The First-timer’s Guide To Start Writing A Book

start writing a book

It’s the start of the new year – and it’s finally time to write the book you’ve been thinking about. Except, you’re not even sure how to start writing a book. If you dedicate yourself to the task, you can finish your book within a year.

I’ll wager you’ve never aspired to be an average writer. That’s laudable. But it means you have to continually refine your craft, stay up to date on the publishing industry, and acquire the new tools of the trade that will help you do things better and more efficiently. Some people are life-long learners and love the process of going from newbie to proficient in any given platform. That makes sense. We all want to be the best we can be, and along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things that can either make us the best at what we do, or, if we ignore them, will keep us in the pack of Average Joes.

But if you’re like me, you only want to know as much as you need to for your intended purpose. I don’t want to learn all the features and functions of something, or try to discover ways I could use a tool for purposes I hadn’t considered. Why? I’m not a natural life-long learner. I don’t like details, I like ideas. I don’t want to learn how to use something, I just want to use it.

I generally try to find every possible way around the learning curve so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s not the way things work. In order to know something, I must go through the pain of learning, and I have to follow a process.

Before I can follow a new process, I have to make a decision to do it. I have to say to myself, “This is something I need to learn. There is no way around it.” So I make the decision, commit myself, and get started.

The hardest thing about writing a book

You know what the hardest part of writing a book is? Making the decision to do it. I bet you’ve had the idea for your book for a long time. It’s been percolating in your head, banging against the doors, trying to get out. It probably drives you a bit crazy, but books don’t write themselves. The only way your book is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. You have to decide to start writing your book, then figure out how you’re going to do it. This is your story. Only you can write it.

Whenever I travel by plane, I always find it fun to get acquainted with whoever is seated next to me. On a recent flight, I sat next to a fellow named Don. When he asked me what I do for work, I explained that I help people who aren’t writers become authors of high-impact nonfiction books.

“Really?” Don replied. “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

I hear that a lot. “Then why don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve never really looked into it,” he said.

Don’s answer speaks volumes. He’s flirted with the idea of writing a book, but he’s never taken it further than that — the idea of writing a book. People glamorize the writer’s life and don’t realize the time and hard work and it takes to be a writer. Don never made the decision to write his book, so in all likelihood, it will never get done. If he cannot make the decision to finish it, he’ll never know how to start writing a book.

Contrast that to Brian, another fellow traveler. When I asked Brian why he hadn’t written his book, he said, “I don’t know how to start writing a book. I have all these ideas, but then I get lost. I don’t know what to do with them.”

It starts with a plan

This makes perfect sense to me. If you’ve never done it before, how would you know how to start writing a book? Writing can be difficult and daunting, and the publishing industry is complicated. Some people sit down and start writing, only to find all the ideas that have been rattling around in their head have no form, no shape. What comes out is a mess of spaghetti — disconnected threads. It’s frustrating. There’s a message in there, but they don’t know how to get it down on paper. That’s not a winning approach when you start writing a book; you need a plan before you put words on paper or on a screen.

The problem with the “write first” approach is that it’s like trying to construct a house without a blueprint. You have no plan to follow, no foundation poured, and you have no idea what the house will look like when it’s built.

I don’t know a lot about building an actual house, but I know you don’t put up the walls first. They have to be attached to something solid, so you pour the foundation first. But before that, you need a map, a blueprint that shows where each room will be, and how they connect to one another. You have to have a plan before you pull out your hammer.

You can approach a book in the same way. If you want to save time, energy, and money – and save yourself a ton of frustration – begin with the finished product in mind. Take the concept for your book and create a concrete plan.

To do that, we start with the foundation. Perhaps you know the topic of your book, but do you know what you want your book to accomplish? The book must have a purpose, or there’s no reason to write it. Believe it or not, the purpose isn’t always easy to figure out, at least not without some concentrated effort.

Ask yourself these foundational questions:

  1. Why do I want to write this book?
  2. What is my motivation?
  3. What purpose will my book serve?
  4. How is my book different from other books published on this same subject?
  5. What new information or angle does my story present that hasn’t already been told?
  6. What is the main theme of my story? What are the secondary themes?
  7. Who is my audience? Specifically define the primary and secondary markets.
  8. How will this book impact my audience?
  9. What change do I want to invoke in the reader?
  10. Why will people want to read this story?
  11. Why would people recommend my book to others?
  12. What is the pivotal moment in the story?
  13. Who do I want to endorse the book?

Then write:

  1. A Purpose Statement for the book that begins with, “The purpose of this book is to …” listing the primary and secondary purposes you’ve identified.
  2. A synopsis of the book that’s two to three paragraphs long.
  3. The copy you envision appearing on the book’s back cover.

These questions will help you crystallize your message and get you on your way to writing your book. Beyond that, you need a process to follow that will keep you on track. In my Group Coaching classes, we create a visual representation of your entire book called a BookMAP. We map out all the contents of your book before you write a single word. Then, when you are ready to start writing your book, you follow your BookMAP. Even if you only have 15 minutes to work, you can contribute something to your book.

Let me show you how to start writing and finish your book in just one year. You can make 2017 the year you finally write your book that will establish you as an expert in your field, raise your credibility, and attract a following. I’m here to help! In fact, a new Group Coaching class begins soon, and you can join now.


The End


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  1. It might seem like extra work to sit down and really think about each of these questions, but it’s going to serve you well in the long term. I like your analogy about building a house. Taking a methodical approach to book writing is the way to go.

  2. To continue with your analogy, back in the day, lots of log cabins were built with no plans at all, and “floors” (as in something over the ground itself) were optional. Yet many cabins survived blizzards and droughts, raised multiple generations of families and still exist over a hundred years after their construction. My dad built my sisters (I used it, but I wasn’t around yet for the building) a “playhouse” (It doubled as tire storage for his milk truck. And bicycle garage.) with floor, asphalt-shingled roof, and glass windows–and I’m pretty sure it was just an image in his head. We left it behind when we moved because we didn’t think it would survive being moved, only to see a later owner had relocated it.

    Just goes to show you, there’s different horses for different courses. And for some, the pre-planning is an excuse not to get started.

  3. An interesting distinction. I am a life-long learner in some areas, but not others. I can be very impatient with computers and Internet things, yet such learning is both necessary and often useful beyond my original questions. And I do have a completist streak which plagues me sometimes but serves me well at other times.

    I like your house-building analogy. My father was a builder and I have often likened writing a book to building a house. I write fiction, but I am more a ‘planner’ than a ‘pantser’.


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