[Podcast] How to Start Writing a Book

1 developing the writer's mindset 2 identifying your writing purpose podcast post May 04, 2021

By Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz

What is the starting point for writing a book? Do you just sit down one day and start to write? 

That's not a bad idea. At least you create a bit of momentum.

But there are some strategic activities to help you make more progress more quickly.

Here are seven way ways to start writing a book:

1. Determine what type of book you're writing.  It's the most basic place to start. Will you be writing fiction or non-fiction? If non-fiction, will it be a business book, a memoir, a guide, a coffee table book? Will it be academic or popular? Formal or informal? How you answer this question will determine how you structure the book as well as the type of research you will do.

2. Identify your ideal reader. Once you know the type of book you'll be writing, come up with ten qualities or descriptive phrases that capture the worldview of the person you’d like to reach with your book. What does he or she believe about the world? What does she read? What does she get angry about? What motivates him?

The answers to these questions will help you develop specific ideas for supporting your thesis. And it will be the benchmark for all of your writing: "Does my reader need to hear this?"

3. Ask, "What kind of research does this book need?" You might have an idea for a book, but if you haven't done much research, it likely is not a  nuanced idea. 

Research reveals what you don't know, supports hunches, and creates data (both qualitative and quantitative) to illustrate your points in a compelling way.

Some people's books begin with a formal research project: the data creates the thesis. Others have a thesis idea, but need research to validate it. Research can take on many. forms, including interviews, reading other books on the topic, studying data on the topic, and even social media polls. You'll likely need a variety of research for your project.

4. Evaluate your personal experience. Personal experience is most often where our passion originates. That's why many books include personal stories by the author. Consider moments in your life when you said "A-ha!" Or when your brow furrowed. Tap into the details of those experiences, and identify how they inform what you want to say to the world. These personal stories are what will make your book unique. Nobody else has your experience.

5. Go back to your presentations. We've said that you can't create a book from PPT presentations. Meaning, you can't just string together a bunch of talks and hope they hang together as a book. We stand by that. But it's beneficial to return to your presentations. Something from those presentations might remind you of an idea you had forgotten, or spark some fresh thinking as you begin to shape your book idea. 

6. Start creating "car parts." A car doesn't run with just an engine. A book doesn't run with just a thesis. You need a transmission, wheels, a radiator, and more. 

One way to start writing is to start collecting car parts that will become the whole of your book. A car part is simply an element that you can use in your writing: a story from an interview; a quote from a book; an observation you made at a party; a statistic; a blog post  or column you wrote years ago; a chart you created for a presentation.

Take those pieces and begin dumping them in thematic-labeled Word docs. As you write, you'll put your car (your book) together with these parts.

7. Commit to writing regularly. Often writers can't identify what they are passionate about. But they believe they have a book in them. The best way to begin to unearth what those ideas are is to write regularly.

Come up with 30 writing prompts around your passion, and write for 15 minutes, once a day fo 30 days. A writing prompt might look like the following: “I first became passionate about this topic when…”; “My life would look different if I didn’t…”; “If my life were newspaper headlines, it would read…”; “What I never want people to know about me but need to know in order to understand my passion…”

After 30 days of writing, you'll begin to see themes that excite you, and ideas to explore more through research. There's no substitute for writing, when you want to start writing a book.




Email: [email protected]