How to Start Writing a Book: Step-by-Step Guide for Aspiring Authors

How to Start Writing a Book: Step-by-Step Guide for Aspiring Authors


If you're an aspiring Fantasy author, and you've attempted to write a novel, you might have struggled with knowing where to begin. You might have realized you don't know how to write a story. And, like me, you might have felt unqualified and lacking the skills and knowledge required.

In this article, we'll look at the psychology behind why the idea of starting a novel is daunting, and why it stops so many aspiring writers in their tracks. Alongside my more expansive guide on writing your book, this article will equip you with the tools on how to start a book.

How to Start Writing a Book: Writing Is for Everyone

First, let's clear up a misconception.

The only thing you need to write a novel is the desire to write it.

  1. You don't need to have completed a creative writing course.
  2. You don't need to have written a bunch of failed first drafts.
  3. You don't need to have read dozens of books.
  4. You don't need to have your work professionally edited straight away.

And the list goes on.

The items above may help you in your writing journey and arguably push the quality of your work to the next level. Still, the main obstacle that aspiring writers face is beginning to write!

If you want to write a book and have the grit to consistently put pen to paper, then it's within your power to write it. 

You Don’t Need a Fully Fleshed-Out World

Worldbuilding is a beautifully creative art that is worth pursuing on its own. It's also a required activity, to some extent, if you're writing Fantasy.

When I began my first novel, I committed a common pitfall: I developed worldbuilding syndrome. I felt like I couldn't begin writing until I had fleshed out every detail of my world. Only then I could write a consistent story.

When you're starting your novel, it's useful to have some idea of what your world looks like. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who inhabits it?
  • Is there magic?
  • Are there mythical creatures?

A rough idea is usually enough. You can always flesh out your world when you reach a point in your story that requires more depth!

Fantasy World with Maple Trees

The Iceberg Method is a technique you may use to further reduce the amount of worldbuilding you need to do without compromising the perceived depth of your world.

Develop Your Idea

Although spontaneous writing (aka Pantsing) is a valid writing technique, I recommend beginners start with an idea. When writing is completely new, there are already many things you have to juggle in your head. You don't want to be creating a consistent world while you learn punctuation and sentence structure!

How much of your idea do you need to flesh out before you start writing? A useful (and completely arbitrary) metric to go by is 5%.

Imagine a completed outline of your story is sitting on your desk in front of your eyes. There are pages of details about the events of your story, your characters, and your world. You grab 95% of that and throw it out of the window. The 5% that is left is all you need to get started.

Write a few character profiles, imagine a few locations, and create an initial conflict, perhaps an inciting incident, that propels the story. Done? You're ready to start writing!

Prefer Longer Sessions Over Shorter Ones

Let's start with the truth: to write a novel, you must dedicate significant amounts of time to it. Every time you put pen to paper, you're not only writing your novel, you're also improving and refining your skills, and that requires time.

However, you may feel like you lack the time to commit to your writing, (for instance if, like me, you have a very demanding job, or you have a family to look after).

A popular solution to this problem is to fit the writing where you can. A spare ten minutes here, five there. In short, you're fitting writing wherever there are gaps within your day. By all means, if this works for you, keep doing it!

However, dedicating longer sessions to writing is an alternative approach. I prefer this way of writing and use myself for two main reasons:

  1. A little bit of time is needed at the start of each writing session to remind yourself where you left off. In other words, you need to "warm up". A useful exercise to help you warm up is to end your writing sessions when you are in the middle of a sentence, so when you pick up next, you won't start with writing a new sentence, which is generally harder. Writing in longer sessions means you can get away with fewer writing sessions per week, which saves you time overall.
  2. Writing for longer periods helps you enter and stay in a flow state, which can result in a higher word count but also in improving and learning faster.

This is somewhat intuitive: what's more productive, twelve 5-minute writing sessions or one hyper-focused 1-hour session?

Beginner writers may find it especially useful to establish a writing routine of 60 or 90-minute uninterrupted sessions in your week. Twice a week is a good number to start with.

Sit Down and Write

Switch the phone off and put all distractions away. Open the minimal outline you prepared. Sit down and open up a blank document. Optionally, play the soundtrack from The Lord of The Rings (or any other favorite work of fiction).

Most importantly, promise yourself you won't get up from the chair for 60 (or 90) minutes. It doesn't matter if you write nothing at all. It doesn't matter if you write 100 words in 59 minutes, and delete them all at the end. Your task is to stay sat on your chair.

A chapter is nothing more than a bunch of descriptions of events and locations (beware of purple prose), and dialog. Think about the story you want to tell. Does it begin with a dialog? Does it begin with an event or a description of the scenery?

If you struggle with finding the perfect balance between dialog and descriptions, you may benefit from learning about showing and telling and what it means when it comes to dialog.

Wrap Up the Chapter: It Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect

The final step in this guide is to finish your first chapter and seal it away. Write a summary if you need to remind yourself what happened, but don't re-read. Move on to chapter two, then three, and so on. Fixating on a perfect first chapter is the last (but not least) of the obstacles faced by aspiring Fantasy authors.


In this article, we learned how to start writing your novel, addressed some common misconceptions, and learned about the obstacles that stop many aspiring writers from trying.

For more excellent suggestions on how to start writing a book, check out Brandon Sanderson's advice for new writers!

if you've attempted to write a novel multiple times, it's useful to slow down and reflect on what went wrong. Have you fallen into any of the pitfalls covered in this article? What strategies can you implement from what you've learned today to help overcome them?

Andrea Cerasoni in Rome, Italy
Andrea Cerasoni

I'm Andrea, a Software Engineer, Technical Editor, and aspiring Fantasy Author. I'm originally from Rome, Italy, but am currently based in Glasgow, United Kingdom. I read and write classic Fantasy: the sword-and-shield, dragons, and wizards kind. In my articles, I talk about writing fantasy fiction, productivity, coding, building a website or platform, establishing a personal brand, and more!

Want to share feedback on my articles? Contact me!