How to Write a Book in 34 Easy Steps

I wrote a book and it’s coming out soon. Within weeks, I will have in my hands 256 pages of my own ideas put into words printed on paper that people will hopefully find insightful and helpful enough to pay money for.

In honor of this impending event, I thought I would share what it’s really like writing a book. Because let’s be honest, when people ask what you’ve been up to and you say, “Writing a book,” it doesn’t really matter if it’s a good book or a shitty book, most people act as if you’ve delivered a breech baby elephant blindfolded when really you’ve just been sitting at a computer for well over a year overthinking everything.

If you are considering writing a book about elephant midwifery or any other experience, I thought you might want to know what you’re getting yourself into.

1. Have an idea.

2. Convince yourself that it is a good idea and that you have something to share/say in a unique way that people will be interested in.

3. Walk around doubting this idea for four to six months.

4. Do some market research. Ask yourself, “Are there no books like this because it’s the crummiest idea of all time? Or are there no books like this because it’s the best idea of all time?”

5. Decide to go for it.

6. Force yourself to sit down every day for at least 30 minutes and write.

7. Decide that there is too much risk and the book will be a failing, horrible, disaster.

8. Determine that there is very little risk because so few people will ever actually read it.

9. Keep writing until you finish a first draft which feels like a breeze because you’ve written everything that comes easily skipping over the hard parts.

10. Start your second draft realizing that you now have to write all the hard parts that you skipped over the first time.

11. Convince yourself the book is useless and that no one will read it and you’ve just wasted a year of your life.

12. Give the book to an editor.

13. Hate every change that the editor makes but accept them anyway.

14. Read it and think, I hate this. It’s the worst book I’ve ever read.

15. Read it again and think, I like this. It’s going to be huge.

16. Start planning your outfit for the Today Show.

17. Get acquainted with resistance. It wants you to procrastinate all book related tasks.

18. Suddenly chores you’ve never felt to be important are paramount: Fold laundry before you work on your book. Clean out the fridge before you work on your book.

19. Suddenly grooming you never get to is paramount: Examine split ends vowing to eliminate every last one before you work on your book. Attack brows with gusto before you work on your book.

20. Spend 72 hours repeating, “I’ve got this!” trying to develop new neural pathways.

21. Become so completely and utterly sick of every last detail of your book.

22. Temporarily feel better when you tell someone you wrote a book, and their eyes widen in awe.

23. After this feeling fades (in about 41 seconds), revisit why you wrote the book in the first place.

24. Have a temporary spurt of passion for your project.

25. Read 453 web sites about book promotion.

26. Try to reconcile your disdain for self-promotion with the looming reality of self-promotion.

27. Re-read your book for the 87th time finding more typos. Are they breeding?

28. Contemplate canceling publication.

29. Weigh how embarrassing quitting vs. flopping would be.

30. Print out the lyrics to Firework and put them next to your computer. Use them as a napkin to wipe up the coffee you spill sitting at your desk not working on your book.

31. Print out the lyrics to Roar. Shred them because what the hell does Katy Perry know about writing a book anyway?

32. Proof your book one last time. Say prayers, blessings, and incantations over the final files.

33. Know that even if it’s total crap you’ll probably want to do it again, because you created something that wasn’t in the world before.

34. Because holy shit–you just wrote a book.


When Kaly Sullivan doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and blogs about her often humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She’s the co-founder of Harlow Park Media and is the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation. Her writing has been featured on Mamalode, In The Powder Room, and Scary Mommy. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.