Updated: Apr 17, 2018
As the best selling author of Ways to Come Home, a book shortlisted for Finch 2017 Award, and sold out multiple times in Dymocks and Berkelouw Books, I can tell you without hesitation that the hardest part of a writer’s job is the discipline - sitting down to do the work. Check out our writers' courses.
Books don’t just write themselves, after all. You have to invest everything you are into creating an important piece of work.
For years, I dreamed of writing a book. For years I dabbled. I wrote chapters and pieces and, at one stage, 200 pages of work - which ended up in the bin. None of that stuff was ever published, but it was important that I started writing, because writing is a process.
To begin with, you don’t just sit down to write a book. That’s not how writing works. You write a sentence, then a paragraph, then maybe if you’re lucky, an entire chapter. Writing happens in fits and starts, in bits and pieces. It’s a process.
The way you get the work done is not complicated. You take one step at a time, then another and another. As I look back on the books I’ve written, I can see how the way they were made was not as glamorous as I once thought.
How to really write a book
In this post, I’ll teach you the fundamental steps you need to write a book. I’ve worked hard to make this easy to digest and super practical, so you can start making progress.
And just a heads up: if you dream of authoring a bestselling book like I have and you’re looking for a structured plan to guide you through the writing process, I have a special opportunity for you at the end of this post where you can join a creative, structured WRITERS COURSE, which will give you 1-1 tailoring, feedback and advice on your book.
10 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Write your Dream Book
Whether you want to pen a sci-fi fiction, romantic comedy, memoir or the next best selling novel - these steps all apply.
1. Write like you're talking to a friend, a best friend
This is the way to get across your true, authentic voice. When you're talking to a friend, you're sharing - not telling. You're not busy trying to convince them of anything, like that you're a great writer, or know all you need to know about your topic/genre. They already trust you. This is the perfect place to start. That's EXACTLY how to write a book. It also invites the reader into to be an intimate listener - they'll feel closer to the action, to the characters, to you.
2. Don't think, just write
Pick up the pen, open the laptop - and write. Write, write, write.
3. Know about drafts
You're not going to write a best seller the first time you sit at your pc. No one does. Best sellers have been carefully created and honed over multiple, multiple drafts. Get to understand what it takes in the edit and rewrite process - from Writers Draft to Readers Draft, across macro, copy and line edits. Join our WRITERS COURSE and understand the process of getting your first draft into a fully finalised book.
4. Don't write with an end plan of being published
If you tend to think about being published as an end game, this can change the way you write. If you're thinking about top shelf bookshop success, or publicity tours, or getting that amazing publishing deal, then you tend to write for an end game which can change your writing style. This tends to squash your own voice or own journey to the end destination. Instead, be organic. Write as it comes into your head. What your heart is saying. Not "people will like it if I write this". Write for yourself, for what you want to say, as point 1 - if you were talking to a friend. Also, if you're writing for others, rather than for the creative journey, who knows what you'll miss?
5. Know when to put it down
You're sitting at the pc and there is a blinking cursor. Nothing is flowing. No words. You feel stuck. In a rut. If you're feeling like the writing isn't coming, or you're hacking at sentences - that you may later regret, put it down. Not just for an hour or a day, but sometimes, for a good few weeks. Come back when you're refreshed and inspired. I find the best writing is done when the creative flow is FLOWING and you are coming up with amazing ideas, it feels synchronous, and
6. Get a muse
Everyone needs inspiration, and you can find it in the everyday things around you. People. Snippets of conversation. How a meal tastes. What a friends says. My muse is music and nature. There is something in certain pieces that unlock a bit of me, and sometimes that's all you need for the creativity to tumble out. I can plan this - by putting on those pieces of music, or watching a sunset, or birdsong, or those things can come naturally. But these are the elements that transition me from the life of Kate the person to Kate the writer. Check out my Muse Writing spotify playlist.
7. Know what it takes
Let’s look at the big picture. What does it take to write a book? It happens in three phases:
Beginning: You have to start writing. This sounds obvious, but it may be the most overlooked step in the process. You write a book by deciding first what you’re going to write and how you’re going to write it.
Staying motivated: Once you start writing, you will face self-doubt and overwhelm and a hundred other adversaries. Planning ahead for those obstacles ensures you won’t quit when they come.
Finishing: Nobody cares about the book that you almost wrote. We want to read the one you actually finished, which means no matter what, the thing that makes you a writer is your ability not to start a project, but to complete one.
Read, read, read. Get to intimately know what you like, and what you don't like. Reflect on this - what elements don't/do you like and why? Who are the writers that inspire. Can they also be your muse? Take a week where you don't sit on the couch and flick on the tv, or do random internet surfing that swallows up good chunks of time - and read instead. My favourites - H is for Hawk, The Bell Jar, anything by Frances Mayes, or Thoreau, and Olivia Laing.
9. Think Structure and Grammar
When you sit down to begin writing your book or novel, at first it can be a torrent of thought, or ideas - it's just about getting it all down on paper. But there is a time when you'll need to finesse and hone the structure - does it flow? Is there enough tension raised? Conflict? Resolution? Are the characters authentic, complex, believable, identifiable. You don't need to know the inner workings of English (i.e. present past imperfect tenses) but you do need to know what works in a sentence and make it clear, succinct and readable. This happens on a macro level and on a micro level during the writer and reader draft edits, and helps you to get it ready for a test audience - of friends, family or people willing to read your stuff!
10. Kill your darlings
If you've ever thought about writing, done any writing courses you'll know this to be true - it's important to kill your darlings. The words you have carefully woven together may not help the story move forward, or add to the characters or the plot, and these need to be edited out. Gor around 20% of your words you may find this easy, or ok. But for other parts that are embedded deep in your heart this can be TOUGH. It's critical to do this so you end with the best version of your book.
But this means, some of your paragraphs or even chapters, or characters will end up on the cutting room floor. This is a tough and most critical element of writing - knowing that not everything you painstakingly wrote and edited, will make it through. Ask yourself - does it add to the story? really? REALLY? If it doesn't, it gets cut. If you are unsure, it gets cut.
Kill your darlings.
Get more info and tailored help with our WRITERS COURSE. Helpful for people in any stage of writing or editing, from start or finish, you'll uncover real gems and helpful hints, tips on when to write, when not to write, and the inside story on getting published.
Our writing course is unique in that it includes components of manuscript critique and 1-1 feedback and will feel very much like a master class in perfecting that book you've always wanted to get out there.