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
Staying focused

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 am the author of four books, including The Art of Work. I also run an online business teaching writers how to get the attention their work deserves. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

Your Work Deserves to Be Noticed — Here’s How

All art needs an audience. So does your writing. To download a free eBook and learn exactly what I did to grow my blog from zero to 100,000 readers in 18 months, enter your email below.

  • Miss.America

    I’m currently writing a peculiar story about a boy who falls in love with his teacher. I’m having a few people read it but I was wondering if anyone else sounds interested by it. It’s based on a true story (of my life). I’ve been stuck on chapter 35. I’m meaning to end it soon but I’m not sure how to get there. If you are interested comment below your email and I’ll send you an excerpt.

  • Evan

    I am 17 years old and writing a novelette about my life, I come from a broken home and I want to let people know about the struggle children go through and for other children/teenagers like me to know that they are not alone and that help is out there.
    I was just wondering do you think I should ask my English teacher to read through it?
    What company should I approach to publish my novelette?

    • Miss.America

      If you trust your English teacher to read this without judgement then you should, but be aware that the private things in your novelette may not be kept private if you share this with a teacher. Especially if the teacher feels that you may need someone to talk to about what’s in your novelette and she might recommend you to a counselor. If you are absolutely certain that this is what you want to do, then do it. Good luck to you and your novelette!

      • Evan

        I am 17 years old and writing a novelette about my life, I come from a broken home and I want to let people know about the struggle children go through and for other children/teenagers like me to know that they are not alone and that help is out there.
        I was just wondering do you think I should ask my English teacher to read through it?
        What company should I approach to publish my novelette?

        • Miss.America

          Again, up to you. If you believe that she will be good help I think you should.

    • Tanna c

      Im 15 and go to counseling now i write more ever since then ive let a teacher read my writings and hes helped a lot he even supports me writing a book which im going to if you really trust a teacher do it I really recommend it my teacher has helped with my pain a lot more than my family has

  • srauttt

    i am writing a science fiction book.i was pretty much inspired by doctor who movies. my book is about the MECANTIS-the protagonist being Mr. Moracre(the creator of mecantis). the story is a novel that revolves around this device that can help brain as a secondary brain for the storage of data . however the devices start not only storing the data but they also start understanding it and creating emotion in themselves. Moracre aids up with Shane to stop the second version of MECANTIS by reaching the headquarter level of the mantis protocol using the same device they had used
    well i think of completing the book slowly with precision and time .

  • Hr

    My first memory sucking my arm to cause a bruise blaming it on someone in the playground. Attention you cry oh yes. A third daughter to an alcoholic wife beater and a mother too weak to make a change. Presently lieing in bed feeling nothing as I here my two young boys fight and play as their gambling manipulator father lovengly puts them to bed.
    Make a change I try every day but as I turn 37 tomorrow every eve of my birthday I lay depressed struggling to make a change myself.
    A book of life my life would make anyone second guess theirs.
    Another biography! no a learning point if you expect life to be a struggle every day, then one day a bright light will appear and it will be over.

  • Ling O

    I want to start a book something about my life and battle against cancer. I’m in the process of recovering and I thank god so much for my progress now. I want to my experience to help people who are struggling and in need. There’s is hope.

  • pookie

    I remember my second boss at the age of 22 ask ask where do you what to be in 10 years ?? I told I wanted to write a book.. He say OK ” he went on and said about what????? I say my Life …. He says Oh No” wouldn’t no one want to hear about you life, what make you so different cause a lot of people have books about their life already you need to write about something else. And here it is ten years from now I’m looking to write and publish a book about my Life!

  • aminata

    hi here, i’m an exchange student from africa , i’m recently in the US, i started writting a book about life in afric and the struggles me and my family has been through since there’s a war in my country and i’m talking about my experience here ( i’m 16 by the way ) but i’m having struggles with the beggining plus my english is not well developed so it’s a little bit harder

  • MAXWELL

    HEY EVERYONE I AM 13 PLEASE REPLY ASAP so im writing two fictional novels one is about a 15 year old sacrificing his mother for riches and that i was inspired by the concept of selling your souls and im on chapter two (20th page) but the reason im here is to ask what you think of the plot of my new novel

    Shane Bronzefoot, a recent graduate of appleby university(fictional), his uncle mason has just died and as he prepares to attend, a mysterious lady appears Gwen she says her name is and warns him not to go and then vanishes but shane shrugs off the warning and attends the funeral.
    at the funeral a loan shark crashes the funeral and demands that someone pays the debt that uncle mason left behind . but no one will take the debt so the loan shark, whom is called Bones kicks the coffin repeatedly until shane tells Bones to stop but Bones just Knocks him out as everyone stands back in fear.

    Shane wakes up in a Dark room and Bones comes in and tells him if he does not pay the debt his uncle left by Shanes sisters birthday ,maria, which is coming up in 4 months he would kill her and her two kids Shane tries to warns maria instantly but Gwen appears and stops him and tells him if the authorities get involved or someone is told Bones will just kill Shane and his sister and then as usual she vanishes.

    Shane does everything to get the 30 grand owed but he was just refused as £30,000 is just to much to lend. So shane is unable to get the money and he tries to save maria the day he was meant to pay up , breaking in to marias house rushing into her basement and witnessing Bones slit Maria’s Throat and her two childrens throat aswell Shhane tries to strangle Bones but is knocked out by one of his goons

    once shane wakes up he sees Gwen and Bones kissing and gwen tells him that he should of taken her advice and not attended the funeral and then she points a gun at his head and a gunshot is heard but i dont know how to make it seem like she didnt shoot him without making it to obvious????

    • Ethan

      If you’re thinking of ways to avoid the main character’s death, it is actually possible to survive a 9mm bullet to the forehead. He would be knocked out and presumably dead.

      • maxwell

        true but that is too boring he gets shot does he survive does he not and the reader comes to his own conclusion i want something completely different but thanks

        • Ethan

          Well you could say something like, “The gunshot echoed throught the room,” and just leave it at that. That way you’re not actually saying he got shot.

    • Hannah

      Maxwell, you have a really good idea for your story! Here’s a few things you could do…
      -Gwen cocks the gun and points it at his head and he shuts his eyes and waits. The gun makes a load thundering noise and the chapter ends. next ch it starts like “Shane opens his eyes in shock as he sees Bones, dead, laying on the ground. He is shot right between the eyes… etc. Then Gwen explains everything.

      -The ch. ends with something like, Gwen pulls the trigger. The next chapter can start with Shane realizing that the gun was unloaded filled with relief.

      they both need elaboration but they are just ideas, you can use them if you would like. Comment back when you have read this :)

    • Napoleon

      Well this is interesting, Gwen smiles sweetly at him mutters in a smooth even tone “Babe moment alone with charming?” Bones growls bur leaves the room. Gwen pulls the gun up smiling and pulls the trigger one shot in the leg.
      That’s kinda how I would craft that but PLEASE rethink the names? Bones is sooooooo over used try something more subtle. Gwen is a.no no I get the slut type vibe but try something else something unheard. The Maria name is awful and doesn’t go with Shane.
      Other than that work out the kinks try different things and HAVE FUN. ☺

  • Aimhigh01

    I’m seriously considering writing a book on Personal Finance. As I work hard to get my financial house in order, I’ve found that I enjoy giving people advice about the subject. There is a writing software program that I just learned about called Scrivener that I think may assist me in my efforts. My biggest battle will be with consistency but I like the statement that the author mentioned above-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. I love this! Happy writing to everyone!

  • Hannah

    Maxwell, you have a very good idea for your story! Here’s a few things you could do…

    -Gwen cocks the gun and points it at his head and he shuts his eyes and waits. The gun makes a load thundering noise and the chapter ends. next ch it starts like “Shane opens his eyes in shock as he sees Bones, dead, laying on the ground. He is shot right between the eyes… etc. Then Gwen explains everything.

    -The ch. ends with something like, Gwen pulls the trigger. The next chapter can start with Shane realizing that the gun was unloaded filled with relief.

    they both need elaboration but they are just ideas, you can use them if you would like. Comment back when you have read this :)

    • Danette Russell

      Guest, may I read one of your books, please?

  • Hannah

    I’m writing a story but I can’t come up with a plot? How did you come up with yours? Please let me know.

    • Ethan

      I find it helps if you come up with the end first. And make sure it’s something you enjoy because you’ll be working on it for a long time.

      • Hannah

        Thanks!

  • Gabby

    Hey, I’m writing a story but I don’t know how to start it yet. Everyday I seem to come up with a new plot, how do I stick to one? It’s a gift for my best friend as she’s turning 17 in some months. The story is about a boy named Jupiter who’s 8 years and lives in the mountains of Utah, well that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Some advice?

    • Hannah

      Pick the plot that you like the best, and if you like them all try to pick the one that provides more for your story.

      • Gabby

        Thanks Hannah, that makes sense.
        Hey, would you like to read some of them to let me know which one is better?
        If its not too much trouble.

        • Hannah

          Sure, that would be great

  • cdg

    i am gonna write a story but i don’t come with a plot

    • Hannah

      Think of what you want to write about, and then make the plot along those lines.

  • shadowrose

    I have a lot of ideas for books. Some have come to me as dreams others from imagination and others just from a slight bit of paranoia but each time I go to write this into a book I can’t even finish 3 paragraphs. I know what I want but I can’t figure out how to put it in words. How to stretch these thoughts over hundreds of pages using tens of thousands of words to detail how my idea will play out. Putting these things into words is my largest problem. But another is I seem to fill in a certain part with my thought but then that part is either the middle or end and I can’t figure out how to start the book to lead up or finish up what I am trying to write about.

    • Krummm

      Maybe concentrate on one idea and then just let your pen flow. That’s the amazing thing about a rough draft and no time line ;)

    • Jody

      Becareful not to be too verbose when you get to that point where you’re about to stretch your diction to explain/describe things.It wouldn’t make a wonderful book if verbosity is promoted.

  • Krummm

    I want to write a book about my life. I’m only 34. I have had a lot of trying and turmoil times in my life. I feel this may be more therapeutic than anything. I’m just not sure where to begin. I know its recommended to start at the end but, with me being in the middle of my life I find this difficult. Any suggestions?

    • Hannah

      Maybe you could lead up to a big event, for example something good like a wedding, kids, or something sad or traumatic, or you could lead up to the present and say your regrets or how your experiences changed your for better/worse.

  • Paige

    At this moment in time i’m writing a book that is a unconventional love story. I really am enjoying the creative process. I’m only 17 but i go this brilliant idea for my book. I have been working on it and its breathing with life. I have read a huge amount of books in my life time and i felt like writing one but due to my age i’m lacking experience…

  • Fatimah

    i have lots of ideas, and i keep coming up with new ones, so by now, the amount of books i have started, are quite a few. but every time i start one, i write a few chapters and then don’t know how to continue. like, me and my friend started one, and then we couldn’t progress because we don’t know how to flow with the idea. how do you stick to one idea, and actually progress with it?

    • Ethan

      It helps to come up with the end first. That way you know where you’re going to end up, an the process of figuring out what to do next is made a lot simpler.

  • Brittany

    I want to write about my life as a hearing impaired person. I’d like to talk about my struggles and how I get through life.

  • http://pedromatias.co.uk/ Pedro Matias

    Nice work, very good tips. There appears to be a typo.

    “Think in terms of 10-thousand work”

  • Isabelle Spencer

    I’m attempting to write a book; iv got my first 3 chapters sorted; I defiantly have the idea for the plot and my characters personality’s and looks are defiantly decided in my head, I am finding it so difficult as to when I should introduce them in, as I feel like I can spend such a long time describing them because I can see what I want them to seem like to others, I understand that we will all have our own take on how a character will look I! I fear there isn’t enough dialogue, I really need to stop describing objects and the scene so much, but i love doing that; I get so carried away! Has anyone got any advise ? thankyou!

    • HumanWorm

      Not wishing to be mean yet admitting it must sound that way – learn to proof your work! The word you want is ‘definitely’, not ‘defiantly’. Learn basic grammar: ‘personalities’, not ‘personality’s’. Learn to punctuate a sentence properly. So my advice (not advise) is, learn to crawl before you fly. Ambition is great but without an injection of reality it is the beginning of delusion and disappointment. Step by step. Conscious reading with a grounding in grammar should help. I wish you the best.

  • Hannah

    Do you think the idea of dystopian books with over controlling governments is too overused?

    • Craig

      write what you are passionate about. The reason why that topic is overused is because people like that sort of “something from nothing” story. I say go for it!!

      • Hannah

        Thanks