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How to Write A Book

novel writing process Dec 25, 2022

How do authors write their books? Is there any common approach to penning a bestseller? When it comes to writing fiction, is there a method, or a silver bullet? Is it about inspiration, genius, luck or habit, routine and discipline? 

We asked well-known published authors to tell us how they really write their books – from the nitty-gritty of their daily writing process through to what it is they love most about writing. The results may surprise you!

The Novelry’s Published Author Survey

In support of Book Aid International, we agreed to donate five books for every author’s response to our survey, and we canvassed authors whose books are published by the major publishing houses worldwide including Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and HarperCollins. While we can’t reveal their individual responses (shush!) the authors polled were the writing coach authors of The Novelry and published authors from all genres of fiction including: Katherine Arden, Jenny Colgan, Claire Douglas, Louise Doughty, Katie Fforde, Mike Gayle, Patrick Gale, Tess Gerritsen, Hannah Gold, Kate Hamer, Alix E. Harrow, Janice Hallett, Veronica Henry, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Paula Hawkins, Ruth Hogan, Erin Kelly, Clare Mackintosh, Jill Mansell, Yann Martel, Beth Morrey, Abir Mukherjee, Lauren North, Laura Purcell, Katherine Rundell, Samantha Shannon, Emma Stonex, Rosie Walsh, Catriona Ward, Rosie Walsh, Sarah Winman.

It has been wonderful to see the entire book writing community come together to support this great cause.

Read on to find out how to write a book the way published authors really write theirs, and as a bonus in our next blog post, we will be sharing successful writers’ top tips for a happy writing career.


How to write a book – the top line

Most published authors…

  1. Write before noon daily

  2. Write for less than 5 hours a day

  3. Write every weekday

  4. Write from home

  5. Write a first draft on a computer

  6. Write a brief story plan or outline before they start

  7. Don’t show their first draft to friends

  8. Write at least one novel before they get published

  9. Enjoy writing the first draft more than any other part of the process

  10. Take a creative writing course


What time of day do you write?

What time of day do you begin writing a book

The writing session is all done and dusted by noon for almost two-thirds of our writers. Less than 5% will even attempt to start writing in the evening or late at night.

So if you want to crack on with your novel, it seems it’s best to follow in the slippered footsteps of most writers and rise early for your writing sessions. Begin writing with fresh ideas top of mind and before self-doubt sets in; finish writing before lunch, leaving the afternoons free for research and the evenings for drinks with fellow writers and other literary types, of course.

How long do you write for, daily?

How long are your actual writing sessions

Forget the myth of the New York Times bestselling author slaving away in the attic from dawn to dusk writing the entire book in a matter of days. Over 90% of our writers spend less than 5 hours a day writing their books.

When it comes to the book writing process, routine of a writing schedule trumps the slog. Good writers dodge writer’s block by going regularly and quickly! Writing time is less than two hours a day for almost 40% of our successful writers.


Do you write every day?

What are your writing habits or writing routine

Writing a book is a day job, right? Yes, indeed.

Less than 5% write only at weekends. Most of our published authors observe a Monday-to-Friday writing routine. 92% have a writing space at home with just a few heading out to write in the coffee shop or a public space.

A writer’s job is a vocation and a lifestyle it seems, as just over 40% write every darn day.


How do you write the first draft of your book?

What writing tools do you use for good writing towards your daily word count goal

Well, we all know what Hemingway said about the first draft (ahem!) and our published authors are dropping their first drafts into a document on the computer with 8 out of 10 of these cats preferring to compose with the keyboard, and less than 4% attempting to pen their entire first draft.

How do you plan your book?

what is your step by step process for plotting and writing books

Shock! Horror!

Here’s a plot twist. Almost 20% of our professional writers say they don’t plan writing a book at all before the actual writing begins, with close to another 20% saying they merely produce a one-page outline.

But over 40% go to the trouble of a novel outline of a few pages or more with just over 10% of those doing a rough draft in detail.

Almost 11% use notecards or Post-It notes, and over 12% use book writing software, a novel planning app such as Scrivener or the new kid on the block, Dabble.

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How do you edit your book?

What is your editing process to go from rough draft to finish your own book
When it comes to the editing process, almost 10% of our professional writers heading towards traditional publishing will turn to book writing software again to edit, but the majority (over half) carry on at that computer to edit their entire manuscript. Just over 12% have very obliging editors or literary agents who take that first draft towards the next step in the publishing process.

Before you got published, how many books did you write?

To learn how to write a book, you will write an entire book before you finally write one that gets published
Chin up! Even experienced professional writers have abandoned manuscripts in the desk drawer.

Almost two-thirds abandoned an entire manuscript at some point. What’s more over half of our authors (57%) submitted to more than three literary agents before they bagged theirs, with over 30% submitting to more than ten and 7% submitting to more than fifty.


Who reads your book first?

When they stop writing who is the first person to read the manuscript of a professional writer
The literary agent gets first dibs on their new book for over 28% of our professional writers.

The relationship between author and agent is one of the most sacred when it comes to the future of their own book, closely followed by that with the trusty editor at the publishing house for almost a quarter of authors. But 30% will turn to a friend, a group or a writing group for first thoughts on that final draft.


Do you read reader reviews?

 Do writers lose interest in writing books if they get negative reviews

Hell no? Not so! Less than 20% say so.

Most of our professional writers are interested in what their readers think of their books, and over a quarter are so gripped they can barely tear themselves away. (So that’s what writers do with their afternoons!)

Social media?

Do good writers need to know not only how to write a book but how to market their book ideas

The death of Twitter seems much exaggerated for the serious writer as 85% have an active Twitter account to satisfy any reader’s interest, two-thirds can be found on Instagram grabbing a reader’s attention with a sassy book cover reveal, with less than 8% daring to bust a move on TikTok.

They are a fairly tech-savvy lot, and almost two-thirds have designed their own website.


Creative writing courses?

To learn how to write a book and develop good writing skills take a creative writing course
Of course! Over half of our professional writers (53.8%) took a creative writing course for writing fiction to pack some exciting writing tools, find their writing voice, and go beyond a book idea to a writing habit.

At The Novelry, we help writers begin their writing career in less than a year. Start writing your book with our courses, live writing sessions and coaching from published authors!

What is the best part of your writing life?

The writing process when the actual writing begins is the most enjoyable aspect of writing fiction for successful writers

So here it is, the cherry on the cake.

Why do they love to write fiction? What is it about writing a book that has them writing daily? For love, for fame, for glory or for hard cash?

We’ve got another twist in store for you: they do it for the love of writing a first draft.

So if that’s where you are right now, know that these are the golden times and treasure every moment; it’s all there for the taking from the first few pages.

Only 1.4% of our professional writers said they wrote for the financial rewards, and less than 1% for the fame or public standing.


Happy holidays

Learn how to write a book at The Novelry partnered with Book Aid International

As a proud partner of Book Aid International, The Novelry has made a donation of over 1000 books to the charity, gifting five books for every author who took part in our survey.

This means the charity can send more books to the communities where they’re needed most. A single book can transform dozens of lives – offering joy, inspiration and hope.

Books give people power – so we are pleased to support Book Aid International who work every day to create a world where everyone has access to books. Every book they provide is brand new and donated by publishers. It costs just £2 to send one of these books to someone who needs it. You could support Lydia whose father doesn’t want her to read. But her mum helps her sneak out – and thanks to donations from people like you, her local library is stocked with brand-new books. But she needs more.

I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading.
—Lydia, Uganda

Lydia would like to write a book one day. Donate to Book Aid International to support Lydia writing a book

If you could take a moment to make a donation to this great cause, we would be so grateful.

With thanks to all our participating authors, and wishing all writers everywhere a very merry Christmas and a happy new novel!


Writing tips

In our next blog post, we will get your novel off to a rip-roaring start with some of the top tips our kind writers shared on the book writing process.

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