Every New Year in the book industry has its own publishing trends. How to write a book in 2020 and become a published author is not a big deal.
Becoming a published author this year is something possible and a must for some people, depending on your goals. However, there are possibilities that you won’t get published.
Does that sound freaky? Yup, I get why.
If you want to become a published author but feel uncertain how to begin, you are not alone.
Maybe you’re scribbling new ideas and observations amidst the hustle and bustle of a married couple.
What do you picture when you imagine yourself writing? It’s likely that you see yourself alone.
The reason for that feeling is because you own the responsibility of putting your words to paper – which is where the activity comes in.
In this ultimate guide, I’m launching at helping you take a walk into the realm of becoming an author using the proven techniques I’ve learned working with some publishers around the world.
One thing about great writing is that it takes time – time for organizing the thoughts you’ve honed in your years of practice, learning from people, engaging with other authors, and of course your service to humanity.
1. Before You Publish, Start Here
Writing, and especially fiction writing, can seem like a mysterious art, even to those who practice it.
So if you’re starting from nowhere, it may take some work to convince yourself you can do it.
In all honesty, becoming a writer or published author is relatively easy. But the work is in you becoming a best-selling author.
Recently, I received several emails from people, each of whom wants to become a writer and have their writing published.
They expressed their concerns and they want their message shared for the world to enjoy.
The truth is this: there are no magic answers to these questions, only the same simple answers that have worked for most beginning writers.
You want your work to be great, I know. But if you want it to get there, that means writing a shitty first draft.
It means letting the story out into the world even if you don’t always feel it’s perfectly ready.
Don’t forget the goal is the publication, not perfection.
Go ahead and write; don’t wait for the perfect story.
Creating the Mindset of a Writer
As a product of the human brain, writing is particularly influenced by emotions, moods, and worldviews.
The term mindset refers to a set of acting assumptions and attitudes that affect behavior; more broadly, a mindset is a filter through which we view the world.
Every career has a mindset that allows you to perform in a certain dimension. As a writer, you need to wear the mindset of becoming successful in function.
Success is not about the money but the value you give that brings in the money. You have to have it at heart that you’ll be criticized.
This is common with those who write for friends and family.
Your writing talent is not to be mocked. Those who don’t know the value of your talent may never believe in you. However, it is for you to seek no approval of any kid and move on.
Culture, surroundings, and upbringing each influence our perspectives significantly. Yet we can alter or adjust our mindset, as a photographer changes the filter on a lens.
There are two mental settings that are particularly relevant for writers:
- Fixed or growth mindset
- Abundance or scarcity mindset
Mindsets are fleeting, changeable states. Neither setting is inherently right or wrong. We might approach a financial negotiation in one way and family relationships in another.
Each decision could be appropriate for the context.
How do you respond when asked to do a task that you haven’t tried before, such as creating a full-length book or a script for a video? Would you attempt it?
If the result needs major reworking, how would you feel about the effort as a whole?
Your response to challenges and setbacks depends, in part, on your sense of yourself when considering the work, and whether you inhabit a fixed or growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, describes these alternatives in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Put in basic terms, people with a fixed mindset tend to consider their talents or abilities as a set, inherent parts of their beings.
Those with a growth mindset believe that they can develop abilities through learning and work. While it sounds simple, the mindset can be subtler than it seems.
Of course, you understand that you can learn and improve.
But when faced with a challenge, you may suddenly hear the voice of the fixed mindset whispering that you are not “good at” the task and are likely to fail. Listening to this belief limits your willingness to take on challenges.
- How to Create an Internal Mindset Conducive to Writing
- The #1 Mindset Trick For Writing Longevity (And Success)
Study About What You Want to Achieve
There are a lot of books published already. Not writing a perfect story doesn’t mean your writing should suck.
If you are new to crafting compelling stories you need to learn the craft.
There is no need for trial and error anymore. Today, you can get a book virtually on everything you need.
Other authors have written books about any mistake you are making today. Or the area you need to perfect for your writing.
It is your sole responsibility to hijack the proven methods laid in the pages of these books. To make a great writer, you need to be a great reader.
Here are lists of suggested books for writers on writing to help you get started.
Don’t Compete With People You Should Consult
The world is growing digital speedily and competition is to increase.
It is an error for you to compete with folks in the marketplace whom you should consult.
In every area of life, honour is very important. There are blessings that come with honoring the right people in the right way.
You’ll be on a better stand to succeed if you learn and ask questions where the needs of how successful authors became successful.
Take the time to study the publishing trends in the industry. Embrace change and take your hunger for information serious.
If you lack the right information and direction you will be doomed to live.
Start with Short Articles or eBooks
He is a world traveler and has been featured on Richard Branson’s Virgin Blog, Forbes, Fox News, Entrepreneur, Positively Positive, Life Hack, John Chow.
He’s good at what he does and has mastered his craft over the years. The problem is everyone wants something big.
If you saw a problem and the answer could be packaged as a small eBook of what use is waiting to write and have it explained in the 500-page book?
What I’m saying, in essence, is this: you don’t have to do it big to grow big.
Start small with big dreams and goals…and, then keep growing.
Nobody goes through this writing journey without pondering the idea of where and how to start.
The sweetness of all things is found in the little steps you take to choose yourself and act.
Start a Blog, Hone Your Skills
Writing a book can be intimidating especially when you have no writing background and experience.
Don’t rush into writing a book because everyone is writing.
Get educated, be informed. To hone your skills at the beginning stage you can open a personal blog or write for some local magazines.
Take a writing course or read a book on how to kickstart your dreams.
Of every step you take, make sure you are growing. Building your writing skills won’t be easy or get perfected.
Yet, you need to start small. Begin somewhere and create a platform.
People and publishers are not in search of people with cute and beautiful faces.
Publishers are out for folks with platforms – an audience, a following or community or tribe.
Don’t wait until your book is ready for purchase. Start building your platform today.
Engage with your audience and add value to lives. When you have an engaged community selling becomes easy.
Join a Community of Writers
Communities are one of the places people get knowledge for free or at a low cost. I’ve written several books yet I don’t think I can finish the next one without my community.
Many a time their answers to the questions I ask to make me not to lack the idea of what to write next.
There are there to help you grow and even answer the questions that appear tough on you.
A community assist network gives you a sense of belonging. When you remember you have a family you want to make everyone feel proud of you and your good books.
This is not far from being in a community of writers. Because it is a family doesn’t make you not be criticized. Positive and negative criticism may appear.
Make corrections where necessary and keep moving. When you join a writers group, study the activities going on there and how people relate with one another. Keep your mind open because you can find a mentor for your writing career there.
2. Plan Your Book
Book planning cannot be replaced with something invincible. I know you are super-human who is super-productive but you need to put something down.
Seeing and touching your plans is something you need. You need to write and make your thought virtually available or in the real world, say on a paper.
Paper is the traditional process of writing with a pencil or pen. The way successful businesses have business plans, every writer that embarks on the journey of book writing should have a book writing plan.
A book well planned can make writing very easy. It will challenge you to know that a book can change everything, anything about you and your business.
If book writing is a side gig job you do, perhaps it will add an extra income stream to your freelancing business, and bring in royalties so that you’re no longer purely tied to by-the-hour work.
You want a good life, you need a good life. The book you are writing can serve as a platform to expose your expertise and business.
If your book is well planned, it can serve as an edge to impressing current clients and netting you new ones.
When people read something that changed their life or business they’d like their friends and family members to enjoy the same content too.
Hence, they recommend your book, and you know what that means? You earn more sales, more connections, and yes, more money.
Planning to write a book isn’t easy. This is one of the writing processes that may take a huge amount of time to finish.
Many a time, it takes weeks, probably months, of consistent adding and removing to suit what your audience needs.
Below is the most distant guide to planning your book.
Note: This guide focuses on non-fiction books, as the planning process is very different from fiction.
Set The Table
If you wait for the best free time to write your book to appear on the calendar it won’t. In fact, it is never going to happen.
This is one sad truth about writing a book.
The idea should be to grow your small effort into something huge. That is, you start small and keep growing. The decision of when you’re going to fix “write my book” into your calendar is up to you.
You are a business person and chances are you have a busy life. Humans can get busy with virtually everything they could lay their hands on.
I know you have a life to live and you might not have much flexible time. Perhaps you are a student (like me) and you have to find time to write while going to classes and engaging in various practice sessions and more.
Even if you have a day job or a parent raising children you don’t have an excuse to never write. Talk of excuses? You only create them, and there is none.
Organizing The Prototype
There is this first design every car is been built upon; even if the car isn’t finally launched with that design. There is this first form that new planning of a book has, or a model of it used to write before the book is published.
This first design can be known as The Book Prototype. Your books prototype is the pattern that all of your book’s content is going to fit.
This pattern decides how a book and what it looks like. Technicality can be an edge to your planning ability. Successful writers don’t start out being successful – it is a fall and stand process.
You need to begin with a process, be in the process and end with the process in mind.
Organizing your books prototype can be known as mind mapping. As you map out how your book is going to be there are things you don’t need to fail to do.
You need to show the information the book is going to pass, how the information works and various ways the readers should maximize and use the information.
At the early stage of your book if you can do this preparing your book comes easy. If you fail to plan right, you may prepare the wrong meal for your audience.
The Mind mapping Process
To create a mind map you don’t need to wait till you feel inspired. What you need first is to grab a piece of paper, a pen and start right now.
I believe before you make the decision to write a book there is this idea you want to focus on, and those you don’t need to put in writing.
Get a plan book, open up the center and write down your book’s topic in the center of the paper.
Choose a book title even if you can change it after writing before the book goes for publishing.
And, doing that will allow you to write down related ideas around the book title.
You start with a title, then the subtitle, and you move on as you can link ideas together.
Bonus point: Watch the Complete Guide to Mind Mapping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S-v-RSXN6I
Mind mapping is not a hard task to do. Watch the video above to help you in the process of mind mapping your book.
The core benefit of mind mapping your book before you begin writing is that it helps you get all the ideas out of your head and onto paper.
When you do this, it allows your creative juice to flow.
Follow the Mindmap – Use an Outline
My traditional publishing background has helped me create a method to help you plan and outline your book – even if you’re a pantser like me.
A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything or plan very little.
Some people, like me, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they’re in a little of both. In reality, most people are plantsers, but some tend to lean heavily to one side.
Now you get what I mean when I talk of plantsers? Good.
No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning your before you write has many benefits.
Using outline while planning your book can help you define your writing goals; allow you to stay focused as you write.
Having your phone on record can help in the process. There are people who can talk about the book they are planning to write better than writing it down.
So you may want to switch on your phone recorder or PC voice recognizer and talk about your book.
As soon as you are done with this process you can go on and on and organize the outline in writing.
The moment you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing.
I read in a newspaper where Suspense author J.A. Jance said in a newspaper interview ‘I don’t plan. I don’t outline. I have hated outlines since sixth-grade geography and I can’t do Roman numerals,” she says with a laugh.
In literature and life, she is her own first audience, and ‘premeditation; it kills the suspense. I just like to see where the story goes.”
Romance author Jane Graves, who identifies herself as ‘a bigtime pantser’ says ‘I’m cursed with not being able to see the good twists and turns of character and plot until I’m in the middle of writing the book.
I can have a sense where it’s going, but absolutely nothing comes alive until the words start going down on the page.
That’s when I start having revelations and seeing things I never saw at the synopsis level.
For me, it’s kind of like remembering the words to an old song. If you ask me the words, I can’t tell you. But if the song comes on the radio and I’m in the middle of listening to it, I can tell you what comes next.’
Nora Roberts says she never knows where her story is going, that she sits down at the computer to find out. Conversely, Katherine Anne Porter said;
“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last line, my last paragraph, and my last page first.”
I think that over the years, the idea has somehow developed that it’s more artistic or creative to approach the computer each day relying solely on whatever gifts from the muse that may come to you.
I also think that more writers plan out their books even if they don’t use the outline approach. I believe plotting has gotten a bad name over the years because people associate it with rigidity or even those dreaded Roman numeral outlines we were all forced to do at school.
So part of my goal in this sub-section of this book is to dispel some of those misconceptions about what it means to plot a book beforehand. I will admit that I’m a plotter.
This does not mean that I know every detail and twist and turn of a story before I sit down to write.
It does mean that I have an idea of my characters, the basic plot points, some kind of theme and the ending I’m working toward before I sit down to begin actually writing the book.
Benefits Of Using Outlines During Book Planning
I’m going to start off by telling you the advantages I’ve found by outlining, and then I’ll share some of the things the pantser authors I talked with had to say.
Then we’re going to talk about some ways you can use all this information to your benefit, regardless of your personal style.
1. Using an outline forces you to focus.
You’ve dreamed up these wonderful characters put them in an exciting setting and given them all sorts of wonderful things to do.
You’re so excited you can’t wait to get started with your story. Writing outline forces you to take a step back and narrow your vision.
Just what is this story you’re going to tell? What is the conflict between the characters? How will they resolve the conflict?
How will they grow and change along the way? Your ideas about these things may very well change in the course of writing the story, but the outline forces you to think about them early on.
2. An outline fights fear.
Writing a book is a daunting task. How will you ever produce 200, 300, 400 or more pages? Will you really ever type “the end?”
An outline serves as your roadmap, a reassurance that you do, indeed, have a goal in mind.
The outline can help keep you on track, and point you toward “the end” and your completed manuscript.
3. An outline helps you balance.
An outline, being an overview of your story, helps you determine if you have the right balance of elements in your story. Is there enough romance in your romance?
Do historical events overwhelm your hero and heroine’s relationship in your historical? Is your mystery really a mystery?
4. An outline helps you plot.
To write an outline you have to know what happens in the beginning, middle and end of your book.
The particulars of those events may change in the course of writing the book, but the outline gives you the framework of your plot.
Knowing the ending helps you ‘aim’ the story in that direction.
Writing the outline also plants that ending, your goal, if you will, in your subconscious mind, so that as you work on your story, your subconscious is always coming up with new and better ways to push your characters toward their black moment and eventual triumph.
5. An outline prevents sagging middles.
If your middle stretches like an empty road between the beginning and end of your story, the outline gives you an opportunity to brainstorm complications and events to make that middle an interesting, important part of your book.
You could do the same thing as you write, but having the outline already laid out helps keep writer’s block at bay.
6. An outline helps you write faster and be more productive.
If I have an idea that needs to happen in a chapter when I sit down to write I don’t have to waste a lot of time with false starts and stalls.
I have my goal in mind and as soon as I sit down to write, I’m on my way there.
Outlines are as varied as the authors who write them. For the most part, we are not talking Roman numerals and capital letters, the way you outlined in school.
I use my synopsis as an outline. The synopsis is a narrative overview of the story that is required by many publishers.
Other authors write a summary of each chapter or each scene ‘ they’ll list the POV character, what action takes place in that scene or chapter, even what they’re trying to accomplish in this scene or chapter.
When I’m preparing to write my outline or synopsis, I sit down with a stack of index cards. On each card, I’ll write one thing I believe will happen in the book.
It might be one sentence: Janet learns her father was involved in a scandal. It might be the description of a scene ‘ for instance, the hero and heroine meet at a train station.
I will sit there with index cards and write anything that pops into my head.
When I have the cards all written, I’ll start sorting them into the order I think these things should happen. Once I’ve done this, I’ll lay them out where I can see them and read through them.
This helps me spot any holes in the plot, time gaps, etc, that need to be filled in. I’ll see places where there isn’t enough action, or places where I need to show why something happened, or how it came about.
So I’ll write cards for them too.
When the whole thing is done, I’ll use the cards as the bones of my outline. I’ll write it all up in a narrative form, filling in any new gaps I see and make sure everything flows smoothly.
This is the synopsis I use to sell and also the roadmap that will take me through writing the book. Now mind you, some part of this synopsis, or outline, aren’t detailed at all.
I might have the phrase ‘The heroine confronts her father about his lies.’
When I’m writing the book I have to figure out where she confronted him, how she confronted him, what was said, the results of the confrontation, what triggers the confrontation, etc, etc.
Outlining gives you a framework upon which you can hang your story. You still have to write the story itself.
An outline can be as detailed or as sketchy as you want or feel you need. Some people get very detailed, going so far as to outline each and every scene.
I tend to try to hit the high points. I’ll outline all the major scenes/turning points.
If I think of them, I’ll have a paragraph or two for each subplot.
Each book is different and each outline may be different. The important thing is to do what works for you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches until you find the right one for you.
No matter how detailed the outline, though, it can’t possibly cover everything that happens in the course of a 400-page book, so even if you outline your book ahead of time, there’s lots of new stuff to cover along the way.
The outline doesn’t show all the emotion, character reactions ‘ how the scene feels ‘ that you discover in actually writing a particular scene.
An outline tends to focus on plot ‘ what happens. But how it happens, why it happens, the people it happens to, and the effect the action has on those people is just as important and in some cases MORE important, than the plot itself.
If you forget that, what you can end up with is a technically competent, well-plotted story that leaves the reader (and editors) cold.
That said, one of the disadvantages of plotting the book before you write it is that you may come to feel that you must stick to your outline, no matter what.
So it can be confining.
I think to be a successful plotter, you have to be open to new ideas and situations that may take your story in a new direction in the course of writing the book.
Even if you’ve sold a book based on an outline, never be afraid to change the story if you discover in the course of writing it that it needs changing.
I think you have to be careful when you’re first outlining the book that you don’t opt for the easy solution. Don’t always put down the first thing that comes to mind.
Really think about your plot points and situations. Use your creativity. Ask yourself if what you’re putting down is really original, or if you could do better.
Because an outline is a short summary of the book, there’s a temptation to do a ‘quick and dirty’ job of it just to get it over with.
If you’re going to outline your story beforehand, take the time to do a good job. This pre-writing phase is very important, so give it the attention it deserves.
What about the seat of the pantsers? What kind of planning if any ‘ do they do before sitting down to write?
In the most extreme cases, a ‘fly into the mist’ sort of author would know almost nothing when they sat down to write.
They would face the blank computer screen, turn on their imagination, and surprise themselves.
But in talking with a lot of different writers, one thing I’ve learned is that even avowed seat of the pants writers does some prep work before beginning their story.
Often, they’ll focus on their main character or characters.
They may do journaling or character sketches or character interviews, or they may just spend some time daydreaming about their character, getting to know this person, as it were.
When they sit down to write, then, they allow the character to lead them in the direction the story should go.
Or maybe they start with an idea ‘ a conflict, or an inciting incident ‘ the thing that triggers the action of the story. Or a theme they want to explore.
They might start with the ending and have to try to figure out how to get there.
But again, they may not have much more than these ideas or characters when they begin to write. For the true seat of the pants writers, the adventure for them is discovering their story along the way.
True seat of the pantsers feels confined by outlining. They just want to write ‘ they don’t want to do a lot of work beforehand.
This also means they’re willing to put up with more false starts. There’s a danger of writing yourself into a hole.
A couple of seat of the pants writers I spoke with admitted they often have to do a lot more re-writing.
Maybe the answer is that it takes just as much work to write a book whether you are a plotter or a seat of the pants writer.
As Jane Graves said, ‘Obviously some people who plan their stories very carefully see the new, fresh and exciting stuff up front and then just proceed to write it down.’
By now you’ve probably identified yourself as either a plotter or a pantser. Whichever approach works for you, I’m convinced you can learn from writers who take a different approach.
If you’re a plotter, try flying by the seat of your pants. Maybe not for a whole book. But every once in a while, for a chapter or maybe only a scene, toss out your outline and sit down at the computer with no expectations. Ask your characters to tell you what they’re going to do next.
I think you’ll find it a slightly frightening, and exhilarating. You may end up writing like this more often. Even as a plotter, I do this.
There are always places in the story where I’m not sure what happens next. Or maybe I’ve written the scene my way, but it doesn’t feel right.
Then I’ll write by the seat of my pants to get through that spot.
If you’re a pantser, try plotting out a chapter, then writing it. See if it helps you write more quickly or more easily. Experiment.
See if thinking about your book as a whole at the beginning of the process helps shorten the rewriting phase.
Writers, being creative individuals, develop individual styles of approaching their craft. Some people set out on the journey without a really clear course in mind, while others are stalled if they don’t have a map.
There’s no one way that’s right or wrong. The important thing is to write the book. It doesn’t really matter how you get there.
But don’t be afraid to experiment with writing methods as a way to challenge yourself and keep your creativity fresh.
Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating.
Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.
When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing.
You don’t need to spend weeks or probably months in your book outlining. You might want to allow a couple of separate sessions for brainstorming:
Sometimes, new ideas will quietly bubble away in the back of your mind when you’re not actively working, ready to pop out when you return to your mindmap a day or two later.
Once you’ve got plenty of ideas down, you can develop them into a linear outline. I do this by noting on my mindmap which ideas are key ones and which probably won’t – on reflection – fit within this book at all.
I figure out a sensible order for the key ones and this forms the start of my outline – often the chapter headings.
Good ways to order your ideas include:
- From the first step to the last step. If you’re taking readers through a process, like publishing their ebook on Amazon, it makes sense to start with what they’ll need to do first (e.g. commission a cover design).
- From easiest to hardest. Some books cover advice that’s more pick-and-mix: ways to develop your freelancing business, for instance. You might start with the easy, quick wins and move on to more complex tips.
- From A to Z. If your ebook is more like a directory of resources (e.g. reviews of 100 books on writing), and you don’t want to imply any kind of “best” to “worst” ordering, then an alphabetical list can work well.
- From earliest to latest. Perhaps you’re writing about a historical event or movement; often, it makes sense to order at least some of your chapters chronologically, starting with the earliest point in time and working forward to the latest point (which might be the present day). You might well have a broader overview at the start of the book, though, and a conclusion at the end.
- In separate parts. If your ebook covers distinct areas within a topic, it might make sense to split it into several parts (at least two, probably not more than five).
3. Prepare Your Book
There are many eBooks published daily like physical books, hardcover books. The kind of book you are writing will determine the kind of formatting process the book will undergo during preparation.
What do you want from a book? Is it going to be a free eBook you give to your email list subscribers?
Or a premium eBook you sell through a website or blog you own or another blog.
Having a physical book to sell at events or business meetings is good and depending on the topic of your writing, it brings in a little extra money.
It leaves your participants with a lasting reminder of you and what you do. While eBooks can be too cheap in cost, not value – physical books travel far than small.
I believe doing these few things can be possible for you, though:
- Writing for 10 minutes, twice a day, even while your baby is sleeping.
- Writing for 30 minutes, from Monday to Friday, during your lunch break at your day job.
- Writing for an hour every Saturday and Sunday morning or evening.
- Writing for 15 minutes in the morning, that is, seven days a week.
- Writing for an hour or two weeknights each week.
Note: For point 5, you need to decide which nights in advance.
If you follow the guide above, each of these will grant you two hours or more per week on preparing to write your physical book, eBook or audiobook.
With the simple technique above that’s enough time to write 2,000 words, which means that for 40,000-word writing, you’ll be done with your draft in 20 weeks, or about four and a half months.