How to Start Writing a Book

start writing a book

Have you always wanted to start writing a book but not known where to start? Writing your first book can seem like an impossible task, but it’s actually easier than you might think. In this article we will discuss what makes for a good story and how to start writing a book from scratch. We’ll also provide some motivation (and tips) that will help get your creative juices flowing!

More than 80 per cent of Americans would like to be an author. Apparently, 97 per cent of people who start to write a book never finish it.

People want to write a book for many reasons, but the two main ones are either they have an idea that needs telling or they want to share their story.

Some people start writing a book because they want to tell an idea that has been brewing for years and needs to get out; others are driven by the need to share their story, or in some cases, their secrets. A lot of people start writing books simply because it’s something they always wanted to do but never had time.

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How to find your starting place

The start of the book writing process is to find a topic idea. This can come from anything that interests or affects you, but it really needs to be something you want to write about because the whole process will require dedication and energy.

It’s also important not to start too big. Choose an idea for a short story before tackling the next great American novel! Or write an article about a non fiction topic before embarking on creating your masterpiece of a book. That way, you can gauge your commitment level and work out if you have enough information or story to complete an entire book.

You might like to read my post on five ways to get started writing your non fiction book.

How long is a book supposed to be?

Books have different word counts depending on the type.

how to start writing a book

A short story is usually less than 5000 words but can be up to 10 000 words. Whereas a novella can be between 7000 and 12,000 words and even all the way up to 50,000 words.

Whilst a novel is over 50 000 words. The average word count for a novel is around 80 000 words and can go up to 140 000 words and the genre and audience you are writing for will dictate an ideal word count. For example, commercial thrillers are typically around the 70 to 80 000 mark. Whereas, sci fi fiction can easily extend to around 120 000 words.

A non fiction book is usually about one topic and can be as short as one page or as long as over a hundred. It all depends on the subject matter and how much detail the author wants to go into.

If you want to sell your non fiction book commercially, aim for 50 000 to 70 000 words.

A memoir is about the same amount of words.

How to get started writing a book

If you start with a book outline, it will help to keep the project on track and make sure nothing is left out.

Books can be written in any order that they come to mind or as an answer to prompts from your own creativity like writing based off of images or other works of literature.

You might want some paper scraps around for different ideas that pop into your head while you’re brainstorming – these could turn into good scenes later on! Use your phone notes, or leave voice memos for yourself or even good old fashioned post-its!

You can start writing your book by brainstorming ideas and structuring them into a story.

Find inspiration for a good beginning scene or chapter: this could be from real life, film, TV show etc.

Save time by planning the layout of chapters in advance to help you stay on track with progress!

How to plan out the writing of your book

Take time to start writing your book. You will definitely need to set aside some time consistently over a longer stretch of time to write your book. Unless you’re hiring a ghostwriter, of course.

Consider that the average person can type approximately 38 words per minute, it’s likely you will be able to get down about 2000 words in a solid hour’s writing. Now, if you can type solidly for an hour without a pee or tea break, then you are some kind of superhero. Nonetheless, this is what professional authors do.

Include in thinking time and deliberation and trying to remember that darn word…

So, let’s say a more realistic writing speed is 1000 words per hour. That means you need to set aside at least 50 hours to get down a solid draft of your book.

How can you manage that? Can you take a few weeks off work and write every single day? Can you spare two hours ever week for six months? Be realistic about your timeframe and plan accordingly.

The key is, planning your book thoroughly before you start writing it. That way you brain will be much more freer to just sit down and write.

This means knowing:

  1. exactly what will go in which chapter and where
  2. who are the characters or people in your story (and you need to know them intimately before you write about them)
  3. how the story starts, how it ends and what happens in the middle to get to that ending
  4. Or if you’re writing non fiction, what is the key message that you want to keep threading throughout the book? Is it that water is the cure to all ailments? How is every single chapter going to back up this key theory and message? How will you convince your reader?

Experiment with this:

Do not start with the beginning or end of your story because you will have a lot of work there and it’s hard to build momentum that way. Start from where you are in the middle, this is usually at the climax point or closest to it. Spend some time crafting what happens before and after this point too so that when readers get here they can follow along easily.

How to stay motivated while writing a book

Unfortunately, the bad news is that whilst it’s relatively easy to start writing a book, many, many people (professional authors included) have trouble sticking with and finishing a book!

  • Be prepared to start small and work your way up to something as hefty as a book.
  • Break the process into manageable parts, start with an outline of what you want to write about and focus on those topics until they feel like word count goals.
  • Get positive feedback from others who will read it after every chapter is written.
  • Read other books in the same genre as yours for inspiration or advice.

The hardest part about writing a book can be staying motivated while stuck at square one. It’s important that authors know how much time and effort are required before starting down this path so there isn’t any unrealistic expectations later on.

If you’re starting off with the idea that your first draft will be perfect and all mistakes won’t need to be copyedited out later on down the line, then chances are you might give up before even finishing chapter one! It’s important to remember at this stage that nobody (especially you) is expecting anything special or polished so just write whatever comes into mind as long (following along your book outline and plan, of course).

The number one starting point

Overall, if you are completely new to writing a book the very first thing I would do is work out your time commitment. Really get clear on how much time you can realistically put into the project and when you will do it.

Be honest with yourself about how much time you are willing to dedicate each day towards writing this book because one of the quickest ways to burn out is by not being realistic at the start.