How To Write A Book

Great book ideas can come and go, but sometimes one sticks that makes us really want to pursue being the one to write it. There’s a lot to consider before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) though. Beyond the great idea, what does the book look like? is it fiction, nonfiction, a memoir, a how-to book, or a children’s book? How does it stand out from other books like it on the market? Do you want to self-publish or pitch to a publisher? Do you need an agent? Are your writing chops up for the challenge of writing a whole manuscript?

When I co-wrote my first book, we had already secured a deal with a publisher before writing anything and the idea changed from the original pitch.

I had originally pitched the idea of ​​sewing projects for your first apartment. In my pitch, I showed that the idea didn’t exist in the market, shared some data about the growing number of young people interested in sewing, and provided samples of my published work as an editor of a sewing magazine. It was enough to pique their interest, but I learned that so much has to do with what the editor and sales team think will sell. We eventually came up with the idea of Bedroom Decor.

Years later, I was able to publish another book on sewing with the same publisher. I loved these modern Japanese sewing books I would get from bookstores in San Francisco’s Japantown, but I couldn’t actually make the projects because the instructions were in Japanese. My photographer friend Nicole and I were on a shoot lamenting this issue and we decided to work together on a book that had a similar aesthetic for an English-speaking audience. I designed and sewed five projects and she shot them on a model for a mini lookbook that we could pitch to publishers. There was a lot of interest, but one publisher was already doing something similar. We ended up going with minimal projects you can make in a weekend, without the Japanese influence. The name sunday sewsthough, stuck from pitch to publication.

Be Open To Your Idea Changing

how to write a book

That brings me to my first tip: If you want to write a book, it’s important to be open to your idea evolving as more people become invested in it. Take baby steps toward developing and fleshing out the idea. You don’t have to write a whole manuscript right out of the gate. Follow these tips and you could save a ton of time finessing your idea without burning out on it before you submit to a publisher (if you decide to go the traditional publishing route). Imagine laboring over writing thousands of words only to find out that the publisher actually thinks a book about Italy will sell better as a photography book than a historical one!

Do Your Research

researching a book

Start becoming an expert on the topic of your book idea, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or even a memoir. Hit the library and research other books on the topic for inspiration and think about how yours would be different/better. You may also want to start a blog, a social media account, or publish an article on the topic to show publishers your expertise, writing style, and potentially an audience for the topic.

Create A Creative Nook

office space

Find a spot in your home that you want to dedicate to writing – a quiet, well-lit space where you can focus, be productive, and feel inspired. Fill it with all the tools you need: a computer, pens, notepads and cards, books on writing. Two of my favorite books on writing include Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Admittedly, I was n’t really a King fan until I read this book, not having read any of his fiction by him. But this book was mind-blowing, and gives such great advice from a very prolific writer. Another really insightful book was Anne Lamott’s bird-by-bird.

Write A Table Of Contents

on writing

Before attempting to write a first chapter, create an outline in the form of how you see the whole book divided into sections. A list of potential chapters is also something you can include in your pitch to help publishers see your vision.

Practice Writing

writing practice

You don’t necessarily have to start writing from page one. Choose a chapter that most interests you and start from there. Writing is a bit like making pancakes: the first attempt is never the best, so get the initial bad writing out of the way until you find a gem that inspires you to take it from there. This is also to say, don’t get discouraged when your writing doesn’t feel that original or motivating — as you practice you’ll find more gems along the way.

Also, keep a notebook on hand because you never know when a creative spark will hit — and keep it by your bedside. I try to think about my idea before opening my eyes in the morning because that’s when my brain is freshest.

Take A Writing Class Or Join A Group

writing group

Having a group of writers to bounce ideas off between, as well as an instructor who can motivate you to keep going and think outside the box, is invaluable. Sure, you can brainstorm with a partner or friends, but having impartial feedback from strangers can open your eyes to better directions to take your idea. Of course, take the feedback that resonates most… this is your book, so you want to be inspired by the feedback, not discouraged.

Join Feedback

King talks about his draft process in On Writing, and I always turn back to it when thinking about writing a book. He takes about three months to write a first draft (ofc, a new writer might take longer), and then puts the manuscript away for a couple of months. He then revisits it with fresh eyes before sharing it with a few key people he trusts for feedback, including his wife. I love this idea. This gives you time to really think about the premise and get perspective without the pressure of writing. So much of good writing is thinking about the idea and how it will unfold before you sit down and actually write.

Think About Your Pitch

As I mentioned, you don’t have to write a whole book in order to pitch to a publisher. Have a couple of chapters on hand (or if you have some examples of your published writing on the topic, that can suffice). I also didn’t need an agent for the kind of book I was pitching.

It’s a good idea to look at the publishers who are publishing books like yours and find out what their submission guidelines are. Some publishers require that you go through an agent, while others don’t. Line up a few publishers you’d like to submit to and start thinking about how you’ll put together your pitch, once you feel good about the direction of your book.

Don’t Give Up

When I pitched a third book with an interiors photographer, I heard from one editor who loved the look and feel but was told the sales team couldn’t sell it. I was thankful for the feedback and understood it just wasn’t the right time.

Once you get into the process of ideating and writing, it can open up a flood of ideas. Just because one idea may not get off the ground doesn’t mean it won’t lead to other more timely ideas. The more you practice the process — and most importantly, *enjoy* the process — the more your goal of writing a book will be within reach. And ofc, going the traditional route with a publisher is just one option. Self-publishing something you believe in requires more marketing and selling on your end, but it could be even that much more rewarding when you do find your audience. Good luck and happy writing!

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