How to Write a Book: A List for the Lazy

Life & Career

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I will get started with a head-on confession: I am no expert on How to Write a Book. On the contrary, I am a person who enjoys reading and researching; an ordinary person who managed to write books and to get them published.

For this reason, I will tell you how a person who gets up and goes to work every day – and who has a desire to write a book – actually writes a book.

This is the best statement I have heard about writing a book:

“Everyone wants to have written a book, but no one wants to be writing a book.”

Writing a book equals blood, sweat, tears and a big reward that comes at the very end. One example from Alain de Botton before moving onto the question of How to Write a Book: He says “Writing a book is like telling a joke and having to wait 2 years to know whether or not it was funny”…

How to Write a Book?

My personal list consisting of 18 golden rules, by someone who has recently finished writing his 3rd book, for people who wonder how to write a book and who say “I want to write a book!” yet never get in the action. This list contains all that I have learned researching, advices I like and my gains from my experiences.

And here you go…

  1. Choose a topic that is so important to you that it wakes you up in the middle of the night, you talk about it with your friends, believe in it wholeheartedly and care about it just as much.
  2. 70% of your decision when you are deciding the topic for your first book should be what you want to write about. The remaining 30% is what people want to read about. The first book is a personal matter, rather than commercial. You will become a writer in the eyes of the people around you. People will be looking at your internal world when they read your book. It is due to this personal nature of the deal that I talk of 70-30% instead of 50-50%.
  3. Brainstorm on all your answers to the question “What do I know well or care about?” into a circle. On the other side do the same for the question “What does one want to read?” The aim here is to find the intersecting points of these two sets. That is to say, you need to find an area in which you are full and that people want to read about.
  4. Decide on your genre. Poetry, novel, prose? The quickest answer to this is in what you enjoy reading or watch (documentaries, drama, science-fiction etc.). For instance I am less enthusiastic about reading novels than prose. Similarly I prefer watching a documentary to a story of love and deception. What I write is parallel to my interests in this area. Even if I will write a novel at some point, this hasn’t been my first choice. All of my first three books are prose (in other words, non-fiction).
  5. Obtain and read the books of the most influential writers in the genre and the language you are going to write in. Firstly focus on what you feel as a reader. You can make your readers feel in a similar way if you write a good book. Focus on this when writing. Secondly focus on the format and the form. This includes sentence structure; how many words there are in a sentence; ways of using inverted sentences, adjectives and nouns; how logical arguments are arranged and how descriptions are made. Take these as examples.
  6. All best things start with Ancient Greek Philosophy. If you are writing prose, learn what “rhetoric” is from Plato – especially Socrates – and study it. If you are going to write a novel, work on “the dramatic structure”. Aristotle is particularly valuable in this matter.
  7. After this point, you need to start writing to make progress. Set a daily word limit for yourself to set up discipline for writing. For example, aim at writing 500 words a day no matter how difficult it is or how poor your production is.
  8. It is difficult to write big compositions, start with small ones. Focus on a particular subject at first, like “Artificial Intelligence’s Way of Changing Our Lives” and exhaust every resource you can find on this topic. Then write 1500 word compositions that focus on a topic and has an introduction, a development and a conclusion within itself. If you want to go with novels, write short stories.
  9. One third of the process of writing a book is writing that book and the remaining two thirds are editing the book; reading it over and over again, adding and deleting. So read what you write, make it better by making additions and deletions. Do not publish these short writings without editing them at least twice.
  10. Get feedback. What you write is valuable only when read. So, get support from people around you first. Get both acquaintances and strangers to read your writing. Don’t get upset at the face of feedback no matter how negative or harsh they be. In fact, avoid people who just say “Oh, it is really good,” who don’t give constructive feedback. Evaluate every feedback, but don’t accept all! Everyone has their own ideas and one person might love your writing when another hates it.
  11. Find a way to get people you don’t know to read your writings. The best way to do it today is to create a blog. However, you can use alternatives such as Medium.com or Linkedin.com as well. Or, many blogs seek content producers, and you can work via creating content for these blogs for free. This would give you the discipline of producing texts within a certain schedule.
  12. Don’t forget that you are addressing another person in your writings. Imagine you are before someone and write as if you are talking to your ideal target audience.
  13. A text that fully complies with punctuation rules and is free of mistakes is an indicator of quality. Do not compromise these principles. Aim in all your production to write foolproof compositions. (13b. Although you think the composition is free of errors when writing, you will find new mistakes in every reading. So read again and again. For instance, I read this piece of writing 3 times, yet I am sure you can find some mistakes still.)
  14. Writing is a matter of energy; yet this is different than physical energy. For example I realized my writing quality drops when I start writing more than 2000 words a day. So I don’t exceed that limit. Also the morning hours of the day right after waking up are times when I can focus my thoughts most clearly. You should also discover for yourself the time periods that you can concentrate the most and use your productive energy in the best way and make your plans accordingly.
  15. In summary, the only way to learn how to write is to write.
  16. The only way to create a habit of discipline is to promise yourself that you will not give up on the goals you set for yourself. Set a goal for yourself. Make that goal a realistic and a very humble one.
  17. First swallow this bite, then take a bigger one. If you start off with humble goals, your confidence in your self-discipline and work ethnic will also increase.

There is a lot more to say, yet I suppose this much is amply enough to get started. One last addition; and this is 18! I think it is better not to share that you are writing your first book with anyone until it is complete. Let your work speak for itself. Direct the motivation of sharing what you write with the world onto finishing your book.

Most importantly; remember, everyone wants to have written a book, but no one wants to be writing a book. Be honest to yourself regarding which group you want to be in. If you want to write a book, write a book!

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