David J.P. Fisher

Seven Simple Steps to Start Writing that Book Now

By: David J.P. Fisher | February 22, 2017 | 

Seven Simple Steps to Start Writing a BookHave you been thinking about writing a book?

Is it a perennial entry on your New Year’s resolution list?

An idea that keeps popping up?

A promise you make to yourself, “Someday I’m going to sit down and write my masterpiece!”

Writing a book is an extremely gratifying experience, and also an incredibly daunting one.

It’s challenging to sit in front of a blank screen, or blank piece of paper, and start knocking out the words.

Here is a step-by-step process that can kickstart your journey to becoming an author.

Clarify Why You Want to Write a Book

There are a lot of reasons to write a book, and it’s crucial to understand why you want to write yours.

You must know what your intentions are, because it will influence a lot of the decisions you’ll make along the way.

I’m not talking about sales goals.

I’m talking about reasons for putting yourself through the process.

Finding fame and fortune by writing a book is possible, but unlikely.

So connect with the reasons you are going to put in the effort.

Are you trying to build your professional credibility, scratch an itch you’ve always had, or collect your accumulated wisdom in one place?

What are you working towards?

Ask Yourself (And Others) Why People Would Want to Read it

In a world of information overwhelm, investing time and attention to read a book is a commitment.

Think through why someone would want to commit to reading yours.

It’s easy for us to be blinded by our own passion for the topic.

Step away from your perspective and look at your book idea from a reader’s point-of-view.

By focusing on your reader, you’ll consider what appeals to them, and not just your own ego.

Knowing this from the outset makes for a much better book, and a much smoother writing process.

Set Your Expectations for What Success in Writing a Book Means

According to Bowker, an organization which distributes ISBN numbers for books, there were more than one million books published…in 2015.

The average book sells only 250 copies a year, and 2,000 over the course of its lifetime.

And with Amazon and eBooks, the shelf life of existing books has greatly increased.

This means you’re not just competing against books being published this year, but also all the other ones which still have legs.

Just because you’re unlikely to be the next J.K. Rowling, or Malcolm Gladwell, doesn’t mean your book won’t be a success, but be clear about what that success looks like.

Remember, if you sell more than 250 books in the first year, you’re above average!

Write an Article a Week for Three Months

There is one difference between book authors and would-be book authors: Authors write.

I know it sounds obvious, but you have to put in the work.

Just like getting in shape requires time at the gym or on the jogging trail, writing a book requires writing.

A lot of it.

If you don’t have the habit now, develop it.

Write a 1,000-word article every week.

If you don’t have anywhere to publish it, create a simple blog, or put it on Medium, or on LinkedIn Pulse.

You’re not just going to sit down at the keyboard and knock out a book in a weekend, no matter what the “write a book in five hours” courses tell you.

Get in the habit of sitting down on a regular basis and you’ll become good at the craft and work of writing.

Develop a Community Around You…Now!

Getting people to pay attention to your book is hard.

It’s even harder if the first time they hear about it is when it pops up on Amazon.

Instead, build up your community and network before your book comes out.

Every book marketing expert/guru/ninja says your community is critical.

And they’re right.

Use those articles you’re writing every week to engage with possible book readers.

Share them with friends, family, and colleagues. Post them on social media.

Talk to other authors and people in your field.

You want to plant seeds and build relationships well before your book arrives.

This is how you’ll eventually get book blurbs, advanced readers, and a buzz when your book does arrive.

Now Write a Draft

If you get in the habit of writing an article a week, you can write a draft.

By writing 1,000 words a week, you’ll have a 40,000-word draft in 10 months.

You could even use the articles you’re writing as the skeleton of your rough draft.

Want it faster?

Write 2,000 words a week. That’s only 400 words a day, five days a week. Very doable.

Want to write it faster?

If you have a great idea and a lot of writing experience, and a great editor and time, you could pump it out in a few months.

But, that’s only if you know what you are doing and are prepared to put the work in.

Work on Getting it Published

Now go and do all the other stuff.

Seek a publisher, or find out how to self-publish.

Design a cover. Hire an editor. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

That’s the fun stuff. Yes, it takes work, but it’s a lot easier than actually writing a good draft.

In the end, the hardest (and most important) step is to sit down in front of a computer screen, or a pad of paper, and write the first sentence.

Once you’ve done that, you are on the path to holding your first book in your hands.

I know from experience it’s a great feeling. So go get it for yourself!

About David J.P. Fisher

David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, business coach, and best-selling author. He combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy.

  • paulakiger

    I loved this post, David. When I was representing Hometown Reads at a book expo in January, many of the authors asked “are you an author too?” Although I addressed them differently outwardly, inwardly each time I hung my inner monologue head and said “not yet.” But you have a good point — having written a 500-word (at least, often more) post every Sunday for six years, if you put it end to end, it’s book length! I hope that someday I’ll be saying “me too” to those types of “are you an author” questions! 🙂

    • David J.P. Fisher

      Thanks, Paula! You are absolutely an author already! 150,000 words is more than most book authors put together in their life. You probably already have the content with some editing for your first book 🙂

      • paulakiger

        Mental wheels turn …….. not sure what kind of book it would be with such eclectic topics as “the convenience store bathroom” and “my sock drawer” BUT — I just read two books of short stories/essays, not thinking I would like the format, and I did! Thx for the food for thought!

        • David J.P. Fisher

          There has to be some unifying theme that runs through the sock drawer and the convenience store bathroom… 🙂

          • paulakiger

            There is — something around “big lessons from the most unpredictable things.”

  • DFish! Thank you for this. I agree with you on all of your points. And the writing ahead of a book is SUPER helpful. I got both of my book deals because of this here blog. I mean, I still had to write two books because I didn’t use any of the content from here, BUT it sure made it easy because I was already in the habit.

    Hope you’re having a nice honeymoon! <3

    • David J.P. Fisher

      I think it’s easy to overlook the craft and practice that writing well requires. We think that because we write in our daily lives that it should be easy to just write for longer and produce a quality book. But it just doesn’t work that way. And I am. 🙂

  • As with everything is all about consistency. The more you write, the better you become and the easier it is.

    I like how you structured the process and made it easy to understand and follow.

    Thank you, DFish!

    • David J.P. Fisher

      Glad you dug it, Corina! I’m not sure if it ever gets easier, but it does get better.

  • Love this break down. My biggest struggle in writing is always the what. I don’t have a desire to write a book, but I do have a desire to write (non-communications focused) content. But I wander around what I want the focus on that content to be (other than a Seinfeld-esque reflection on life) endlessly. Then I never write it.

    • David J.P. Fisher

      I would totally read your Seinfeld-esque reflections on life 🙂

    • You have an open invitation to write for Turn Off the Overwhelm anytime you wish, Laura.

      • Why thank you, sir! I very much appreciate it and WILL take you up on that. I have a list of things just waiting to be written!

        • You’re welcome – just don’t bring that @ginidietrich:disqus with you…

  • Great post! Really important points.

    I’m weird, and I was still facing a problem: I couldn’t write the first draft at my desk or even on the laptop. Once I had the outline, I then wrote my chapter titles (knowing that they could change and event sequence could change).

    I then put page breaks between each chapter title, printed them out and, thus, had a blank sheet of paper with nothing more than titles on each page. From here, when I was in a coffee shop, on a train or a flight, I took out the blank pages and started writing… in long hand… and, more or less, just spewing.

    Of course I photocopied them and left the copies in a safe place, but within two months, I had my first draft. From here, I then typed this into my master Word document, editing as I went.

    Bang! Although I continued to edit (an excruciating process) and send out beta copies to people like Gini 🙂 I had my book.

    Hope this helps those who might be struggling with going from concept to tens of thousands of real words.

    • You could have just stopped at “I’m weird.”

      • I thought about that, but then, I needed a way to mention my weird friend… YOU.

    • David J.P. Fisher

      This is a great example that there isn’t a “right” way to write a book. I’m like you – I need structure that I can fill in. I guess Gini will think that I’m weird too…

      • We weirdos find each other, right, David? We might be too weird for that very normal Gini :-)))

  • Harlan Hammack

    Sometimes “old school” is the way to go. I’m a story teller (… don’t get me started…) so I’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking for the first draft. I just talk it out – full brain-dump mode – and then go back and edit.

    I also agree with Corina; it’s about consistency. I set aside a couple hours per day to just write – whether it’s a blog post, an article, or pages for my book, this is ME time; no interruptions. Just write.

    • David J.P. Fisher

      I’ve enjoyed using Dragon for some projects, but I always spend a lot of time cleaning up my typos and homonyms. It doesn’t help that I can have horrible enunciation when I’m writing in the morning. 😉

  • Great guidance, David. Figuring out WHY you’re writing the book is SO important. Though I will say with my last one the writing was WAY easier than the production (working with designers, editors, ebook converters, etc.) I think that phase took twice as long as the writing!

    • David J.P. Fisher

      I find that same thing is happening for me. I miss the good ole days when I had no idea what I was doing on the production side and was just excited to get a book out in any way, shape, or form.