Anyone can write a book. It just takes a little practice and the tricks authors develop to make their writing fast and efficient.
You don’t have to be Stephen King or James Patterson to write a book! In fact, if you can write a sentence then you’ve got what it takes to be a successful writer.
What you might need are the tools to help you write faster and better.
I’ve self-published ten books around investing and blogging. In under three years, I’ve sold almost 14,000 copies and collected over $37,000 in royalties.
Believe me, I’m no whiz kid or natural-born writer. I studied finance in college and worked as an equity analyst so writing has been a very small part of my professional career until I became a blogger.
If I can do it then truly, anyone can write a book and self-publish. It’s so easy and the most passive source of income I’ve seen. I spend about $200 a month marketing my books and make ten-times that in sales.
You’re already a writer, even if you haven’t published a book. Anyone that has scribbled a note or made a list of things to buy is a writer, you just need to organize an idea and learn how to put it together.
You need the tools and the tricks that writers use to help them write effectively.
9 Tips and Tricks for Self-Publishing a Book
A lot of being a successful writer is knowing how to write quickly and how to organize your ideas. Even the best writers didn’t start out that way. Most of them struggled for years before they picked up on the nine points below.
1) Getting ready to write means having the right equipment and a place where you won’t be bothered with distractions.
You could still use an old typewriter, and some old school writers still do, but a word processing program like Microsoft Word will make it easier by correcting your mistakes and grammar errors. If you don’t know how to use Word, most Workforce Development Centers offer free introductory courses.
It might also be worth it to take an inexpensive typing course at your local community college. Even a small book of 35,000 words can take forever if you’re only able to type 20 words a minute. In just a few weeks, you can be typing a hundred words a minute with a little practice.
You absolutely have to be able to write without distractions. This can be tough at home with kids, food and the TV calling your name. Try doing your writing late at night or go to the local library for a couple of hours.
Most of all, commit to writing for a set number of hours each week. Writing a book is a job just like any other. You have to set a schedule or you’ll procrastinate and it will never get done.
2) Understand your reader. This means getting into the mind of the typical person that is going to buy your book. Understanding their goals, challenges, fears and needs will help you relate to them and better serve them in your writing.
We’ll come back to this in one of the writing exercises in the next section. It helps to write out something like a biography of your target reader. Many people will buy your book, but you’ll be focusing on one or two specific personalities.
3) Grammar and spelling are important but there are easy ways to fix even the worst mistakes. I have friends that tell me they could never write a book because they have poor grammar or make lots of spelling mistakes.
If Mark Twain ever taught us anything, it’s that even bad grammar cannot ruin a great book. If you’re writing a fictional story, your characters will come to life through their grammar. Even in non-fiction, you don’t have to write perfectly to successfully reach your readers.
4) Understand that being a professional writer is work. Stephen King sets a goal of writing ten pages a day and doesn’t stop until he has achieved it.
Set a schedule for writing at least three days a week for a couple of hours each day. Weekly goals are ok but it’s too easy to procrastinate and then have to do everything on the last day.
Break your writing project into sections and set deadlines for each. That means setting deadlines for writing each chapter, editing, formatting, cover design and marketing. Treat it as if someone is waiting for you to finish each section before they can start their work.
5) Outline as much as you can before you start writing. Having a detailed outline makes it so much easier to write because you know what you want to cover. Each point in your outline becomes a few paragraphs and then you can move on to the next point. No more writers’ block!
- Start with outlining an introduction and each chapter.
- Within each of these, outline the main points you want to cover.
- Add any questions you think your readers will have in each chapter.
Ask two people to review your outline, one person that knows the subject and another that does not. This will help fill out your outline with more points you need to cover and will answer all your readers’ questions.
6) Just write! When it’s time to sit down and start writing, don’t let anything stop you. Don’t stop writing to fix spelling or grammar mistakes. Don’t stop to think about adding something to your outline or to research a fact.
Just keep your fingers going for an hour or two without stopping.
Stopping for every thought or to fix every little mistake will double the time it takes to write your book. The average book goes through three to five edits before it’s published so there will be plenty of opportunities to go back and clean it up. Writing non-stop during your first draft will help you finish in the least amount of time possible.
Writing without stopping also helps to avoid writers’ block. You’ll keep your train of thought and won’t be stopped up by trying to remember what you wanted to say. If you want to add something later, highlight the sentence in yellow so you can come back to it.
7) Research is critical for fiction and non-fiction writers.
Fiction writers need to research the life of their characters, from the cities in which they live to the jobs they do every day. There’s a reason real-world detectives consult with crime story writers, because the writers have researched forensic science and crime so much that they are practically detectives themselves.
- Interview people in your characters’ occupations
- Take a course or read curriculum books on the occupations
- Live in the area for a couple of weeks to put yourself in the shoes of your characters
Non-fiction writers do just as much research, maybe more. You don’t have to be the world’s top expert in a subject but you need to know more about it than your readers.
This means taking courses in the subject and getting some professional experience if you haven’t already. Reading a few books about the subject will not only help improve your knowledge but will also help see how other authors organize their books.
- What points or topics are other authors covering?
- What points or topics are missing from other books?
- Do other books neglect a certain type of reader, maybe the beginner or someone with experience in the subject?
8) Write from personal experience and include personal stories. Including these personal stories will resonate with your readers, keeping them turning the pages. Nobody finishes textbooks because they aren’t written for the reader, textbooks don’t hold the reader’s attention with a story.
Each chapter or important section should have a relatable story from your personal experience. Readers love to hear about how the topics work out in the real world.
9) Use images, graphs and worksheets wherever possible. Nobody wants to read 160 pages of text-only writing. My eyes are aching just thinking about it!
That doesn’t mean throwing in irrelevant stock photos just to break up the text. It also doesn’t mean you have to substitute graphics for text. Keep the text but use images, graphs and worksheets to supplement it.
- Is there a process you can show with a flow chart?
- Use charts to show examples and how information has developed over time.
- Use worksheets and exercises to guide your reader through difficult steps.
Writing Exercises to Develop Your Skills
Those nine writing tips will help you be a more effective writer but a lot of successful writing is about practice and knowing what to practice. I’ve edited and republished old blog posts and old books several times because I’ve never stopped practicing to become a better writer.
Not only will the writing exercises here help you develop your skills but they will also help organize and plan your book. Each of these exercises should be at least a page or two so try writing out as much detail as possible.
1) The why of your book. Write out a plan for your book, why do you want to write it and the goals you want to help readers achieve.
- Will your book help readers do something or accomplish something?
- What do readers need to be successful in the subject?
- What do you want to share with your readers, emotionally or analytically?
- Is your book meant to get someone started or to help advanced readers in the subject?
This writing exercise will help you with organization and writing out a process. By the time you’re done, you should have a good idea of outline and your book’s value to readers.
2) Write out two avatars for your target readers. This means writing out a biography of two types of readers that are most likely to buy your book.
- Where are they at in their lives? Are they young adults looking for direction? Are they older readers looking for something new? Do they just want to escape into another reality for a few hours?
- What demographics define your reader? (location, age, gender, income, educational level, religion, ethnicity, marital status)
- What is your reader thinking? Why do they want to learn about the subject? What are the questions they have about it? How important is it to them, as a hobby or as a job?
There are a few ways to research some of these points.
- Search Reddit within categories around your topic. Reddit is an answer and conversation platform categorized around subjects. It’s a great resource for finding the most common questions people have and perspectives in a topic.
- Search for internet forums on the topic. This will also show you common questions and discussion points.
- Do a Google search for questions and keywords around your topic. Besides just reading articles in the results, Google might also display other questions to consider in the “People also ask,” section.
- If you have a blog or know someone with a blog in the topic, you can look at Google Analytics to see demographic data around visitors.
You don’t necessarily need data to support all of this. Part of the exercise is thinking creatively to build a reader persona. Write out something like a two-page biography of their life with everything that led them to your book.
This exercise develops empathy for your reader, putting yourself in their shoes and understanding what they need from your book.
3) Devil’s advocate. Non-fiction writers need to be able to give their readers every perspective and a fair assessment of the subject. This means being able to think objectively about the topic rather than only relying on your own opinions and perception.
Pick two topics about which you feel strongly, maybe about a political ideology or a social cause. Write out two pages arguing for the other perspective, the side of the argument you wouldn’t normally support.
This is probably going to take some research. You could write out your own viewpoint easily but may not know as much about the other side’s argument. Don’t assume you know the other side, do a Google search and read through a few articles.
Don’t just go through the motions on this one. Really try to convince someone in your writing to take the other side of the topic.
You’ll want to use this level of objective writing into your book research as well. This exercise will help develop that mentality to give your readers both sides and every perspective on the subject.
4) Learning to teach. Non-fiction writers need to be able to teach, from the simplest of tasks to detailing long and complicated processes.
Pick two tasks, one that is simple and another that would be complicated for most people. Create a step-by-step process for each task, detailing everything a reader new to the subject would need.
If you can, find someone with no knowledge of the tasks to read through your guide. If they can perform the tasks then you did a good job of teaching. Ask them questions about the tasks to make sure they understand completely.
This exercise helps to develop your process writing and teaching skills.
5) Telling the story. Even non-fiction writers need to tell stories. A personal story around the topic will help your readers relate to the material and see how it unfolds in real life.
First, tell your own story. Pick a day or an event in your life and write out your auto-biography.
- How did you feel and how did the day change your life?
- Be dramatic in your story. Describe your emotions and those of the people around you. Use descriptive adjectives to bring the story to life.
- Touch on as many emotions as possible including humor, fear and surprise.
Next, go somewhere public and pick out someone you don’t know. Jot down a few things you notice about them; what they’re wearing, their way of walking and carrying themselves. Write out a story about them and their day. Remember, you don’t really know this person so be creative and just make up a story.
Not only will this exercise help to develop your creativity but it will also help practice making your book relatable through personal stories.
My Easy Strategy for Writing a Book
One of the biggest challenges for writers is that they sit down to write out an entire book. It takes months and at some point, they give up.
I’ve developed an easy strategy for writing a book that not only breaks up the work but creates a marketing channel for sales after the book is published. It involves creating a blog around the book idea or writing a book that relates to your existing blog.
- Brainstorm your book idea and research chapters you want to include.
- Outline each chapter including points you want to cover and common questions readers have about the topic.
- Write out each chapter as a blog post. Each week, write out a chapter and publish it to your blog including images.
- After all the chapters are written, copy them all to a single Word document. Reformat for a single voice and change any references of articles or blog posts.
- Add some content to each chapter and make sure the book flows well from start to finish.
It’s an easy way to not get overwhelmed writing your book. You take the writing in chunks and having the chapters done and published will help drive you to completing the rest. When the book is published, you can go back through each blog post to update with a callout and link to your book’s sales page. It turns each chapter into a teaser you can use as marketing.
It doesn’t take a special give to write a book, just a plan and a little practice. You may never be as successful as J.K. Rowling or as well-known as Shakespeare but you can easily make a lot of money self-publishing. Use these writing tips, stick with it and success will come.