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What Do You Need To Start Writing A Book?

If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably thinking about writing a book, but you’re wondering what you need to get started. Do you need special skills, resources, money, connections, expensive software or what?

What do you need to start writing a book?

All you need to start writing a book is a book idea and a way to record your words. For nonfiction, you need a topic. For fiction, you need a character with a problem. You can record your words with paper, an audio recorder or any device with memory (like a computer, tablet or smartphone).

You don’t need any special skills besides the ability to write. You can literally write a book on a piece of paper. All you need is that book idea and a way to record your story.

However, if you want to start writing a book that you and others will like, you not only need an idea, you need a good idea.

Keep reading because, in this post, I’m going to break down exactly what you need to find the best idea for your nonfiction or fiction book so that you save time and money.

What do you need to start writing a book? Image for subheaded
What do you need to start writing a book?

Do You Need Resources or Money to Start Writing a Book?

Let me be perfectly clear: You don’t even need ANY money at all. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

You can start writing a book at no cost. In fact, if you’ve read other posts on my blog or watched my videos on YouTube, you’ll see that you can write, format, publish and even sell a book completely 100% free.

Suggested Read: Can You Publish a Book for free?

Now of course, there are writing software and writing courses you could take to level up your writing, but those are unnecessary – especially at first. Most best-selling novelists and writers have never used special programs or courses. Many of them didn’t even have any formal training in writing or book publishing.

That’s good news! If they can do it, so can you.

What Tools Do I Need To Start Writing As a Complete Beginner?

What do you need to start writing a book? You don’t need any special tools to start writing a book.

That’s not to say that taking courses and purchasing software isn’t helpful. All I’m saying is that you don’t absolutely need them to get started.

In fact, there’s probably some benefit from starting without them so that you flex your writing muscles without all the techniques and technology complicating your focus.

Better to keep things simple at first. As you get a little writing experience under your belt, then you can slowly introduce more structure and techniques. After all, we don’t expect kids to paint like Picasso right out of the gate. We first teach them to draw simple flowers and bunnies.

Let’s stick to the model where we figure out the shape of stories and books before drilling into the  details. You can always pick up a course or some software a few weeks or months down the road.

What Do You Need To Start Writing a Book? (Nonfiction)

You need a topic – your book idea – to start writing a nonfiction book. Your topic is what the book is about. The subject matter of the book.

For clarity, here’s a table of bestselling books and their topics.

Bestseller Book TitleTopic
How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleInfluence
10% Happier Revised Edition: How I
Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced
Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found
Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story
Thinking, Fast and SlowPersonal
Query Letter Swipe File: Exact
Words, Phrases and Templates to
Write Query Letters, Get Literary Agents
and Publish Books
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to
Writing Nonfiction
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that
What do you need to start writing a book? A topic!

How Do you Pick a Good Non-Fiction Book Topic?

  • Your profession
  • Your travels
  • A unique experience you’ve had
  • A special skill
  • A tutorial on how to do something
  • Templates and scripts other people can use to accomplish a task or goal (like email boiler plates, sample contracts, etc)
  • A subject you’re fascinated with (football, fishing, fedoras)
  • A topic around which you could create several non-fiction books

There are a few proven ways to find a topic for your non-fiction book. So if you’re stuck on what to write about, experiment with these ideas to come up with a winning topic:

Examples of Choosing a Topic to Start Writing a Book

At this point, it might be useful to list a few example professions and how someone in that profession could choose a nonfiction book topic. Just know that the list below is merely a sample list to set you on the right track.

There is no right or wrong topic for your first book.

There is, however, a topic that might come easier to you so that you can start writing faster.

  • If you are a janitor, you can write a book on cleaning secrets
  • If you’re in (or have been in) the military, you can write a book about some of your tours or workout routines
  • If you are an IT specialist, you can write a book on how to hack the algorithm for Tinder and online dating

That’s all you need to get started. Once you have your topic, you can spend each chapter of the book talking about a different part of your topic. If your book is about coffee, then you can spend one chapter talking about the process of harvesting coffee beans from exotic places around the world. You can write another chapter on the transportation of coffee beans.

But what if the topic you choose is so huge there is a lot of competition?

That’s when you start with a niche topic.

Do You Need a Niche Topic to Start Writing a Book?

A niche topic is a smaller version of a big topic. For example, health and fitness is a huge topic with lots of competition. Even if you write a book about fitness and health, you might have a hard time selling it because the competition is so heavy.

That’s where finding a niche topic comes into play. When you niche down a topic, you focus your topic on one smaller subsection of the larger topic. Let’s look at an example. If the big topic is health and fitness, a niche topic would be 30-minute fitness regimens for new mothers.

This video shows you how to search for niche nonfiction book ideas using Amazon itself.

What do you need to start writing a book? A profitable topic.

You’re still talking about health and fitness, but now you’re targeting a very specific group: new mothers who are busy and want to stay in shape. You don’t need a niche topic, but you’ll have a better chance marketing and selling your book if you do.

You can even double or triple niche to get even more specific. But be careful, it is possible to niche down so far that you no longer have a big enough audience. It might not make financial sense for you to spend weeks or months writing a book that only 20 or 30 people would buy.

Do You Need an Outline to Start Writing a Book?

You don’t absolutely need an outline to start writing a book but I highly recommend one.

First, it will help organize your thoughts about your topic. Second, it will likely be a major time saver in how fast it takes you to start writing, keep writing, and finish your book.

If you were going to write that book about hacking the Tinder algorithm, for example, you could use the following outline as a sample template for your table of contents:

Ch 1 – Why Tinder Doesn’t Work
Ch 2 – The Tinder Algorithm
Ch 3 – Case Studies: Beta Testing Beta Males
Ch 4 – Triple Your Matches with This One Easy Profile Fix
Ch 5 – Hacking Your Photos – Hidden Cache of the Most Beautiful Matches
Ch 6 – Hacking Your Profile Description – The Two Phrases Tinder AI Searches For In The Most Boosted Profiles
Ch 7 – Hacking Your Swipes – When, How and Why to Swipe (Data-Proven Path to Higher Tinder Ranking in 24 hours)
Ch 8 – Putting It All Together: Your Ultimate Tinder Hacking Blueprint

See how that works?

You take the big topic of your book and split it up into lots of smaller subtopics. Those smaller topics become your chapters. Then you structure the chapters so that they make sense for somebody reading your book for the first time, just as I did in the completely made-up example above about Tinder (Sorry to disappoint :).

What do You Need to Start Writing Your Book: Your First Chapter

In most successful non-fiction books, the first chapter is an introductory chapter. In the introductory chapter, you provide a big picture preview of the entire book.

It’s also common for authors to describe their own personal experience with the topic in this introductory chapter.

For example, if you’re writing that book about 30 minutes workouts for new moms, you could tell your story about how you discovered these workouts as a new mom. Or perhaps as a personal trainer who works specifically with new moms.

This introductory chapter is a great place to create an emotional connection with your readers so that the rest of the book is personalized. This might have the added benefit of also boosting future sales of future products and other books.

What Do You Need to Start Writing a Book: Your First Sentence

What do you need to start writing a book? A compelling first sentence.

When you go to write the first sentence of your book, you’ll want to accomplish a few things right away:

  • Get attention
  • Relate to your readers

Don’t stress out too much about writing your first sentence as the good thing about writing a book is that you can always go back and change it 20 or 30 times if you want to.

When I write books or novels, I often end up going back and changing the beginning after I finish the whole book. Until I finish the book, I don’t even really have a full grasp on how to best begin.

For inspiration, here is how a few current bestselling Nonfiction books start:

  • “In September 1923, a diminutive twenty five-year-old Eskimo woman named Ada Blackjack emerged as the heroic survivor of an ambitious polar expedition.” From Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven
  • “According to Neilsen Rating Data, 5.019 million people saw me lose my mind.” From 10% Happier by Dan Harris

What Do You Need to Start Writing a Fiction Book or Novel?

What do you need to start writing a book if you are writing fiction?

Fiction is entirely different. When you start writing a novel, you need a story, not a topic. A story is a person with a problem.

Character + Problem = Story

Once you have your character and their problem, you can start writing your novel immediately.

Do You Need An Outline to Start Writing a Novel?

When some people ask, “What do you need to start writing a book?”, they are thinking about outlines.

While not every author uses an outline, they can prove just as helpful for fiction as they are for nonfiction. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In the beginning, your character encounters the problem. In the middle, your character tries to resolve the problem but it gets worse and worse. In the end, your character resolves the problem.

One of my favorite writing quotes says the same thing, more colorfully (parenthesis mine)

Act I: Get your character up a tree (beginning – problem)
Act II: Throw rocks at the character (middle – problem gets worse)
Act III: Get your character out of the tree (end – resolve the problem)

What Do You Need to Start Writing A Book: First Chapter

What do you need to start writing a book if you are working on the first chapter of your novel?

Start by dropping your character in the middle of a problem. Get your character up that tree. Then make that problem worse.

The following are examples based on the type of novel you are writing:

  • In a romance, one love interest runs into the other
  • In a mystery, the detective finds a body
  • In a fantasy, the character is called to go on a quest
  • In a thriller, someone runs from a masked killer
  • In a horror, a monster lurks in the streets

Notice how a “problem” is defined differently in different types of novels. A “problem” can be active or passive, or anything that disrupts or changes the character’s life.

Check out this video by author Jenna Moreci on her 10 Tips for Writing the First Chapter of Your Book. She shares some great information. You don’t want to miss it.

What do you need to start writing a book? A great first chapter!

What Do You Need to Start Writing a book? Your First Sentence of Your Novel

Like with nonfiction, the first sentence in your novel should grab attention right away. It should also make the reader curious about the story, character or situation.

Examples of first sentences from bestselling novels:

  • “Outside the gaurded entrance, reporters circled like a pack of wolves” – Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris
  • “It wasn’t his plan to stay up all night.” – We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  • “Those months, the months before she dissapeared, were the best months.” – Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Once again, don’t freeze up trying to think of the perfect first sentence. You can always change it later.

Final Thoughts

That’s it! That’s all you need to start writing a book whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, whether you’re an absolute beginner, it’s your first time, or if you’re a professional best-selling author.

Happy writing!