How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide

So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.

But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.

You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.

But what if you knew exactly:

  • Where to start…
  • What each step entails…
  • How to overcome fear, procrastination, a nd writer’s block …
  • And how to keep from feeling overwhelmed?

You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever. 

The key is to follow a proven, straightforward, step-by-step plan .

My goal here is to offer you that book-writing plan.

I’ve used the techniques I outline below to write more than 200 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 50 years. Yes, I realize writing over four books per year on average is more than you may have thought humanly possible. 

But trust me—with a reliable blueprint, you can get unstuck and finally write your book .

This is my personal approach on how to write a book. I’m confident you’ll find something here that can change the game for you. So, let’s jump in.

  • How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

  • Establish your writing space.
  • Assemble your writing tools.

Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book

  • Break the project into small pieces.
  • Settle on your BIG idea.
  • Construct your outline.
  • Set a firm writing schedule.
  • Establish a sacred deadline.
  • Embrace procrastination (really!).
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Conduct your research.
  • Start calling yourself a writer.

Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself

  • Think reader-first.
  • Find your writing voice.
  • Write a compelling opener.
  • Fill your story with conflict and tension.
  • Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
  • Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
  • Write a resounding ending.

Part 4: Editing Your Book

  • Become a ferocious self-editor.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Part 5: Publishing Your Book
  • Decide on your publishing avenue.
  • Properly format your manuscript.
  • Set up and grow your author platform.
  • Pursue a Literary Agent
  • Writing Your Query Letter
  • Part One: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

You’ll never regret—in fact, you’ll thank yourself later—for investing the time necessary to prepare for such a monumental task.

You wouldn’t set out to cut down a huge grove of trees with just an axe. You’d need a chain saw, perhaps more than one. Something to keep them sharp. Enough fuel to keep them running.

You get the picture. Don’t shortcut this foundational part of the process.

Step 1. Establish your writing space.

To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n my couch facing a typewriter perched on a plank of wood suspended by two kitchen chairs.

What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do.

And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.

Naturally, the nicer and more comfortable and private you can make your writing lair (I call mine my cave), the better.

How to Write a Book Image 1

Real writers can write anywhere .

Some authors write their books in restaurants and coffee shops. My first full time job was at a newspaper where 40 of us clacked away on manual typewriters in one big room—no cubicles, no partitions, conversations hollered over the din, most of my colleagues smoking, teletype machines clattering.

Cut your writing teeth in an environment like that, and anywhere else seems glorious.

Step 2. Assemble your writing tools.

In the newspaper business, there was no time to hand write our stuff and then type it for the layout guys. So I have always written at a keyboard and still write my books that way.

Most authors do, though some hand write their first drafts and then keyboard them onto a computer or pay someone to do that.

No publisher I know would even consider a typewritten manuscript, let alone one submitted in handwriting.

The publishing industry runs on Microsoft Word, so you’ll need to submit Word document files. Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, both will produce the kinds of files you need.

And if you’re looking for a musclebound electronic organizing system, you can’t do better than Scrivener . It works well on both PCs and Macs, and it nicely interacts with Word files.

Just remember, Scrivener has a steep learning curve, so familiarize yourself with it before you start writing.

Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it.

Tons of other book-writing tools exist to help you. I’ve included some of the most well-known in my blog po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r your reference.

So, what else do you need?

If you are one who handwrites your first drafts, don’t scrimp on paper, pencils, or erasers.

Don’t shortchange yourself on a computer either. Even if someone else is keyboarding for you, you’ll need a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents , edi tors, publishers.

Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed.

Try to imagine everything you’re going to need in addition to your desk or table, so you can equip yourself in advance and don’t have to keep interrupting your work to find things like:

  • Paper clips
  • Pencil holders
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Printing paper
  • Paperweight
  • Tape dispensers
  • Cork or bulletin boards
  • Reference works
  • Space heaters
  • Beverage mugs
  • You name it
  • Last, but most crucial, get the best, most ergonomic chair you can afford.

If I were to start my career again with that typewriter on a plank, I would not sit on that couch. I’d grab another straight-backed kitchen chair or something similar and be proactive about my posture and maintaining a healthy spine.

There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative and immerse yourself in writing while you’re in agony . The chair I work in today cost more than my first car!

How to Write a Book Image 2

If you’ve never used some of the items I listed above and can’t imagine needing them, fine. But make a list of everything you know you’ll need so when the actual writing begins, you’re already equipped.

As you grow as a writer and actually start making money at it, you can keep upgrading your writing space.

Where I work now is light years from where I started. But the point is, I didn’t wait to start writing until I could have a great spot in which to do it.

  • Part Two: How to Start Writing a Book

Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.

Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill be made up of many small parts.

An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time .

Try to get your mind off your book as a 400-or-so-page monstrosity.

It can’t be written all at once any more than that proverbial elephant could be eaten in a single sitting.

See your book for what it is: a manuscript made up of sentences, paragraphs, pages. Those pages will begin to add up, and though after a week you may have barely accumulated double digits, a few months down the road you’ll be into your second hundred pages.

So keep it simple.

Start by distilling you r big book idea from a page or so to a single sentence—your premise. The more specific that one-sentence premise, the more it will keep you focused while you’re writing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you can turn your big idea into one sentence, which can then b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.

Step 2. Settle on your BIG idea.

To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer.

You need to write something about which you’re passionate , something that gets you up in the morning, draws you to the keyboard, and keeps you there. It should excite not only you, but also anyone you tell about it.

I can’t overstate the importance of this.

If you’ve tried and failed to finish your book before—maybe more than once—it could be that the basic premise was flawed. Maybe it was worth a blog post or an article but couldn’t carry an entire book.

Think The Hunger Games , Harry Potter , or How to Win Friends and Influence People . The market is crowded, the competition fierce. There’s no more room for run-of-the-mill ideas. Your premise alone should make readers salivate.

Go for the big concept book.

How do you know you’ve got a winner? Does it have legs? In other words, does it stay in your mind, growing and developing every time you think of it?

Run it past loved ones and others you trust.

Does it raise eyebrows? Elicit Wows? Or does it result in awkward silences?

The right concept simply works, and you’ll know it when you land on it. Most importantly, your idea must capture you in such a way that you’re compelled to write it . Otherwise you will lose interest halfway through and never finish.

Step 3. Construct your outline.

Writing your book without a clear vision of where you’re going usually ends in disaster.

Even if you ’re writing a fiction book an d consider yourself a Pantser* as opposed to an Outliner, you need at least a basic structure .

[*Those of us who write by the seat of our pants and, as Stephen King advises, pu t interesting characters i n difficult situations and write to find out what happens]

You don’t have to call it an outline if that offends your sensibilities. But fashion some sort of a directional document that provides structure for your book and also serves as a safety net.

If you get out on that Pantser highwire and lose your balance, you’ll thank me for advising you to have this in place.

Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, there’s no substitute for an outline .

Potential agents or publishers require this in your proposal . T hey want to know where you’re going, and they want to know that you know. What do you want your reader to learn from your book, and how will you ensure they learn it?

Fiction or nonfiction, if you commonly lose interest in your book somewhere in what I call the Marathon of the Middle, you likely didn’t start with enough exciting ideas .

That’s why and outline (or a basic framework) is essential. Don’t even start writing until you’re confident your structure will hold up through the end.

You may recognize this novel structure illustration.

Did you know it holds up—with only slight adaptations—for nonfiction books too? It’s self-explanatory for novelists; they list their plot twists and developments and arrange them in an order that best serves to increase tension .

What separates great nonfiction from mediocre? The same structure!

Arrange your points and evidence in the same way so you’re setting your reader up for a huge payoff, and then make sure you deliver.

If your nonfiction book is a memoir , an autobiography , or a biography, structure it like a novel and you can’t go wrong.

But even if it’s a straightforward how-to book, stay as close to this structure as possible, and you’ll see your manuscript come alive.

Make promises early, triggering your reader to anticipate fresh ideas, secrets, inside information, something major that will make him thrilled with the finished product.

How to write a book - graph

While a nonfiction book may not have as much action or dialogue or character development as a novel, you can inject tension by showing where people have failed before and how your reader can succeed.

You can even make the how-to project look impossible until you pay off that setup with your unique solution.

Keep your outline to a single page for now. But make sure every major point is represented, so you’ll always know where you’re going.

And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the basics of classic outlining or have never felt comfortable with the concept.

Your outline must serve you. If that means Roman numerals and capital and lowercase letters and then Arabic numerals, you can certainly fashion it that way. But if you just want a list of sentences that synopsize your idea, that’s fine too.

Simply start with your working title, then your premise, then—for fiction, list all the major scenes that fit into the rough structure above.

For nonfiction, try to come up with chapter titles and a sentence or two of what each chapter will cover.

Once you have your one-page outline, remember it is a fluid document meant to serve you and your book. Expand it, change it, play with it as you see fit—even during the writing process .

Step 4. Set a firm writing schedule.

Ideally, you want to schedule at least six hours per week to write your book.

That may consist of three sessions of two hours each, two sessions of three hours, or six one-hour sessions—whatever works for you.

I recommend a regular pattern (same times, same days) that can most easily become a habit. But if that’s impossible, just make sure you carve out at least six hours so you can see real progress.

Having trouble finding the time to write a book? News flash—you won’t find the time. You have to make it.

I used the phrase carve out above for a reason. That’s what it takes.

Something in your calendar will likely have to be sacrificed in the interest of writing time . 

Make sure it’s not your family—they should always be your top priority. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of your writing career.

But beyond that, the truth is that we all find time for what we really want to do.

Many writers insist they have no time to write, but they always seem to catch the latest Netflix original series, or go to the next big Hollywood feature. They enjoy concerts, parties, ball games, whatever.

How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?

  • A favorite TV show?
  • An hour of sleep per night? (Be careful with this one; rest is crucial to a writer.)

Successful writers make time to write.

When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.

Step 5. Establish a sacred deadline.

Without deadlines, I rarely get anything done. I need that motivation.

Admittedly, my deadlines are now established in my contracts from publishers.

If you’re writing your first book, you probably don’t have a contract yet. To ensure you finish your book, set your own deadline—then consider it sacred .

Tell your spouse or loved one or trusted friend. Ask that they hold you accountable.

Now determine—and enter in your calendar—the number of pages you need to produce per writing session to meet your deadline. If it proves unrealistic, change the deadline now.

If you have no idea how many pages or words you typically produce per session, you may have to experiment before you finalize those figures.

Say you want to finish a 400-page manuscript by this time next year.

Divide 400 by 50 weeks (accounting for two off-weeks), and you get eight pages per week. 

Divide that by your typical number of writing sessions per week and you’ll know how many pages you should finish per session.

Now is the time to adjust these numbers, while setting your deadline and determining your pages per session.

Maybe you’d rather schedule four off weeks over the next year. Or you know your book will be unusually long.

Change the numbers to make it realistic and doable, and then lock it in. Remember, your deadline is sacred.

Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).

You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

You wouldn’t guess it from my 200+ published books, but I’m the king of procrastinators .

Don’t be. So many authors are procrastinators that I’ve come to wonder if it’s a prerequisite.

The secret is to accept it and, in fact, schedule it.

I quit fretting and losing sleep over procrastinating when I realized it was inevitable and predictable, and also that it was productive.

Sound like rationalization?

Maybe it was at first. But I learned that while I’m putting off the writing, my subconscious is working on my book. It’s a part of the process. When you do start writing again, you’ll enjoy the surprises your subconscious reveals to you.

So, knowing procrastination is coming, book it on your calendar .

Take it into account when you’re determining your page quotas. If you have to go back in and increase the number of pages you need to produce per session, do that (I still do it all the time).

But—and here’s the key—you must never let things get to where that number of pages per day exceeds your capacity.

It’s one thing to ratchet up your output from two pages per session to three. But if you let it get out of hand, you’ve violated the sacredness of your deadline.

How can I procrastinate and still meet more than 190 deadlines?

Because I keep the deadlines sacred.

Step 7. Eliminate distractions to stay focused.

Are you as easily distracted as I am?

Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the pictures of 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?

Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war.

That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.

The answer to these insidious timewasters?

Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.

  • Freedom app
  • FocusWriter

Step 8. Conduct your research.

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .

Fiction means more than just making up a story .

Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.

And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert—as I’m doing here—getting all the facts right will polish your finished product.

In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.

The importance of research when writing

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research .

Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it.

Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.

My favorite research resources:

  • World Almanacs : These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names .
  • The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus : The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want to onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
  • : Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.

Step 9. Start calling yourself a writer.

Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. Who do you think you are, trying to write a book?”

That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past .

But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.

A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house.

Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic —who, of course, is really you. 

Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.

Are you a writer? Say so.

  • Part Three: The Book-Writing Itself

Step 1. Think reader-first.

This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.

Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.

Reader-first, last, and always .

If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.

When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.

Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.

Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.

Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.

Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.

So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?

When in doubt, look in the mirror . 

The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.

Step 2. Find your writing voice.

Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.

You can find yours by answering these quick questions :

  • What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
  • Who’s the most important person you told about it?
  • What did you sound like when you did?
  • That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.

That’s all there is to it.

If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.

Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .

Step 3. Write a compelling opener.

If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.

And neither is your angst misplaced.

This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.

How to Write a Book Image 5

Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.

It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.

Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:

1. Surprising

Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

2. Dramatic Statement

Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise

Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand

3. Philosophical

Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .

Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.

Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.

In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.

Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.

Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?

Thrust people into conflict with each other . 

That’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.

Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.

Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end . 

And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.

Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.

Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.

That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.

He or she needs to be told to shut up .

Turning off your inner self-editor

This is not easy.

Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.

Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.

It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .

I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.

A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.

That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”

Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.

Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.

Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.

The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.

Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.

So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.

THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.

I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .

I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.

Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.

Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.

Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.

That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.

They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.

This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.

The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.

If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.

For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.

But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.

Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.

It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.

Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Step 7. Write a resounding ending.

This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.

But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .

How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?

  • Don’t rush it . Give readers the payoff they’ve been promised. They’ve invested in you and your book the whole way. Take the time to make it satisfying.
  • Never settle for close enough just because you’re eager to be finished. Wait till you’re thrilled with every word, and keep revising until you are.
  • If it’s unpredictable, it had better be fair and logical so your reader doesn’t feel cheated. You want him to be delighted with the surprise, not tricked.
  • If you have multiple ideas for how your book should end, go for the heart rather than the head, even in nonfiction. Readers most remember what moves them.
  • Part Four: Rewriting Your Book

Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.

How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?

Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.

Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?

You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:

  • Omit needless words
  • Choose the simple word over one that requires a dictionary
  • Avoid subtle redundancies , like “He thought in his mind…” (Where else would someone think?)
  • Avoid hedging verbs like almost frowned, sort of jumped, etc.
  • Generally remove the word that —use it only when absolutely necessary for clarity
  • Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain , as in, “She walked through the open door.” (Did we need to be told it was open?)
  • Avoid too much stage direction (what every character is doing with every limb and digit)
  • Avoid excessive adjectives
  • Show, don’t tell
  • And many more

For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)

When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author. 

Step 2. Find a mentor.

Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.

Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.

Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.

Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .

There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .

Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.

In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.

2. Self-publishing

Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing. 

Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances. 

Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.

Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.

Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.

Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .

Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.

Best practices when formatting your book:

  • Use 12-point type
  • Use a serif font; the most common is Times Roman
  • Double space your manuscript
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences
  • Indent each paragraph half an inch (setting a tab, not using several spaces)
  • Text should be flush left and ragged right, not justified
  • If you choose to add a line between paragraphs to indicate a change of location or passage of time, center a typographical dingbat (like ***) on the line
  • Black text on a white background only
  • One-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides (the default in Word)
  • Create a header with the title followed by your last name and the page number. The header should appear on each page other than the title page.

If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .

Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.

All serious authors need a website. Period.

Because here’s the reality of publishing today…

You need an audience to succeed.

If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.

If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.

And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.

Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.

Step 4. Pursue a Literary Agent.

There remain a few traditional publishers (those who pay you and take the entire financial risk of publishing your book rather than the other way around) who accept unsolicited submissions, but I do NOT recommend going that route. 

Your submission will likely wind up in what is known in the business as the slush pile. That means some junior staff member will be assigned to get to it when convenient and determine whether to reject it out of hand (which includes the vast majority of the submissions they see) or suggest the publisher’s editorial board consider it.

While I am clearly on record urging you to exhaust all your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing (in other words, paying to be printed), as I say, I do not recommend submitting unsolicited material even to those publishers who say they accept such efforts.

Even I don’t try to navigate the publishing world by myself, despite having been an author, an editor, a publisher, and a writing coach over the last 50 years.

That’s why I have an agent and you need one too.

Many beginning writers naturally wonder why they should share any of their potential income with an agent (traditionally 15%). First, they don’t see any of that income unless you’re getting your 85% at the same time. And second, everyone I know in the business is happy to have someone in their corner, making an agent a real bargain.

I don’t want to have to personally represent myself and my work. I want to stay in my creative lane and let a professional negotiate every clause of the contract and win me the best advance and rights deal possible.

Once under contract, I work directly with the publishing house’s editor and proofreader, but I leave the financial business to my agent.

Ultimately, an agent’s job is to protect your rights and make you money. They profit only when you do.

That said, landing an agent can be as difficult and painstaking as landing a publisher. They know the market, they know the editors, they know what publishers want, and they can advise you how to put your best foot forward.

But how do you know who to trust? Credible, trustworthy agents welcome scrutiny. If you read a book in your genre that you like, check the Acknowledgments page for the agent’s name. If the author thinks enough of that person to mention them glowingly, that’s a great endorsement.

If you’re writing in the inspirational market, peruse agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide . If you’re writing for the general market, try The Writer’s Market . If you know any published authors, ask about their agents.

The guides that list agents also include what they’re looking for, what they specialize in, and sometimes even what they’re not interested in. Study these to determine potential agents who ply their trade in your genre. Visit their websites for their submission guidelines, and follow these to a T.

They may ask for a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, or even sample chapters. Be sure not to send more or less than they suggest. 

The best, and most logical place to start is by sending them a query letter. Query simply means question, and in essence the question your letter asks is whether you may send them more.

Step 5: Writing Your Query Letter.

It’s time to move from author to salesperson.

Your query letter will determine whether a literary agent asks to see more, sends you a cordial form letter to let you down easy, or simply doesn’t respond.

Sadly, many agents stipulate on their websites that if you hear nothing after a certain number of weeks, you should take that as an indication that they’re not interested. Frankly, to me, this is frustrating to the writer and lazy on the part of the agent. Surely, in this technological age, it should be easy to hit one button and send a note to someone who might otherwise wonder if the query reached the agent at all.

But that’s the reality we deal with.

So, the job of your one-page single-spaced email letter is to win a response—best case scenario: an invitation to send more: a proposal or even the manuscript. 

Basically, you’re selling yourself and your work. Write a poor query letter and an agent will assume your book is also poorly written.

Without being gimmicky or cute, your letter must intrigue an agent. 

Your query letter should:

  • Be addressed to a specific person (not to the staff of the agency or “To Whom It May Concern”)*
  • Present your book idea simply
  • Evidence your style
  • Show you know who your readers are
  • Clarify your qualifications
  • Exhibit flexibility and professionalism

*If you see a list of agents in a firm, choose one from the middle or bottom of the list. It could be that they get less personal mail than the person whose name is on the door. Who knows? That you single them out may make them see your query in a more favorable light.

For some great advice on writing a query letter, check this out:  

  • You Have What It Takes to Write a Book

Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You can do this .

Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)

I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.

Get your FREE copy by clicking the button below.

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How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

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How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide (with Free Book Idea Worksheet!)

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

You want to write a book. Maybe you have a great story idea. Maybe you have a big idea you want to share with the world. Maybe people have told you, “Your life should be made into a book!” But first, you have to learn how to write a book.

book writing guidelines

The problem for the first-time author is figuring out how to get started. What are the writing habits you need to finish the actual writing for an entire book? And what comes next for your writing goals: traditional publishing? Self-publishing? Becoming a New York Times bestselling book? A long and illustrious writing career?

Because after coaching thousands of writers to write and finish their books, and also writing fifteen books of my own, I know exactly how much hard work it takes to finish a book.

It's not enough to want to write, you need to know how to write a book.

You need to have the right process. The write process, you might say (sorry, I had to!).

In this guide, we're going to learn everything about how to write a nonfiction book, from how to defeat procrastination and find writing time, all the way to revising and the editing process—and even to the publishing process.

If you've ever wanted to write a book, whether a memoir, a big idea book, or a self help book, you're in the right place.

If, on the other hand, you're a fiction writer and have a main character who you know is going to take the world by storm, we have a complete guide on novel writing here . For you nonfiction writers, though, read on for all our best writing tips.

And that free book idea worksheet ? Here's your FREE download: Book Idea Worksheet

Quick Tip: The Best Tool to Write a Book

Before we get started, here's a quick tip for writing a book, Microsoft Word just doesn't cut it.

My favorite writing tool is Scrivener, a book writing software used by the most successful writers. Scrivener helps you stay organized, set word count goals, and keep better track of your writing sessions. Check out our full review of Scrivener here.

How to Fail Writing a Book

In 2011, I had one of the best years of my life. That year, I wrote my first book, became a full-time writer, got my first book published , became a bestselling author, and had 80,000 people read my writing.

But it didn't happen overnight. I had dreamed about and had been working toward those goals for eight years before that: eight years of failure, of trying to write books and not being able to finish them, eight years of wanting to be a writer but not knowing how to actually do it .

Since then, I've written fifteen books, including one book that recently hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list.

You might be thinking, “That's cool, Joe. But you're clearly a talented writer. Writing is hard work for me.”

To be honest, it doesn't come easy to me. In fact, if I told my high school English teachers I'm a writer, they would probably be shocked.

The difference is that I found the right process. It's a step-by-step process that works every time, and it will work for you too.

In this guide, I'm going to share the process that I've used to write fifteen books, become a professional writer, and hit the bestsellers list.

But it's not just me. I've also trained thousands of people in our 100 Day Book program to finish books using this process, too.

It works, and it will work for you, if you follow it.

That being said, if you're still not sure you can actually do this alone, or if you just want some extra help along the way, check out 100 Day Book . In this program, we've helped thousands of aspiring writers turned authors to accomplish their dream of writing a book, and we'd love to help you, too. Click to learn more about 100 Day Book here.

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Writing a Book

Here's the process I finally learned after that decade of trying to learn how to write a book and failing, the same twelve steps that have helped me write fifteen books.

come up with a book idea

1. Come Up With a Great Book Idea

If you're here, you probably have a book idea already. Maybe you have several ideas.

And if that's true, great! Pat yourself on the back. You've made it to step one.

Here's what to do next: forget any sense accomplishment you have.

Yes, I'm serious.

Here's what George R.R. Martin said:

“Ideas are useless. Execution is everything.”

Because the thing is, an idea alone, even a great idea, is just the small step to write your book.

There are a lot more steps, and all of them are more difficult than coming up with your initial idea. (I'm sorry if that's discouraging!)

You have an idea. Great! Next, it's time to learn how to execute the way successful authors do. Let's get started with step 2.

(Don't have an idea yet? Check out this article: How to Write When You Don't Have Ideas .)

write a premise

2. Write Your Book Idea In the Form of a 1-Sentence Premise

The next step to taking your idea and turning it into a book is to summarize your idea into a single-sentence premise.

But wait, what's a premise ?

A premise distills your entire book idea down to a single sentence. This sentence becomes the foundation of all your writing efforts and will be helpful even into publishing process.

Your premise is also the most important part of a book proposal, so a good premise can actually help you get published.

Here’s an example of a nonfiction premise from my book The Write Structure , which got half a dozen responses from agents.

The Write Structure utilizes The Write Practice’s ( award-winning methodology to show creative writers how to write their best novels, memoirs, short stories, or screenplays by following story structure principles used and taught by writers for hundreds of years.

Each nonfiction book premise should contain the following three elements:

  • A problem . The problem the book aims to solve (in this case, how to write a good novel, memoir, short story, or screenplay)
  • A person . Who is the person sharing the solution to that problem, e.g. you
  • A solution . What is your unique process to solve that problem

By simplifying your book down to a single sentence, you create a strong, achievable foundation to your entire book. Not only will this simple step help you during the writing process, it will also help you throughout the publishing process, too, which we'll talk about more in a bit.

Ready to write your premise? To make it easier we have a free worksheet template that will guide you through writing a publishable premise: Download the worksheet here.

Or get a copy of our Write Plan Planner , and have a physical tool to guide you through the writing process. Check out the planner here.

3. Choose Your Publishing Path

When you're writing nonfiction, you have to choose your publishing path earlier than creative writers because most nonfiction books are picked up by publishers before they're written.

In fact, it's a red flag in the eyes of traditional publishers and literary agents if you've finished your book before you pitch them. They want to see a book proposal first, and have a hand in the shaping of the book.

That means, if you're writing nonfiction, and you want to get traditionally published, before you go write your own book, you must write a book proposal.

However, if you're writing a memoir, you may need to finish writing the book before you seek publishing. Memoir exists in something of a gray area in the publishing world, with more self-help focused memoirs requiring a proposal, and more creative memoirs acting more like a novel, where the writer would finish them first.

Which publishing path is right for you? Here are the two main requirements for traditional publishing for nonfiction books:

  • Platform . Do you have authority within this topic? Do you have a following, via social media, speaking, podcast, YouTube, an email list, or some other platform of at least 10,000 people?
  • A tested idea with mass market appeal . Does your idea line up with your platform? Does it have mass market appeal?

If you can't answer “yes” to both of these questions, then you might consider self-publishing, working with a small press, or hybrid press after you complete your book. Or taking a break from your book to build your platform and target audience, perhaps by building an author website and starting a blog. (For more on this, check out this guide on how to build a platform via a blog .)

You might be wondering, at this point too, how do you write a book proposal?

Book proposals vary across writers and publishers, but here are some of the major components:

  • 1-Sentence Premise (see above)
  • 2-4 paragraph synopsis
  • Outline (Table of Contents)
  • Tone and Writing Style
  • Platform Description and Marketing Info
  • 2-3 Sample Chapters

For more on this, check out Jane Friedman's excellent guide on how to write a book proposal .

Now, once you've chosen your publishing path and you're ready to begin writing a whole book, how do you actually finish it? The next steps will all but guarantee you reach The End of your book.

outline your book

4. Outline Your Book

Even you if you don't decide to traditionally publish, I still recommend working through most of the elements of a book proposal listed above, especially the book outline because it will make the writing process so much easier.

Your book's outline will vary widely depending on your genre, your writing style, your book's topic, and your method.

However, there are some tried and true structures that exist in nonfiction books. Here are some suggested structures you can use:

Introduction . Most nonfiction books include a short (2,000 to 3,000 words) introduction. They usually outline the main problem you will be focusing on in the book. They may also introduce you as the author and your authority, and outline the unique solution you will be guiding readers through in your book.

8-10 Chapters . Nonfiction book chapters dive deeper into the problem and give principles or steps to solve that problem. Chapters can have a variety of different structures, but here is my personal favorite, used frequently by Malcolm Gladwell:

  • Opening story
  • Analysis of the story
  • Universal principle
  • Closing story (may be the conclusion of the opening story)

Conclusion . Conclusions usually restate the problem and show how you solved that problem, often ending with a concluding story and a call to action to encourage the reader to go out and put the ideas you've shared to use.

Easy right? Not exactly, but creating this outline will make the rest of the writing process so much easier. Even if it changes, you'll have a resource to help you get unstuck when the writing gets hard.

If you want a template for your outline, as well as a step-by-step guide through the book writing process, get a copy of our Write Plan Planner . This is the exact process that I have used to write fifteen books, and that thousands of other authors in our community have used to finish their book all in a beautiful, daily planner . Check out the planner here.

set a deadline

5. Set a Deadline

This one might surprise you. Because most people think that once you've got your idea ready to go, you should just start writing and not worry about the period of time it takes.

Nope. Not even close.

The next step is to set a deadline for when you're going to finish the first rough draft of your book. But you might be wondering, how long does it take to write a book in the first place?

How long should you set your deadline for?

Some people use NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to set their deadline for them, writing 50,000 words of book in the thirty days of November. That being said, it's very challenging for most people to finish a book in thirty days.

Stephen King, on the other hand, said the first draft of a book should take no more than a season, so three months. With all due respect to Stephen King, I think that's a little fast for most people.

We give people 100 days , which seems to be just long enough to write a first draft without getting distracted by everything else the world wants you to focus on (looking at you, social media).

So for you, give yourself a week or two to prepare, then set your deadline for about 100 days after that.

There you go! You now have a deadline to finish your book!

break up your deadline

6. Break Your Deadline Into Weekly and Daily Word Counts

You can't pull an all-nighter and finish writing a book. Trust me, I've tried!

Instead, you have to break up your deadline into smaller, weekly, and daily deadlines so you can make measured progress over your writing period. This step breaks the work into manageable pieces.

This step also requires a bit of math. Here's how to do it so you can actually stay on track:

  • Figure out your book's ideal target word count goal (check out our word count guide )
  • Figure out how many weeks until your deadline (e.g. 100 days = 14.5 weeks)
  • Divide your book's total word count by the number of weeks (e.g. 45,000 ÷ 14.5 = 3,103 words per week)
  • Next, figure out how many days per week you're going to write (e.g. 5 days a week)
  • Finally, divide your weekly word count goal by the number of days you'll write to get your daily word count goal (e.g. 3,103 ÷ 5. = 621 words per day)

If you can hit all of your weekly and daily deadlines, you know you’ll make your final deadline at the end.

P.S. You're much more likely to actually meet your deadlines if you take a stand and set a consequence, which I”ll talk about next.

take a stand

7. Take a Stand

Deadlines are nice, but it can be too easy to follow Douglas Adams' advice:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

There are two tricks that will help you actually meet your deadline, and it's essential to do these before you start writing or you'll never finish your book.

The first one is a little scary, but will make a huge difference.

Once you've set your deadline, go tell everyone you know. Post your deadline on social media, saying something like this:

book writing guidelines

Here. We'll even make it easy for you. Just click the share button below to tweet this and fill in the blank with your deadline:

Don't have social media? That's okay. Just email five friends. These friends will become your accountability partners to ensure you finish your book.

Important: I don't recommend talking about your book idea. Talking about the idea can actually remove some of the motivation to actually work on your book.

But I highly recommend talking about your book's deadline because humans naturally avoid letting each other down. When you make a public promise to do something, you're much more likely to do it!

So go ahead. Share your deadline. You can do this right now. Don't worry, we'll be here when you get back.

Then, move on to the next trick to keep your deadline.

set a consequence

8. Set a Consequence

You might think, “Setting a deadline is fine, but how do I actually hit my deadline?”

The answer is you need to create a consequence. A consequence is a bad thing that happens if you don't hit your deadline.

Maybe you write a check to a charity you hate, like the society for the euthanasia of puppies, you give it to a friend, and you say, “You have to send this check if I don't hit my deadline.”

Or maybe you say you're going to give up a guilty pleasure if you don't hit your deadline, like ice cream or wine or TV or your favorite phone game.

Set a really tough consequence for your final deadline, and then set a couple of less severe consequences for your weekly deadlines.

Whatever you choose, make it really hard to not hit your deadline.

Why? Because writing is hard! If you want to write a book, you need to make not writing harder than writing.

By creating a consequence, you make not writing harder than the actual writing, and this simple trick will make you much more likely to finish.

set an intention

9. Set an Intention

This is the last step before you start writing, but secretly one of the most helpful.

Set an intention.

Studies have shown that when you have a goal, like working out more or writing a book, and you imagine where , when , and how much you're going to do something, you're much more likely to actually do it.

So do this with me:

  • Close your eyes, and imagine your ideal writing space , the place you're going to spend your writing time. Maybe it's a coffee shop or your home office or a chair beside your favorite window.
  • Next, imagine what time it is . Is it the morning? Afternoon? Late at night after everyone's gone to bed?
  • Finally, picture yourself writing, and watch yourself reach your daily word count goal . Imagine how it feels to accomplish your goal. Great? A relief?
  • Then, write all of that down, locking your intention in place . Now that you have a set writing schedule, follow it!

Notice that this is the tenth step.

Most people start here, but without the groundwork you've laid in the previous nine steps, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Don't skip the first nine steps!

Once you do begin writing, keep this in mind:

First drafts are universally bad .

Don't try to write perfect sentences. Don't go back and edit endlessly.

No, instead write as fast as you're able. Get to “the end” as quickly as you can. Use writing sprints .

Try to write as imperfectly as you can, not because you want to write a bad book, but because this is how writing always is: you write a bad first draft and then revise it into a better second draft—and finally, three or five drafts later, you've written a good book.

The difference between aspiring writers and published authors is that published authors know you can't do good writing until you write a bad draft first. Get through it as quickly as you can!

If you're not a natural writer , consider dictating your book into a recorder, and transcribing it afterward. There's no reason you have to physically type out your book. Transcribing it is a perfectly viable way to create a good first draft.

revise, rewrite, edit

11. Revise, Rewrite, and Edit

After you finish your first draft comes the real hard part.

I know what you're thinking. The first ten steps weren't hard enough?

Yes, of course they were hard. But for some reason, second drafts can be just as hard, if not harder, than first drafts. I've had some of my biggest mental and emotional breakdowns in my life while working on the second draft of a book. There's just something about second drafts that are much more mentally challenging than first drafts.

Here, it's a good idea to get an editor who can give you feedback. (Need an editor recommendation? We have a team of editors we work with here at The Write Practice. Check out our process and get a quote here .)

Once you've finished your second draft, I also recommend getting beta readers, people who can read your book and give you feedback. For more on this, check out our guide on how to find beta readers and use their feedback effectively here .

Depending on your topic, you might also consider recruiting some sensitivity readers to read your book, too.

After you've done all of this, I have one last writing tip for you to ensure you actually finish writing your book—and it might be the most important of all.

Don't stop

12. Don't Stop

Most people want to write a book. I hear from people all the time that think they have a book in them, who believe that they have a story that needs to be shared.

I very rarely talk to people who have finished a book.

Writing a book is hard.

It's SO easy to quit. You get a new idea. Or you read your writing and think, “This is terrible.” Or you decide, “I'd rather be catching up on Netflix, not spending my nights writing.”

Because of this, you quit.

Here's the thing though: the only way to fail at writing a book is to quit .

If you don't quit, if you just keep writing, keep following this process we've outlined above, you will finish a book.

It might not be a good book (yet). But that's what editing is for.

It will be a first draft, and a finished draft at that . You can't write a second draft and start to make your book actually good, actually publishable, until you write the first draft.

So write. Don't stop. Don't quit. If you follow these steps and don't stop, you'll finish.

We'll be here supporting you along the way.

More Resources on How to Write a Book

Still feeling stuck? Have more questions about how to write a book? We've put together a library of book-writing resources. Take a look at the articles below.

Book Writing Tools and Programs

  • 100 Day Book . Get a mentor, 100+ writing lessons, deadlines, and accountability and write your book in a program that works. Thousands of authors have finished their books in 100 Day Book, and we'd love to help you too. Click to sign up for 100 Day Book here.
  • The Write Plan Planner. Containing everything we've learned about how to write a book over the last 10+ years, this step-by-step guide will walk you through our proven book writing process. Click to get your daily book writing planner.
  • Best Book Writing Software . A variety of the best tools for writing, publishing, formatting, and marketing your book.

How to Write a Book Fast Articles

I shared above why I believe that first drafts should be written quickly, in just a few weeks. Still not sure? In the articles below, dozens of other writers share how they wrote fast first drafts, plus you'll get all the tips and strategies they learned along the way.

  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 10 Steps
  • How to Write a Book FAST
  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days
  • How to Write a Novel in 6 Months
  • The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in 2020
  • How to Right a Book in Nine (Not So) Easy Steps
  • How to Finish a Novel With a Swim Buddy
  • How to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word

How to Write a Book by Genre

Every genre comes with specific expectations that must be fulfilled. Here's how to craft an amazing story in your genre.

  • How to Write a Novel
  • How to Write a Memoir
  • How to Write a Mystery Novel
  • How to Write a Suspense Novel
  • How to Write a Thriller Novel
  • How to Write a Romance Novel
  • How to Write an Adventure Book
  • How to Write a Coming of Age Novel
  • How to Write a Young Adult Novel
  • How to Write a Self-Help Book
  • How to Write a Book That's Based on a True Story
  • How to Write a Book Like Stephen King
  • 20 Sci-Fi Creative Writing Prompts and Story Ideas

Okay, no, Stephen King isn't a genre. But he's well worth learning from!

How to Write a Book When Writing Is Hard

Let's face it: writing is hard . Every single writer struggles at some point in their book. The important thing is not to quit . In the following articles, writers share how they persevered through the hard parts, and how you can too.

  • How to Write a Book While Working Full Time
  • How to Write a Book When You Don't Have Ideas
  • How to Write a Book When You’ve Got Writer’s Block
  • I Never Thought I Would Write a Book. Here's How I Did It Anyway
  • How to Write a Book: The Everest Method
  • 10 Obstacles to Writing a Book and How to Conquer Them

How to Write a Book With a Specific Style

Your book comes with its own unique quirks and challenges, especially if the story you're telling is a series, or is told from multiple perspectives. Here's how other writers have navigated these choices.

  • How to Write a Book from Multiple Perspectives
  • How to Write a Book Series Without Messing Things Up
  • How to Write a Novel That Readers Can't Put Down

How to Write a Book and Publish It

Writing is meant to be shared! In these articles, writers break down the publishing process so you can finish your book and share it with the world.

  • How to Write and Publish a Book for Free
  • How to Write a Book Description That Will Captivate Readers (And Sell Books!)

Publishing Resources

Once you've finished writing a book, how do you get it published. Here are some resources to help.

  • Amazon KDP. Self-publish your book on Kindle to the world's biggest book marketplace.
  • Book Cover Design . Find a book cover designer among our favorite designers.

Commit to the Book Writing Process, Not Your Feelings

Are you ready to commit to finishing your book?

I don't want you to commit to a book idea. Ideas are seductive, but then you get a fresh idea and the idea you've been working on becomes much less interesting.

You probably have had inspiring moments of writing, when everything feels like it's flowing. But I don't want you to commit to a feeling. Feelings are fickle. They change by the hour.

No, instead commit to the process.

If you follow these steps, you will finish a book. It won't be easy. It will still be a challenge. But you'll do it.

Can you imagine how great it will feel to write “The End” on your own book? Think about the people you will touch because you finished that book. Let's get to it together.

Are you going to commit to writing a book? Let me know in the comments !

The first part of Step Three is to create a 1-sentence premise of your book.

Spend fifteen minutes today to rewrite your book idea into a single-sentence premise. Then, share your premise in the Pro Practice Workshop here.  (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here ).

Finally, after you share, make sure to give feedback to three other writers.

Happy writing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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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.

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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.

Incorporate Critique

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.

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POSTED ON Apr 10, 2023

Justin Champion

Written by Justin Champion

You're ready to learn how to write a book…

And as a first-time author, you're nervous about this new journey because you want first-time success (who doesn't?).

But today's publishing industry has become noisy . There is endless information out there on writing a book, and with the rise of self-publishing , it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Spcom Nonfiction Outline 1

Need A Nonfiction Book Outline?

Here's how to write a book step-by-step:

  • Develop a writer’s mindset
  • Create a book writing space
  • Choose your book writing software
  • Determine your book's topic
  • Create a book outline
  • Finish writing your manuscript
  • Edit your book
  • Choose a compelling book cover
  • Format your book
  • Prepare to launch your book
  • Publish your book
  • Market your book
  • How To Write A Book: FAQ

If you’re ready to take the leap, become an author , and learn how to write a book the right way, start with this resource to get your wheels in motion.

As a first-time bestselling author, I can tell you that writing my first book was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.

I experienced a lot of growth and pushed through many hurdles, in my mind and process, and being able to learn how to publish is something I am truly proud of.

And I'm ready to share the steps with you, so that you can go on to write a book of your own, and find success as a first-time author.

Ready to start writing your book? Let's get to it!

Successful Foundations When Learning How to Write a Book

In this article, we'll start with the basics. While the steps in this phase may seem to be unrelated to actually writing a book, they are very important.

In fact, setting yourself up for success will help you build the foundation needed to start , and finish, your book.

We'll talk about developing a writer's mindset to get you in a frame of mind that's conducive to writing. Then, we'll discuss how to create a writing space that will boost your writing productivity , and how to choose the best writing tool for your needs.

Tips for success as you write a book:

  • Develop a writer's mindset . This is all about embracing a mentality that will inspire you to start, and finish writing your book.
  • Create a writing space . This is all about how to set up the ideal writing environment that fits your routine.
  • Use a tool to write your book . This is all about deciding on what you will use to write your book .
  • Get support . A strong support network, a community of peers, and a book writing coach could be the difference between a published book and an unfinished manuscript.
  • Use templates where you can. We provide you with a proven book outline template in this post. But there are templates for cover layouts, formatting, and more. Don't recreate the wheel! Use these and build upon them to make them your own.

YouTube video

Step 1 – Develop a Writer’s Mindset

Writing a book takes time, work, and dedication. It’s easy to romanticize being a well-known bestselling author like J.K. Rowling or Octavia Butler. However, every author has a story on how they started out just like you or me and overcame adversity to get where they are today.

For example, Rowling, who had no job and was on welfare at the time, would take her children to a coffee shop and write.

Butler, who was a dishwasher and potato chip inspector at the time, would wake up at two or three in the morning to write and wrote herself mantras to keep her focused on her goals.

The first step in learning how to write a book is learning how to overcome mindset blocks, deal with self-doubt as a writer , and develop a healthy frame of mind that will help you achieve your goals .

Write A Book Mindset Quote Graphic

Let’s review three things you can do to circumvent roadblocks and crush challenges to keep you focused on your goal — writing your book .

1 – Hold yourself accountable to writing your book

It’s not good enough to write only when inspiration strikes. There will be days where writing is the last thing you want to be doing.

But you have to treat your writing as if it were a job, or a duty. This means holding yourself accountable, taking action, and showing up every day.

Here's how to hold yourself accountable to writing:

  • Set a writing goal. If you don't have a goal, procrastination will get the best of you. Determine a writing goal , including how many days a week you intend to set aside time to write, and set a deadline or due date for when you'd like to have parts of your book.
  • Block off chunks of time to write every week.  If you’re looking for a place to start, consider one to two hours per day five days per week. The more often you write, the more you’ll develop a habit for it, and making time for writing won't be that much of a struggle.
  • Set a daily word count goal.  Consider how many words you want to write each week. Use this Word Count Calculator to determine the goal you should aim for, depending on the type of book you are writing. For example, if your goal is 3,000 words per week and you have five chunks of time blocked off to write per week, then you’d need to write 600 words per day to achieve your weekly goal.

I write early in the morning before I do anything else for 1-2 hours. I find that as I go throughout the day and work on other projects my mind isn’t as fresh or sharp by the end of the day. However, sometimes I have ideas throughout the day that I jot down in Evernote to jump-start the next morning with a working outline.

2 – Give yourself permission to be a writer

This might sound silly, but it's true: you need to give yourself permission to be a writer. Many aspiring authors get stuck in their mindset, which prevents them from initiating and completing their writing projects.

Even successful authors feel like they aren't good enough. Acknowledge your feelings, but then shake them off, and move on with your day.

Hear this: You don't have to be an expert to get started. You don't have to feel 100% confident to be a good writer. You don't even have to be all-knowing to teach others about your experiences or knowledge.

Here's how to give yourself permission to be a writer:

  • Get inspiration from other writers . When you're just getting started, you might feel alone in your journey. But take comfort in the fact that other successful writers and creative geniuses all started at the bottom, just like you. Many of them overcame seemingly impossible hurdles, but persisted with their writing dreams, anyway. Research some of your favorite authors, and read up on their stories to discover the issues they overcame to find success.
  • Accept where you are . Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt, and then release them. It's okay to experience moments of feeling discouraged, but it's important that you don't let those feelings hold you back. Accept that you are beginning your journey and that this is a learning process.
  • Use positive affirmations . Your thoughts have a huge influence on your abilities. What you think starts to become your reality, so make your thoughts good. Use positive affirmations about yourself and your writing abilities to pump yourself up. You can even read inspirational writing quotes from famous authors for motivation.
  • Overcome imposter syndrome . Even expert authors and writers feel like imposters every now and again. While it's okay to experience feeling inferior, you have to eventually get over those thoughts and push on towards your goals. Connect with other aspiring writers, get yourself a mentor, and join writers conferences or writing communities.

3 – Announce your intention to write a book

The best way to hold yourself accountable for your work is to let others know your goals . Is there someone you trust or a group of people in your network you can appoint to check in on progress?

Perhaps there is someone else you know who is trying to write or someone who is a seasoned writer who can serve as a mentor. If so, try to have regular check-ins with this person.

One way to keep these meetings consistent is to schedule a lunch or coffee date. Talk about your progress and perhaps any challenges you’re facing. They may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

I told my wife, Ariele, and several of my closest teammates from work about my intentions to write my first book. We had regular check-ins to talk about progress. Everyone helped keep me motivated and had different feedback that helped progress the book. Without them, it would have been a lot more difficult to write Inbound Content in the timeframe I did.

Step 2 – Create a Book Writing Space

The second step in how to write a book has to do with your environment. Where you choose to write will have a major impact on your writing productivity.

Find creative spaces where you can produce your best writing.

Sure, some might argue that they can write anywhere as long as they have the tools to write . But where we choose to write play a huge role in our writing motivation and focus.

Questions to think about: Where do you work best? What surroundings inspire you most? Identify them and make it a best practice to work there consistently.

Creative Book Writing Spaces Graphic

Here are creative writing spaces to write your book:

  • Coffee shops (classic)
  • Beautiful park or somewhere in nature
  • A dedicated writing nook at home

My main writing location is the dinette in my Airstream. I do my best work when traveling; I wrote the manuscript for my book in six weeks as I traveled the U.S. and  worked full time from the road .

Step 3 – Choose your Book Writing Software

The next step in how to write a book has to do with writing tools .

In 1882, Mark Twain sent to a publisher the first manuscript to be written on a piece of technology that would transform the writing industry: the typewriter.

Nowadays, we have computers with word processing and the internet where you can find an endless assortment of useful book writing software and apps that are meant to help you be an efficient and effective writer. If you're writing a novel, check out this guide to novel writing software .

You may be tempted to overload on apps because you think it’ll help elevate your writing. But honestly, less is more . The truth is that the right tools and even self-publishing companies make writing and publishing easier and more enjoyable.

YouTube video

Instead of overwhelming you with all the possible apps in existence, below is a list of three tools I recommend adding to your writing toolkit today (and they’re free).

1 – Google Drive

  • You can organize all aspects of your project in folders (research, outline, manuscript drafts, etc.)
  • You can host files for your projects like images, photos, etc.
  • You can use Google Docs as a word processor. And we have a book writing template , specifically for Google Docs.
  • You can enable offline access and work on your files even when you don’t have an internet connection, such as when you’re traveling.
  • You can collaborate easily with others, avoiding version control issues.
  • You can access it from just about any device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, you name it).

Google Drive is one of the most versatile cloud storage services available today. But Google Drive is so much more than cloud storage. Here’s a list of ways you can use Google Drive to help you write your book:

Plus, Google will give you 15GB of free storage just for signing up.

If you’re new to Google Drive, here’s a list of resources that can turn you into a pro. (FYI, if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Drive account.)

2 – Grammarly

Grammarly is an editing tool that helps you identify grammatical errors, typos, and incorrect sentence structure in your writing.

Download the web extension and Grammarly will edit most anything you type in a web browser (yes, it will work with Google Docs).

You can check out this Grammarly review if you're on the fence about this one.

3 – Evernote

Inspiration can strike at any time. Capture those thoughts and ideas as they happen in Evernote. You can even sync Google Drive and Evernote . I recommend doing this, especially on your mobile device.

4 – A Notebook & Pen

Don't underestimate the power of good ole' fashioned pen and paper when it comes to writing a book, which is arguable the only essential writing tool out there.

Even if you write your entire manuscript on a trusty writing software program , you'll still want to have a dedicated notebook available for the times when inspiration strikes and you can't access a computer.

Every writer should have a notebook handy for random ideas and thoughts. You can jot these down in your notebook, then revisit them and digitally store them in your book writing software when you're back at the computer.

Section 2: How to Write A Book

Now we'll move on to how to actually start writing a book. This is the part that seems simple, but can be more difficult than you realize.

However, once you get through the process of actually writing your book, you will gain momentum to finish it, and eventually publish it.

We'll show you how to write a book in these steps.

YouTube video

Step 4 – Determine Your Book Topic

It all starts with an idea. What's your book idea ?

Maybe you already know exactly what you want to write about. Or maybe you have a million ideas floating on in your head, but you don't know exactly where to start.

One of the most common pieces of advice for aspiring first-time authors is “write what you know.” A simple phrase that’s meant to be helpful, yet it begs so many questions.

If you're struggling with a book idea, try jumpstarting your creativity by experimenting with these writing prompts.

Whether you’re writing a non-fiction how-to guide or a fictional post-apocalyptic thriller, you need to form a connection with your audience and you can do that through emotion. The best way to create emotion with your reader is to understand them.

Here's how to determine what you want to write about and how to write it in a meaningful way.  

1 – Identify your target reader

The key to producing meaningful content is understanding your reader. You can do this by creating a reader persona — a semi-fictional representation of your ideal audience.

To get started with your reader persona, consider answering the following questions:

  • What’s the reader’s age? Are you writing a self-help book geared towards mature adults, or are you writing a guide for teenagers? The age of your reader will set the tone for your writing and book's context.
  • What’s the reader’s education level? Are you writing a book for PhD candidates, or for recent high school graduates? Depending on the answer, your writing style, verbiage, and word choice will vary.
  • Does the reader prefer visuals? Think about your book's potential topic and if visuals like charts, graphs, tables, illustrations , screenshots, or photographs will be expected.
  • What is this reader interested in? When you write a book, it's less about what you want to say, and more about what your reader needs to know. As you start to brainstorm a topic and write your book, always have a reader-centric approach.

The more you know about your reader, the better experience you can create for them.

When you set out to write a book, you have to think about your reader wants to know more than what you want to say. Make your book about the reader: what do they need to know in order to learn what you have to say?

My main audience is marketers and business owners at small-to-medium sized businesses. They’re strapped for time and don’t need another theoretical resource. They value real-world examples to help visualize what tips and strategies look like in action.

2 – Write about something that intrigues you

You need to write about something that spikes your curiosity, something that keeps you coming back day after day. Something that lights you up and that you're invested in.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you choose a topic to write about for the wrong reason, don’t expect to create something that people will love.

You need to be able to stick with it through dry spells and bouts of non-inspiration. Your own desire to hear the story will be what drives you through.

I’m a practitioner at heart and curious about finding ways to use content marketing to stand out and compete online. It energizes me to explain complex problems in an easy-to-understand way. Inspiration for this project is what kept me coming back to work on it day after day.

3 – Research potential topics

In our digital age, we can conveniently research topics from the comfort of our own home.

Google makes it easy to research just about any topic. Have multiple ideas for your book? Do a search on Google to learn more.

Here’s a list of ways to research your book concept on Google:

  • What content already exists? Are there already books written on this topic? If so, which ones performed well? Why did they perform well? Is there anything interesting about their content that enhanced the reader’s experience? Is the market over-saturated on this topic?
  • What influencers exist on the subject? Are there well-known authors on this topic? Who are they? What can you learn from them?
  • What do you need to learn? Are there specific things you need to learn to create a rich, meaningful narrative (ex. geography, culture, time period, etc.)?

I performed extensive research before writing the manuscript for Inbound Content. It was important for me to understand what content was already out there, which content was performing well, and most importantly, how could I make my book unique. This is exactly why I included homework after each chapter to help my readers build an action plan that they could implement immediately, something I noticed wasn’t typical in other marketing books.

4 – Choose a topic you can write about quickly

Writing your first book is invaluable because it's a serious learning experience. The process of actually writing a book and completing it will make this book a personal success for you, because of how much you will learn about yourself and your craft in the process.

Don't get hung up on a topic. If you're struggling with deciding what to write about first, go with the topic that you know best. Choose a topic or experience that you can write about quickly, with limited resources.

Here's how to find a topic you can write about quickly:

  • Write what you can teach right now. If you had to teach a lesson on something right at this second, what could you confidently teach? This is a topic you know well, that requires limited additional research, and what you can quickly create content for.
  • Write about a powerful experience. Each individual is unique in their experiences. Everyone has gone through something that changed them. Reflect on your life and think about one experience that sticks out about your life.
  • Write about a life lesson . What has life taught you? What unique observations have you made about the world? Think about your own life lessons, and reflect on how what you now know can help others in the world.

Step 5: Write A Book Outline

Once you know what you want to write about, you’re probably eager to start writing.

Keep in mind these words from Mark Twain: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Let’s review what you can do to create a clear book outline for your book that you can use as a roadmap.

1 – Create a mindmap

You have an idea, now it's time to hone in on just exactly what that idea is. With a mindmap, you can drill your topic down into sub-topics. It will help you get all of your ideas out and onto paper.

Here are the steps to mindmap your book's topic:

  • Get a blank piece of paper and pen.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Write your topic in the middle of the page.
  • Jot down all of your ideas related to your book's topic.
  • Do not stop writing until the timer goes off.

Once you have mindmapped your idea , you should have a full page of brainstormed thoughts, ideas, and concepts. You can then review what you've written, and begin to organize them. This will come in handy when it comes time to actually start plugging in content for your book outline.

2 – Write a purpose statement

In one sentence describe the purpose of your book. A strong purpose statement will explain to readers why they should consider reading your book. For me, I was writing a book to grow my business .

This will also help you stay focused as you begin drafting your outline and writing your book. It will prevent you from straying from related topics, and going off on tangents.

When you have trouble solidifying what your book is about , review your purpose statement.

Inbound Content‘s purpose statement: People who read this book will learn a step-by-step process on how to do content marketing the inbound way.

3 – Create a working title

A working title is a temporary title used during the production of your book. Identifying your book by giving it a name can help set the direction.

Once you finish your work you can revisit the title and update accordingly. Don't get too hung up on this step; think of the title as a placeholder. It isn't permanent, but it will be helpful to begin with one in mind.

If you need help thinking of a working title, use our Book Title Generator .

Inbound Content’s working title was Content Marketing Simplified. Once I completed the content, I updated it to something more fitting based on the content I created.

4 – Write an elevator pitch for your book

An effective elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds. For context, 30 seconds equals about 65-70 words.

Having a prepared elevator pitch will come in handy throughout your book-writing process. It will help you nail your book's purpose and topic, and it will help the concept become crystal clear not only for yourself as the writer, but for your potential readers, too.

As you ask family and friends to hold you accountable to writing, and as you connect with fellow writers, authors, and mentors, you will be asked about your book. Having a prepared elevator pitch will help you nail the answer without hesitation, each and every time.

Pro tip: Take the time to nail your elevator pitch. You want to be ready to have a clear, confident answer when people ask about your book.

How To Write A Book Outline Infographic

5 – Draft a working outline for your book

It's time to draft a working book outline! Just like the working title you created, this outline is a work-in-progress. The outline can change throughout your writing process, and that's okay!

However, it's super helpful to start with an outline so that you know where to begin, and have a general roadmap for where to go as you start writing.

Use the related concepts and sub-topics you organized in your mindmap, and start plugging in some content into your outline.

If you want to create a solid foundation for your book in just a few hours, consider this BookMap method . It’s a template you can follow to quickly pull together all the subjects you want to write about and organize them into topics that will become chapters of your book.

Your outline will do wonders for you once you start writing. It can help you avoid writer's block , and increase your writing momentum and productivity . Instead of wondering what to write about in the next chapter of your book, you'll already have an idea of where to start with your book's outline.

6 – Fill in the gaps with more research

After your working outline is completed, it's important to do further research on your topic so that you can fill in any areas that you missed or forgot to include in your original outline.

Research is important, but writing is more important when it comes to completing your book. So, make sure you balance time for research wisely.

Do not get too caught up in your research that it prevents you from writing your book. Take some time to research, but set a limit. Always go back to writing.

Nonfiction Book Research Infographic

Here's how to research when writing a book:

  • Use online resources by doing a Google search on your topic.
  • Read other books that have been written about your topic.
  • Listen to expert interviews, podcasts, and audiobooks related to your topic.
  • Read scholarly articles and academic journals within the subject or industry.
  • Search archives, collections, historical journals, data records, and newspaper clippings to get clear on events, dates, and facts about your topic, especially if you're writing about the past.

7 – Frameworks on how to write your book

If your book can follow a framework, this will make it easier to keep your writing organized and relevant.

By choosing a format or structure for your book's topic, you'll be able to align your outline in a way that will be helpful when you start to write each chapter.

Most nonfiction books can fall into a specific framework, or a blend of frameworks. It's better to start with a specific framework, then tweak it as needed as you continue writing.

Here are common nonfiction book frameworks to consider when writing a book:

  • Modular: Use this framework if you have a lot of information or concepts that can be grouped into similar topics, but don't need to be presented in a specific order.
  • Reference: Use this framework if your book will be used as a reference that makes it easy for readers to quickly find the information they need.
  • Three Act Structure: Use this framework if you plan to use storytelling in your book, where you have three main parts like a Set Up, Rising Action, and Resolution.
  • Sequential: Use this framework if your book reads like a “how to” with a specific set of steps.
  • Compare & Contrast: Use this framework if you need to show your reader how two or more ideas or concepts are similar to or different from one another.
  • Problem & Solution: Use this framework if readers need to be able to clearly identify a problem and understand the solution.
  • Chronological: Use this framework if each main section of your book represents a specific time or order of events.
  • Combination: If your book will fall under two or more of the above frameworks, then you will need to use a combination framework that's adjusted to your book's specific topic.

Step 6 – Finish Writing Your Book Draft

For many, the hard part isn't getting started with how to write a book… it's in actually finishing it !

Commit to finishing your rough draft , and you're already succeeding!

Here are our top tips to keep the momentum going as you start taking action after learning exactly how to write a book.

1 – Break your book writing into small chunks

Now that you have your book's outline and framework, it's time to get started with writing.

Like a marathon, your manuscript is essentially a puzzle made up of many smaller like-themed pieces. Your finished book may be 262 pages long, but it’s written one word or thought at a time. Pace yourself and stick to your consistent writing schedule .

If you approach your book writing by focusing too much on the larger picture, you can get overwhelmed. Write chapter-by-chapter.

Start with baby steps by chunking your writing into small pieces. Set milestones, and celebrate the small wins.

Here are some tips for breaking your writing into small pieces:

  • Write one chapter at a time . Focus on one piece at a time, not the entire puzzle!
  • Set deadlines to complete each chunk of writing . Break your goal down into smaller sections, then set individual deadlines for each section.
  • Structure your writing time. Follow a routine for writing that includes time for research (if needed) and review. For example, if you dedicate two hours each day towards your book, set 30 minutes aside to review your outline so you know what you're writing about, then 30 minutes to research anything that you need to clarify, then one hour to actually writing.
  • Celebrate small goals. As you accomplish milestones towards your end goal, schedule and celebrate your small accomplishments. It can be something as simple as going out to dinner, buying yourself a small gift, or doing a little dance.

Pro tip: Set deadlines to complete the chunks of writing you need to meet your goal . This will help you better prioritize your blocks of writing time and word count goal.  

2 – Build the momentum to finish writing your book

Writing is difficult. Writing an entire book is even more difficult.

When you're in the weeds with writing your book, there will be days you want to give it all up.

There will also be times when you have writer's block, and even though you know what you should be writing about, it all sounds wrong as you re-read what you've written in your head.

Here's how to fight writer's block and increase your writing momentum:

  • Don't edit as you write . Writing and editing requires your brain to work in two very different ways, so don't do it! It'll slow you down, and keep you at a standstill. Keep writing, and save the editing for later. It's okay if what you type out doesn't sound perfect; it's all about getting your words out first. You can clean them up later.
  • Switch up your scenery. If you usually write at home in your own writing space, maybe it's time to freshen up your writing environment. Try writing in a public park, or at a coffee shop or library on the days when writing is the last thing you feel like doing.
  • Take a break. It's okay if you're too mentally worn-out to write. Take a small break, and then get back to it. When we say small break, we mean take a day or two off from writing (not a month or two!).
  • Get creative inspiration elsewhere. Binge-watch an exciting new show, read a novel, take a walk in nature, go to an art gallery, or be around people you love. While you aren't writing when you do these things, it can help your brain reset and re-charge so you can return to your book.
  • Write about something else. Sometimes, when we're so engulfed in our book's topic, it can be self-limited. If you're feeling less excited about writing when it comes to your book, maybe it's time to flex your writing muscles in a different way. Try doing some creative writing exercises , journal, or write a poem.

3 – Collaborate with others

There's strength in numbers when it comes to accomplishing a huge task.

And, more importantly, it can help you feel less isolated in what can be a very solitary act. Writing a book can be lonely!

Let’s review three things you can do to collaborate with others when writing your book.  

1 – Connect with your original accountability partner or group

A great example of finding accountability partners is through a group or self-publishing company much like what Self-Publishing School does with their Mastermind Community on Facebook.

2 – Attend a writer's conference

Sharing space and networking with other writers can do wonders for your own writing habits and momentum. By attending writer's conferences , you'll be in a room full of people just like you.

Not only will you be able to network with and learn from expert authors who have been where you are, but you'll also be able to meet fellow aspiring writers going through the same process as you.

Writers Conference Infographic

3 – Collaborate with thought-leaders on your subject

Ideal for non-fiction writers , this collaboration could mean asking well-known people in your industry to write a quote that brings value to your content.

Create Value Quote Dharmesh Shah

Pro tip: When promoting your book launch on social media, consider creating a buzzworthy piece of content like an engaging blog article and have your audience share it.

Section 3: Bring Your Book to the Finish Line

Now it's time to put on your marketing pants and spread the word about your book!

Step 7: Include Front & Back Matter

There are elements outside of your book’s content that you’ll need to write, such as a preface, foreword, notes, etc. I suggest waiting until after you’ve written your book. This way, not only can you better connect them to your story, but you won’t waste time editing them in case you make changes to your manuscript.

Let’s review eight final touches you may or may not need to wrap up your book.

1 – Preface or Introduction

Draw in your readers with a compelling story. This could be a personal anecdote related to your topic. Tell them what the book is about and why it is relevant to them (think of your reader persona from earlier).

2 – Foreword

A foreword is typically written by another author or thought leader of your particular industry. Getting someone credible to write this can add a lot of value to your readers.

3 – Testimonials

Just like with the foreword, try and find respected, well-known people in your space and have them write a review about your book. The best way to promote yourself is to have someone else speak on your behalf.  

How To Write A Book Back Cover Blurb Photo

4 – Author Bio

How do you want to be portrayed to your audience? Readers love knowing personal details of an author’s life, such as your hobbies, where you live, or what inspired you to write this book.

Pro tip: The author bio on the flap of your book might be one of the first things people read when deciding whether or not to read our book. Keep it short, but make sure it packs a punch (just like your elevator pitch).

5 – Glossary

A glossary is an alphabetical list of terms or words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect with corresponding explanations. If you are writing nonfiction, especially a topic that uses a lot of lingo or uncommon words, make sure to include a glossary to create a better experience for your readers.

6 – Notes

If you are writing nonfiction , keep track of your sources as you research and write. A clear bibliography will only add to your value and credibility.

Being nonfiction that was based on a lot of research and experiments, I made sure to include a notes section in Inbound Content. It included citations, stats, image sources, etc.

How To Write A Book Notes

7 – Images

Using images is a nice addition to your content. Images can create a more engaging experience for the reader while improving the communication of hard-to-grasp concepts.

How To Write A Book With Images

Pro tip: Include a figure number on each image. This way you can easily reference it in your text. You can organize images by leading with the chapter number first, then image number after the bullet point. For example, the above image is image 22 in chapter 11 of Inbound Content.

8 – Edit Your Book

Once your manuscript is completed, it's time to edit your book, which involves self-editing first, then having a thorough professional edit done.

The success of your book will depend on its quality, and a thoroughly edited book is a solid way to increase your book's quality.

Even the best writers require editing, so don't feel discouraged by this process. In the end, you'll be glad you followed the editing process, and will have a completed, error-free book that you can be proud of.

1 – Self-edit your book

Remember when we told you not to edit your book as you wrote? Well, now's your time to shine in the editing department.

Once you're book is written, it's time to go through and read it line-by-line.

We recommend printing your entire manuscript out on paper, then going through each page and making edits. This will make it easy to spot errors, and will help you easily implement these changes into your manuscript.

There's a specific strategy to self-editing ; if you start this process blindly, it can be overwhelming, so make sure you understand how it works before diving in.

You'll want to read for structure, readability, and grammar and word choice. There are a few different ways to self-edit book, and it will depend on your own preferences.

Here's some tips to self-edit your book successfully:

  • Read your manuscript aloud as you edit.
  • Start with one chapter at a time.
  • First, go through and edit the chapter for structure revisions.
  • Second, find opportunities for improving the book's readability.
  • Third, make edits for grammar and word choice.

Once you complete your self-edit, you can make your revisions on your manuscript, then get ready for the next round of edits.

2 – Hire a professional book editor

Now, it's time to hand your book off to a professional editor.

As meticulous as you may be, there are bound to be some grammatical or spelling errors that get overlooked. Also, a professional editor should be able to give you feedback on the structure of your writing so you can feel confident in your final published draft.

3 – Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's feedback

Now it's time to improve your book using your editor's feedback. Don't be discouraged when you get your manuscript back full of edits, comments, and identified errors.

Think of these edits as opportunities to improve your book. You want to give your reader a polished, well-written book, and to do this, you need to edit and re-write.

This doesn't mean you have to re-write your entire book. You simply have to go through your editor's feedback, and make any revisions you think are necessary.

If there is something you don't agree with your editor on, that's okay. In the end, it is your book, and you are in control of what you want to add or take out of the manuscript.

Just be sure your revisions are coming from a place of sound reasoning, and not pride.

4 – Finalize your book title

If you haven't done so already, it's time to revisit the working title you created for your book earlier in the process.

You need to finalize your book's title before you move on to the next steps!

YouTube video

If you need help deciding on a title, cast a vote with your target readers and mentors in your author network. Send an email out, post a social media announcement , or reach out through text with people that are considered your book's ideal reader.

Get feedback on your title by asking people vote for their favorite. Include the top three choices, then use the crowdsourced results to narrow it down even more.

Once you have a title selected, don't worry too much if you're not 100 percent sold on it yet. Even if the title turns out to not be effective, you can always change the title depending on the publishing platform you select.

9 – Choose a Compelling Book Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Please.  People are definitely judging your book by its cover. 

The cover design is generally the first thing that will pique a reader’s interest.

You can find freelance graphic designers to create a compelling book cover for you on many online marketplace sites like Upwork, Reedsy , and Snappa . You can even check with a local graphic design artist for a more hands-on approach.

Tips for creating an effective book cover :

  • Whitespace is your friend.  Make it a best practice to choose a design that pops, but doesn’t distract.
  • Make it creative (non-fiction) or emotional (fiction).  Do your best to connect the art to the story or use it to enhance the title.
  • Consider a subtitle.  Think if this as a one-sentence descriptor on what this book is about.
  • Test two or three designs.  Send a few designs to your trusted accountability group to get their honest first impressions and feedback.

Keeping these best practices in mind, I chose a cover for Inbound Content that was simple but made the title pop and let the subtitle provide the promise to the reader.

Book Cover Of Inbound Content By Justin Champion

Step 10 – Format Your Book

Now that you’ve written your manuscript, it’s time to format it so you can visualize the final product — your book!

Formatting your book is an important step because it has to do with how your book will appear for the reader. A successfully formatted book will not cut-off text, incorrect indentations, or typeset errors when printed or displayed on a digital device.

If you've already decided to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing , this is all on you. But if you're not tech-savvy and don't have the time to learn how to format your own book, you can hire a professional to do this part for you.

If you know how to format a book correctly and to fit your book distributor's specification, you can do so in Word or Google Docs. You can also use a program like Vellum Software or Atticus .

Otherwise, we recommend hiring someone to do this professionally, as it's one of the most important aspects to get right. Check out Formatted Books if that's the case for you.

Step 11 – Prepare to Launch Your Book

Before you hit “Publish” it's time to do the groundwork to start prepping for your book's launch, and your ongoing book launch and book marketing strategy.

There are a few steps involved in this process, which we'll outline below.

1 – Build your book's launch team

This is an ongoing step that you can start doing when you are finished with your rough draft. As you send your book to the editor, designer, and formatter, you can organize a launch team in the meantime.

Your book's launch team is essentially a group of individuals that are considered your target readers. They will help you promote your book, and will be actively involved in the launch process of your book.

2 – Develop a marketing mindset

It's time to start shifting your mindset from writing to book marketing . Think about your strengths and areas of growth when it comes to sales and marketing.

Acknowledge any fears or self-limiting thoughts you have, then push past them by remembering your book's purpose. Know that the power of sharing your knowledge and experience through your book is stronger than any fear that might hold you back.

It's important to understand in the marketing phase that your mindset has a huge role in the success of your book. You can write the best book in the world, but if you don't channel some energy towards marketing, no one will know it exists.

3 – Create a book launch strategy

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to your launch strategy, so it's important to draft up a plan before you publish your book.

Your launch strategy is basically how you plan to create momentum with your book. Think of it like a business launch. There's always a big celebration to announce the launch of the business. It's the same for your book.

Step 12 – Publish Your Book

The self-publishing process steps will vary on whether you are publishing your book as an eBook only, or whether you plan to publish it as a print book.

It will also vary depending on which self-publishing companies you plan to work with. There are many self-publishing platforms to choose from, including KDP on Amazon and IngramSpark .

If you plan to work with a different book publisher , you'll want to follow their guidelines.

Once you've hit publish on your platform, you can start implementing your launch strategies and marketing strategies, which we'll cover in the next section.

Step 13 – Market Your Book

Now that your book has been published, it's time to sell it and get your words into the hands of as many readers as possible.

This is where your marketing strategies come into effect, and this is how you can really leverage your book sales and build a book business.

Here are six ways to market your book:

  • Paid advertisements
  • Free advertisement opportunities
  • Local or in-person events
  • Content marketing on Google and Amazon
  • Be a guest on podcasts and websites
  • Speaker opportunities

FAQ: How To Write A Book

If you read through this guide and have specific questions, here are some other Frequently Asked Questions we get often.

How long does it take to write a book?

The time it to write a book depends; on average, it takes self-published authors anywhere from 1-6 months, but that can be shorter or longer depending on your writing habits, work ethic, time available, and much more.

How much do authors make?

There is no set amount that an author can make. It largely depends on so many factors, such as the genre type , book topic, author's readership and following, and marketing success.

For a full report on this, please read our report on Author Salary

Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick strategy by any means. While a book can help you grow your business through techniques like a book funnel , unless you sell hundreds of thousands of copies of books, you likely will not earn six figures from book sales alone.

How much money does an author make per book?

The money an author makes per book sold is calculated by the royalty rate. The royalty rate varies depending on the publishing medium, and company.

Use this Book Royalties Calculator to get a better idea of your potential earnings.

How much does it cost to write and publish a book?

With Amazon self-publishing and other self-publishing platforms, the cost to publish is actually free. However, it costs money to hire professionals that actually produce a high quality book that you will be proud of.

For full details, read this guide on Self-Publishing Costs .

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can write a book and thanks to the rise of technology and self-publishing, anyone can publish a book as well.

Traditional publishers used to serve as the gatekeepers to publishing, holding the power to determine which books would be published – preventing many stories from not being shared, and many talented authors from not being recognized.

Thankfully, this antiquated system is no longer the only option. This also means that because anyone can technically publish a book, it is extremely important that you create a quality, professional book that's of the highest standard.

How To Write A Book Step-By-Step Infographic

You Wrote A Book!

And that’s it! Those are the steps to take to learn how to write a book from start to finish.

You can and will write your first book if you put forth the effort. You’re going to crush this!

Trust the process, create a consistent writing schedule, and use this practical guide to help you through the journey.

Are you ready to write your book?

book writing guidelines

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Last updated on Aug 08, 2022

How to Format a Book (the Free and Easy Way)

So, you've finished writing your book, and your editor has whipped your story and prose into shape. Now it's time to format that manuscript into a beautiful book that readers will want to devour from cover to cover.

In this post, we’ll show you how to use Reedsy's free Book Editor tool to prepare your book for publication. So – here's how you can format a book in six steps:

1. Import your fully-edited manuscript

2. format your chapter titles and paragraphs, 3. add images, endnotes, and page breaks, 4. upload your book cover in the correct size, 5. set your table of contents and copyright page, 6. finally, export your print and ebook files.

Sign up to the Reedsy Book Editor here to unlock it, and then let’s get to it! 

book writing guidelines


The Reedsy Book Editor

Format your manuscript for print or EPUB with a single click.

Regardless of the writing software you've been using , you can use the .docx import function on the Reedsy Book Editor to continue working on manuscripts you started on any major word processor. To keep all your chapter breaks and headings, be sure to: 

  • Use "styles" for each chapter title and heading; or
  • Use "chapter …" at the beginning of every chapter. 

Another option is to copy-paste your book in the Reedsy Book Editor and then use our "chapter break" feature to split it into chapters. Throughout this process, you should note that Reedsy respects the existing formatting of your manuscript, which means that our software will retain elements like headings, links, and inline styles (italic/bold). Here’s what it looks like:

Once your manuscript is nestled comfortably into the editor, the formatting can begin!

One feature that makes our book production tool smart is the formatting bar: simply select the type of paragraph or character style you want to use, and the formatting will be applied.

The paragraph styling options are:

  • Default paragraph: your standard styling
  • Three levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
  • Two types of lists: bullet points and numbers

book writing guidelines

Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can customize your font styling with the following options:

  • Link and cross-references

book writing guidelines

You may also want to be aware of the existence of widows and orphans. No, not the Oliver Twist ones of the Dickens variety! In publishing speak, a widow is a word (or small group of words) that sits by itself at the bottom of a paragraph or page, and orphans are words leftover from a paragraph on the previous page. 

Orphans and widows

Format fact: The most common font size for books is 12-pt. However, ebook readers can customize their devices to display whatever size they find most comfortable.

You’ve mastered this step and are ready to get a little fancy. On to step 3...

Books that meet industry standards but are also unique and personal? Brilliant! The next step is to enrich your existing content with:

  • Images and captions
  • Scene breaks (for fiction)

ebook formatting - insert images, captions and scene breaks

You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:

How to format a book: Reedsy book editor endnotes

At this point, your manuscript’s interior is taken care of, and it’s time to focus on its exterior.

Note : the Reedsy book editor will take care of your page numbering — so no need to worry there!

You can now click on the Export icon, which will lead you to our Export page — where most of the magic happens.

The first thing you should do here is to upload your cover. Make sure you upload an image following the requirements of the ebook stores you use for distribution. For best results, we recommend your cover image use a ratio of 1:1.6 and measure at least 2500px on the longest side. But if unsure, check out our handy guide on choosing the right book cover dimensions .

Note that POD services will require a PDF with the full jacket and a separate PDF for the book’s interior for physical books. For the book’s jacket, we recommend working with a designer from the Reedsy marketplace who knows the requirements of different POD services and will be able to provide you with the right file.

Format fact: The most common paperback size in the US is 6"x9" — also known as a trade . Check out our post on standard book sizes to find out more.

“Front matter” refers to the parts of your manuscript that come before the actual content begins. This also applies to ebooks. With the Editor, you can manage your book's  front matter elements  in two sections: the   Copyright Page and Table of Contents.

book writing guidelines

On this page, you can manage your:

  • Edition number
  • Year of publication
  • Collaborators
  • Publisher name and logo (if any)
  • Copyright clauses
  • ISBN number(s)

Note that you won’t need an ISBN for most ebook retailers, as they have their own identifying number. For instance, Amazon uses the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) and creates a new one for free every time you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing ( KDP ). Similarly, Apple iBooks no longer requires an ISBN .

There’s currently a debate about whether or not ISBNs still make sense, and you can read more about it here. For now, you’ll need an ISBN if you’re planning on printing POD versions, and most POD services will provide you with one for free.

Once your ISBN has been added, you can turn your attention to your table of contents.

Table of Contents

book writing guidelines

This is where you can choose how detailed your table of contents will be. If you're writing a novel, you may only want to list the chapter titles in the table of contents (above). However, you can also choose to list your sub-headings as well (below).

book writing guidelines

And once you're done with configuring your copyright page and table of contents, you're just about ready to export your book.

We’re getting closer! It’s now time to decide whether you want to create an ebook, print copies, or both. This will also determine whether you need an EPUB, or PDF file. Check out our guide to publishing file formats to learn more about these formats.

End note positioning for EPUB ebooks: at the end of the chapter or the book

For ebooks: download an EPUB file

EPUB files are compatible with the Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play, and NetGalley.

Next, decide how you’d like to organize your endnotes (if applicable). You can position them at the end of every chapter or all together at the end of the book.

For print copies: download a PDF file

The files created are currently compatible with most POD services ( Lulu , KDP Print, IngramSpark , CPI, etc.). Again, the first step is to position your endnotes. For physical copies, you can decide whether you’d like them to be footnotes at the bottom of a page or actual endnotes at the end of your book.

Unlike ebooks, your physical copy needs to be set to a trim size ready for printing. Reedsy currently offers a few different options, based on popular industry standard sizes :

  • Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
  • Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
  • Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)

Which trim size should you pick? There’s no clear-cut answer. Your choice depends on a few factors: the genre and audience of your book, the length of the manuscript , and, of course, your personal preference. To make a decision here, we recommend that you spend some time in a bookstore with a ruler to determine what makes the most sense for your future bestseller.

Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:

How to make a book trim sizes examples for print books

Once you’ve selected your trim size, simply pick a template and hit the download button. Your moment of glory is only seconds away as the editor typesets your book and gets it ready to be downloaded!

As a bonus, we have a short video tutorial for formatting your manuscript in the Reedsy Book Editor.

ZF6MHRgMQIo Video Thumb

Head to our Reedsy Book Editor and format your book for free in just a few seconds. 

58 responses

Malaika Rose Stanley says:

29/07/2016 – 08:19

The Reedsy Book Editor really is an amazing resource for indie authors, as I know from experience! But I'd still like to see the option to add 'untitled' front matter, such as a quote... and an option to remove/change the formatting of lower case, italicised roman numerals page numbers, which I guess is a feature more common in the US than the UK.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

29/07/2016 – 09:04

Thank you for the testimonial! The front matter options are receiving a major revamp in the coming weeks, as we know they can be improved as you have suggested. There are infinite possibilities for customization when it comes to books, which overwhelms many authors. This is one of the reasons why we have kept a few things simple. Thank you for suggesting these ideas however, we will look into it :)

Colin Smith says:

03/08/2016 – 14:45

How does it handle footnotes? I have seen published novels where footnotes appear as pop-ups without having to navigate away from the page you're reading. That's the format I'd like for my work.

04/08/2016 – 08:17

Hi Colin, good question! Currently we handle footnotes on ePub by placing them at the end of each chapter, or in a chapter of their own at the end of the book. We have now moved to ePub3, which is the format that allows you to have these "popup footnotes", and while we have not yet optimized the export to accommodate these, it is definitely on our radar to support soon :)

Kate Gesch says:

14/09/2016 – 02:40

I'm working in the book editor right now, and there are significantly fewer options in the formatting bar than what is pictured above. My only choices are regular paragraph, headings 1,2,3, block quote, numbered list, bullets, bold, italic, underline, and hyperlink. I'm particularly looking for the sans paragraph font and the center text options, where did they go?

14/09/2016 – 09:07

Hi Kate, the formatting bar images on this post are slightly ahead of our roadmap — the alignment and sans paragraph font will come within an update of the Book Editor in a year or so (i.e. Oct 2017). Sorry about that!

Milk for Dead Hamsters says:

19/10/2016 – 12:31

I want to love Reedsy's ebook creator so badly. It has a beautiful interface and produces a nicely templated book. BUT it's light on one too many features. Section breaks do not work. Center adjustment isn't available. Hyperlinks on pictures would be useful. As someone mentioned, all of the "front matter" is considered chapters and roped into the Table of Contents. I'd like to be able to put a dedication and a teaser for another book before the ToC and not have it show up on that list. Any word on when the new features will be coming out?

↪️ Amber Deann replied:

19/01/2018 – 22:00

Milk for dead hamsters, I have a question. IN the past year have the problems you mentioned about been resolved. Can you deal with "front matter" with out it being part of Table of Contents? I have poetry in my manuscript. Hope I can get it formatted easily. Love any comments or suggestions you could give. amber

↪️ Milk for Dead Hamsters replied:

19/01/2018 – 23:37

Not sure. I never revisited this product. I went with vellum, which was a pretty penny, but did exactly what I needed it to do.

Gustavo Razzetti says:

29/04/2017 – 16:50

I'm about to submit my manuscript to an editor. Shall I uploaded on the Reedsy Book editor before or after is been edited? Most probably, I will be working with an editor from the Reedsy network so I want to understand if your editor use this tool for editing or is it something that authors use once the book has been edited? :)

01/05/2017 – 11:59

Hi Gustavo, at this point, the Reedsy Book Editor is not collaborative, so we recommend you only use it for the final steps: formatting to EPUB and print-ready PDF. Thanks for your question! :)

Joanna @ says:

08/09/2017 – 20:07

Is there an option to justify text in the Reedsy editor?

08/09/2017 – 20:34

Hi Joanna, Your text will be automatically justified when you export it. We give you the best experience to write and our tool takes care of the formatting itself at the end.

Elle Clouse says:

26/11/2017 – 20:18

This is a great tool. I'm working on formatting a paperback and I don't see where I can force chapter/title pages onto the right hand page. And alternatively the copyright notice needs to be left hand page. Is this something that can be done and I can't locate the functionality? Or is it a feature that's coming soon?

19/04/2018 – 08:59

This isn't a feature that's available. We don't allow for infinite customization as we really want to avoid users making basic typesetting mistakes. We'll probably add templates in the future though where chapter and title pages will be formatted differently.

Jason says:

29/01/2018 – 23:03

I'm wondering why the text for a typesetting/formatting software cuts off the last few characters of each line of the preceding explanatory website text. This blog entry was supposedly updated in September 2017. Has no one noticed this? Not a particularly good first impression. I guess you get what you pay for.

Lisa Santika Onggrid says:

19/04/2018 – 02:34

What do I do if it returns a failure on me whenever I try to export a book? There's not even a notice telling me the reason it fails.

19/04/2018 – 08:58

Our team is instantly notified whenever there's a failed export, so they can look into it. Please allow a few days until they get back to you and identify the issue.

I.P.A. Manning says:

13/06/2018 – 14:15

In downloading a word doc onto the ebook creator my endnotes come out numbered in Roman numerals in the text instead of in standard numbers ( I have many endnotes) and the reference appears at the end of the chapter instead of the end of the book. I also wish to hyperlink some of the URLS? How do I do I do all this?

13/06/2018 – 14:20

You can select the position of the endnotes on the export page, in the "End note positioning" section. For hyperlinking, just highlight the text you'd like to hyperlink, then click on the link symbol and fill in the link. Hope this helps!

↪️ I.P.A. Manning replied:

13/06/2018 – 14:26

Will give it a bash, thank you. What about changing the Roman numerals for 1,2.3. etc?

13/06/2018 – 14:36

That depends on the template, and right now our templates use Roman numerals, as it is more the standard for typesetting.

13/06/2018 – 16:33

Thanks. The endnotes insist on going to the end of the chapter? Woud appreciate a step by step guide as to how to persuade the endnotes stuck at the end of the chapter to move and join the herd of endnotes in a chapter at the end ? Many thanks.

14/06/2018 – 19:23

I have set the marker for the endnotes to appear at the end of the book, yet it continues to the end of the chapter. Any ideas?

Syntell Smith says:

22/08/2018 – 14:33

I can't insert scene breaks with a centered group of three asterisks. Is there a work around for this?

22/08/2018 – 23:03

You can add three-asterisk scene breaks by clicking on the plus sign in the top bar and then on "insert scene break"

Melanie Rambo says:

23/08/2018 – 09:30

I have a client that would like to convert her Weebly blog into a book with the hope of printing just 1-3 copies. Is Reedy a good place for me to come for that? Thanks for your time

Katie Lile says:

30/08/2018 – 17:38

I have a completely different formatting bar than the one that they show everywhere else.

03/09/2018 – 14:48

Great point. We created those mock-ups a short while ago with all the functions we want (and are perhaps going) to add to the editor. However, as you pointed out, it may be more useful to show how the toolbar *actually* looks — so we've updated the post to reflect that. Thanks :)

Lucretia Cargill says:

01/03/2019 – 16:11

I have been having an issue trying to double space my document. I have been trying to figure that out. But overall my book looks good! Any suggestion on how to double space?

08/05/2019 – 12:28

Sorry, we automatically remove double spacing, as that is not a standard in novels or trade non-fiction.

Alana Khan says:

I wrote in google docs, imported to word, then imported to Reedsy. Every single paragraph break (double spaced) was removed and replaced with a 3 space paragraph indent. I personally hate to read books formatted like this and also don't want to have to manually change every single paragraph break. Is there a fix to this? Thanks.

08/05/2019 – 12:29

Hi Alana, there's no fix to this as our Reedsy Book Editor automatically follows and defaults to standard typesetting rules. If you pick a book on your shelves, you'll see there are very few (if any) line breaks, and that all new paragraphs are indented. If you prefer not to follow typesetting standards, the Reedsy Book Editor is not a good option for you.

Glen Kenner says:

I've just tried to use the manuscript creator tool for the first time but it didn't work for me. I wrote my novel in Google Docs and saved it as a .docx file. When I try to import it into the tool, I get an error message "Manuscript has an invalid error type". Anyone know what I should do from here?

We're looking into it. For now, we recommend either copy-pasting your manuscript in the Editor, or saving your file first in MS Word or Open Office.

Tom Dorr says:

24/06/2019 – 12:29

Wow! I feel like a complete idiot. I joined Reedsy, have an account and have used this to hire a designer, yet i cannot find anything about the Reedsy Book Editor or a way to contact anybody at Reedsy. If you would be so kind as to help me in any way I would be very appreciative. Thanks

25/06/2019 – 11:58

Hi Tom, When you log in to Reedsy, you'll see an option in the sidebar that says "My Books" — if you tap on this and create a book, that will take you straight to the formatting tool. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected] :)

Lannan says:

14/07/2019 – 01:41

I signed up to use the Reedsy editor almost a year ago, and have cracked it open again today to see how things are coming along - I didn't like it much for my fiction novel, and decided to try it for formatting a nonfiction guide book I've finished. In discovering this re-posted blog article, I see that there are some things that users asked for several years ago that have not been implemented yet - are there any plans on the horizon to allow for page-end or chapter-end notes? Also, when is it anticipated that the "editing" version of the editor (as opposed to the "writing" version) will be released?

↪️ Lannan replied:

14/07/2019 – 01:44

Ah, eating my words a bit - the notes function is hidden away in the "export" page. While the editor is a fantastic resource, there are a few basic things that could be improved upon a great deal - more transparency about how to accomplish these things might help! (Or at least a way to see many of these export-only formatting options from in the writing editor would help a lot.)

louise says:

16/08/2019 – 15:04

Hey, just considering using the editor interface and wondered if it's possible to resize an image? When I import an already small image, it makes it fit the width of the page? also is it possible to move it around the page? Thanks :)

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

19/08/2019 – 09:01

Hi Louise, we only support full-width images at the moment, unfortunately. Smaller images get tricky for us to handle when we're dealing with a variety of screen sizes for epubs. To get a smaller image, you have to manually “pad” the image — add white/transparent space either side of it — and reupload. Hope that helps!

sean moore says:

16/08/2019 – 16:45

I can't find the actual blank place for me to download some book copy

19/08/2019 – 08:56

Hi Sean, if you're still having trouble could you email our team (ser[email protected]) — they should be able to sort it out for you :)

S Yhan says:

17/08/2019 – 03:22

How can I add a back cover of my book to the editor? I only see option to upload the front cover.

19/08/2019 – 08:55

If it's for the print version, almost all printers will ask you to upload your covers separately. Our print PDFs export with no cover at all for this reason. Hope that helps :)

Isobel says:

21/08/2019 – 07:54

Does the Book Editor support other languages and if so which ones? (for the text of the book I mean, not that the software itself)

23/08/2019 – 09:23

Currently, we only fully support English — but we're looking into adding other languages at some point in the future.

Peggy chappell says:

05/09/2019 – 21:48

Justifying margins is standard for most books and yet I see no way to do that. After working on my manuscript and wasting a couple of hours I discovered this. Anyone have any solution?

Adam Blumer says:

15/10/2019 – 13:48

Where should I post my book endorsements? I don't see that option in the front matter. Thanks.

15/10/2019 – 14:08

You can just add a new section/chapter and drag it into the front matter to use as any sort of section you like. Hope that helps

Nancy Richards says:

01/11/2019 – 01:04

I believe my book/workbook, which is intended to be filled out by the reader, would work better in a larger size. Are the given sizes the only sizes with which the Reedsy Book Editor can work?

01/11/2019 – 12:21

At the moment, we don't have any additional sized on offer with this app. If you're working on a fillable workbook, you might actually be looking at creating a book with a fixed format — and for that, you may want to have a look at working with a human book designer.

Khalil Assi says:

25/12/2019 – 18:04

Is it possible to write from Right to Left using reedsy

26/12/2019 – 11:35

I'm afraid this is not currently supported by the Reedsy Book Editor. We'll keep this in mind as we look to make it available in other languages.

↪️ Khalil Assi replied:

27/12/2019 – 22:36

Thank you Martin. When do you think such a support for other languages might be available? In my case I need Arabic support.

Sahara says:

25/02/2020 – 03:32

I don't want chapter numbers—can they be eliminated?

25/02/2020 – 09:15

Yes, you can! When you come to export the book, one of the options is to "Hide Chapter Numbers". If you want to see it, just tap the export/download button.

Eddie Lay says:

28/02/2020 – 00:31

I have a children's picture book. Can I get it formatted in landscape and double-page?

Comments are currently closed.

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Writing Guide

This guide was created for Harvard Library employees, but we hope it’s helpful to a wider community of content creators, editors, producers — anyone who’s trying to communicate a message online.

If you work at Harvard Library 

This is our website style guide. It helps us create clear and consistent digital content that’s welcoming and useful for our users. Please use it as a reference whenever you’re writing content for

If you work at another organization

We invite you to use and adapt this style guide as you see fit. It — like our entire website — is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Speaking of credit: Several other writing guides inspired this one. Those include: MailChimp’s Content Style Guide , Harvard University Style Guidelines & Best Practices , 18F’s Content Guide , Federal Plain Language Guidelines , and City of Boston Writing Guide . These are great resources for additional reading on the topic.

We love to talk shop. If you have questions about this writing guide or the Harvard Library website contact the Harvard Library communications team at [email protected].

With every piece of content we publish, our goal is to empower our users so they can use our services and tools to get their work done and discover new ideas. 

We do this by writing in a clear, helpful and confident voice that guides our users and invites them to engage with us. Our voice is: 

  • Straightforward 
  • Conversational 
  • Trustworthy 
  • Proactive  
  • Knowledgeable 

Our voice is also positive — instead of rules and permissions, think options and opportunities. It’s also welcoming and accessible to all audiences. 

The Harvard brand brings with it a lot of history. We want to highlight our association with the positive attributes — credible, trusted, secure, historic, bold. But we also want to do our best to break down barriers, which means overcoming other attributes some people may assign to Harvard, such as elite, academic, exclusive, traditional.

Part of being credible, trusted, and secure is ensuring every bit of content we have on our website is up to date, accurate, and relevant to our users. 

The tips that follow in this guide will help us fulfill these goals. 

"Damn those sticklers in favor of what sounds best to you, in the context of the writing and the audience it’s intended for." —Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review

Things To Do

Write for the user first.

Before you start writing, ask yourself: 

  • Who is going to read this content? 
  • What do they need to know? 
  • What are they trying to accomplish? 
  • How might they be feeling? 

Put yourself in their shoes and write in a way that suits the situation. Remember: You’re the expert, not your users. 

Put the most important information up top

Users tend to scan web pages until they find what they need. Most people will only read 20 percent of a page . Use the “inverted pyramid” technique by putting the most important information at the top of a page. That’s the section users are most likely to read.

Choose clarity over cleverness

Say what you mean and avoid using figurative language, which can make your content more difficult to understand.

Address users directly 

Use pronouns to speak directly to your users, addressing them as “you” when possible. If necessary, define “you” at the beginning of your page. And don’t be afraid to say “we” instead of “the library.” 

  • Instead of:  The Harvard Library has staff members who can assist with research.  We’d write: Our expert librarians are here to help answer your research questions. 

Shorter sentences and paragraphs make your content easier to skim and less intimidating. Paragraphs should top out around 3 to 8 sentences. Ideal sentence length is around 15 to 20 words.

Use plain language 

Using words people easily understand makes our content more useful and welcoming. Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. 

  • Use write instead of compose , get instead of obtain , use instead of utilize , and so on. has a great list of word alternatives . 

Use the active voice 

The active voice supports brevity and makes our content more engaging. 

Using the passive voice deemphasizes who should take action, which can lead to confusion. It also tends to be more wordy than the active voice. 

  • Instead of: Overdue fines must be paid by the borrower. We would write: The borrower must pay any overdue fines. 

How to recognize the passive voice: If you insert “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the passive voice.

Write for the user with the least amount of knowledge on the topic

It’s not dumbing down your content. It can actually be harder to to make information simple and easy to understand. The truth is: even experts or people with more education prefer plain language.

Imagine your audience and write as if you were talking to them one-on-one, with the authority of someone who can actively help.  

Try reading your writing out loud and listen for awkward phrases or constructions that you wouldn’t normally say. Better yet, have someone else read your writing to you. 

Create helpful hyperlinks 

When links look different from regular text, they attract users’ attention. That’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. 

When creating hyperlinks, keep these tips in mind:  

  • Meaningful links should stand alone and help users with scanning the page.
  • Write descriptive and true link text — explain where users are going and why.
  • Use keywords to describe the link’s destination — look at the destination page for context.
  • The link destination should fulfill the promise of your link text .
  • If linking to a PDF, indicate that. 

For example: 

  • Instead of:  This collection is available online here . Try:  Browse this collection online.
  • For PDFs:   Our pricing guide PDF  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 

Break up your content 

Large paragraphs of text can lose readers. Using subheads and bullet points is a way to help provide clear narrative structure for readers, particularly those in a hurry.

Tips for breaking up your content: 

  • Add useful headings to help people scan the page.
  • Use bulleted lists to break up the text when appropriate.
  • Write short sentences and short sections to break up information into manageable chunks.

"Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away ... Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Things to Avoid

Jargon or acronyms.

Jargon and acronyms are often vague or unfamiliar to users, and can lead to misinterpretation. If you feel an acronym or a jargon term must be used, be sure to explain what it means the first time you use it on a page.

We strongly discourage writing FAQs , or Frequently Asked Questions. Why? Because FAQs:

  • Are hard to read and search for
  • Duplicate other content on your site
  • Mean that content is not where people expect to find it — it needs to be in context

If you think you need FAQs, review the content on your site and look for ways to improve it. Take steps to give users a better experience.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the content organized in a logical way?
  • Can you group similar topics together?
  • Is it easy to find the right answer?
  • Is it clear and up to date?

If people are asking similar questions, the existing content isn’t meeting their needs. Perhaps you need to rewrite it or combine several pieces of content. Pay attention to what users are asking for and find the best way to guide them through the process.  

Linking users to PDFs can make your content harder to use, and lead users down a dead end. The Nielsen Norman Group has done multiple studies on PDFs and has consistently found that users don’t like them and avoid reading them.

Avoid using PDFs for important information you’re trying to convey to users. Some supplementary information may make sense as a PDF — or something a user would need to print. 

If you must link users to a PDF, be sure to let them know. For example: 

Our pricing guide (PDF)  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 


If something is written once and links to relevant information easily and well, people are more likely to trust the content. Duplicate content produces poor search results, confuses the user, and damages the credibility of our websites.

Before you publish something, check that the user need you’re trying to address has not already been covered.  

Style Guide

With some exceptions, we’re following Associated Press style guidelines on the Harvard Library website.

Here are some common tips: 

Abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out abbreviations or acronyms the first time they are referenced. Avoid abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. 


In general, capitalize proper nouns and beginnings of sentences. For nouns specific to Harvard University and other common academic uses, please refer to the Harvard-specific guidelines below.

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma. We do use serial commas.


Capitalize the principal words in the names of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and TV programs, works of art, events, etc. Use italics or quotes when writing about them online. 

One word, no hyphen. However, use the hyphen for  e-book and e-reader.

A plural noun, it normally takes plural verbs and pronouns. However, it becomes a collective noun and takes singular verbs when the group or quantity is regarded as a unit. 

Right: The data is sound. (A unit.) 

Also right: The data have been carefully collected. (Individual items.) 

Use figures for date, abbreviated month when used with a specific date. So: January 2018 but Jan. 2, 2018. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1900s, the 1920s. 


Capitalize all words that aren’t articles.

In general, spell out one through nine. Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events, or things. 

Use figures for: Academic course numbers, addresses, ages, centuries, dates, years and decades, decimals, percentages and fractions with numbers larger than 1, dimensions, distances, highways, monetary units, school grades. 

Spell out: at the start of a sentence, in definite and casual uses, names, in fractions less than one. 

Phone numbers 


am, pm, Lowercase, no periods. Avoid the redundant 10 am this morning.

web, website, webcam, webcast, webpage, web address, web browser, internet

Harvard Style Guidelines 

Here are tips for Harvard-specific terms and other terms you may encounter more frequently based on the nature of our website. They're based on guidelines provided in the Harvard University Style Guidelines .

Harvard University Proper Nouns

Capitalize the full, formal names of:

  • Departments
  • Colleges and schools
  • Institutions
  • Residential houses
  • Academic associations
  • Scholarships

However, do not capitalize names used informally, in the second reference. For example, when calling it the center, or the department.

Example: The Science Center contains five lecture halls; you can reserve space at the center by submitting a room request.

The exception is to capitalize College, School, and University when referring to Harvard, as well as the Yard.

Always capitalize Harvard Library. Do not capitalize Harvard libraries. Be careful in referencing Harvard Library, so as not to give users the idea that the Harvard Library is a place. 

Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name.

Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas.

Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.

Named professorships and fellowships are capitalized even following the person’s name.

Academic years and terms

Terms designating academic years and terms are lowercased, like senior, first-year student, fall semester

Class titles

Capitalize the name of classes. Course titles and lectures are capitalized and put in quotes.

Example: June teaches Literature 101. Professor John Doe is teaching “The Art of Guitar Playing” this semester.


Concentrations are not capitalized. 

Harvard academic titles

Unlike AP, use title case for named professors, like Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values.

Treat all other academic titles as formal titles: capitalized when used immediately before a name.

The preferred format is to spell out the degree. Capitalize an individual's specific degree, but do not capitalize when referring to a degree generically.

For example: John Smith holds a Master of Arts in English. She is working toward her bachelor’s degree.

If abbreviating degrees, use capitalized initials with periods: A.B., S.B.

When referring to someone’s year of graduation, capitalize “class.” Example: John Harvard, Class of 1977, was in town for a lecture.

"Writing is an instrument for conveying ideas from one mind to another; the writer’s job is to make the reader apprehend his meaning readily and precisely." —Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words

Tools & Resources

There are tons of tools available online to help you accomplish the goals outlined above and test your content for readability. Here are some to get you started: 

Library Home

Writing Guide with Handbook

(9 reviews)

book writing guidelines

Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Spelman College

Maria Jerskey, City University of New York

Toby Fulwiller, University of Vermont

Copyright Year: 2021

ISBN 13: 9781951693473

Publisher: OpenStax

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Jason Meier, English Instructor, Rochester Community & Technical College on 6/26/23

Writing Guide is very comprehensive, comparable to expensive texts with combined reader, rhetoric, and handbook. This text contains all of the assignments I currently use in my college composition class (narrative, problem-solution, rhetorical... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Writing Guide is very comprehensive, comparable to expensive texts with combined reader, rhetoric, and handbook. This text contains all of the assignments I currently use in my college composition class (narrative, problem-solution, rhetorical analysis, annotated bibliography, and argument) and much more, a total of twelve commonly assigned college essays. Both MLA and APA documentation are covered, and I appreciate how Database, Print, and Online source examples are shown side-by-side so that students can better understand the differences without having to flip through multiple pages.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The content is accurate. Much of the content is presented in the way that I have presenting writing content for years.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

In general, writing textbooks do not age quickly, so this isn't as big of an issue as, let's say, fields like nursing. That being said, this text does contain up-to-date subjects such as social media. The MLA documentation section does present the 8th edition of MLA, rather than the newer 9th edition; however, I've continued to allow my students to use the 8th edition of MLA since there were not that many changes. As for APA, the current 7th edition is presented.

Clarity rating: 5

As a person who detests jargon-filled overly complex academic prose, I can attest that this text is accessible to a wide audience.

Consistency rating: 5

I do not see any problems with consistency.

Modularity rating: 4

The reader and rhetoric sections of the text are well divided into manageable parts that can be easily linked.

However, the handbook sections could use more divisions. For example, the section on punctuation contains all punctuation lumped together. While I can certainly understand why the author would not want too many hyperlinks in the text, my preference is for more so that I can provide students with more focused links so they do not also need to scroll to find the information I want them to concentrate on.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

Well organized. My only problem has been with Unit 2, the rhetoric section, which is labeled "Bridging the Divide between Personal Identity and Academia." I have sometimes had to spend a bit more time digging to find the assignments/modes I'm looking for because it's not apparent that this is the rhetoric section of the text. Of course, I may be illustrated my own impatience since my digging probably takes up no more than 30 additional seconds.

Interface rating: 5

I have not had any problems with interface.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I have not found significant grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

With readings and/or spotlights by/on authors such as Selena Gomez, Cathy Park Hong, W.E.B. Du Bois, Atul Gawande, and Ta-Nehisi Coates and subjects such as multilingual writers; language, identity, and culture; and antiracism and inclusivity, this text is certainly inclusive.

Reviewed by Alicia Conroy, Faculty of English, Normandale Community College on 4/2/23

As a book primarily focused on genre-specific writing situations for well-prepared college students, this book is very comprehensive, offering 12 genres plus additional chapters related to research-supported writing and the handbook component.... read more

As a book primarily focused on genre-specific writing situations for well-prepared college students, this book is very comprehensive, offering 12 genres plus additional chapters related to research-supported writing and the handbook component. These options include more conventional first-year writing purposes such as proposals, evaluations, and position arguments. A strength is the additional and culturally responsible sections on "language, identity and culture" and "bridging the divide between personal identity and academia", which have models and critical frameworks to help students explore and value their own culture and languages and to write with respect and openness about others' experiences.

Practices and terms are generally "standard" and consistent with current nomenclature, including those related rhetoric and writing process, digital literacy, and inclusion and diversity. Selected readings are identified responsibly and annotations of such readings faithfully summarize and analyze the content without distortion.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

This book may need to be updated within three to five years as needed due to changes in the fields of digital literacy, documentation styles and requirements (i.e. APA and MLA), cultural studies and inclusion, (Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, etc.), neuroscience related to learning and language processes, and legislation impacting or limiting what can be taught in various states in the U.S. The text is aimed at students entering college who are well-prepared with basic writing and 12-grade reading skills. The loss of college placement processes, teach-to-test practices in high school, and learning losses during the Covid-19 pandemic mean that this book has weaker relevance to students who struggle with completing basic essays and need more instruction on basics of writing process, paragraphing, and sentence control.

This text is accessible to students with 11-12 grade reading level and includes good lists of relevant terminology for varied rhetorical structures, writing strategies, critical thinking, etc. Annotations of some readings further aid clarity for students. The language & style are academic but not dismissive or condescending, although occasionally I felt it could be more student-centered and less directive.

This book's voice, organization method, and means of scaffolding major points and supporting details is very consistent throughout each unit.

The modules are fairly good in terms of being able to stand alone, though there are some chapters that build on terms and concepts introduced in earlier chapters. In at least one case, the order of chapters puts summary of an issue before the details of that issue; i.e., the specifics on a particular writing issue (stages of writing process and related strategies) appear in ch. 3 but the stages are discussed in a minimal way and without depth in ch. 2. The different writing genre info stands alone and some of the writing process and broad strategies used for multiple genres could be broken out in a separate chapter of as part of the handbook instead, to improve modularity. An advantage would be allowing instructors to choose or ignore some such chapters depending on the range and level of student competencies.

Organization overall is good, with a framework within units and chapters used consistently. As noted above, some issues in ordering and introduction of certain writing-related taks and processes good be better organized to facilitate modularity. The research-related genres and skills are grouped together in the outline.

This is an area of strength, with the hyper links I tested functioning. One bug or failing is that table of contents for some early chapters stops after Unit I - chapter 3, and only upon going back to the Home page and re-choosing the table of contents does the reader see and access the whole list of chapters.

This appears to have been well edited.

The tone and word choice as well as variety of text examples shows sensitivity and up-to-date nomenclature for people of various cultures, ethnicities, abilities, and sexual orientation/ gender status. Furthermore the text often discusses alternative terms and language and points out debates about how people speak about varied identities and groups; the language remains neutral and explanatory and encourages growth mindset and curiosity about perspectives and differences. The one weak spot was the framework for an assignment aimed at explaining culture to someone of a different culture. Some of the assumptions and descriptions could be seen as "othering" students of nondominant groups (whether racial, neuroatypical, etc.) - who are often asked or required to defend or validate their identities as part of being determined outside the white, heteronormative, male-centered dominant culture.

I would consider adopting part or all of this book, though to fit my current student population of first-year writing students at a community college without reading and writing placement requirement and a rigorous common course outline, I'd need also more supporting chapters to use for students who are not optimally prepared in reading and basic writing process and strategy skills.

Reviewed by Aimee Taylor, Assistant Professor, Clarke University on 1/9/23

This guide is appropriately comprehensive for first year and developing college writers. It covers, most importantly, the writing process. It also engages students in thought work about rhetorical effectiveness, information literacy, and... read more

This guide is appropriately comprehensive for first year and developing college writers. It covers, most importantly, the writing process. It also engages students in thought work about rhetorical effectiveness, information literacy, and argumentation. The included handbook makes it helpful and easy to incorporate. Students will not have to access two separate texts to have a guide and handbook. This is great for planning and streamlining.

From my understanding of the topic, this text is highly accurate.

This text deals with contemporary issues that students will find valuable and important, like social media, demystifying college writing, cultural awareness, decolonization, antiracism, and multimodality. These are topics that are not only relevant today, but they will be persistent issues for years to come. The topics covered are in line with the themes and topics I frequently cover in my own classes, so I wouldn't need to supplement so much.

The text is clear and appropriate for first year college students (and anyone new to academic writing). One of the highlights of this book is that it does spend time explaining and clarifying typically challenging concepts, like rhetoric and argument. This will be helpful for not only students but for new faculty who are teaching writing for the first time.

This text appears consistent. The units have similar structures and features, "editing," "spotlight on...," and "glance at genre." I like this because it shows students that they can methodically look at writing in this kind of way.

Modularity rating: 5

The text is divided into modules already, which could be beneficial for new faculty teaching writing for the first time.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

Organization is the best quality of this text. They offer a helpful introduction, and subsequent units build up to more complicated writing processes. Again, for first time writing faculty, which can provide just as much help as the text does for the students.

I appreciate that this text has instructor and student resources. The text easily navigable, the images are clear (not distracting), and students will not have to scroll through a ton of text (they can easily navigate from the left table of contents or the "next" button at the bottom of each section).

I didn't see any errors.

This text is quite the opposite of insensitive or offensive. It includes discussions of antiracism and decoloniality, which are important and urgent cultural issues that teachers and students alike to begin engaging with.

I look forward to implementing this text into my course. I am glad to have an open access text that does what I need it to do.

Reviewed by Sarah Lacy, Lecturer, Old Dominion University on 1/6/23

There are lessons on rhetoric, research, portfolios, as well as genre specific readings which does make this a relatively comprehensive Rhetoric and Composition text. I believe the title, "Writing Guide with Handbook" does not do the... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

There are lessons on rhetoric, research, portfolios, as well as genre specific readings which does make this a relatively comprehensive Rhetoric and Composition text. I believe the title, "Writing Guide with Handbook" does not do the comprehensiveness of the text enough justice, as this is much more than what I imagine a "writing guide" to be. I specifically like the "Spotlight on..." sections at the end of each chapter/section, as it allows the authors of the book to bring specific lessons to the students that appear to be new and relevant to our cultural conversation (for example, "Spotlight on... Technical Writing as a Career" and "Spotlight on... Bias in Language and Research" each enhance the other readings in their section which highlighting current issues in the field).

However, while this is a fairly comprehensive text, and I appreciate that it uses various perspectives on writing and academia, I do not believe there are enough writing process specific readings to be the only text for a First Year Writing course. However, it is an excellent resource in helping students understand the complexity of writing, and to envision how they will use writing outside of the composition classroom.

The authors' use of various writers in using their text as examples allows this text to work from an unbiased standpoint. The information provided in these sections reflects accurate depiction of the subject matter, and follows the necessary lessons for a writing class, specifically one concerned with rhetorical lessons.

This textbook has included relevant readings on current issues in the field of writing studies, specifically in potential bias in writing and research, as well as issues in language studies. The supplemental readings in this text are very current (Selena Gomez and Ta-Nehisi Coates for example), but also include classic readings (Mark Twain for example) that show the variety of voices that the authors of this text have considered. The social media based readings may need to be updated from time to time, but I think that is a benefit of providing such of-the-moment readings. The base of this text, however, is in the study of rhetoric and college writing which will remain relevant and useful to students and instructors.

The writing is clear and concise, and is written with undergraduate students in mind. I specifically like that in many sections there are reflection questions offered which help students engage more deeply with the subject matter.

Each page is clearly from the same textbook, and each is given the "Learning Outcomes" at the top box which is one of my favorite features of this text. Additionally, there are often references to other sections of the book which shows that there are common themes and topics throughout. I believe the goal of this text is to help students understand the value in the development or personality and voice in writing, as well as lessons in genre and type; though this was not what I expected when reading the title and synopsis, this consistent theme would be beneficial for college writing students.

Modularity rating: 3

This is the section in which I encountered the main issue I have with this book, and that in some of the pages the structure of the prose and space between text is relatively non-existent, and often close together. The information of the text is helpful and insightful, but some sections are very text-heavy, with very little breaks for the reader. While there are other pages that have images, more breaks, and referential questions and links, this is not consistent throughout each page. Additionally, the numerical breakdown within the sections in the left-hand tool bar was a little confusing when i first began reading through, but if you were able to simply share each page link with students, rather than asking them to navigate the book on their own this shouldn't be an issue. Though the navigation tool took some getting used to, once I got the hang of it navigating the organization of the sections was decent.

The section titles are, however, cleverly titled and would intrigue students, as they both list what the section is about, and restate in a creative way. For example, section 16 "Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read" has several subsections such as "An Author's Choices: What Text Says and How it Says it" and "Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present" that provide insight into the purpose of the section as well as an easy to identify personal purpose.

One portion of this text that I admire is that each section begins with a "Learning Outcomes" box, which is written is short, easy to digest prose in bulleted form, and serve very well to provide a preview of what the reader will encounter, to make working through the text more enlightening. In pages that do contain images, they are clear and there do not appear to be any major issues from a technical standpoint. As discussed in the Modularity section of this review, however, I did find navigation with the Contents Toolbar to be a bit perplexing, but I do believe this would not be as much of an issue if this book were in PDF or even print form.

In terms of interface issues, I did not notice any glaring problems. My issues is mainly with modularity and the tool bar, but they worked as they were intended.

The text of these chapters is well written and as I read through the different sections I did not encounter any issues.

I specifically like that this text has sections written by BIPOC authors such as bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, as well as specific sections on multilingual writers, which is in part why I chose to review this book. Additionally there are sections that explore the use of social media and other virtual forms of communications to make the text relatable to students. These readings, in particular section "1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez," relate rhetoric specific lessons to individuals and modalities that students will be familiar with, and I believe is in part what helps to "demystify" the university for students.

This text would certainly serve well to provide supplemental readings in a First Year Writing Course, as it offers both textbook style lessons, as well as supplement essays. There are great readings on revising and editing, as well as active reading which I greatly admire. The readings are from a variety of cultural and language specific backgrounds which is increasingly important for any college students and instructor. However, the title of the book is "Writing Guide with Handbook," so I was expecting a lot more writing specific readings. While there are certainly some of those, this text reads more like a compilation of supplementary readings and lessons in writing types/genres, not so much quick referential selections (which is fine by me, but I was a bit confused by the title).

This text would be an excellent part of any curriculum, though perhaps would not be my only textbook choice. The information is valuable and would certainly aid any student in their composition classroom, but as today's students tend to read their work on their phone or tablets, some of the sections which contain only heavy text with very little breaks at times would make navigation difficult. That is not to say that I would not assign this text, in fact I intend to assigned several readings in my next college writing course. But, I do believe that there are some readings that could do well to include more images and breaks between text to make the more text-heavy sections more manageable.

book writing guidelines

Reviewed by Lisa Kern-Lipscomb, Instructor, Tidewater Community College on 12/30/22

OED offers a free textbook that covers the writing process, vocabulary building, practices for writers, and many instructive lessons. Writing Guide with Handbook is a comprehensive textbook that aligns with my course syllabus throughout the... read more

OED offers a free textbook that covers the writing process, vocabulary building, practices for writers, and many instructive lessons. Writing Guide with Handbook is a comprehensive textbook that aligns with my course syllabus throughout the semester, so students can click a link to take them to valuable learning content.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

Content is readable and accurate without errors.

Guidance formulas for composing both working thesis statements and argumentative thesis statements are relevant writing skills that are beneficial for most students.

Clarity rating: 4

From organizing an essay to integrating documentation to composing an MLA Works Cited page, learning content is engaging while providing clear and concise information.

Consistency rating: 4

While many consistencies exist for each chapter, Editing Focus and Annotated Student Samples are important for composition students. Editing Focus provides novice writers specific learning for challenging writing skills, such as commas and sentence structures. Annotated Student Samples demonstrate annotated models for students to review before starting a writing assignment.

Chapters are outlined with links to specific, up-to-date content that aligns with my course syllabus, which makes finding learning content easy for students.

Learning content is organized logically, which helps students understand the notion of logical organization, especially novice writers.

Interface rating: 4

While navigating the textbook, all links worked properly, images downloaded, and content viewed correctly.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

While navigating the book, I did not encounter grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Multiple chapters highlight cultural backgrounds and provide engaging activities for students to grasp the understanding of various cultural perspectives.

Writing Guide with Handbook is a textbook I hope my students appreciate as it will not cost them anything. This free textbook is just what I need to help place my students on a successful learning pathway. Thank you OER.

Reviewed by Lisa Whalen, Professor, North Hennepin Community College on 12/7/22

I was thrilled to find this textbook because I've been looking for an OER that covers how to write a narrative, profile, visual evaluation, and rhetorical analysis of argument, and I hadn't seen one anywhere. This one covers each module I teach in... read more

I was thrilled to find this textbook because I've been looking for an OER that covers how to write a narrative, profile, visual evaluation, and rhetorical analysis of argument, and I hadn't seen one anywhere. This one covers each module I teach in first-year writing classes in an engaging format with examples that are much more current and sample essays that are much more relevant to students' lives than the costly textbook I've been using reluctantly for several years.

I didn't see any errors in accuracy. My only complaint about the book is its bias in pushing a specific political angle. I prefer textbooks that are politically neutral or at least politically balanced, but those are nearly impossible to find in recent publications. This one confines most of its political bias to specific sections I can skip fairly easily when using it in my classes.

The examples and societal references are very current and relevant to students' lives. A few, like the section on Selena Gomez, will go out of date quickly, but they're are minimal, and even going out of date won't negate the content associated with them. The other cultural references and example essays are universal enough to be relevant for many years.

Style, word choice, and layout are engaging and accessible. I really like the introduction to rhetoric and key terms at the front. Definitions throughout are concise yet complete. Chapter sections are kept short for readability in an online format.

Concepts introduced in early chapters are applied throughout the later chapters. The whole book builds nicely from beginning to end, and the transitions are seamless.

Yes! Among the things I like best about this book are its logical layout, clear chapter and section headings, and differentiation of genres and skills. The way sections and chapters are set up makes it easy to pick and choose which fit my class and assign them without worrying that skipping around might confuse students.

As stated earlier, the book builds logically from beginning to end while allowing for easy a la cart selection of individual chapters.

It's very easy to navigate. My only criticism is that the PDF page numbers differ from the displayed textbook page numbers. No matter how clearly and often I explain the difference, students get confused by the differing page number designations, especially in classes that are wholly online (versus face-to-face or hybrid). The differing page numbers will cause problems when students want to print pages they are assigned to read. More "digital natives" than I would suspect prefer to print pages they are assigned to read than to read them in an electronic format, and many students aren't aware that printers default to the PDF page numbers.

I didn't notice any grammatical errors or typos.

The book reflects the spectrum of human diversity well.

I'm thrilled to have found this book and plan to use it in my first-year writing sections.

Reviewed by Patricia Jordan, Academic Director, Online Training and Technology, Spartanburg Community College on 9/22/22

There are a lot of great ideas for classroom activities, but it doesn’t really cover the concepts of writing. The handbook portion is better but could be expanded. The table of contents is good. The index is confusing. Word like “Caesar,”... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

There are a lot of great ideas for classroom activities, but it doesn’t really cover the concepts of writing. The handbook portion is better but could be expanded. The table of contents is good. The index is confusing. Word like “Caesar,” “Country Music,” “vulnerability,” and “yearbook” are included, but I am not sure why.

The content seems to be accurate, error-free and unbiased.

Content is up-to-date, but makes use of such pop-culture topics that it feels like it will get out of date very quickly. It isn’t just in sections that would be easy to up date, but seems to be throughout the entire text.

The text is written clearly in an easy-to-understand way.

The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

The text is divided into chapters and the chapters into sections. The sections are in easy to read chunks. The sections are hyperlinked.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

There does seem to be some repetition in the way the chapters are organized. Concepts seem to be repeated. The organization of the handbook is good.

The text seems to be free of significant interface issues. The online version uses Openstax which has a table of contents on the left and text on the right. There are advertisements from Kinetic by OpenStax to purchase a print copy that distracts from reading.

The text does not seem to have any grammatical errors .

The text goes out of its way to be culturally relevant and to include examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

It has good information. I think it would be useful to incorporate parts of this into teaching but not use this as a stand alone textbook.

Reviewed by Tara Montague, Part-time instructor, Portland Community College on 7/1/22

This text, Writing Guide with Handbook, is comprehensive. It includes more content than I could cover in one term; I can see using it to cover both a pre-transfer-level course and a basic transfer-level course. Though it is guided by a writing to... read more

This text, Writing Guide with Handbook, is comprehensive. It includes more content than I could cover in one term; I can see using it to cover both a pre-transfer-level course and a basic transfer-level course. Though it is guided by a writing to learn and communicate approach, each chapter includes appropriate writing instruction. The index is thorough and useful; it includes the chapter and section numbers and links to the appropriate content.

The content strikes me as accurate and error-free. This text was a collaborative effort between more than ten authors.

The content is current and engaging; it approaches a variety of relevant social issues and invites the reader to engage with current topics, yet it will certainly remain relevant. The writing models can easily be updated as necessary without changing the overall structure of the text.

The prose is clear and instructive, yet engaging. It doesn’t read like a handbook, and I think students will appreciate that. It is a little less simplistic than other texts I’ve considered from a pre-transfer-level course, but even though some of the concepts and discussions are sophisticated, the commentary provided makes them accessible.

The overall progression from personal narrative to exposition to persuasion includes a loose repetition of structure from chapter to chapter. The framework is coherent and engaging.

The text is completely modular, making it easy to assign small sections. It is well organized, with each chapter broken down into smaller sections, minimizing pages that have multiple screens’ worth of reading.

This text is comprised of twenty chapters that are organized into three larger units; there’s also a brief “handbook” that deals with additional composition elements (e.g. pronouns, MLA documentation, clear and effective sentences) and an Index. Each chapter is divided into eight or so pages or subsections, and the loose repetition of structure between chapters is helpful, but not confining. Each page/section within each chapter has a Learning Outcomes box.

The OpenStax interface makes it easy for users to download the text, view it online, or order a print copy through The online text is well organized and easy to navigate. As I mentioned above, the Index is impressively functional. The OpenStax interface has a search box that I found useful. The “handbook” is one continuous page and has anchors for navigation, but it is a brief handbook, so this is not a big deal.

I didn’t notice any grammatical errors; the text is clean and well edited.

This text was explicitly designed to provide a culturally responsive and inclusive textbook option; the authors set out to offer “an inviting and inclusive approach to students of all intersectional identities.” The examples of writing are far-ranging and diverse and include writers from history and current writers.

Writing Guide with Handbook stands out because it is organized in a more student-centered way than many introductory composition texts. This text would work well for someone looking to almost ready-to-go course, rather than using a text to supplement their existing course. I am considering using the first half of the text for a pre-transfer-level course; I think it would work well (if not better) for a transfer-level course. I am excited by this text as it really invites users to engage in important issues and explore in writing their relationship to the world around them.

Reviewed by Brenda Coston, Assistant Professor, Honolulu Community College on 2/2/22

The Writing Guide with Handbook, is a text for writers who are beyond the basics of essay structure and who wish to develop more with writing in terms of culture and rhetoric for real life situations. read more

The Writing Guide with Handbook, is a text for writers who are beyond the basics of essay structure and who wish to develop more with writing in terms of culture and rhetoric for real life situations.

The content of the book is truly one of exploration and appreciation for other cultures . Other issues regarding oppression, bias, and objective writing are discussed in terms of how identity is constructed through writing.

This text, hands-down, is on the cutting edge of curranacy and relevance. Exploring hot topics facing society is a great way to engage student writers and get them thinking about the world around them.

Any relevant vocabulary is thoroughly and mindfully explained with examples given. For example, in Chapter 2.3, "Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation," the term bias and how it affects writing is completley investigated.

Any significant terms are defined before any development of ideas is given. This tactic helps the student to understand throroughly what is being explained in the text.

The authors have done a superb job of organizing ideas and breaking down sections. For instance, in Chapter Two, "Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing," the main ideas: language, identity, and so on, are broken down in to smaller areas devoted to them and are explored regarding the effects on the writing process.

Topics, are, indeed, presented in a clear manner, beginning with what the writer may already be aware of with writing, such as "The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically" and moving to "Bridging the Divide Between Personal Identity and Academia."

The book is cearly laid out with photos that enhance the subject matter and provide a clear undernstaning for the reader.

No grammatical errors were noted.

This text makes a point to engage readers from all walks of life with varying cultural backgrounds. By undertsanding how others think, the student has a deeper perspective when writing and produces an essay with substance.

The Handbook, located in the back of the text, is phenomenal. It is more that just grammar. It touches on on proofreading the essay for clear and effective sentences, beneficial transitional expressions, mechanics, point of view, and MLA. The explanations are clear and relevant and very relatable for college students.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1  The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically
  • Chapter 2  Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing
  • Chapter 3  Literacy Narrative: Building Bridges, Bridging Gaps
  • Chapter 4  Memoir or Personal Narrative: Learning Lessons from the Personal
  • Chapter 5  Profile: Telling a Rich and Compelling Story
  • Chapter 6  Proposal: Writing About Problems and Solutions
  • Chapter 7  Evaluation or Review: Would You Recommend It?
  • Chapter 8  Analytical Report: Writing from Facts
  • Chapter 9  Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric
  • Chapter 10  Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
  • Chapter 11  Reasoning Strategies: Improving Critical Thinking
  • Chapter 12  Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence
  • Chapter 13  Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information
  • Chapter 14  Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources
  • Chapter 15  Case Study Profile: What One Person Says About All
  • Chapter 16  Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read
  • Chapter 17  Image Analysis: What You See
  • Chapter 18  Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image
  • Chapter 19  Scripting for the Public Forum: Writing to Speak
  • Chapter 20  Portfolio Reflection: Your Growth as a Writer

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Writing Guide with Handbook  aligns to the goals, topics, and objectives of many first-year writing and composition courses. It is organized according to relevant genres, and focuses on the writing process, effective writing practices or strategies—including graphic organizers, writing frames, and word banks to support visual learning—and conventions of usage and style. The text includes an editing and documentation handbook, which provides information on grammar and mechanics, common usage errors, and citation styles.

Writing Guide with Handbook  breaks down barriers in the field of composition by offering an inviting and inclusive approach to students of all intersectional identities. To meet this goal, the text creates a reciprocal relationship between everyday rhetoric and the evolving world of academia.  Writing Guide with Handbook  builds on students’ life experiences and their participation in rhetorical communities within the familiar contexts of personal interaction and social media. The text seeks to extend these existing skills by showing students how to construct a variety of compelling compositions in a variety of formats, situations, and contexts.

The authors conceived and developed  Writing Guide with Handbook  in 2020; its content and learning experiences reflect the instructional, societal, and individual challenges students have faced. The authors invite students and instructors to practice invitational, rather than confrontational, discussions even as they engage in verbal and written argument. Instructors will be empowered to emphasize meaning and voice and to teach empathy as a rhetorical strategy. Students will be empowered to negotiate their identities and their cultures through language as they join us in writing, discovering, learning, and creating.

About the Contributors

Michelle Bachelor Robinson , Spelman College

Dr. Michelle Bachelor Robinson directs the Comprehensive Writing Program and is an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at Spelman College. For five weeks each summer, she also serves as faculty for the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English, a summer residential graduate program for secondary educators. Her research and teaching focus on community engagement, historiography, African American rhetoric and literacy, composition pedagogy and theory, and student and program assessment. She is the coeditor of the Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric and has published articles in WPA: Writing Program Administration, Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, the Alabama Humanities Review, and the Journal of Social Work Education. Her early career was spent as a secondary educator, teaching high school students in the subjects of writing, literature, reading, debate, and drama. Dr. Robinson currently serves as the higher-education cochair of the College Board test development committee for the Advanced Placement (AP) English Language Exam, as well as a member of the test development committee for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) for College Composition. Dr. Robinson also served on the executive committee for the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) from 2017 to 2020 and is still actively involved in that national work.

Maria Jerskey , City University of New York

Dr. Maria Jerskey is a professor of education and language acquisition at the City University of New York (CUNY), where she teaches courses in ESL, linguistics, bilingualism, and French to community college students and academic writing to graduate students. She is the founder and director of the Literacy Brokers Program, which supports and promotes the publishing practices of multilingual scholars. Dr. Jerskey has 4 Preface Access for free at published widely and been involved in national professional committees and organizations that focus on bringing current research and scholarship to bear on institutionalized practices that disenfranchise multilingual writers in order to design and implement equitable teaching and learning practices and professional development. She has authored college writing handbooks, including Globalization: A Reader for Writers and, with Ann Raimes, Keys for Writers, 6th edition. In her teaching and professional committee work, Dr. Jerskey problematizes and challenges the value and status of Standard Written English by applying critical research and scholarship in the fields of education, linguistics, and composition. Her current research and activism focus on identifying institutional barriers to linguistic justice and cultivating sustainable practices that recognize, encourage, and value the use of each person’s full linguistic repertoire.

Toby Fulwiler , Emeritus, University of Vermont

Dr. Toby Fulwiler is an emeritus professor in the Department of English at the University of Vermont. The author of numerous professional texts, student textbooks, chapters, and articles, Dr. Fulwiler graciously provided The Working Writer as inspiration for Writing Guide with Handbook.

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book writing guidelines

How to Write A Book: An Ultimate Guideline

How to Write A Book

I Want To Write A Book But Don’t Know How To Get Started?

Well, we all have once thought about writing a book after reading J.K Rowling’s fantasy masterpiece “Harry Potter” or Sidney Sheldon’s “The Other Side of Midnight?”

But writing a book isn’t as simple as sitting on the comfy couch in your living room, grabbing the pen and paper, and boom! You’ve carved the next literary masterpiece of the world.

So, what’s actually the secret formula to crack your creative side and write a book that will keep your audience hooked from the beginning till the end? Well, there’s no unique cheat sheet through which you can walk on the lucrative path to authorship.

For some, the gentle hum of a quiet room and the aroma of a freshly brewed cup of coffee creates the perfect atmosphere for writing, while other find their creative powers awakened amidst the embrace of nature.

In this blog post, learn the art of writing a literary masterpiece and becoming the next big author. So, let’s get started.

12 Steps

Table of Content

12 Steps To Write A Book

As book writing guide is an extensive topic, we have divided this process into three sections;

Step 01: Pre-Planning Phase

Step 01

1.     Prepare Yourself For Writing

Writing a book is no less an art, and turning an ordinary art into an exceptional masterpiece takes time, dedication, and hard work. It takes nothing to idolize a renowned bestselling author like Stephen King or Octavia Butler. However, every individual has a unique story of starting as an ordinary person and overcoming challenges to reach their current position.

For instance:

Octavia E. Butler juggled multiple jobs to support herself while dedicating early mornings to writing. Undeterred, she penned success mantras to fuel her determination.

Stephen King

Stephen King worked various jobs as a janitor and gas pump attendant. After the rejection of his first novel, Carrie, by 30 publishers, he discarded the manuscript but later found success with its publication, launching his illustrious writing career.

So, what have we learned?

The first step to learning book writing is understanding how to overcome writer’s block, deal with self-doubts, and put yourself in a productive mind frame to help you achieve your goals.

You can work on these two practices to overcome obstacles and crush challenges to keep you directed towards achieving your goal- writing a book.


1a.     Be Accountable For Your Writing

Do you only write when you have nothing else to do? If yes, you can’t become a successful author and reap name and fame in the writing world. It’s not a good practice to write only when you feel inspired.

Approach your writing with the same commitment as a job or responsibility. Hold yourself accountable, take consistent action, and show up daily to make progress.

  • Benchmark A Writing Goal. If you don’t set an attainable goal, there’s a high chance that procrastination can take you over. Before starting off, set the writing goal, including establishing a writing objective, defining the number of writing sessions per week and setting a specific target date for completing various sections of your book.
  • Designate Time Slots For Writing On A Weekly Basis. To initiate this practice, allocate one to two hours per day, five days a week. Consistently engaging in writing sessions will foster a habit, ultimately making it easier to prioritize and accommodate writing in your schedule.
  •   Set A Daily Word Count. Determine the word count you want to achieve every week. You can also utilize any online word count calculation tool to set a suitable target based on the genre or type of book you are working on.For instance, if you’ve decided to write 5000 words in 6 days of the week, then you’ve to write approximately 840 words each day to attain your weekly goal.

1b.     Set Up The Writer’s Mindset

Obviously, we are talking about book writing, but what does it mean to set up the writer’s mindset?

Well, that doesn’t mean that you need to recite a specific mantra to transport yourself to another world of book writing or give you the superpower to write perfectly everything that comes into your mind.

Many inspirational authors stay stuck in the middle of the plot because of their mindset, which prohibits them from coming up with something creative.

Here’s how to set up your mindset as a writer;

  • Accept Yourself. To be a successful writer, you have to acknowledge all your self-doubts and don’t let negative thoughts let your morale down. It’s okay to feel discouraged, but these feelings shouldn’t stop you from penning down what you like. Instead of considering writing as a challenge, accept it as a learning process.
  • Take Inspiration. If you ever feel like giving up, take inspiration from the fact that, just like you, numerous creative gurus and successful authors started from the bottom. You can also motivate yourself by researching and reading about your favorite authors and their journey toward success.
  • Be Positive. There’s no lie in the saying that your thoughts have a great impact on your capabilities. It’s essential to use optimistic affirmation to elevate yourself, or you can also read inspirational quotes and lines for motivation.
  • Seek Guidance From Experts. Sharing your goals with others can also serve as a source of motivation, encouraging you to strive for greater achievements and ensuring that you take responsibility for your work.

Additionally, seeking out experienced writers or professionals within your circle can provide valuable mentorship.

Engaging in conversations with them about your endeavors, progress, and writing challenges can lead to fresh perspectives and improved solutions, ultimately enhancing your writing style.

Step 02

2.    Choose A Good Writing Space

Choosing a perfect spot where you can lean back and pen down your manuscript is as important as choosing the right title for the book.

Yes! You heard it right.

Your surroundings and where you sit have a great influence on what you write.

But it’s not necessary that this perfect writing spot should be in your home. If you don’t find the motivation to write in your home, you can go for other options like a coffee shop, a co-working space, a library, a park, or any other place where you can write your best.

Working from home is the best option, but it may be a hurdle if you have kids or family members around or simply don’t have any assigned room in your home.

The truth is that the ideal writing environment is unique and subjective to every individual. We all give our best in different environments. Maybe experienced writers can pen down their best in co-working spaces, and one who is new to writing prefers to work in a calm environment.

If you don’t know which one is the best for you, we suggest you experiment to find out the best setting where you can write freely with focus.

How does an ideal writing space look like?

Try working in different locations to determine in which setting you can give your best. It’s possible that you’ll find yourself tapping into your creativity more effectively by periodically changing your writing environment.

Here are some valuable pointers to help you establish an atmosphere that fosters concentration and boosts your writing output:

  • Opt for noise-canceling headphones to create a peaceful environment that aids concentration.
  • Maintain a tidy workspace, as clutter can serve as a source of procrastination, especially when chores are involved.
  • Minimize distractions by ensuring there are no enticing elements around that might divert your attention from writing. Consider turning off your phone to avoid interruptions from others.
  • Personalize your writing environment to foster a pleasant atmosphere. Add posters and plants to your home office or establish a consistent writing spot at your favorite café, creating a dedicated space exclusively for writing.

Step 03

3.    Find Out What People Are Reading

Before writing a book, it is essential to conduct market research on Amazon to identify the most popular books in your genre. Keep in mind that if you want your book to thrive, you must compete with these bestsellers. To do this, go to the Amazon Best Sellers page and locate your genre using the left-hand sidebar.

Next, analyze the blurbs of those books to discern the key selling points. Identify common elements that make them appealing to readers. Evaluate whether your book meets these criteria.

Lastly, brainstorm how your book can bring something fresh and unique to the table. Consider what innovative aspects or perspectives it can offer to stand out from the existing competition.

For instance, if you’re planning to write an adventurous story, determine whether your story will feature a daring and resourceful protagonist who embarks on thrilling journeys or a series of unexpected twists that keep the reader engaged and eager for more.

In today’s hyper-competitive market, pushing the boundaries is essential to give your book a real shot at success. So, don’t skimp on conducting extensive research within your genre before starting writing.

This will provide valuable insights into the standards you need to meet and how you can surpass them to make your book shine in the teeming market.

Step 04

4.    Select The Software For Book Writing

After the revolution of the internet, nothing has remained the same. Not even the book writing!

It all started in 1882 when Mark Twain sent his first manuscript to the publisher that had been written on the leaf of technology, a typewriter, which ultimately transformed the entire writing industry.

Fast forward, now in 2023, we have numerous advanced tools and applications to carve the best piece of writing for the readers.

From novice word processing software to thousands of AI tools, we have access to almost everything around the world. You can get your hands-on endless book writing applications that can assist you in becoming a renowned name in the industry.

Instead of confusing you by entailing different applications available on the internet, below is the list of four free online tools that we recommend to all potential writers to add to their writing toolkit today.

Instead of overwhelming you with all the possible apps in existence, below is a list of five tools I recommend adding to your writing toolkit today (and they’re free).

4a.     Google Drive

  • Enable you to organize your project by creating dedicated folders for different aspects such as research, outline, manuscript drafts, and more.
  • Make use of Google Docs as a word processor, and take advantage of the templates specifically designed for book writing.
  • Utilize Google Drive to store and manage files related to your projects, including images and photos.
  • Access your files from various devices, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more.
  • Google Drive offers versatile cloud storage capabilities beyond its primary function. Here’s a list of ways you can leverage Google Drive to enhance your book writing process.
  • Easily collaborate with others, avoiding any issues with version control.
  • Benefit from 15GB of free storage upon signing up.
  • Explore resources to master the use of Google Drive (If you have a Gmail account, you already have a Google Drive account).

4b.     Chat GPT

Since its debut in November 2022, Chat GPT has brought about significant transformations in the digital marketplace.

While the premium version of Chat GPT unlocks its full potential, the free version remains an invaluable resource for gaining basic insights and grasping the essence of various topics.

  • Chat GPT (Free Version) can generate creative ideas, overcome writer’s block, and brainstorm potential plotlines, characters, or themes for your book.
  • You can ask this AI tool for feedback on your book’s concepts, plot twists, or character development. It can offer suggestions and fresh perspectives to enhance your writing.
  • If you have specific research questions related to your book, Chat GPT can help provide clarifications or point you in the right direction, acting as a quick reference tool.
  • Seek assistance from Chat GPT to refine your writing style, improve sentence structure, or find alternative words or phrases. It can provide suggestions to make your book more engaging and polished.
  • Chat GPT can also provide tips on pacing, dialogue, or effective storytelling techniques. It can offer guidance to enhance the overall quality of your book.
  • If you’re stuck on a particular plot point or facing challenges in the narrative flow, Chat GPT can help you brainstorm solutions and overcome obstacles.
  • You can use Chat GPT to quickly find basic information or facts relevant to your book, such as historical events, geographical details, or scientific concepts.

4c.     Grammarly

Grammarly offers a free version of its editing tool that provides valuable assistance in enhancing your writing.

With this version, you can improve your grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as receive suggestions for sentence structure and word choice.

It scans your text for errors, highlights them, and offers alternative corrections, helping you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Additionally, Grammarly provides explanations for its suggestions, helping you learn from your errors and become a better writer over time.

While the free version offers significant benefits, Grammarly also offers a premium subscription with advanced features such as plagiarism detection, style improvements, and vocabulary enhancement, further enhancing the quality of your writing.

4d.     Evernote

Evernote proves to be an invaluable tool for book writers. With its versatile features, you can easily gather and organize your research materials, outline chapters, and jot down plot ideas on the go.

The ability to sync across devices, including Google Docs, ensures that your work is always accessible and up-to-date.

Whether you’re a professional author or an aspiring writer, Evernote provides the essential support to streamline your book writing process and bring your literary visions to life.

4e.     A Notebook & Pen

Don’t underestimate the power of using pen and paper for writing a book. It’s unarguably the most important writing tool, even in 2023.

Even if you use a writing software program for your entire manuscript, it’s still important to have a notebook on hand for those moments when inspiration hits, and you don’t have access to a computer.

Every writer should keep a notebook handy for capturing random ideas and thoughts. You can quickly write them down in your notebook and later transfer them to your digital writing software when you’re back at your computer.

Step 02. Book Writing Phase

Step 05

5.     Get Started With An Intriguing Book Idea

After doing all the pre-planning, the next phase is coming up with an engaging idea for your book. If you don’t have one, you won’t be able to write more than a few lines.

That means everything starts with an idea.

So, what’s your idea?

Perhaps you have a clear vision of what you want to write about, or maybe your mind is filled with numerous ideas, but you’re unsure where to begin.


If you don’t have one, you can come up with one by questioning yourself on these grounds;

  • On what subjects do I want to write about?
  • What topics can I explore through my writing?
  • Who would be interested in reading this story?
  • Can I execute this idea effectively?

By considering and responding to these questions, you can narrow down your choices to determine the most suitable options for you.

Whether you’re crafting a practical non-fiction guide or weaving a captivating post-apocalyptic thriller, it’s crucial to establish a connection with your audience, and one effective way to achieve that is through evoking emotions. To truly resonate with your readers, it’s essential to gain a deep understanding of them.

For instance: The scenario where you find yourself with numerous book ideas, yet there’s only one that genuinely ignites your passion and confidence. That very idea becomes your premise.

On the other hand, if you find yourself devoid of ideas, the questions mentioned questions will guide you towards a more definite path. Focus on the genres and books that captivate you, those that have left a profound imprint on your being. Chances are, you’ll write a book within a similar realm.

By focusing on these four factors, you can determine better what you want to write and how to do it more clearly;


5a.     Write About Things That Interest You

Find a title that ignites your curiosity, a topic that entices you to return consistently, or come up with something that captures your deep interest, a subject in which you are fully engaged.

If you’ve chosen something that doesn’t interest you or just because it’s trending and everybody is talking about it, there are very few chances that you can write something that can appeal to your readers.

Choose a topic that sustains your motivation even during periods of zero inspiration or when faced with writer’s block. Your chosen subject should be the one that propels you forward and keeps you committed to the creative process.

5b.     Identify Your Target Audience

Another key factor that will impact your topic choice is your targeted reader. One effective approach is to develop a reader persona, a partially fictional representation of your ideal audience.

This persona serves as a guiding archetype, helping you tailor your content to resonate with and engage your intended readership.

To embark on the journey of crafting your reader persona, start by answering the following questions;

  • Readers’ Age: Identify what age group you’re going to target. Are you writing a rom-com for teenagers or guides for industry beginners and experts? By determining the age group, you can set the writing tone and context of the book.
  • Education Level: Determine at what level of education your reader is. Are you writing a psychology book for reading enthusiasts or a textbook for high-school passouts? By doing this, you can better gauge writing verbiage, style, and word choice to be used in the content.
  • Reader’s Interest: Find out what topics will interest your readers. When authoring a book, prioritize what your reader needs to know rather than solely focusing on what you want to convey. Maintain a reader-centric approach throughout the process of brainstorming your topic and composing your book.
  • Visual Representation: Does your reader like to see the visual representation of what you want to convey? If you’re writing a children’s book, adding intriguing images and illustrations will aid in attracting little readers, and if you’re writing a business book, readers will expect visuals like charts, graphs, photographs, tables, and diagrams.

Long story short, the more you try to understand readers, the better writing you can deliver to them.

5c.     Choose Topics On Which You Can Immediately Write

The process of writing and completing a book is no less than a life-long experience for any author. There will come a time when you are able to write at your best, but there may also be instances when you find yourself struggling with a particular topic. If you’re unsure of where to start, it’s advisable, to begin with the topic you are most knowledgeable about. We recommend selecting a title that allows you to write quickly and efficiently, even with limited resources.

Let’s explore some ways to discover a topic on which you can write immediately;

  • Life Experiences: Not everybody has a similar story, and their life experiences aren’t the same either. Each person has had some life experiences that have changed them into the person they are today. In your book, you can share your own experiences with the world and assist those who are in the same situation as you.
  • Life Lesson: You can get started writing on the topics that you’ve experienced in your real life. What distinctive insights have you gained about the world? Consider the lessons you’ve learned through personal experiences and contemplate how your newfound knowledge can benefit others in society.

5d.     Research Potential Topics

In this tech era, finding a relevant topic for your book has now become a matter of just a few clicks.

Write a keyword or idea on the search bar and Ta-Da! You got thousands of suggestions for your new book.

Search engines like Google and Bing have now made it easier to research any topic.

But wait! Do you have too many ideas for your book? You can also skim and scan each one to determine its scope.

Let’s find out some of the ways through which you can research the book idea on Google;

Check out the content that has already been written in other books of the same genre.

  • Do someone has already worked on this idea?
  • Is there anything included in the content that has increased the readers’ knowledge?
  • How does their book perform in the market?
  • What do you need to add to your knowledge?
  • Are there any well-known authors who have written content on this topic?
  • What new piece of information do you find in their books?

Step 06

6.    Outline The Story

Just like architects come up with blueprints before constructing any building to visualize its appearance upon project completion, creating a remarkable story requires the development of a flawless outline.

If you want to pen down an interesting story, you must have an intriguing outline in hand first. Having a solid blueprint is particularly crucial, especially for first-time authors, as it serves as a reliable guide to navigate through challenging moments when writer’s block inevitably strikes. (And trust us, it will.)

Let’s find out how we can create a book outline that you can use as a map to seamlessly write a complete book.


6a.     Come Up With A Mind Map

Once you grasp an idea, now is the time to implement what’s on your mind. With a perfect mind map for your book, you can better drill down into its sub-topics.

Here’s how you can list down ideas for your book;

  • Grab a pen and paper
  • Set a 10 to 15-minute timer based on your writing speed.
  • Write the main idea in the center of the page.
  • Pen down all ideas, purposes, and objectives related to the book’s topic.
  • Continue writing until the timer stops.

After idea mind mapping, you’ll definitely have a page full of brainstormed concepts, ideas, and thoughts. Review your writing and start organizing it according to your priority or book flow. These pointers will help you a lot when you start writing content for the book outline.

6b.     Pen Down A Purpose Statement

Try to define the book’s purpose in a sentence or two. A compelling purpose statement will clarify to readers the reasons they should contemplate reading your book.

Additionally, this will aid in maintaining focus as you embark on drafting your outline and writing your book and prevent you from deviating into unrelated topics or going off on tangents.

6c.     Create A Preliminary Outline For Your Book

Finally, it’s time to draft a working outline for your book. But remember, it’s just a basic task; this outline may vary throughout the writing procedure, and that’s perfect.

Commence by integrating the sub-topics and ideas you’ve noted in your mind map into your book’s outline.

Your outline will prove invaluable once you begin writing. It can effectively combat writer’s block and boost your writing momentum and productivity. Instead of pondering what to write in the next chapter of your book, you’ll already have a clear starting point from your book’s outline.

6d.     Fill In The Writing Potholes With Extensive Research

Once you’ve finished your working outline, it becomes crucial to conduct further research on your topic. This step will enable you to fill in any gaps or areas you might have missed or overlooked in your initial outline.

Ensure a balance between research and writing. Dedicate time to research, but avoid becoming overly absorbed in it, as it could impact your book writing journey.

Here’s how you can research while writing a book;

  • Utilize online resources through a comprehensive Google search on your chosen topic.
  • Read other books that have been written about your subject matter.
  • Listen to expert interviews, podcasts, and audiobooks that pertain to your area of interest.
  • Delve into scholarly articles and academic journals within the relevant subject or industry.
  • Explore archives, collections, historical journals, data records, and newspaper clippings to gain clarity on events, dates, and facts, especially when writing about historical topics.

6e.     Guidelines For Crafting Your Book

Adopting a framework for your book can significantly facilitate keeping your writing organized and relevant.

Selecting a format or structure that aligns with your book’s topic will prove invaluable in creating a cohesive outline, and streamlining the writing process for each chapter.

These are things you should keep in mind while writing your outline.

  • Choose The Right Format: You can choose from among different types of book outlines that include but are not limited to the free-flowing mind map, character-based outline, and chapter-and-scene outline. If one approach is not going with your writing style, try another.
  • Pay Attention To Conflict Points: Determine the areas where you are feeling stuck or facing issues in seamlessly transfusing your ideas into words. Work on these areas first. However, it’s not necessary to have a precise understanding of where the conflict will emerge; it is important to have a solid understanding of how it will work within your book.
  • Have A Well-Defined Start, Middle, And End: Many authors make the mistake of having a clear idea of how their story should begin but neglecting to develop a cohesive middle and a satisfying ending. While writing a book outline, pay proper attention to flesh out these crucial sections and establish meaningful connections between them.

6f. Frameworks

Within the vast landscape of Book Writing, there exist numerous molds into which you can shape your book. However, here are some of the preferred frameworks, specifically suited for non-fiction writing, that you may consider when starting your book-writing journey:

  • Reference: You can go for this framework if your book is intended to serve as a user-friendly reference, facilitating readers in locating the information they need quickly.
  • Sequential: This framework is the best if you’re going to write “How to” with a particular set of instructions and methodologies.
  • Three-Act Structure: You can employ this framework if you’re going to entail a story in your book with three main parts, including the initial set-up, Rising Action, and the final Resolution.
  • Modular: Utilize this framework if you have a substantial amount of information or concepts that can be organized into related topics but do not necessarily require a specific sequential presentation.
  • Problem and Solution: This framework works best when it is vital for readers to easily identify a problem and comprehend the corresponding solution.
  • Compare And Contrast: Choose this framework if you aim to demonstrate to your readers the similarities or differences between two or more ideas or concepts.
  • Chronological: If every section of your book corresponds to a specific chronological time or order of events, this framework is perfect for you.
  • Combination: If your book aligns with two or more of the above-mentioned frameworks, you can adopt a combination framework tailored to suit your book’s specific topic.

Step 03: Final Touch-Up Phase

Step 07

7.    Pen Down The Book Draft

After passing through all the preliminary planning stages, generating ideas through brainstorming, and crafting a detailed outline, now is the time to step into the real battlefield; writing down the first book draft.

Being first-time authors, we understand that it’s difficult to come up with perfect plots and ideas in one go, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Several novice writers believe that writing a compelling masterpiece is all about awe-inspiring verbiage, figurative language, and intricately woven sentences.

But that’s not true!

If that’s the case, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee won’t become a bestseller in 1960. Even this is the book that has been loved by readers to this date.

However, the style holds great importance; subject matter is far more essential in book writing. That means; paying attention to tone and vocabulary but plot, character, themes, and climax should be your primary priority.

intriguing idea

7a.     Come Up With An Intriguing Opening Sentence

But, sometimes, writers face difficulty not in writing an intriguing introduction that keeps the reader on the tip of their toes but an end that leaves a lasting impression lingering in the reader’s mind long after they have turned the final page.

Crafting a satisfying conclusion that ties together all the narrative threads and delivers a powerful message can be a formidable challenge.

Let’s find out some of the most reliable tips that you can follow to complete your book;

With the book’s outline and chosen framework at hand, you are all set to start writing your first manuscript.

When you focus on the bigger picture of book writing, there’s a huge possibility that you might get overwhelmed in the early stages of writing.

Here are some of the ways through which you can better breakdown your book writing into smaller sections;

  • Start By Writing One Chapter At A Time. Rather than attempting to write all the chapters in one go, focus your attention on a single section at a time. By doing this, you can enhance your writing skills and create a more cohesive and engaging narrative.
  • Establish Deadlines For Completing The Writing Segment. Divide your overall goal into smaller sections, and assign specific deadlines for accomplishing each individual section.
  • Set Writing Time: Writing a book requires dedicated time and undivided attention. To write a book that bespoke your ideas, assigs a particular writing time that includes research and review time. That means if you’re dedicating 3 hours to book writing, you can give 45 minutes for critical review and 45 minutes to research required for the book and then dedicate the rest of the time to writing.

Alternatively, if you choose to divide your writing time into three separate periods throughout the day, you can allocate your dedicated hours as follows:

  • Morning: Reserve 45 minutes to review and refine what you’ve written.
  • Evening: dedicate 45 minutes for research and additional insights gathering.
  • Night: Spend the remaining 90 minutes focusing on the writing process.

Celebrate Small Achievements: Small victories lead to big wins! That’s why we suggest you celebrate every milestone you achieve in book writing, no matter how small or big it is. Be it going out for dinner, treating yourself with coffee and cookies, buying yourself a fancy pan, or anything else you love.

7b.     Buckle Up Your Shoes To Complete Your Book

Creatively penning down something is not a walk in the park, and when it comes to book writing, the situation becomes even more challenging.

We don’t promise that your book writing journey will be without challenges, nor do we guarantee that with our tips, you’ll complete a 260-page book within a mere month.

There will also come a time when you may encounter moments of writer’s block. Even when you have a clear idea of what you should be writing, there will be times when the words sound amiss as you reread and assess your work in your mind.

But don’t worry! That’s normal!

We have bought some tips that can help you fight with creative block and speed up your writing process;

Avoid Editing While Writing: Editing and writing are two different skill sets that require you to work in two different mind frames. It’ll slow down your writing pace and make you stop at different points.

So, Write First And Edit Later.

Don’t stress if your initial writing isn’t flawless; the primary goal is to express your thoughts. You can polish and refine your words during the editing process.

  • Take Breaks: While writing, it’s completely normal to feel burnout. Take breaks while writing and get back to it when you feel right. But small breaks mean just a day or two off, not a month or two.
  • Look For Creative Inspiration. Sometimes it’s kind of frustrating to do just nothing but write, write, and write in your leisure time. If you feel tired of this activity, you can read a novel, binge-watch your favorite show, visit an art gallery, or do what you love. It will greatly revitalize your creative mindset and give you new ideas on which you can write in your book.
  • Switch Your Writing Space: Consider revitalizing your writing environment if you typically write at home in your own space. Experiment with writing in a public park, coffee shop, or library, especially on days when writing seems unappealing. This change of scenery might inspire your creativity.
  • Pen Down Something Other Than Writing. Immersing ourselves too deeply in a book’s topic can become restricting sometimes. If you find yourself losing enthusiasm for writing about your book, consider exercising your writing muscles in a different discipline. Engage in creative writing exercises, keep a journal, or try composing a poem to explore new avenues of expression.

7c.     Craft A Book That’s Pure Thrill And No Frills

Writing a book is no less than a challenge, especially when you reach a section with vague outlines. Yes, it looks tempting to add excessive words and fancy techniques to fill the page. However, that’s just filler content. If you add too much of it in your book, readers may get frustrated and perceive you as trying too hard to impress.

Outlining is one of the effective ways to do it, but here are a few more tips through which you can outstand your storyline;

  • Pay Close Attention To Your Pacing. When the story moves too slowly, it could be a sign of excessive description. If it feels like the events are dragging along, you might be focusing too much on style and not giving enough attention to the plot.
  • Every Sentence Depicts Some Action . Each sentence must serve one of two purposes: to unveil the character or move the story forward.

Kurt Vonnegut says that if a sentence fails to achieve either of these objectives, consider removing it. If the passage remains coherent and meaningful, then it’s best to let it go.

Step 08

8.    Come Up With A Book Title

The words that matter the most for your book are the ones gracing the outside cover.

Your Book Title!

If 90% of your target audience reads your book’s title, there are chances that 25% will buy and read your book. Given this, it becomes crucial to invest additional effort in crafting an emotionally compelling and impactful title.

Create a title that not only sticks in the minds of readers but also vividly portrays the genre and storyline of your book. Make it easy for potential readers to recall and be intrigued by what your book has to offer.

Prepare a comprehensive list comprising ideally 25 or more titles. This abundance of options will offer you the freedom to mix and match, enabling you to discover the perfect title that captures the essence of your story.

Topic Suggestions For Fiction

When crafting a book title for a fictional genre, opt for titles that vividly portray the story’s characters, encompass engaging catchphrases, and hint at the captivating twists woven throughout the book.

Let’s explore examples of titles that already exist in the marketplace;

  • Story’s Characters: The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling.
  • Catchphrases: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and “The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
  • Plot Twists: Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, and Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris.

Your book’s title for the fictional genre;

  • Should be relevant to your genre.
  • Captivate the reader’s curiosity.
  • Take its inspiration from plot twists, characters, and intriguing phrases.

Topic Suggestions For Non-Fiction.

When choosing a book title for the non-fiction genre, take into consideration the concerns and interests of your target audience and how your book aims to address them.

Despite being rooted in reality, non-fiction titles can still embrace creativity and originality, offering readers a clear understanding of the book’s subject matter and purpose.

Make sure your title serves as an enticing gateway, inviting readers to explore the valuable knowledge and insights within your non-fiction work.

That means; your book’s title for the non-fictional genre;

  • Should be unforgettable
  • Have the solution to the reader’s problem in the title.
  • Have a subtitle to provide clarity and elaborate on the book’s content.

Step 09

9.    Edit The Manuscript

After putting all your thoughts on the paper and compiling them into an intriguing story, now it’s time to edit what you’ve written.

However, the success of any manuscript depends on its storyline and writing excellence, but a thoroughly edited book will upgrade its overall quality.

If you think that we have mentioned the book editing process just because you’re a new writer in the industry, you’re wrong. Even the best out of the best writing piece requires editing.

So, don’t feel discouraged if you find errors and mistakes in it. In the end, you will find immense satisfaction in adhering to the editing process. The outcome will be a fully polished, flawless book that is ready to outstand genre rivals.

The book editing process completes in two steps; Self-editing and Professional editing.

9a.     Self- Editing

To ensure that your words entail the story you want to share with the world, start by editing and proofreading your content.

But remember!

Jump on this stage after completing the writing phase!

Read word by word and line by line with focus and dedication.

We suggest you turn on track changes in your Word document or print out the draft on the paper to make an edit. By doing this, it will become easier for you to spot mistakes and errors and enable you to make changes in your manuscript seamlessly.

Self-editing follows a precise strategy, and embarking on this journey without understanding it can be daunting. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, take the time to grasp the intricacies of the process before delving in headfirst.

Here’s how you can self-edit your book draft seamlessly;

  • While editing, read your draft loudly.
  • Instead of editing all at once, go chapter by chapter.
  • Firstly, address structural revisions within the chapter.
  • Secondly, identify areas where the book’s readability can be enhanced.
  • Thirdly, fine-tune grammar and word choice.

After completing your self-edit, incorporate the revisions into your manuscript, preparing it for the next round of edits.

9b.     Hire Experts For Book Editing

After completing self-editing, you can’t just sit back and think that your draft is now flawless. Now, it’s time to pass your draft to the professionals.

No matter how diligent you are, it’s inevitable to overlook some grammatical or spelling errors. Hiring a professional editor’s assistance can ensure a thorough review of your writing’s structure, providing valuable feedback that will instill confidence in your final published draft.

c.     Rewrite Sections That Need Improvement

After taking assistance from the book editing experts, make changes in the areas they suggested to improve the book’s overall readability and quality.

But don’t be disheartened when your manuscript returns filled with edits, comments, and identified errors. Embrace this valuable feedback as an opportunity to enhance your writing skills.

Would you like it if your readers get a book full of grammatical mistakes and structural errors?

You only have to carefully review your editor’s feedback and make revisions that seem necessary to you.

It’s completely fine if you don’t agree with your editor on certain points. Remember, it’s your book, and you have the ultimate control over what to include or remove from the manuscript. Trust your inner feelings and make decisions that align with your creative vision.

Step 10

10.  Choose A Compelling Book Cover

You often have heard the quote, “Never judge a book by its cover”, but this phrase only implements in our daily lives. When it comes to book writing, people do judge a book by its cover.

According to several studies, up to 80% of readers initially get attracted towards the book due to its cover. Moreover, up to 60% of people make their purchasing decisions, even after reading the back cover, based on the visual appeal and design of the book’s cover.

You can hire freelance graphic designers to design enticing book covers for your book or take assistance from the professionals available on online book designing platforms to come up with something new for you.

Here are some of the things you should consider when choosing a design for your book cover:

  • Reflect Your Story. Your book cover should provide a visual glimpse into the essence of your story, captivating potential readers and conveying its genre and tone.
  • Simplicity With Impact. Balance eye-catching design with simplicity to avoid overwhelming visuals that might distract from the message.
  • Choose The Right Typography. Select fonts that complement your genre and resonate with your target audience.
  • Test And Iterate. Gather feedback from your network to refine your book cover design, ensuring it resonates with your readers.
  • Consistency Across Formats. Create a cover that looks great in both print and digital formats to cater to all readers.

Step 11

11.  Pay Attention To Book Formatting

After completing the manuscript, now is the time to give your book the final shape through detailed formatting. It’s an essential bridge that transforms your raw manuscript into a polished masterpiece, ready to captivate readers.

But keep in mind that an effectively formatted book ensures that text remains intact, with no cut-offs, incorrect indentations, or typesetting errors.

These are intricacies you should focus on when formatting your book.

  • Ensure Consistency. Establish a uniform style for fonts, headings, and paragraph spacing throughout your book, creating a seamless reading experience.
  • Organize With Finesse. Divide your content into well-structured chapters and sections, guiding readers on a smooth literary adventure.
  • Focus on Page Layout. Set margins, headers, footers, and page numbers with precision, harmonizing aesthetics, and functionality.
  • Multi-Platform Mastery. Prepare your formatting for both print and digital editions, ensuring your book shines in every format.

Step 12

12.  Publish Your Book

To publish your book, you have to first decide whether you want to publish your book online or want it as a print book. However, both options have their own perks and limitations.

Self-publishing your book online is a rigorous and tiring process. So, hiring someone to do it for you is a better option. It will also change depending on which self-publishing platform you want to work with. Some of the most trusted platforms include IngramSpark, Amazon, Lulu, and others.

Once you’ve clicked the “publish” button on your chosen platform, it’s time to put your launch and marketing strategies into action. In the next section, we’ll delve into these crucial steps to help you effectively promote your book and reach your target audience.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, writing a book is a multifaceted journey that requires a plethora of skills and a willingness to learn. The steps outlined here provide a starting point for aspiring writers, but the learning process is ongoing.

Countless successful authors have blazed the trail before you, offering valuable insights and proven techniques. However, the ultimate responsibility lies in discovering your own unique style and process that resonates with you.

The realm of writing is ever-evolving, and every author, regardless of the scale of their work, possesses unique experiences worth sharing with others. Keeping this in mind, start your book writing journey, and remember that through perseverance and dedication, you can carve your path to becoming a proficient and impactful writer.

Authoring Masterpieces, Ensuring Success!

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book writing guidelines

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Writing a textbook – Advice for authors

What is a textbook.

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  • Is written for primarily students. Whilst the textbook may also be of interest to other audiences, such as researchers, the main audience should be students
  • Supports a course: there must be courses being taught at multiple universities for which the textbook would be suitable. The textbook could either be the only textbook recommended for the course, or it could be a more supplementary textbook that would appear on a recommended reading list. 

Why write a textbook?

There can be several reasons why a textbook gets written:

  • There is no textbook on the topic: if this is a relatively new area or perhaps a more niche topic then perhaps no-one has written a textbook to support courses yet
  • Existing textbooks are inadequate: perhaps current textbooks don’t cover the topic very well and you have to dip in and out of several different textbooks to cover all the topics you need. Perhaps current textbooks are outdated and haven’t kept up with the research, meaning you have to do a lot of work providing your own notes to supplement these textbooks
  • Prestige!: you could write the textbook on the topic and become a household name (in academic circles at least!)
  • The opportunity to expand the impact of your educational materials by working with an internationally recognized publisher who can promote and disseminate the textbook  to a global audience

You should carry out market research to ensure there is an audience for your textbook and to help you understand what the competing textbooks would be:

  • Is there a market for the textbook: are other people teaching similar courses? Is this course taught at universities around the world?
  • What should be covered in the textbook: look at how other instructors teach this course - what topics are commonly taught? These should feature in your textbook
  • How should you structure the textbook: again, looking how this course is taught, is there a common order that the topics are taught? Your textbook should reflect this
  • What features to competing textbooks include: If they all have exercises then yours probably should too. Is there anything that you could add to your textbook to make it stand out from the others, e.g. case studies, definitions of key terms, etc.?
  • Look at reviews of competing textbooks: what do readers like/dislike about the textbook? Have a look at sources such as Amazon and speak to colleagues about the textbooks they use

Have a vision for the textbook! Before you begin writing a proposal for a textbook or approaching a publisher, you should have a clear idea in your mind about what the textbook will be:

  • Who am I writing this textbook for: have a clear understanding of who your target audience is i.e. what level of degree course will this textbook support?
  • What is the objective of my textbook: Why is this textbook needed? Will it be a core course textbook, i.e. the only textbook for the course, or will it be more supplementary i.e. only covering part of a course and appearing on a recommended reading list? How will it meet a course curriculum?
  • How will students benefit from my textbook: will they gain an in-depth understanding of a topic, or develop a skill set to understand a particular problem, etc.?
  • Do I have already material that I can turn into a manuscript: can I repurpose my own lecture notes, slides, assignments/course questions, etc.?

There are a few final points to consider before you start writing, or to bear in mind as you are writing. 

  • Prerequisite knowledge: what topics or concepts should readers already be familiar with? Do you need to review these or further explain them?
  • Self-contained: students typically want a one-stop resource so you should try to ensure that as much of the information that student needs is presented in your textbook
  • Modular chapters: students will likely dip in and out of the textbook rather than read it linearly from start to finish so try to make chapters self-contained where possible, so they can be understood out of context of the rest of the textbook
  • Succinct and to the point: keep focused on the course that the textbook is supporting and the topics that need to be covered. Avoid including less relevant topics, very advanced topics, explanations of concepts that students should already understand, and any other content which may not actually be useful to the student
  • Didactic elements: elements such as exercises, case studies, definitions and so on help break up the main chapter text and make it more engaging. Consider what didactic elements you want to include before you start writing so you can ensure that the main chapter text provides the right information to support the didactic element e.g. that a concept is adequately explained in order to answer an exercise question, or that theory is suitably described before a corresponding case study is given
  • Writing style: textbooks can have a lighter, more conversational writing style than monographs and references works. Try to use active rather than passive sentences e.g. “It is believed by some physicians that…” becomes “Some physicians believe that…”
  • Online resources: if you have exercises, consider writing a solutions manual for instructors so they don’t have to work out all the solutions themselves. Are there data sets, spreadsheets, programs, etc., that would be useful for students to access so they can test concepts themselves? The same copyright issues apply for online resources as for the print book – see Obtaining permissions for further information
  • Write an Introduction to explain who the textbook is for and how it should be used: confirm the level of the students e.g. 3rd year undergraduates; confirm the course that the textbook supports; list any prerequisites or assumptions you have made about the student’s background knowledge; explain how the textbook could be used. If applicable, identify core must-read chapters and chapters which are more advanced or optional; provide short summaries of the chapters (just a sentence or two)
  • Test your material as you write: use your draft chapters as part of your lecture course and see how students respond to it. Do they understand the concepts you are explaining? Are they able to complete any exercises?

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book writing guidelines

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

As much as authors love to write, building worlds and populating them with three-dimensional characters who are compelling enough for you and your readers to want to get to know is no easy task. Wouldn’t it be nice to create those characters once and then use them to tell several stories in that constructed universe? No wonder so many authors are drawn to the concept of writing a series.

Table of Contents: • Is your idea series-worthy? • What kind of series are you writing? • Elements to consider for your book series    World-building and setting development    Story structure    Connecting the plotlines    Subplots    Character development and growth • Keep a “Series Bible” • Consider your series title • Consistent book design • Consistent tone

Of course, readers who fall in love with your world and recurring characters are going to be eager to read more, which gives you an instant boost when it comes time to sell your next book.

If that sounds attractive, it is. But writing a book series isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s an endeavor that requires dedication, creativity, commitment, and meticulous planning.

Is your idea series-worthy?

I know I just went into a whole spiel about how great a book series can be, but before you launch into your own, it’s worth asking yourself if your idea needs to be a series or if it’s better off being a standalone novel. After all, some of the most beloved books of all time are standalones. Pride and Prejudice, The Outsiders, The Great Gatsby, The Fault in Our Stars — as much as people love those books, they’re not exactly set up for a sequel, much less a series. Some stories are perfect just as they are. The story is finished, the character arcs complete. Why mess with perfection?

So you need to decide: Is your world too big for just one tale? Is there more story to tell? Your characters may finish book one having resolved their outer journey, but there may be opportunities to explore more internal and external conflicts .

What kind of series are you writing?

Assuming you’ve decided you want to write a book series, you need to decide which kind you plan to write: open or closed. This will inform your writing process and how you navigate the story arc.

Open series

An open series is a collection of books set in the same universe, usually — but not always — featuring the same characters. There is no overarching plot, we simply follow our main character (James Bond, Nancy Drew, Harry Dresden) through a series of adventures. Typically, the protagonists in open series don’t have a character arc — many remain flat characters . James Bond, for example, doesn’t change from book to book. Furthermore, each standalone book in an open series doesn’t have to be read in order.

One nice thing about writing an open series is you don’t have to plan on writing a series when writing your first book. My novel The Dragon Squisher , for example, wasn’t going to be part of a series at all, but when I was filling out the metadata for Amazon, I came to the question, “Is this part of a series?” and I thought, “Well, why say no when I can say yes?” I’ve finished the sequel ( The Crudge Whacker ) and am working on book three.

Closed series

A closed series tells one large tale over a set number of books. Think of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Closed series include individual novels, with each entry telling a complete story, but there is also an overarching storyline and character arcs.

Closed series are very popular, but they take extensive work at the outset as you have to plan out a grand epic, including all of the individual novels, from the beginning through the end, and plant your Chekhov’s Guns throughout so they can go off in subsequent volumes in your series (something J.K. Rowling was particularly adept at in her Harry Potter series).

Elements to consider for your book series

OK, so you’ve decided to write a series and even chosen which kind. Now what?

World-building and setting development

Make sure your series’ worlds are immersive, distinct, and, most of all, enjoyable . After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time here. Take the time to craft a detailed setting, complete with its own rules, history, and culture.

If you’re including magic, work out the magical system. If you’re writing sci-fi, work out the tech. Readers should feel like they’re stepping into a living, breathing realm. That doesn’t mean throwing them into the middle of an info dump. Dole out the details as the story progresses and stay consistent throughout your series.

Story structure

If you’re embarking on writing an entire series, you should already know the basics of story structure . If you’re writing a closed series, you’ll need to apply those same rules not just to each novel, but also to the entire series. For example, if you’re writing a trilogy, then use the three-act structure: Book one is your protagonist setting out on the adventure, book two ends with some kind of major setback, and book three gives you closure.

Connecting the plotlines

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book Launch

Subplots are going to help you fill out your story — especially in a closed series. When writing book one, you don’t necessarily need to know all the details of each individual subplot, but it’s a good idea to know the general idea of where each subplot will go. For example, perhaps you know one of your side characters will turn against your protagonist by the final book. That’s enough information for you to begin writing.

Character development and growth

Characters are the heart of any story, but with a series, you need to make sure they are compelling enough that people are going to be desperate to read their next adventure. Give them room to evolve, face challenges, and grow over time. Establish arcs that allow readers to witness their transformation. The Harry Potter series was especially great at giving each character a satisfying arc.

Keep a “Series Bible”

Consistency is key when writing any story, and that goes double for a writing multiple books for a series. If you refer to a landmark by one name in book one and then another in book five, your readers will know. Keep a bible of all your character and place names, as well as physical descriptions and dates, etc. Keep the bible updated as you continue to write your series. If something important happens to a character in book three, make a note of it so you’ll remember when you get to book six.

Consider your series title

You’re going to need a title for your series as well as each individual novel. It’s good to think about this ahead of time. I recommend naming the series after your first book (e.g., The Hunger Games ) because it’s easier for readers to remember. Then when book two comes out, people will instantly know it’s a sequel to book one ( Catching Fire: The Hunger Games, Book 2 ).

I wish I had done this for my series, The Nigel Chronicles — of which The Dragon Squisher is the first book. However, there are plenty of successful series that are not named after the first book ( A Song of Ice and Fire, The Dresden Files, His Dark Materials ), so this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Consistent book design

covers from the Crazy Rich Asians book series

Consistent tone

Maybe it goes without saying, but if you are writing a series, each book should be similar to the rest in the series. That doesn’t mean each plot should be a carbon copy of the previous one, but you want to keep the tone similar and make sure that whatever you delivered in the first book (action, humor, camaraderie, etc.) you keep on delivering in the rest. That’s what your readers are expecting in your future books.

Related Posts Narrative Structure — Why It’s Important Internal vs. External Conflict in Writing Round vs. Flat Character: What’s the Difference? How Your Title Can Enrich Your Writing How to Use Chekhov’s Gun to Enhance Your Story

Great advice and you have reassured me that I have done all the right things in my trilogy of Grand Canyon historical novels. Book One – Canyon Crossroads is available on Amazon and B&N websites. Book Two – Heart of Gold is about to be released and I’ve submitted Book Three – Guarding the Treasure to my publisher. Closed series writing is tricky but a lot of fun, especially when my characters told me what to write.

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book writing guidelines

My New Book, Same As Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes The Morgan Housel Podcast

My new book, Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes, is out today.  Books are hard, a multi-year slog from start to finish. But I’m excited for you to read this. I think it’s the best writing I’ve ever done. And it was fun to write! My hope is that you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.  My first book, The Psychology of Money, was really about how you, the individual behave. Same As Ever is about how we, the collective, behave, and what we keep doing over and over.  It’s 23 short stories about what never changes in a changing world.  I’ve been thinking about this book for my entire career. I’ve always been skeptical of forecasts, because the world’s track record on predicting the next recession, the next election, or the next technology is so bad. That should draw you to the question: What’s never going to change? What do we know for certain is going to be part of our future? 

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  • Introduction
  • 1 Unit Introduction
  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

A student works on their laptop computer, while their left elbow rests on two books.

Chapter Outline

As an author, you will spend a great deal of time crafting your compositions to ensure that your ideas, thesis statements, and arguments come across to readers clearly and with authority. The way to present a strong, persuasive argument is through thorough analysis and solid evidence obtained from credible sources. Because sources are so important, creating an annotated bibliography can be a cornerstone of the argumentative research writing process.

This chapter shows how to develop an annotated bibliography for the argumentative research project presented in Writing Process: Integrating Research . An annotated bibliography shows the authority present in each of the sources and explains why each was chosen. The information in the annotated bibliography helps readers understand the role a bibliography plays in gathering and using sources to support an argument. Later in the chapter, you will apply the principles presented to create your own annotated bibliography for one of the assignments in this course—perhaps your own argumentative research paper, as outlined in Writing Process: Integrating Research .

If you are creating an annotated bibliography, you may not have created a research log, as addressed in Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log . However, as you work through this chapter, consult Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log for additional information about locating, analyzing, and incorporating sources.

By creating an annotated bibliography, you move beyond simply collecting sources to interacting with them. When writing annotations, you read each source more closely than you would otherwise, think about it more critically, and strengthen your own claims on the topic. An annotated bibliography thus provides you with perspectives beyond your own ideas and helps you understand where your claims fit into the broader body of knowledge on the topic, or “the conversation.” Annotated bibliographies help other scholars by providing an overview of the sources and breadth of knowledge about the research surrounding a given topic.

Writing an annotated bibliography is an opportunity to practice expectations of convention; there are many rules to follow depending on the format and style you write in. But it can also be an opportunity to challenge convention in both the content and the style of your writing. A growing movement in academics fosters anti-racist practice, which embraces stylistic choices based on culture. That is to say, so-called standard language ideologies are no longer seen as “better” or even “correct.” Rather, an ever-evolving idea of language awareness increasingly allows students and their instructors to explore cultural expression of ideas.

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