How To Write Your First Book


Throughout the process of writing and publishing my book, I’ve received a lot of notes or had side conversations with people who told me they’ve always wanted to write a book.  I love that!  Go write your book, people!

I’ve found most people haven’t written their books because they don’t know where to start, they don’t believe they can, or they feel they don’t have time to make it a reality.

I wanted to share a few tips of things that I’m most frequently asked or things I wondered about the most when I started writing my book.

What do you write in?  Do you use a special application or brainstorming tool?

Nope.  I just write in a Word document.  Once your book gets closer to completion, you’ll need it in Word anyway, so save yourself the hassle and just start and end with it.  Helpful Hint:  Create a Word document per chapter and then consolidate it when you’re done and ready to hand it off to an editor.  Trying to edit or make changes in a Word document that is 100+ pages when you’re first getting started gets super complicated and feels overwhelming.  Plus, you’ll probably ditch or rearrange chapters (specifically if you’re doing a book of essays).

How long should my book be?

I had no clue when I started how long a book should be.  To say X number of chapters didn’t really translate well to total number of pages and when I’d look at my own Word document I couldn’t figure out how many book sized pages that would actually be.  So, the rule of thumb is the average number of words in a book = 50,000.  I’m guessing a book like Twilight is double that, and my book is about 35,000.  So it doesn’t have to be 50,000 but that is a good goal.  Another benefit of just starting and sticking with Word is that it will tell you your word count on the bottom of the document.

How do I get published?

There are two ways to get published (if there’s enough interest then I can expand on this further in future posts), but generally speaking you can publish through a traditional publishing house OR you can self publish.  To publish through a traditional publishing house requires you to pitch your idea to agents, once you secure an agent they will pitch to editors at a publishing house, you get a book deal, and your books are in stores.  To self publish you can do it all on your own (I hired a freelance editor and book cover designer) and I recommend using CreateSpace which is an Amazon owned company.

Where do I start?  I don’t have a topic to write about.

If you write fiction, I don’t have much to offer you by way of ideas.  I so don’t get the zombie, vampire, alien type of situation.  But if you’re a non-fiction person like myself…then find a theme.  My book is a collection of essays about my life, but when I was first brainstorming it just seemed like none of them went together so I felt stuck.  I ended up using the theme of advice from my mother and opened each chapter with a piece of advice she gave me and then linked those with the stories I was telling.  Think about items you love, quotes you love, hobbies you have, etc. and see if you can get a hook or theme.  If you love cooking, add a recipe in there or name each chapter after your favorite food.  If you love yoga, tie each chapter to a yoga pose.  If you love the seasons then write in a winter, spring, summer, fall type of method.  Find the hook and run with it.  Don’t force it either.  I came up with my theme by listening to how people responded to me or pointed out my tendencies or habits when I talk.  My idea came from a coworker who said I share a lot of advice my mom gives me….and, bingo!

How do you have the time?

Certain authors will tell you that you should sit down and write every day, and many have a certain word count they try to hit.  With my work schedule and energy levels at the end of the day, I just couldn’t even.  So if you’re just getting started – if you can spend 30 minutes a day, then you go rock that 30 minutes.  For me, this is my weekend job.  So if you, like me, can literally find 1 hour on the weekends to pack up your laptop, go to Starbucks, set a 60 minute timer on your phone, and then just start writing then you go do it.  You have to just start.  Don’t worry about dressing nice or putting on make up or finding the perfect Pandora station or determining your favorite go-to writing place and all that.  After you’ve written for weeks and months, you’ll realize you write best at a certain location or with a certain drink or in silence or with certain music.  But for now, pack it up, go out into the world with terrible hair and no make up and write the words down.  Don’t take selfies or text people that you’re writing…just write.  Zip up jackets and sweat pants are the official uniform of aspiring authors so welcome to the club.

What is your book about?

I’ll never forget the first time I said the words “I’m writing a book…” out loud.  I was at the eye doctor and asked the receptionist if my new glasses made me look like an author because I was writing a book.  I felt SO UNCOMFORTABLE!  But, it was the first step in taking it seriously and not slumping my shoulders and then going “well, I mean, I’m trying to, I don’t know what it’s about, well, kind of…”  So get one or two sentences in mind about what you’re writing about (even if it changes 5 minutes later) and confidently say “I’m currently working on a book about <<insert your current idea>>” and just say it.  Just claim it.  If you want to write a book, write the book.  Be confident and take it seriously like you do your day job.

If you are an aspiring author and interested in learning more about how to write a book or joining a community of like-minded people, please send me a note on my “contact” page.  If there’s enough interest we’ll see how we can support each other in our author ventures.