If you want to publish a book, the very first thing you need to do is write a book. You simply cannot publish a book that isn’t written. While it’s good to have an overview of the process of publishing before setting out on your own publishing journey, there is little point in reading multiple “How To” guides unless you actually have something to publish. So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t yet finished your book (or maybe not even started it) – you need to get back to work!
I appreciate that writing a book is a huge undertaking. There are lots of resources available to help you plan and write your book. If you want to write a book but feel a little overwhelmed at the idea or don’t know where to start, consider joining a writing group, either locally or online. Chatting with other writers and having them read your work can be a huge boost to your confidence. A quick Google or Facebook search should provide lots of options.
If you need a little motivation and are a fan of deadlines, then signing up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) might work for you. NaNoWriMo is an annual, month-long event that happens every year in the month of November. In began in the US but has now become an international event. The aim is to write 50,000 words of a book during the month of November. If you’re writing every day, that’s 1,666 words per day. If you’re writing only during the week, it’s about 2,500 per day. Even if you don’t manage to keep up with these targets, getting into the habit of writing every day is enormously beneficial. You can participate in NaNoWriMo simply by making the decision to write 50,000 words in November, but you will probably have better success if you actually sign up online. This way, you will have access to all of their resources, plus have the support and encouragement of other participants.
Make sure you know the appropriate book length for your genre. If you write a 100,000-word children’s book, you’re unlikely to find anyone to publish it, or perhaps even to read it! Amazon gives a page count for all books, so look at a cross-section of books in your genre to get a sense of what to aim for. You don’t have to get this bang on for the first draft – you can make it either longer or shorter during the editing process. But if you write a 400,000-word tome as your first draft, you will probably struggle to get that under 100,000 if that’s what’s appropriate to your genre. Aim to make your first draft within about 20% (+/-) of your final target.
While you don’t need any special equipment (other than a pen and paper!) to write your book, try to make it as easy for yourself as possible. Writing a novel in longhand (i.e., with pen and paper) will make the editing process extremely difficult. Sooner or later you will have to type it up in order to share it with readers, agents and publishers, so I recommend starting out this way. Use whatever software you’re comfortable with. However, bear in mind that novels can get quite long and can have a number of threads. You may not write it in a linear fashion – perhaps you prefer to write the ending first (because that’s the idea that’s strongest in your head), or perhaps you write all the chapters for one character before starting on another character. Having software that allows you to move elements of your story around with ease will make your life simpler. I highly recommend Scrivener, a word processing program designed specifically for writing books. You can download a free trial for a month to see if it suits your needs. It’s not particularly expensive to begin with (US$45 at time of writing), but if you sign up for NaNoWriMo you get 20% off if you decide to buy after your trial period, and if you meet the goal of 50,000 words by November you get 50% off at the end of the trial. (Note: I am not affiliated with Scrivener in any way and I do not make money if you buy the product. I am recommending it because I use it and think it is fantastic.)
If you like the idea of writing a book but haven’t hit that “great idea” yet, keep writing anyway. Writing short stories or even just snippets around ideas you do have will get you into a good writing habit and help keep the ideas flowing. You never know when you will be struck by that moment of inspiration for your book!
In short, do whatever you need to do to get the story out of your head and onto a page. When that’s done, you can move on to Step 2: Make it better.
Recommended reading: On Writing, by Stephen King.
For more about this post series, see here.
I have now amalgamated all the posts from my “5 Steps to Publishing a Book” series into a short ebook, which you can download for free here!