How Do You Begin to Write a Book?

Congratulations! You want to write a book! You have dreams about strolling through a bookstore and seeing people hurry to pick up the last copy of this month’s bestseller. Oh! It’s yours! You smile when people match your face with the one on the cover of the book and ask you to sign it.

Then you blink.

how to begin to write a bookAnd you are at your computer.

Your bestseller still in your head…and you don’t even know how to begin to write a book!

No problem. We have a 3-step plan to help you start putting pen to paper:

1) Pick a topic: You will have most probably heard this: Write what you know. The traditional way to go about picking a topic for a book is to write about what you have learned and lived because that way you will be able to write with a knowledge and passion that rings true to your readers.

However, you can also write about what you would like to know. Let’s say you have always been fascinated by tango dancing but have never taken your first class yet. You could research into the history of tango, famous dancers, singers, songs and venues. If the subject of your book is one that you love you will probably delve into the research with gusto. You can then, if you want, take some classes and write about the ins and outs of learning such a difficult art and your personal experience will make it an even more entertaining read.

The point here is to get you to understand that you have to love your topic, either because you know about it or because you have a desire to learn about it. This will make writing your book that much easier and the enthusiasm with which you write will keep your readers turning the pages.

2) Structure your book: After deciding what you are going to write about, be it fiction or non-fiction, you must think about the structure of your book (see How to Prepare a Book Outline).

Beginning your book - Once Upon a Time

If you are writing non-fiction, then first write down the key points you want your readers to learn. Then you can make each point a chapter, or you can group those points around a common theme or major sub-topics. This will be the “meat” of your book. It is what your book is all about. Here you will present, your research, facts, interviews, case studies, etc.

Next, add an introductory chapter at the beginning where you explain what your book intends to do and how you plan on doing it (Without giving too much away. You still want people to read the book!).

Finally, wrap up the book with a final chapter where you summarize key points, draw some conclusions and/or insert your call to action.

If you are writing fiction, then most likely you will also structure your book in three main parts or “acts”. First you need to do your best to capture your readers’ attention, present the characters and the overall setting (in space and time), and introduce the conflict as well as the trigger that sets off the conflict.

Then, in the next Act, your main character goes off to a quest. Unexpected turn of events place the character in situations where a critical choice must be made. At the Climax of your story, the greatest tension builds and it feels like the pot is going to boil over.

Finally, as your book ends, a Resolution is achieved. The character in your story has changed, hopefully for the better. A lesson is learned. A problem is overcome. There is now hope for a brighter future.

And They Lived Happily Ever After.

Or something like that…



3) Write or Ghost Write: The next thing you need to do is decide who is going to do the actual writing.

If you have a story burning inside of you that you are dying to tell, then most likely nobody will tell it like you can. You are the one who can clearly see, feel, smell, taste and hear what is going on with your characters and who can bring them to life in a way that is true.

If, on the other hand, you feel you can do a very good job at research and creating a good structure for the book but do not feel as confident in presenting your findings in a way that may be compelling for an audience, you may consider having someone else do that for you. However, understand that passion shows through, and it’s hard to fake.

Useful resources:

Basic components for a compelling story – An interview with Robert McKee

Filed in: Planning Your Book

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