Six Things You Need To Write A Book

write a book

Don’t underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story and write a book. Boil your project down to its core components to see your project through to the end .

Everyone who wants to should be encouraged to write a book, but you should also be aware of what’s ahead. At the highest level, there are some essential components you will need to get your project started and see it through to the end. A book that flounders will likely find its author lacking in one or more of these crucial areas.


Every book needs a concept. This is the idea at the core of the book. It has to be a topic big and interesting enough to warrant a book-sized treatment. Equally important, it has to be dear enough to you to hold your attention to the end of the project. From concept down to each and every word in your book, the levels of a book hierarchy nest into one other like a set of Russian Dolls. Your concept is the biggest of the dolls and the first one readers see. She needs to be as breathtaking as possible so she lures people to pick her up and look inside.


Every book needs a premise: it is the specific instance of your concept. Premise is the next smallest Russian doll. You might want to write a book about a superhero. This is your concept. The actual superhero you pick, and her specific adventure, is your premise. The classic way to think about concept and premise is to imagine a series. Take Sherlock Holmes, for example. A detective story is the concept. Each case he cracks is a premise.

Attention to detail 

You have a super concept and a brilliant premise, but you still have to fill in a tremendous number of details to complete a book. These are the rest of the Russian dolls: The best, most expensive sets contain numerous dolls down to one unbelievably small one at the very center. To build such a well-crafted set requires a lot of work, including writing out all the words you need to realize the premise. Starting with a great outline (third largest doll), your book hierarchy will eventually descend down through chapters, scenes, paragraphs to the selecting of specific words for every sentence – your tiniest doll. This structure brings to life the characters, back story, setting and plot, all of which should excel. Once done, you have a book.


The first three components I’ve mentioned are conceptual in theory. You could do the first two, concept and premise, in your head, and most people do. Once you get to the third, all but the most gifted need to turn to the written word. This takes time. You’ll have to devote enough time to fill upwards of 200 pages, or 50,000+ words, with riveting content.

Time is the biggest and incompressible aspect of a book project. You just can’t get around needing time to finish it. And where does it come from? You have to make it if you are going to succeed.

Imagine a book to be a painting. Some will start with a rough sketch outline. This is the concept. Them you might fill it in with the broadest shapes and colors. This is the premise. Then you need to fill in all the details until the painting is polished and ready to be seen. Depending on the size and intricacy of the painting, this process can take a lot of time.

Do not underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story. It might take learning new software, editing of multiple drafts in an iterative fashion, and the physical time it takes getting your words into digital format. Many famous authors, like James Patterson, only write on paper. Paper drafts can be typed up, and luckily now it is possible to save more time by using voice to text software and expert transcription.

A catapult

Any book that you finish is a grand personal achievement in itself, but if your goal is publication, the next thing you need to do is get it out the door. A book languishing on your night table will be of use to no one except you. You need a catapult of some sort to fling it off your desk and into the wider world where it can be seen and read independent of you. This catapult, also known as a publisher, can be of the traditional type or it can now be you. Self-publishing is an increasingly viable path, and there are many ways of achieving success as a DIY author. No matter what path you chose, you have to embrace it to get to the final finish line.


One final element necessary to the creation of any published book is resolution. Without it, you may falter at any step along the way. The road to a published book is likely a multi-year one, and while you want it to be all roses that you can stop and smell, it will have its fair share of thorns as well. You will need an adequate dose of self confidence to get from start to finish. Finishing means possessing the mental fortitude not to give up under internal or external pressures until you reach the end.

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The End


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  1. how about pen and paper, in my case pencil and paper or a computing device? ha, ha. where does that fit in this scenario/ Also, when you do get it out the door, a big “YES” would be very helpful:)

    • To hone your skills, you need lots of time before your actual jump into novel writing. A little talent helps, and a very understanding spouse. You also need some computer skills, a few aspirin and lots of ice tea and lemon. Add a few beta readers, a great editor, and a supportive writer’s group in moderate proportions. Mix together to take out a few lumps. Sprinkle in one or two teaspoons of spices blended from the above recipe. Pour together into a life. Give it about a year to marinate, and you have the fine makings of a writer.

    • Writing by hand is often a good approach, because it is slow, and as one writes one can think over what one want to get across. It is also easy to add corrections, additions and scribbles.
      Then, when you are done with the section or chapter, type it on the word processor, while the memory is still fresh. As you type, edit and prune. Leave space between lines for comments. Sleep on it, but don’t delay.
      Next good morning, go over it on paper, pen in hand. Make it easy to follow, help words carry impact.
      Then incorporate your changes on the word-processed copy (save first draft, though). Then, go over everything once more. Friend/spouse can help, at the very least in weeding out typos.
      Then, once again into the breach, fellow writers! Who gave you the idea it would be easy? Although, if you persist, each step won’t take a lot of time.

  2. thank you. very helpful. it is so easy to lose track.
    I have 3 works to put out on bookbaby to go with The Scattered Thoughts of a Deviate already on e-book platforms and your post clarifies the process greatly.
    best of luck with your next work.

  3. How about LIFE EXPERIENCE ? I am 93 with lots of water under the bridge. Now all I use is a spade and wheelbarrow to dig deep into the grey matter and find among the dross an idea that needs expanding into a likely story.
    I mix socially with writers and thespians to whet my receptive areas. – Then the most difficult but rewarding time of all – getting it down into coherent order. Fortunately there are lots of tools, such as the six you list, to help you along the way.
    As for publishing? this is not the only minefield I have encountered.

  4. How about life experience? At 93 there has been lots of water under the bridge into which I can dig deep.

  5. Interesting that, making an analogy to painting. In actual-paint painting, I usually start with the background/low detail areas, and work my way to the foreground/high detail areas. In pencil or ink “paintings,” I usually start with the foreground/subject and then add the background/secondary areas. And that translates back to books. Just because a writing system works well with one type of book doesn’t mean it will work the best when you start on a different kind.

  6. uh GUYS “Upwards to 50,000 words or 200 pages? Are you setting limits to how long a novel should be? what about Dan Brown? i have a novel published that is 125,000 words. My next one is going to be upwards to 162,000 before editing. Is that a no, no?

  7. I have a manuscript of just over 71,000 words which needs editing. I need a front cover design (I have one in mind but it can’t be used because of computer jargon which I don’t understand). I have an author bio for the back cover, I have a brief synopsis for the inside flap and I have a heading, table of contents, introduction, main body of book, glossary of terms and bibliography. I have had excellent feedback from every reader thus far and am happy that I am finished. It may need editing but I can pay for that. I need an I.S.B.N and copyrighting. The book is an autobiography called ‘Leaving no stone unturned’ and is a journey through my life, beliefs and interests – which include theoretical physics, U.F.O’s and psychedelics.It is a story of falling in love, living in hell and fighting drug addiction. It is also covers my views on society and some of my concerns therein.

  8. Hi Dawn

    Six things to write a book…

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom…I do appreciate
    what you have to say…I did take notes and will
    refer to them as I embark upon this awesome
    venture of writing my own first book.

  9. Excellent piece, Dawn. #fannyonfire coming soon. Took three years of blood, sweat and tears, but I did not want to self-publish. I’ve done both self, and traditional, and would choose traditional any day.


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