How to write a book – Best tips for the writing process

Michaela von Kügelgen

On Waffle Wednesday, October 30 2019, Michaela von Kügelgen came to tell us her best tips for writing a book. Michaela is a writer and freelance journalist. Her first book Vad heter ångest på spanska? was published in 2017 and her next book, Nationen, will be published in 2020.

Many of us have a dream of writing a book, but often do not get any further than the first pages. There are always reasons for this, like life is too busy or not having time to sit down and write, at least not the whole book. There is a lot of information available for writing, and writing a book can be roughly divided into two parts: start the book and finish it. However, these two parts are the most difficult and that is why Michaela recommends dividing the parts into 10 smaller steps.

10 steps to writing a book

Step 1: Your idea

You have to have some idea. The idea can be for example a theme, style or message. You do not have to know everything perfectly or the idea does not have to be unique. However, the idea should be one that inspires you to write.

Step 2: Plan… or don’t

You can be either a “plotter” or a “pantser”. Plotter is a writer who likes to write a whole plot before starting to write a book. Pantser, on the other hand, is a writer who starts writing without any plans of plot, with no pants on and straight to a computer. No matter which style you represent, the most important thing is to get started in writing.

Step 3: Set a deadline & start writing

Without deadlines, it is hard to get started or get anything done. It is also good to tell some people that you are writing a book. These things motivate you to write.

Step 4: Finish your first draft

The next step is to complete the first draft. Many people procrastinate and may never finish their book because finalizing and finishing is really difficult. Many people feel that after this step, the book is complete and must be perfect. Of course, this is not true. We will return to the draft several times and edit it. However, it is very important to complete the first draft so that the book writing process can continue.

Step 5: Forget it & celebrate

The best thing you can do next is to completely forget the book. Put the draft aside, forget it, and do something completely different. Take enough distance to your own text. About four weeks is a good time. After the break you will be able to see what you have written with fresh eyes.

Step 6: Read what you wrote

After the break, read what you wrote in the first draft. As you read, focus on the essentials and entity, not the details or spelling.

Step 7: Revise & kill your darlings

The most important thing at this point is to make the whole thing work. Remove all text that does not make sense. Do not be afraid to delete what you have written, those parts that are really good will become part of your finished book. However, you can make a copy of the first draft and return to it if you wish.

Step 8: Let someone else read

Next, you want to know if your story works. Give your text to someone who can be honest and give reliable and useful feedback. (So do not send your text to your mom unless you just want praises!)

If you have the opportunity to send your text for other writers, take advantage of this opportunity. The writer knows better what to focus on and what to comment on. The text can also be sent to a professional editor. It costs money, but you get really useful and valuable feedback from a professional.

Step 9: Revise (again!)

It is a good idea to revise the text again after someone else has read it. It is a good idea to take a break before reading to see your text with fresh eyes. This is an important step because the purpose is to make the text better.

Step 10: Send your manuscript to a publisher

It is scary and do not give up if you get rejected. Rejections are part of the process, and if you get feedback, you should look into it. There may be a point in the feedback and you can use it when you edit your text.

Nowadays, you can often send your manuscript via email. Attach a manuscript, title of the book, your contact information, and a short cover letter to the email. The book should be finished because it is important for the publisher to see that you actually can finish the whole book. The exception is non-fiction books. Then you should not write everything down, but for example the first paragraphs and a summary or plan of what you are going to write next are often sufficient.

+ Extra step: Be insanely proud of yourself – You did it! You wrote a book!

Writing is a creative process
The creative process:
  1. This is awesome
  2. This is tricky
  3. This is shit
  4. I am shit
  5. This might be OK
  6. This is awesome

Writing a book is a really long process and it is creative in its nature. In the creative process, your feelings really vary a lot depending on the day and what you are doing. Remember that it is normal and do not give up!

Some last advice:
  • You don’t need fancy equipment (but writing programs like Scrivener & Plotter are recommended).
  • You don’t need to read books about writing books, but maybe attend a writing class/course for support.
  • Read books.
  • There is no specific word count for a novel – So don’t focus on length, focus on content.
  • Try a challenge: NaNoWriMo! – The National Novel Writing Month Challenge is held annually from November 1st to November 30th. The goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words during November.
  • When writing a book, it is important to write the text regularly and not to take too many breaks during th process.
  • Remember that books can also be written for your own enjoyment or be published just for yourself.