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How to Write a Book

Five Methods:Sample Book ExcerptsGetting Started on Your BookWriting a NovelWriting a Non-Fiction bookKeep at it

Anybody with a story to tell can write a book. Either for their own enjoyment or to publish for all to see (and hopefully buy). If you find yourself weaving creative narratives in your head as you read your favorite novels, or when you are relaxing in the park, consider writing your stories down. Although it may seem daunting, you can do it. This article will give you some pointers on how to get started. Also, take some time, sit around, and just think about what people like to read. Ask your friends and maybe you can come up with an amazing story!

Sample Book Excerpts

Sample Fiction Book Excerpt

Sample Teen Novel Excerpt

Sample Science Fiction Excerpt

Method 1
Getting Started on Your Book

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    Buy a notebook. Or several. While you may or may not wish to type your novel directly into a computer, it's not always possible to be near one when inspiration strikes. Thus, it's best to have good old-fashioned pencil and paper no matter where you are. Moreover, many writers swear by the connection from mind to hand to pen on paper, so at least give it a go before dismissing this as an option to aid your writing experience.
    • A leather-bound or heavy card notebook is the most sturdy and can take lots of abuse in a backpack or briefcase, whereas a spiral-bound notebook, while not as robust, is easy to keep open. Better still, should you decide the page you just wrote is utter garbage—it's easy to rip out!
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    • Spiral or bound, consider using graph paper versus standard lined paper. You may end up creating drawings and sketches as you go, and it's useful for indenting paragraphs, or outlining.
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    Put your thinking cap on. Now that you have your notebook, it's time to squash the traditional bugaboo of all writers: that empty first page. Use those first pages to write out ideas for stories. Once you feel you've written down enough ideas, read over them twice. Then, take your ideas to someone else to get feedback. Decide which idea to go with and make sure it doesn't sound like anything recently published. Then, wait a few days, read over the idea again to be sure, and move onto the next step
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    Create the overview of your story; including an outline, notes about characters (possible names, descriptions, "backstories" etc.), places - all the little things that go into a larger story. There are several advantages to this overview approach, including:
    • It will give you new ideas for your story as you describe different parts of it (write those down!)
    • Nothing goes to waste. You may describe a character, for instance, who never appears in the story directly but who influences another character.
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    Set up a table or chart and write down all the characters that have a special meaning in the story. Use your notebook to write a lot about them.—Even create a backstory for a couple of them. This helps you visualize and think about them more and even learn about your own character more.
    • You always have something to refer to when you run out of immediate ideas.
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    Create your outline. An outline will help you define the arc of your narrative—the beginning, development of plot and characters, the setting up of all the events leading to the big conflict or climax, and then the resolution and ending.
    • The beginning of the story is often the hardest part depending on who you are—if you want it to be. The best thing to do is start as broadly as possible. Say, for example, you want to write a mystery novel, and you're a fan of World War II. Write that down: Mystery, WWII. The beauty of this is that both categories are very broad, but simply by putting them together, you instantly narrow the field of possibilities. You now have, at the very least, a time period, and a focus. Something mysterious happened during WWII. Try to focus it a little more.
      • Is it personal, or is it sweeping? WWII was certainly both. For the sake of example, say it's personal, one soldier's story.
      • When does it take place? WWII is obvious if it's about a WWII soldier's story—or is it? This is one of those decision points you will come to right away. Say it actually takes place now, which leads to the next question, "How now?". To move right along, lay out the beginning scenario: Your main character finds a journal—his grandfather's journal from WWII. This is a revelation, because Grandpa never made it home from the war, but nobody knows what happened. Perhaps, in this journal, your hero will uncover the answer.
      • You now have several key questions answered, right out of the gate: who: your hero; when: then and now; what: a journal, and the mystery of a missing person. You don't know "why," yet. That is one of the things you must discover. How? Again, this must be uncovered through asking yourself questions.
    • Develop your characters. Start with the obvious. In this case, you have already created two characters—a young man and his grandfather. You can determine characteristics of both simply by the setting, and expand your characters in the process. Grandfather would likely have been married, so there would be a grandmother in the picture. There's a generation between grandpa and the young man, so there would be one of his parents who is also Grandpa's son or daughter. See how easy that is?
    • Continue along in this fashion, extending from one character to all the others that they may interact with. Before long, it's possible that you'll have too many characters and interactions. This is good, especially in a mystery. You may have need of "red shirts," like the hapless, disposable ensigns from the original Star Trek!
    • In the process of developing your characters, you will likely ask yourself the same question your readers will soon be asking: what happens next? Use these questions to develop the story. You know, for your story, that the young man wants to find out what happened to Grandpa. Since all he has is the journal to go on, he reads it, and discovers Grandpa's story that lead him from his small town in Kentucky and his pregnant wife (grandma!), to the beaches of Normandy, to finding himself wounded behind enemy lines—all of which he wrote of in his journal. He never makes it home. Knowing these things, you see questions and a pattern emerge:
      • Events take place in "today's" time, and also during WWII: As the journal is read, the date is 1944. As the grandson explores, it's today.
      • To add some action to the mystery, the young man must do something. Since Grandpa isn't coming home, send the young man to Germany to find him—dead or alive.
      • Where was Grandma in all this?
    • Continue along this process of creating the arc, but at this point you could even hazard a tentative ending: the young man discovers why Grandpa never made it home, and how his journal did. Then all you need to do is write down everything in the middle!
    • "Timeline" your outline. Now that you've created the basic story (minus all the words), sketch your outline as a timeline, with each character's milestone events laid out on their own line. There will be times when two or more characters intersect, and where some disappear altogether. Just draw a line where those events happen. This too will give you something to kickstart your muse when she falters.
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    Edit mercilessly. If you find your plot goes nowhere, and nothing you can do will help it—back up to where it last made sense, and try something else. Your story is not required to do anything you tell it to do in the outline. Sometimes, the story has other ideas where it wants to go. Wherever you are in the process, the muse may beckon you elsewhere. Follow her—this is part of the joy of writing.

Method 2
Writing a Novel

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    Write out the name of each chapter for your book and decide what you're going to put into it, that way you'll always know where you're going with the story. Writing about your characters at the start, too, can be helpful down the road.
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    Know the elements of a good novel. If you want to be a successful writer, think twice about taking creative writing as a course in college (unless you've already done so); instead, take English Literature. You have to know how to read with discernment and a critical eye before you write anything. Sentence structure, character distinction, plot formation, and character personality development all fall into place if you know how to read critically before you write.
    • Setting. The setting of a book is the time, place, and circumstances in which a story takes place. You don't need state this outright, of course. Like a painter might do, you create a picture in the mind of your reader by painting around the subject.
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      • For example: Maria walked down the steep slope surrounding the castle. Before she could get very far, one of her father's maids stopped her and said, "King Ferdinand would like to see you." This suggests that Maria, possibly a young girl, lives on castle grounds. This would give the reader clues that the book might take place in medieval times. Maria is also a Latin name, which could suggest where she lives, and "King Ferdinand" is a giant clue! In fact, the wife of King Ferdinand—Isabel of Castile—approved and funded Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World in about A.D. 1492, so this story probably takes place around that time.
    • Characters. Every story has major and minor characters. It's important that you make yours interesting and introduce them properly. Introducing the setting, and maybe even the characters, is called the exposition.
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      • There are several types of characters that many books have. The protagonist is usually a main character and one that the book follows. For every protagonist, there is usually an antagonist, the character who provides the friction a story needs to proceed. The villains in books are generally antagonists, but not always.
      • Keep this in mind: very often, one man's villain is another man's hero. Regardless of the roles they play, these character types are important to make your story successful.
    • The conflict. A conflict is a large problem that a character faces, usually the reason for the story to exist in the first place.
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      • Maybe Maria, the King's daughter, has been asked to make the decision whether to let Columbus use Spanish ships and sailors for his adventures. She may continue to face this problem for most of the story.
    • The climax. The climax is the point of highest tension in the book, the point where the reader is really holding their breath.
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      • Perhaps Maria has just decided against letting Columbus use Spain's money to explore when he shows up, begging her to let him go and saying he'll do anything to have this chance. This is the point where Maria has a big choice to make, one that determines the whole outcome of the story.
    • The resolution. The climax is over, the problem has been solved, and any loose ends have been tied up. Note: if you intend to make a sequel, leave at least one or two loose ends unresolved.
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      • For the example here, Maria decides to honor Columbus's wishes, lets him go, and convinces her father to let her go with Columbus on his journey. It's often interesting for the reader if there is an ending you weren't expecting, so don't always make the ending of your book predictable.
    • Details are some of the most important things to write in a book. Instead of just saying. "The sky was blue", say what kind of shade of blue it is, such as "The sky was a light shade of indigo." It can really boost the interest level of your story. But don't go overboard. A bad example would be: "The sky was a light shade of indigo, which set off the deep burnt onyx of the sands, flecked with effervescent spittles of foam from the lime-tinged aquamarine breakers."
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      • Over-the-top embellishment can make you look like you're trying too hard (and likely you are). Be descriptive and light on your feet, and maybe add a poetic tone to your story.
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    Write out your plot. This will give you a starting point to anchor your story. Nothing fancy, just a general idea of what goes on. Halfway through the book, look over the original plot you wrote down. It'll be amazing how your perception of your book may have changed. You can change your book to match the original plot or scrap the plot and go with what you've written. You could even integrate and mix the two––whatever you want. Remember this is your book!
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    Start writing! This is the best part. If you're having trouble starting, skip to the conflict of the story, and go from there. Once you feel comfortable with your writing, you can add the setting. You'll probably change loads of things in the story, because the great thing about writing a book is you can let your imagination run wild. The only thing you have to remember is that you have to enjoy the process, or your book will probably end up in a cylindrical metal container flecked with deep brick-colored oxidation and peeling shards of turquoise latex pigment (namely, a rusty old trash bin).
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    Remember that your notebook should only be used for planning! It is best to type up your story so you can create multiple copies of it, easily remove mistakes, and pitch it to publishers.

Method 3
Writing a Non-Fiction book

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    Pick something you know, or want to know—about. Your nonfiction book could be information about a place where the reader might be vacationing, or information on a place in general. It could be about today's society, or a contemporary or historical leader or person of interest. The only caveat for true non-fiction is that it be factual.
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    Research. As much as they may know, every expert has at least one new thing to learn! You can never know too much about a subject. If you are having trouble or reach a stumbling block, try these things:
    • Go online. Sometimes it will take a bit of digging to narrow things down, but let the search engines of the world help you in your knowledge quest. Follow not just the main articles, but the referenced articles as well. Leave questions on forums and other places in case anyone can help you resolve them.
    • Read another non-fiction book about, or related to your subject. The author may see things from a different perspective, and may have some information you were not aware of, which you will duly confirm from an independent source before including it in your story, right? Right!
    • Ask an expert. There is likely an expert in the field who has made it their life's work to know everything about the topic you're writing on. Seek them out, honor their time, and ask them if there is something that might be unique and interesting about your subject.
    • Read an encyclopedia. Yes, it's a boring job, but somebody's got to do it. It might as well be you, as you gather all the information you need for your book.
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    Format your book. The books that don't get published are the ones that are poorly organized. For example, don't talk about good places to fish and good beaches in Europe in the same chapter. For more information, consult the Related wikiHows below.
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    Add copious descriptive details. No one wants to read a boring book! Good books are enriched with details and color.

Method 4
Keep at it

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    Be persistent. A cabbie was stopped by a young man in Manhattan who asked, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice," replied the cabbie. Practice makes perfect. Write constantly—whether it's your story, or just a thought or an observation. The more you do it, the better you'll get. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to read how you want it to initially––what matters most is getting it out. There will be plenty of time to review the approaches to writing taken later.
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    Keep asking questions of your motives, your story, and your characters. Everything and everyone in your novel should have a reason for being there—saying the leaves are green shows the readers it's spring or summer. Saying the character had a three-day beard shows that he's under duress of some sort (or he's a Hollywood actor). Every character has a motivation for what they do, so ask "them" as you write. "Why are you about to get on that plane and leave him alone in Morocco?"
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    Take breaks to get back some perspective. Writing improves with distance. On returning to it, you'll often see what works and doesn't work in your written piece, whereas trying to perceive this when you're stuck in the middle of it is a lot harder. Set aside a chapter for a week and come back to it later, refreshed and with new eyes.
    • If you get writer's block, stop writing for a few days or so, and listen to some calming music to clear your head.
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    Find opinions other than your own. Let other people read your book's manuscript. They can give you valuable feedback, and perhaps even help you as you continue to write.
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    Ditch what doesn't work. Unsurprisingly, there will be plenty that doesn't work. Don't be afraid to delete characters, plots and anything else from your book if it isn't working. Equally, don't be afraid to add new elements and characters that seem to bridge gaps and give sense to what you're writing. In the case of non-fiction, never be afraid to find more facts to back up your statements!
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    Remember that many authors fail at many drafts before they find an actual idea that's good enough to stick with. Take Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy. She says in her blog that it took her at least 48 tries to find an idea to stick with, and that was in college!
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    Write what you know. This old saying can either work for you or not. It's good to not need to do a whole bunch of research before writing, but a little doesn't hurt. Also, it's a good exercise: Writing new things could help unearth an idea!
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    Keep at it. Try to make your mind churn out ideas all the time, so you never have an excuse not to write. You don't need to fit EVERYTHING into your story, just enough to satisfy the reader. If you get sick of writing, and just come to a stop, take a break and re-connect with the world outside, where you get some ideas from. Or try free-form writing-just write, no edits, no erasing "because it sounds bad" just write, write and write, - even if they are scattered scenes, rhymes, or two words.


  • Remember, there are no boundaries, let your imagination stretch reality!
  • Remember "CLAPS":
    • C- Characters
    • L- Location
    • A- Action
    • P- Problem
    • S- Solution.
  • A book that people would want to read needs a very good title, a good front cover, good pictures on the cover, and of course, a very good opening paragraph.
  • Don't forget to revise! If you don't revise, then you're probably going to have a level one story. In newspapers the editors revise the story they are seeing. People like books, and they need to be "hooked" to the book.
  • Don't stress if you change your plot halfway through. The best ideas don't come when you're brainstorming, they come when you're writing. Just go with the flow of the words and the rest should happen naturally.
  • Read some of your ideas out loud occasionally, your mistakes or great ideas will stick out.
  • Get inspiration from reading other books, watching a movie, listening to music, or visiting an art gallery.
  • Use your imagination! It’s the key to a great fiction book.
  • Keep a small journal nearby. If you hear or think of a unique name, plot idea, etc., write it down! It could be the key thing that could make your book a possible bestseller!
  • Draw out your characters to get a good idea of what they look like. It doesn't have to be perfect, even a sketch will work. Then, it will be easier to write about them.
  • Don't get discouraged! If you're feeling frustrated with your current story, take a break. Work on a short story, a newspaper article, an essay, or do a little editing on wikiHow.
  • If you're out of ideas for your book, take a break, watch a movie or read a book, and see how many ideas you can pull from it you know there are many ideas like you can see a television serial and copy some of its story.
  • Use correct grammar, spelling, and dialogue. You cannot write a good novel if you lack the proper basic skills. And use your vocabulary! For example, "Her carefree days were behind her," you might say about your character. But her strict and formal father might say, "Look now the price for your insouciance, Ophelia." If the reader needs a dictionary, then they will learn something. The only caveat there is to make sure you don't use the big words inappropriately. You will not look erudite if, in your folksy story, you state that the young miss was an abecedarian instead of a grade-school teacher. And avoid talking down to the reader when you write; treat your reader as your equal.
  • Don't stress too much on the topic! It wouldn't hurt to change your idea and start a brand new story plot.
  • Write what you know, especially when you don't know how to get started. Most successful authors who have written bestsellers have based at least some of their books on something that has happened to them (or someone close to them) in real life.
  • Get better as you go. Don't expect a bestseller the first time you try to write! Build up to that bestseller, because practice makes perfect. You'll pick up on lots of things the more you write!
  • If you are writing a historic fiction try to base it on something that really happened! Even names! For an example: Shairrick, Murphy, Bristol,Bellenger, Danford, etc.. Instead of: Brown, Hine, etc.. Use older names instead of new ones!
  • Try to ask authors to help you or even your parents. They may have good ideas!
  • Aim to create memorable or great character names. Be careful with bizarre or funny ones–sometimes they might work really well but other times they might be just too silly. For example, you think there would be seven books and eight movies about a young wizard named Aloysius Lipschitz?
  • If you ever get stuck and can't think of any ideas, just start writing. If you're truly stuck, use this article's mock made-up story to get things rolling; it could be your best seller's introduction or an "idea starter".
  • Writer's block is something you won't want to get. Try to have something like little fake gems or something that can inspire you to write your book. Animals are a great source of inspiration too. If you have two different pets, mix them together and make up a name for the mix. This could possibly help if you are writing fiction. Just have something by you that can give you a little inspiration will be a big help.
  • Try write a book on an everyday thing for you and then maybe let your imagination flow on that subject.
  • The highly successful author Stephen King finds that to be successful at writing you must read at least four hours a day. Find your perfect amount of time, along with the time of day that works best for you. Authors report all sorts of different times of day working best for them, from very early morning for its peace and quiet, to mornings for the early day energy, to afternoons for their general industrious hubbub to nights for the night owls. Each to his or her own, as only you can discover.
  • Consider buying a good writing program/software for your computer or laptop. Windows has a range but Office is the most common. But Microsoft Office can become cluttered and stressful. If you dislike the user interface for it, try getting something simpler - Dark Room; Write Room and AbiWord are all good if you want a simpler design for your word processor. Also, if you want free, can be the best—it's a whole office suite for free but if you only need a word processor, AbiWord is free, versatile and nowhere near as cluttered or big (RAM wise).
  • Try reading books about writing. If you are a kid (or adult too) you could try:
    • Spilling Ink
    • The Busy Writers One Hour Plot
    • The Busy Writer's Self Editing Toolbox
    • The Busy Writer's One Hour Character
    • Rip The Page
    • The I Love To Write Book
    • The Teen's Guide To Getting Published: Publishing for Profit, Recognition, And Academic Success
  • If you're stuck on an idea, close your eyes, stay calm and let your imagination run wild!
  • Be prepared for your book to take a while to write, and do not be afraid to rewrite your book. Some famous authors have taken decades to write their books!
  • If you find that you struggle with keeping with a book, such as if you always give up on writing your books, try writing your stories from a different angle. Try figuring out the plot first, and then the characters, or try figuring out the characters first.
  • Consider writing along with a friend, have them help you write, or if they are writing a book, write your book when they are.
  • Inspiration comes from the weirdest places, and when you least expect it to. Try looking up on a place like Google Images, 'Inspirations for stories', or something concerning the topic of your book, like 'Autumn', 'Unicorns', or 'Secret Passageways'.
  • Avoid making your characters too perfect, and let them speak to you. Think about how they would react to the situation that you are in.
  • Be aware that book characters are usually the author's ideal image of their selves.
  • Try reading books about story inspiration, such as "624 things to write about", by the San Francisco writer's grotto.
  • Be unique. Don't copy another plot.
  • Don't write stuff that doesn't make sense stay on your main target and it will be less confusing but make your story exiting and mix things up once in a while.
  • Keep your notebook and pen beside your bed and keep a journal of your dreams. You never know a dream of yours could give you inspiration or a story to write about!
  • Keep a writing notebook; that way if you have ideas for a story, a phrase you want to incorporate, or a name you like than you can easily jot it down. That way, you will remember.
  • Don't be afraid to restart! The more you write, the more fun it is! Also, be descriptive! Change "She saw a cat." to "The Small girl saw the black cat lurking around her yard." Make sure you know what your book's genre will be!
  • Sometimes, you should just start writing, and eventually, a story will just start in your head.
  • If you want to add a true fact in your story, like from the news or something, don't make it up. Do some research on it first. It's okay to look up stuff for your story.
  • You should write constantly.Write even if you're bored of it:you need to finish the book.Watch a movie,read a book and feel free to put some lines you like in your book.Take the best from everything.


  • Be sure you research. Make sure the book you want to write doesn't exist already.
  • Be open to critics. That being said, don't let it get you down too much if it doesn't turn out well.
  • A person who is going to write his or her first book, should stick to it. He or she should not worry about time and money. First book launch may not be successful, but that person will learn something from his or her mistakes.
  • Avoid plagiarizing (copying another author's work). Even if you do it as artfully as possible, eventually someone will track down and piece together all the copied parts. For some people, this is a challenge they relish.
  • Make sure you LIKE what you write! From time to time, ask yourself:
    • Am I enjoying this?
    • Is this fun?
    • Do I like my main character(s)?

And, most importantly:

    • Do I want to?
      • Reason: It's not a good idea to write because someone told you too. Write because you WANT to.

Sources and Citations

  • Gravel, a WWII historical fiction by Rachel Kambury. Available on – research source

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