Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

10 Ridiculously Simple Tips for Writing a Book

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Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

—Mark Twain

The hard part for most writers, despite what we say, isn’t getting published. Now, there are more opportunities than ever to become an author.

No, it’s not the publishing part that we struggle with. It’s the writing.

Tips for Writing a Book

Photo credit: Boris Licina (Creative Commons)

I’ve just finished my first traditionally-published book and recently released my first eBook. The hardest part of both these endeavors was the writing process.

Looking back on both these projects, I’ve learned some things. What does it take to write a book? Here are 10 tips worth remembering:

Getting started

  • Start small. 300 words per day is plenty. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page. You can do the same. (Need some ideas for getting started? Check out these book ideas.)
  • Have an outline. Write up a table of contents that guide you. Then break up each chapter into a few sections. Think of your book in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Anything more complicated will get you lost. If you need help, read this book: Do the Work.
  • Have a set time to work on your book every day. If you want to take a day or two off per week, schedule that as time off. Don’t just let the deadline pass. And don’t let yourself off the hook.
  • Choose a unique place to write. This needs to be different from where you do other activities. The idea is to make this a special space so that when you enter it, you’re ready to work on your project.

Staying accountable

  • Have a set word count. Think in terms of 10-thousand work increments and break each chapter into roughly equal lengths:
    » 10,000 words: a pamphlet
    » 20,000 words: short eBook or print book
    » 40,000–50,000 words: good-sized nonfiction book
    » 60,000–70,000 words: longer nonfiction book
    » 80,000 words–100,000 words: typical novel length
  • Give yourself weekly deadlines. It can be a word count, percentage of progress, whatever. Just have something to aim for, and someone who will hold you accountable.
  • Get early feedback. Nothing stings worse than writing a book and then having to rewrite it, because you didn’t let anyone look at it. Have a few trusted advisers to help you discern what’s worth writing.

Staying motivated

  • Ship. No matter what, finish the book. Send it to the publisher, release it on Amazon, do whatever you need to do to get it in front of people. Just don’t put it in your drawer.
  • Embrace failure. Know that this will be hard and you will mess up. Be okay with it. Give yourself grace. That’s what will sustain you, not your high standards of perfection.
  • Write another. Most authors are embarrassed of their first book. But without that first, they never would have learned the lessons they did. So put your work out there, fail early, and try again. This is the only way you get good — you practice.

Need help publishing a book? Check out my Kindle Publishing program if you’re interested in putting an eBook on Amazon.

What ridiculously simple tips for writing a book would you add? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • MinuteMade

    I think endlessly before doing anything, too; it always has to be perfect. The plot line I’ve got right now took me months of thinking on before I’d decided it was ”ready.” I really want to do this but I’ve already got hundreds of unfinished bits of stories that I’m ashamed I never finished writing.

    Perhaps my biggest problem, though, is that all the major stuff I want to happen ends up spilling out onto the page too quickly and I’ve got a manuscript that was supposed to be 60 pages on only 5 because my character matured too quickly and everything happened to fast. (<— that was an extremely long sentence) It's like, instant novel, just add water – only problem is that it's too short. Suggestions?

    • Logan

      While I’m writing, I usually highlight certain sections (I write on the computer) that I know should be elaborated. Then when I get stuck, I go back to those sections and redo parts, that way I’m always working to improve it.
      Try to add more descriptions, and extra dialogue adds a lot of length(because each unique speaker adds a new line).
      However, don’t just put fillers in your book, if you like it how it is, then leave it how it is, fillers might bore the plot.
      Have you finished the book? Or is it still in progress? Sorry if my tips suck, writing my first book.

    • Original Bey

      You are referring to what they characterize as pacing. This is one of the bigger challenges for a writer. You know what you want to say, what you want to happen and as inspiration flows you put it down in the simplest way possible. You have to flesh it out so your readers can appreciate the story as it develops. Readers need time to bond with your characters. Our job is to take them on a journey. Think of it as dating before you get serious about someone versus a one night stand. Dating can be a roller coaster ride filled with excitement, ups and downs, thrills and fears. A one night stand can be exciting as well but leave you unfulfilled in the end. We don’t want our readers to feel cheated.

  • Venna

    I always wanted to write a book, and writing is something I really love! But, here is my problem: I’m a pretty good writer (or so said anyone who read the things I wrote), and I have good plot ideas, but I can’t write those little details, I never remember them! That makes my chapters really short. I’m only 13, but I want to finish a book before my 15th birthday. Any suggestions?

    • Jess

      Do it! I just finished my first (I’d written several before, but never finished) literally a few minutes ago and I’m 14. Just take a week during the summer and say okay… I’m really into this plot. Just sit down and write it. I didn’t leave the house for about a week because I was so wrapped up in this book. This was the fastest I’ve ever written anything. Just know what you want to write. Don’t start with no idea where you’re going to end. If you have trouble remembering little details, just make a separate document for notes. I do that all the time! However, I wouldn’t recommend writing out an entire outline because that will make your head spin.

      Lastly, never settle for anything less than your best. Thesaurus.com has just become your Bible. If you can’t imagine saying a line of dialogue out loud, rewrite it, because nothing sucks more than reading a book that reeks of fake.

      Good luck!

      • Venna

        Thank you so much!

  • KimPossible

    OK, so of course you first need a good idea for your book. Once you have that the best place to start is your “Book Blurb”. That few sentences or short paragraph on the book jacket that gives your customer/reader a brief idea of what your book is about. You want to have a good hook and make it as exciting and intriguing as possible, (something that catches the readers attention and makes them want to read on), so that they will spend their hard earned money to buy your book.

  • Evelyne

    I find that to write, you need discipline. You need discipline but you can’t force out a story. If you are truly inspired, then you will find a balance between making yourself write and letting fall out of you like , ahem, throw up. Don’t be afraid to tackle ideas that you think will be shunned. Writing is about spreading ideas or telling a story. It’s a form of self expression that comes from the dark places inside you but can be beautiful if you really want to. You shouldn’t write just because all your friends are writing, or because it’s the easiest medium to use. Write because writing makes you fell happy.

    If you are a writer, I suggest watching the movie ‘Whisper of the Heart.’ It’s the story about a middle schooler who is trying to figure out what she wants to do in life. She chooses writing. It’s a very good film and incredibly inspirational.

    • CircusMonster666

      i was inspired by the movie whisper of the heart it is a great movie

  • Irish Joy Perez

    Hi Jeff, thank you or such a very good info. This is a good guide for beginners out there who loves to write like me :) i am planning to make an infographic out of this would it be ok? I’ll start on it once you confirm. Thanks man!

  • Tim

    Hi Jeff, thanks for this…it is useful and I am encouraged to soldier own with my first book.

  • Dee

    I wrote a short story once and it was good as it got printed out on an anthology but finding it hella difficult to write again.hoping these will help

  • Ronnie Santucci

    This was great, thank you Jeff. However the most frustrating thing for me (that really holds me back) is the editing part. I don’t trust myself to edit my work but how do I go about getting someone else to do it for me? How do I know they’re qualified and where do I look for one?

    • mleebee

      Hi Ronnie, did you ever get a good answer for this?

      • Ronnie Santucci

        Unfortunately not. I’m no where near needing an editor yet but I’m still very confused!

  • gilliania

    Thank you so much, this is a great set of tips. Very simple. I am about to write a short nonfiction ebook. I’m now confidant 20 000 words is plenty.

  • HeWhoMustNotBeNamed

    This is great advice! I’d also recommend using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, which is basically a way to get all your ideas on paper by summarizing it in a sentence and slowly expanding on it. :) I’ll be sure to keep this in mind when I dive back to the keyboard.

  • mleebee

    Really great tips. Im a 21 year old college student, starting my first “book” I guess you can say. It is sort of a where I am in life and how I got here, not following stereotypical college normals and the aftermath of having a very mentally ill mother and drunk/abusive father growing up. Not so much a sympathy read, but more of a self betterment, look how far you can get, self confidence sort of book. Im worried it will suck, but hey at least its worth a try :)

  • Deb

    Hi Jeff, Does memoir fit into your shorter0 nonfiction book? I am writing a memoir and am at over 50K words. Thanks – great advice!

  • Edwin Elliott

    Hello Jeff,

    I’ve taken your advice and with that, just started writing my first book. As I’m working on the book I’ve started a blog which I’m expecting will add to the books content. I have a book launch date set at January 5th, 2014.

    I’ll not mention my blog on your blog, but I would like to get your opinion on my blog and my book’s subject matter.



  • Lucy

    Hi Jeff, my name is Lucy. I am 13 and am writing a book. Great advice. I like it. Thanks. :)

  • Naomi

    Great advice! I’m only 12 and writing a series for kids my age to kids at about 15. It’s kind of a sci-fi/adventure/romance kind of thing. So far it’s about 7 pages long. I started it 3 days ago and have had it edited and re-edited but I’m starting to have some trouble with writers block. If you could write a segment for writers block it would be a lot of help. I really appreciate the tips! They’re great. Here’s my own tip; writing can be a whole lot of fun but be sure your 100% devoted and interested in the topic or it will feel like more of a chore than something to have fun with, and of course be confidant you book will succeed!

  • Irene Bateman

    This will involve a great deal of discipline for me. I am 71years old and your tips has given me inspiration. I just hope I will be able to complete it. Thank you.

    • Terri

      Aloha Irene,
      Good for you. I have talked about writing my life story for twenty years. I just finished and it took me nine months and its 73,000 words. It was a lot like child birth, the hard part is still to come

      • Irene Bateman

        Hi Terri, I’m plodding on and do so much writing each day, The thing I am finding a pain is sorting out the appropriate Chapters now. I write as it comes only to find that could had been put in a different chapter. I aim to be more methodical. You appear to be doing very well. Thank you for your help.

  • Reem Maforth

    Well , I’m a 12 year girl writing a very small book, my goal is 80 pages, now i wrote 14 pages out of 80. And I’m stuck on the 15th pages which i wrote nothing on it, for 7 days, thinking fr what t write ,,, and i guess this helped me a little but i still didn’t wrote nothing !!

    • Amanda Pina

      Do a little bit every day, I think it’s help. If youdon’t know where to go on your story, think about it before you sleep, it’s the better time to great ideas.

  • TheGrem

    Hi Jeff,

    I really appreciate these 10 points. THey may be ridiculously simple yet they may just be the key to unlocking the book I have only ever written in my head.

  • householdgossip

    Hello, I am 12 years old. Much like Reem Maforth. Lol, what a laugh, but I am writing a fantasy book, it has a christian underlining like Lord of the Rings, if you have ever read that. It’s not mocking Lord of the Rings, nor even like Lord of the Rings, but it is fantasy like it. My goal: 400 pages.

  • Irene Bateman

    Hi Jeff, What sort of person should I contact to give me feedback on my book writing. Thank you for the Manifesto. I have written almost 5,000 words. thank you.

    • Michelle Tijerina

      Pay someone to read it, someone you don’t know. That way it is not bias. I am in the middle of writing mine. I own Writing Expressions in San Antonio.

      • Irene Bateman

        Thank you Michelle for your reply most helpful. Now it’s a question of how do I get hold of someone to do this, for example would it have to be a writer? I suppose that sounds silly but there could be other options?. Thank you.

        • Cisse

          I’m sure you can find someone on Elance.com or Odesk.com. Perhaps Fiverr.com too depending on its current length.

  • Amelia Hay

    Thank you for writing this post. I am currently writing a non fiction book, the word count advice has really helped me. :)

  • Timothy Lambert

    ‘Finding Forrester’ is also a good, inspirational movie. I agree with Evelyne… Discipline is key. Coming from a man who doesn’t do Today what he can put off ’til tomorrow, this is the most daunting hurdle for me. Thank you, Jeff for your encouragement.

  • Amber

    I want to write a book about my life. How do I kno w what to leave out, or in what person to write it?

  • Jessica Ramsey

    I am 12, I have written a book but this will help me write more in the future. Thank You Jeff

  • Mason K.

    Thanks this is VERY helpful!!!!!

  • Jess

    Thanks! This post was really helpful. I’m working on my first book – creative nonfiction – and I have been trying to find some good tips for this last section of work for the final draft. So thanks and keep writing inspirational posts for people searching the web!!!

  • Tizzo-Friizzo-Jessica Li (ME!)

    Hey. I am only 11, but this makes my writing very easy! Thank you so much, Jeff!

  • Zoe Gill

    My name is Zoe. I’m only 13, ever since I was 6-7 I’ve wanted to be an author. I’ve been writing stories for years, but I’ve just finished the book ‘No one left to tell- Karen Rose’. It was a really great book about murder, and it’s inspired me to start getting serious about my writing. Thankyou Jeff, this could help me out.

  • Kaya Rao Shetty

    my name is kaya, i’m 13 and im from India. ever since i was seven i’v loved writing. i write alot of poetry. i am now writing a book :) finally. and i just wanted to say this really really really helped me :)

    • JunBoy

      great work.. keep going.. support from India :)

  • Mark Jude Solis

    i am only 14. a filipino citizen, actually iam hoping to be an architect someday but the book hunger games inspire me to write my own book. and i called it ace of angels . Many of my classmates thinks that i am crazy but, they dont know that i have a big imagination, bigger than what you think. i really think that your suggestion will help me

  • Richard_D_Stanton_Ph_D

    Thank you, Jeff. I shall return to your site. But, as for now, without a Kindle, I am unsure what I can do with eBooks? Good fortune in your career!


    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You can read any eBook on a computer. All the platforms, including Kindle, have free reading apps.

  • Mel

    I am already in the process of publishing my first book, which is a children’s book. Which is difficult in its own way as a starter project, though I have been writing the same novel since I was 16. (I stopped from writers block and life) I am now 34 and very close to completion. Mind you after the book is done I have to go back to the beginning and elaborate on surroundings and thoughts. Anyhow, I found your advice to be very helpful, and may just do the self-publishing with Kindle. So thank you.

  • June Mohd Som

    Thanks for this ridiculous simple tips…. What a relief to know that “most authors are embarrassed of their first book” So… I am not alone with this poor thought of mine? That’s new to me… Thanks Jeff.

  • Swati Hegde

    The problem that cripples me as a writer is that I have too many works-in-progress! There are at least five novels waiting to be written, but every month a new idea grabs my attention. Currently I can only work on my blog and my fanfiction. The rest of my MS Word documents just lie there on my PC, gathering dust!

  • May Belle

    I’m only nine and me and my two friends are working on this book called the candy shop

    • frank

      good luck !! I wish the best for you

  • May Belle


  • frank

    IM working on a book that will tie rich , poor & middle class America together would you believe I was 13 and white move into the ghetto or projects more known as, you may know being a white minority is tough and by me surviving with about 10 scars 2 on the neck two on the face the other 7 is crazy, been on my deathbed twice, same priest read me my last rightsboth times, didn’t remember me, I was always classed as a loyay m.f. but that’s just me my preference black & latina chicks but this has nothing to do with nothing so if you where exspecting something different sorry

    • john wrona

      wow Frank….you’re just one hell of a guy. Why do you think anyone wants to read your boring mundane life? There are thousands of shitty books out there just like yours….get a grip. poor little frankie….lived in ghettos…..got some scars (we all do you buffoon), almost died…too bad boo-hoo-hoo, likes chicks (who the fuck cares?). You are not going to sell even ONE book…except to your family. What an arrogant frickin’ idiot…. boring boring boring….why don’t you write about how the grass grows in the ghetto…hahahahahahahahahah….idiot

      • frank

        wow people are dumber than I thought. if you cant tell a totally fake statement . by the way I wouldn’t read it either. but I did make it sound like I was excited about my non existing book. sorry you have the dumb gene no cure for that.

        • Rae Marie

          frank just keep working towards your goals, and I can promise you that people will listen to your story, and they will feel for you. I can’t say I’ve had it bad but I do have experience with kids from bad situations because I’m in foster care and have met those kinds of people. I’m only 17 myself but I think that your work can be inspiring. Some of the most amazing people have come from backgrounds like yours, and you will help a lot of people.

      • Dodie

        John kindly refrain from swearing. You can get your point across without using every four letter word in your vocabulary. There’s children on this site as well and, while they hear this kind of language everywhere in the world today, we can still try and set a good example. Thank-you

        • john wrona

          A couple things ….. first you’re afraid to use your name because then everyone would know how ignorant you are. second, your mama and sister and wife taught me those words (and more) at a time i had them in a compromising position….

    • john wrona

      couple extra ideas…you could add a chapter about when you picked that blackhead out of your neck…… you could write that time you had the bad shits…… or the time you took a walk to the 7-11, or that time you saw a dog running, or that time you were in a friends car and ran low on gas so you had to stop and gas-up – but it was a harrowing experience, or that time you didn’t get home in time and got rained on…. pretty interesting stuff! hahahahaha WHAT A LOSER

    • john wrona

      ???Would I believe it????? Don’t know because I sure don’t care enough to think about your boring-ass life. Here’s a start to your book: Hi, I’m Frank and this book is about my incredibly boring existance” hahahaha

    • Lucky

      Learn proper English or be marginalized. It’s all about choices.

  • Erin Lee Adams

    Jeff, you are truly a blessing..you have no idea. Thank you for following your calling

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure!

  • Lucky

    I have never thought about writing a book but if I were to do so it would be one about the moral insecurity of modern America. From simply purusing chat forums on the internet to engaging in conversation with most so called “average” people to even watching the politacally slanted “news” on any network, it becomes clear that our society is missing something that is very simple at it’s basic level but also profoundly guiding our future into prideful societal fractures. The need to be “right” and the aversion to respecting the rights, beliefs, ideas, feelings, etc of not just others but of anything that makes us feel uncomfortable is not just short sided or rude but a failure to evolve, and I propose, a step backwards in the evolutionary procession of modern society. It seems in this modern age of communication that information is rampant and ideas are aflourish but the sad reality is that the substance is lacking and any idiot can chime in with his or her drivel and disrespectful verbage elevating crude ideas and dark images into the same arena as innocent and while possibly naiive ideas, ideas nonetheless that may be based in fantasy and pleasure and not violence, ego gratification, sensationalism, or grotesque dislays of ignorance. There is a difference.
    The truth is we all want to feel good about ourselves and some will do so at the expense of others and in any way they see fit. There is very little accountability for someone who has a belief system that is encouraged by strength in numbers or any mob that has like designs or for that matter any creep in his underwear on the internet throwing his mental crap at others to get his jollies. To me it is obvious. And while I will now have to go look in the mirror and see if I am writing this to feel superior as I sit here at the end of a small investment of about 20 minutes my intention is not to reach or teach the masses but to throw out this idea that we are better than that. That even the lowest level of thinking and ideas can be elevated by the example of just one good story. From Mark Twain to George Lucas to even the political pundits who believe in not knocking down the opponent but in elevating their ideas based on their own merit, leadership in the realm of ideas and decorum is what we need most. Good ideas and good manners. I could go on and on but it would need to be in a book as I am not wanting a diologue here just a hope that someone will realize that there is such a thing as good and evil and we should choose good.
    Peace, out. Lucky Tanner

    • frank

      was going to reply to your comment but after reading this I’ll let it go. it seems you got a proper head on your shoulders , a little big , but sure your calves can handle that added weight. thanks for the comment and please don’t tip over it would take all of our military and possibly some of N.A.T.O. to stand you upright again . IF THATS EVEN POSSIBLE.

  • Lucky


    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hi. :)

      • AGYEMANG

        i don,t care jeff goins

      • AGYEMANG

        what the heck





  • Geoff Hughes

    Great advice. I find procrastination is the big enemy. I believe we create our own writers block by just not getting on and doing the work every day. I agree with the ‘ship’ advice. We’re gotta put it out there. I really enjoy your blog, Jeff. You’re an inspiration to many.

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