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.

Tips for Writing a Book

Photo credit: Boris Licina (Creative Commons)

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.

I’ve also included a free training video with some of my best advice on how to implement these tips and form a daily writing habit. Watch that video in the free bonus section of this post (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.

Don’t believe me? Click here for a bonus training video on how to stick with it.

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.

Learn How I Earned 100,000 Fans

Sign up for the free newsletter and get a three-part series on exactly what I did to grow my blog from zero to 100,000 readers in less than two years. Enter your email below to get started.

  • 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!
      >:(

    • 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?

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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! ;)