How To Start Writing A Book (And Actually Finish It!)
If you’re wondering how to start writing a book, I’m here to let you know that this is actually the easy part.
As the bestselling author of four books, I know just how easy it is to start writing a book. Anyone can do that. The difficult part is seeing it through to the end, and actually finishing it.
Because life gets in the way. Your day job beckons. Writer’s block hits, and you don’t know how to move forward. Or doubt and fear creep in, and before you know it they’ve set up home in your mind for good.
It pains me to think about how many people have an unfinished book on their computer, or buried in their desk drawer somewhere. But the reality is, this is what happens to most of us who start writing a book.
Because it’s easy to start something. And it’s much harder to stick with it, through all the challenges and inspiration droughts, and keep going until you’re done.
I dreamed of writing a book since I was little. At the age of 26, I finally made that dream a reality. And it was an out of this world feeling; seeing this beautifully designed cover with my name on it, and holding a copy of my book in my hands for the first time.
If the thought of seeing your own book birthed into the world gives you chills, I want you to know you can get there. It is possible.
You just have to start believing it is, and start taking steps towards what you want.
Here’s how to start writing a book (and actually finish it)
1. Read a lot of books
Before you start writing a book, I urge you to become a serial reader.
That’s if you’re not one already. But if you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you are a book nerd already, just like me!
If you want to write a fiction book, then make sure you’re reading lots of fiction in the genres you think you want to write in. If you want to write a nonfiction book, then make sure you’re reading plenty of nonfiction, within the categories you picture your book fitting into to. And if you want to write poetry – you guessed it – devour as much poetry as you can get your hands on.
Reading other people’s work helps you become a better writer, before you even start writing a book. Because you subconsciously become aware of things like sentence structures, character profiles, plots, prose, and writing style.
And if you’re not yet sure what genre your book will fit into, allow the books you read to be your guide. The authors and books you find yourself naturally gravitating towards, and enjoying the most, will often be similar in style to the kind of book you end up writing.
So step one of how to start writing a book is pretty simple. Just make sure you’re reading a variety of books, and lots of them.
2. Keep a journal with you at all times
You never know when or where you’re going to be struck by inspiration, or have a breakthrough idea. This is why carrying some kind of notebook or journal with you is vital, so you can record all of those notes and ideas as they flow to you.
Some people find they have loads of ideas while they’re in bed, or walking down the street, or working out at the gym. You might already have a good idea about how and when inspiration likes to come to you.
I know some people prefer to use their phone to do this, which does work too, but I always recommend a physical journal instead. Because our phones have a way of taking us out of the moment, and distracting us. There’s no danger of that from a journal.
Plus a physical journal feels more intimate and personal and sacred to me.
What can I say? I’m an old soul.
3. Decide whether you want to self-publish or traditionally publish your book
Before you start writing your book, it’s a good idea to figure out whether you want to self-publish it, or try and get it traditionally published.
There are pros and cons to both options, and you can find out more about these by clicking here.
My first book, Bloom, was published traditionally with Thought Catalog. I’d been writing with them regularly for about a year when they asked me if I was interested in writing and publishing a book with them. I was at the beginning of my freelance writing career, knew very little about the publishing industry, and jumped at the chance. A year later, my first book was published, and it has sold thousands of copies since.
But I chose to self-publish my next three books. I wanted more control over the process, plus I wanted to learn how to do it on my own. I craved that knowledge and independence. And I’m really glad I did that, because it forced me to master a wealth of skills that I never had before.
Like I said, both options are good options. It really depends on who you are, and what you want. So take some time to think about it.
4. Ask a published author for their advice
The truth is, I skipped this step. But I wish I hadn’t.
I didn’t know any published authors when I wrote my first book, and I’m the kind of person who often avoids reaching out to, or asking other people for help. Because I don’t want to feel like I’m annoying anyone, and I’m afraid they’ll ignore me, which will leave me feeling rejected and embarrassed for even trying.
But you shouldn’t ever feel embarrassed for trying. And there are so many successful authors out there who will want to help you – even if they don’t know you.
They probably won’t able to give you an hour of their time, but they may send you a quick email with some invaluable advice or tips they’ve learned along the way. And you won’t know until you ask.
You can’t buy experience. It’s something that grows over time, by consistently devoting yourself to learning and perfecting something. So speaking to an author who has experience in how to start writing a book, is worth its weight in gold.
5. How to start writing a book: Create a daily writing practice you love
Before I began writing my first book, I was already writing most days. And this wasn’t challenging, because I loved it.
I’d wake up early before heading to work, just so I could write. I found the process cathartic and liberating, and good for my confidence and mental health.
About a year after, I was able to quit my job in fashion to become a full time freelance writer, and I was excited about what lay ahead for me. I was strengthening my voice as a writer, and really figuring out the message I wanted to share.
Each morning, I’d wake up, do my morning ritual, and then begin writing. Today, if I’m not working on a book, then I’ll write an article instead.
I’m a morning person. This is when I’m freshest, and most creative, so I block this out as my writing time. It’s sacred to me.
And this is the only way it gets done.
This is how I managed to write a book, and then write three more in the space of three years. And it all stems from creating a daily writing practice that fits into your current lifestyle, and brings you joy instead of dread.
If you want to know more about creating a daily writing practice you love, click here to read one of my previous posts, which is dedicated to just that!
6. Focus on one idea – the most magical one
The trouble a lot of people have is they have so many ideas. Too many. And they don’t have the discipline to focus on one idea at a time, and let everything else take a backseat.
I’m like this sometimes, too. I constantly have new ideas for books, and products, and other businesses. But the more you split your attention and energy, the more diluted it becomes, which means all your ideas end up with less time and nurturing from you.
And we all know what happens then. All of those ideas struggle to thrive, they wilt away, and you end up making minimal progress with all of them.
This is why focusing on one idea at a time is so important.
So choose one idea. The idea that you’re most excited about, and can’t wait to start. The one that is coming from your heart instead of your head.
Take your time choosing if you need to. Then give that one idea all of your love and attention all the way through to the end.
7. Start by writing a blog or short articles
The idea of writing a whole book can be overwhelming to many people. Especially to those who aren’t already writing regularly.
And that’s completely normal. Don’t judge yourself for it.
One of the best ways to make writing a book easier and less daunting, is to begin by writing blog posts or articles, based on your central idea or theme.
Writing one article is a much simpler task than sitting down to write a whole book. It helps take the pressure off. Plus, it helps you feel like you’ve achieved something when you see your finished article.
Many authors write their books this way, then take all of these smaller blog posts or articles, and collate them into a rough draft of their book.
This is how I wrote my first book, and it’s how I’m writing my latest book, too.
8. Invest in an online course
When I decided to self-publish my second book, I realised that I knew very little about the process. I could have spent months researching and learning how to do it, but instead, I chose to invest $1000 in an online course that walked me through the entire process.
From narrowing in on your idea, to writing an amazing book that people can’t put down, to hiring an editor, formatter, and designer; to putting together a launch team, and getting lots of reviews and book sales. Plus, I was able to benefit from an online community, and feel connected and supported the entire time.
And looking back, even though I didn’t have a lot of money to play with, I’m glad I made that decision. Because it would have been so time consuming and stressful doing it all on my own. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
So, if you want to know how to start writing a book, and eventually self-publish it, a book writing program could be exactly what you need to hold you accountable, and help you finish it and birth it into the world.
If you’re interested in unleashing your creativity, writing & self-publishing a nonfiction book, you might be interested in our online book writing course – Wild Women Writing & Publishing. You can click here to find out more about this.
9. Find someone to hold you accountable
A lot of us struggle to accomplish things when left to our own devices. This is why coaches, mentors, and personal trainers are so in demand. Because we often need someone to give us that support, or extra push of motivation to get things done.
Writers are known to work in isolation, and be quite unsociable. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely true for me!
But the truth is, it’s much harder to stay focused and motivated when you’re doing it all on your own.
That’s why it’s a good idea to find someone to be your accountability partner. A soul sister who can be there for you on this journey. Someone you can text or call when you’re stressed about completing that chapter, or when you’re celebrating finishing your first draft.
This could be a friend, co-worker, family member, or even a kindred spirit you met online. Trust me when I say writing a book is enough of a challenge in itself – you don’t want to make it harder than it needs to be.
10. Be patient with yourself
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you before you start writing a book is to be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Because we don’t do that enough.
We can be really hard on ourselves, always judging or criticising everything we do or don’t do.
Writing a book can be a long process, especially if you have lots of other things in your life that require your time and attention. So be patient with yourself, always. Think about what you have done, instead of what’s still left to do.
This is something I’m still working on, as someone who was born with an over-achiever gene, and Capricorn as my rising sign.
Remember, writing a book is meant to be fun. If it stops being fun at any point, and starts becoming a chore, then something has gone wrong!
11. Believe you can write a book (and finish it)
Self-belief is powerful.
It’s the difference between wanting something, and making it happen.
It’s the difference between having a beautiful, crazy idea, and then bringing that idea to life.
And it’s the difference between dreaming of writing a book, and actually writing and publishing a book.
Self-belief is what bridges that gap, and takes you where you dream of going. But you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe you’re capable, and deserving, and you have to put action behind that belief.
My lack of confidence and self-belief held me back in my life for decades. It stopped me from dating, and going for a promotion at work, and quitting my job in fashion when I knew in my heart I wanted to be a writer.
Finding the courage to believe in myself changed my life. It helped me come out of my shell, and show the world who I really am. It helped me find an amazing man, quit my job, travel the world, and start my own business.
Just imagine what believing in yourself could do for you.
12. Get early feedback on your work
When you’re writing a book, it can feel like you’re in a bubble. And you become so attached to your work that it’s incredibly hard to be objective about it.
That’s why a new set of eyes can be so valuable, and give you some outside perspective.
So while writing your book, find someone who fits your target audience, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind being an early reader for you. This could be anyone you know and trust.
You might want to prepare a set of questions for them to answer, or simply ask them to make notes and give you all their feedback – whatever works best for you.
This feedback will help you see what you are unable to see, which will then allow you to make changes that could take your book from good to great.
13. Write from your heart
The best piece of advice I can give anyone who wants to start writing a book is to write from your heart. Always.
This is something we explore deeply in Wild Women Writing, and I don’t think enough teachers or authors mention the importance of this. It’s often overlooked, but I believe this is what all the best, life-changing books have in common.
They were written from the heart.
When you write from your heart, you tap into a place that people instantly connect to. A place of intimacy, trust, vulnerability, courage, and inspiration.
Writing from your heart can be difficult at first, because it requires you to be open and honest – with yourself and your readers. But once you cross that hurdle, it makes writing a book much easier.
Because you don’t have to try and do or be anything or anyone but you. You just write what flows through you, and that will always be enough.
And that is how to start writing a book.
If you’d like to find out more about how to start writing a book & self-publishing, click here to find out more about our new online book writing course: Wild Women Writing.
Extra tips & resources
Tools every writer needs
You can click here to read a post I wrote on tools that every writer needs in their life, whether writing a book or not.
How to stay inspired
Many artists will experience creative blockages or burnout in their creative career. I put together this post to help you stay inspired, and keep your creative flame lit.
How to overcome writer’s block
Don’t worry if you get struck by writer’s block, and find yourself staring at a blank screen for an hour, wondering if you’ll ever be able to string a sentence together again. We’ve all been there.
Check out this post on how to overcome writer’s block, and find out where it actually comes from.
What do I do once I’ve written my book?
If you want to find out what to do after you’re completed your first draft, you can click here. This post walks you through the editing, formatting, designing, and self-publishing process.