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.

FREE TRAINING: I’ve included a free video training series that included my best advice on how to form a daily writing habit. (click here for the free training)

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 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.

Download my step-by-step video training and learn how to form a daily writing habit.

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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. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Anda

    I’m so glad that you mentioned 300 words.It seems resonable to me. My target is 500 words/day. I read the other days on a site that has some kind of a contest and they have to write over 50.000 words per moths. I was “Oh my God!I’m so lame.” I struggle with 500 words and there apparenly are people who write a whole book in one month. And then i did some more google and found your site. I’m a little more relieved now.

    • Henry Migingo

      I will be glad to read your book.

      • Anda

        Thanx for the vote of confidence, but I’m still a long way till the finish line. Till then lots and lots of inspiration to you and whomever needs it!

    • Johnlagaby

      Anda, the word count is meaningless. It is the ideas that are contained in those words that matter, not the quantity of words. For example, prior to Lincoln giving his “dedicatory remarks” at Gettysburg, the main speaker there spoke for three hours. Then Lincoln followed with his 200 words dedication remark, which now is known as the Gettysburg Address and is considered one of the best speech in history. The main three-hours speech was forever forgotten.

      • Anda

        Yes, the count is meaningless. But it sure feels good when my target is 500 words/day and I write 1000 useful/valuable words. I only wish all days are like that! By the way, I don’t believe in writing just to reach your number of words. If you write something, then it must have a pupose in it (even if it is a small purpose that only has a meaning to you).

        • Jameseh

          I am honestly planning on doing one-thousand to two-thousands words a day for my stories, I have around 6-10 hours spare time from Monday to Friday, and the whole day on Saturday & Sunday, 11-15 hours.
          I am fourteen years old and being homeschooled, and am very much into writing stories, so I started. :3

          Fact, I need to spend more time into writing stories or so.

          Ah.. I spend too much time on my favorite forum site… And too much time on Super Mario 3D Land ;-;

          • Anda

            good luck!

          • Mirandameowth

            lol man. Im 11 and i have lots of homework and im on a swim team but I don’t WASTE MAY TIME PLAYING A FREKING MARIO GAME!!

  • http://madridpig.com/ Sean Durham

    Good advice. nailing it down to the simple motivating factors, like word count and keeping it low, or being prepared to fail and try again is realistic advice. Writing a book isn’t the easiest thing in the world so it helps when understand why we are writing a book as well.

  • http://www.esomu.faithweb.com Dr. Solomon Esomu

    This is great!

  • Micki

    Thanks for the simple tips, Jeff! As usual, practical and informative, always giving to your readers! Happy to share with my followers!

  • bradblackman

    One thing about John Grisham: he writes what he knows about. He knows law and lawyers and how that whole world works. So he wrote about it. So I might add one more thing: write from where you are. Write from your world. Marcel Proust famously dipped his madeline cakes in his tea, and that triggered a flood of memories, so he wrote about his upbringing.

  • sue G

    Apologies if this has already been discussed. What is your opinion if I want to write a non-fiction book about a subject that has already been written about before and there is already so much information about this subject on the internet.

    • http://www.yamentou.com/ Lionnel Yamentou

      Hi sue G,

      Write your own book. If you have a unique way of interpretation for the information, or simply a new way of packaging and presenting it, go ahead and do it.
      Consider this your permission slip. :D

      Cheers!
      Lionnel Yamentou

  • diegovegas

    Does a person think of the title first then write based on title or simultaneously write to match? Or does one think of story/plot then come up with a name/title?

    • Jameseh

      Depends.

      I had an idea once by just thinking of a random title, and with that, I had thoight of a story.
      The Blackbox Radio
      I was chatting with someone on a site about stories, he said that he was bad at ideas and would abandon his work anyway, then I said: ‘Let me think of a story.’

      I started writing random stuff, starting with ‘The Blackbox Radio’
      ‘The Radio that had a broken part, needed to be fixed. But one of the broken segments requires special, rare powder. Brent needs to go back to the mountain with the powder, but he couldn’t find the powder on where he found it. He now needs to go on an adventure, just to fix his own Blackbox Radio.’

      That’s my description for my story :P
      But I haven’t continued it because my story was acting all strangely on the computer, and I didn’t have a clue on how to fix it. And; it only happens on that story!
      >:(

      • Mirandameowth

        why would it be so important just to fix a radio : /

    • Neo

      I thought of my title first and then the story kind of fell in to place after that. I’ve already got a 2nd title and story in my head and haven’t finished the first one yet.

    • Mirandameowth

      I plot out everything thats going to be in my book before I come up with my titles name. most the time I finish my book before I give my book a title.

  • Neo

    Wow, I’m pretty glad there’s a place like this to come to lol, I started writing my first book over a year ago, in that time I only have five pages done so far. I work 2 jobs so it’s hard to find the time to do much more than that, it’s been six months since I even added anything to it, any suggestions?

    • Katie James

      personally, if you really want to write that book, I would just take a notepad with you to your jobs and then write the outline of it first. Once you write the outline it’s a lot easier then you think. so really just start there and then work your way up :) I bet you’ll do great!

  • amanda

    I’m thinking about writing my first book and I want it to be about my life story as a struggling addict and the things that came with that lifestyle (prison, sleeping with men for money, sleeping in the streets, etc.) and how I have now at 27yrs. old have been clean for over a year have a amazing 11 month old son who was what saved my life and just all the things in between. I just know that even when I was at my worst I liked to read especially about what I was going threw and I never found a story that was like mine that turned out good in the end. Any feed back or helpful ideas to start me with the process would be much appreciated. Thank you,
    A.m.s

    • JennyDahlBakken

      Sounds like an amazing book! You say you never found a story like yours that turns out good in the end. Do you mean that as the story rarely ended happy, like yours have done, or that the books rarely turned out good? If you mean the last, then I would analyse WHAT is bad about those books, write it down. Then at least you have eliminated some thins you don’t want to have in your book.

      I think maybe the way to get started for you is either to try think of a start, middle and end of your book; like the author of this blog post suggests, or to sit down and write down keywords – often a good place to start. Which feelings and experiences, or people, have been the most dominant in your life? Write it down. After that, start writing stories out of the keyword. Expand on experiences, try to describe feelings the best you can, etc. I think that would be really helpful for you. Good luck with the book! :)

  • Mirandameowth

    I’m actually a middle school child who is writing a book for my school library. Ive been writing a thriller-mystery-fiction book. heres a sample from my 5th chapter.

    5

    Will was up on the roof of the magic shack staring through binoculars out onto the horizon. He was looking for the monster that he had seen before but if he could spot a tourist bus anywhere around then he would be satisfied with that too. He had been up there for three hours and the only interesting thing he saw was when Callie left the shack with his grappling hook and then about ten minutes later her running and screaming out of the woods. He wasn’t sure if she had seen the monster or whatever it was but he knew that it was dangerous whatever it was that she saw in there. If it hadn’t been for what happened 30 years ago Will would have never stayed here for longer than a week. He would have never built the magic shack or learned to be a professional con-man. But he also wouldn’t have ever felt great loss either. If only he hadn’t tempted the fates, if only he had listened but no. He was stubborn. He had known that this town was weird from the start but he also knew that that weirdness was dangerous. Will had decided that he would never admit that anything weird was going on here to Tyrone and Callie. He knew that Callie was reckless and Tyrone well, Tyrone was just like himself. Curious, digs deep, but when Will had dug too deep into this towns secrets he lost everything and there was no way out of the hole he had dug. For all the Maple twins knew this was nothing but a bunch of lies and gift-shop lore. That was all they needed to know for now.

    if its good then please tell me.

    • bookwriter333

      hey I think you should try to get it published when done

      • Mirandameowth

        That might be hard since i’m 11

        • Katie James

          hey I’m only 14 and writing a book, lol. like they say its the writing that is hard not the publishing. get you’re writing done and you’ll get published I bet!

          • Mirandameowth

            thank you very much! I’m trying my best. ;)

    • Idiotioi

      Hey sounds okay, please add me on skype im also writing a book and I would like your opinion. My skype is Morshu Adams

      • Mirandameowth

        I don’t have a skype yet because I can’t have one until i’m 13 but here are my tricks. 1.I get a lot of my ideas from turning on like 3 random tv shows at a time and then sleeping while I hear them play. When I wake up I write about a paragraph or two and then repeat the process until I feel good about what i’ve written for the day. 2. I write a little in every chapter just so I can get my ideas down and then later I fill in the chapter later. 3. I get my younger friends, my friends in my grade and my older friends to read it so I can get feedback from them. 4. I some times add stuff to it that smaller children wont understand but adults will get. and 5. Before I start the book I’m writing I graph out every single plot twist, character and surprise that will appear or happen throughout what i’m writing. those are some of my tips for writing (and keep in mind that i’m 11, on a swim team, and have loads of middle school homework so when I wright I try to get all of my ideas on as quickly as possible but on breaks I fill in spaces that I feel need something more like adult humor or something that will make people laugh).

        • Mirandameowth

          I got my mom to give me a Skype account or whatever. when are you free so I can Skype you. I am busy most of the time so you aren’t ever going to be able to contact me. My name though is miranda marks

  • Robert Bollinger

    I have thought about writing a book on my growing up.for some time. I would like the book to reflect more on the times then just on me. I just never know where or how to start. the title would be, Born in the 30’s- Raised in the 60’s Blessed by God.I would like it to show how times have changed.

    • Mirandameowth

      That sounds like a wonderful idea Robert! I say write whatever you want and then after change it in a way that the public would understand but you still feel its your life story. Example: The adults would be able to relate, the kids wll look as it for a history reference or a life story of someone growing up and you still feel like it reflects who you are. Good Luck! ;)

    • Katie James

      I think that sounds great! Just a quick tip though; for the title, I would recommend having something a tad bit shorter;)

      • stephanie

        i agree with the shorter title, Katie! but it does sound great!

    • Merita

      I think we are from the same era what age is too old to start writing you first book

  • Katie James

    Ever since I was 9 I wanted to write a book. I’m a teenager now and having a hard time with consistency, this is definitely something I will finish. I’ve never been so dedicated to something, does anyone have suggestions or tips? I could really use some help. Thanks :)

    • Megan

      Hey Katie I’m Megan and I’m in the exact same boat as you. I have recently done some longer writing projects that have led me to sucess leading me to beleive I have the ability to write a novel. I’d be very curious to hear some of your veiws and ideas as a fellow writer.

      • Mirandameowth

        I am also writing but thats because I’m trying to inspire younger people that they can do anything. I’m 11 and I’m doing swimming after school, soccer on the weekends and as you know I have a lot of homework. It’s very rare that I can sit down and have a minute to myself but when I do I write and write and write. It’s difficult but when you are finished you just feel more proud.

        • aimee b

          this sounds alot like the tv show gravity falls.

          • Mirandameowth

            what is that?

      • Betsy

        Please know how to spell check. “Believe” I beofre E except after C

        • Betsy

          Please know how to spell check. “Believe” I befo
          re E except after C

          • Mirandameowth

            stop giving children a hard tim about spell check. lord

        • Tom Conant

          that’s hilarious, your busting nuts about spelling and misspell “before”

    • Aimsy McNamara

      JUST KEEP ON GOING. DON’T QUIT AND IMAGINE A BRIGHT PROSPECT.

  • Ally Cole

    im kind of trying to write a book i have always wanted to i love reading so i recently started writing but im not sure how to do any of it. i think i have a good idea for the story but im not sure how to write it down. if anyone has any tips or anything please let me know it will be a huge help! :)

    • Mirandameowth

      My advice is 1. come up with a title 2. make a plot of all of your characters and all of the major plot twists in your book 3. write all of your ideas in an organized way ( don’t worry if you only have one or two pages in a chapter, you can fill in later) 4. look over 5. add fillers 6 make a draft 7. edit 8. repeat this process until you feel good about what youve written 9 final copy 10 come up with a title 11 publish. You may be wondering why I put come up with a title first and tenth. Some people have an easyer time with writing then finding a sutible title and others like to come up with a title and then create a book using that title. This is what works for me so it may not work for others. TIP: you can never write when you are stressed. if you feel like you don’t have any new ideas leave it for a day or take a power nap or do something that will get you focused and ready to roll.

      • Ally Cole

        Thank you! this is helping so much.

        • Mirandameowth

          no prob! thats what I do!

      • Betsy

        Please know how to spell “easier” when talking about how to write and proof read a book!

        • Mirandameowth

          ok I am sooo sorry that a 11 year old that is terrible at typing and that doesn’t know how to use spell check is one of your main concerns right now

        • betsyfaget

          I’ll say this in my language: Putang ina mo

          • Mirandameowth

            what does that mean?

    • BuddaBelly

      I am new to writing as well. I have a lot to learn and have been researching as much as possible on the internet. One of the things I ran across was a simple, but powerful, tip. If you plan on writing seriously, then write right all the time.

      • Ally Cole

        Oh ok thank you so much!!

    • Aimsy McNamara

      Just write all words appear in your mind and before you know it, you already written a story. I wrote a novel entitled “Barefoot Daydreamer”, it is on sale at Amazon page. I did work very hard for this novel but now I realise it is still need a good tweaking. i am planning to revamp the front e-book cover and the content itself. So guys, let us be positive. i always remember the proverb, ” IF YOU SHOT THE MOON AND YOU DON’T HIT IT BUT AT LEAST YOU MAY LAND OF ONE OF THE STARS.”

  • Ashley

    Hi my name is Ashley I am very discouraged of writing a book I love too write since forever but I haven’t wrote any sort of thing over 2years I tried too write a book called love hurts in I lost all my stuff I had it on a USB port in I was upset didn’t remember nothing from it but now I want too get back too my writing in don’t know where too Start can any one give me any tips on this please…

    • Mirandameowth

      All you need to do is go with the idea you had before and then take your time to make it just the way you want it. It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember exactly what it was before. As long as you still have your original idea you are set.

  • Bill Johnson

    Hi! First I like to say I never think as my self a writer I just write. If I get an idea I just write it down. Then if I come up on it later in my note book I like it then I outline it and make out a plane to research it. But there are rules to go by. Then I just let my self go and write the story I don’t worry about spelling just let it flow, later you can edit it and check everything. I can not write any other way. some my best letter when I was a CEO of a corporation when I had my secretary take it down as i was speaking. I think that lets you just roll with it, you can then read it make changes. Main thing is to write write and just keep on writing all the time. I throw out more than I keep. a good thing to do is study other writers and see how they handle like a sentence or how they word some thing. I think main point is to always remember your reader. I hate to read a story and the writer just leaves you hanging. Or maybe like goes some place but just gets there and you don’t understand how. This is a child’s story I wrote a long time ago not to good but I still wrote it anyways. hehe!!
    My grandson loved it.

    Billy badger woke up with sound
    of birds singing the sun shinning through his window.

    I just know this is going to be a
    wonderful day he spoke out loud because it was Saturday and there was no
    school.

    His mother Rosa was in the
    kitchen cooking breakfast she smiled good morning Billy how are you this fine
    day, fine as rain mother.

    After breakfast Billy went out to
    play with his friends, Bobby Raccoon and Wilbur Skunk.

    Bobby grabbed Billy’s paw I would
    like you to meet my new friend Tommy Beaver hi Tommy nice to meet you Billy
    grabbed Tommi’s paw.

    Would you all like to come over
    to my house to play they all agreed to go to Tommi’s house.

    Tommy lived on a lake on the
    other side of the big hill.

    Billy looked but didn’t see any
    houses, where is your house Tommy? Out there by the dam we will have to swim.

    They all got into the water and
    swam out to this big hump of wood and dirt in the water.

    Tommy ware is your door, ask
    Billy you have to go under water there is a tunnel we swim up into my house
    Tommy explained.

    After they got inside they all
    said this is really cool.

    They had so much fun Swimming and
    playing with Tommy they forgot the time and Billy looked at his watch, it is
    getting late we better go home.

    They all said goodbye and started
    back home by the time they got over the big hill the sky was black with smoke
    and Wilbur said what is happening?

    Billy shouted over the loud
    noise of the popping and crackling I think the forest is on fire.

    By the time they got to Billy’s
    house it was so dark they couldn’t hardly see in front of their noses.

    Rosa pacing back and fourth where
    have you boy’s been I have been worried sick.

    We will have to leave here and
    soon your father is gone far away and I don?t know what to do.

    Every one was at Billy’s house
    all of Wilbur and Bobby’s families, Billy where will we go ask Rosa.

    Billy spoke up I know what we
    can do.

    I know where we will all be safe
    just follow me he took them over the big hill and down to the lake to Tommi’s
    house. How do we get out there? ask Rosa and Bobby said we swim.

    After the fire was out they all
    came back home.

    The park ranger Mr. Mitchell was
    there and he ask is every one was OK; your homes got burnt up.

    How did you all escape?

    If it hadn’t been for Billy we
    would have got burned up Rosa exclaimed.

    When Billy’s father got home he
    was so happy to see that they were all safe.

    I am very proud of you Billy.

    The next day they all went to the
    rangers cabin and had a big ceremony in Billy’s honor and ranger Mitchell gave
    Billy Badger the Animal of the year award.

    The end

    • Mirandameowth

      That is adorable!

  • C Is A Writer

    Hello. I would like to say that the tips you have given really helped me out. First, I would like to mention my difficulties in writing. I have this tendency to change the whole plot but I have already published my work in Wattpad. If you have heard of it, it is an app where amateur writers can publish and non-writers can read the stories of the said writers. But going back, there was once a situation where I published 2 chapters and after a few months I thought of new ideas of what could have happened in that particular chapter. Another situation was when I wrote several chapter then I later on noticed that none of them would lead me to the ending I wanted or it was hard to get to that ending without having to give up all my ideas for my other works. It is a very frustrating to write a book but it is also very satisfying in a way. I would like you to give some tips on these problems if you have time. I would be very grateful if you could find time helping out a fellow writer.
    Thank you very much.