Writing

How to Write a Book: Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 7, 2019 • 5 min read

Writing an entire book can be a daunting task, especially for new writers. It requires hard work, extreme ambition, and intense discipline. Even for successful writers of bestsellers, the hardest part of the writing process can be simply sitting down to write the first page. If you take it one step at a time, though, writing a book is an attainable goal.

Save

Share


David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

Learn More

What to Consider Before Writing a Book

Whether you’re a bestselling author working on your next book or a first time writer whose goal is self-publishing, there are a few essential questions to ask yourself before beginning work on your book idea.

  • Do you have the time and mental energy to commit to writing a whole book? You should be willing and able to stick to a daily writing schedule and sacrifice other pursuits in the process of writing.
  • Are you prepared to develop potentially unfamiliar skills, like self-editing and re writing? Writing a new book will often expose your strengths and weaknesses, and a lot of time will be devoted to refining those skills.
  • Do you have a basic grasp of your main characters, plot, or subject matter? You don’t need to have it all worked out, but it’s helpful to have a reasonable idea of the shape and direction of your book before you the actual writing begins.

How to Write a Book

Once you’ve carved out the time and considered your plot and characters, the actual book writing can begin. Following these step-by-step writing tips will help you write your own book:

1. Establish a consistent writing space.

If you’re going to write a great book, you’re going to need a great space to write. It doesn’t have to be a soundproof room with a stunning view. All you really need is a quiet place free of distractions where you can consistently get good writing done. Whether it’s a home office, your couch, or a coffee shop, the environment where you work should allow you to focus, uninterrupted, for hours at a time.

2. Hone in on your book idea.

Perhaps you already know precisely what your book is about, or maybe you’re trying to decide between a million different big ideas. Maybe all you have is an image for the book cover. Either way, to ask yourself a few simple questions before you start writing. What is my book about? Why is the story interesting or important? What attracted me to this idea in the first place? Who will want to read my book? If you’re still searching for a book idea or struggling with writer’s block, try using writing prompts to get started.

3. Outline your story.

Good writers spend plenty of time outlining before writing books. Outlines can be detailed chapter outlines or simple beat sheets in which each section of the book is plotted out. They can be visual maps that serve as a graphic representation of where your book is headed. Regardless of your method, what’s important is that you have a roadmap for your future writing sessions.

4. Do your research.

Research is an essential tool for professional writers. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you’ll likely want to spend time in libraries and archives, absorbing everything you can about your subject. Research is helpful for fiction writers too, as it can provide helpful context for the time period or character archetypes that you’re writing about. Read books or listen to podcasts that cover subject matter similar to yours.

5. Start writing and stick to a routine.

Research, outlining, and idea development are all critical steps to writing your first book, but there may come a time when preparation becomes procrastination. At a certain point, it’s time to begin writing your rough draft. This requires committing to consistent routines and productive writing habits. There are simple steps you can take to maximize your chance for success. Just because you aren't Stephen King or J.K. Rowling doesn't mean you shouldn't treat writing like your full-time job. Try setting daily word count targets to keep you on track. Schedule writing time and put it in your calendar so that you won’t skip it. Ask a friend or fellow writer to hold you accountable by sending them updates on how much you’ve written that day.

6. Finish your first draft.

As you’re writing your first draft, you’ll encounter self-doubt, lack of motivation, and writers’ block. That’s normal. Whenever you feel stuck, try going back to your outline or research for inspiration. Try to manage your expectations as well. Your first book is likely not going to be a generational masterpiece or New York Times bestselling book, and that’s okay. If you compare yourself to literary greats, you’re doing your work a disservice. All you can do is keep writing until you reach the end.

7. Revise and edit.

Every good book goes through many rounds of revisions. You can endure the editing process yourself or ask a friend or professional editor to help. Either way, you need to have an honest, ruthless eye on your writing so that you can know what needs re-working. Look for sentences that rely on cliché tropes or overly common descriptors. If you’re writing fiction, try to determine where there are character inconsistencies, plot holes, or gaps in logic. Develop a system to keep track of your edits.

8. Write your second draft.

The second draft is your opportunity to apply your revisions and edits. It’s also a chance to consider larger, overarching questions that can only be answered after you already completed your first draft. Does your book have a consistent tone? Is there an overarching theme that can be developed and strengthened? Are there weak parts of the book that can be cut entirely? The second draft is also a chance to address more granular questions. Does the book have a strong opening hook? An impactful conclusion?

9. Publish your book.

Once you’ve finished your final draft, it’s time to publish. With the rise of online marketplaces and e-readers like the Kindle, self-publishing is easier than ever. Alternatively, if you want to go the traditional route, you can submit a book proposal to a publishing house, ideally with the help of a literary agent. Once you’ve successfully published, all that’s left to do is sit back, relax, and start working on your second book.

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
Judy Blume Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
James Patterson Teaches Writing

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Become a better writer with the Masterclass All-Access Pass. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and more.

Save

Share