, let’s talk about why it’s so important.
How to Write a Book Introduction
You’re about to learn about the most wonderful page in your book to boost sales. It’s going to be your secret weapon to stand out from the competition.
Amazon offers customers a chance to give your book a sneak peek before purchase. It’s called the Look Inside feature, and when shoppers click on it, they’re treated to a free preview of your book introduction.
This means you’ve been given the opportunity to grab their attention and make them reach for their wallets.
This is why your book introduction is crucial to your book’s ultimate success. Readers will pick up your story and make a decision about you as an author and your book based on those first few paragraphs.
If you aren’t careful it might be a preface or a foreword instead, and these are different than an introduction.
While this difference might not seem like much to you, mislabeling this section will signal your book as an amateur piece of work to your reader, harming your brand and sales in the long run.
Who would want to read a book (or many) from someone who can’t get even the introduction right?
So, what are the differences between an introduction, preface, and a foreword? Where do you use them? Can you use several of them? We’ll go through these questions in detail.
What is a preface?
A preface discusses how the book came about, the scope of the book, why the book was written, its limitations, and any acknowledgments the author or editor has.
Though they may initially seem the same, and serve the same purpose, a preface is different from an introduction. The author and/or editor of a book can write a preface, but no-one else can.
What it doesn’t do is talk about the meat of the book. It doesn’t go into the subject matter, the point of view, or arguments that the book presents.
The purpose of a preface is to let the reader know how you came to write the book.
Without delving into the book matter, it gives the author a chance to talk to the reader and let them know your story, why you decided to write this book, why the world needs this book right now (helpful if you’re writing about something that’s been written about several times before, such as the hundredth biography of a famous figure,) where you got your information from, and why you are the best author to write this book.
If you have several editions of your book, your preface is also where you discuss why there is a new edition, and what’s different from the old edition.
You have to address your selling points indirectly. This is why it’s best to have an editor’s preface or to have someone else write a foreword.
What is a foreword?
According to the Chicago Manual of Style, a foreword is written by someone other than the author or editor and is usually someone with authority to lend credibility to your book, with their name appearing at the end.
Think of a foreword as a letter of recommendation that someone with credibility writes for your book.
It’s usually by someone the reader will respect, and the foreword will contain reasons for why the reader should read the book. There are fewer rules for a foreword than a preface.
For instance, it can talk about the subject matter if desired. However, forewords tend to be short – usually one or two pages.
Many non-fiction book deals wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the foreword. Publishers are less likely to offer a major advance to first-time authors as they are untested. However, this becomes a different story if they can secure a foreword from someone of influence, (known as foreword deals in the industry.)
John Romaniello (with his co-author Adam Bornstein) was able to get an advance of more than $1,000,000 for his first book, Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha, a practically unheard of amount for a first-time author.
An introduction differs from a preface and a foreword because it’s written by the author and does talk about the subject matter.
A book introduction can include everything that would be in a preface: how the book came about, the scope of the book, why the book was written etc.
However, an introduction also supplements the subject matter of the book.
Whether by presenting a point of view the reader should take, outlining to the reader what is to come, or by teasing the writer’s conclusions.
What’s the purpose of a preface, foreword, and introduction?
Each one of these exists to sell your book in the opening pages. They exist to hook a reader who flips to the beginning of the book and gives clear reasons as to why they should read on to the end.
A potential reader or buyer will judge whether your main argument, point of view, or tone of voice is worth reading on your introduction, preface, or foreword.
If someone they admire recommends your book in the foreword, they’ll sit up and listen.
If your preface reveals some main sources that have never told their story before, they’ll be curious to read more. If your introduction shows that you’re a great writer and you know what you’re talking about, they’ll give you a chance by reading more.
Since we’re dealing with non-fiction, we haven’t discussed prologues or epilogues, though they have the same purpose; to hook the reader and sell them on why to read on.
Where do they go?
So, do you only have to choose one for your book? No.
Your book can have all three if you want, though you don’t want to go too overboard, as your reader might end up skipping it anyway, or might feel like you’re trying too hard.
Getting a foreword can be a lot of hard work if you don’t have the network or credibility to get an influencer to write one for you. And if your reader ends up skipping it, it’ll be a waste of your time.
But if you want to have all three, this is the correct formatting of where they appear in your book, (relevant sections are highlighted in bold. We provided a comprehensive overview of a book’s matter for reference:)
(Each point gets at least its own page.)
Half title page (Sometimes called the bastard title, it’s a page that has nothing but the title. No subtitle or author name.)
Blank page (Or “Also by the author…”)
Epigraph (Quote, or poem that highlights the theme of the book. Can be before main text. Optional.)
Table of contents
Book quote (optional: A quote chosen by the author based on the subject matter of the book.)
List of illustrations, tables or maps (Optional.)
Preface(Optional. Editor’s preface comes before author’s preface if you have both. If you have a separate preface for a new edition of the book it comes before the old preface.)
Abbreviations (Optional. Or in back matter.)
Chronology (Optional. Or in back matter.)
Prologue (Optional. Not applicable to non-fiction.)
Epigraph (or after the dedication and before the table of contents. Optional.)
Another half-title (Optional.)
Epilogue (Optional. Not applicable to non-fiction.)
(These are all optional.)
Chronology (Or in the front matter.)
Abbreviations (Or in the front matter.)
List of contributors
Colophon (Optional brief statement by the publishers on the book’s production, where it was printed etc.)
Authors or Editor’s bio
Invitation to review the book [Usually found in eBook formats asking readers to consider a review if they liked the book]
Don’t panic if your book doesn’t have up to half of these sections. Many of them are not necessary unless you are writing for a higher education audience.
What matters is knowing where your foreword, preface, and/or your introduction needs to go in your book.
How Your Book Introduction Will Help You Sell Books
Your book introduction serves two goals. Think of your first 1,000 words as the foundation for the rest of your book’s chapters.
Writing your introduction is going to be a useful exercise to help you distill down your ideas and to succinctly encapsulate the message of your great work into a few, short paragraphs.
The second goal of your introduction is to act as a sales pitch to intrigue readers so they’ll buy your book.
It’s intimidating, yes, and a lot of pressure is riding on just a few paragraphs. This is why writing your book introduction can be one of your first major stumbling blocks as an author.
That’s why we’re here to help you overcome this significant hurdle so you can continue merrily on the path toward your finished manuscript, and ultimately higher sales of your book once it is published.
How to an Introduction for a Book in 8 Clear Steps
Self-Publishing School created a roadmap, much like we did for mind mapping and outlining, to nail down that book introduction—and also to jumpstart your writing process for the rest of your chapters.
As we go through these 8 steps to writing your book introduction, we’re going to use the example of a book called How to Get College Scholarships.
As you read, take notes, and insert your own book’s topic into your thinking and note-taking process.
#1 – Identify the Problem
Don’t dance around the problem. What’s the problem your book promises to solve? State the problem clearly for your readers from the outset. Be straight-forward, unambiguous, and concise when you identify the issue that readers hope you can solve for them.
Don’t try to be all things to all people—you want readers to know the specific problem your book will solve for them.
Using our example of How to Get College Scholarships, the problem is simple: college is expensive, and scholarships seem out of reach for most high school students.
If you’re not quote sure of the problem you’re solving, it’s likely your target audience is unclear and that means the rest of your book will be unclear.
In our Become a Bestseller program (and all of them, really), you get 1-on-1 tailored coaching with a bestselling author about how to nail your target audience and craft an introduction meant to hook them.
#2 – Present the Solution
Now that you’ve identified the problem readers are struggling with, you’re going to make their day by telling them you’re going to share the solution in your book.
You’ve helped them with a problem AND you’ve revealed that your book holds the solution on the first page. Your book’s going to be a winner!
Directional phrases such as, “In this book, I am going to show you …” or “This book is going to solve your problem by …”
Thinking back to our example, some solutions we’d present in our book would be teaching readers how to write a good essay so you can stand out from the competition, and how to find and apply for the top scholarships.
#3 – Assert Your Credibility
Now that you’ve presented a problem and posted a solution, your next step is to convince your readers that you, the author, are qualified to help solve their problem.
What unique experience have you had with this topic?
Why are you passionate about writing this book?
Sharing your own struggles and how you overcame them is the first step to building rapport with your readers
#4 – Show Them the Benefits
How will your book improve your readers’ current circumstances? Now’s the time to really sell them on how reading your book is going to change their life for the better.
Sold! Who doesn’t want a better life? (It’s rhetorical: We all do!)
You’ve briefly touched on the solution—in our case, how to write a great essay and how to apply for scholarships. In this part of your introduction, you’re going to go a little deeper and explain what good things will happen if your readers take advantage of the information you present in your book.
In short, tell your readers what they’ll get—what knowledge or skill they will gain from reading your book and how that’s going to impact their future for the better.
In our example, the benefit of our book is that readers will go to school for free and live a life without the financial burden of student loans. Readers can achieve their dream of getting an education, without breaking the bank.
#5 – Give Them Proof
Show your readers the proof of why your book is the answer to their prayers. Give the most tangible and relatable proof you can provide.
This might require you to divulge some more private information. If you can, talk about finances, mindset, relationship, or other specific gains that are a soft spot for many people.
Here are some forms of proof to add in your book introduction:
Real stories about gains or losses
Financials–hard numbers TALK
Changes in a relationship
Any charts or graphs can also speak really loudly
Testimonials/stories from others who found success
In our example, we might share how we put ourselves or our children through school on scholarship. We might also include testimonials from other people we know who followed our advice and got a free education.
#6 – Make a Promise (The Bigger the Better)
Don’t make a promise you can’t keep, but make the biggest promise that you CAN keep. Aim high.
To come up with your promise, circle back to your books’ purpose—what is the problem your book is solving? Now promise that this book will solve their problem! It’s that easy.
You need to be able to deliver on your promises, but don’t be shy in stating what they will get in return for reading your book.
While we can’t promise someone they’ll be awarded a scholarship (after all, their grades will have a big impact there,) we can promise that we will increase their chances of getting a scholarship by showing them where to find them and the steps to take to apply.
#7 – Warn Them Against Waiting
You need to create a sense of urgency to buy so your readers know that if they pass on your book, they will regret it because readers will miss out on something really good.
A sense of urgency is created by two magic words, “RIGHT NOW!”
In our example, we would urge people to start well ahead of the scholarship application deadlines so they can submit the best applications they can. Don’t delay, or others who are in the know will snatch up those scholarships! So, let’s get started on getting you a free education RIGHT NOW!
#8 – Prompt Them to Read (Call to Action)
You want readers to continue reading your book the second they finish the introduction. To do that, you have to hint at the juicy secrets your book will reveal to them that will change their lives.
You want to intrigue them and hint at the exciting revelations you’re going to make inside the book. They will have to buy it in order to find out.
Here’s how to craft a compelling Call to Action to prompt them to read your book right away:
The scholarship tips and tricks you’re about to read have proven results. Each chapter provides new secrets that will help you stay in control of your financial future AND get a leg up on the competition for scholarships. If you follow the formula we reveal in this book, it’s highly possible you can enjoy the rest of your life unburdened by debt.
A memoir is unique in the fact that it covers your life’s events in a more story-like structure with an overarching theme or messaged written in.
This means that “how tos,” “motivational books,” and other topics don’t qualify as a memoir. Memoirs are very specific in the sense that it accounts for the entirety of your life with an emphasis on stories and impactful moments that lead to a great purpose.
Yes, anyone has the ability and experience to write a memoir. The biggest misconception is that you have to be famous or have to have experienced something major in order to write a memoir. But that’s not needed.
In fact, some of the most powerful memoirs can come from the “average” person detailing the biggest lessons in their life.
You have a story. Everyone has a story, and what we do here at Self-Publishing School is get that story out and into a book you can pass down for generations.
Now that you know the overall theme and message of your memoir and what will set it apart, you have to connect the dots of your life to that core focus.
Here are a few areas to think about specifically to help jog some of those memories in order to help you know how to write a memoir worth reading:
College/post high school
Hopes and dreams
There are so many areas that have a direct influence over how you perceive life as a whole. You just have to do a little digging to spark some specific memories that can circle back to the overarching theme of your memoir.
I know this is a book about yourlife but it never hurts to back up your own experiences with someone else’s – or many other people’s.
Knowing how to write a memoir involves knowing when your message will be loudest. And that’s often with additional stories from others.
Sometimes you can’t always get the message across if only you have experienced it. To get readers to relate, you might have to show them that many people experience the same thing.
One of the most powerful connections you can make to benefit from the message of your memoir is to show your readers that it’s not just you.
Others have gone through the same situations you have and came out with the same perspective.
This one requires some extensive research (and maybe even an interview or two), but possessing the ability to be credible in your readers’ eyes is crucial. And obviously, you’ll want to make sure you’re using their experiences legally in your memoir.
You can even interview family or friends who might see an experience you share differently than you.
Adding those details will strengthen your core message.
Here’s a checklist of what your memoir should include in order to “complete” and at its best:
Elements of a Memoir
A snippet of what your life is like now and why you're writing this memoir
Each memoir should have an overall theme or message that one can take away when they've finished reading.
Writing a memoir without honesty will come across on the pages. Readers will be able to tell and will be pulled out of the book because of this.
Nobody wants to read a memoir that's written like a textbook. Create entertainment value through the stories you tell.
Because you have an overall theme, it needs supporting stories from your life to back it up.
Once again, a memoir is still a book and therefore, it cannot read like a textbook. Great writing is necessary for a great book.
Your life has an arc and your memoir's purpose is to show this through lessons learned from start to end.
#4 – Write truthfully
One of the hardest parts about writing a memoir is the fact that we tend to be a wee bit biased with ourselves.>
*Gasp* You don’t say!
It’s true. Nobody really likes to admit their faults.
It’s one thing to recognize when you were wrong in life, it’s another to actually write it down for the world to see.
It’s hard. We want everyone to see the best version of ourselves and therefore, we leave out details or flat out lie to seem “better” in their eyes.
But that’s not what makes a good memoir.
In order to learn how to write a memoir that really touches people in deep, emotional ways, you have to learn to be honest.
#5 – Show, don’t tell in your memoir writing
No, this doesn’t mean you have to write a picture book. That’s not what “show” means in this case.
When it comes to creating intrigue with your writing – and trust me, you want to do this, especially for a memoir – you have to write by showing, not telling.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll just give you an overview of this writing technique, but if you’re interested in mastering the ability to pull readers in, you can check out this detailed explanation.
Essentially, showing versus telling is the way in which you describe your experiences with an emphasis on emotion.
But that doesn’t mean you should write down every feeling you had during a specific time. In fact, that’s what you want to avoid.
We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here’s a great video outlining this method ↓
#6 – Get vulnerable
Memoirs are not a time to distance yourself from your inner feelings.
You want your readers to gain a sense of who you are not only through your stories but through the voice in your writing as well.
#10 Write a memoir you’d want to read
How do you ensure others will like our memoir? Write it in a way that makes it an entertaining read for yourself!
This has a lot to do with putting your own personality into it but it’s also about crafting the structure of your novel in an entertaining manner, too.
Even though this is a memoir, there should still be a climax to keep readers intrigued. This would be when your life came to a head; where you struggled but was able to pull yourself out of the trenches and forge your own path.
That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you learn how to start a memoir that’s captivating and intriguing.
Let’s draw those readers in!
#1 – Be relatable
Nobody wants to read a book that’s preachy or condescending.
One major mistake many make when writing a memoir is not starting it off in a way that makes the readers connect with them.
This is one of the most important aspects of your memoir.
Do you really think people will want to read about a person’s life if they can’t relate to them?
Think about when you were most invested in a book (or even a TV show or movie). What did you like most? Could you relate to the author or the characters?
Did you understand their pain and triumph and hardships?
This is typically the best way to not only create invested readers but to gain fans. When others relate to you and see themselves in your journey, they’ll want to stick around to see how it plays out.
And that means they’ll read your whole book and any others you write.
#2 – Use emotion by showing, not telling
If you want to give a play-by-play of your life with nothing more than a list of experiences you’ve gone through, that’s fine.
Just know that doing it that way won’t hook your readers and it certainly won’t keep them.
A memoir can be a powerful tool for educating others through your life journeys, but if they’re not intrigued enough to keep reading, it’ll render your memoir pointless.
And we don’t want that.
showing and not telling, you’ll put more emotion into your writing. This technique might sound confusing but it’s actually quite easy once you learn how to do it.
Here are the basics for showing versus telling:
Use fewer tell words like “I heard,” “I felt,” “I smelled,” “I saw,” to bring readers closer
Stop explaining emotions and instead explain physical reactionsof those emotions (If you want to say “I was scared,” describe your heart hammering against your chest or the sweat beading your forehead instead)
Describe body language in more detail
Use strong verbs that coincide with the emotions you’re trying to convey (writing “crashed to the floor” instead of “fell to the floor” creates more impact)
This writing method can be tricky to master but thankfully, there are countless resources to help you figure it out.
Everybody has an interesting life if you look deep enough. What you have to determine is how your life experiences can aid and shape the lives of others.
Think about how that will manifest from what you’ve lived through before and make sure your readers know what it is from the start (which can also be done through a powerful book title).
How to Write a Memoir Tips from Experts
The best advice you can receive is from someone who’s done it before. These Self-Publishing School students (and graduates!) have first-hand knowledge when it comes to the difficulties of writing your life down on paper.
Here’s what these memoir writers want you to know.
#1 – Write from the heart
Christopher Moss, author of Hope Over Anxiety, says the best way to write your memoir is to be open about your experiences.
“Write from the heart. Show people your experience. Be as vulnerable and honest as you can. If it scares you a little, what you are writing that’s good. The reader has to feel what you are going through.”
#2 – Don’t be afraid to go with the flow
Lou A. Vendetti, who’s in the thick of writing and working toward publication of his memoir, has a few pieces of advice for you.
“Do not be afraid to deviate. If your book doesn’t follow your outline one hundred percent, then that’s okay! Don’t feel like you have to only talk about what’s in your outline. You are the author; you are the publisher, so you are the one making all of the decisions (sounds scary, huh?). In the beginning, I thought it was.”
“Don’t think that the memoir is supposed to be ‘formal.’ As an example, I use contractions in mine, which would not necessarily be used in a nonfiction book. Yes, I wanted my book to be professional, but I didn’t want to make it sound like I’m not ‘on my audience’s level.’ I wanted to keep my voice and make it as if I’m talking to my audience; as if I’m having a conversation with them.”
#3 – Review old photos and videos
Toni Crowe, author of Never a $7 Whore, says it’s best to relive your memories the best you can through photos and videos.
“My advice to new memoir writers is to take the time to review any old documents or photos that exist and to pull those memories out to examine. Doing this during the map mapping process helped me immensely.”
Famous Memoir Examples to Emulate
Sometimes it’s easier to learn by example. That way, you can fully comprehend what a memoir is in order to write your own.
These are famous memoir examples:
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses Grant
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Memoir examples by our own students:
Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir by Jim Manley
Walking My Momma Home: Finding Love, Grace, and Acceptance Through the Labyrinth of Dementia by Kathy Flora
Prayers, Punk Rock and Pastry by Chris Stewart
Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous by Emily Ann Peterson
Shift Happens: Turning Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones by Jill Rogers
Hope Dealers: The Calling, The Struggles, The Breakthroughs and The Community of Believers by Nadine Blase Psareas
What’s the difference between a book blurb and a synopsis?
A blurb serves you on the consumer marketing front, giving a glimpse into your story with just enough information to entice, holding back enough to avoid spoilers. It’s a teaser of your book, not a summary.
A synopsis will be part of your press kit and applications for things like reviews, interviews, literary agents, editors, and publishers. A synopsis summarizing the twists, turns, and conclusion of your story.
It’s essentially a condensed version of your book.
Book Blurb and Book Synopsis Examples
This is often easier seen than taught. Below are a couple of screenshots of the Amazon page for both a fiction and nonfiction book.
As you can see, the content readers use to decide whether or not they want to purchase the book is actually a blurb.
Oftentimes, synopsis (where there are spoilers and deeper detail) is usually used more to sell the book to a traditional publisher than for selling your book to readers (or for a homework assignment from school!).
What is a book synopsis?
A synopsis is a one to four page summary of your novel. The synopsis should explain the plot, main character arc, and conclusion of the book.
A common method of writing a synopsis is in a three-paragraph format.
First paragraph: introduction of character, setting, and conflict/inciting incident.
Second paragraph: major plot points, conflicts, and characters that are required for the conclusion to make sense.
Third paragraph: how the conflict is resolved, how the character changes from the start of the book.
Tips for writing a novel synopsis:
Use active voice instead of passive voice. This makes the synopsis more interesting and engaging.
Use third person point of view. This is standard.
Consider your synopsis as a representation of your writing skills. Don’t just summarize the book–summarize it in a way that portrays your writing style.
Write clear and concise copy. If your synopsis is too long or rambly, you’ll lose the reader’s interest and they might assume your novel is also too long and rambly.
Don’t try to cover too many things or include too many details. Your main plot points and character arc are all you need in a synopsis. Don’t try to include every beat and character in the book.
Don’t try to write an intriguing or mysterious hook–simply give the information required. Don’t hold something back to be mysterious. That’s something for your book blurb, which we’ll tackle below.
What is a blurb?
Often referred to as a “book description,” a blurb is a short piece, around 150 words, to promote your novel. You find blurbs on the back cover of paperbacks, the inside back cover of a hardback, and on book description pages in online stores.
Think of this as the elevator pitch of your book.
Unlike a synopsis, a blurb does not outline every major plot point of your story, and it doesn’t give spoilers.
Blurbs are extremely important to market your book. They’re for “selling” the book to the consumer.
How to write a book blurb
Let’s go over the structure, formula, and some tips for writing a good book blurb.
Here’s the structure of a book blurb:
Snappy opener. You usually have to catch the reader’s interest within the first sentence for them to continue reading the blurb.
Character introduction. All you need is your main character! Don’t worry about introducing every named character in your book. Don’t include more than two characters.
Presentation of stakes. What’s at risk in your story? What questions can you present that will make people want to read your book to find the answer?
Keywords. Especially if you’re selling online, keywords do a lot to help potential readers find your book. Make sure you’re using accurate and effective keywords for your book and genre.
A hook–why should readers buy this book? What’s the cliffhanger?
Book Blurb Formula
Most fiction blurbs you’ll see follow this kind of format:
Situation–introduce your character. Who are they, where are they, what are they up to?
Problem–what pressing issue does your character have to face? This is often the inciting incident.
Obstacles–what’s stopping them from solving the problem?
Stakes–what does the character have to lose? The last bit should also set the mood for your book.
Here are some more tips for writing a book blurb:
Read a ton of blurbs, especially blurbs from successful books in your book genre.
Work on a great first sentence. Like I said earlier, if you can’t catch interest with the opener, your reader likely won’t finish reading the blurb.
Use audience-catered language. This includes keywords, but also the way your blurb can relate to your audience. Age demographic is a great thing to consider when you’re crafting language for your particular target audience.
Offer setting. With description, word choice, and tone, let the reader know when and where the story is set.
Keep it concise. 200 words max!
Get others to read and critique your blurb. Feedback on any piece of writing is important, especially something that can make or break book sales like a blurb. Get several sets of eyes on it, and listen to the notes people give you.
Write a few different versions and experiment. You might surprise yourself with how creative you can make it.
Don’t give spoilers! That’s synopsis content.
Avoid comparing your work to a famous author’s work or a famous piece of literature. If you welcome a comparison, people will take you up on it…potentially in the reviews, and you don’t want that.
Good Book Blurb Examples
Let’s look at a few examples of blurbs from popular novels.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
The first paragraph introduces the situation. The character, her current state, the premise, and the setting.
The second paragraph gives us the problem (she sees something shocking), the obstacles (she only gets a glimpse, she might be unreliable), and the stakes (has she harmed something?).
Some genre keywords we get are: police, investigation, shocking
And what mood are we left with from this blurb? Intrigue, mystery, and the promise of a possibly unreliable narrator make this an exciting blurb.
Sometimes a quote from the novel works as a blurb itself. Let’s look at this example.
Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.
Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
The situation is that our character lives in a world where vampires exist, and they’re in close proximity to one. The problem is that the vampire wants to eat them. The obstacle and stakes (ha ha) is a wrap-up in the fact that they’re in love with the vampire that wants to eat them.
Some genre keywords we get are: vampire, blood, and love.
The mood this blurb gives us is, “Oooh, dangerous. But like, in a sexy way?”
Tobias Kaya doesn’t care about The Savior. He doesn’t care that She’s the ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn’t care that She’s of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.
Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting – and killing – for the chance to rule at The Savior’s side. Instantly, his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.
Situation: Tobias is to compete for The Savior’s hand in marriage, and he absolutely doesn’t care.
Problem: Tobias has to fight for his life in a tournament.
Obstacles: Everyone’s trying to kill, manipulate, and betray him.
Mood: This blurb leaves us with a sense of urgency and danger.
If you plan to sell a book, you’ll become intimately familiar with the process of writing a compelling synopsis and blurb. They’re essential elements in a book marketing plan, and they are cornerstone elements of presenting your book to multiple levels of the book publishing industry.
Here at Self-Publishing School, our goal is to improve this arduous writing process. Right now, we coach our students to routinely complete a new book in just 90 days, finishing their first draft in as little as 30 days!
They are able to accomplish this by following a simple step-by-step guide that we’re going to share with you today.
How long does it take to write a book?
It can take anywhere from 2 months to a full year to write a book depending on the word count, how often you write, and how much you’re actually writing each session. A good rule of thumb is to allot at least 4 months to write a book.
Many authors report that it takes up to a year to write a book, but more recently, authors are finishing their books in as little as a month to 90 days with our specific system.
How long it takes to write a book largely depends on how much time the writer puts in to actually writing it, though.
The truth about how long it takes to write a book depends on how many words are in it.
Here’s a guideline for how long it takes to write a book:
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Following the guidelines below, you can learn to supercharge your own book writing process, and you’ll become a published author much faster.
What is the average time it takes to write a book?
The average person writing a book for the first time can expect to spend anywhere from 4 months to over a year writing a book. While this might seem like it takes a long time to write a book, there are always methods to shorten this.
Taking everything above into account, the truth is that most people don’t write every day, especially if you have a family and a full-time job.
So let’s break this down a bit further for the average person living an average life that doesn’t allot daily writing time (& they don’t have our system for getting more done with less time):
30,000 – 50,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 4 months – 7 months
50,000 – 80,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 7 months – 11 months
80,000 – 100,000 words: 500 words 3 days per week = 11 months – 1 year +
As you can see, if you maintain an average of 1500 words written per week, writing your book can span from 4 months to over a year without the right system to get it finished quickly.
How long does it take to write a 100 page book?
A 100 page book is about 30,000 words. If you write more than 1500 words per week, you can expect for it to take 2 – 4 months to write a 100 page book.
How long does it take to write a 200 page book?
The average person can expect to spend 3 -7 months writing a 200 page book if they focus on writing more than 1500 words per week.
Now, this would equate to roughly 50,000 words. Many of our students can actually finish their draft of this length in only 30 days with our process.
How long does it take to write a 300 page book?
A 300 page book can take 4 – 9 months to write at an average of about 80,000 words, writing 1500 or more per week.
The average fiction book that’s at a higher level than middle grade will run about this length. In fact, the large majority of young adult books are 70,000 – 90,000 words and can take a bit longer for the full writing, revising, and self-editing process.
How to Write a Book Faster so it Doesn’t Take as Long
If you want to know how to write a book faster so it doesn’t take as long, here are our best tips.
#1 – Establishing a Strategic Deadline
Deadlines are designed to help you inch closer to completing your book by giving yourself a writing habit. It also encourages you to work every day hitting both short-term and long-term goals.
However, you won’t find success by setting arbitrary due dates. They must be set up for your book’s success.
Here are 3 ways to establish strategic deadlines:
Define realistic deadlines. Set short term and long term deadlines for each portion of your draft that breaks down your entire book.
Set honest expectations. If you’re only able to write 500 words a day, so be it. Don’t push yourself into thinking that you can complete an unrealistic task. Be honest with your abilities and align it with your deadline.
Implement rewards. Don’t make writing a book feel like a tedious job. Reward yourself for achieving your goals! Attaching rewards to each accomplishment will make finishing your book much more aspiring to complete.
#2 – Prioritizing Your Writing Into Tasks
What separates those who can write multiple books to those who can barely write a page is the ability to prioritize. Because there are so many competing factors that pull away our time and energy, prioritizing is actually a very hard concept to implement.
But in order to write your book, you need to establish clear priorities to get anything done.
Here are some ways to prioritize your work:
List out every detail of your book and turn them into tasks
Assess each task to identify what carries the biggest value to completing your book
Order tasks by its immediate priority and length of time to complete
Anticipate unexpected changes to your schedule, and plan an alternative schedule to stay on track
Make the effort and spend a few hours prioritizing your writing process. You will be surprised with how much writing you can accomplish with a well thought out task plan.
#3 – Creating Word Count Goals
One of the best ways to accelerate the writing process is to set word count goals. Like training intervals, setting up word count goals will pace how many words to write a day.
First you have to understand how many words in a novel for your genre. Once you know this, you can work backward to figure out how much you have to write each day in order to reach your deadline.
By establishing these parameters for your own success, not only will you be more likely to accomplish these goals, but you will also notice improvements to your writing.
Here’s an example of a tracking sheet you can set up in order to accomplish your word count goals:
We recommend writing down your daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals to not only show your current progress, but to keep you motivated until you reach the end.
It also helps to include rewards for every new milestone!
Start your daily word count goal to 500-1,000 words per day. By completing 1,000 words per day, you’ll be looking at your completed 30,000 word first draft in one month!
#4 – Finding Your Accountability Partner
A supportive partner can be a great soundboard, a first pair of eyes, and a protector of your sanity. They can also be the extrinsic motivation you need to meet your own deadlines and word counts.
When you have an accountability partner backing you up, it makes it harder to procrastinate because they expect great results from you!
At Self-Publishing School, we believe in the accountability system and encourage our students to pair up with other like-minded students to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for reaching goals and deadlines.
Believe it or not, writing a book isn’t as difficult as it’s made to seem. At least, getting started isn’t.
We have a complete guide that will cover best practices to start writing a book asap – even today if you sit down and put your pen to paper, so to speak.
How do you begin to write a book if you never have before?
This might be hard at first but really, you can write a book even if you’re not the best writer. Chandler Bolt (the man who started Self-Publishing School) was a C- English student and still wrote and published 6 bestselling books.
The truth is that if you’re brand new to this, guidance will be the most important thing. Having someone tell you what to do and what works best will help you be the most successful and learn the most during this process.
Learning as much as you can will give you most of the knowledge you need to get it done.
But you can also get started right here with these steps for starting to write a book.
#1 – Start by setting Up Your Book Writing Environment
One of the most important things to remember if you want to start writing a book is designing a writing space that allows your creativity to flourish unhindered.
Create an environment that is designed to help you stay focused.
Whether you prefer noisy environments or absolute solitude, it’s up to you to determine which will get you into the writer’s flow.
What you want to avoid is a super messy environment, even if you think you work well in those types of spaces (like the one featured below).
If anything can distract you from writing, it’s not worth it.
Here are a few ideas to create your ideal space for writing:
Have collections of inspiration. Decorate your work area with inspiring quotes or pictures that house references to deep work.
Unclutter your space. Create an uncluttered open space to help organize not only what you need, but also your thoughts.
Be Flexible. Your creative space doesn’t need to be one spot, it can be anywhere. Even your favorite authors have discovered their best ideas in the most unexpected places.
Buy a calendar: Your book will get written faster if you have set goals for the week/day. The best way to manage this is by scheduling your time on a calendar. Schedule every hour that you commit to your author business. What gets scheduled, gets done.
Create a music playlist for inspiration: Many authors can write to the sound of their favorite tunes. Is there anything that gets you working faster? Do you write better with deeper focus when listening to rock music or classical? Set up several playlists that you can use to get into the flow of writing.
Try Multiple Locations. You won’t know how creative you can be if you don’t try different spots to write. Maybe writing from your bed is your ideal creative space. What about working in a noisy cafe? Change up your location frequently particularly if you feel creatively spent.
Here are some more tips for starting your book and putting together your writing environment:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
#2 – Start Writing by Developing a Writing Habit
The number one reason authors fail to publish a book is because they never finish the book they intend to publish. Why?
Because they didn’t form a good writing habit.
Feeling overwhelmed when writing a book is natural, but you must remember that this journey always begins with the first page. And in order to write your first page, you must take action.
For example, schedule your writing time daily so that you can stick to a solid writing routine that will allow you to make real progress.
This is why having a writing habit will develop your writer’s flow.
But before you can start your habit, you’ll want to know how much you need to write during each session in order to stay on track for your writing goals.
Here’s a word and page count calculator to help you figure out how many words you should be planning for in your book:
Choose your book type, genre, and audience for a word count and page number total.
Your book will have
*These results are based on industry standards. The total word and page count will vary from book to book and is dependent on your writing and overall book formatting*
Want to receive personalized tips on how to sell more books right in your inbox?
Your writing habit can start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking that you must write your every thought on the page. You can start with a few paragraphs, a sentence, or even just a word.
The purpose of this exercise is to commit to your writing session every day until it has become second nature.
#3 – Create an Outline Before You Start Writing
A clear book outline provides clarity and direction to your story. It is also the roadmap for your book that keeps you on track and ensures you have all your ideas organized in a natural flow. And that’s not even to mention that it helps you write a lot faster, too.
There are many types of outlines you can use here.
We highly recommend starting with the mindmap outline and then moving to the sticky note method, as our students find it the most helpful.
When you get stuck or suffer writer’s block, you can always go back to your outline to find what comes next regardless of whether the book is 100 pages or 300 pages long. It will help you see the overall picture.
Learn to say “NO” to any additional projects no matter how intriguing they appear.
Create an action plan and commit to it. Learn to be selfish and practice saying “NO” often. It’s better to complete one book and get it right than to write two books with poor results.
#5 – Maintain Your Focus
Once you get into the flow of starting your book, you want to remain focused through the duration of your writing session. Any break to your concentration can set you back 20-30 minutes and disrupt your flow.
We become less efficient when we are distracted, and it can end up taking twice as long to complete our writing.
Thankfully, there are very effective techniques that can help you remain centered and in the moment.
Leave the distractions behind by doing the following:
Create a writing schedule. Schedule your writing for the same time each day. This conditioning will develop your writing habit until it becomes as natural as knowing when to brush your teeth.
Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management strategy that breaks down work into intervals separated by short breaks. With a clock ticking, you will less likely be distracted by email or social media.
Turn off your phone. Your phone is the most addicting device that steals your precious attention. Don’t let it take that from you, turn it off. If you don’t want to turn it off, then download a writing software or app that limits distractions.
Have a Task Management app. Task Manager apps, like Todoist, helps you organize your tasks by their time and priority, so you know exactly what to do in what order the next day.
Disconnect from the Internet. Want to ensure you don’t get distracted by email notifications, Facebook notifications, etc.? Disconnect your computer from the Internet and enjoy distraction-free writing time.
Experiment with each of these productivity techniques and optimize your writer’s flow. By becoming a productivity expert, you will easily double your output and complete your book in no time.
#6 – Schedule Your Writing Time
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most popular comedians of all time, and he attributes his success to his unbelievably strong writing habits. In the early days of his career, Seinfeld was asked how he managed to have such great content.
He said, “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.”
Seinfeld used the “Calendar Method”, otherwise known as the “Don’t Break the Chain” method, and it worked like this:
Get yourself a calendar, and hang it on the wall.
For each day you write, draw an X on the calendar for that day. By the end of the week, you should have a row of Xs at the end.
If you miss a day, start over and see how long you can go before breaking the chain.
Buy yourself a calendar and get started on the “Calendar Method!” Being held accountable will keep you motivated and not “Break the Chain.”
#7 – Start by Dealing With Writing Distractions First
Distractions can hinder you and your deisre to start writing a book.
Resistance is a common obstacle that has the ability to distract us for too long. It’s a form of fear that intimidates you from writing and can throw you off your writer’s flow.
Not only do you have the distractions of everyday life, but if someone in your life has qualms with you spending time to write, it can be extra difficult to concentrate and just write.
Everyone has encountered this awful feeling, but it doesn’t have to defeat you.
Here are a few ways to deal with resistance:
Read morning affirmations. Affirmations are powerful snippets of positive words that set the tone and atmosphere for writing. An affirmation could be a quote from a writer, a motivational speech from a public figure, or an inspirational video.
Free Flow for 10 Minutes. Julia Cameron, the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, called these morning pages, and its purpose is to clear your mind of all the anxiety and junk rolling around in your head onto a piece of paper. Write anything. You don’t have to edit, publish, or have a word count, it’s simply a 10-minute exercise to clear out heavy thoughts and prepare you for a more productive day. This is best done with pen and paper instead of typing into a document with your digital device.
Exercise. Exercising is not only good for your health but will help keep you mentally sharp. Working out will increase the blood flow to the brain which will sharpen your awareness and give you the energy you need to tackle your book.
Create a resistance plan! Figure out which methods best filter out the negative noise and get you to prepared to write.
Start Writing a Book TODAY!
If you want to become a published author, you must take ownership of your writing habits.
By following these strategies, you can have a completed book within months and be on your way to becoming a successful writer.
Ghostwriting is writing material for someone else who becomes the named author. In other words, you write the content for someone else, but it’s published under their own name.
Often, there’s a contract specifying that the author will not have any legal right to the work after it’s published to guarantee the ghost writer’s anonymity.
What do ghostwriters write?
Ghost writers are hired for a huge array of projects in all different sorts of mediums and genres.
You may have heard of ghostwriters taking on books, political speeches, or seen job postings for technical manuals, academic essays, fictional novels, or even captions on a brand’s social media posts.
Ghostwriters often use freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr to find work. Sometimes, ghostwriters are contracted by a company to write fiction for a set period of time.
A ghostwriter might be hired to write political speeches for one particular person. Or, a ghostwriter might be hired for a single small assignment, like writing one technical manual or specific post on a website, as well as larger projects like writing a book.
The bottom line is that ghostwriting is writing someone does for you, and you get full credit as the author and people don’t even need to know a ghostwriter wrote it.
Why using a ghostwriter is NOT a good idea for a book
We’ll get into some pros and cons of ghostwriters a little bit later but I wanted to cover just why using a ghostwriter to write a book is a poor idea.
When it comes to memoirs or other nonfiction books (and even fiction!), using a ghostwriter can seem like a great idea.
But in reality, it usually causes far more problems than anything else.
For one, they’re very expensive. Good ones are, at least. Which means you’ll dump a bunch of money into a book that’s not really yours. They can write on the information you give them and that’s yours, but you’ll know deep down you didn’t do it. And the emotional impact of that alone is worth doing it yourself.
Another reason ghostwriters aren’t the best idea for a book is the fact that they won’t get it right. They don’t know the details of what you want to write about and that means they’ll get a lot of it wrong.
Only you can tell the story inside of you. Ghostwriters can’t bring your level of passion and knowledge into the pages no matter how much information you share with them.
Plus, you think it might save you time when the reality is that you’ll have to spend even moretime giving them information, reading over their work, providing feedback and changes, only to be left with something that still isn’t what you fully want. Because what you want is in your own mind.
Our recommendation is always to write it yourself. And that’s why we developed a system to write and publish a book in only 90 days.
Now, if you still decide a ghostwriter is what you want (despite the above information), we’ve got some information that can make the process easier.
Because ghostwriters are often hired for one project or a small set of projects, the most important thing to look for is experience. Potential clients will be looking for your ability to deliver work in whatever they’re looking for. When you use a freelance site like Upwork, this often means having lots of experience and positive reviews on the site itself.
As you do more jobs on the website, more clients will rate your performance, and your on-site portfolio will grow. The more experience you have, the more desirable you are to potential clients, and the better and more high-paying jobs you’ll be able to get. Often, these websites will offer a place for you to submit your resume and some writing samples, so that employers can get a sense for your job range.
Once you’ve got an account, the best way to get jobs is to apply for lots of different gigs! As with finding any other job, the key is to cast a wide net. The wider your skillset and the more experience you have, the wider a net you can cast.
Now that we’ve discussed what ghostwriting is, what ghostwriters do, and how ghostwriters get work, we’re ready to talk about some pros and cons.
How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?
While prices vary, you can expect to pay a quality ghostwriter anywhere from $25 – $100+ an hour. Meaning a project the size of a book at a 250-page average can span upwards of $20,000 – $100,000 in some cases, depending on how many words are in your book and the scope of related services provided.
For example, if you were to use a ghostwriter from a service like ScribeWriting, you will pay $36,000 – $100,000+ for their ghostwriting packages (disclaimer: they include more than just ghostwriting services within each package which is why their prices are higher than what’s mentioned above, but you get the idea).
You can also see these prices from a company specializing in ghostwriting services called Kevin Anderson & Associates in the image below.
A high-quality ghost-written book is very expensive and often not worth the price when you can be taught how to write it yourself, and quickly.
Since the writer can’t actually take credit for their work, they charge a lot more than they would if their name was on the piece of content, whatever that may be.
What are the pros of using a ghostwriter?
You can find both pros and cons in everything, including using a ghostwriter. Here’s a breakdown of what you can gain and what you’ll lose if you go this route to finish your book.
#1 – You don’t have to spend the time to write it
Someone else takes care of that. So you don’t have to sit at a computer or notepad and write. But you still will have to take a ton of time to give the writer adequate notes, review their writing, make your own suggestions and feedback, then wait for changes.
So while you don’t have to spend the time actually writing, don’t mistake that for it saving you time (which I’ll cover below).
#2 – The writing quality might be higher
Note the “might” in this. Reason being is that even if you wrote it, it would go through a professional editor and the quality would increase significantly already.
However, many ghostwriters are “natural” writers; it comes easier to them. So if you’re worried about the quality, a ghostwriter can ensure a higher level of writing competence.
But keep in mind that a book isn’t good solely because of the writing.
#3 – Non-native speakers can benefit from native writers
Depending on the language you want to write your book in, a ghostwriter can be a great option. This is particularly true for non-native speakers looking to write a book in English.
You can hire a ghostwriter to take your writing that might be wrought with grammatical errors due to the language barrier and have them rewrite it to make sense.
#4 – Those unable to type or write can complete something written
There are a number of disabilities that can bar someone from writing a book, or writing at all. Hiring a ghostwriter can help you accomplish a huge goal or dream if you’re not able to physically perform the work necessary to write.
Now that we’ve covered the pros, let’s consider the downsides to hiring a ghostwriter to write your book.
Cons of Hiring a Ghostwriter
If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter, you may want to consider some of these major cons first.
#1 – It won’t be your work
This is an especially bad con when it comes to writing a book. One of the biggest joys authors have when finishing a book is that they did it themselves.
It’s a major feat, one that a very small percentage of the population will ever accomplish and by hiring a ghostwriter, you’re taking that away from yourself. You’re robbing yourself of the experience of accomplishing something as major as writing a book!
#2 – It’s quite expensive for good work
Now, you can find ghostwriters online who are willing to work for cheap. But when it comes to writing…you get what you pay for.
If you’re looking to publish a book that you’ve paid a ghostwriter to write, you want it to be of the highest quality. Your name’s on it, after all.
But that also means you’ll have to pay a healthy sum for a book.
I listed some prices for services above, but just a reminder that a quality ghostwriter can go from $20,000 – $100,000 for your average book.
#3 – It takes a ton of time
Contrary to why most people go with a ghostwriter (to save time), it can actually take much longer. There’s a ton of communication involved in order for them to write the book even semi-close to what you’re imagining.
And that’s not to mention all the reviewing, feedback, and process of revisions.
One of the hardest parts about having someone else write for you is that you need to be really, really clear in your communication…or you suffer wasting even more time.
Imagine this: you send a thorough document listing what you’d like them to write about, cover, and include only to get the writing back full of misinterpretations of what you really mean.
You then have to spend the time explaining, they have to write it again…and just so you know, they’ll charge you for this time all the while.
Some ghostwriters do work over the phone and conduct interviews, which makes less room for error while they write for you. Overall, though, communication is a big issue when it comes to using a ghostwriter.
Now, some ghostwriting services have packages, which include this.
But if you choose to go with a freelance ghostwriter because they’re cheaper, you still have to pay for the cover, editing, and any other incurred expenses.
Unless you’re someone who has a significant amount of money to spend, it’s not easy to pay for a ghostwriter plus other expenses.
#6 – You can’t say “I wrote a book”
Let’s be real: sometimes the best part of writing a book is saying that you wrote a book. It directly relates back to the first con on this list.
And even though you might be able to tell people you’re an author because your name’s on the book…you can’t really tell them you wrote it. It’s still your content and your stories but you didn’t do the work of putting it together.
#7 – Nobody else will care about this as much as you
You can’t expect someone else, even someone who is being paid, to care about this book or project as much as you do.
There’s a level of passion in writing that you can’t fake. When you’re the one writing, the piece means more and comes across as far more authentic. This also means that nobody will put forth the care and effort you will to complete the writing project.
So… is hiring a ghostwriter worth it?
That depends! If you’re looking to spend a really big chunk of change and are okay with the cons listed above, it’s probably for you!
But if you want to take pride in writing something like a book yourself, with your own stories and voice and style, writing it yourself is the way to go.
Humph… That’s the sound you just made as you heaved another big sigh.
You’re frustrated. You’ve been trying to write your book for months.
You’ve got the best intentions. But every time you sit down to start writing, you get interrupted…
Someone needs YOU to review that important report before it goes out (it’s 6:30am, how is anyone else at work?!).
Your husband gets home early and suggests that you go out for dinner (you can’t say no, you haven’t spent much time with him this week.).
A friend calls you in distress. She has broken up with another guy and needs a shoulder to cry on (you rush out to meet her at your local cafe, which is packed because it’s Saturday.).
It feels like the Universe doesn’t want you to write this book!
But this book is important to you. You want to make an impact. Share your knowledge. Eventually transition into writing more books and serving more people.
If only there was a system that would keep you on track and allow you to see what was coming up so you could be proactive.
Enter the Author Success Journal.
It’s time to ditch the overwhelm and get focused on your goals.
Because once you know the steps you need to take to stay focused and what actions to take and when, the sooner you can finish your book and get it out into the world.
Ready to be a successful published author?
Let’s get started.
What is the Author Success Journal?
The 90-Day Author Success Journal was created to help you achieve your most important author goals over the next 90 days by providing you with space to record your goals, the action steps you need to take, with reflection and suggestions for adjustment along the way.
Why 90 days?
An entire quarter is a good amount of time for you to stay focused and get work done. It’s also a short amount of time that if you need to pivot, you haven’t lost much in the process.
Your success as an author largely depends on the actions you take.
The Author Success Journal brings focus and clarity so you can move forward in your author journey.
Let’s break down the entire Author Success Journal process so you can see how it helps you write and publish your book.
Mind Map Your Way to Clarity with the Author Success Journal
One of the first things you’ll do in your writing process is mind map your book idea.
Because this is such a successful way to get all your ideas down in one spot, it’s also the first thing you’ll do inside your Author Success Journal.
The mind mapping process isn’t just for your book.
I use it to get clarity on lots of things, like what book to write next, how my book fits into my overall business, and how to transition my book into a course.
I find that when I’m stuck, mind mapping is the key to unlocking and unsticking my mind.
This is why it’s the first part of the journal. You have three pages to do a complete brain dump before you start mapping out your author success journey.
Before you can get clear on your goals, you need to get everything out of your head.
Once you’ve created your mind map or brain dump (it’s up to you how you use those first few pages!) it’s time to move onto the next stage — setting S.M.A.R.T goals.
So for example, a S.M.A.R.T goal you might set would be Write 500 words per day, Monday to Friday for 4 weeks.
Choosing S.M.A.R.T goals like that gives you a very clear plan of what you’re trying to achieve and a way to keep track of it.
Ideally, you’ll choose 3-5 S.M.A.R.T goals for the next 90 days and outline these in your Author Success Journal.
I’d recommend taking it a step further and writing these down on a piece of paper and putting it above your computer (or wherever you are writing) so that you see them every day.
The key is to choose goals that make you stretch a little… that give you butterflies in your tummy when you think about them.
BUT… don’t set yourself up for failure either. Avoid choosing goals that make you start thinking that you can’t achieve them, that they’re impossible.
What’s next? Your 90 Day Goals.
Your 90-Day Plan
This next step in the Author Success Journal is about taking your S.M.A.R.T goals and deciding on what you want to achieve within the next 12 months (like write and publish your book!) and then breaking them down into 90 day achievable steps.
Here’s an example from the journal:
You’ll notice that in the example, there are dates attached to each goal.
This is so that you’ve got a deadline to work towards.
If you use a digital calendar like Google Calendar, go ahead and add those dates to your schedule. Set yourself a reminder each week to check your progress… or better yet, use the journal to track and map out where you’re at.
To ensure that you don’t miss your goals, let’s take it a step further and break it down into 30 day goals.
30-Day Plan & Overview
This is about taking those main goals and breaking them down into all the nitty gritty tasks that allow you to achieve your end goal.
This is about being intentional and getting clear on what you actually NEED to do to reach your goals.
This is where a lot of brand new authors fail.
They fail to set S.M.A.R.T goals and they fail to then break those down into the tasks that will get them there.
But that’s not you anymore! You’re going to work backwards from your goals and write down all the action steps needed to achieve them.
What would that look like?
Let’s take the example from above. Write 500 words per day, Monday to Friday, for the next 4 weeks.
The 90-Day goal for that would be to have a rough draft written in 30 days.
Our 30 day plan might look something like this:
The key is to also map out anything that might impact or stop you from completing those goals.
It’s about being schedule aware. It’s about being proactive with your time and problem-solving BEFORE overwhelm hits.
Before you dive into using the Author Success Journal system, let’s get even clearer on your top goals and the action steps you need to take for the month ahead.
List Your Top Goals & Associated Action Steps
This is all about outlining your top 3-5 goals for the next 30 days (if you have that many, you might only have one if you’re in the writing phase).
It’s about setting your intentions and making a plan to achieve them.
Once you’re clear on what those are, you’ll outline the action steps you need to take to meet your goals. This is where you’re going to write down specific, time-driven tasks based on what you’re trying to achieve over the next 30, 60 and 90 days.
All clear on what you’re doing?
Now we’re ready to dive into the heart of the journal… your weekly and daily pages.
Reflect on The Week Ahead
As you head into the week ahead, it’s time to bring clarity and awareness to what you’re trying to achieve.
Because we want to make sure that you’re set up for success. That there are going to be no surprises when you sit down to write, or when you map out your marketing plan.
You’ll see two pages that will ask you to write down what the week ahead looks like at a high level… what meetings do you have planned? Any work trips that will take you away? Social outings? School committments?
This is the area to record all of that information.
Then, you’ll have space to reflect on the last week. What wins did you have and what did you learn?
You’ll also look ahead and have space to record any thoughts or ideas that come to mind as you think about what you’ve got on your schedule.
Doing all of this allows you to do a mini brain dump. It frees your mind from having to remember #allthethings and allows you to get laser focused when you are writing.
Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to do this. It’s a great way to ensure that you always have clarity and awareness of what’s going on around you and how you can ensure you meet your author goals.
Next up — Daily pages.
Get Focused Daily
This is the magic of the Author Success Journal process.
The daily pages are designed to help you get extremely clear on what you’re doing and also provide insight into what you might want to STOP doing…
In the example below, you’ll notice that the day is spread across two pages. This is so that you have plenty of space to record your thoughts and map out your day.
You’ll choose a focus area. This is how you can set your intention for an individual day.
You’ll also list out the three main actions you’ll take towards ACHIEVING your goals. These are your most important items and must get done that day.
Then you can plan out the rest of your day.
You’ll then have space for reflection at the end of the day. This is a nice addition to your evening routine and allows you to get clear on your progress.
You’ll also set yourself up for success by stating your IMMEDIATE next step for the next day.
This entire layout is designed to bring clarity and intention to your author success journey.
You’re setting yourself up for success when you use this journal.
By now, you should be able to see why the Author Success Journal process will allow you to succeed where you might have been failing right now.
By writing down what you’re focusing on each day and mapping out your action steps, how can you not achieve writing and publishing your book?
The other key components of the Author Success Journal include:
Rewrite Top Goals & Action Steps. At the beginning of each new week, you’ll write down your top goals and action steps. This is to bring visibility to what you’re working on.
Monthly Reflections. This is where you’ll review the previous month and track your progress on your 90-day and 30-day goals. If you need to pivot, this will make it obvious where you need to make changes.
90-Day Review. Once you finish your first Author Success Journal, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect and review the last 90 days. This will provide you with clarity on what worked well and what didn’t. You’ll be able to see patterns, figure out where you need to make changes, and also see where you succeeded!
Your author success journey largely depends on the action steps you take, remember?
Using something like the Author Success Journal brings visibility and awareness to your goals in a way that allows you to track and measure your progress.
What isn’t tracked, doesn’t get measured.
Your Next Steps
If you’re here, it means you’re ready to take the leap and finally get the clarity and direction you need to finish writing and publishing your book
There’s no doubting how much Covid-19, or the corona virus, has touched all of our lives. Some of you may even be at the point where your work has shut down and you’re now stuck at home with not much to do.
Well, we have a very simple solution to this quarantine: write the book you’ve been talking about writing for so long!
After all, Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine.
While I’m always one to suggest productive time at home, there’s no denying the fact that this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of time home.
But don’t just take those words for it! Here are more ways Covid-19 and this quarantine can impact you writing a book.
#1 – You have more time
If anyone else, like myself, has already run out of stuff to do on your chore list…you might be inventing stuff to do for yourself at this point.
You’re quarantined, stuck at home! What better use of your time than to actually start working on that book you’ve been talking about for seemingly ever?
While you may have kids at home to watch and other responsibilities, the fact of the matter is: you have more time to write a book now than you have before or will have in the future.
Even families with kids need “quiet time,” where you can give the kiddos chores or homework or other activities to do while you work on your book. Not only will this give you a break from the craziness, but structure during these times is still super important for your kids.
And seeing their parent/s working hard to write a book and do what they’ve been wanting to do for so long? THAT is powerful in the eyes of a child.
Let’s all say a big, huge THANK YOU to the worry surrounding the pandemic, because something really interesting happens when we panic: our imaginations run wild.
Now, instead of allowing that imagination to fill your mind with images of lockdown and forcing you to stock up and leave some less financially fortunate families with nothing for their own children, let that imagination fuel your writing!
And this isn’t just for fiction folk, either! Imagination is needed in order to write well, especially when it comes to the skill of showing versus telling or using strong verbs.
#3 – It beats cleaning the garage and tidying the yard
Let’s be real: spring cleaning is a necessity. We have to get around to unpacking and sorting through all the stuff that has built up over the winter BUT, does that mean now is the best time?
Writing that book you’ve been talking about for years could be a far better use of your time.
Or better yet, you could split up the work. Do some spring cleaning for an hour, take 30 minutes to work on your book. An hour for cleaning, then an hour for writing your book.
The point here is that while you could spend a bunch of time walking around your home and yard trying to find something for yourself to do, you could also just save that stuff for when you originally intended to get it done and use this time to write a book instead.
#4 – It’s a great way to get “alone time” for all you introverts stuck with everyone at home
We can’t deny that introverts are thriving right now. Quarantine? They do this voluntarily!
But that doesn’t mean your partner or kids are the same way. In fact, it might be hard for you to get your introversion time with everyone else stuck at home.
Writing a book is a great reason to lock yourself in a room for several hours and get that much-needed you time while being productive!
Compromise with those around you and make it a habit to stay in and work on your book. Find a specific writing space, gather everything you need that you learned about from your free training, and start!
#5 – Life will return to normal
And when it does, what will you be telling people you did during your quarantine? That you watched too much Netflix or made memes…
Or that you wrote a complete book during those few weeks while everyone else watched too much Netflix.
Because life will go back to normal. It might take a while and we might see one too many memes about Covid-19 and the rough start 2020 has had, but life will resume and then when will you find the time to write that book?
Make a choice to be productive during this otherwise difficult time, and write that book. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
You may have an image of what an author does in your mind: He or she sits down at a computer, powers it on, and gets to work. The author does not leave his or her computer for days, shutting out all distractions and totally neglecting all social obligations.
In the end, the author has created a fantastic book that people fall in love with instantly.
Well, there are some authors out there who may fit this bill, but it doesn’t fit reality for the average author like you and me.
With each book that I write, I spend time before I begin with a set of writing goals to help me stay on task, and I’m here to help you discover how to set and stick to your own writing goals.
Here’s the thing–you may not have the luxury to go into reclusion and adopt an exhaustive practice, where you can finish a book in one sitting. You have work, family, and other commitments that may prevent you from shutting yourself in a room with a computer or typewriter for days on end.
This biggest hurdle you may have is believing you do not have time to get your writing done!
In my experience as a writing coach, this is the most common belief. Thinking and believing you don’t have time to write can be your worst enemy when it comes to achieving your dream.
Please don’t listen to your mind chatter. Instead please know you can….
Change this mind chatter by creating writing goals
Balance writing with other commitments with doable goals.
Be an author, so long as you set and follow your writing goals.
Let’s get started with ten of my surefire ways that go into developing writing goals…
#1 – Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Writing goals help you determine what you can realistically accomplish in a day. As you build your goals you will immediately make headway on your book, and finish it before you realize it!
Having clear and specific writing goals will set you up for success to get a little bit done each day.
Keep in mind…a writing goal is just a goal you set for each day. You determine a realistic time frame that fits your schedule. Then you figure out what you want to accomplish in that time frame.
You might want to write a certain number of words, or you might want to finish a chapter, or you might want to spend an hour brainstorming and formulating your book.
#2 – Writing Goals Vary From Person to Person
When you set your writing goals, you must think of what you want to accomplish. Your goals are personal and unique.
When thinking about your goals take into consideration the following:
Do you want to work on a certain part of your book each day?
How many words do you want to write each day?
What time of day are you going to write?
How can you publish within a certain time frame?
Think of what you want to accomplish. Then set basic writing goals that will help you get your ultimate task accomplished by your deadline.
For instance, if your book is due in two months, set aside a logical amount of words you can create each day over the next two months that will have your book finished by the deadline.
Be sure to set realistic goals. You can’t expect yourself to write your book in a day. Your creativity and quality will suffer if you rush it, and you’ll hate your project! You will be much happier if you work at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Also, be sure to cut yourself some slack. Not everyone wants to write every day. If you have other commitments, make time for them. But always set aside a bit of time for writing out of your week, preferably every other day.
A good writing goal is measurable. “I will finish ten pages by Friday” is an example of a measurable goal. You set a timeline and an amount, and then you see if you accomplish it.
Setting deadlines by which you finish certain blocks of writing or writing tasks helps you see if you are making good progress. When you see how much progress you have made, you will feel more accomplished and more encouraged to keep plugging on!
#3 – Break Big Goals into Bite-Sized Chunks
You want to write a book. OK, that’s a great goal, but it’s a huge goal. You are less likely to complete that goal because it is just too large and vague.
Rather, you should break that big goal into smaller goals. Your brain gets less overwhelmed. “I want to write a chapter a week” is a way that you can break this huge goal of writing a book down into smaller pieces.
Over time, all of your little accomplishments pile up into one huge one. Before you know it, your book is finished and ready for the editor!
#4 – Set Your Writing Goals Down on Paper
As you set writing goals, be sure to write them down.
I recommend using a daily planner. Set aside a block of time when you have nothing else going on. Then determine how much you will write.
Also, schedule times to perform writing goal reviews. This is where you check your progress.
It can be helpful to write down little pep talk notes, too. A writing motivational quote or a nice mantra to recite when you feel like giving up can help you stay on track.
Add these motivational quips next to your written goals.
#5 – Self-Review: Don’t Be Your Own Worst Critic
There is no doubt that we writers can be hard on ourselves! But to keep goals, you must review your progress. Self-review is not a time to beat yourself up for not meeting a specific writing goal.
Instead, use your self-review time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. Reward yourself for a job well-done. Think, “I did it! I actually wrote something!” Follow it up with a little celebration that you will enjoy.
If you are constantly falling short on your writing goals, that is a sign that your goals are unrealistic. The only way to keep a writing goal is to set a realistic one. So if you keep setting a writing goal to write a thousand words a day, and you usually only write three hundred, that is OK.
Just change your writing goal to be three hundred a day!
If you are exceeding your writing goals, on the other hand, perhaps you should step up the challenge. Increase your daily word count, for example.
Have a review date. I like to review my progress every Friday. Your review date should be a day when you have little else going on and you have managed to make some progress. Make it consistent, such as a certain day of the week or month.
#6 – Trust Your Intuition
A good writing goal is to write intuitively for a while, at least at the start of your scheduled writing session.
Intuitive writing is where you just let your ideas flow. You start with a blank page and write whatever comes to mind. The results will surprise you!
Don’t block your stream of consciousness by writing about a specific topic, or by worrying about grammar. Just write!
After an intuitive writing session, you can start editing. Trim the fat of excess words. Correct spelling and grammar mistakes. See how you can logically organize your work into an outline.
#7 – Cut Out Distractions
When you sit down to meet a writing goal, don’t let distractions get in the way. This is a good time to turn your phone off and shut off the TV. Emails can wait.
Distractions derail your thoughts. They can also suck you into a vortex of paying attention to things other than your writing goals.
The time you set aside to write should be used solely for writing. Just focus on your writing goals and your creativity. Don’t let distractions take your mind away from the task at hand.
A routine is important when you want to get something done without distractions. Having one is the only way I am able to accomplish my goals and I can’t stress this enough.
#8 Psych Yourself Up
You just had a long day. The last thing you want to do is write. Being a couch potato in front of your favorite show seems far more alluring, right?
We have all been there. But you will ultimately feel guilty if you sacrifice writing time to vapidly watch TV.
To get motivated for a writing session, think about your writing goals and how badly you want to accomplish them. Think about how great you will feel when you finish your book or article.
Also, think about how badly you will feel if you don’t meet your writing goals. That sense of disappointment can be crushing. Avoid it altogether by just working on your writing goals!
You should give yourself a pep talk every day before your block of writing time. Tell yourself, “I can do this!”
A support network of some sort is also very helpful. Friends, family, and other writers can all cheer you on when you don’t want to write.
Finally, use a writing prompt to get inspiration if your mind feels dry. I find daily writing prompts or story writing challenges featuring prompts can really get me going.
After I write a bit on a prompt, I’m officially in writing mode and ready to tackle a writing goal.
#9 – Fill Your Life with Writing
One way I stay focused on my writing and gain motivation to complete my writing goals is by filling my life with writing.
I may not write every minute of every day. I spend time with my pets, talk to friends, take trips, and other hobbies I enjoy. I have a life outside of writing that keeps me from getting burned out.
But, I do make sure writing infuses my life.
I read a lot. Books inspire you and teach you how to be a better writer. Read within your book genre and watch your inspiration flourish. Read any enlightening new blogs and new books that catch your interest, too.
I also focus on writing a lot. When I’m not writing, I’m talking to people about writing. I am sharing my writing with my coach or in writing groups. I post in forums. Sometimes, I join contests or challenges and follow writing prompts.
My social media is full of writers and writing groups. That way, I’m always thinking about it at some level, always connecting with other writers for inspiration and advice, and always sharing my writing to gain insights into how I can improve.
#10 – Celebrate Each Victory
When you tick a writing goal off of your list or planner, you should not move on to thinking about the next goal. That’s how you get overwhelmed.
Instead, think about how great you are. Think about your success so far. Congratulate yourself.
Take a break and celebrate somehow. You have every right to reward yourself and strut your stuff!
Celebrations are not wastes of time. They are crucial to writing. If you celebrate each goal, then your brain will be more likely to want to complete more goals. Then you create an internal well of motivation to complete all of your writing goals.
Word of Wisdom to Live By
I leave you with this: Anyone can be an author, and you are more than capable of accomplishing your heart’s desire to write a book.
The whole key to writing is setting writing goals that you can easily accomplish and measure. Review yourself and congratulate yourself on progress made.
Writing goals build on top of each other. So, as you complete one goal, you slide closer to the overall goal: Finishing a piece.
With time, you start to build momentum. Writing goals turn into routine. You get bit by bit done, and before you know it you have finished!
Just set aside some time for your writing goals. Then throw yourself into them. Motivate yourself however you must, but don’t skip out on writing. The sense of accomplishment you earn in the end makes it all worth it!
What are your top five writing goals to get you to the finish line of writing your book?
Take it from someone who figured out how to make a living writing after only a few months…you can do it the same way I did (which I’ll explain in this post).
Do you want to work from home?
Do you want to work for yourself?
Do you want to make a living doing something meaningful and fulfilling?
The answer is obvious and the only question is…
Whether you want to be your own boss, spend your day doing something you love and are good at, or even if you’re just looking for a new career opportunity, learning how to make money writing and which writing jobs are even available to you is worth it.
How to Make Money Writing
So you’ve already determined you want to write. You love it, it’s fulfilling, and you don’t despise it nearly as much as you do that 9-5 you’ve got now (or are still avoiding like the plague).
Firstly, that’s fantastic (we love writing here at Self-Publishing School, if you haven’t noticed)!
Secondly, now the work begins because writing jobs won’t just start falling from the sky and landing in your lap.
And that’s why you’ll have to learn how to make money writing, since there are far more opportunities than you think exist out there…
The more you work and market and push for more book sales, the better you’ll do. And therefore, this has the highest earning potential.
#2 – Screenwriter $$$$$
If you’re someone who would rather write movies or TV shows than books or novels, this could be the path for you.
Screenwriters—especially if you work hard and make it to the “big leagues”—have extremely high earning potential.
A screenwriter writes TV shows and movies. Contrary to what many believe, there are typically several writers who work on one show and movie, but it’s not necessarily easy to become a Hollywood screenwriter.
That means if you work hard, play your cards right, and focus on committing to this path, you can potentially make a lot of money writing.
If you’ve decided what you want to write about, it’s your job to do research so you can find the best job that fits what you’re looking to do.
There are two methods for finding writing jobs online:
Outreach – you personally find websites and platforms you want to work for and reach out via email cold pitching your writing services.
Respond to job postings – this is the more traditional method in which you visit job boards (like the ones listed above) and respond to job postings with your resume.
Outreach for Writing Jobs:
This method often takes the most finesse in order to get right. After my stint with Upwork and Fiverr ended, personally used outreach to land some of my most consistent and highest paying clients.
Here’s how you can do outreach to land writing jobs:
Determine your niche and the type of content you want to write. This can be beauty, fashion, education, parenting, movies, television, fitness, lifestyle, and any category you’re interested in. We recommend choosing one you both enjoy and know a lot about (less research means you can do more and therefore get paid more).
Visit websites you know have content in this niche. For example: if you want to write about food and travel, Thrillist.com might be your best bet. Choosing a niche like wellness might land you on sites like TheGreatist.com. If you’re not sure which sites cover your niche, just do a quick google search for, “[your niche] websites”.
Scroll down to the very bottom of the site’s homepage and look for “write for us” link. Not all websites will have this but many that are primarily content usually have a means for you to write for them, as seen in the example below from IntrovertDear.com.
Click on the “write for us” or equivalent page. Read over their guidelines to see if this is a good fit for you. If you want to know about compensation and they don’t list any, simply location a contact email or fill out a contact form and ask!
Cold pitch your idea. Technically, since they are accepting writers, it’s not considered a “cold” pitch, but you do still have to sell them on your ideas. Focus on what they can gain from working with you and less on you. This becomes easier with experience and proven results.
Responding to Job Postings for Writing Jobs:
This one is just like any other job you apply for online.
After searching for writing jobs via the job boards listed above, simply send in your resume and CV if applicable.
Speaking from experience as a professional development coach and former literary magazine editor: neatness and precision count.
Just like a hiring manager often throws out resumes that boast “attention to detail” while they are riddled with typos, an agent or editor can be just as quick to toss a manuscript because the writer failed to comply with basic formatting and submission requests.
And then your chances are shot…all because of formatting mistakes I’ll help you fix in this blog post.
Give your story the proper chance it deserves.
Here are the basic manuscript formatting standards:
For works of nonfiction, like textbooks and instructional literature, manuscripts should be left-justified alignment with no indentation and a line between each paragraph.
For works of fiction, use left-justified alignment with half an inch indention and no line between paragraphs.
To indent paragraphs, don’t use tab or space. In MS Word, “paragraph” > “paragraph settings” > “indentation” > “special” > “first line” > “0.5 inch”
After you format the paragraph indentation once, it should do it automatically when you start a new line
Headers–at the top right of every page (excluding the title page), you should include the following information:
Your last name
The book title (or an abbreviated version of the book title)
The page number (start page count on the first page of the actual story. Do not include a page number on the title page)
“THE END” at the end of your manuscript indicates the end of the manuscript
Center-justified alignment after the last line of your story
Important for beta readers, editors, and agents to ensure no part of the story has been lost in transit
#3 – Formatting chapters
It’s easy to want to throw your chapters together, one right after another, but there’s a more specific means of formatting your manuscript for chapters specifically.
New chapters should not run onto the same page as another chapter.
This is how to properly format a chapter change:
New chapter page break–always start a new chapter on a new page
Chapter title page
center-align justify the title of the chapter, even if it’s just a chapter number
One-third to one-half way down the page
Start the chapter one double-spaced down from the title
Following that format makes a manuscript much more palatable, just like having your text double-spaced. Any technicality that makes your manuscript easier to read is something you want to take advantage of.
Here’s an example new chapter page from my work-in-progress, Taogan:
#4 – Proper letter design
The words themselves should also be as simple and readable as possible.
Your typeface is not where you express your creativity. Maybe further down the line, your interior formatting can take some more stylistic routes, but for your manuscript, you want it plain and simple.
Here are the industry standards for letter design:
Size: 12 point
Typeface: Times New Roman (Sometimes other basic typefaces like Arial are also acceptable. Always check the submission guidelines for your particular case.)
#5 – Submitting your manuscript to editors, agents, and publishers
If you’re traditionally publishing (and therefore, must not be totally aware of the differences and benefits of self-publishing your book), you’ll send your manuscript to literary agents.
If you can’t follow their submission rules, you won’t get an agent.
If you’re acting as your own agent, you’ll send your manuscript to editors and publishers.
Again, if you haven’t followed industry standards and their specific submission rules, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before they even have a chance to read your manuscript.
If you’re sending your manuscript to a professional editor you’ve hired yourself, you still want to follow these manuscript formatting tips–and the tips below for a digital submission.
The standard manuscript format is organized, readable, and professional, even if you find a situation where it isn’t a requirement.
Check the particular agent, editor, or publisher requirements, as each might have their own specifications for what to include and how to format.
If you’re submitting a digital file of your manuscript, it should be a .doc or .docx, unless otherwise specified. This is the most popular file type for submissions, and Microsoft Word’s track changes feature makes it a favorite among editors and reviewers.
For an initial submission, an agent typically asks for you to paste the first pages or chapter of your manuscript into the body of an email. Past this stage, they typically request a .doc or .docx of the full work.
You may also be asked for a cover letter, author bio, or query letter with your submission.
Some submissions are still open for mail-in options. If you take a mail-in route, you’ll have to print your manuscript.
If you need to print a physical copy of your manuscript for a submission, be sure to follow these printing guidelines!
High quality, bright paper
High quality, dark ink
There are many technicalities involved with producing a clean and professional manuscript, but you can use the rules above to make your own checklist!
These are some common reasons you procrastinate when writing a book:
You’re not sure how to get started
It’s terrifying to spill your guts to the world in a book
You’re insecure about your writing and have writer’s block before you’ve even started
You’re afraid of getting negative book reviews when you do eventually publish
You’re worried that even if you do write your book, nobody will buy it and you’ll end up with low book sales for life
You’re not sure how to take your idea and turn it into an actual book
Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough). Remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now. Every successful writer—from William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Stephen King—began by staring at a blank page.
It’s not enough to have an inspiring book idea. Before you put pen to paper, you need to know your purpose.
I won’t lie. Writing a book is rewarding, but it requires hard work. It requires emotional labor, long nights (or early mornings), extended weekends, and facing a constant self-critical process that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Solidifying the purpose fueling your book will carry you through this difficult process.
Ok, you’re thinking—“Don’t worry, I know why I want to write a book. I want to write to feel important!” That’s an interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a self-published author.
However, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator which will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings have long dissipated.
These are some popular reasons for authors to write a book:
Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
To have an escape: A mental escape can help you deal with real-world problems.
To give others an escape: If you write fiction, you might want to give others struggling a safe place to go.
To change lives: Books change lives and your message could empower others to make a change in their life.
There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book.
Your WHY will be unique to you.
Once you’ve honed in on your WHY, let that purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.
#2 – Get Rid of Your Excuses for Not Writing the Book
You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for writing a book. And right on cue, something is going to try to derail your progress already: your writing excuses.
When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses for not writing your book become the obstacle to your success.
But you can overcome it.
It’s worthwhile to spend a little time addressing some common excuses many of us make to prevent us from writing.
Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work, whether than a publishing an ebook, the next great American novel, or a passion project.
Excuse #1 – You don’t know what to write.
You may not realize it, but you have a story worth telling.
In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.
The easiest way to start writing your first book is to choose a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know.
Here’s how you can figure out what to write about:
But I have some good news: Writing a book takes less time than you think.
Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing instead.
And if you don’t have an hour, try 30 minutes. Even 5 minutes 3 times a day can be a source of massive writing productivity. Think about it.
The average person can type 60 words a minute. 60 words x 5 minutes = 300 words. Do that 3 times a day and you’ll produce close to 1,000 words a day.
You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!
Excuse #3 – Good writers spend all their free time reading.
Think you need to read all day long to be a writer? Think again.
In fact, many prolific writers cut down on their reading—at least temporarily—in order to give themselves enough time to write.
Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write a great book. Your writing style and voice is your own.
And the best way to discover your own natural writing voice is by sitting down and writing (not reading what others have written).
Here are some tips to use reading to help you write a book while reading less:
Only read a chapter or two at night
Read in a genre different than your own (this helps avoid being influenced too heavily by another book)
Be intentional about what you read
Have designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with writing time
Stop reading for a while if you have very little spare time
Excuse #4 – You’re “not an expert.”
A lot of people get tripped up on this. They think, “Oh, I’m not really an expert on ___. I can’t write about that.”
The truth is that the whole concept of “expert” is very subjective. An amateur astronomer wouldn’t seem like an expert to Stephen Hawking…but to 99% of the rest of the world, they would be an expert.
You don’t need to know everything about your topic. As long as there’s a knowledge gap between you and the reader—and as long as you’re helping to fill that gap by teaching them the things they don’t know—then you’re expert enough to write a book.
So stop worrying about “not being an expert!” If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, then you are 100% qualified to write a book about it.
Excuse #5 – Your first draft must be flawless.
A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the self-editing process is for.
Even experienced professional writers who finished a book that ended up covered in the red pen of an editor or numerous red changes in a document, just like the one pictured below.
As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “Done is better than perfect.”
If it works for a multi-billion-dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.
Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve already said, writing is hard work. But shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.
#3 – Realize You Don’t Need to Be Perfect
The thought of writing a book causes many people to think, “I’m not a good enough writer. I need to do _____ before I start writing.”
You don’t need a writing mentor or coach (though it does help).
You don’t need to read thousands of good books.
You only need one thing: a system for finishing your book.
There’s no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect writer. When you get down to it, the most important distinction is between authors who finish their books and authors who don’t.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Just focus on your book, and your writing will get better and better over time.
As with anything we learn, writing is a skill. It requires practice to hone over time. So let go of the idea that you’re not good enough and work to improve by reading expert writing tips and practicing daily.
This will help you make the mindset switch from “I can’t” to “Let’s get this done!”
How to Write a Book Step 2: Pepare to Write a Book
Now it’s time to start your prep work. Before you start putting any words onto the page, you need to focus on a few important preparations.
Take the time to complete these steps and you’ll be setting yourself—and your new book—up for success.
#1 – Schedule Your Book Writing Time
Here are 3 things you can do to create your own customized book writing plan.
Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of “someday.”
Step 1 – Develop a writing habit and plan it out
Don’t let your book end up in the graveyard of dreams. In order to realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow.
Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days, then block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines.
Avoid this and stay realistic, since developing a writing habit is most important at this stage in learning how to write a book.
Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.
If Laura could make it happen, then writing your book is certainly an attainable dream.
Step 2 – Choose the time of day you plan to write
You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.
If your evenings are free, but your brain is mush and you’re only good for sinking deep into the couch cushions, then choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burnt out in the evenings.
Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities, or waiting for a meeting to start.
Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day. This will establish a writing habit.
You may be wondering: How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take?
One month is a good benchmark to start with. Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a daily word count of 500-1,000 words, but this ultimately depends on how many words are in your book. If you can commit to an hour a day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.
If you’re not sure how many words you should be aiming for, fill out the calculator below so you’re shooting for the right word count for your audience and genre based on industry standards.
Consistency is key. Small, consistent actions toward writing your book is how it comes to life.
If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count that does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day.
The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.
Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line.
It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book (before you finish your first draft) and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands.
That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.
#2 – Create Your Writing Space
The physical space where you write your book is important. If you try to write in an environment that’s too loud, too busy, or too cluttered, and you’ll find yourself getting frequently distracted.
True, some authors can write in a disheveled environment…
…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:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
(To get the sound of a cafe from the comfort of home, check out Coffitivity.)
You might need to experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely.
Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!
#3 – Equip Yourself with the Right Writing Tools
Would you try to construct a piece of furniture without a hammer, nails, or wood?
Of course not! You need the right tools for the job.
Well, the same principle applies when writing a book. And when it comes to writing, your most important tool is your choice of writing software.
Unfortunately, most people don’t really put much thought into which program they use to write their book. They just use whatever word processor they’re most familiar with.
But doing this can cause you to really miss out—especially if there’s another program out there that would work much better for you.
There are countless options out there, but most people end up using one of the “big 3” word processors:
We’ll cover all of them for you below.
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 how you’ll write 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.
If you do decide to go with Scrivener, here’s a Scrivener tutorial for you to learn how to use it best:
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.
Of course, these are only 3 options—there are many more great writing tools out there.
How to Write a Book Step 3: Actually Write Your Book
OK, we’ve got the preliminary stuff out of the way—time to sit down and actually write this thing!
This is an exciting part of the process…unfortunately, it’s also the part where many people get overwhelmed and give up.
But there’s good news: actually writing a book can be a lot easier than you think—if you have the right system. A system that guides you from your idea through your outline and all the way up to your final, polished, publication-ready draft.
Here are the most important things you need to do when writing your book.
What’s a topic you know a lot about or can’t stop talking about?
These are all great ways to come up with bestselling book ideas. In a nutshell, you’re trying to find topics that you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Because these are the topics that you’re going to do a great job writing about!
Notice that I highlighted the question, “What do you get paid for? What’s your expertise?”
That’s because this is a particularly useful question for coming up with book ideas. A lot of people seem to forget that there is usually at least one topic on which they are a bona fide expert—and that’s their job!
It might not seem that exciting or special to you, because you’re so used to it, but to someone else who’s trying to learn what you already know…your job-related knowledge can seem very valuable indeed.
#2 – Don’t Censor Yourself
When you’re brainstorming ideas, don’t censor yourself. Just let the ideas flow. Realize that there is no such thing as a crazy idea. Anything can make a great book topic.
So don’t ever let yourself feel silly or start to judge yourself—doing so is a surefire way to stop your creativity in its tracks.
On the other hand, don’t feel bad if your topic sounds too commonplace either. Even if you’re writing about an age-old topic—like a weight loss book or a romance novel—that’s OK!
The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before.
But it hasn’t been written from your unique perspective. And that’s what really matters.
Realize that a writer’s job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas. Doing that is pretty much impossible in this day and age.
Instead, a writer’s job is to explore topics from their own point of view. To lend their unique spin on them.
#3 – Take a Reader-Centric Perspective
While thinking of your book topic, here’s a piece of advice that I strongly recommend you follow:
Think from your reader’s perspective (not your own).
Many people are too self-centered when they write. When I say “self-centered,” I mean that they’re thinking only of themselves: their interests, their hobbies, their passions.
Yes, it’s true that those are great topics to explore when coming up with your book topic. But during this process, you’ll need to switch from a self-centered perspective to a reader-centered perspective.
Ask yourself questions like:
What would my reader be most interested in?
What would my reader most like to learn?
What are my reader’s biggest problems?
What’s the biggest question my readers are asking?
When you start to think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most—your readers.
#4 – Figure Out Which Book You Should Write First
By now you should have a long list of book topics. And you might be wondering, which topic should I write about first?
Here are a few tips to help you choose the best starting project:
Which one can you finish the fastest? Usually, this is the topic where you have the most experience. This is a good thing to keep in mind because the faster you can finish your book, the faster you can get it out in the world where it can earn you money and help people. (And the faster you can get started on your second book!)
Which one are you most likely to finish? Usually, these are the topics you are more passionate about. For your first book, I highly recommend choosing a topic that you’re really passionate about to help make sure that you’ll remain interested throughout the entire process.
Which one is going to make you happy? This is a little harder to define, but it might be something that strikes a chord with you. Maybe there’s a certain book topic that stands out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, then go for it! Remember, writing should make you
Now with these tips in mind, choose the topic for your very first book before proceeding to the next step.
#5 – Come Up With a Title
The most important words of your book are the ones that appear on the outside cover:
Your book title.
You don’t have to decide on your final title at this point, but your title is so important that it’s worth thinking about up-front. But knowing how to write a book title can be tricky.
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.
If you want a really easy book outline template to use, we’ve got one for you!
Just choose your type, fiction or nonfiction, submit your information and you’ll have a made-for-you book outline template complete with chapter-by-chapter structure assistance too.
#8 – Capture More Notes with The Sticky Note Method
You can use this method instead of the BookMap, or as a supplement to it.
For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding your possible book topics.
When the week is up, organize all your sticky notes into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters of your book. You can then elaborate in areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.
This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking, clarity, and concise organization of thoughts and patterns.
#9 – Now Write Your Book…One Chapter at a Time
You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. The only thing left to do…is to actually sit down and write it!
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others.
And in my experience, there’s one writing method that works better than any other. Here’s how it works:
Complete a mini-BookMap for that chapter, brainstorming everything you know about this topic. (10 minutes.)
Organize your ideas and turn that BookMap into an outline. (10 minutes.)
Write or speak the chapter by following the outline you just created. (45-60 minutes.)
Repeat this process, chapter by chapter, until your book is completed.
Steps 1 & 2 should be familiar by now—they’re the same steps you followed to create your overall book outline. You just repeat those steps on a smaller scale for each chapter.
Then in step 3, you have a choice: you can type out your chapter on a computer, or you can use a recording device & transcription service to dictate your chapter.
If you like the idea of dictating your book, rather than typing it out, here’s how to do it.
#10 – Speak Your Book
This method works well if you’re a strong speaker and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual “writing” on your part. Cool, huh?
Once your chapter outline is complete, the next steps are:
Speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device such as Voice Memos or Audacity.
Get that audio file transcribed using a transcription service like Rev.
Read through the transcription and revise/polish it up.
As I mentioned, one of the benefits of this method is its speed. Just how fast can you write a first draft using speech dictation?
If you’re writing a nonfiction book specifically, this method will work great for you.
Well, if the average book is 15,000-25,000 words long, and if the average person speaks at about 150 words/minute, then you can easily speak your entire book in approximately 2-3 hours.
Of course, your spoken & transcribed book will need some polishing and revision to get it publication-ready. But it’s still the fastest way of writing a book I’ve ever come across.
#11 – Speed Up Your Writing
Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner.
Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count:
Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it.
If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section instead.
Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t stop you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
An accountability partner can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.
How to Write a Book Step 4: Avoid Potholes Along the Way
If you’ve been following along with steps 1-3, then you’re in the process of writing your book. You’re working from a solid outline, which means you know exactly what to write in every single chapter.
So nothing could possibly go wrong…right?
Unfortunately, no. Even when you have a solid plan, a proven system, and a detailed outline, you can still get tripped up by some of these sneaky book writing roadblocks.
Luckily, I’ve got some tips to help you overcome the most common book writing problems.
#1 – Beat Writer’s Block
Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas.
Most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions.
The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block. The only way to deal with it is to beat it.
Here are 8 methods I’ve found personally useful when fighting writer’s block:
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.
#2 – Don’t Edit While You Write
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You sit down to write and you bang out a page or two. Then you stop and reread what you just wrote. And instead of continuing, you go back and start editing those first few pages of writing.
In your mind, you’re just fixing up your work. You want everything to be just right before you continue on ahead.
But in reality, you’ve just stopped all your forward progress. You spend the next hour trying to make those pages PERFECT…and when perfect doesn’t happen, you get frustrated and stop writing.
Usually, when this sort of thing happens, it becomes very difficult to do any more writing. Why? Because writing and editing use different parts of your brains—and when you allow yourself to slip into a more critical/judgmental frame of mind, it becomes almost impossible to start creating again.
That’s why, even though editing is an important skill, you need to resist the urge to edit your work while you’re still writing.
Don’t start editing your book until AFTER you’ve already created the entire first draft.
#3 – Format Your Book Properly
Few things are more irritating than having to go back through your entire book to fix the formatting.
The take-home lesson? Think about how you want to format your book before you write it, and then be consistent. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
And take the time to figure out how to format your book for publication. For example, did you realize that fiction and nonfiction books typically use different indentation styles?
Nonfiction books tend to use block paragraphs, like this:
Avoid using hard indents. (Don’t hit “tab” at the beginning of a new paragraph; instead, change the paragraph settings to automatically give each paragraph the indentation you want.)
Only use one space after a period. (Using 2 spaces was necessary with typewriters, but not with computers.)
If you want to create a page break, do not hit “Enter” repeatedly until you reach the next page. Instead, use the “Page break” function. This is the only way to ensure that your page break will work even after people resize your book on their Kindle.
#4 – Keep Going, & Don’t Stop—You’re Almost There!
Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 90 days!
Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. If any of the common challenges or obstacles we’ve mentioned rear their ugly head, you’ll know how to deal with them.
With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to officially calling yourself an author.
How to Write a Book Step 5: Launch Your Book Successfully
By this point, your book is completed—congratulations! You’ve done something that most people will never do.
You’ve written a book.
But you’re not done yet. Not quite. Because you still need to launch your book in a way that sets it up for success; in a way that maximizes your readers, your income, and your influence.
Unfortunately, most people who succeed in writing a book never get this whole “launch” thing figured out. They throw their book up on Amazon without really having a plan, and as a result, they get very few sales, make almost no money, and are frustrated at the lack of response to their work.
If you follow this simple launch plan, you can rest assured that your book will come out with a bang and will generate steady sales right out of the gate and for years to come.
#1 – Get a Good Cover
We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do exactly that—all the time. And that’s why, if you want your book to sell, having a powerful book cover design is important.
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. If you do not have the design ability to effectively do that, then consider hiring a professional cover designer from various places like 99designs or 100Covers.
Step 1 is pretty simple: you want them to read your book, leave a review, and share it with their own friends and family.
This is how you spread the word about a brand-new book when you don’t have an email list or a social media following.
Step 2 can vary from person to person. What do your friends & family get in return for helping you? In many cases, they get things like:
A free copy of your book
Their name mentioned in the “Acknowledgements” part of your book
The chance to be part of something inspiring
The personal satisfaction of helping to create something meaningful
As your launch team grows bigger, you might need to offer more than that. For example, maybe another person in your niche agrees to promote your new book to their email list—but in exchange, they want a percentage of your profit.
(This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s a great way to grow your audience and your revenue while letting somebody else do the marketing for you.)
But don’t worry about that for now. Just reach out to anyone you know who would be willing to support your first book launch and ask for their help.
#3 – Get Ongoing Reviews
If there’s one thing we know about the Amazon algorithm, it’s this:
It loves reviews.
One of the biggest indicators of success with self-publishing is getting Amazon reviews.
If you want your book to show up in search results and as a “Recommended” book when people are looking at similar products, you need to continue generating ongoing reviews to keep the algorithm happy.
When you do, your book will start to show up at the top of Amazon results:
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.
My Final Tip for Learning How to Write a Book
And now I’m sharing the opportunity to learn from someone who’s mastered writing and self-publishing books with you. To learn from a mentor who can help you achieve your dream of writing and publishing your very first book.
If you want to finish your book, you need a roadmap. That’s why I’m sharing some of the best strategies and tricks other bestselling authors paid thousands of dollars to get — yours FREE→
So you have a killer book idea….the next step is taking that small idea and learning how to mindmap for a book in order to set yourself up for success.
Coming up with a writing prompt or story idea that both will interest you and drive sales is probably the hardest part of self-publishing. But that doesn’t mean the process of taking that idea and turning it into a book will be easy.
The first major step in that process is mindmapping, and in this blog, we’re going to explain the best ways of how to mindmap for a book.
One might wonder why mindmapping is even necessary. First-time authors may find it tedious or boring while other full-time writers might be talented enough to get away with it.
Mindmapping may not be essential to a successful rough draft, but it makes getting to a refined manuscript a whole lot easier.
For a fun relatable metaphor, I would compare it to grocery shopping.
Do you really go to the grocery store without a plan or list of things to buy? Do you aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and just throw whatever looks good into the cart?
Maybe if you’re 10, and Mom’s buying, but most people would probably say they went to the store with the intention to buy certain items. In this comparison, the prepared list before heading to the store is your mindmap.
And from your mindmap, you create your book outline.
For that step, check this out:
Book Outline Template Generator
We’ve already put the brunt work in, creating front matter, and a fill-in-the-blank style book outline template that’s easy to use.
It even has guidance for what to cover in what chapters in order to plot a really good book readers will love.
Fill in your information below to get your outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your book.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
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In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
Without your grocery list, it will take a lot longer walking up and down every aisle to make sure you have everything you want and need in your cart. There’s also a greater possibility that you forget something that you actually do need, and you won’t notice until you’re home.
You can also check out the training below in order to not on understand the importance of this step, but to get a better idea of what you need to set your book up for success:
#1 – Mindmapping helps organize thoughts of your book
After you initially devise the main idea or theme of your book, there’s probably a ton of loose thoughts in your mind of what you want to include.
Before losing them in the cobwebs of your head, write them down in your mindmap!
Mindmapping is all about getting every single, teeny-weeny thought or concept written down on paper. Then you can begin organizing which thought goes where.
Doing this as you write is nearly impossible. Mindmapping helps get all your thoughts on one subject together in one place. That way, they are all grouped together in your book, and you didn’t forget any (like when you forgot to buy peanut butter at the grocery store).
#2 – Mindmapping begins to naturally carve out book chapters
When authors perform the grouping part of mindmapping, they are actually beginning to form the chapters of their book. This happens so seamlessly, that they might not even realize it!
If you tried to skip mindmapping and subsequently, outlining, and just began writing the rough draft, you might not know where to begin.
Well, after mindmapping, because you wrote out all of your thoughts of every idea you had on each topic, you now know which topics are the most important and have the most supporting information.
Start your book with those bigger topics. When you make a switch in topics during your writing, you know it’s time to begin a new chapter.
As I said in the grocery store example, it’s much easier to forget an item that you need in the refrigerator if you’re just aimlessly walking around the store looking for what you need.
If that’s how you approach your book, you will likely forget to discuss a topic or make a point that you wanted.
Devising a plan for your book through mindmapping helps guarantee that doesn’t happen. It also pushes you to continue brainstorming. You may believe you already have enough to cover a certain subject, but going through the mindmapping process will push you to think of even more great ideas to include when writing your book.
Now that you understand the importance of mindmapping, let’s dive into how to mindmap for a book.
Choose Your Method of Mindmapping Your Book
After learning the three key aspects of why mindmapping is necessary to write a strong manuscript, you’re ready to begin your mindmap.
Now, there are essentially two different ways to mindmap. Let’s dive into each one!
The two different ways to mindmap for a book:
Bubble maps on printer paper
Post-it notes on a bulletin board
Each author should choose the mindmap technique that makes them feel the most comfortable.
Self-Publishing School teaches to avoid using a computer when performing the mindmap phase. I couldn’t agree more.
Surely, it can be done on a laptop or a tablet, especially an interactive one where the user can use his fingers to write and draw. But I find a good, old-fashioned paper and pencil to be the best way to mind map.
You can also use post-it notes if that’s your preferred style.
Mindmap Option #1 – Bubble map on printer paper
The last real requirement before beginning is a piece of paper without lines. Printer paper would work best. Because of the added flexibility of erasing, I would also advise a pencil instead of a pen, but that’s my preferred use of writing utensil anyway.
On the first piece of paper, write your book topic (make it as general as possible) real big in the middle and circle it.
Next, take the more specific topics and put them in smaller circles around the big circle in the middle of the page. Draw a line from each little circle to the big, center circle.
Now, you have the beginning of your mindmap. More than likely, each of those smaller circles are going to turn into your chapters. Essentially, you’re creating a roadmap for your rough draft.
Here are the keys to successful first bubble midmap:
Make your central topic in the biggest circle as general as possible.
The reasons you want to write the book or important arguments you want to present will make the best topics in the second-tiered bubbles.
Continue your roadmap, writing key aspects to include for each topic to fill out the mindmap.
When you’re finished, you are going to have something that looks a little like this:
How to Mindmap For Your Book Using the Bubble Method
Everyone has slightly different methods for mindmapping a book. What I’m taking you through is my experience, plus some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Keep in mind that this is just a base. The real benefit comes from making this process your own and finding what works.
If someone asked me what my book was about, I would be a lot more specific than that, but start very general in the mindmap.
Staying general allows the secondary bubbles—the ones that directly link to your very general topic—to be the main subjects of the chapters in the book.
#2 – Secondary Topics Are Your Central Arguments
More than likely, the general topic is what the subject that you love, but your central arguments are the secondary topics of your mindmap.
They are also what is going to make your book unique.
Returning to my book as an example, I wanted to write a book about the James Bond film series. But many people have done that.
What makes my book unique is the secondary bubbles on my mindmap surrounding the generic topic. Those were the central arguments to my book, and eventually, they became my chapters.
#3 – Branch off from your secondary topics
Referencing my mindmap example again, you can see that each secondary bubble then has multiple bubbles of thoughts coming out of it.
This is where you start to see a “road” for your rough draft.
I wrote down every possible idea I had on each of my topics that links to my general subject. I basically kept writing and making more road until I ran out of paper.
A lot of the ideas I wrote here were already in my head, but I also came up with new ideas through the process of mindmapping.
I never would have came up with all of these concepts if I hadn’t taken the time to mindmap.
How to Mindmap Your Book With the Post-it Notes on Bulletin Board Method
The other way to construct a mindmap is with post-it notes on a bulletin board or wall. If you love post-it notes, this may be the best way for you.
The keys to a successful post-it notes map is the same as the bubble map. The only change is in the display.
In the above example, each big piece of paper with a number in the middle marks a chapter and certain topic pertaining to your larger, general subject. Each colored post-it note applies to a chapter and is the same as the third-tiered bubbles from my own mindmap.
Both techniques will work. You choose which one is best for you!
After completing your first mindmap, you want to repeat this process for every chapter.
The post-it notes picture above is the beginning of the next step of the process, which is then mindmapping each chapter. If you prefer the printer paper mindmapping technique, then repeat the exact same mindmap except plug your more specific topic in the middle.
This allows you more space and enables you to get even more detailed with your roadmap.
Notice how I included even more details off the “masculinity” bubble in this mindmap than I did in the first one. The main mindmap was definitely a good starting point, but then diving into a mindmap for each major topic or chapter pushed me to brainstorm even further.
This will have the same affect on you and place you well on the path of writing a well organized rough draft.
Tip: Another way to think of your mindmap is to think backward from the outlining phase, which comes directly after the mindmap.
While the bubble roadmap and the post-it bulletin board are the most popular mindmaps, there are other techniques you could try! Here’s one more example of a mindmap:
Yes, this looks more like a book outline than mindmap, but if you feel more comfortable with a list like this, then do that.
There’s no right or wrong to mindmapping. The important part is to really begin brainstorming that great book idea and begin organizing your thoughts into possible chapters.
Last big key to a mindmap? Remember, it’s going to change
Let’s return to our grocery store list analogy to end our blog. Even with the best, most-detailed shopping list, we all tend to deviate from it sometimes. Whether an item that you don’t necessarily need is on sale or you find a different brand for cheaper price, audibles to the shopping list happen.
Keep that in mind when you’re mindmapping. This isn’t going to be EXACTLY how your final draft will go. The mindmap process is just supposed to place authors on a road to an organized and well thought-out first draft.
Your life is busy and sometimes you want all the (book-related) goods in one place. We heard you – and we listened!
Chandler Bolt created this all-in-one exclusive training for serious soon-to-be-authors. If you want to learn how to outline and everything else about the book writing process, make sure to sign up to save your spot!
Because if you want to learn how to outline, you may as well get as much information as you can right away. Trust us, it’ll make your writing process that much easier.
What is a Book Outline?
A book outline is a roadmap or blueprint for your story. It tells you where you need to go and when in chronilogical order.
It’s easy to see this term and wonder exactly what that means. Is it a bullet list of topics for your book? Is it a chapter by chapter overview written in paragraphs?
No matter how you write an outline, the purpose is the same.
Think of it as a GPS of sorts but instead of giving you driving directions, your outline will give you writing directions.
Why Should I Write a Book Outline?
No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. It’s not just about getting your thoughts on the paper, either. It’s about so much more than the actual writing.
ensure you can focus on the quality of your writing instead of what to write
You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time learning how to outline a book, but some (mostly painless!) prep before writing will be time well-spent since you won’t be spinning your wheels by staring at the blank screen of death.
When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing.
Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating. Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.
Once you have a plan to write your book in outline form, you’ll be better able to put these thoughts to paper and compose your chapters when you do sit down to write.
And I have some good news: there’s no “right” way to outline. Each writer will have their own process that’s personal to them.
Keep reading for tips on how to outline different ways. If one of these exact methods doesn’t strike a chord with you, you can combine methods to create your own way that works best for your unique book.
Are you writing a fiction or non-fiction book? Depending on which you’re working on, the outlining process may look be different.
Thankfully, there are plenty of relevant tips you can apply in the section about outlining a non-fiction book. Likewise, even if you’re writing non-fiction, the section on how to write a fiction outline can help spark some ideas for your process, so we recommend authors of all types of books read the full list.
How to Write a Nonfiction Book Outline
Most non-fiction authors find outlines useful due to the nature of their books. Generally, works of non-fiction require research and citation of sources (although many novels require their own research!).
An outline can help organize your research so it doesn’t overwhelm you, plus your outline will help you create the best structure for your finished book.
These are some of the beneficial methods we recommend for you.
#1 – Mindmap + Book Outline
This is the main method of outlining that we teach in Self-Publishing School. The mindmap method requires you to create a brain dump based on your book’s topic. Write your topic in the center of a piece of paper, then use lines and words to draw as many connections as you can.
It doesn’t need to make perfect sense from the get-go—the goal is free-form thinking to get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.
You’ll start to notice connections between different categories of information. This makes it easier to spot the relevant “book-worthy” ideas. Then you can pluck those ideas out of your mindmap and put them into a cohesive book outline.
We also recommend doing a mindmap for each chapter you select from your original mindmap. It will help you structure your entire book chapter by chapter.
Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless!
At Self-Publishing School, we encourage students to make a mess with their mindmap. Regardless of what your mind map looks like in the end, it is an essential element to your book writing process.
This mind map will be the jumping off point for you to begin your outline. In this brief video, Chandler explains how to turn your mindmap into an outline:
#2 – Simple Book Outline
A simple book outline is just as it sounds; keep it basic and brief. Start with the title. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect title at this stage of the process; you just want to come up with a good-for-now placeholder.
You can always change the title later—in fact, you probably will—but starting with some kind of title gives you a better idea of where you want your book to go.
Plus, outlining your book this way jump-starts the creative process.
Next, you’ll list all of the key points that cover your book’s overall theme and message. You’ll use these key points to generate your notes. Later, you’ll flesh out these notes to draft your book chapters.
#3 – Chapter-by-Chapter Book Outline
Your chapter-by-chapter book outline is a pumped-up version of the simple book outline.
To get started, first create a complete chapter list. With each chapter listed as a heading, you’ll later add material or shift chapters around as the draft evolves.
Create a working title for each chapter, and list them in a logical order. After that, you’ll fill in the key points of each chapter.
Finally, you’ll link your resources as they would appear in each chapter, including books, interviews, and Web links.
Here’s a great example of a chapter-by-chapter nonfiction book outline completed with bullet lists:
#4 – Sketch Your Book Outline
Perhaps you find the idea of a written outline confining. That’s OK — there’s another option which might appeal to your artistic side.
If you like being uber-organized, then the writing softwareScrivener might appeal to you. Their book outline program allows you to upload your research, organize it by moving it around, and filing it into folders.
Like many writing software programs, it does have a fairly extensive learning curve, which can be a major downside—especially if you tend to procrastinate and really want to get your book published quickly.
However, some writers say it revolutionized their organizational process for longer works.
Your goal with the Basic Document format is to use a Word or Excel table to give structure to your theme. Create a table and organize and summarize your key points and plot.
You’ll then create a separate section for characters and themes, and an additional section with relevant research.
#2 – Post-It Wall
This is for the creative mind, and another method we teach in Self-Publishing School. All you need is a blank wall and a box of Post-It notes. Carry a pad of Post-Its with you wherever you go, and doodle your book on the fly.
Write your ideas and inspiration on your Post-Its when the mood strikes you.
Next, affix the Post-Its containing words, snippets, doodles, and phrases to the wall. After a week of this exercise, organize these words into novel outline form. Voila—simple, effective, creative!
#3 – The Snowflake Method
The Snowflake Method was created by fiction writing coach Randy Ingermanson based on the notion, “Good fiction doesn’t just happen. It’s designed.”
The process of the snowflake method focuses on starting small, then expanding. For example, you’d start with one line from your book, then add a paragraph, then add a chapter.
Since the snowflake method is fairly detailed and based on scientific theory, Randy’s article is worth a read so you can review the detailed steps involved in this outlining method.
#4 – The Skeletal Outline
If you’ve ever written a term paper or thesis, then you’re probably familiar with the skeletal outline. You’ll lay out your narrative points in the order they’ll appear in your story, which involves a broad 7-step story arch.
This gives you a big picture idea of the flow of your story, so you can adjust your story and add subplots for maximum impact.
#5 – Novel Outline Template
Why reinvent the wheel? If you’re impatient to jump right into the fun part—writing!—or you aren’t sure exactly how to format your novel outline, then a pre-formatted template outline might be your saving grace.
A fill-in-the-blank novel outline can help you develop your plot, characters, and ideas without getting bogged down with the notion of striving for “proper” outline form.
#6 – The Reverse Outline
Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can give you the answer to the question. The same applies to outlining.
Reverse outlining is exactly what it sounds like: Write down how your novel ends. Then once you know the ending, outline backward to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.
This method often helps if you want to plant seeds and have a lot of shocking foreshadowing moments.
Authors like George R.R. Martin have to use these methods in order to make sure the plot lines up.
Here’s the takeaway:No matter which option you choose, ultimately, you’ll write faster and better with a book outline. If one way doesn’t work well for you, then experiment and try another. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.”
Discover what works best for you and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.
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.
Download Your Book Outline Template
We really did create an easy, fill-in-the-blank style book outline template in Google Docs for you to use.
All you have to do is fill out the information below and get your outline, complete with front and back matter, along with resources to guide you through the chapter-by-chapter outline.
Book Outline Template Generator
Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your book.
Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!
Book Outline Template Generator
Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.
In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.
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.
Step 1: Print out the BookMap and have a few clean sheets of paper ready.
Step 2: Use the BookMap template to draw your own map with everything you know about that topic.
Step 3: Organize those sections to form your book outline.
(Note: don’t let your ideas hold you back! It may be a little difficult to fit all your ideas onto one page and that’s totally normal. Don’t think smaller just because you have less space :).
Now let’s dive into each step in a little more detail.
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 1: Choose Your Book Topic
First things first: you have to download the BookMap. There are 2 versions of this (free) download—one for fiction books and one for nonfiction books.
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?
BookMap Questions for a 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.
Ready to get started writing your fiction book?
Outline a Book Using The BookMap Step 3: Organize Common Topics into Sections
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 of 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.
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.
Let’s dive into exactly what these writing blogs have to offer and why you should be paying close attention to them if you want to improve your writing, start your book, and publish it on Amazon (or wherever else you want to publish it through)!
There are a lot of different avenues writers have to be aware of when it comes to building a successful career from their work.
And Write to Done gives you just that!
Being both a creative writing blog along with covering nonfiction writing, Write to Done teaches you how to master a number of different techniques and habits geared toward helping you succeed in the literary world.
You don’t want to miss out on all the writing advice they have to offer along with motivational material to help you keep it up.
The Write Practice is a massive source of helpful information for writers everywhere. They cover writing blog posts touching on topics revolving around key writing practices, writing exercises, and even writing prompts to get your mind stirring.
You won’t be without help with The Write Practice.
Not only do they offer free help through their blog posts, but they also have programs, writing contests, and help involving your author platform in general.
All of these writing blogs have something unique to offer that you won’t find any anywhere else. When it comes to learning any craft – especially writing – it’s important to broaden your search and learn as much as you can from as many talented minds as you can.
Writing is a skill you can never be the “best” at. You will always be able to grow and expand on your writing skills. Once you’ve reached what you believe is your very best, there is still mountains more you can improve upon.
If you’re like me (and almost all writers out there), you likely struggle with insecurity in your writing. Us writers have a tendency to focus on the bad without knowing how to make it better, and this can often cost us our writing motivation.
If you’re ready to learn tips like the famous “show don’t tell” and more, keep reading, or check out the video below!
How to Improve Writing with Tips for Writing a Book
In order to improve your writing skills, you have to commit to writing as much as you can, using different writing exercises, and reading often. You have to form a writing habit in order to do this.
But there is good news about this.
Your writing skills are not stagnant. They change and grow as you do.
Think of it as running. The more you run and train, the better you become. It can be really hard to write a book at first but as you learn new techniques, how to use literary devices, and new methods for making it easier, you become a stronger, better runner.
Writing is exactly the same.
The way you improve your writing skills is by making a commitment to you, your work in progress, and all the people who can benefit from your book.
Being a good beginner writer is about learning the craft of writing and learning specific techniques that make writing good in the first place.
In fact, becoming a good beginner writer is all about reading as much as you can and writing as much as you can. This is what will help you recognize those literary elements you can then replicate and make your own when writing and editing.
Just like I mentioned above, the more you can write, the better you will get, and this makes publishing your book and showing it to the world much easier.
But it’s also about consuming content about becoming a better writer, like podcasts, blog posts, and videos around the craft of writing.
Once you know how people interpret different events, messages, and themes, you can weave them into your book so it has more impact when they’re finished reading.
And for the fiction writers out there, psychology helps you create real and lifelike characters that leave readers itching to turn that page and read more about them and their journey.
Writing Tips Action Step:
In order to accurately research for your book, think about what you want your readers to take away from each chapter, and then the book as a whole.
Then research how real people interpret those specific messages.
If you want readers to feel inspired during a certain part of your book, research “psychology of inspiration” and read how one can build up to feel inspired and even how it affects their outlook in order to better craft the next chapters.
Writing Tip #4 – Write as often as you can
Even if all you’re writing is a paragraph, it’s better than not writing at all.
And if you can’t add on to your book for whatever reason (maybe a lack of an outline?), then write something else.
Here are a few ways you can utilize this writing tip by writing something else:
Spend 15 minutes listening to music that reminds you of your book to get you in the zone
Tell all your friends/family to leave you alone for writing time
As mentioned above, the more you write, the better you get. But you can’t write if you’re constantly checking your phone, email, or watching TV.
Writing Tip #6 – Research storytelling and story structure
This is largely for the fiction writers out there, but all writers can benefit from this writing tip of improving your storytelling.
Storytelling and writing are not the same things.
Writing is the way in which you describe what’s happening within the story. The story itself is a whole other piece of the puzzle – and is arguably the most important piece.
When you have a story idea worth writing, there’s a few things to remember.
Here are our top writing tips for learning the craft of storytelling:
Study comedians – the reason comedy is, well, funny is because comedians know how to tell stories in a way that keep us on the edge of our seat, and then they surprise us, which often initiates the laughter.
Learn from great storytellers – Stephen King is one of the best storytellers of all time. He has a book, On Writing, that touches on this craft. Give it a read for some of the best writing tips you’ll find.
Read as much as you can – Writers learn how to write through reading. The more you read, and the wider variety of genres, the more you’ll naturally pick up on the art of storytelling.
Get feedback on your stories – This is the hardest, but most crucial writing tip to help you improve. You have to understand your weaknesses in order to make them stronger. Ask friends and family for help in order to learn how to make your stories better.
Writing Tips Action Step:
Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos about the art of crafting a story.
Another great way to learn the ins and outs of storytelling is to watch great comedians. The reason they can make you laugh is how they craft what they’re saying.
Notice the pauses, when they speed through what they’re saying, and how they deliver that final line.
These are all techniques you can use on a larger scale when writing your book.
Writing Tip #7 – Always get feedback
This will always be the hardest, but most important part of improving your writing. Of all the writing tips to take and execute, this is the best one.
It’s very difficult to gauge your own writing – because you wrote it.
This is much like trying to tickle yourself. It just doesn’t work because you’re the person doing it and is much more effective when someone else does it.
That’s why the beta reading process is so vital. It’s when you let others read your book in order to gain feedback from people in your intended audience.
That’s what it’s like for your writing. You need an outside set of eyes on your work.
Do you have any predictions about what will happen?
Do you have any feedback I didn’t ask you about?
Writing Tip #8 – Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals
One of the best ways you can strengthen your creativity is by consciously thinking about how you can describe common things in new, interesting ways.
You want to make people see that common item or situation or visual in a brand new light.
The way you can do this is to pause when you’re describing something in your writing and think to yourself, “how else can I explain this to create a stronger emotional impact?”
Here’s an example of this writing tip if you’re still a little confused:
“The sun set behind the trees and the world fell quiet.”
Is this a bad way to describe a sunset and night beginning? No. However, you can easily get more creative about how to illustrate this to readers through words.
“Night yanked the horizon over the sun, silencing the world with its absence.”
This is saying relatively the same thing, but in a way that stops and makes someone appreciate the way in which it was crafted.
Writing Tip #9 – Practice writing in your head
This might sound a bit confusing, so let me elaborate.
When you look at the world, how do you see it? Probably the same way everyone else does.
Here’s an example of how you can practice writing – but only in your own head. This can help you learn how to craft your prose to read in a beautiful, elegant fashion while also being unique and interesting to readers.
Right now, I’m looking out my window into the backyard. It has snow, the trees are bare, and the sky is a muted gray at the horizon, fading to a very faint blue as you look higher up.
This is a very typical visual for winter (especially in Wisconsin).
Now, in order to practice writing without writing, all you have to do is start describing what you see in prose that you would write in your own head.
“Stillness hung in the air thicker than Christmas morning eggnog, the ground covered in a thin sheet of white speckled with brown where the snow failed to make its mark. Bare branches reached toward the absent sun, reluctantly accepting the gray of winter in its place.”
This example is more prose than reality, but this is how you can sharpen those skill by just thinking in this way.
Notice the world around you in the way you would write it in a book.
The more you practice this when you’re on the subway, making dinner, or even watching your family and friends interact, the easier it will be to write those situations in your book.
Think like a writer in order to become a better one.
Writing Tip#10 – Use strong language
This writing tip can completely transform your writing for the better.
It’s the single best way to make your writing more captivating without really adding anything new. You just simply have to replace weak language with stronger, more descriptive writing.
This can take some time to get used to but the more you do it, the easier it will get.
So how do you recognize weak language?
Here are some mistakes to look for in your writing to utilizing this writing tip:
Passive voice –Passive voice is any use of a “to be” past participle. Now, that’s just a fancy way of saying that if you have something was done by something, it’s passive voice. An example of this is: “The chicken was beheaded by the farmer.” That is passive voice, whereas, “The farmer beheaded the chicken.” is active voice.
Weak verbs – These are the basic, non-detailed version of better verbs. An example would be, “She walked to the store.” In this case, “walked” is the weak verb. You can use another form of this verb to create a stronger visual for your reader. Here’s what that would look like: “She strutted to the store.”
Emotion explaining – Using words that are emotions in your writing is a pretty clear indicator you have to show and not tell. Saying, “She was scared,” is telling. You can create a better experience for the reader by showing that she’s scared through body language, dialogue, and description.
We even make it simpler for you with our strong verbs list. It has over 200 strong verbs and includes the common weak verbs you can replace.
Writing Tips Action Step:
Fill out your information for instant access to your strong verbs list of over 300+ verbs to use!
Writing Tip #11 – Just write to write
Forget about your goals. Forget about how anyone else will interpret what you’ve wrote and just write.
Do it for you. Write what you like and what makes you happy.
Don’t think about the future or publishing or where you’re going from here. Just grab that outline, sit down, and write because it’s fun.
Believe it or not, this frees up a lot of mental space and allows you to write without thinking too much, which often helps you write better.
One of the best writing tips I ever received was to always have a side project going on, something you have no intention of ever publishing. This is where your real writing happens.
It’s a place for you to experiment, discover your writing voice, and learn what you truly love to write while still working on your main project and accomplishing those goals.
Writing Tips from Famous Authors
What better way to improve your writing than to practice writing tips from those who have mastered the craft?
Here are our top writing tips from professional writers like Stephen King, JK Rowling, and even Margaret Atwood.
#1 – “Just do it.”
Much like we mentioned above, Margaret Atwood is a huge advocate of diving right in and just writing, despite your fears, insecurities, or lack of direction.
“I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’
And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.”
As someone who has made waves with a number of her novels, including the masterpiece that landed her an entire TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, she is someone you want to take advice from—especially now that Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass is available.
#2 – “You’ve got to work for it.”
Much to every writer’s dismay, books don’t actually write themselves. If there was a special machine we could plug into our brain that would spit out a perfect copy of the story inside our minds, we would all opt for that instead of sitting down and plucking away at the keyboard.
But that’s not a reality (at least not yet).
Someone who knows the value of hard work when it comes to writing is J.K. Rowling. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?
“You’ve got to work. It’s about structure. It’s about discipline. It’s all these deadly things that your school teacher told you you needed…
You need it.”
As hard as it can be, Rowling’s advice is as sound as any. Work for your book. Work hard so others can benefit from the worth you’re holding onto.
#3 – “Write for yourself first.”
Stephen King has an entire memoir-ish that doubles as writing tips simply because writing has been nearly his entire life.
One of the best lessons King says he ever learned was from a newspaper editor he worked for while he was in high school (which he discusses in his memoir/writing book On Writing) and he has maintained that voice in his head throughout each work he writes.
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.
Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
On Writing by Stephen King continues to be a source of inspiration and help for writers everywhere. King has a way of pulling you in and giving you the BS-free advice all writers want – and, in most cases, desperately need.
#4 – “Quantity will make up for quality.”
Ray Bradbury is one of the most quoted authors out there. He shares his methods for writing and how to actually succeed in this industry.
His best advice, in my opinion, comes from his book Zen in the Art of Writing, where he says you have to schedule the time to write – and write daily because quantity will make up for quality.
In fact, quantity is what leads you to quality.
“Michelangelo’s, da Vinci’s, Tintoretto’s billion sketches, the quantitative, prepared them for the qualitative, single sketches further down the line, single portraits, single landscapes of incredible control and beauty.”
In essence, the more you practice writing, the better you’ll become and that makes all the difference when it comes to separating yourself form other writers.
#5 – “Tell the truth.”
Miss Angelou is an inspiration to writers everywhere. She’s a personal favorite of mine and her quotes and advice for both writing and life has always spoken to me on a different level than others.
One of the best writing tips I’ve read of her is the fact that you have to write the truth.
“I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth.
The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.”
When you have a truth worth sharing, writing becomes easier, more meaningful, and therefore more impactful for those reading it.
This ties into our writing tip above about writing what you want to read. Focus on telling your truth.
#6 – “You can’t edit a blank page.”
Are you sensing a theme within these writing tips yet?
Even Jodi Picoult agrees that you can’t become a better writer if you never write.
“You can always edit a bad page.
You can’t edit a blank page.”
The best of all writing tips is this one. You have to actually write if you want to get better because great writing doesn’t happen on the first try. It happens on the second, fifth, and even tenth.
You first have to write the words in order to make them better.
When you start writing a book, it’s as if everyone around you becomes the expert. They tell you to show don’t tell, start with action, or even embellish your stories to sound “better.”
But how do you know what advice to take…and what do those writing tips even mean in the first place?
We’re here to help you understand showing versus telling and how that will actually help you write better and stronger.
It’s safe to say that the idea of showing not telling is one all writers should pay close attention to.
Show don’t tell in writing is a piece of advice that’s been around for longer than you might realize. Even if it didn’t have a phrase attached to it yet, the best authors out there have been using it for the duration of their careers (and even before, most likely).
In fact, it’s why they’re known as the best writers of all time.
But although these writers knew how to bring their writing to life instinctually, not all of us are so lucky. We have to learn the process of show don’t tell, which can be tricky if you don’t know where to start.
What does show don’t tell mean?
Show don’t tell describes writing in various forms with an emphasis on using and showing actions in order to convey the emotions you want readers to interpret, which creates a better experience for readers, instead of writing exposition to tell what happened.
By showingthe actions and relationships and feelings instead of just telling the reader what happened, the writing comes off deeper, and more meaningful. This creates a much deeper connection and brings readers closer to you (or the main character).
At a first glance, this writing rule could be confused for the best day in Kindergarten when you bring your pet lizard in to show the class.
But in actuality, show don’t tell refers to the way in which you describe the experience you (or your character) went through.
And that makes them feel deeper and stronger about the story. It creates empathy and invests the reader – which is exactly what you need.
Writing your book introduction with an abundance of showing not telling is a powerful way to draw readers in for the duration of your entire book.
But this technique is much easier shown than told (hehe – see what I did there?).
These examples are pretty basic but that’s the best way to gain an understanding of what this looks like. Keep in mind that your sentences may be more complex than these examples, but still full of “tell” words or phrases.
Be on the lookout for the details.
Show Don’t Tell Example #1:
Tell: “I heard footsteps creeping behind me and it made the whole situation scarier.”
Show: “Crunching hit my ears from behind, accelerating the already rampant pounding of my heart.”
Why this showing example is better:
In an instance such as this, you want the reader to feel what you did: the surprise and the sense of urgency, the fear.
Describing the crunching that hit your ears even through the pounding of your heart not only creates a powerful visual, but it also tells the reader the state your body was in during that intense moment. The first example is weak and does little to explain how you actually felt in that moment.
Show Don’t Tell Example #2:
Tell: “She was my best friend. I could tell her almost anything.”
Show: “I met her at the town square, running in for our usual hug that carried on for far too long as we gushed about our lives with smiles lighting our faces.”
Why this showing example is better:
The first example of telling is shorter, but it doesn’t do a great job of really showing the impact you have on each other. Anyone can think of “best friend” and form an overall thought about what that looks like. But this isn’t just “anyone.” This is your best friend. Showing your relationship with one another is vital to forging that deeper connection.
Why should you show don’t tell in writing?
The entire point of showing versus telling in writing is to make a stronger emotional connection with your readers and hook them.
The idea behind this writing technique is to put the reader in your shoes. Make them feel, hear, and sense the situation as you did.
It’s about creating an experience for the reader instead of just a recount of events.
Doing this makes the reader want to root for you. They want to hear your whole story and in turn, they’ll read your whole book.
Why is showing not telling also important for non-fiction?
If you write fiction, you hear this advice all the time. However, all of you non-fiction writers out there, this piece of writing advice might be new to you.
Show don’t tell isn’t always the first thing a non-fiction writer thinks of when it comes to adding more intrigue to your story.
But it is the most vital for pulling your reader in and not only hooking them, but keeping them with you throughout the duration of your book.
Many fiction writers hear this writing advice often because it’s one of the best ways to make real people feel deeply for fictional characters.
When it comes to writing a story about your life and something you went through, the idea is the same. By showing and not telling, you’ll be able to guide them through your real-life situation as an experience and not just some book they’re reading while the kids are yelling at their video games and the oven alarm is blaring in the distance.
If you can show don’t tell the right way, the reader won’t even notice those distractions.
How to Show Don’t Tell in Writing
So now you know what it is and why it’s important, but how the heck do you actually do it? The process of taking a single story and crafting it to create more emotion can be difficult.
Thankfully, we have some of the best tips for showing not telling in writing.
#1 – Get rid of all basic sensory words
Phrases like, “I heard,” “I felt,” and “I smelled,” are all very weak. These are “telling” words and phrases (also commonly referred to as “filters”) that force the reader further away from you and your experience.
That’s exactly what you want to avoid.
Instead, you need to pull them into your world and into your psyche the very moment you were encountering the situation.
Step 1: Read through your writing and circle every telling word you can find. Anything that explains one of the 5 senses.
Step 2: Then write down specifics for each. If you heard someone creeping up behind you, how did you hear it? Was it crunching on gravel? Was it the shuffling of shoes against carpet?
Once you have these, rewrite those sections by explaining how the senses manifested to you and not just what you sensed (detailed below in the next writing exercise).
#2 – Don’t use “emotion explaining” words
This might be a bit tricky and you certainly don’t have to follow this one 100% of the time, but if you can get this right, it’ll make showing versus telling so much easier to grasp.
Think of any word to describe an emotion. I’ll help you out a little:
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
These are all great words to describe how someone felt. However, they’re also very weak, unexciting ways to do so.
If you need your readers to understand how excited you were at any given time, show them. Don’t just tell them, “I was so excited!”
Show them the sweat beading your forehead as you raced to your destination. Show them the lifting of your cheeks as your lips parted way for an uncontrollable smile.
Show Don’t Tell Exercise #2:
Skim through your writing and circle every word that’s an emotion.
Then, for every emotion-explaining word you find, write down physical reactions of feeling that way.
Once you have a small list for each circled word, use it to craft a couple sentences to describe (and show!) just what that looked like.
You can see the difference alone between these two paragraphs. By replacing all of the “telling” words and phrases, it develops into an experience for the reader and not just a retelling of what happened.
A person’s actions are really a gateway to their mind and how they feel.
You can tell if another person has a crush on someone just by paying attention to the way their body adjusts when in that person’s presence, right?
Showing versus telling in writing is exactly that. You want to show the reader what is happening and allow them to form a conclusion about how you or others in your story felt based on what they look like.
In all honesty, a lot of this one is about having faith that your audience can put two and two together.
Oftentimes, we tend to over explain in an effort to make something obvious when really, the emotion is in the guesswork; it’s in allowing someone to draw their own conclusions. That over-explaining is what comes across as “telly” and not as emotionally compelling.
And honestly? It’s also pretty boring and flat.
If you do a great job of showing what you want readers to see, they’ll understand how someone feels – and they’ll even feel that way themselves.
That’s the power of showing not telling.
#4 – Use strong verbs
Showing itself can be extremely impactful, but using strong language and verbs in specific situations is even more powerful for adding depth to your story.
The way you make someone else actually feel how you did as you were going through the experience is to make sure the words you’re using directly reflect the emotions.
This can be a difficult task for those who aren’t sure what “strong language” looks likes, but I’ll make it easier for you.
Show Don’t Tell Exercise #3:
Think of a situation you want to explain in your book (or maybe something you already have written out).
Now imagine what feeling you want to convey through that scene. What do you want your readers to take away from that specific moment in your story? List those emotions so you can see all of them.
Take that list and start writing ways in which you can bring those emotions to life. What do those things mean for you? How would these emotions manifest during that specific time?
Now take those stronger verbs and words that depict a deeper emotion and craft your sentence or paragraph with those to reflect how you truly felt.
How does this sentence make you feel? Do you feel comfort, relaxation, and a sense that I love being there?
That was the purpose.
It’s about taking one specific idea or vibe or feeling and using what you know to transform it into something that’s showing not telling.
We told you to cut sensing words in tip #1, and that’s true, but with this comes the fact that you still have to describe what your character is feeling and sensing.
Showing versus telling is largely about allowing your readers to interpret what your characters are going through without just telling them.
This often means using all the senses you can to depict a scene.
Instead of saying, “She hated it there.” you can use her senses to show the readers that emotion.
For example: writing with showing like this “The faint scent of stale cigarette smoke met her nostrils, pulling her face into a familiar grimace.” allows your readers to understand that she finds where she is distasteful, without having to just say so.
#6 – Practice showing not telling every day
To master the tip of show don’t tell in writing, it takes time and practice to get it right. There’s a fine line of using showing versus telling in your writing.
With regular practice (by writing every day, we suggest), you’ll learn when to use telling and when to use showing in order to give the reader the best reading experience they have.
You can even practice by reading other books and your own writing. Recognizing areas of showing can help you do it more in your own works.
You’ll try to decide whether you’re emotionally, financially, and physically ready to take the plunge. But until you become a parent, you’ll never know how amazing, enriching, and challenging your life could be.
Once you become a parent, you know that your life will never be the same.
By it’s very nature, writing is an introspective, thoughtful activity. The process of writing a book will force you to turn your thoughts inward. Through writing, you’ll gain perspective about what really matters to you.
Writing a book will also teach you about the unique value of your own willpower.
The simple act of committing to a writing project, and seeing it through, will measure the depths of your discipline. Writing a book can be a powerful way to get in touch with your thoughts, values, and motivations.
Plus, writing is cheaper than therapy!
#3 – You’ll have created a professional-quality, ready-to-sell book.
It used to be that only writers with a publishing deal or those who paid for vanity publication ever got to see their books in print. Those days have changed.
Thanks to the rise of self-publishing, any person with a story to tell can become a published author and sell their book. Self-publishing is now affordable, easy to implement, and requires only basic computer skills.
If you can type your book on your keyboard, you can figure out how to self-publish. As your own publisher, you call the shots. You’re the CEO of your own destiny.
Even better, you get to retain more of the royalties if you self-publish. What’s not to like?
Even better, you get to retain more of the royalties if you self-publish. What’s not to like?
#4 – You’ll pocket a healthy chunk of change.
The brilliant ideas you have kicking around in your head aren’t earning you any money. Only once you commit those ideas to paper and hit publish will you earn income from your thoughts.
Your book can earn you a stream of passive income simply by existing.
And then there’s the future—audiobooks, courses based on your book, and speaking gigs! And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can make money off your self-published book—but you need to write it first.
#5 – You’ll let Amazon do the heavy lifting.
Amazon self-publishing is easier than ever. Amazon makes it intuitive and straightforward for authors to upload and sell their books.
They’ve also made it easy for readers to find and buy your book. It’s a win-win.
That’s not to say that you can set up an Amazon page and let it flap in the breeze untended. In order to sell your book, you’ll need to do some marketing and PR.
The good news is that Amazon gives you the tools and resources you need to succeed.
#6 – Our time here is finite.
Nobody’s getting out of this life alive. Our time here is finite. It’s our choice how we want to spend our time. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, don’t wait for a life crisis to force your hand.
The time is now.
You have a chance to share your words, thoughts, and passions with the world. Don’t let that chance slip through your fingers.
#7 – You’ll reignite a passion.
Each one of us has a passion for something—whether that’s rock-climbing, organic cooking, or comedic storytelling.
What’s your passion? You already know the answer to that question.
Here’s our next question: When’s the last time you stoked that passion? If that answer is, “you can’t remember” or, “it’s been years,” then you’ve got some work to do.
You owe it to yourself to explore your passion and write a book. We promise that when you’re writing about something you love, it won’t feel like work.
That’s a heady statistic. By writing a book, you set yourself apart from the masses.
Even if your book is fiction or a memoir, the fact that you’re now an author lends an air of authority to your professional endeavors.
You can now add “author” to your CV, LinkedIn, and professional website.
In short: No matter what you write a book about, becoming a published author boosts your professional authority.
You’ll have accomplished something few other people have.
Our preemptive greeting: Welcome to the Author Club!
We guarantee you’ll like the rarified air up here.
#9 – You’ll tackle a new challenge.
Life has so many obligations—taxes, school pick-up, miles on the treadmill—it can be easy to fall into a daily rut. Writing a book is leaving your comfort zone.
Trying something unfamiliar can be scary—we get it. But, that’s precisely why it’s exciting.
The only way you grow as a person is by forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone. Time to jump off the cliff—write a book and become an author this year.
You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll gain by pushing the limits of your own self-imposed boundaries.
#10 – You’ll gain more knowledge.
Writing a book requires research. No matter what topic you’re writing about, you’re going to have to research new concepts and topics.
By opening the door to new ideas, you’ll educate yourself on a broad array of ideas. You’ll be invigorated by how much you learn while you’re writing, and emerge much brighter for having done so.
And when you’re done, you can assert yourself as an expert in your field. Your book can then open the door for speaking engagements, conference presentations, and other professional networking opportunities.
#11 – You’ll stop making excuses and just do it.
We know, we know, you’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a book for months (years?) now. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article.
How long are you going to give yourself permission to keep quashing your dreams?
It’s time to commit and just do it.
#12 – Because you can!
And you will! No more excuses. You can’t afford to put off writing a book any longer. All that counts is that you get your first word on paper, and then a word after that.
Before you know it, you’ll have a completed first draft. Think about how amazing you’ll feel? Don’t put it off another day. Write your book today. This is the year for you to finally become an author.
Are you FINALLY ready to take action?
The only difference between an author and anyone else is the fact that they wrote the book. They started.
1000 words single-spaced is about 1 page in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or equivalent software. 1000 words in a book is about 3 pages.
One thing to keep in mind with how many pages is 1000 words is that it depends on the text, its size, and the spacing you’re using.
For example, if you write 1000 words on a page in Google Docs, but maintain double spacing, that would be about two pages. However, if your text is smaller than 12 and you use a different spacing variation, it may only be one to one and a half pages.
Here’s how you can make 1000 words be more than two pages:
Increase the font size by .5 or 1 point
Increase the line spacing
Change the size of all the punctuation to be larger
Ultimately, you can expect there to be roughly 300 words per page in a book you write as a whole. Because dialogue requires paragraph breaks, there will be fewer words than if you have a few pages of full paragraphs instead of dialogue.
On average, there are about 300 words per page in a book. This number can vary depending on if you’re writing dialogue or how short each paragraph is.
How to Find How Many Words are in Your Novel So Far
Knowing where to look to locate your word count will help you determine how long your book is actually going to be once it’s finished and you publish it (which you’ll learn to do in the next step).
Finding your book’s word count depends on which writing software you’re using to write it.
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Keep in mind that this is not a perfect way to calculate the number of pages your book will be. However, this rough estimation can help you understand the approximate length of your book.
How many words in a novel?
How many words in a novel vary depending on genre, audience, and the story itself but in general, the average words in a novel is between 60,000 and 90,000 words for most genres.
The amount of words in your novel does matter. Depending on your genre, having too many or too little can not only hurt your book sales, but also cause fewer 5-star reviews (which also hurts your sales).
This is how many words to have in a novel for each genre.
#1 – How many words in a memoir?
On average, when writing a memoir should not exceed 90,000 words and that is a stretch when it comes to memoir word count.
We recommend memoirs be between 45,000 to 80,000 words in order to maintain intrigue and reduce intimidation. This means your memoir will average between 150 and 265 pages.
When readers see that a memoir exceeds 300 pages, it sets up a red flag in their mind. Even if they’re interested in the memoir, a very lengthy memoir is often indicative of something reminiscent of an autobiography (which is basically a timeline of life events) versus a personal life telling with a theme or message.
Exceptions for memoir word count:
You’re famous or well-known. Anyone who already has an audience can get away with a longer memoir simply because people have already shown interest in your life. They’re more likely to want more rather than less.
Your memoir contains multiple lessons or messages. If your memoir is in several parts or you have a few messages to get across, you can write a longer memoir. Keep in mind, however, that it may be more beneficial to write two memoirs instead of one massive one.
It’s your first draft word count only. It’s okay if your first draft is over 90,000 words. Oftentimes, professional editing will cut down the unnecessary information so your memoir is the appropriate word count.
Average book length for a memoir: 45,000 – 80,000
#2 – How many words in a self-help book?
Any self-help or motivational nonfiction book should be between 30,000 and 70,000 words
This means your book will be between 100 and 230 pages in total.
Those looking for help through a book in this genre don’t want a massive novel to go through just to read what they need. For that reason, if you have a motivational or self-help book idea, keep it at a lower word count will actually help you more.
For example, our own Student Success Strategist, Lisa Zelenak, wrote this book called Find Your Thing. It’s a self-help book detailing how to escape monotony in your early 20s and do work that actually matters.
Find Your Thing is about 30,000 words and, with formatting, 178 pages long.
The reason this book does well is because it is not a super lengthly novel. With a self-help book, your audience wants to learn something and they want to learn it sooner rather than later.
Average self-help book length: 30,000 – 70,000 words
#3 – How many words in a fantasy novel?
The average fantasy novel should have between 50,000 and 150,000 words. However, the true word count depends on the category in which you’re writing.
If you’re writing a young adult fantasy novel, you should keep your word count below 90,000 words or 300 book pages.
This is due to the audience you’re reaching preferring that length.
If you’re writing an adult fantasy novel or an epic fantasy novel (like Game of Thrones), your word count can skew higher at 90,000 – 200,000 words.
Not all fantasy novels are epic fantasy novels. Epic fantasy is a sub-genre beneath fantasy and encompasses very long journey-specific plots. Authors who write in this style are George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and the late J.R.R. Tolkien.
Average book length for fantasy novels: 50,000 – 150,000 words
#4 – How many words in a science fiction book?
Science fiction books typically have between 50,000 and 150,000 words, like fantasy novels. This puts them at between 170 – 500 pages.
This specific genre has a lot of flexibility with word and page count due to the variety of plot types and story arcs.
Here are some popular sci-fi novels and their word counts:
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – 50,895 words
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – 100,609 words
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 46,118 words
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – 69,000 words
The Stand by Stephen King – 500,000 words
The Martian by Andy Weir – 104,588 words
As you can see, word count for science fiction books vary widely. However, we do not suggest writing a novel of 500,000 words unless you as established as Stephen King is.
Average science fiction book length: 50,000 – 150,000 words
#5 – How many words in a romance novel?
Romance novels often run between 50,000 and 90,000 words on average.
Romance is a unique genre because the plot is all about two characters and their adventure with one another. For that reason, writing a long, lengthy book just about their romance can become a problem for the readers.
This is why romance books tend to be below 90,000 words.
The more you write, the more you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention and motivation to keep reading.
A popular romance novel that’s a great example of keeping your story shorter rather than longer is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.
This book only has 52,000 words and has become one of the most recognizable romances of our time.
Average romance book length: 50,000 – 90,000 words
#6 – How many words in a mystery novel?
Mystery novels do best if they’re written between 40,000 and 80,000 words.
Writing more than 80,000 words can become difficult, as you have to ensure your readers don’t know the answer behind the mystery.
As with anything, the more you say, the easier it is to decipher the clues underneath, which is what you don’t want when it comes to a mystery novel.
Average mystery book length: 40,000 – 80,000 words
#7 – How many words in a horror novel?
Horror is much like mystery in the sense that you don’t want to drag these novels on too long. Therefore, we advise writers to stick between 40,000 to 80,000 words for horror novels.
As an example, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is 42,211 words long.
Average horror book length: 40,000 – 80,000 words
#8 – How many words in a dystopian novel?
Typical dystopian novels run between 60,000 and 120,000 words, though this genre has the flexibility to be longer.
Because dystopian is often a sub-genre, meaning it usually has a broader genre within it like fantasy or sci-fi, there’s room to expand and grow these types of novels.
Here are some popular dystopian novel word counts:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 90,240
Red Rising by Pierce Brown – 124,749 words
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau – 59,937
As you can see, this genre’s word count bounces all over the place. Just keep your intended audience in mind (young adult, middle-grade), in order to know how many worse to write.
Average dytopian book length: 60,000 – 120,000 words
#9 – How many words in a contemporary book?
In a typical contemporary book, you will have between 60,000 and 90,000 words.
One popular example of a contemporary novel is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which stands at 60,965 words in total.
Contemporary novels typically don’t exceed 90,000 words particularly because they’re focused around modern problems versus anything other wordly. This means if you write too long of a book, you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention.
Average contemporary book length: 60,000 – 90,000 words
#10 – How many words in a young adult novel?
Young adult books range between 60,000 and 90,000 words. Unless you’re writing a young adult epic fantasy, which can go up to 150,000 words.
Young adult is a category more than a genre, but it’s important to keep this in mind when writing a book in any genre.
Your audience matters because different age ranges prefer different lengths of books. An older audience, like new adult or adult, is far more likely to consumer a book that’s over 100,000 words, whereas a younger audience like young adult only has the attention span for less than 90,000 words.
#11 – How many words in a middle-grade book?
Middle-grade books are best if kept between 20,000 and 55,000 words in order to maintain the attention of readers this age.
Anything longer can be difficult for a younger audience to consume and retain all of the information. Therefore, cap your first draft off at 65,000 words with the intent to cut out what you don’t need when you ship it off to your editor.
Keep in mind that these word counts are guidelines. One thing we teach here at Self-Publishing School is that you must first know the rules before you can confidently break them.
Creative writing is one of those skills you can eternally get better at, but often suck at when you start…
I’ve been there. I’ve so been there.
Now, we’re not saying your creative writing is bad necessarily, but just that if you want to continue to push yourself in this industry, you’ll need some work since literature is more competitive now than it ever has been.
Creative writing is a form of writing where creativity is at the forefront of its purpose through using imagination, creativity, and innovation in order to tell a story through strong written visuals with an emotional impact, like in poetry writing, short story writing, novel writing, and more.
It’s often seen as the opposite of journalistic or academic writing.
When it comes to writing, there are many different types. As you already know, all writing does not read in the same way.
Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader’s mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.
What are the Elements of Creative Writing?
In order to get better at creative writing, you have to understand the elements of what makes writing a book great.
You can’t build a car engine without understanding how each part plays a role, right…?
Here are the elements that make up creative writing and why each is just as important as the other.
What differentiates creative writing and other forms of writing the most is the fact that the former always has a plot of some sort – and a unique one.
Yes, remakes are also considered creative writing, however, most creative writers create their own plot formed by their own unique ideas. Without having a plot, there’s no story.
And without a story, you’re really just writing facts on paper, much like a journalist.
Characters are necessary for creative writing. While you can certainly write a book creatively using the second person point of view (which I’ll cover below), you still have to develop the character in order to tell the story.
Character development can be defined as the uncovering of who a character is and how they change throughout the duration of your story. From start to end, readers should be able to understand your main characters deeply.
Almost every story out there has an underlying theme or message – even if the author didn’t necessarily intend for it to. But creative writing needs that theme or message in order to be complete.
That’s part of the beauty of this form of art. By telling a story, you can also teach lessons.
When you’re reading a newspaper, you don’t often read paragraphs of descriptions depicting the surrounding areas of where the events took place. Visual descriptions are largely saved for creative writing.
You need them in order to help the reader understand what the surroundings of the characters look like.
There are a few points of views you can write in. That being said, the two that are most common in creative writing are first person and third person.
First Person – In this point of view, the narrator is actually the main character. This means that you will read passages including, “I” and understand that it is the main character narrating the story.
Second Person – Most often, this point of view isn’t used in creative writing, but rather instructional writing – like this blog post. When you see the word “you” and the narrator is speaking directly to you, it’s second person point of view.
Third Person –Within this point of view are a few different variations. You have third person limited, third person multiple, and third person omniscient. The first is what you typically find.
Third person limited’s narrator uses “he/she/they” when speaking about the character you’re following. They know that character’s inner thoughts and feelings but nobody else’s. It’s much like first person, but instead of the character telling the story, a narrator takes their place.
Third person multiple is the same as limited except that the narrator now knows the inner thoughts and feelings of several characters.
The last, third person omniscient, is when the narrator still uses “he/she/they” but has all of the knowledge. They know everything about everyone.
While non-creative writing can have dialogue (like in interviews), that dialogue is not used in the same way as it is in creative writing. Creative writing (aside from silent films) requires dialogue to support the story.
Your characters should interact with one another in order to further the plot and development each other more.
Part of what makes creative writing creative is the way you choose to craft the vision in your mind.
And that means creative writing uses more anecdotes, metaphors, similes, figures of speech, and other comparisons in order to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
All writing can have emotional appeal. However, it’s the entire goal of creative writing. Your job as a writer is to make people feel how you want them to by telling them a story.
Creative Writing Examples
Since creative writing covers such a wide variety of writing, we wanted to break down the different types of creative writing out there to help you make sense of it. Y
9 Creative Writing Exercises to Improve Your Writing
Writing is just like any other skill. You have to work at it in order to get better.
It’s also much like other skills because the more you do it, the stronger you become in it. That’s why exercising your creative writing skills is so important.
The best authors out there, including Stephen King, recommend writing something every single day. These writing exercises will help you accomplish that and improve your talent immensely.
#1 – Describe your day with creative writing
This is one of my favorite little exercises to keep my writing sharp and in shape.
Just like with missing gym sessions, the less you write, the more of that skill you lose. Hannah Lee Kidder, a very talented author and Youtuber, gave me this writing exercise and I have used it many times.
Creative Writing Exercise:
All you have to do is sit down and describe your day – starting with waking up – as if you were writing it about another person. Use your creative writing skills to bring life to even the dullest moments, like showering or brushing your teeth.
#2 – Description Depiction
If you’re someone who struggles with writing descriptions or you just want to get better in general, this exercise will help you do just that – and quickly.
In order to improve your descriptions, you have to write them with a specific intention.
With this exercise, the goal is to write your description with the goal of showing the reader as much as you can about your character without ever mentioning them at all.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.
Pick 5 key qualities about them you want to highlight within your description. Then, without ever mentioning the character at all, describe either their living room or their bedroom to meet that goal.
#3 – Edit your old writing
Believe it or not, editing does count as writing and can actually sharpen those creative writing skill more than you think.
It can be a little scary to pull up a story you wrote last week or even two years ago and tear it apart. But that’s exactly what I want you to do.
Check out this video of me editing my old writing in order to replace weak verbs with stronger, better ones to get a taste of what this can look like and how it can help you get better.
#4 – Voice Variations
One of my favorite parts of writing is giving unique voices to each character. I believe that’s what truly brings them to live.
Their dialogue as the power to pull readers in, or push them out of the book completely.
Obviously, you want the former.
During this creative writing exercise, your focus will be to pick 4 different emotional states and write dialogue and narrative of how your character feels and interprets those feelings.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this one, craft a character in your mind. It can be one you already created or a completely new one.
Choose your 4 emotional states – and get creative. You can choose sadness, anger, happiness, and excitement BUT you can also go a bit further and choose to use drunk, flirty, terrified, and eager.
After you have 4 emotional states, write one page of each using dialogue and narrative your character would use.
#5 – Single Senses
Creating strong visuals is one of the most powerful ways to become a great creative writer. In fact, practicing this will help you craft books that really hook readers.
This exercise’s goal is to help you develop writing the senses in ways that not only make sense, but are also imaginative and unique.
#6 – Dialogue Destruction
During this exercise, you will learn a lot about how to shape a scene using entirely dialogue.
Now, this isn’t something you’ll always do in your writing, but it’s very important to know how to move a scene forward using dialogue if you need to.
To start, choose a scene you wrote previously that has little to no dialogue, but is still very important.
Next, rewrite the entire thing using dialogue (including dialogue tags and body language descriptions). You will quickly become better at using dialogue to show and not tell.
#7 – Tell the origin story of the Tooth Fairy
This writing exercise will really help you think creatively about something a large part of the world knows about.
However, you have to think of a very unique, interesting way of presenting this common idea. The purpose of this is to help you dig deeper within your own story and plot in order to come up with the very best, most unique ideas – because that is what will stand out in your book.
Creative Writing Exercise:
Begin this story like you would any other. Develop who the very first Tooth Fairy is and understand their character. Then, start creating a backstory that coincides with how they ended up becoming the tooth fairy.
Write this in full, ending with the Tooth Fairy taking their first tooth.
#8 – Thematic Attic
This is a fun one! The idea behind this creative writing exercise is to focus on interpreting themes through story.
Since all creative writing has an underlying theme behind it, it’s really important for you to be able to accurately depict that theme throughout the story you’re telling.
Otherwise, it can get lost. Not knowing the theme can often leave readers feeling unsatisfied – and rightfully so.
Creative Writing Exercise:
For this exercise, pick an overarching theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from equality to the difference between right and wrong.
Next, craft a short story with the setting being and do your best to make sure that theme shines through
Get creative! Your attic can even contain a portal to another dimension if you really want it to.
#9 – Break Language Barriers
This isn’t quite what you think it is. So no, we will not be creating new languages with this exercise.
Instead, we’ll be working on using unique language to describe very common, everyday occurrences and experiences.
One of the beauties of creative writing is that you have the power to change the way someone sees the world. You can make it more appealing and special to them – if you know how.
This exercise will help you develop the skill of using a unique narrative within your story.
Creative Writing Exercise:
In this creative writing exercise, you’ll start by reading. You can read a new book or even some of your old writing.
Highlight or copy sentences or paragraphs you think are very common experiences that most everyone in the world knows of. For example: the sunset, brushing your teeth, looking up at the sky.
Your job is to rewrite these experiences in the most unique way you can using visuals that you don’t normally see in writing.<
Here’s an example:
BEFORE – The sun set beyond the trees.
AFTER – The trees tucked the sun in for the night.
Character – The characters are essential. It’s extremely difficult to tell a story without them, as character development is one of the best parts in narrative writing. Think of your characters as the driving force of the narrative.
Conflict – This part of narrative writing is where the tension comes from. Conflict of any form, whether it’s between characters, between elements in your setting, or even in your plot, is essential for not only a good book, but for narrative writing.
Plot – This is the main point of your story. Where is it all going and what’s happening while we get there? This can often include any conflict, but is usually a bigger “main” portion of your story, and therefore the narrative.
Setting – The setting of a story is really what determines its genre as well as its learning curve. The learning curve refers to how much readers need to learn about the world, aka, how different it is from our own. The setting adds to this extensively because if your book is in a new world, more worldbuilding is necessary, which means it will bleed heavily into your narrative.
Theme – These are embedded into your story even if you’re not trying to. Narrative writing tells a story and with any stories, lessons are learned and these become the themes of your story. Whether you mean to or not, your own thoughts about the world and important values bleed into your work within the narrative writing.
Narrative Writing Arc – This is the story structure the narrative takes. This includes things like the inciting incident, key milestones like the first slap and second slap, the climax, the resolution, and even nuances like the character arc.
15 Original Narrative Writing Prompts
If you’re ready to get started on narrative writing, even before we’ve covered the important tips below, check out these writing prompts to inspire you.
Narrative Prompts #1 – Fantasy
Set in its own world, write a story about a single plant, kept alive in a temple for thousands and thousands of years. Until one day, the guard on duty noticed it has dried and shriveled completely, cutting off the society’s magic.
Write a story about a woman who works the night shift at a local convenience store finding herself in the midst of what seems to be an otherworldly magic battle…in her shop.
Create your own world and write a story about a modern civilization as if magic is and has always been the norm…until someone from the outside is discovered to be marveling at its wonders, as if they’ve never seen it before.
Narrative Prompts #2 – Science Fiction
Write a story focusing on a street sweep who works in the Dark, the place at the Earth’s surface where smog and pollution has taken over. Except when cleaning a particular street corner, they uncover an underground civilization who have perfected the technology to filter the air, leaving them with the purest in the world.
Write a story about a doctor who was just replaced by a machine to diagnose, treat, and even operate on patients.
In a futuristic society, the right to privacy has been abolished in order to keep people safe after a worldwide terrorist attack. Your main character, an engineer, has discovered how to override the “foolproof” surveillance system…what they find in the database changes everything.
Narrative Prompts #3 – Romance
Your main character is a strawberry picker who has a run-in with the love interest, who is hiding in the fields, eating and picking strawberries as a means of survival because they’re on the run…and homeless.
Write a story about two people who have been friends since childhood, though their families have promised them marriage to others despite them being in love.
Write a story focusing on a semi-truck driver trying to outrun a jaded past as they meet someone who works in law enforcement while at a diner.
Narrative Prompts #4 – Dystopian
More than a thousand years have passed since it happened—since one man disobeyed government orders to destroy his research into a nanobot technology after he discovered how to make them think.
Write a story about an old man whose grandfather, when he was young, made the choice to unleash the secrets of cancer research—and its cure—to the world. Now population control has become an even bigger issue.
Climate change is inevitable. Write a story about what happens when a small hole tears in the Earth’s atmosphere due to climate change, and what society must look like in order to heal it.
Narrative Prompts #5 – Mystery
Your character receives a call that seems ordinary, from their doctor, about a recent test they took. When your character goes in for the appointment to discuss, their regular doctor is gone—missing…only to turn up dead days later.
Eight astronauts went to space. Only seven returned. And none of them have any memory of an eighth person having ever been with them at all.
All people in comas have been disappearing from hospitals all over the country for the past three months, with no leads. Your character is the sister of one of the missing coma patients.
How to Master the Use of Narrative Writing
By learning a few tips about how to write narrative really well, you’ll be well on your way from novice to expert.
#1 – Learn from the experienced
Most often, the best advice comes from those who are and have been in the thick of the thing you want to learn about.
They’ve got inside knowledge for the how-tos that are often far more effective that those simply teaching those methods.
Here are our favorite resources for learning about narrative writing:
You learn storytelling by reading or listening to stories. That’s how everyone learns how to tell a story.
While some are better than others by nature, reading more and more can open your eyes to new techniques and methods within the narrative writing.
Reading at least a book a month can help you improve your writing by simply immersing yourself in the words of someone else.
While some people might worry that their own writing will mimic the book they’re reading, this fear is often unfounded. Your natural voice will always be at the forefront unless you’re intentionally trying to sound like someone else.
Which we don’t recommend.
#3 – Practice regularly
Narrative writing is a skill that gets better the more you practice, much like most other skillsets.
As you write and craft stories with protagonists, great conflict, interesting setting, and more, you’ll learn how to make each of those elements better.
Recognizing where your strengths and weaknesses are will help you know what to focus on and improve…but that can only be done through experience, aka, practice.
It’s very hard to be objective with your own work. We can’t often take a step back and recognize what we’re doing wrong and therefore, we can become stunted in our growth as writers.
Feedback is the key to fixing this.
Other people see what you don’t. We all notice different things and this remains true for writing in particular.
Getting someone to offer feedback on your narrative writing is one of the best ways to improve and fix your weaknesses, becoming an overall better writer.
Here’s what some of your feedback can look like:
#5 – Watch movies and TV shows
Yes! We’re officially giving you permission to watch TV instead of work on writing, but for a very specific reason.
When you listen to writing advice, whether it’s from a friend or teacher or published author, you might hear them reference movies as examples.
The reason for this is because while some movies are adapted from books, all movies can teach you about storytelling and the structure of a good story overall.
And while movies are best for an overall view of storytelling for a book, TV shows are much better at teaching you how to write a good chapter, since each episode serves as a chapter of that story, the entire season as the equivalent of a novel.
Here are some questions to ask after you watch a movie or TV show:
How did it start?
What was different and intriguing about how events unfolded?
Was there a twist? What foreshadowing did they use to make the twist surprising, but inevitable?
What were the three biggest moments in the story?
Did the ending connect to the beginning?
#6 – Invoke all three main elements in each sentence
These are character, plot/conflict, and setting.
Brandon Sanderson talks a ton about these three main elements of narrative writing in his lectures on Youtube.
The idea behind this is that these three main components make up the entirety of a story. When you can really dig deep into these three, you’ll become a better and better writer.
And not only that, but if you learn how to master invoking all three of these elements into each sentence, you’ve mastered the art of writing.
Now, this is very difficult. Not all authors do this. In fact, very, very few can do this and it’s not something you can do in every sentence.
However, when you’re thinking of writing each line with the goal of showing your readers more about the character, the world/setting, and the conflict all in one, you will be an incredible writer overall.
Here’s an example of what this means:
Not good: The woman wandered outside without any gear.
Better and invoking 3 elements: The woman was crazy enough to step outside, not a single scrap of gear on her body, flesh exposed in several places.
Why this is better: In the first example, we don’t really learn anything. All we see is a woman going outside without any gear. Now, yes, in this first example we get the feeling that having gear on is probably important, but we don’t see how much. In the second example, however, we get a sense of all three elements. First, we know that the character thinks such an act is crazy. Secondly, we learn that the setting must be dangerous and harsh enough to need gear (or be deemed crazy if you don’t have it). And lastly, this potentially adds to the plot or conflict by showing us that the outdoors is dangerous, or a place one can’t simply walk out to with skin exposed.
The parts of a story consist of five main elements: characters, setting, plot, and conflict along with theme. The parts of a story are both technical and elemental in nature, but these are what make up the necessary parts of a story that readers yearn for.
You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.
These are your story’s main course, but what’s a meal without side dishes?
We’re also going to cover conflict, resolution, themes, morals, symbolism, point of view, and perspective: what they are, how to use them, and how all of these literary elements work together to make a complete and filling dinner–I mean story…I’m hungry.
Parts of a Story Plot: Characters, Setting, Plot, & Other Story Elements
Once you’ve got a solid story idea, the real work begins.
Here are the 10 essential parts of a story every writer needs to get it right. Without these, your story (whether you’re writing a short story or a full novel) will fall flat.
#1 – Characters
Your audience should feel different levels of closeness to your different characters, depending on if they’re main, secondary, or background character.
What do your characters want? Their desire can be simple or complex, tangible or concept–maybe they want a job, a house, approval, a child, contentment. If your character doesn’t want something, they won’t be compelled to act.
Download this character sheet to dive deep into understanding your character’s motives better:
Download your FREE character development worksheet!
If your character isn’t acting, they’re passive or they’re just a plot device. You want to avoid both, and this is usually accomplished through strong character development.
#2 – Setting
The setting is when and where your story takes place.
Aside from the physical location and position in time, your setting can include:
Take the time to consider these aspects to build a complex world for your characters to interact with.
Particularly in fantasy and sci-fi worlds, a lot of planning goes into establishing a convincing and engaging story setting that can either add to your plot or take away from it.
#3 – Plot
Your plot is the actual story–what happens, when, how, why, and what’s the result?
There are a lot of different ways to structure your plot, but in general, a plot arc has five main points:
Set-up/exposition – The beginning part of your story where you establish the world, the characters, the tone, and your writing style
Rising action – The rising action is usually prompted by your inciting incident. Here, you escalate tension and problems, explore your characters. This is the biggest chunk of your book.
Climax – This is the sort of “moment of truth.” The culmination of everything–the highest point of tension. The point the plot has been leading up to.
Falling action – What goes up, must come down. This is where you resolve any subplots and side stories.
Resolution – Wrap up.
Here’s a quick visual representation with explanations below:
Here’s what happened in the plot of this video:
Set-up: Supporting cast prepping to roll our main character down a hill in a tire. We can tell from the vibe and energy that this is just some classic lad antics.
Rising action: The tension builds as our MC gains momentum, and we can’t tell what’s going to happen.
Climax: Our MC is speeding down the hill at this point, when he nearly collides with a moving vehicle! Then he disappears into the water! Is he okay? Tension is at its highest.
Falling action: Our hero is safe! The vehicle and driver are fine.
Resolution: His stoned pals cheer him on. All is well.
Your conflict should rise throughout (peaking at the climax).
During the editing process, a good practice is to look at each scene and ask if there is conflict within it.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself (or your beta readers):
Does the scene add to the overall plot?
Does the scene advance internal or inter-character relationships?
Does the scene add to a subplot?
Does the scene answer or bring about any plot-crucial questions?
The conflict could lend to the overall plot, a subplot, conflict between characters, or even a smaller conflict that is resolved within that scene. For a story to be interesting, there needs to be conflict.
Scenes that don’t add to that are fluff.
#5 – Resolution
I want to talk a little more about resolution, since it’s so important. How you end your story is what will sit with readers the longest.
What’s the culmination of all we went through during the story?
What did the characters learn that led them to the decisions they ultimately made? By the end of your story, all of your conflicts should have a resolution.
In some cases, conflicts are intentionally left a bit open-ended without a solid resolution, but this should be done intentionally and there should be somesort of resolution, even if it’s an unsatisfying ending with a little remaining mystery.
Further boiling a story down will reveal elements like themes, morals, and symbolism.
#6 – Themes
A theme is your story’s main takeaway. Your story can have one theme, or several.
Some examples of themes include:
Coming of age–what struggles come with it, what’s good about it
Forgiveness–trying to achieve it, avoiding it, accepting it
Death–overcoming it, processing it, fearing it
Love–overcoming it, processing it, fearing it (lol)
Good versus bad
The list is literally endless.
The theme of your story helps to focus the narrative and answers the question: What’s the point?
What have your characters learned? How are they changed, and what will they affect now that they are different?
#7 – Morals
The moral of your story is related to theme–what message do you want your story to convey?
If the theme is what the character learned, you can think of the moral as what the reader learned.
Let’s take a coming of age narrative–what are possible morals in that type of story?
Don’t grow up too fast
Follow your dreams
Listen to the wisdom of others
Accept yourself as you are
Appreciate where you are and what’s happening now
Consider what morals you want to convey, but avoid directly stating them when writing your book. This is part of the experience of reading your story…and that’s for the readers.
A symbol can be anything from an object, a character archetype, an animal, an occurrence in nature. A window, an estranged father, a lion, a storm, a desk, a fire.
Symbols have meaning connected to them.
Here are some examples of symbolism in stories:
A window might signify freedom, longing, hope.
A lion might be bravery.
A storm might be impending doom or threat.
A desk could indicate creativity, work, neglect.
It all depends on the context of the story and the connotations you assign to your symbols.
Themes, morals, and symbolism are fun writing tools and parts of a story to work with, but be cautious of relying on them. They’re icing and sprinkles–not the cupcake.
#9 – Point of view
The point of view of your story is simply who is telling the story. The most common in fiction are first-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient.
First-person is the main character telling the story. It uses the pronouns I, me, myself.
A strength of using first-person is that your reader will connect with your character very easily–the reader essentially becomes the character. If done well, this is a very intimate reading experience.
A weakness of first-person is that your storytelling is limited to that perspective. It’s difficult to tell an entire story with a single, first-person narrator. It can be done, but it takes more effort than it might with a different point of view.
Here’s a first-person point of view example from my collection of short stories, Little Birds.
Third-person limited POV :
Third-person is an outside narrator telling the story. It uses the pronouns he, she, they.
Even though it’s an outsider narrator, third limited keeps us in the point of view of our character(s)–the reader only knows what the character knows.
A strength of third-person point of view is the versatility. It’s much easier to have multiple point of view characters with third-person, as opposed to first. You can also flow between third limited and third omniscient in a novel.
The weakness is you don’t get the closeness to the character you have in first-person, though this can still be created through strong character development and using the rule of show, don’t tell.
When you think of the phrase “imposter syndrome,” what comes to mind?
A shadowy figure dressed in mustache and sunglasses? A copy cat watching your every move?
Though imposter syndrome isn’t that insidious, it can still wreak havoc on your work.
Fortunately, by following the tips outlined in this post, you’ll be able to identify your imposter syndrome and kick it to the curb!
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome for writers is when you compare yourself to other writers to the extent that you question your own ability in writing. Imposter syndrome can apply to any creative field, but is prevalent for writers.
On the most basic level, imposter syndrome results in doubting your work. At a severe level, it results in a refusal to engage creatively.
What do I mean by “a refusal to engage creatively”?
Fearful of being inadequate, you don’t reach for your pen to jot down that amazing story idea. Distracted by other writers, you leave your page blank. Though you have great concepts, you don’t show them to anyone because you’re afraid you’re not good enough.
But you can overcome this self-doubt. Why? Because you are good enough.
Do I Have Imposter Syndrome?
Bookstores are usually a writer’s paradise. Home to a wonderful collection of different authors and book genres, it’s usually any writer’s dream to display their own work on the shelves.
But to someone with imposter syndrome, this place is a hotbed for competition. If you have imposter syndrome, you might feel the urge to instantly compare yourself to every book you come across. You might start thinking thoughts like: Their idea is so cool! Why can’t I come up with that? There are already so many successful authors…I can’t hope to be one.
Imposter syndrome might affect your writing itself.
Writing workshops are great opportunities to gather feedback and make your work stronger. But someone with imposter syndrome might freeze up when it comes time to share their work.
If you have imposter syndrome, you might start picking your piece apart, embarrassed to utter a single sentence.
Good news! With our writing tips, you’ll gain confidence in your writing ability.
How Can Imposter Syndrome Impact My Work?
When someone has imposter syndrome, it’s not just the author who suffers…it’s their work. Imposter syndrome can snuff out someone’s will to write, that key energy that pushes anyone to even start typing in the first place.
Imposter syndrome is a state of mind.
You’ll start questioning everything you put to paper; you’ll question the good reviews you get on your work and instead focus on the bad.
That sort of mindset tramples the creative process.
But you can quiet self-doubt and endless comparisons today.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
If you have imposter syndrome, you’re not without luck.
Here are just a few of many tips and strategies you can employ to hop back on that writing saddle.
#1 – Force yourself to write
This might be the greatest hurdle to overcome. But the first step in overcoming any writing issue is by taking to the page.
Start simple—you don’t have to write a memoir of 200 pages just yet. If you can’t think of any imaginative ideas or writing prompts, write about something that relates to you, like your morning commute.
If pressure forces you to write, add a timer. Hop onto Google and search for a stopwatch, or go the old-fashioned route and grab your own. Scribble down a few basic themes or ideas, set that timer for five minutes, and start writing!
This tip is professor-proofed.
I was first exposed to this tip in one of my college classes last semester. Engaging in it truly helped me shed my imposter syndrome.
Taking to the whiteboard, the teacher wrote a handful of basic words. Robot. July. Clouds. Balloon. It seemed silly, but this exercise helped the entire class.
Instead of being scared to read their work aloud, everyone was eager to share what they wrote. To my shock, I was too!
The goal isn’t to use every single theme you wrote down. If you do, that’s terrific! The main goal of this challenge is putting yourself back into a writing mindset.
Challenging yourself through creative writing is just one of many ways to diminish your imposter syndrome.
Up for taking this challenge with others? Make it a party and grab some friends. Instead of focusing on who wrote the “best” story, though, try celebrating the simple fact that you’re all making something creative.
The more you spend thinking of ideas and diving back into your writing, the less you’ll think of other people’s opinions.
#2 – Create balance in your life
A stressed mind creates stressful scenarios. Look for what is lacking in your schedule—or what’s eating it up. Are you getting an adequate amount of sleep each night? Is your work environment clashing with your mental health? If you’re tense, try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
Here’s a great table on creating your writing environment:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
If schedules rule your day, pencil in some time to write. Follow rule #1 and take advantage of gaps in your day. Scribble some sentences while you’re munching during your lunch break, or make a habit of journaling before bed.
Not only will this help you make long-term progress, but it’ll also help you fall into a writing routine.
Visit this post on how you can create your perfect writing space.
However, you normally gather your ideas, make sure you’re actually jotting them down. Nothing hurts more than thinking of your next great story idea and forgetting it because you didn’t have it on paper.
The easier you make it for you to find your character bios or world maps, the less stress you’ll be putting on yourself when it comes time to write.
The more you declutter your mind, the more room you’ll have to start focusing on your work.
#3 – Create balance in your feedback
It’s no secret that if you want to grow as a writer, you have to accept feedback. For someone with imposter syndrome, though, accepting negative feedback is especially difficult. The solution?
Realize that feedback is supposed to enhance your work. Instead of attaching yourself to the feedback, remain subjective.
The joy of being an author and sharing our work with the world is that we come across various viewpoints. Some might agree with us, and others might not. And that’s okay! You can decide when and how you want to respond to reviews.
For starters, this type of feedback is rude. More importantly, feedback like this doesn’t offer any suggestions or justifications. You can toss “feedback” of this sort out the window. Instead, look for feedback partners who will lift you up.
An example of proper feedback:
“I really liked the tone of this piece. It was consistent and locked me in. Yet, I’m not sure if your main character’s actions are justifiable. I didn’t see any character development in this chapter and I think adding that would help.”
Positive, constructive feedback creates balance.
As an author, positive feedback lets you know what you did well and what you need to improve on. Creating this balanced feedback opens up an honest and respectful dialogue between writing partners.
Cultivating these conversations helps eliminate imposter syndrome.
#4 – Interview other writers
No one is immune to self-doubt. But one way to start squashing that feeling is by interviewing authors.
Here are a few sample questions you might ask:
Have you ever faced imposter syndrome?
Are you still battling imposter syndrome?
What tips have you used to overcome your imposter syndrome?
What are your favorite writing exercises?
What are your favorite inspirational quotes?
What book serves as your inspiration?
What is the best feedback you have ever received?
What is the worst feedback you have ever received?
How do you overcome negative feedback?
What might you say to your younger writing self?
What is your biggest writing achievement?
What are your writing goals?
If they are not finished with the journey of overcoming imposter syndrome, you can help each other. Try tip number one and get lost in the sample writing activity together—or create your own!
By engaging with other writers, you’ll start realizing that most of them have the same concerns you do. You’ll realize that writing is a personal—and community-filled—journey. While we might feel excluded in our writing dens, bent over the keys, nothing is more welcoming than knowing we’re not alone.
#5 – Realize every story and writer is different
Your western murder mystery is probably very different than someone else’s comedy road trip novella.
It makes sense that comparing those two ideas is rather difficult. Even at the surface, it’s rather hard to come up with like-minded ideas. Gunslingers and modern-day travel sagas don’t exactly share too many similarities.
But, what if you did? Finding common ground in another work shouldn’t spell the end to your writing career.
Let Stanley Kubrick’s words be of inspiration to you:
“Everything has already been done. Every story has been told…it’s our job to do it one better.”
Take it upon yourself to add your creative twist to your work.
When those comparison-laden thoughts surface, realize that every writer brings something different to the keyboard.
#6 – Everyone starts somewhere
If you’re anything like me, you didn’t pick up writing skillsets overnight. Instead, it’s been a long journey from the day you first started scribbling on paper to where you are at now.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to…yourself. Think about how long you’ve been writing. If you’ve been writing since elementary school, it’s likely your younger self would be in awe about what you’ve written throughout the years.
Picturing that little kid smiling over your skills might be enough motivation to keep going.
Even if you just picked up the creative pen last week, every day is a new experience. Every sentence written is a new notch of knowledge added to your belt. Root for yourself.
Final Tips for Getting Over Imposter Syndrome for Writers