When I sat down to write my first-ever full-length book, I had zero clue what I was doing. It wasn’t until about a year—and three first drafts—later that I even thought about how to write a book and what writing a book really meant.
Many musical artists have been quoted saying they wrote a hit song in a single afternoon—or, even, in an hour of lazy studio time. Writing a book…is not like that in the slightest.
How long should a first draft take to write?
Even the most horrid first draft will take you days to write. Don’t believe me? Let’s do the math.
A good typing speed is about 40 words per minute, which equates to about 2,400 words per hour. Even writing at this top-speed for ten hours per day—which is not sustainable for many writers—that gives you about 24,000 words written in one day. Depending on the genre you’re writing, that could be about half, one-third, or even one-fourth of the total word count.
And, we’re overlooking the fact that 24,000 words written in a single day is an insane amount of words. 10,000 words in a single day is a feat surmounted by few.
But, regardless, even at that superhuman, yet mathematical feasible rate, you’re still looking at (at least) three or four days of consistent writing. And all of that is just to write the first draft.
Now, if you are writing at a typical pace, your timeline may range between one month to one year—or longer, depending on the time you’re able to commit to your writing.
So, how do people write stories? How do they stick to one story for long enough to not only navigate through the first draft, but onward into the self-editing, professional editing, cover design, and publishing phases?
How to Write a Book in 7 Easy Steps
Step #1 Select Your Story Idea
Most writers have several story ideas swirling in the their hear at any given time, but your goal during this step is to just choose one.
While many writers work on multiple projects at one time, it isn’t a good idea if its your first attempt at writing an entire novel, nor is it a good idea if you want to write your book fast.
The best way to choose the best idea is to craft a working book title and write a basic synopsis or premise for your book and see what information you can already conjure up. Or, how much of the story you’ve already figured out, but maybe just haven’t yet put down to paper.
Do this for one or more ideas and use the idea you already have a good grasp of. If you are teetering between two stories, and one of them you know the beginning middle and end and the other one is just the vague idea… Choose the one you already know more about.
Step #2 World Building and Character Development
World building and character development are both important steps in the writing process, but to get there, you need to have (at least) a basic understanding of your world and the characters that will populate it.
Let’s start with world building. How much you need to world build will depend on the genre you are writing and the story you plan on taking your character on. Will you need to craft several worlds from scratch, or will your novel take place on our planet? Will you need to create cultures and societies with their own conflicts and problems, or is the scope smaller?
No matter what you are writing, learning the key fundamentals of world building will help you craft worlds readers love.
Next, there’s character development. World building is important, but character development is an essential before you start writing. What is your character’s goal? What motivates them to achieve their goal? What haunts their present, past, and possibly, their future?
Knowing these things—plus figuring out their basic character profile—will give you a solid understanding of who your characters are and how they will navigate the plot.
Step #3 Construct Your Outline
Whether you are simply creating a mind map or detailing a chapter by chapter outline, you must create a general flow of ideas for your story. If you want to write a book fast—or even just want to write more words per writing session—you must know what you’re writing and where your characters are going.
Even if you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, outline the bare bones of your story.
Now, understand that this outline will likely change between now and the time you finish your story, but it is a good idea to have your thoughts organized into a general road map to guide you through the writing process.
Another part of the outlining process is research. Perform market research on your book, compile reliable sources, or create a list items you need to learn more about to accurately depict them in your story.
Keep in mind, you don’t need to start the research before you start writing, but you should do you due diligence and create a peripheral inventory of items you need to investigate.
Step #4 Assemble the Right Tools for the Job
Writing tools are a writer’s best friend. No matter what stage of the writing journey you are in, there are tools to help you. But, when you are first starting, don’t get bogged down by all the different resources you may find online with a quick Google search.
Or, maybe you want to simplify that even further. Use writing tools like Writing Streak and Writing Timer to skyrocket your productivity without (a) buying anything or (b) having to spend too much time learning a new application.
Writing Streak and Writing Timer are streamlined web applications that only want to help achieve your goals—without distractions. Check them out when you start writing!
Step #5 Make Time for Your Writing
When you start thinking about writing your book, make note of your current habits. Do you spend a lot of time going out with friends? Do you sleep until noon on your days off? Where are the little pockets of time you can rededicate to your craft?
Look for little pockets of time you can allocate to writing your book. Or, if you are a particularly busy bee, make time.
Can you wake up early to write for an hour? Or stay up later? Can you put routine chores on a schedule, so you do not have to think about when you can do them? Ask yourself what you can do to make time in your schedule for something that inspires you—your writing.
Maybe it means you’re waking up early one day every week—probably on your day off. Or, maybe, you can carve our two or three fifteen-minute stints throughout the day. Fifteen minutes does not seem like a lot of time, and you may not write a lot your first few writing sessions, but three fifteen minute stints equals forty-five minutes—and that’s a good chunk to work with.
Step #6 Create Effective Writing Goals
Breaking your story into small chunks allows to see tangible progress, even when you can only write a few words. When you create small, manageable goals, you’re able to see the slight, forward-moving increments that will help you stay motivated as you write your story.
Consider starting small—maybe with 100 words, or so—and begin writing. You hit your goal in an hour or it may take eight hours, but you’ll have something to work toward.
If you don’t yet know what a realistic goal is for you, skip to the next step and start writing. Track your first few writing sessions and make reasonable goals based on the empirical data you’ve gathered from your first few writing sessions.
Remember that word count goals are revolving. The more you write, the more you can write.
Step #7 Sit Down and Write the First Draft
After you’ve sufficiently organized your pre-writing materials, you can start writing your novel. Now, understand that the pre-writing phase can take a single day or years. There are horror stories of writers who toil away years to world building and never start writing their book.
The important thing to remember here is that you should not step away from your writing to spend a ton of time on world building and character development. Nor should you put your writing aside because you don’t have the perfect place to write or you can’t carve out several hours every week to dedicate to your craft.
Writing your book is the most important step, but there are other imperative pre-writing stages that will help you write a complete first draft—which will help you in the latter phases.
Next Steps on Your Writing Journey?
Writing is hard, but the next steps are even more difficult. First, you need to let your manuscript rest…before diving headfirst into the self-editing process. Writing is just one step—there are still many more ahead of you!