How to write a book – the short honest truth

Every author I know gets asked the same question: How do you write a book?

It’s a simple question, but it causes problems. On the one hand, it’s nice to have people interested in something I do. If I told people I fixed toasters for a living, I doubt I’d get many inquires. People are curious about writing and that’s cool and flattering. Rock on.

But on the other hand, the hand involving people who ask because they have an inkling to do it themselves, is that writing books is a topic so old and so well trod by so many famous people that anyone who asks hoping to discover secret advice is hard to take seriously.

Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this – Anyone can write a book. They want permission. The truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Your book idea is worth writing if you think it is. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. A pen, paper and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. If VoltaireMarquis de Sade and Marina Nemat could write in prison, then you can do it in suburbia, at lunch, at work, or after your kids go to sleep. You will always find excuses if you want them and most people do. Why? Writing is work. No matter how smart you are or how great your idea is, you will have to put in the time and no one else can do it for you.

It helps to kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might be bad or be incomprehensible, but so what: it’s still a book and many published authors haven’t done any better.

Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, a years worth of emails you wrote, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at Kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.

Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. More work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, or whatever you like. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work. I like this though: it means anyone who puts in enough time can actually write well. Some of our best writing comes from ordinary people from all walks of life.

Getting published. 30% of the time the real thing people are asking is how do you find a publisher. As if there wasn’t a phone book or, say, an Internet-thingy where you can look this stuff up (start with Jane Friedman’s website). Writers-market is literally begging to help writers find publishers. Many publishers, being positive on the whole idea of communication, put information on how to submit material on their website. And so do agents. The grand comedy of this is how few writers follow the instructions. That’s what pisses off all the editors: few writers do their homework.

The sticking point for most people who want to be authors is, again, the work. They want to hear a secret that skips over the work part. Publishers are rightfully picky and they get pitched a zillion books a day. It takes effort to learn the ropes, send out smart queries, and do the research required to both craft the idea for a book, and then to propose it effectively. So while writing is a rejection prone occupation, even for the rock-stars, finding a publisher is not a mystery. In fact the whole game is self-selective: people who aren’t willing to do the work of getting published are unlikely to be capable of the work required to finish a decent manuscript.

But that said – it’s easier today to self-publish than ever. People look down on self-publishing, but I don’t see why. When people buy books it’s not like they care who published them (“Oh, I don’t read Random House books, sorry”): they only care who recommended or reviewed the book. But again, our tragically unpopular companion, work, is required to self-publish so many prefer to keep asking writers how they got published instead of just doing it themselves. You can read what I learned from self-publishing the first time here (although the technology and options have improved since then).

Being famous and wealthy: Now this is the kicker. About 50% of the time the real thing people want to know is how to become a famous millionaire rock-star author person. As if a) I qualified, b) I could explain how it happened, or c) I’d be willing to tell.

First, this assumes writing is a good way to get rich. I’m not sure how this lie started but writing, like most creative pursuits, has always been a less than lucrative lifestyle. Even if a book sells well, the $$$ to hour ratio will be well below your average corporate job, without the health benefits, sick days, nor the months where you can coast by without your boss noticing. These days people write books after they’re famous, not before. A book can help you gain professional credibility, but then it’s more of a marketing project than a writing project, isn’t it?

And if the only books you read are bestsellers, well, you have a myopic view of the publishing world. Over 100k books are published in the US annually, and few sell more than a few thousand copies. What causes books to sell may have little to do with how good a book is, as we’ve all been mystified by the abysmal bestsellers and surprised by amazing books few seem to know about. Either way, to justify the effort you’ll need reasons other than cash.

Discouraged yet? Here is the upside: I love writing books. I love reading books. Books have profound powers and they’ve changed my life so many times. Maybe the bittersweet challenge of chasing words into sentences suits you. If you want to do this you have my support. GO YOU. Sincerely. I am behind you. But thinking about writing isn’t writing. Talking about it isn’t either. Commit to 10 hours of effort (basically a weekend or two). Write an outline or even just a few pages of a chapter. Take a course that focuses on actual writing and getting feedback. If it feels hard but rewarding, keep going. If it doesn’t, well I think you know.

Here are some practical next steps:

[Light editing: 10/7/2019, 2/4/2021]


1,304 Responses to “How to write a book – the short honest truth”

  1. ujamcharleston

    you made me realize the writer i could become,now u’ve go your self a task of watching.

    1. Madie

      I will be writing my first book called Vertical it about a vertical woman who wrestles with the number of man and spiritual powers and the the position of leadership in the nations conquering the capacities of the youth for developmentJudges 1 14 And it came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field’ and she lighted from off her ass’ and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing’ for thou hast given me a south land’ give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs. Love your future Nurse Midwife Lawyer and Georiga State Senate

  2. Hyacinth

    I want to put together a collection of stories from teachers. This concerns how in their practice teachers have changed the lives of children. What are the legal implications? What permissions do I need to get from them? They are quite willing to submit their stories.
    Thank you.

  3. zinn collection

    Great work! That is the kind of info that should be shared around the
    net. Disgrace on Google for not positioning this publish upper!
    Come on over and discuss with my web site . Thanks =)

  4. Brandy Sheppard

    I really never thought about writing a book, but I just have so much on my mind and I just want to share it with the world. I have so many thoughts and feeling when it comes to life and what we go through so I feel like I should share it with the world. But on the other I have been doing some reading on this website and these comments have made me gain the confidence to go ahead and WRITE… Thanks. And if you have some ideas and comments please Share.

    Thanks. BSheppard

    1. Anna Ware

      I enjoyed your post even though you have no idea who I am. As I was reading I realized I felt the same way, my problem was I have so much to say, but who wants to read it. From this website I figured who cares just do it! It’s not like I’m going to here the responses from the readers. Good luck in your writing!

    2. Theguyyoudon'tknow

      I’m glad.
      My personal “effort” when it comes to writing has basically been thinking… and not getting ink on the paper. So it’s nice to hear from someone who’s actually gotten to work.
      A word of caution … I love that you want to express your ideas. But often times, I’ve thought of doing precisely that and it wasn’t interpreted the right way. What I mean is… if your going to share what goes on in that noggin of yours… make sure you do it artfully enough so you can captivate the attention of your audience… and so you don’t seem like you’re rambling.

    3. James Andrew

      Would you send me some of your writing? You sound like a great writer, and I really want to have some. Maybe I’d even get inspired, hah?
      Please send me an answer to my email: you!

      1. James Andrew

        Sorry – my is without the “.Thank” at the end. Sorry!

  5. James Andrew

    Thank you very much for that awsome article! I was very inspired, and also read another articles of your, such as “How to write a boo – Part 2” and others. I’m a huge fan of writing, and I just can’t stop: anywhere, anytime, anyway. I could say that I’m addicted… I started writing a book – a fantasia book for kids – a few times, and I have in each version about 80 pages. But then, I get stuck. It’s not like I can’t keep writing – it’s just that read what I wrote, smile because it sounds good and close to professional, and then hit myself (not really- just in my mind…) because the outline sounds like asshole. So I’m trying to think about the whole outline before starting – and I just can’t. I can’t think about the characters, the world they lives in, they magical powers and stuff, but when it comes to the big whole story – i stuck. Can please help me? I’m freacking out! Please send me an answer to my email: Thank very-very-very much!

  6. kenneth balderston

    I am someone who wants to say something about who we are as humans and have an example of sports to use as equality in our race. I don’t want any money and all I am asking is how do I begin.Who gives the advice to start this and what does it cost me to begin.Any help you can give me is a bonus to where I am. It seems you cannot get any advice on the internet because there is nothing there for someone who isn’t money oriented or cares about people in their heart. I would dearly love your response and I am very,very open to any advice I can get. Thank you for reading this if you got this far

    1. Delia Lahai

      I am so thankful for u. I’ve been encouraged n blessed by u for posting the information I needed about writing a book. I’ve long been thinking about writing a book but never knew where to start from. Now I know dat anyone can write a book, has encouraged me a lot. Thanks so much for leading me to hope. I have already started just by reading those pieces of information. Once again thank you.

    2. Dav

      You can tackle a book in two ways: with your gut or with your head. Most authors flip flop back and forth constantly, though they tend to favor one over the other. If you want to write with your gut, i.e. by instinct/from inspiration, disregard the idea of “should” and just go for it. This technique has its negatives as well as benefits, but the most important thing to remember is that even if it’s terrible, keep going; you can always fix it later.

      If you want to work from the head, i.e. using logic, which you might considering the intellectual subject matter, then first ask yourself your goals, which you’ve already done to some extent. Start developing a specific vision (though it does not need to be fully formed to start), ask yourself how you want your readers to feel, and what you want them to take away from the read.

      I believe you when you say that money isn’t the motivator here. It’s okay, though, to have some self oriented reasons behind writing. People who write a lot have thousands of reasons for doing so because each motivation wears thin. We write for enjoyment, but then there are times when it stops being fun. We write to get published, but then we get rejection after rejection. We keep going because we fluctuate back and forth between internal and external reward. One of the best ways to start is to be honest with your priorities. All of them. This helps to make the thousands of decisions a writer has to make every page. You, as you say, prioritize exploring and discussing a problem as number one. Now it’s time to question what is the priority after that.

      Lastly, as for “cost,” writing shouldn’t cost you anything. If it does, it might very well be a scam. Writing classes, of course, aren’t. (They might be a waste of money, but they’re not a scam.) I have seen classes go from 150 dollars up to $500. You can find writing groups were you can get feedback for free, especially online, though there you don’t have the ability to screen what troll is giving you feedback. You can purchase professional editors who usually charge two cents a word. But that adds up quickly and that could be a scam. Self publishing can be dangerous because there are a lot of scam artists. The way to tell the difference between a scam and a business is that if it is an ebook, they should only charge you on sales, not a fee. Meaning they take a percentage of the book cost after someone buys it. If it is a real book, then first you should be getting a tangible product in hand. They charge you printing costs (usually 2,000-3,000 dollars) but DO NOT charge a percentage. Basically you’re paying them to make the books and then you’re done. To know if the price range is right, you should be able to sell the book at the same price a bookstore would and make a small profit. Of course, since you can’t buy in bulk like a publishing house, you won’t be making much profit. Finally, an agent and a publishing house will work off a commission, not a fee. If they try and charge you before you’ve made any money, it’s a scam. Be very careful about “sell-on-demand” publishers. They’ll charge you for “editing” (which they may or may not do), but don’t produce the book until it’s sold. People who are in the business will recognize the names, like iUniverse, will perceive it as self-publishing, and you still don’t get the joy of seeing it in book stores.

  7. Kelvin Kellner

    Thanks for the help now I’m working on my own book.
    A tip is if you have written a book and haven’t published yet before spending money on publishing start on kobo writing life it’s 100% free and you can earn money off of it.

  8. Girma Legesse

    Thank you so much for your wonderful advice. I am very much encouraged, and hope to write a book and share with the world in my life time.

  9. Ziyanda Bokolo

    I have been thinking about writing a book and now that i’ve read this i think i will start with the writing right a way. Thanks a lot. I still need some advices though so please email me.

  10. Karen Oliver

    you Inspired me to keep writing. Thank you.

  11. Jan Carol

    What happened to spell check and proper grammar? I don’t want to discourage anyone from following a dream, but when I read a book and see an error, for the rest of the book my focus is on editing it. I don’t want to, that’s just the way I am. It really takes the enjoyment out of reading as I’m anticipating the next spelling mistake or grammar faux pas. I usually throw the book out with disgust and move on to the next.

    You want me to spend my hard earned money on your book, then please, please edit your work. (An editing tip: read the sentences backwards, you’ll see your mistakes.) That would be my first piece of advice to anyone.

    1. Ava Hicks

      yeah when you see a mistake in a book it just puts you wondering what does it mean or the sentence is wrong!

    2. Dav

      I have actually been struggling recently with catching typos. This year, I wrote a one page essay for a fellowship and edited it a ridiculous number of times over several months, even going so far as to read it in painfully slow, one word at a time, measures. I put far more effort into it than anything I’d made before. (And I give most things a good portion of my time.) Yet when I finally gave to someone else she immediately found a glaring error, which was actually just kind of funny. I’ve never heard the backwards tip before, but I am very excited and hopeful about it. So, at risk of sounding like a sycophant, thanks for that!

    3. Susan

      I’m curious what you mean by reading backwards?

      I am writing a book, but it’s more for me then anyone else due to my learning disability and to have it professionally edited isn’t possible for me.

      The last thing I want is to publish a book and have people go hu threw most of it because I make no since.

  12. Anna Ware

    I love it! What the gist is…”shut up and write.”

  13. Ava Hicks

    i searched on google HOW to write a book not WHO CAN write a book this website was no good to me!

  14. Rock Kirkham

    I have always wanted to write a book and just don’t know where to start. I think this is gonna help me get started. I cannot wait to get started!!!

  15. Yvonne

    Thank you. I think my mind broke through a boundary once I read this. And for that I thank you.

  16. Leah lloyd

    I really really want to write a book but I am only 10 years old I am too young no publisher would publish my books :(

    1. Scott

      Leah: Have no fear – on the internet they don’t know how old you are.

      Just go ahead and write. Even if they say you’re too young, if you finish the book now you can just wait a few years to publish.

  17. Ranjitha

    Like everyone on this page, I am an aspiring author.
    I have heard from people that when you first start writing, its all about your experiences and anecdotes if I may say so. But I do have a particular plot which I have been building for over 3 YEARS and its purely fantasy/fiction. Oh also I am an Indian.
    So living in India, I just wonder how my characters should be. I have nothing against Indian names and characteristics but I just feel that for my particular book, it really would not stick. I just need an opinion on that.
    Also I am 15. Would I get published at some point or is this just a waste of my time?
    Thank you :)

  18. Candy Golden

    I have always wanted to write a book. But fear of rejection has stopped me. Now I know that there will be rejection in life no matter what. And if I don’t try I will never know. Thank you for the advice and information, I’m going to go for it!!!!

  19. alexandra

    i’m writing a book but sometimes i’m not sure if i’m using the right vocabulary or language to get my point across… like it make sense to me, but I’m not sure if it would make sense to anyone else… how can i know if what i’m wring “sounds right” ?

    1. diana bartlett

      i am the same got it all up in my head a nd would like to write it all down

    2. Flannery

      Situations like this are where a professional editor can be invaluable! For example, I’m currently working with an international client who wants to make sure all her references will make sense to an American audience. Most editors are very well-read and will be able to tell you what parts of your writing may be too idiosyncratic to be understood by your readers, and then they will help you fix those parts.

  20. Andrew Martin

    Thanks for this blog article. I’m going to just get started and see where that takes me – i can always chop/edit/add as i go along and think about the reader… but worry more about who the hell would publish it later on.

    Thanks for the tips.

  21. Rhonda

    A well defined glimpse into the “world of a writer” witty in its delivery yet packaged in black & white, thank you:)

  22. Ann

    Great! You are helping me write a story! Great great great job!

  23. Realigiousrayne

    Today marks my first week at actual fiction writing. I hope all the books I’ve aquired will help on this journey. Fantasy will be my category…may the force with us all.

  24. Peter Pumpkin

    Hi I have a book idea. do you like it.
    It’s about a guy that runs into a wall and gets paralyzed n then he got out of the hopsital and run back 2 the place and he saw it was a paradox. then he jumped into a time space continuum and grew to 50 feet tall. then he ran down to the pumpkin patch. Yup! you gessed it. It’s Peter peter pumpkin eater! LOL, right? shuld I write this book or run it by a publisher first? i think their gunna love it

  25. Naya

    I love writing. Even at the tender age of seven, I legitimately appreciated books in general, when other kids my age used them as a way to get taller in order to reach the cookie jar. I thought that I would wait until I was 26 or something, but lately I have been really drawn to writing and the endless possibilities that a blank piece of paper holds. I feel like if there’s any time for me to write a book, it’s now, when I’m still learning how to make it through the constant chaos that is life. I feel like since my book would be geared towards teenagers between the ages of 13 – 17, writing it while I’m still in this age range would make it easier for any readers at all to relate to any of the issues I bring up. I’m just afraid that, being thirteen, people and agents and publishers won’t take my book that seriously. I care about the issues I write about, and the purpose of the book would be to show at least one person the world from my (or the character’s) point of view. I feel like if I talk to anyone (like an agent) about writing a book, I’ll end up with a pat on the head and a cookie because they’re just patronizing me. Another problem I have, is that I do know what I want to write about, I just don’t know how to put them into a storyline. I want to address all the issues I feel need to be addressed without making the book just ridiculous in the sense that one person couldn’t experience all of these things. I have a few ideas, but none of them really appeal to me in the way that my best ideas usually do. When I have a good idea, it’s sudden and random, and spontaneous and I know that it’s the right idea for whatever I’m working on or thinking about. Because it just feels right. I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with anything that “feels right” because I want to find a storyline that will do justice to the topics I want to talk about. If I’m going to write a book, I feel like I need to make it as amazing as possible, which means the storyline has to be as fantastic as I feel like it should be. Sorry if my writing is incomprehensible, it’s 1:45 AM and I spent like twenty to thirty minutes writing this so I just want to get my question across. Also, if you actually read all of this, I commend you. thank you for spending 3 or 4 minutes of your life, that you will probably never get back, on my rambling. If you could spend another 2 minutes responding, that would be awesome, thanks :)

  26. Flannery

    Good advice! I might also add this tip: hire an editor! Whether you’re trying to find a publisher or are going the self-publishing route, it’s crucial that your manuscript follows standard grammar conventions. My editorial services will ensure that your manuscript meets those conventions and, therefore, is taken seriously by anyone who reads it. Also, depending on where you are with your manuscript, I can also help you with plot holes, character development, clear organization, and any other issues you may have. Send me an email or check out my website, and we can get started on your project! Happy writing!

  27. michael

    I’m gonna do it, fuck it.

  28. mohamed

    hey i wanna start writing a book because i fell in love with a girl and she broke my heart. i know what you are thinking is not another twilight saga. is more of a my experience but told fictionally. so if any one wants to help a upcoming writer and share some of your love stories good or bad let me know at


  29. Lauren.D

    Scott, a part from being a handsome man I think you are also a very good writer (although I’m sure you already know this). Therefore I trust your opinion, or at least, I would like to hear it.
    I am twenty-two and I have written piles of stuff since I remind having the physical ability to do it, but what triggers questions in others when I (maybe pretentiously) state to be a writer, is the fat that I don’t read books. I hate reading books. I get bored, and I have this unconscious tendency to steal things from other writers when doing my own, so I rather stay away from any kind of external input.
    Do you think one can be a good writer without having a general concern on what people like to read? Because that’s what gutters me half the time.
    I only know I like what I put down into words.
    And yes, I know you have said already that this is my ego speaking, and writing and publishing are two different things… But there is a pleasure and self-satisfaction that you gain only when someone other than you appreciates your work, isn’t there?

    1. Scott

      It’s certainly possible to write well without reading many books but it has to be harder, just as being a good musician has to be more difficult if you (over your life) you rarely listen to music. Musicians train their ears by listening carefully to music an a writer trains their mind by reading good books and essays.

      The more important question is you can stand reading and rereading your own work. Most writers revise their work many times and spend more time reading and editing their work than drafting it the first time.

      1. Lauren.D

        Oh yes, indeed. I can read my own stuff, that’s no problem. I’ve been on the same three pages for the past two days now…
        Thanks for your answer by the way.

  30. Stacy Skiles

    It was a very interesting read. Not quite sure why I find myself here in the first place. I truly enjoy books, yet I despise pen and paper; or really keyboards. Nonetheless , I’ve been repeatedly told from the age of 18 that I should write. Here I am, 20 years later, typing ” how to write a book” in Google’s search engine. On my smartphone?
    I’ve always likened those who insist on me writing, to the parents you see on reality shows today, insisting that their children, relatives or friends are much more talented than they truly are… Just because.
    It was not until you mentioned ” chasing words into sentences” that something clicked. I mean, if I could have heard those sweet words years ago… I’ve always thought of it as a disability. You know, the hours spent perfecting just one sentence so that the intended reader might better understand my thought. It was actually painful at times; most of the time. Yet now I’m thinking that the “pain” involved is what prompted those people to encourage me to write something other than useless ” geospace”( original free websites/blogs)articles, blogs and even emails.
    Thanks. I’m going to see if I can rebrand my “pain” into pleasure. Perhaps maybe I can attempt writing something worth the effort.


  31. Sean Crawford

    Regarding “editing sentences backwards.”
    When editing our college student newspaper I used to hold a card over the copy and edit from the bottom, one line at a time. (The line could be a half sentence)
    This would help keep me from subconsciously filling in the missing letters, punctuation and words. I found the card method to be worth my time.

    At the newspaper everyone, even the top editors, would pass their stuff to someone else to be edited. (The fresh objective eyes always spotted stuff.) The value to me was in learning “boundaries” between myself and the page: I don’t have my feelings hurt when my draft is improved by my editor.

    In college I learned a little by editing a classmate who would give me her brief assignments printed double spaced so I could edit on the copy and show her what I had done. I found no one, alas, to edit my own work.

    For years I have edited my essay manuscripts from the bottom, not using a card, reading one sentence at a time.
    For the past year I have been doing so while attempting to label each sentence according to my textbook on grammar and style. Sometimes this means “oops!” or a delightful “hey, I can change this.”
    The value to me is that I am learning to “see” the structure of sentences better.

    What the above paragraphs add up to is that, like Scott, I enjoy the effort of writing just as much as I like the finished product.

  32. logan west

    I have been writing my book now for over 8 yrs. it is coming up on completion and I still don’t have a clue as to how to get it published. I have had so many say, “submit your manuscript and we’ll see” or ” send us the first three chapters and we will let you know if it is what we are looking for”……? wth? I found it helpful to find your website and your advise. thanks so much. but still alas i am at a stand still. not knowing the “ropes” I am afraid of getting taken advantage of by publishers. I’m lost. what to do? what to do?

  33. Martie Hattingh

    This is now the third time that I have read this specific article. Everytime I read it I get new information. I love reading and started writing a few years ago. I love the idea of being able to transport people to another world. I could write all day about how much I love to read but because this is a writing post I’ll get to my question. I’ve been writing bits and pieces of this story I started in my head and the more I write the more ideas I get but it never fits togethet. I just cant get it to start making a whole. Do I just keep writing till i have no more ideas for the story or do I have to go back and revise to find my storyline again and continue on it?

    1. Erika Thompson

      I’m trying to write a book but I can’t get any inspiration. I can’t think of an original idea a ton of ideas have been used

      1. Madison

        Erika, here’s what you can do: Use the idea, change it a bit, and try to put it in a different scenario. Eg: phineas and ferb on TV. Change there looks and tweak there attitude, make them super spys instead of inventors and BAM! You’ve got the same idea, but different.

        1. Felly

          The first thing you need to do is learn the difference in the spelling of ‘there and their.’ The editor will take one look at the comment you wrote and make a note to chuck your manuscripts in the bin without even
          reading them. SPELLING COUNTS!

      2. Danish qureshi

        You must think in a silent environment and try to write at key points when so ever a key point pinches write it on a rough paper an when you have 10-15 key points then make a berif background that actually tells your feeling try to focus on main theme write in a huge depth and create a pleasure environment

      3. kiran


        1. Joe

          Don’t bother unless you are famous. A boat load of people can write great books but the REAL reality is that unless you have a platform, i.e., you are some one famous or did something renowned, your book will never, ever, ever, get published. PERIOD. The new publishing companies will not take any chances on nobodies.

          1. Scott

            I disagree with all of this. You should definitely bother if you want to write a book for the experience itself. Or for a handful of people you know will want to read it (A friend? A family member? a novice at the skill you’ve mastered?). Some people make paintings. Others make movies. If you want to write a book do it because you want to do it, regardless of what the world thinks.

            Regarding fame: yes, being famous helps draw attention. But I’m not famous in any general way. I’m more famous for having written books than for anything else. If you are committed to any kind of work for the long term and invest in marketing and building a community, it’s possible to make a living doing it. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly possible.

            Lastly, regarding publishers: publishers are less and less necessary. I self published a book and found it incredibly simple to do. You have to do more work, but you gain more control. And besides publishers, new or old, take chances on new authors all the time – it’s not like authors live forever! They have constantly find new people to publish.

          2. Brodrick O'Neill

            When I write the picture just keeps getting bigger. The events I intend to recount in my un famous famous life keep merging into other events and experiences, I’ve done a lotta stuff and was there for most of it. I like my version of events and have reams of scribbled descriptions and accounts of this hectic and varied life spanning many decades. Most of the story covers stuff that goes on in the area between my ears, but a good chunk of it involves some other places and even other people. The thing I cant seem to get is order. I may simply be bone lazy but I have made many laborious attempts to set the whole mess in some order to call it a work worth publishing, but its at this point I get blocked and run. I come back to it once in a while but the task seems to daunt me before I start. I beat my self up then because I am not following my heart. Cant read a book without thinking about my own neglected dream.But how to pick up the momentum. Maybe not doing it is simply telling me it is but a pipe dream. Any thoughts, be gentle oh reader…Brodrick

      4. Sofia

        I want to write a book about my life and all the things i have been through but i want to change things up,but i cant think of any any ideas to grab the readers attention on my first page?

        1. Dwight Clough

          I’ve written several books for clients, many of them life stories. Write your book first and don’t worry about where and how to start it. It will come to you in the process of writing it.

      5. Tshiamo Maditse

        As per comment left, I sometimes get brain frozen or lack motivation, that happens a lot to some of us, I learnt to always have a pen and a booklet with me all the time for when I’m told something or get inspired to write I go no further as I have my pen and paper with me. It might work or maybe not but try it out, watch much of the movies related to the book you want to write or listen to much of the songs or genre music that goes along with your book, with your pen and paper near you it might help give light to where you need inspiration. I stand to be corrected its just a point of view yeah.

      6. cain bateman

        i have so many ideas in my head just writing them on paper,and i struggle with spelling;im amazed how far i have come on since school.That said thanks really helped me alot finding time and my spelling could squash my chances a tad but worth a try i guess.

    2. Madison

      Here’s what I say: write out what you think does not make sense at that specific part on a different paper. Then, every time you get back to writing, read the list. It should fit in eventually. And if it doesn’t, you could use it for more ideas or put it in a different book.

    3. Mary

      I am interested in writing a book too, but it would be about my son’s accident. I really don’t like to read books unless it’s something I want to learn about. My imagination is already overloaded with thoughts and ideas and when I try to read a book – I get bored within the first few pages if it is not interesting enough to keep me wanting more. You sound like you are a perfectionist or have a little OCD, like myself. When I start writing a book “or song” – I go back and pick at it over and over again looking for every detail that needs correcting or does not have the proper grammar or punctuation. So if you feel the same way, ask yourself what are you actually trying to say, tell, prove or just talk about in the book. You obviously know the beginning and you SHOULD know how you want to end it – so all the stuff in the middle should be multiple climaxes of thoughts, ideas, interests of what you want to express to your readers – at least that is what I would want to read. Open your mind and let it all hang out. Be free and express your desires, needs, wants or thoughts you have been hiding all of your life. Good luck and wish you the best!

    4. jule thomoson

      I’m thinking of writing a book but i just can’t find the right title.

      1. Dwight Clough

        Your title usually comes late in the process. It’s much easier to come up with a title after you’ve written a hundred pages. Instead of focusing on a title, I would focus on questions like this: How will you define success for your book project? Who is your reader? What’s the take away for your reader? Why will your reader be interested in your book? How will you reach your reader to tell him or her of your book’s existence?

  34. Martie Hattingh

    This is now the third time that I have read this article and every time I find something new. I love reading and recently started writing, just for the fun of it. I can’t say I haven’t thought of being able to publish my work but that is not why I am commenting here. I’ve been writing on and off but always the same idea, once I get started it’s very hard for me to stop all the ideas that are pouring through my head. But once again I am getting away with myself. This, let’s call it a story, I’ve been writing, it’s always just bits and pieces it never comes together as a whole. Do I just keep writing until it all just comes together by itself or do I have to go back and find the storyline and stick with it? Also I have no idea of how this story will end, is that bad?
    (The story is complete fiction)
    Something else that I thought of, you mentioned in the article that you have to do research. I know it was mostly meant for getting a publisher, but when I write I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t be making sure that whatever I say is still reasonable and not far-fetched.

    1. Charles Clary

      I think it’s good to generally have an idea what the story is about. Also to have the beginning, middle and end. If you have that the rest will come into place. It doesn’t really matter what little details come to you, just what you like the most. Let them fall together piece by piece after you have a general outline.

      Example: boy meets girl(beginning) boy goes through hard time and decided to ask girl out (middle) boy and girl get robbed or something…forget what that’s called, climax or someting and bam, boy saves girl and dies in return. ultimate message: love and sacrifice.

      A general outline will bring the rest into picture. But you have to decide that you want to write it i think. most people like the idea of writing but won’t put the time or effort needed to make effective their ideas.

      1. caedance

        Helpful info, thanks.

  35. Jesse

    I’ve read this twice, and I don’t believe the “magic” in writing something is as hard as you say it is. You are correct in saying their isn’t an easy way, however the ones who want easy wont put their words on paper. I believe time is what stands in the way. I have a million ideas, but its alway time that’s in the way. If you have the courage to just start writing, and believe in your heart it will grab someone, it will come together.

  36. Nicole

    Writing comes easy for me. When I write or read, the story plays in my head like a movie. So it’s really easy for me to actually see the action. The only problem is I can’t write the first sentence or paragraph. I want to grab the readers from the beginning. Maybe writing the book first will give me a great first paragraph? Just a thought.

    1. Madison

      Here’s what I heard you could try: try starting from the END of the story, and go to the beginning.

    2. Rick

      I am exactly like you. I lie in bed at night and stories flow like water; interesting, original, compelling, sometimes humorous and always topical. I must have 50 ideas ready to GO. And when I try to put them on paper, I usually find some BS reason why it’ll never work, OR it’s kinda boring, OR it’s going to take too long to finish, etc. etc.
      I have found the cure; attain small goals. Even if you write just three sentences before you close the notepad or log-off, commit (seriously) to putting down something that’ll be good enough to make you want to continue when you re-read it later. It will work if you commit and resolve to not give up.
      Attain small goals.
      Best of luck; Rick L.A.

  37. Bryan

    I’m only 15 and I love to write and read.
    As of now I haven’t written more than 150 pages but that’s because I can never stop all the ideas… I also like to sketch my characters and things in the story I make.

    Right now I want to start a book but can’t quite bring all the ideas together and hold them in focus. It would be set in an alternate universe where almost everything is powered by steam. It’s sort of a 1950’s era with all the Americana, music more like in the 1940’s. Some people are demigods with power over all the elements.
    They rule the world and are corrupt.
    The main character (name pending) is a demigod but doesn’t know it. The people start a revolution and he joins. Eventually when the girl he likes is almost attacked he releases a blast of lighting at the enemy and kills him. Then he is turned against. He decides to still help and shows the rebels he is good. He then leads the revolt and wins but at a cost.

    1. Jeff

      Nobody cares how old you are, if you like reading and writing fine , but nobodies going to think your hella cool just because you’re young and like to read.

    2. cynthia

      bryan,im sorry, but it sounds a lot like percy know,he doesn’t know he’s a demigod,they have power over all the elements,the girl he likes is attacked.if you want to be original,make him a her,make the revoulotion actually against someone,cancel out that whole demigod thing,anddo some research like that guy said instead of bragging about yourself.

    3. Liam

      Sounds interesting! I like the sound of it :)

    4. Dwight Clough

      Keep on writing, Bryan. You’re off to a great start, and you’ll keep getting better and better.

  38. Frederick Dixon

    i been wanted to writing a book and now is the time to write one so give me some advice of how to write one cause i want my first book i write to be perfect cause god is good and i give him thanks all the time i do this right and good it is because of him.

  39. Frederick Dixon

    i been wanted to writing a book and now is the time to write one so give me some advice of how to write one cause i want my first book i write to be perfect cause god is good and i give him thanks all the time i do this right and good it is because of him.

  40. Frederick Dixon

    so give me some advice how the book should look and how to write one cause im writing it right now.thank god.

  41. Chidi Francis

    Please, how can I get a spirited publisher to get my books published. #I have no money to do it, but I have the talent. Thanks.

  42. hannah

    I am very young (11) and i love to read. I know there’s probably no chance that ill get published at this age but i was just wondering if you could spare some advice. I have so many ideas and that’s the problem. I start to write one thing but get another idea and abandon the old one. Also all my family members say i have the talent for writing but I’m afraid that once i am old enough if i take my work to a publisher and get published nobody will like it or won’t like the genre (paranormal and fantasy,etc.).

    1. Charles Clary

      Start by not criticizing or judging yourself for ideas that come to you. Give it a shot, let the thoughts flow and see if you like it. If you do, continue to write, if you don’t, find another idea.

      The point is to give yourself enough time to play around with an idea before you shut it down by skepticism.

      Example: “well what if this person doesn’t like it? What if that person? What if I write it and it doesn’t sell?” Don’t worry about all that. If you love it, so will they. Remember that art as well as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No everyone will love it, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be many who do. J.K Rowling for example, the author of the Harry Potter series has sold more books in her lifetime than dollars that most Americans earn over a period of ten years, and still there are some who don’t like those books!

      If I were J.K. I’d say, so what, I’m glad for the people who do like my works and i appreciate their support.

    2. Cheyenne I McGee

      don’t worry im sure that every one will love your books . I have that problem to i get a new idea for a new book and forget the old one. my genre s (fantasy and myths ) i am sure u will get it and write a great book. :)

      1. Tristan

        i would read your books. when i write my books there mostly fantasy and myth as well

  43. Laura Sherman

    One thing to add here, if you want to write a book, read books that you enjoy reading and study the style (which probably means read it twice). I find it is easier for people to write in the style they like to read, rather than try to write like their fourth grade teacher instructed them to write.

  44. Stacy

    I’m wanting to write a book for myself. I’m not real concerned about publishing. If I finish and think others might enjoy it I may consider it then. My problem: I have been told I write essays well and I think that is because they flow well and I’m afraid my book will not. When I write an essay I kind of follow the same basic outline, it is actually pretty textbook. Books, especially fictional, don’t really flow the same way and I’m having trouble breaking away from this habit. I know the way a book flows will vary because of different writing styles so I guess my question is Do you have any general tips? Also, I really suck at grammar. I always have to look up every single grammar rule when writing. Please try to ignore any and all grammatical errors. Thank you for your time!

  45. alvin townson

    I am writing a book about my career as a music artist how i started it became homeless to hitting radios and performing now do you think it a be a good concept and how should i start it

    1. Charles Clary

      If i were you I’d put it in a setting. Maybe make it part fictional. Something more about your feelings than about the events that actually happened.

      For example, you can start the book with leaving the house, mother and fathers yelling and screaming, you in your room holding your legs, afraid, but deciding to leave. You left on your own and sought yourself in the world perhaps finding your way to the big city! w/e city that might be. on the way you overcame homelessness and learned a valuable lesson: not to leave others behind. Your friends, who might have been homeless as well, you helped up along the way. Maybe you could put in the book that the girl of your dreams was homeless too cuz her parents were cooks, and that’s how you met her.

      Example: “I couldn’t help it, I just stared. It was the first time I saw her, I looked in here eyes. I liked the way she looked in mine, smiling. Though i didn’t know it at the time and didn’t realize it becuase I was still under the impression that this daze was an infatuation, that i was in love, I was going to marry her and we were going to be happy for the rest of our lives. I was so shocked by her appearance that I had my jaw dropped and didn’t say anything until she walked up to me and said hello. “Hello” “Holy crap!” I didn’t even realize she came forth 14 steps. “sorry, i didn’t mean to scare you.” “It’s okay, I don’t mind the intrusion. I mean, happy to meet you too!” she laughs “i never told you my name.” As we became friends I never judged her for her situation, how could I? What I loved the most; was that she never judged me. The way she looked at me was so different from others, passerby, even my own family. When she looked at me, I felt human and I never felt like that about anyone in my whole life.

      Let yourself escape in, I feel like I got carried away a little bit as I wrote, but you get the idea. Get lost in your thoughts and Ideas and forget about skepticism.

  46. Mkhuda

    Anyone can write a book. But, its take long time to finishing a book ! :)

  47. laakbaar

    Thanks for the lecture, but in the end you came through with information.
    Putting words one after the other isn’t the problem, but my problem is, how do I keep track of my characters plots etc. I am not very organised, so maybe I should follow a course in ‘how do I get organised for dummies’
    Yep, that could be it. But then again, maybe writers have that same problem when they start and they can give you some pointers. So you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ah well, thanks for the info, and yes, I probably be a mediocre writer, but what the hell, the rest of my careers were mediocre too. ;o)

    1. Suz

      Use a white board LAAKBAAR
      Write the character names and lines interconnecting etc etc – SNAP instant resource for the forgetful

  48. Harry

    I really like the way you’ve projected the story about the authors and how they can write a book. I am trying to write a novel. I am trying to find a way that I could do the best.
    I’ve see about this website in a press release. Can you know about this? they said, they have new model for publishing. !!

  49. Starling Grey

    first off: *bookmark page*

    second: while I imagine you get this all the time (scrap that, I can read… while I KNOW you get this all the time) I kind of just want to say thank you. Your article really made me think and berate myself for my own arrogance in thinking I could get it all right the first time around. The sense of humor and the solid advice really encouraged me to re-evaluate my writing process – I have an idea and I have the skill and yet I’ve been working on the same novel for two years due to constant (imagined) writers block. Now I realize that I just hadn’t figured out my process yet… After reading your article[s] I went ahead and did some more research and I’ve written more in the last two hours than the last six months combined – and, shockingly, of better quality too! I felt so much pressure to make this novel ‘the best’ that I forgot the basics of being a writer: the actual ‘writing’! So, again, thank you.

  50. Kendall

    hi I have been writing a book, I cant write it out because it is too long, and I was wondering if you could give me any advice at all.

  51. shakeia beasley

    im trying to just get some insite on writing i have so much to write about i dont know where to start

  52. Gokhan

    Writing a book is a process that requires skill. After especially writing a book and getting it to be published and getting your book for a scenario than a movie to be made for it, is a perfect solution. Can you imagine your book in become live as a screenplay for Hollywood? That would be great. It’s not so hard just discover the ways how to.

  53. Gokhan

    Writing your own book than getting it published. There may be people interested in making live your book to be a story for a movie. Why not your book become a scenario for Hollywood? You can search out for ways your book to be a screenplay for Hollywood and start your Hollywood script writing career.

  54. Anthony M. Veller Sr


    Thank you for this page. I have been thinking about writing a book for several years. I asked myself every question you answer here, questions which kept me from even attempting to write. Your post is the fire under my ass I needed to get moving. Really excited to let down my guard, open my mind, and create something from it. Thanks Again!

    Tony Sr.

  55. Gail

    I finally decided to write a book about my life after lots of encouragement. My life story makes the movie “Precious” look like a day at the beach. So, as you can imagine putting all those memories down is, well, really tough. But what I am curious about is this…when writing a life story that is true, must I be concerned with a plot? Or should I just write down the story, then go back through it and fill in more details so a reader can feel and see through my eyes….this would be my first book…ever. I am discovering it is nothing like a college term paper or research project.
    But what advice can you offer me on writing my true story? I will worry about publishing later, I just want to get a good start on writing my story, first.

    Thanks for any advice you can offer.

    1. James S.

      I’m by no means an expert, but I’d say approach this as you would with any kind of novel – it’s harsh, but the reader will only care about the troubles of your life is the book has a point; a storyline, as it were. Try to construct an outline of what contributes towards acheiving the “end goal” (whatever that may be), and what obstacles the protagonist (in this case, you) have to avoid. It isn’t vital that you move theough events chronologically, as several well written accounts have extremely lapsing time frames. Never Let Me Go is fictional, but is the only example I can think of at 2 am. However, ensure every part of the story either allows the character to be brought further towards its (your) goal, or further away from it. Leave out parts that do not contribute to the storyline or theme or message of the novel. If you’re struggling with writing down, just sift through memories, and write down emotions; even emotions you may not have experienced at the time, but experience when playong back those particular memories. Emotion is what will captivate a reader, as if they cannot link with the protagonist (you) on a personal level, the situations the character is placed in will be of much lesser interest to the reader. I would indeed advise you write down the story, proceeding to go back and fill in the details, but ensure the storyline has no weak points. Once the reader loses interest, it is often extremely difficult to recaptivate them. I hope this helped :)

  56. joann zangara

    i lived a rough and crazy life and then turned it around i have 6 kids i drug dealed to take care of them for 23 years at onetime i thought i was black hating white people when im white my dad abused me well at 43 my mind snapped well i turned it around and going to school theres alot more to tell but if i wrote a book about this life i lead would it sell is it worth it thank you please let me no

  57. Dannie

    I’ve always had a question. Are there any books of just thoughts? I’ve been wanting to write a book about some life experiences for months now, but I don’t want to write an autobiography. I think that just writing thoughts would be a little silly. What do you think? Hopefully you get to reply and thanks.

  58. Alexander

    I am thinking of writing a book. At the same time, I am wondering if what I intend to write about have already been written by someone else. And I guess that is what discourages me. To put so much effort into something and be bummed out later to find out that someone already had those thoughts. I want to be able to write something that no one has ever thought about before. Or a perspective that no has thought about. But how am I supposed to find out?

  59. olga

    I will be starting my book soon and with time and effort I will release it out to the world. Most of my life I’ve written poems, free writes, and many different forms of creative writing. Throughout high school and while achieving my associates degree I had many friends and colleagues come up to me and state that I have a true talent in writing, once my pen hits paper I get an overwhelming feeling to pour out all that is captured within. My only concern or question would be if I should stick to creative writing or a novel or a auto biography.

  60. kai

    I guess it’s good that I feel inspired by this because despite all the downsides, I really could care less. I still need to write this book.

  61. Christy Leigh

    thank you for taking the time to my question. my book is about my life everyone to tell me to write about it because of what I have been through and I’m still living life has been nothing ever happened. should I make a fake character or real people that know me say oh my god
    that’s something you would see in a movie
    so should I turn it into a book I could so use your advice. thank you

    Christy Leigh

  62. Tom

    It’s very refreshing in this day and age to read the truth from someone who has lived it. I knew nothing about the writing career before reading your article. Very informative and it has the very strong smell of truth to it. Thank you

  63. Justin Sandy

    I am working with a group right now that is writing my book with me in 4 months. It is a series of 4-6 hour long interviews and a questionnaire that brings out my individual journey, making it into a compelling story to read.

    I would never be able to have the time to write a book without them. If you’re interested give me a shout and I will make the connection.

  64. kelly simmons

    Book ideas can come out of anything. But the worst you can do is forssing yourself to think of one. Give it time and you will get an idea eventually.

  65. Avery Black

    Hello there. I have started my book, im up to 18 thousand words but I need small ideas to go in between the next smaller climax snd the next, do you have any ideas for me? Im currently having writers block :P thank you.
    And also, im only 14 to you think that the publishers will reject me because of my age?

  66. site

    Thanks for finally talking about >How to write a book – the short honest truth <Loved it!

  67. sir john

    Informative post. I am impressed from your writing style. Useful for the readers. Thanks for shearing

  68. Ayah

    This is my first time reading this.(Quite good information from it). I am writing a book.And I needed help. I need more websites for how to write a book please reply so as I can finish my book.Thanks.

  69. michael angelo roque

    I like the way you say the phrase: anyone can write. it gives me motivation to continue my plans of writing my first book. I been passionate about the topic for 11 eleven years and I accumulated a lot of ideas. Now I am ready for my first draft. thanks and more power. I will promote you in my book.

  70. Tom Phillips

    Best way to write a book is to convert your negative experience into something positive people could learn from. Make it a fiction book, make it a non-fiction, but write your first books with a pseudonym, because they will be bad!

    Writing is a skill which comes only from writing, not from reading.

  71. Ante

    Hey, man. I read most pages of what you wrote on this blog. First of all thank you for sharing and trying to help.

    I am 21 and am writing a sci-fi story which currently counts 22 pages on my laptop. What worries me is that it took me a month to write that and I wrote for an hour a day. You say a book takes 1000 hours to write whereas I can, at this pace, finish 250 pages in 350 hrs. I am definitely going to read it once it’s done and change some things, but I’m still worried I might not be putting enough effort into it.
    I have good support from friends which can’t wait to read it once it’s done. After they do, they will give me pointers on how to additionally improve it.
    I will worry about publishing once all alterations have been made. My dad has some experience with this.
    Also, I am writing in English which isn’t my native language (I also read in English so it’s easier for me this way).

    Anyway, I would very much appreciate your input on this. If you don’t answer, I understand.

    Best regards.

    1. Scott

      Congrats on your progress. You seem very self aware of your pace and your process. That’s very important.

      The numbers I provided are very rough estimates. Everyone is different. More importantly revising a first draft into a second draft or a third can take considerable time. You may realize you need to rewrite chapters or change the plot which can take considerable time. But there is no way to prevent that from happening. You can’t know what changes you need to make in a second draft until you’ve finished the first one!

      Don’t worry about effort. There’s always time to put more effort in. Each draft you write, and get feedback on, will invite plenty of opportunities to put more effort in.

      Publishing is the easy part. Look into CreateSpace and similar services. Writing the book itself is far harder than the process of publishing.

      Good luck. Drop me a line when you finish the book.


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