Judy Rae

Want to Write a Book? Here’s How to Do It

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Millions of people dream of writing and publishing their own book, but few people invest the time necessary to make it happen. It’s true that writing a book is challenging—and publishing is even harder—but it’s easy to overestimate the process’s complexity if you’ve never gone through it before. 

If you’re a first-time book writer aspiring to finish and publish a fantastic book, there are several steps that can help you. 

Publishing Options 

While you won’t need to worry about publishing until your book is officially completed, it’s helpful to decide on a publication method early—before you even begin a draft. Your publication choice can dictate or influence choices in other areas, so it’s good to make a decision early. 

Most commonly, writers choose to work with a publishing partner or choose to self-publish a book. Working with a publishing partner typically allows you to publish your book with another business; they may be in charge of printing, distributing, and even marketing your book. In exchange, you’ll split the revenue. This is the method more commonly associated with writing success, and it’s convenient for many writers, but it also has some downsides. Notably, it’s hard to get noticed by a sizable publisher without an existing body of work, and you’ll face significant competition. 

Alternatively, you can choose to self-publish—an option that’s increasingly affordable and approachable, due to the resources available online. For example, you can print physical copies of your book for in-person distribution, or you can list a digital copy for sale in major eBook platforms. This method will grant you less visibility, and may be more challenging, but it’s also more reliable to begin. 

Passion or Practicality? 

Another major decision you’ll need to make early is whether to write a book because of your passion for the subject, or for practical purposes. In rare cases, you’ll be able to follow both, but most writers must lean toward one or the other. 

For example, your true passion may be to write a series of fantasy novels with limited mass market appeal, but it would be hard to sell this series or achieve widespread distribution; conversely, you may be poised to make a significant profit by writing about an important nonfiction topic, but it may not interest you. Additionally, if you’re writing for practicality, you may have to make more compromises in your story. 

Choosing a Genre

Which genre are you going to write in? You may have a gut feeling but do your due diligence. You may find that your preferred genre is currently crowded, with an overwhelming number of writers competing for visibility in the space. Either way, you’ll want to read more books within this genre to get a feel for the conventions, get inspiration for what you want to do, and pick up some things to avoid. 

Producing a Draft

For many writers, putting a draft together is the hardest part of the process. Writing a book from scratch is daunting, considering novels are generally considered to be more than 40,000 words, with most novels somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Additionally, as you’re writing, you’ll likely feel unsatisfied with your work in progress; you’ll question your decisions, scrutinize your wording, and wonder whether you’re doing a decent job. 

The best way to deal with this uncertainty is to push past it, with the knowledge that most first drafts are inherently bad. Your goal isn’t to produce something perfect with the first draft; it’s only to produce something workable. 

Initial Editing 

The true strength of your book will only become clear when you begin to edit it. Examine your work from a high level, noting the overall flow of plot, introduction of characters, tone, and message. Is this coherent? Is this the type of story that you’d want to read? From there, you can dig into sentence-level edits, including stronger wording choices. 

Submission and Review

When you’ve given your book a final polish, it’s good to submit it to a professional editor—even if you’re not working with a publisher. Iron out any typos or continuity mistakes, and listen to their feedback if you want to make your book better. 

Learning and Improving 

If this is your very first novel, you may not be able to publish it—or you may not want to. Instead, consider this a learning process. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as a writer by getting through an entire book, so the next one you write will be much simpler. If you can’t find a publisher, or if it doesn’t seem to sell, take it upon yourself to figure out why, and apply those lessons to your next work. Improving as a writer is a process that takes time; no one is a master from the start.

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