If you’re wondering how to write a book as a beginning author – not just some book, but an awesome book – you’ve come to the right place.
Hi, I’m Diana, and this is Story Artist.
In this post, I will show you 8 simple steps from beginning to the end in order to finish your book.
And I want to start with a quote from Ellis Monroe. She said: “A story is not like a road to follow, but it’s like a house.” So in order to finish your book, your novel, you don’t need a roadmap. You need a construction manual. And I will give you this construction manual today.
Be careful not to label every writing problem with writer’s block. Because how come builders don’t have building block or chefs don’t have a cooking block? It’s because they have a system. Because they have steps they follow in order to finish their work.
So you don’t have to have writer’s block. I will give you these eight steps that will take you from beginning to the end.
And by the way, step number eight is probably the hardest one.
So are you ready? Let’s get started.
1. The foundation
The first thing you need is a foundation.
When you’re building a house, a solid foundation will get you everywhere, and this is what you also need when you’re writing a book.
But what is this foundation? This foundation is a very, very firm decision.
You need a decision. Just take a piece of paper or write it somewhere where you can see it, write it on the wall if you want: I will finish this book. And your foundation, your firm and the unmovable foundation has to be your decision.
Writing a book is a very laborious, long, difficult process, especially if it’s the first time you’re writing a book. You get better by your second and third. But the first book is quite difficult. So in order to finish it, you really need this decision. No matter what comes, no matter what happens – I will finish this damn book.
Make this decision right now because if you don’t make it right now, you won’t finish building your house. When the first storm comes, it will blow your house away. It will blow your story away because it has no foundation.
The first thing you need is a firm foundation and that is your decision. Make a contract with yourself that you will finish this book.
But how to actually stick to this contract? This is where step number two comes in.
2. Build the house brick by brick.
Okay, let’s bust this myth once and for all. You won’t finish this book in one glorious night when the muse comes down and kisses you. This won’t happen.
I’m so sorry if you had this illusion. Let’s break it straight away because when you start writing, it will be the more painful to break it.
What you have to do instead is building brick by brick. A house not built in one glorious night, right? It’s built brick by brick. Day by day.
A story is written word by word, day by day. What you need to do is show up every single day.
I’m not kidding you. Every single day.
You cannot show up once a week. Why? Because if you have a construction side and you leave it just like that for weeks and months on end, what will happen? Your construction side will start to corrode.
This is the key to success in finishing your book: showing up every day.
Even if it’s just 15 minutes. Even if it’s just 200 words. Even if it’s just one page. You have to show up. Every single day.
But what do you do if you show up every single day but this blank page paralyzes you and you can’t get stuff done? There’s one fatal mistake many writers make and I will share it with you in step number three.
3. The blueprint
The worst mistake you can make right now is starting to write chapter number one.
Stop right now.
This is the most fatal mistake you can make. Why? It’s as if you started pulling up walls without a blueprint or a floor plan. It’s just madness, isn’t it?
But this is what we do as authors. We just sit down and start writing without a blueprint.
What’s the blueprint? It’s a rough sketch of everything you know so far about your story. Even if you consider yourself a discovery writer, and we’ll talk about it in the later step, this step is really essential. Just sit down and write down everything you know about your story so far. Write down characters, write down, scenes, dialogues, whatever it is.
Just do a brain dump on the page.
Sketch out different characters. Sketch out different scenes. Sketch out the beginning and the end and figure out how to get from A to B. Do a rough sketch, a rough blueprint of everything you know about the story so far.
Once you’ve done it, you can start writing chapter number one, right? Nope. Wrong again.
4. Building materials
I cannot build from thin air. It would be crazy, right?
But we as authors, again, tried to just write from thin air. What you need right now are some building materials, which for the writing part is: research.
This is an essential step. Many authors skip it, but it’s so important because you cannot build from thin air, right? So why do we writers expect that our ideas and solutions for story problems will just fall from the sky?
There’s no such thing as a kiss of a muse if you don’t invest in some building materials, which is research. Research everything that you need to know about your story. If it’s science-fiction, research future technology, research some of the themes that are present in your story. Research the sights, the places, the locations.
Do some research on a character who has a particular profession, do research on the medical profession, do research on historical events – everything that’s in your story, you have to research it first. If you want to have an amazing plot and if you want to escape this fatal mistake of having a superficial plot and being stuck at some point, you need to do your research.
And the next step, you can skip it, but if you’re wired like me, it would be a fatal mistake.
5. Pull up the walls
Writing an outline is like pulling up the walls.
James Patterson actually says that 90% of writers need an outline. Can you believe it? And I think James Patterson knows a thing or two about writing.
If you think you’re a discovery writer, think again, especially if you’re a beginner. Try an outline. For me, it was essential. I listened to James Patterson’s masterclass where he said: everything needs to be in the outline because if you read the outline, you have to see your book.
And this is what I finally did after fighting it for years. I wrote down a detailed outline of every scene. But you know what’s the great thing about it? If you sit down to write, you don’t have to face the blank page. Why? Because there’s already something there. You have a short summary of your scene already that you’ve written and this is something you can pull from.
The blank page loses its power.
And now in step number six, I’ll tell you how the heck to make it through the first draft.
6. The roof
The roof is the first draft of your manuscript.
And I’ll be honest with you, the first draft is my kryptonite, so I know every trick out there to get it through the first draft.
The most important principle for that is just: freight train through it. Just write it down. Just get it down. No matter how bad you feel about your writing, no matter how many doubts you have, how your inner voice is whispering that you’re a bad writer.
No matter how much resistance tries to grip you, you have to pull through. And this is the most important advice I can give you for the first draft. Resist the temptation to let your inner critic speak to you. Resist the temptation to go back and edit. Do nothing else but writing until you write THE END.
This is such an important step to get your first manuscript done. This is the only possibility. Show up every day and write down a very, very bad script. Give yourself permission to write this bad script.
And how to fix this script I will tell you in the next step.
7. Interior Design
Now you’ve built a house, but it still looks ugly because it’s very rough.
You need to do interior design right now. And interior design is editing
It is the intricate work of language, style, overall story, of course, and also grammar. All these small details need to be just right. Because the writing is actually made in the editing process, you have to learn to love this process.
You have to learn to approach it strategically. Know that you need five, six or seven drafts until you can say: okay, I’m done.
Try to involve other people. Try to work with a professional editor, beta readers, genre fans you can trust. You have to be able to trust their opinions. Don’t give it to your spouse or your best friend unless they’re genre fans, of course.
You have to be very intentional about your editing because like with interior design if you go ahead and just throw together everything, designs, colors, styles, it will look like a chaotic mess.
I think this is why so many books look like that. Because the writer was not intentional about his or her editing process.
Be very intentional. Ask yourself: Do I really need this character? Do I really need the scene? What is the scene accomplishing and can I change it so that it can be stronger in accomplishing this task?
Ask yourself if you can merge characters if you need those characters, if you need this dialogue, how you can make it better. Why do you have it in the story, and how can it be even stronger in the whole storytelling context?
Number eight is the hardest step.
8. Sell the house
Yes, you have to sell the house.
You have to give your book away because you didn’t build this house for yourself. As well as you didn’t write this book for yourself. You wrote it for the readers and only with the readers, it can come alive. If you allow them to live inside the walls of your story to populate it with life, only then will it actually come alive.
But do you know what the good thing is when you sell your house? You get to keep the commission.
And don’t forget, it all comes down to practice, practice, practice. You have to get your hands into the mud and you have to write because to become a good writer and to finish this book, you have to do the work.
Like the builder goes out and built his house, you have to build an amazing story by practicing.