The Complete Guide to the Book Writing Process
Writing your book doesn’t have to be a difficult, complex process.
There’s no magic formula for how to write a book. Different authors have taken different paths to success, and you’ll need to adapt this guide to your own needs and strengths. But you can break down the book-writing process into six rough stages, and this guide takes you through them.
The guide covers everything you need to know, from your first glimmer of an idea to the moment you can finally hold your book in your hands. Whether you’re a writing beginner or a pro ready to take on a new project, you can use it to map your journey.
Take the advice of a top-tier publishing company. It’s time to put pen to paper and start writing that book you’ve imagined for years.
Set Yourself up for Success
Figuring out how to write a book — your particular book — is hard. You need to find the space in your world and the resources that will help you stay on track.
Find Your Workspace
When you think about the physical act of writing, what do you envision? What does your ideal office look like, and what tools do you need?
Carve out a writing space for yourself. Some people do their best work among others, and other writers require absolute privacy. You might work at a home desk, a kitchen table, or the corner booth at the local coffee shop. Find a clear, clean space where you can slip into writing mode.
You should also pick out a word processor and any other writing tools you need. Take an hour or two to explore your options. Sometimes the right platform can make a huge difference.
Find Your Practice
There is exactly one quality that makes someone a writer. They write. It’s easy to think about writing, but you need to create the habit of writing to make real progress.
It is crucial for the book writing process to settle on the right schedule for you to consistently write. Assign yourself blocks of writing time, and pencil them into your schedule. Treat them with the respect you’d give any other commitment.
Frequency matters as much as duration. It isn’t easy to finish a book when you only work in fits and starts. If you have a busy schedule, try to write for fifteen minutes at the same time every day. You’ll still need to find larger blocks of time but stay in touch with your project between them.
Find Your Community
Writing can be lonely. Your best sources of support and feedback are other writers. Join a writing group, and find beta readers, cheerleaders, and people to whom you can talk about your book and any challenges that arise.
Check out local libraries, schools, and community centers to find groups in your area. There are also many online writing resources and communities available.
NaNoWriMo deserves particular mention. In addition to the month-long writing marathon in November, the organization has community message boards, which are a great place to find groups.
Develop the Idea
What’s your book about? If you have more than one idea, start with the one you feel most prepared to write. Once you know how to write a book, you can take advantage of your momentum and move on to other projects.
Let Yourself Brainstorm
Give yourself some space to think and jot down notes. Draw mind maps for nonfiction topics or detail fictional settings and characters. You could also try freewriting. Set a timer and write without stopping or editing a word. Ramble away and see what emerges.
Craft a Rough Logline or Pitch
Loglines are one-or-two-sentence summaries of novels, movies, or television shows. A compelling logline can make your book, and you should workshop yours until it’s perfect. It’s the tagline that readers will use to decide whether to read the jacket copy, let alone the book.
Why start this early in the process? As the book evolves, so will the logline. Two reasons to do so are:
- It’s good to practice talking about your book. Give yourself a quick blurb that you can pass on to writing groups, friends, etc.
- By distilling the conflict or concept of your book, you sharpen your focus for the actual writing process.
The same goes for a nonfiction book pitch.
Do the Research
Even fiction books require levels of research. These allow you to write convincingly, to make your characters and world feel real. And nonfiction books often require even more substantial research.
Develop a note-taking system that allows you to find the information you need at will. You don’t want to waste time repeating your research.
Don’t wait until the research is complete to begin writing the book. You’ll discover new questions in the process of writing and need to research as they come up. Research can also become a bottomless hole into which you disappear. There will always be something else that you could read. Start writing anyway.
There are days that you’ll feel inspired. There are days that you won’t. As said, writers write. There’s no substitute. You have to string those sentences together on bad days as well as good.
Write Your Zero Draft
Intimidated by the idea of a first draft? You’re not alone. Free yourself from the expectations that accompany a completed draft. Write a zero draft first.
The zero draft matters because it’s meant to teach yourself how to write the book. You start telling yourself the story or articulating your ideas. You experiment. You write pages that could appear in your book but probably won’t.
The zero draft can go from beginning to end, or it can be more of a hodgepodge. It’ll be a mess, and you never have to show it to another soul.
Write Your Outline
You may be a “pantser”, a writer who prefers not to plan, flying by the seat of their pants. You may write your outline after the first draft, using it to tweak the narrative of draft two. That’s fine.
But at some point, you’re going to want to sit down and plan out your book. You want your story or argument to unfold logically and at the right speed.
Even if you have a solid grasp of the book’s structure, templates can come in handy. Use a novel template to chart out story beats or a nonfiction outline that lays out popular book arcs. By mapping your book onto these, you get a valuable new perspective and can see potential trouble areas.
Write Your First Draft
Time to write something that looks a lot like a book.
Your writing process may not be linear. Some writers prefer to jump around in early drafts. Others start with the opening line. However you get there, the first draft should be a complete version of the book.
Remember that it’s supposed to be a rough draft. It won’t be a polished final product, and that’s all right.
Don’t Stop Writing
Writing is hard. You’ll need to power through the obstacles to writing a book. Life happens and steals your time and energy. Stories go off track. Essays bog down. You’ll have to endure crises of confidence and periods of frustration.
Just keep going.
Once you have the first draft, you switch your target from “done” to “good.” Turn that draft into a polished piece you’re proud to claim.
Let yourself take a short break between drafts. Doing so allows you to come back with fresher eyes. Set a date for restarting to make sure that you get back to work when you’re ready.
Rethink Your Title
Working titles can be anything. You can label that document with a theme, a character’s name, or even “My Book.”
But eventually, you’ll need a strong title — one that grabs readers’ attention and gives them some idea of what to expect. Pay attention to common titling conventions, particularly if you’re writing nonfiction.
Revise Your Manuscript
Revision should be what the word suggests — a new vision for your book. Most final drafts look different than first drafts. Your first idea isn’t always your best, and the book may go through any number of drafts before it’s done.
Edit yourself first. Be honest, as you ask yourself:
- What’s not working yet?
- What characters or themes need more attention?
- Where does the story lag or race?
- Do you have more research to do?
- Are you presenting your ideas or narrating your novel from the best viewpoint?
Give yourself some room to play and try out different things.
Once you’ve solved any problems you can handle on your own, you need to get input from others. This is where your beta readers and writing workshops can be most helpful. In addition to giving you advice on the trouble areas you’ve identified, they can tell you where they struggle with the book.
Learning how to give and receive feedback is a crucial part of learning how to write a book. Pay extra attention to any notes you receive from more than one source.
Don’t get defensive and stay open-minded. Even if you disagree with a comment, it still might trigger a realization on your part. On the other hand, don’t try to incorporate every single opinion you receive either. You’re the authority when it comes to your project, and your vision drives it.
Consider hiring an editor at some point in the process. Expert editors can elevate your book, identifying impactful changes to strengthen your manuscript.
Polish Your Manuscript
When you’re done with the more dramatic changes, you still need to polish the final product. You can:
- Edit at the level of the line.
- Tighten your prose, cutting unnecessary words and fixing awkward sentences.
- Check for inconsistencies. If your heroine is wearing a sundress, don’t have her slip a note into the pocket of her blue jeans.
- Perfect the grammar and fix typos.
Nothing makes a text look more amateurish than poor copyediting. Even if you’re an English teacher, you might want to hire a copyeditor. When rereading your own work, your eyes are more likely to skim past errors.
Turn Your Manuscript Into a Book
It may not seem like it now, but you will eventually finish the manuscript. Congratulations! You’ve done the hardest part.
You’re not done quite yet. After all, your goal was to write a book, not a manuscript. You could try to go the traditional publishing route and find an agent, but more and more authors are turning toward self-publishing.
Format and Design the Book
Technically, you can convert a text document into an ebook on your own, but a professional book design gives your book an edge. Palmetto’s book interior formatting ensures the best reading experience for all your soon-to-be fans.
Add any necessary images to the book. You might also use a professional illustrator to add a special touch to high-impact areas such as the book title page.
Get a Professional Cover
Covers matter — amateurish designs can deter readers from investing their time and money in your book. Take pride in your work and give your manuscript the book cover design it deserves.
Share It With the World
You’re ready to send your baby out into the world. Self-publishing can be a nerve-wracking process, but there are things you can do to increase your chances of success.
Publish With Palmetto
Self-publishing with Palmetto gives you access to an incredible array of professional services. We require our authors to use our interior formatting and cover design, ensuring high-quality, appealing books.
Publishing with Palmetto also gives you access to our on-demand book printing. Order only the copies you want for yourself, and then let us handle printing needs as they arise.
Launch Your Book
If you want people to love your book, you have to let them know it exists first. Palmetto’s book marketing packages prepare you for a successful launch. We can handle:
- Marketing copy
- A press release and distribution
- Your website
- Promotional products
Get your book noticed with a targeted marketing strategy appropriate to your genre and audience.
Continue to Market It
Successful authors do more than writing. They also engage fellow writers and readers. As an author, you should:
- Cultivate opportunities for promotion
- Write a blog
- Develop your social media accounts
- Talk to local libraries and bookstores
Find a level of engagement that you can sustain and commit to it.
You’ll also need to solicit reviews. Ask readers to review your work on Amazon and Goodreads. Contact book bloggers and influencers. Reviews increase your exposure on seller platforms and convince potential readers to give your book a try.
You Know How To Write a Book — Now Do It
Writing may be easier said than done, but Palmetto’s editing and self-publishing services can demystify the process and give your work a professional finish.
The most important part of writing a book is fully committing to it. So make the decision to start. Clear the necessary room in your house and your life, and then go for it. Writing a book isn’t easy, but there are a few things more rewarding.
At Palmetto Publishing, we believe in you and your manuscript. Contact us, and let’s discuss how to make your book a reality.