My Book Blog

Tips When Writing a Book

Did you know? Most people have, at some point, considered writing a book — so having the same life goal doesn’t make you unique. If you’ve started writing your manuscript, whether it’s a novel, memoir, short story, trade work, or self-help book, you’re already ahead of the curve. If you finish your book and manage to (self-)publish it, you’re among the rare few. 

There’s no denying that writing a book is always tough, though, and that it’s doubly so if you’re a debut author. What tips should you always keep in mind as you’re writing your book, to increase your odds of making it over the finish line?

1. Get Your “Bookcave” Set Up

Every superhero needs a comfortable workshop to tinker in, and where they won’t be interrupted (too much). For many authors, that means upgrading their office space, whether that happens to be in a former guest room or at the kitchen table. You might want a comfortable chair that doesn’t cause your back to hurt, an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, a table that’s the right height for you, and better lighting, for instance. 

Since writing a book necessarily depends on doing research and keeping your ideas organized, however, your digital lair is often even more important. Software like Ulysses, Evernote, Scrivener, and Bibisco is going to make sure that you can plan your book with ease, and you’ll never lose track of a genius idea you dreamed up in the middle of the night. 

2. Commit to a Schedule

Poor time management and self-doubt might be a debut author’s biggest enemies — and make no mistake, they’re going to team up against you. To make sure you will actually finish your book, commit to a schedule. That may entail writing a set number of words each day, or spending a certain amount of time on your work. If the words simply aren’t flowing, conduct research instead, or write anyway and edit later. That book won’t write itself. 

3. Do Your Research

This always applies — yes, even if you are writing your memoirs and you are the main character in your story. Are you writing a sci-fi novel? You’ll want the world-building to be, to whatever extent possible, to be scientifically feasible. Are you penning a self-help book, and are you citing any studies or quoting anyone at all? Are you going to be interviewing people? The success of your work depends on its accuracy, so you’ll want to check and double check everything. 

Current trends in the publishing industry also need to be researched, though. If your book relies on overused tropes or the market is oversaturated for your genre, you will have a hard time getting your book published or attracting readers if you choose to self-publish. Publishing options and literary agents are two further factors to research. Writing a book, it turns out, is about far more than writing alone. 

4. Don’t Go it Alone!

You’ll have to do most of the work yourself, but don’t for a second think that you can be a one-man band. Anyone can self-publish a book without any input from anyone else these days, but you are aiming for quality. Partner with beta readers and critique partners through literary forums, and ask everyone you know to read your manuscript and offer feedback. When you’re as done as you can possibly be, strongly consider partnering with an experienced editor to take your manuscript to the next level. 

Finally, don’t give up. You’ve set yourself the goal of writing a book. Don’t give up until you are finished and proud enough of your work that you’d be happy for the whole world to read it.

Are you looking for an agent?

Once your book is (almost) finished and you are beginning exploring publishing options, you may be wondering how to go about finding a literary agent. These professionals are quite literally the gatekeepers of the publishing industry — and unless you are already a famous published author, considering self-publishing, or willing to work with an obscure indie publishing house, you are going to need a literary agent to achieve your goals. 

Your literary agent can help you fine-tune your manuscript, get a foot in the door with editors, and negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you land the best possible book deal. So how exactly do you go about finding a literary agent, especially if you are a debut author who lacks industry connections? 

The process can be nerve-wrecking and long, because you don’t simply choose your literary agent  — they have to choose you and your book, too. The internet makes finding the right literary agent significantly easier, but if you are hoping to sign with a reputable agent and get your book published, you will have to do your research. 

Before you even think about querying with literary agents, make sure that:

  • Your manuscript is, for all intents and purposes, finished. You will have worked with beta readers and critique partners, and your book should ideally have gone through the process of professional editing.
  • You familiarize yourself with the process of querying — today, you can learn what you can truly expect from many already published authors who share their successes (and their fails!) to make it easier for you. 
  • You have a strong synopsis and an excellent query letter that clearly explains what your book is about and why it deserves to be published. 
  • You understand what literary agents do in detail. 

Once you are ready you can, as an aspiring author, absolutely begin researching your top picks online. Reedsy and are both excellent places to start for new authors. Countless websites dedicated to helping authors get published have compiled their own very long lists of literary agencies and individual agents, as well.

Each literary agent has their own niche, and there is no point in approaching literary agents who do not work within your genre. You need to decide whether you would like to try to sign with a seasoned book agent with many years of experience, or would be comfortable working with a newer literary agent who may have more time to dedicate to getting your manuscript placed. Authors will also need to decide what type of agent they need, and learn about literary agent red flags. Unscrupulous agents, who may demand payment before you reach a book deal and are unlikely to get you where you want to be, are known as “schmagents”, and you want to steer well clear of them.

Once you have narrowed your potential options down, you can look at potential agents’ track record in the industry, explore reviews from other clients, and get a feel for the agent’s personality through their website and social media. Since you will be working very closely with your literary agent, it is important that you can at the very least develop a solid working relationship. Your journey toward becoming a publisher author will be much more pleasant if you also actively like your literary agent.

At this point, before you send query letters, make sure that the agents you are considering are currently accepting new clients. Read their instructions carefully, make sure to follow them, and personalize your pitch. This way, you’ll be maximizing your chances of offers and signing with the literary agent of your dreams!