What to Expect When Writing a Book

By: Mary Anna Rodabaugh in Book Writing and Editing
on April 26th, 2021

Before you even begin writing a book, your heart and mind are probably filled with a myriad of expectations. You may be thinking about the book writing process. You may be able to clearly picture opening your box of author copies and smelling the fresh pages you created (yes, authors do this). You may even have hopes of crafting the next bestseller. But these are all end-goal expectations. These are the things that happen after your book is written and published. What can you expect as you write your book?

Start with a Vision and Outline

When you are about to begin writing a book, it is best to start with a vision. This is a 30,000-foot view of your book’s general plot and theme, target audience, and tone. Your vision can be as detailed or as general as you like. Use it as a guiding light for the book writing process.

In your vision, create a mission statement as to why you want to write a book. Consider what you hope your audience will feel or even do after reading your book. These exploratory exercises may even help you determine your genre, which can aid in tailoring your book structure.

Then it is onto the outline. Break down your book, chapter by chapter, and summarize the meat of each chapter in an outline. Remember, outlines are fluid, and your chapters will change and evolve over time. However, an outline is a great start to keep you on track as you write your book.

“Writing a book will challenge and change you in many ways, but it is an unforgettable journey that is absolutely worth it. ”

Set Reasonable Deadline Expectations

Pick a time frame for how long you hope to write, edit, and publish your book . . . then add a few months to it. This is not to discourage you but rather help you set honest expectations for your book writing journey. The excitement that surrounds your big idea will carry you through the beginning stages of outlining and book writing, but as you hit roadblocks, as every author does, you may find your timeline gets pushed a bit further.

Want an accountability partner to keep you on track? Consider hiring a book writing coach to keep you to your word (literally and figuratively) and make sure you hit the deadlines you set.

Be Open to the Evolutionary Process

When you start writing a book, it is a tadpole happily swimming in a pond. That tadpole knows nothing but the waters surrounding it. Then one day, the tadpole grows legs. This is an unexpected development! Soon the tadpole learns it can come out of the water and hop around land. This opens up a new world to explore. No, this isn’t a biology lesson. This is exactly what writing a book is like. You start with one world and gradually as your book evolves, new worlds and characters and ideas begin to make themselves known.

The original concept will probably remain intact, but be open to all the evolutionary journeys your narrative will take as you start to “grow legs.”

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Practice Book Writing Discipline

If you’re not bound by a publisher’s strict completion deadline, there is a fair chance your deadlines are self-imposed. This means you are solely responsible for meeting your deadlines. Self-imposed deadlines are easy to break. You may be tempted to grab lunch with friends on a day you promised yourself you would spend a few hours writing your book. There is nothing wrong with a healthy writing/life balance, but you must tap into some self-discipline to get your writing done.

Set goals for word count, page count, or chapter count. Tack on some rewards for accomplishing each writing goal you have made. If the temptation to do anything but write continues to grow, jot down a few reasons why you wanted to write a book in the first place. Stick these notes in a high-visibility area like your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Little reminders as to why you got started can help you with your motivation and discipline to see your writing project to the end.

Embrace “Crappy” First Drafts

So often writers stare at the pages before them and think, Will anyone read this? Am I even a writer? Am I good enough?

The answer is yes! Writing a book is going to challenge you in many ways. Don’t let a blank page be the barrier between you and your first draft. When in doubt, write it out. Just put everything you want on the page and edit generously later. You may find the writing elements you labeled as “crap” actually fit beautifully in your draft and may stick around for a bit.

Invest in Editing and Proofreading

Once you’ve written a book you are proud of, it is time to send that beautiful work of art to be meticulously inspected. You and your book have spent quality time together. You may not be able to identify its potential flaws as well as someone with a set of fresh eyes. Consider hiring a professional book editor for a manuscript analysis.

An unbiased outside book editor will comb through your book and highlight the strengths and areas for improvement that you may not have considered. A proofreader will make sure your book is grammatically correct and sourced properly (for books with references, footnotes, or endnotes). Ultimately you want a polished work you are proud to publish.

Writing a book starts with a vision and outline, followed by reasonable goals and a sprinkle of self-discipline. Once you’ve created a version of your book you are excited about, invest in an editor and/or proofreader to make sure your work is professional and polished. Writing a book will challenge and change you in many ways, but it is an unforgettable journey that is absolutely worth it.