12 Steps to Writing Your Book

So, you have a book in you? Get it out!

Getting your book idea out of your head and out the door.

What if you are one of those people who knows ‘there’s a book in me?’

Congratulations. Just having a book-sized idea is an achievement. But nothing feels better than getting it down on paper and out the door.

For some, the process of getting a book out the door is short and straightforward. For others, it’s about trudging a tortuous, seemingly endless path. For everyone, it will be a unique experience.

Getting a book finished starts with that big idea that’s been keeping you up at night. It’s complete when you achieve unity – the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

If you would like to talk to me about your book project, please contact me at unityinwriting (at) gmail (dot) com.

  1. A Great Idea

At the heart of every great book is a great idea. “Oh, I get it!”

A great idea is one so strong it threads together every word to turn the whole into vastly more than the sum of the parts.

It’s the compass you need to navigate from start to end.

Once you have your great idea, it’s about developing it. This 12-step list links to 24 more detailed articles that expand upon each of the steps below.

  1. Your next steps depends on you

We are all very different as writers (1) and there are many reasons to write a book (2) so, exactly what happens next is down to you. Just decide how you want your idea to be realized. Is it a memoir? Or a self-help book? Or a thriller you’d love to see turned into a moving? Or a fantasy romance? Depending on the answers, you can start researching what to do next.

In short, get to know what ‘your type of book looks like’, if you don’t know it inside and out already.

  1. If it’s for you, just get writing!

If you are just writing for yourself, family or close friends, you have all the freedom in the world to write as you like. DIY writing (3) is an incredibly rewarding hobby, so just get that book out of you. For example, you might be writing a memoir (4) so that you can share your life experience with your children and grandchildren. If your writing is for personal use only, do it any way you like, just get those words down on paper in a way that suits you.

  1. If your book is intended for public consumption, study up on craft and expectations.

If you want your book to have a wider readership, you can ignore the rules of writing (5) but only at your peril.

Genre works are defined by specific expectations (read that as ‘rules’), but they aren’t there to stifle creativity. Rather, genre expectations help readers link up with stories they crave.  Romance (6), the most popular genre, requires a ‘Happily Ever After’. Certainly, you are free to cross or mix genres or invent your own. Authors of literary fiction, where ‘any great idea goes’, are masters of writing craft.

  1. Start and put in the time -– you need these six things.

Getting started is the key point. Here are six things (7) you’ll need to write a book including a stock of quality time. Think about your big picture (8) at all times as this is the ‘sell’ of your book.

  1. Find your voice

To write a good book you need to find your voice if you haven’t already. You don’t have to find your voice right away, and likely it’ll evolve.  In fact, finding your voice (9) can be a long, tough, battle. Voices are infinitely variable (10), the trick is just that yours must be unique.

  1. Once in sway, think hard about what to put in and what to keep out.

As you turn your great idea into words, you want to make sure only the great stuff goes in while you keep the un-great stuff out – this is the key to great writing (11). This means building a portal for the good to go in and a gate to lock out the rest. In the end, no matter what you include and kick out your reader wants to know it was all on purpose (12).

  1. Your unique selling point is all the optional stuff you add.

Along with the essentials, such as plot and characters, each book is defined by the optional things you put in. Luckily, the sky is the limit on your creativity. You need core items like conflict (13) and the exceptional (14), but no one can dictate how to add them. We know the things readers like – e.g. love – but the details are up to the author.

  1. Work to assess your strengths and weaknesses

Identify your strengths and weaknesses – to leverage the best and banish the worst of your writing habits and outputs.  This means iteration and improvement. Give (15) and get feedback (16), and study writing craft (17) to become your own teacher (18).

  1. Grow your written fluency.

You’ll want to max out your written fluency (19), which includes all aspects of storytelling from your logic to how you convey emotions in words.  Sometimes, just better is enough (20) in this learning journey all the way to the end.

  1. Finish

You’ve succeeded in turning your great idea into a book-sized stream of words. Now for a final polish.  The last stages (21) of completing your book should be as creative as the first. At some point, you just have to decide you are done.  If your message is fully formed, you’ll know when you are done. What matters in the end is that you made your contribution (22).

  1. What you are aiming for at every stage is Unity.

How do you really know you are done and you’ve done the best you could for your great idea? The hallmark of a great book is Unity (23). Unity means it all hangs together. It all makes sense and the sum is far more than the parts. No matter how diverse and complex and seemingly unconnected, all the parts of your book dovetail by the culmination to convey your great idea. One of the best ways to get an intuitive sense of Unity is to build your writing muscles (24) by paying close attention to the way books (and movies) are put together. Can you do it better?

Table of Contents

All 24 of my articles originally appeared on the BookBaby Blog.

(1) We all write differently – what kind of writer are you?

(2) There are a million kinds of writers: which one are you? (changing the world with your writing)

(3) It’s Time to get that Book out of you (DIY Writer)

(4) Four Things To Decide Before You Write Your Memoir

(5) How To Fail As A Writer

(6) Is it a love story or a romance novel?

(7) Six Things You Need To Write A Book

(8) Six Essential Book Descriptions

(9) Finding Your Voice as a Writer

(10) Developing a distinctive voice in Writing (by reading)

(11) The Key To Great Writing

(12) On-purpose Writing

(13) The Yin And Yang Of Great Fiction

(14) One Thing You Absolutely Need In Your Book

(15) How To Be A Good Beta Reader

(16) Getting Good Feedback From Beta Readers

(17) Why You Should Read About Writing

(18) You need to be your own writing teacher

(19) Written Fluency

(20) Sometimes, Just Better is Enough

(21) Eleven Ways To Take A New Look At Your Story

(22) All Great Writers Make a Contribution

(23) Unity in Writing

(24) A Fun Way to Build your Writing Muscles