5 Tips for Writing a Book for the First Time

Every author started somewhere. Make today your starting day!

The prospect of writing a book can be a daunting task. Yes, you may have an idea. You may even be really excited about that idea—playing out scenes or developing characters in your head—but translating those ideas onto paper can be…tricky.

One of the biggest hurdles to writing a book for the first time is realizing that the task isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to require a lot of time and hard work to get to “The End”. But once you accept that, and decide you’re willing to put the effort in, there’s no reason you can’t finish that book you’ve been dreaming of writing.

Even great authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King didn’t start their careers as bestselling authors; it took a lot of work for them to get published, and even more to find success. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected over ten times before eventually being picked up by a small publishing house. Stephen King almost gave up on his claim-to-fame novel, Carrie, after facing a year’s worth of rejections.

But you know their names because despite their hardships, they continued to pursue their dream of becoming published authors.

No one ever said writing a book for the first time wouldn’t be difficult, however, sometimes it can be a tough pill to swallow. But if you’re willing to put the work in, the task isn’t impossible—especially with the right guidance.

Tip 1: Plan and Outline

Planning what you’re going to write is one of the best ways to get your ideas out and make the writing process easier. Even if you think you’d prefer to write by the seat of your pants and discover the story as you go, try to plan and outline the basic components of your story. Since you’re writing a book for the first time, this will help you stay focused and working toward an end goal.

There’s nothing more frustrating than writing for days on end and feeling like you’re going nowhere. If you have a plan in place, at least you’ll feel like you’re working toward something, even if what you write doesn’t end up in the final draft.

Some writers even like to skip around when they start to lose inspiration. If you have a plan in place, you’ll have the ability to jump around to more interesting parts and fill in the spaces later.

Check out these four types of outlining methods to get you started.

If you feel that outlining is too tedious and time consuming—you’d rather figure out all the details as you write—you’re not alone. Many writers don’t bother with outlining. But since this is your first time writing a full-fledged book, you shouldn’t assume that you’re equipped to dive into writing without planning ahead.

Why? Because without a solid structure to follow, you’ll be at the mercy of your memory to keep everything consistent.

When you’re writing a book, there’s a lot to keep track of. You’re constantly coming up with new ideas, characters, and plot twists as you go. In the moment, it may seem easy enough to remember. But later, when you’re looking back and editing your story, you’ll likely find some inconsistencies and plot holes that could have been avoided—and now need to be fixed.

As you go through the planning process—and test out different types of outlines—you’ll start to get a better idea of what works best for you. That way, you’ll have your process down when you go to write your next book!

Even if you’re wary of outlines, it’s important to plan ahead (even if it’s just a little) before you start writing for the first time. It’ll keep you focused and consistent. Even if you don’t end up using it, at least it’s there just in case!

I don’t like to outline either, but I can’t work without one. R.L. Stine, bestselling author of the Goosebumps Series

When writing your first book, it's important to set realistic and measurable goals.Tip 2: Set Goals

Another big part of writing a book for the first time—and making sure you finish—is to set a solid foundation of goals for yourself. The goals you set will give you something to strive for and help keep you on track as you write your book.

For the best results, you should take the time to sit down and develop a list of long and short-term goals for your book.

When developing long-term goals, think of your motivations for writing. Maybe you’re writing a book to supplement your business and educate people on a topic, or perhaps you want to inspire others with your personal story.

Whatever your motivation is, translate it into some tangible, manageable goals that will help keep you motivated through difficult writing days and periods of self-doubt.

Once you have your long-term goals, try to break them into smaller, more attainable goals that you can reach more quickly. If our main goal is to write a book, that’s great, but it can’t be the only goal you set. It’s too overwhelming of task.

You’ll need to breakdown your overarching goals into smaller, more tangible ones. These goals should be very specific and attainable. For example, you could set a goal to write one page of your book a day. Each day, you focus on that one page, and by the end of the year, you would have a completed book.

For more information on setting small, attainable goals, check out Step #1 of our 10 Step Guide to Writing a Book .

While setting all these goals may seem tedious, it will do wonders in keeping you on-track to writing your book for the first time. They will give you the structure you need to reach the end while also motivating you to keep going.

Break down the monstrous goal of “writing a book” into smaller objectives that are easier to accomplish. It’ll fuel the fire that keeps you working toward that larger end goal of finally finishing a book. How to Write a Book in 2019: A 10-Step Guide, Author Learning Center

Tip 3: Don’t Find Time to Write. Make the Time.

Since you’re writing a book for the first time, it’s probably safe to say that writing isn’t your only focus. That’s okay! Many published authors began their careers this way. Believe it or not, Stephen King was a janitor before his writing career took off.

Many authors writing their books for the first time (or the second, or even the tenth) are juggling other priorities. No one can devote all their focus to one thing, even if that thing is important to them.

The reality is, you’ll never be able to dedicate 100% of your time and effort into writing a book. You have to be realistic with yourself and find a reasonable amount of time to commit to this goal.

Here’s the trick to making progress with your book that often takes writers a lot of trial and error to figure out: Writing a book is not about finding extra time in your day. It’s about making the time.

If you’re trying to fit writing in to the 15-minute bus ride to work or the 30 minutes before you go to bed, you’re likely going to burn out pretty quickly.

Instead, you have to make time to write by scheduling dedicated writing time every day and sticking to it. It’s the best way to develop the habit and actually finish writing a book.

Writing must become one of your top priorities. Yes, work and family may come first, but you may need to make sacrifices in other areas of your life, such as your social and personal time.

Even if you’re not in the mood, don’t feel inspired, or the words aren’t coming easily, you have to write something during this time every day. It’s the only way to train your brain into recognizing that this writing time is going to happen no matter what.

Remember: you can always edit later. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect every time. In fact, it probably won’t even be perfect most of the time. But if you stay motivated and keep working toward your goals anyway, you’ll find yourself making progress. 

Tip 4: Improve Your Writing by Reading

You might thinking, “how will I have time to read if I barely have time to write?”

Great question, but what if we told you that reading was just as important as writing, if not, more?

Reading is the whetstone for your writing. It sharpens your craft, enhances your vocabulary, and exposes you to multiple styles that affect and shape your own. It’s the best way to teach yourself how to write well without taking a class or getting a degree.

Reading the work of other authors is one of the best ways to improve your own writing.Try to read books within the same genre as your book, by authors whose writing styles you admire, plus some books that are out of your normal comfort zone. Study how the author tells his or her story and why.

•  Do you like the author’s writing style? Why or why not?
•  How does the author organize and develop their ideas/characters/themes?
•  How do devices like word choice or setting affect the tone of a scene or the overall story?
•  What is the pace of the book? Where are the moments where time speeds up or slows down? Why do you think the author made that choice?
•  What do you think the book does well? What makes it stand out from other similar books?
•  Pay attention to points of the book where you feel engaged or excited to keep reading. What about the writing makes you feel that way?
•  Notice moments where you feel bored or put down the book to go do something else. Why did you stop being engaged in that moment? How can you avoid that in your own writing?

An important component to writing a book for the first time is to study the craft—and this is just as important as actually writing. Think of reading and writing as the yin and yang for authors; you need both, so be sure you make time for them.

Reading will help you improve your own writing. Reading the work of other authors will help you understand narrative, story structure, necessary story elements, and more. The Benefits of Reading for Aspiring Authors, Edmund Wee

Tip 5: Stay Consistent

Writing a book for the first time is like lifting weights; before you can lift anything heavy, you need to build up your strength by lifting smaller weights that you can manage. Then, if you stay consistent with your workout routine, you’ll start to build up your strength and stamina.

The same goes for writing: you shouldn’t expect to write thousands of words in the first week you start your book. Start with something small and manageable and gradually push yourself until you reach a point that you can sustain.

It’s likely that you’ll begin writing your book with a lot of inspiration and motivation—so much so that you can easily write hundreds or thousands of words in a sitting. But you likely won’t be able to maintain that level of productivity for an entire book.

So don’t let yourself fall into that trap. You shouldn’t feel down on yourself and your abilities just because you can’t sustain that momentum.

The key to avoiding this burnout is to stay consistent with your writing. Set up a writing schedule and get into a rhythm so that writing becomes more of a habit.

For example, on your first day, write 150 words. The next time you write, plan to push yourself to 200 words, then 250 words, and so on.

Or try out the pomodoro technique: focus on writing uninterrupted for 25 minutes, then give yourself a short break. If 25 minutes feels like too much to start out, push it back to ten or fifteen. As the days go on, increase your writing time by a minute or two until you reach a point that feels comfortable. Allow yourself a short break, then jump back in.

And if you find yourself at the end of your writing time itching to keep going…leave yourself some notes and walk away. Being excited about what you’re writing next will only make it easier to jump in the next day!

Learning how to write a book is not a quick, one-and-done lesson. It’s a skill that requires constant practice and tedious discipline to develop. Think of it like lifting weights; you wouldn’t lift 200 pounds on your first rep without warming up first. That’s just asking for trouble. How to Write a Book in 2022: A 10-Step Guide, Author Learning Center

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