Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

10 Ridiculously Simple Tips for Writing a Book

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 we struggle with. It’s the writing.

I’ve just finished my first book. And the hardest part, to my surprise, wasn’t the difficulty of getting published. It was the writing process. Looking back, I can see how I learned some things. Important things worth sharing.

What does it take to write a book? Here are 10 of my best tips.

10 MORE BONUS TIPS: I actually have 20 ridiculously simple tips for writing a book. Want the other 10? Get them free here.

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.
  • Have an outline. Write up a table of contents to 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 Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.
  • 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.

Every writer started somewhere, and most of them started by squeezing their writing into the cracks of their daily lives. The ones who make it are the ones who show up day after day.

You can do it, too.

Beating overwhelm & staying creative

Click here for 10 more ridiculously simple tips for writing a book. Tips that help you:

  • Beat feeling overwhelmed.
  • Stay creative so you never “run out” of ideas.
  • Stay focused, so you get your book done faster.

Get these 10 bonus tips here or by clicking on the image below:

10-more-tips

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Roel

    Dear Jeff,

    I have a story in my mind which will have to cover at least several books.

    I am not a writer whatsoever, I’ve never written more than a short-story and that was at least 10 years ago. How do you organize writing a long story. I now have a short summary of my entire story. Should I narrow it down to a summary for every antagonist, or would you stick to a summary of the story you want to tell in this part?

    I have no experience, but have a lot of faith in the story I want to tell..

  • Ryan.A

    Hey Guys, im 17 and certainly not a writer, but I want to write a book as I am very passionate about History, and Im quite keen on ancient history, in which I want to write a book on the fascinating survival of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. I roughly know what each chapter will be on, but considering this goes back at least 3,800 years ago, there may be quite a bit of information that is not entirely based on fact, but rather on estimations. And I understand this, as its a difficult time period to get much out of, but it makes me a bit nervous as I think that during research, what if say two different sources were based on the same thing but the information is different or incomparable. But, perhaps it might be a case of digging deep to find the facts, then ignore what is fictional. Any advise would be very helpful and much appreciated. Thank you.

    • Rachael Dixon

      I personally like to read Historical Fiction revolved around the English Tudor and Victorian eras. Those eras obviously have some documented history to base things on. That being said, a lot of the big authors that cover the time periods I like to read about might name chapters after general seasons. Example: Winter 1856. Or they might be even more vague, example: 1843-1845. And even then, you have artistic license to twist and bend things.
      But since you really don’t have anything that specific to go off of, I think you’re pretty safe in being vague if you want. Just make sure if you’re referencing historical periods, that you at least refer to things in order and make sure that you don’t refer to two events that span 1,000 years on accident. You should be fine.
      That’s just my opinion as a reader.

  • Zenake

    hi

  • Zenake

    hey everyone im 10 and im using my familys email for this but Ive been making a fictional story for kids I was thinkin, should I make a chapter book or a story book wich one do kids like better

    • beinghonest

      maybe you should try both. don’t make them long books, but try to write and see which one is better. I would say story book, but it’s your choice

  • Zenake

    so what does the publisher do with your book, besides selling it?

  • Nicole

    I’m 14 and I love reading so much. I have an idea for a book, but I don’t think it could be published due to my age? I have already written a plot and will begin writing as soon as possible – but am I wasting my time??

    • Tony

      You are definitely not wasting your time. The only way to get good at writing is by doing it, as much as you can. If you just wait around until you are magically ‘old enough’, *that* will be wasting time.

    • Rachael Dixon

      One of my very favorite young adult writers published her very first book when she was 13! And she’s written a book every single year since! Don’t be afraid!
      (Her name is Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, by the way.)

  • matthew glayzer

    I’m interested in witting a book like Ronald dahl but has this opportunity passed as David walliams already ripped him off!!!!!

  • matthew glayzer

    On a serious note whats the best way to go about writing comedy scripts that would be taken seriously by potential tv producers??

  • Isabella_Leigh

    I haven’t done what I wanted to do with my life, because I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of support growing up educationally. I am 45 and just graduated with my Associates Degree in Medical Assisting, and that was due to the support of my ex boyfriend. Just recently I’ve been thinking about everything I have been through over the last 30 years, I realized that my experiences or lack thereof could inspire someone else to wait to get married, have children, or make commitments before they have what they want out of life. I’m not sure if this should be a regularly titled book or biography??? Or even how to start????

    -Isa (said e-sah)

    • Mace Latour

      Just write. Tell your story and if it reaches one person that needs it, it’s worth it, no?

  • http://markpine.com markpine

    Good inspiration.

  • Amanda

    I am a teacher, I have been for 15 years. I work with children with social, emotional and behavioural needs and specialise in supporting young people with challenging behaviours. I’m also a mum of three great children. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned to support parents through difficult times. Would people be interested? X

  • Mace Latour

    I am writing a fictional (non-fiction) book about an 80’s era suburb kid
    who got tangled up with the Kansas City and New York Mobs. Joined the
    Marine Corps at 17, and then went legit. Spent several years in Vegas
    running errands for a few fellas in Nellis to gain emancipation from the
    Company and went to the top quick in small, but definitive Corporate
    America. Several wives and lost souls along the way. Anyone interested
    in the actual story?

  • Luc Delpierre

    I’m 15 and I’m busy writing a book about a teenage love story. Is this wired in anyway and would someone read it?

    • Michelle Pfaunmiller

      Luc- I’m sure you have an interesting perspective on life, being a young person. I think as adults, we get mired down in the details of everyday…the hum-drum of boredom. As long as you have a novel idea…something that will interest your readers (target audience) why not!

  • Gabby

    Hey Luc delpierre I would love to read your book

    • Luc Delpierre

      Thanks. I feel more motivated now!

  • http://www.addedbytes.com Dave Child

    I think one tip that’s often underrated is to use a writing environment that suits you. I’m a little biased – I’m the created of a writing app, ApolloPad.com, but I wouldn’t have created it if I didn’t think it was important to the writing process! Writing in something not built for the job leads to difficulty organising your thoughts, and that’s an easy easy to end up discouraged.

  • TY

    Im a 12 year old girl and I’m writing a fanfiction for the “Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J. Maas. The series isn’t completed yet but I’m assuming the antagonist is defeated and everything is back to normal. I’m just scared that a fanfiction wont count as a book. (I’m not going to actually publish and sell it, just show some of my friends or publish it on a fanfiction website) So my question is: Can a fanfiction be a good book? (Im currently up to about 4000 words, not much.)

    • Mel

      Sure, it can. There are websites that are dedicated to fanfiction stories and people read eachother’s, it’s really fun. Of course, you can’t publish it though since it would be plagiarism but its good practice so that when you have an idea of your own, it will be easier since you would have technically written a book already. And 4000 words is a pretty solid start, you just have to stick with it until that last word :))

  • Luke

    I have jad an idea for nearly 10 years. It is about a young man called toya, he is a being made up of 2 guys from parallel world. One from our earth, the other called Thear, similar to others and yet very different.

    • Julia Surratt

      Interesting I like it But I think you should add more characters and add an adventure on which goes along with your main character. GOOD LUCK on your story

  • Daniel Grant

    I’m preparing for publishing my first book, “I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it!”.
    Thanks for a fresh breath of motivation, Jeff, your tips are priceless.
    Honestly, it’s pretty hard to get back to work and stay motivated after a vacation. Procrastination is my worst enemy but you inspired me to fight it.
    Your tips of how to stay creative are not less useful. I’ve noticed that my writing creativity has started to grow but I stil use a plagiarism checker to avoid accidental plagiarism. Anyway, I keep writing and my book will be published soon. Thank you for your help!

  • Brooke

    I’m 17 and starting on my first novel, which has supernatural elements as well as dark humor. I have around 4,000 words but so far I’ve wanted to give up about 50 times. Does anyone have any advice on how to stay motivated? I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a little kid and I really want to finish it:)

    • A

      Same for me. I’m 16 and English is not even my first language. However, deep inside I know I can do it, and you can too!!
      Good Luck 😉

    • Julia Surratt

      My advice is to finish it to keep you motivated you can use other interesting things you think should go in the story make sure it goes along with the story, if you do that you will not want to give up. Trust me I’m 12 and I know how you feel ive been wanting to write a book ever since I was 6 and on my stories now I get stuck and want to give up . But if you stay positive and have faith in your story you fill finish it IM even taking my own Advice. GOOD LUCK on your book

  • Sathyanand S

    Thank you Jeff for such a great article!

    The importance of writing cannot of overstated, especially in a
    knowledge economy like ours.

    However, I am really glad that you were able to make the
    connection between writing and clarity of thinking.

    While I agree that clear writing is the result of clear
    thinking, I would also push the thinking and recommend using Writing as a
    ‘Thinking Tool’.

    ~ Sathya

    http://sathyawrites.com/on-writing/

  • Hovsep Yacoubian

    I’m only 15, and I might start writing my first book soon enough. I just want to say that this article helped me get more motivated to write. The only thing i’m missing is a way to get enough ideas so wont run out of ideas.

  • Elliott

    Hey there, I am a 14-year old, and I recently started a novel of my own. It was for NaNoWriMo, which, for you non-NaNoers, stands for National Novel Writing Month. Basically, from November 1 to November 30, you try and write over 50,000 words. It was really helpful to push me out of my comfort zone and get started. Now, writing has almost become like colouring a picture – second nature, relaxing, and fun. Sure, I still have those OH MY GOODNESS WHAT DO I THINK I’M DOING, THIS IS THE WORST BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD moments. Every time I read the last sentence I wrote, actually. But what I learned is basically this: This. Is. Just. A. Draft. That is all it is, and ever will be. Once you have it all figured out, that is when you turn on your inner editor and tear your story to shreds. Once you are finished, that is when you can be critical of what you did, and rewrite a paragraph 1,000,000 times just to get it sounding just right. Until then, tell that little voice inside your head to SHUT UP and mind its own business. You are trying to write a freakin’ story, for heaven’s sake. You can’t waste all that time worrying over what you already wrote!

    One last tidbit: The world needs your story. Yes, that is true. But you know what? This book isn’t for the world. It is for YOU. So, you need your story. You need to write it down, and even if you only write two chapters, then that is still TWO MORE CHAPTERS than a lot of people in the world have ever written on their story.

    Thanks for listening to my rant…It’s a little long, but hey, what can I say? I’m a writer…

  • Cianna Grummer

    Im 14 and im writing a book about a guy named Baron who is a prince of a fictional kingdom. He is kidnaped by a girl named Hera who can turn into a human or a dragon at any moment and her two friends Seth and Strem who can do the same and Rain who is a master theif. They kidnaped him to yeild a sword that only he could use due to his ansestory, to kill Hera’s sister Arabella who also a dragon shapeshifter and is suposidly a good person and Hera is evil but Baron starts to fall for Hera and Hera for him. Would anyone be even be intrested in this book or am I wasting my time?

    • John-Zander Guida

      Sounds Good You Should Do it

    • Julia Surratt

      I Think you should What your Idea is, is totally interesting I love stuff like that. You should not give up the Idea If You ever publish it I will definitely read it. GOOD LUCK with your story

  • Aditya Rao

    Hey i am Aditya and i am twelve years old and i am writing a book called ‘Thomas William and the unexpected truth .In this book Thomas discovers that he is a wizard and he goes to Alstrod school of wizardry in which he makes friends and finds something fishy in the school . I’ve tried to bring some dark magic into the book but, many times i feel like my book is a copy of Harry Potter. So can you suggest me whether to write on this topic or leave it.

    • Sandesh

      don’t add a part of a wizard going bad and seeking more and more power just like harry potter series but try adding parts and topics like corrupt systems ,love fallen apart,near ones double crossing and of course new innovations in wizardry world and new creatures from different mythologies.also don’t sum up everything in one book and break the entire plot in different series revealing old and dark secrets in every new book. i am sure if u do this ur book will beat HP series.

  • Julia Surratt

    Hello My name is Julia I’m 12 and I’m writing three books. One called The Spooky Forest, and The Castle Secrets, and The curse of Midnight. Your advice is really helping me because I’m having a struggle writing my stories. I know to pace myself and to go to a place I’m comfortable in to write them. I should also take time and focus on one story at a time. I’m into Fairytale stories and Mystery stories for kids. I love to write fun stories and stories that show girl power and mysterious events. The Spooky Forest is about 4 syblings whole go with there parents to a Forest called the Shining forest. but the story behind the forest is more fantasy and interesting. The forest haunts the family taking away each family member and its up to there sister Milly to save all of there lives. The castle Secrets is about the Devil kingdom being taken over by the army of good. A royal family settles in and has a baby girl who has the most amazing powers of good. The devil tries to lead her towards him to set him free from 12 elements. The princess finds out the truth if she and her brother don’t find the 12 elements and destroy them by midnight on her 16th birthday the Devil will haunt them forever. If they find all of the elements and don’t destroy them by midnight the Devil will come back destroy everything and the princesses powers will be taken away forever. Then The Curse Of Midnight is about 4 fairytales. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. There storybook villains Maleficent, The Evil Queen, The Evil Stepmother, and The Evil Witch. They want to rule fairytale land so they do the curse of Midnight. It is when the storybook victoms of the villains who cast the curse get switched with each others fairytales. It starts at midnight and lasts three days. If the storybook victoms get a happily ever after by midnight on the third day they will return to there original tales and the villains who cast the curse will disappear forever. But if they don’t the villains who cast the curse will rule fairytale land forever and the victoms will disappear forever. I’m going to focus on the Spooky forest, and finish it, than ill do and finish The Curse of Midnight. Than I will do and finish the Castle secrets.THANKS FOR THE ADVICE- let me know what you think about my stories and if you do please be honest!

    • Jen S.

      Not the blogger, but your writing just in your comment comes across with good literacy. You seem to have two things many of your peers lack: direction (knowing the stories you want to write) and competency (grammar, spelling, etc). As someone who encourages young writers in my community, let me just say I am happy you are working toward your storytelling and seeking advice. Good luck!

  • Kepler Norélia

    I’ve been writing that book for over a year now, but I need some tips. Should I let other people (friends and family) read the thang or should I just send it to whatever publishers????

  • George Miller

    My name is George Miller and I am 13 years old. I am currently writing a book but am having trouble finding time to sit down and write. Our family has one computer and my parents are working on it most of the time. I am just looking for some tips. The story alternates between a mysterious chain of events all seemingly caused by the same person and a secretive but outgoing student at a junior high school. The two narratives eventually collide at a large acting competition where the climax happens. If anyone has any ideas for me on how to find time to write or tips for the story please share them with me:) Thanks!

    • David Goodliff

      Dear George, most things in life people say you have to “get off your backside to do”. Writing though, you are discovering is the exact opposite because you have to get ONTO your backside and stay there. For active people this is hard. Especially when a novel for young adults like you have plans for are upwards of 40,000 words. Just head for a library an hour a day. It is quiet, safe and you won’t be disturbed. I am writing a novel too and have hit 30,000 words so far! Wanna hear more? Kind regards David

  • Moneku

    My name is Yanique Fairchild, i am 25 years old. I have been debating in my head for years now, about writing a book. I actually have at least 4 books in my head, i just do not know where or how to start putting these words on paper. The book i am more interested in writing is one about my life, i know “what life”, “you barely lived”, these are some of the comments i get when i tell people i want to write my story. The issue about my life story is that i may put factual information in the book that will stir up conflict and i am do not like confrontations. This is why i wanted to know if it would be best to write “My Story” as a fictional narrative or true story with Author X…

  • Joel Maynard

    My name is Joel Maynard, I am almost 17 years old. I like books. And genres I like are sci-fi and adventure. And I thought to myself, “What if I can combine those three and make an entire story out of it.” for my 16th birthday, I decided what I want to do with my life. I am creating a trilogy of three books and i’m calling it “Dimension Rebels.” I’m already half way through the first book, for the rough draft. I’m gonna edit it one i’m finish, and during that edit I’ll work on the next one. I hope my trilogy becomes successful. (well maybe not that successful.)

    • Joyce

      You are already successful! Perseverance is your reward. Good job dude

  • Nate S

    I sit here and read the inspiration of young ones, distant ones, and most of all people who all have the feeling that they need to write some words across paper for people to get their point. It was not until that moment I had realized it was all just a dream, the walls swayed and the ceiling looked as if it was staring back at me. My cat sat there “Sluuuuuurp!”, it was so gross hearing him clean himself but I tried everything to stop him and he just wouldn’t no matter what I did. This obviously wasn’t helping my problem that I had just ingested half of a bottle of nyquil. I didn’t know what I was doing but my mind was moving a mile a minute. So I instinctively pushed my cat aside and ran out the door into a world of disbelief and disparity. There was nothing out there but the realization that I was going nowhere, I could keep walking yes but I had no where to go and no means to get anywhere. No matter how much I tried to drown my sorrows with that sweet green it would never change the outcome of what I had walked into.

  • Ibrahim Khan UPSC

    Hey,,, I am always lost in my world, I try to introspect to find out what I can do, what I am capable of? what is my purpose in life? my strength? One thing here which I like to mention is that I love reading a book, interesting one, since my childhood I have this likeness towards fiction like addiction, can’t resist myself from reading a good novel. I am 25 now and without job like a burden on my family, which has led me into frustration, daydreaming, and beautiful stories that used to crept up in my mind into horrible ones, hatred and jealousy. I still wonder whether my likeness towards book has something to do with my purpose of life? Am I destined to write a good story? But chores and surviving in this mean bad world discourages me from even thinking about a book.. am lost,what shall I do? I have found myself having a suicidal tendencies too..am pushing myself in darkness… into obfuscous

    • Kay

      I believe that each one of us is created in a unique way and is destined to do good things. Do not let the devil push you to the darkness, all he wants to do is to hurt you, make you feel useless and unworthy. You have to find your giftedness and enhance it. Writing might be your gift, so explore and make it happen. We all have our moments, but you are stronger than your emotions. You have to look at the bright side of life. Not sure if you are a believer. But do you know that there is God who created you out of love? In fact, He loves us so much that He sent His Only Son into this world, to die on the cross as the atonement of our sins, so all of us, if we believe in Him will have eternal life in heaven with Him. Where can you find a God who sacrificed His life for His people? Try it, it wont right. Look Him up in the Holy Bible. Good luck, Jesus Christ loves you so much. He said “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy leaden and I will give you rest”.