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Writing a book can feel intimidating. If you don’t know much about the process, you could assume that it involves a hard-to-find agent. And a dozen seasoned editorial professionals. And that their process will take half-a-decade to complete.
If that’s the case, it’s no wonder that 81% of people have a book inside them but have never written it.
The legacy-systems of traditional publishing have invaded your mindset as an aspiring author. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You have another option.
In today’s world, you can write and publish your own book. You don’t need an agent. You don’t need an editor. You don’t need a publisher.
If this is you—if you’re intimidated by how to write a book and don’t know where to start—you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to write a book in 30 days that you are proud of and people will praise you for.
We’ll start with writing preparation. If you’re the “I don’t need instructions” type, this part may be hard for you. But trust me. It’s worth going through every single step. Because, if you do, putting pen to paper will be much easier.
And good writing prep is what makes it possible to write your book in 30 days. Along with an effective writing process.
Let’s get into it.
Writing your book is a lot like building a house. When you build a house, you build it in very intentional stages. Depending on the house you’re building, there may be a lot, or there may be a few. But the point is that each step builds on top of the other to create something beautiful you want to live in.
It all starts with a vision. You know what you’re looking for. Then you get an architect to develop some plans to start turning your idea into a reality.
Once you have approved plans and you have the permits you need, you first build a foundation. And that foundation sets the stage for everything you’re going to build on top of it.
If your foundation is shaky your entire house will be shaky.
If you’ve constructed your foundation, well you’ll prevent future problems. Problems that can affect your home’s safety and efficiency.
Once you built the foundation, the framers come in and frame your walls, ceilings, rooms, and more. Then, before they go any farther, they do an inspection.
The inspection is where they a walk-through your house and make small tweaks to the frame. This is important so that everything else that comes afterward is straightforward.
Building a house is an involved process. That’s why it would be very unwise to screw a few pieces of wood together and slap siding on it. Meanwhile, you’re expecting it to look like a well-built home.
In the same manner, it’s also unwise to write a book without preparation. It’ll never turn into an interesting, engaging, inspiring book.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. —Abraham Lincoln
Instead, you must follow a process. Here are three foundational steps you’ll need to follow to prepare your manuscript. And then I’ll show you how to take what you’ve prepared and write that book you’ve been meaning to write.
The first step to preparing your manuscript is to get everything in your mind onto paper.
Whether your book idea is in your head, on your phone, or on sticky notes spread across your desk, that’s okay. It’s time to start organizing your thoughts into one place.
You’ll want to use a process called “the brain dump.” It’s a proven process authors and content creators around the globe use. You use your right brain—the creative side—to brainstorm the process and free-flow ideas for your book.
This allows all the thoughts, ideas, and information you have in mind for your book to rise to the surface. You then “dump” them out anywhere—a white board, poster board, or computer. You’ll end up creating three tiers of ideas, starting with your topic.
Start by writing down your working title in the middle of the page. Circle it. This is your primary topic.
You then branch off into a second tier. Write down everything that comes to mind that has to do with your book. This may include words, ideas, sentences, stories, characters, quotes, and more. These are your subtopics.
Now, dissect each subtopic. Branch off your subtopics. Then write down more thoughts, ideas, and phrases around that subtopic. These are your sub-subtopics.
Your brain dump should end up looking something like this example right from our self-publishing e-course.
Now, your book idea is out of your head on paper. It’s time to organize that idea into an outline.
Here’s where you’ll use your left brain—the analytical side—to organize your brain dump material into a structured outline. This provides a framework, flow, and a story for your book.
You’ll find that your outline will map out your entire book—from the first page to the last. And that means you’re one step closer to starting on your manuscript.
Here’s how it works. Make a simple outline from your brain dump. Use the subtopics as chapters and the sub-subtopics as subheadings for your chapters.
It’s not going to be perfect yet, but that’s okay. You’re creating a direction and momentum for yourself so that when it’s time to write, you won’t be able to stop.
Writing chapter summaries is a crucial step in the manuscript development process. Now that you have an outline, you’ve built the framework for your book.
At this point, it would be super easy to jump ahead and start writing. Though, if you do that, you may crush the first few chapters because you’re super excited to be writing your book.
But here’s what happens to most people. Once you get past those first few chapters, you’ll forget your direction. You’ll lose confidence. And you’ll start to wonder why you thought you would write a book in the first place.
That’s why I recommend writing chapter summaries for your book. Chapter summaries give you an opportunity to see each chapter from a bird’s eye view. Now is a great time to make small directional adjustments before you dive into the weeds. They will help you avoid having to overhaul the whole manuscript after you’ve written it.
Now that you’ve prepared your manuscript, it’s time to finally write your book.
Writing is difficult. In fact, most writers even have a hard time writing.
You might have spent two decades as a professional writer. Or you may have never written much of anything. Either way, it’s common to have trouble getting down to the ugly, dirty business of putting words on paper.
You’ll hear phrases from writers like, “I hate facing the blank page.” Or “the blinking cursor was threatening me.” It’s almost like there’s a barrier between what you need to do and you doing it.
Writing requires us to develop a method that we can follow day-in and day-out. This method needs to help us be super creative and get work done. For me, writing looks something like this.
My first draft is ugly. There are grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. You name it; it’s there. Here’s the thing. Writing with mistakes is the first step in the process, and you’ll take care of the mistakes later.
“First, I vomit all over the page. Then I edit like crazy.” —Paul Jarvis, Everything I Know
Freely writing helps me get my ideas out of my head without restriction. This also helps me gain momentum and get my first draft done as fast as possible.
After all my ideas are out of my head, I organize my draft. This includes developing a structure and creating a flow that makes logical sense.
While my document is still full of grammar errors, I take the ugliness, and I organize it.
I’ll read my draft out loud and cut and paste and cut and paste and cut and paste until it starts to make some sense. And sometimes there’s a lot of cutting and no pasting. After it makes enough sense to read through, I move on.
Next, I copyedit. While this is one of the harder parts of the process, it always feels good when it’s finished.
In this step, I’ll prune sentences, remove unnecessary words, make sure my contractions are consistent, and more.
At this point, my writing starts to read well. Before I seek feedback, I always read through the content aloud one last time. This way, I can catch any errors before someone else has to.
Fourth, I get feedback. Now that your writing is not embarrassing to read, it’s time to ask for feedback.
I’ll usually send my draft to my assistant, my co-founder, or a trusted friend. They always catch something that I completely missed.
I do a final edit. I accept or reject edits from friends and make adjustments based on any comments they have made.
I love when someone’s willing to go back and forth with me until I get a sentence perfect.
As in every stage, I read aloud and make adjustments and edits as I go along. Usually, at this point, my work is done, and I’ll move on to the next piece chapter or section of my book.
But the roller coaster ride doesn’t stop there. I usually go through a few more twists and turns. And it’s not uncommon for me to start thinking that whatever I’m writing sucks. It’s hard not to believe the lies that my idea sucks and that I shouldn’t have even started in the first place.
We’ve all been there.
And once you’ve gone up and down and around and around, you might even feel like you’re stuck or you’re not fit to do this work. You might feel like that your story isn’t worth writing after all. This is exactly why most people quit. They close their computer, put their idea on the shelf, and walk away.
But here’s the thing. Nobody writes a book alone. That’s why we created the BookWorthy self-publishing e-course. In this course, we walk you through every step of the self-publishing process.
As a member, you’ll get 12 motivating video lessons along with a companion workbook. Your workbook will act as a roadmap as you write and publish your book. You’ll get access to our private Facebook Group full of people who are going through the same thing you are. You’ll also get access to Office Hours where Jennifer, Aaron, and I will be answering your questions.
Is this you? If you’re looking to write and publish a book, don’t do it alone. Consider registering for BookWorthy today.
Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of BookWorthy.com. He's also a marketing consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.MORE ARTICLES