Book a chat

How to Write a Book

starting to write Dec 25, 2022


How do authors come up with the ideas for their books? What does it take to pen a bestseller? Is it about inspiration, genius, writing style, luck or routine and discipline? When it comes to writing a book, is there a silver bullet?

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!

How to write a book – our 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 find out how to get started writing yourself!


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 writing a book, it seems it’s best to follow in the 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 a book.

When it comes to the book writing process, the 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. All that's needed is a quiet writing space and a daily writing schedule it seems. Less than 5% write only at weekends. Most of our published authors observe a Monday-to-Friday book 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% give writer's block the swerve and get on with the job to 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 Microsoft Word document on the computer with 8 out of 10 of these cats preferring to write a book 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.


how to write a book


How do you edit your book?

What is your editing process to go from rough draft to finish your own book
Writing a book to publishing standard is all about the edit. 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 writer's block day daily, turning a book idea into 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?

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 days

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.

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



How to write a book? Our top tips.

We take beginners and experienced authors all the way from an inkling of an idea to a book in a year and on towards self publishing or traditional publishing with literary agency representation.


1. Why you should write a book.

How to write a book if self publishing or getting published

Storytelling is as close as we get to creating magic. A book connects one stranger to another in an intimate relationship in which we walk in other shoes, travel places we have never been and experience a full range of emotions as we turn the pages to find out what happens next.

Writing a book is easier than you think. If you love reading, you can learn to write a book. We know this to be true because at The Novelry, we are all published authors who have done it.

Writing a book brings magic to your life daily. Think of your writing time as an everyday vacation. In less than an hour a day, you will be spending precious time with yourself, writing what you need, and leaving something behind you for posterity too. Start writing today! Little by little, youll get there. You dont need a dedicated writing space. When it comes to writing a book, just need to set aside some writing time daily. Try a daily word count goal but dont fret how many words that is, just show up! 


2. How do you begin writing a book?

How to write a book for self publishing

Ever wondered how authors come up with a book idea? Here’s a quick tip for how to come up with yours. Take five books you love (or movies) and write down the back-of-jacket copy or the movie story descriptions. What do they have in common? Is it a type of story? A kind of main character? The events? The place?

Authors take something familiar and beloved and give it their own unique twist.

Now mix and match your favorites to find a combined storyline. Then, add a main character who is based on someone you know whom you admire or respect. Maybe a grandparent. Locate the story in a place you’d like to go. You might create a new location or world entirely. It’s your book. Write what you need.


3. What makes a story interesting? Things change.

How to write a book


A story is all about change. No change, no story. Stories begin with a person or a character with a problem about to go through momentous change.

So, once you have your main character, your story begins when their everyday life takes a new turn. Maybe they leave town, or someone new comes to town. Something changes, and it sets in motion more change. It’s change that brings a book idea to life for the writer and the reader, and by ensuring things change every time you sit down to write, you'll power through writer's block. When it comes to writing prompts to guide you, just think about what would make your main character's life harder!

At the end of the story your main character will be different. That’s called a character arc. But you know how people are! They won’t change unless they have to. So your plot is all the terrible – and good – things that need to happen to push them to change. You won’t give them what they want; you’ll give them what they need.


4. Becoming a writer

How to write a book

To write a book, whether you want to be a self published author or a traditionally published writer, you’re going to need to do two things: first, to read books and second, show up to write. Flex those writing muscles, daily, just for an hour. No more, no less.

Writing a book does not require education or privilege. It’s not about the words. Nobody ever stayed glued to a book for the complexity of its vocabulary. The story doesn’t happen to you; you happen to the story. You don’t need to be wise or have all the answers. Stories are about questions. One question after another. What happens next? Why did she do that? What will he do to escape? You won’t see all the way to The End today, but tomorrow you’ll see what happens next. When you write, you write to tell yourself the story. Writing is about storytelling, and readers and publishers want stories. And here’s a secret – storytelling can be learned. Hey, guess what? You might just be very good at it. Why not find out?


5. Living the life

How to write a book

Writing is not a god-given gift or innate talent. It’s not something you are born with or can or can’t do. It’s something you practice, just like anything. Writers learn how to write a book from other writers. Just like with any craft or trade, they most always take apprenticeships or courses and work with published writers.

At The Novelry, well show you how to write a book with confidence. You’ll get expert lessons from an award-winning Booker-listed author to build your confidence and all the ingredients you need to cook up your own story with personal coaching from bestselling authors to stay on track every step of the way. You’ll enjoy live writing classes and make new friends with the lively worldwide community of writers that will enable you to finish writing your book among friends.

To write a book, you need to put story first. At The Novelry, your storyline will be signed off by your writing coach before you start writing meaning you can write with confidence.

Then, simply dip into the online lessons to guide you step-by-step to help you come up with your big idea, build and plan your story, and write it in small manageable chunks in each hour-long writing session. (We do the heavy lifting so that you can experience pain-free plotting.)

Lean on the one-to-one coaching sessions for advice specific to you and your story. The group classes and workshops are great fun where you will find you can be yourself, only more so. You’ll get a very warm welcome.

So, if youd really like to write a book, sign up and start writing fiction with the worlds favourite writing school. Make today the day you start a new chapter of your life. Happy writing.

Find your course

We take beginners and experienced authors all the way from an inkling of an idea to a book in a year and on towards literary agency representation with our online creative writing courses.

Start today!

Subscribe to the blog

Sign up to get the Sunday paper for writers to your inbox.


Recent blogs

The Blair Partnership: Agents’ Submission Wishlist

May 21, 2023

A. A. Dhand on Writing a Page-Turner

May 07, 2023