How to Start Writing a Book Today (in 7 Clear Steps)

P.J McNulty
August 03, 2020 | 14 mins

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Star writing your book… Simple, right?

But if you're like 99% of people out there, the hardest part of starting any huge, life-changing project is actually getting started.

And that’s especially true when it comes to writing a book, especially first-time authors who are just getting started on the journey.

If you’re ready to tackle this problem,, and start writing your book TODAY, we’re here to help!

And you don’t have to rely on our advice alone. We have some epic guidance straight from none other than the legendary Rich Dad, Poor Dad author and entrepreneur, Robert Kiyosaki.

Here’s how to start writing a book:

Why is it so hard to start writing a book?

Why exactly is it so hard to start writing a book?

There are many reasons. A large part of the difficulty getting started stems from fear. 

The fear of failure. The fear of people negatively judging our work. The fear of not being able to get it done.

Aside from fear, there are many practical reasons why getting started can be so arduous.

Maybe you haven’t figured out the optimal environment for you to write in, or your most productive time of day, or even the software you enjoy working with

No matter what reason you have for finding it hard to start your book, you need to keep two things in mind.

First, you are not alone. Even the best writers can have trouble getting started.

Second, you can solve this issue. Reframe your difficulty as a challenge to overcome, and start seeking solutions.

The 7-Step Guide On How To Start Writing A Book

1 – Find Your Deeper Motivation 

Are you familiar with Robert Kiyosaki?

Perhaps you’ve heard of his classic personal finance book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Robert Kiyosaki is one of the finest examples of how self-publishing a book can positively change lives on a deep level. Countless people have had their financial situation turned around by applying the ideas in his work.

Recently, Robert Kiyosaki hosted Chandler Bolt of Self-Publishing School to talk about the struggle of starting to write a book. 

But why should you listen to Robert?

Not everyone's aware of this, but Kiyosaki is one of the biggest self-publishing success stories out there. He went from being rejected by publishers to figuring it out for himself. 

Related: Best Business Books

He’s gone on to sell almost 50 million copies and has helped so many people regain financial control and hope.

You can check out the full interview between Robert and Chandler here, but we’d like to share with you one key takeaway from it relating to getting started.

YouTube video

No matter how much you enjoy or don't enjoy writing, you're going to find the process an immense challenge at times. It can be like drawing blood from a stone. It's no exaggeration to say it can be one of the hardest things you've ever attempted.

During the tough times, including the time where you’re getting started, you need to draw upon your deeper motivation to find the energy to proceed.

How do you start writing a book for the first time?

To start writing a book and get your first draft, it’s not enough to focus on the ‘what’. Instead, you need to focus on the ‘why’. 

That’s easier said than done!

So what are some ways you can find and use your deeper motivation for writing a book?

  • Envision the end. Often, we get weighed down by the small, day to day details of writing a book. These can soon feel tedious and mundane. At times like this, it’s important to focus on the prize, on the end goal of writing. Picture what it will feel like to be a published author. Imagine yourself holding a copy of your book. Envision your name on the book cover. Holding on to the overall goal can be a great motivation, especially during the initial push to get started writing.
  • Think about who you will serve. Sometimes, it's far easier to do things for other people than it is for ourselves. If you're struggling to start, think about who your book will help. If you're writing nonfiction, picture someone being genuinely grateful for your book and the help it contains. If you're writing fiction, imagine someone's day being made better by your entertaining book.
  • Picture the pain of failure. Negative motivation can be a powerful ally to help us get started. If you feel frustrated at now having achieved your goal of becoming an author, use that to drive you forward. Tell yourself how bad you will feel if you don’t make this happen, and how good it will feel to get it done. Use that expectation of pain and satisfaction to make not getting started more painful than making progress.
  • Make it public. It’s easy to back out of doing something if nobody else knows about it. Make your book writing goal public, even if it’s just to a trusted loved one or friend. You then can draw on the motivation of meeting their expectation and inspiring them when you’re seeking out a deeper why to help you push through procrastination and resistance. 

Robert Kiyosaki is a source of invaluable advice, both in the world of financial success and success in general.

If you’re struggling to make the leap and get started on your book, draw upon his idea of finding your deeper motivation and ‘why’. It might just be the fuel you need to propel you forward.

2 – Map Your Mind

Some aspiring authors are full of good ideas for books, or at least feel that there is plenty they would love to write about.

However, when it comes time to translate their ideas into words, nothing happens.

There are plenty of people who find it a lot easier to think about something than to express it through words. Going straight from a place of cognitive conception to one of written expression is a huge leap to make. Creating a mind map can be the ideal solution to bridge that gap.

A mind map is a freeform way of getting all your ideas down on paper and then drawing connections and links between them.

Many self-published authors like to create a mind map which in turn forms the basis of a book outline. This outline is then used to produce the first draft of their book. We'll cover this exact process in this guide.

Depending on your preference, you can either use a paper mind map or use mind mapping software. It's also of course possible to create one from the other.

Let’s consider how a mind mapping process might look.

Say you wanted to write a book on motivation. You might start by writing the word motivation in the middle of the page, and then drawing lines coming off this central word. At the end of each line, you would write an idea related to motivation, such as ‘finding motivation' or ‘sustaining motivation'. From these sub-ideas, you would then expand upon them with more detail. You might wish to draw links between the different ideas to show how they connect or relate to one another.

That’s a basic guide to how creating an initial mind map works. 

If you want to use a mind map app or tool, here are some options which have free as well as paid versions for you to check out:

  • MindMesiter. Free version but also available for $4.99 per month.
  • Ayoa. Free version and paid version for $9 per month.
  • Milanote. Free version or $9.99 per month.

No matter how you go about creating a mind map, after you’ve done it, you’ve officially started writing your book!

It’s time to keep that momentum going and move to the next stage.

3 – Enhance Your Focus

Aside from the blank page syndrome that can be overcome by creating a mind map as seen above, a lack of focus is one of the major roadblocks that authors must overcome to successfully start their book.

Struggling to focus is something everyone will experience at one time or another. 

Broadly speaking, a lack of focus can stem from internal or external reasons, or sometimes a mixture of both.

The good news is that there are plenty of practical actions we can take to improve our focus. 

If your trouble getting started is related to focus, experiment with:

  • Your writing location. Some people find they can write better in a busy environment such as a cafe, while others much prefer being alone in a quiet place. Try both to see which works best for you. Also, if you’re struggling in your usual environment, switching things up can often give you a kickstart.
  • The time of day you write. We all have different sleep cycles and feel more or less alert at different times of the day. If you’re finding it difficult to begin your book, try a new time of day to write. Track your output at different times so you have concrete data on your productivity.
  • Your food and drink. Our focus is impacted by our nutrition and fluid intake. Variables such as how hydrated you are, how much caffeine you consume, and the general diet you eat can affect how focused you feel when you write. 
  • Focus apps and tools. We live in a world of distractions, thanks to our smartphones, social networks, and notifications. Try using specialist tools such as those which block access to social networks for some time to force you to focus. You can also try specialist brain enhancement apps and meditations devices to help you boost your focus. 
  • Your mindset. Sometimes, your lack of focus comes from the mindset you have. Try and be gentle with yourself. Set yourself manageable targets, such as writing a single page in a session or simply sitting down to write without doing anything else for half an hour. Often, by adopting a positive and kind mindset, we find it easier to focus than when we put too much pressure or stress on ourselves.

Your ability to focus is a key component of not only getting started with your book but maintaining the motivation to get it finished. Find a way to boost your focus and it will pay off for your entire writing career.

4 – Produce an Outline From Your Mind Map 

Now that you have explored ways to focus on your writing, it’s time to translate the mind map you created earlier into a book outline.

Take a look at the mind map and try and group it into major sections or themes.

For example, you might notice that several of your ideas are a good fit for each other, and further be able to identify other logical groupings.

Many authors find it works well to aim for three to five broad themes or sections.

Let’s consider this with an example.

Remember during our mind map exercise we used the example of a book with the broad theme of motivation?

You might decide to create three large groups based on your mind map brainstorm:

  1. Finding motivation
  2. Sustaining motivation
  3. Recovering lost motivation

Once you have these broad groupings, try and break the ideas within them down into potential chapters. You don’t have to think of the exact title of the chapters at this stage. It’s more to focus on their central purpose or the key idea they will be centered on. 

After you have several chapters for each section, you can then repeat the exercise. You can mind map each chapter, and then break that mind map down into the sections each chapter will contain. 

This is just one way you can outline your book. No matter which outlining method you end up going for, by producing an outline, you can then break your book project down into quantified writing goals, a process we’ll now explore further. 

5 – Set Your Writing Schedule

Now that you have an outline of your book project, you can work backward. You know what the final goal is, allowing you to small chunk all the steps needed to get there.

Just as an example, let’s say you determine your nonfiction book will be 50,000 words long, and consist of 10 chapters.

You know each chapter will be roughly equal length, so you know you need to write 5,000 words per chapter. Each chapter has five sections, so you’re looking at around 1,000 words per section.

Every writer has a different level of output, and that's OK. It's not about comparing yourself to anyone else. Instead, it's about knowing how much time it takes you on average to produce a certain number of words you consider worthy of being your first draft.

You might determine that you can write around 1,000 words in a session, however long that session might be for you. Once you know this, you can then look at your schedule and allocate time for 50 writing sessions to get you to your first draft.

It’s important to actually schedule in these writing sessions and stick to them as closely as possible.

We’re always going to find time to sleep, eat, and do the work that pays the bills. Writing is something that often feels less essential so we don’t guard our time for it as closely as we should.

Don't make this mistake! Schedule in your writing time and protect it fiercely. If something urgent comes up, be sure to reschedule that writing session right away.

6 – Find Your Ideal Tools

It's by no means essential to use a specialist writing app or software to start writing your book.

However, taking the time to find a set of tools you're comfortable with at the start is a smart move. Once you're in the creative flow of writing your book, you won't want to snap out of it to compare word processors!

There are a lot of great book writing tools out there. 

Some categories you might wish to think about using include:

  • Writing software. Don’t feel limited to whichever word processor you’re in the habit of using. If you decide that Word or Google Docs is the best place for you to write, that’s fine, but it’s worth looking at what else is out there. You might prefer a minimalist writing tool to enhance your focus and help you get started. Or you might prefer a more fully-featured solution that will help with planning your book and tracking your progress. 
  • Self-editing tools. There’s no substitute for a skilled and experienced human editor. However, you can make much better use of their services if you use a tool such as Grammarly to initially self-edit your work before sending it to your editor.
  • Book formatting tools. Book formatting is one of the last stages of the self-publishing process, but it has an impact on getting started. How? By knowing your entire book publishing plan is in place before you even start, you free up your mental energy to focus on the book itself. Choosing your book formatting solution ahead of time might remove a worry that creeps into your mind when you’re trying to start writing your book.

Once you’ve found a set of tools you enjoy using and are a good fit for your needs and budget, stick with them! 

While it’s worth exploring your options and not blindly going with your default apps, this should never be at the expense of starting the process of writing your book. 

YouTube video

7 – Rapidly Write or Speak Your First Draft

At this point in the process, you having everything you need to make rapid progress on your first draft.

Your first draft is a significant milestone and a huge motivator when you're trying to get started. After you have your first draft, your book suddenly seems like an achievable goal. Before that point, it can feel a little abstract.

The key to producing your first draft as rapidly as possible is to write as quickly as you can while still maintaining the quality you need. 

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t need to be your best writing. It’s simply a starting point to work with and refine. 

Try and avoid judging your writing as you go. The time for editing and refinement will come later. This phase is simply a way of producing the raw material you need to craft a finished book from.

An alternative to writing your first draft is to dictate it. You might find it easier to express your thoughts at the first draft stage by speaking them out loud, and later refining these ideas during the editing process.

Dictation software has come a long way. There are now plenty of apps that are capable of transcribing very accurately, even if you happen to have an accent. 

Regardless of if you decide to write or speak your first draft, set the earliest deadline you can realistically get it done by, and stick to it with everything you have.

If you let your first draft drag out too long, you end up losing momentum and enthusiasm. The freshness of your ideas may fade and your enthusiasm can wane.

And above all, don’t lose sight of your deepest ‘why’, just like Robert Kiyosaki emphasizes.

Can you write a book with no experience?

Everyone has the experience needed to write a book. All that's required is your unique story and the will to tell it.

If you’ve made it this far in our guide to starting your book, it’s time to take action!

Don’t just close this article and read something else. Take the first step right now. 

Think about the central theme of your book. Who will you serve by writing it? Will it help solve a problem or provide entertainment?

Think about your deepest ‘why'. What do you want to get out of beginning the writing process? How will it feel if you succeed or fail?

You now have everything you need to succeed in starting your book. We urge you to stay focused and make your dream a reality. It’s in your power to get it done. 

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