How to Write a Book: 12 Steps From Jerry Jenkins - Senstone

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps From Jerry Jenkins

29 Nov, 2020

For those of you who wondered how to write a book and succeed, we have put together recommendations from one of the best-selling authors of more than 150 books Jerry Jenkins. Below you will find his tried-and-true advice for aspiring writers: twelve steps to follow to write a good book.


1. Establish your writing space.

It does not matter if you write at home, in your car, or at the office – all you need is your own space. According to Jerry Jenkins, although a writer can write anywhere, you are supposed to know what works for you and what does not. Do you need silence or are you okay with people talking in the background? If you need silence, do everything in your power to find yourself a quiet place where you can be as a productive writer as possible.

2. Assemble your writing tools.

You do not need a whole lot of tools to write: just a place to sit and whatever you use to put down the text. Make a list of what you need before you start writing so that you do not have to get up and look for anything. This can be a simple notebook, pen and paper, laptop that helps convert audio into text, or an automated speech-to-text tool. Learn how your body works, which pose is the most comfortable for your neck and spine, whether you need a cushion, et cetera.

3. Settle on your big idea.

A small idea at the core of your book is one of the main reasons why some writers cannot progress further than a few chapters. Your idea has to be big, and you have to be obsessed with it.

4. Construct your outline.

Writing a book often seems overwhelming, and so you should break the bigger picture into pieces – like a puzzle. From the whole book to its basic structure (beginning, middle, ending) to chapters to episodes. “How do you eat an elephant?” – “One bite at a time”.

An outline is there to give you direction along the way. Even if you dislike planning and intend to improvise your way through the book, you should have an idea where you are heading. The outline can be as short as a page, but it is going to be of great help, especially during the stage Jenkins calls “the Marathon of the Middle” (½ or ¾ of the manuscript), the most frustrating portion of a book to write. If it’s boring to you, your reader is asleep. Fiction or non-fiction, make sure the middle is engaging.

5. Set a firm writing schedule. (Firm deadline)

Find out how many pages per day you can write and approximate how long your book is going to be. Divide the latter by the former, and you will get the number of days you need to finish your first draft. Your deadline is sacred.

6. Do your research.

Research is very important, because readers notice slip-ups and inaccuracies. Specificity lends credibility. Get what you need to write the book, utilize the knowledge, but do not show off. Do not use more than you need.

7. Write a compelling, reader-first opener.

The success of your book hinges on the first line, the first paragraph. Always think about your reader. To help you make a first step, start the moment when you have an idea – try using your voice to capture your thoughts whenever you are.

Most first lines fall into these categories:

  1. – Surprising
  2. – Dramatic statement
  3. – Philosophical
  4. – Poetic

8. Fill your story with conflict and tension on every page.

If your characters agree with each other, it is a problem. This also applies to non-fiction, only in place of characters you have a certain problem that needs to be solved.

9. Turn off your internal editor. (While writing)

Make your perfectionism take a day off while you write, or it will make you stop in your tracks. Promise yourself you will polish the text later. Always save your editing for the next day.

10. Don’t quit during the Marathon of the Middle.

The Marathon of the Middle is always tough. Set up pay-offs from the conflict you have established in the beginning to make it shine. Don’t survive. Thrive.

11. Write a resounding ending.

Take as much time as you need to write a satisfying ending. Do not settle for anything less. Make it work whatever the cost, and when in doubt, go for the one that is the most emotional. Readers remember what moves them.

12. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Keep improving your manuscript until it sings. Your publisher is going to want all of your potential, and so you better edit – ruthlessly, to the point where you are proud to show the world the fruit of your labor.

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