What Do You Need To Start Writing A Book? (Ultimate Guide)

When you decide to write a book, you’re going to need a few things.

What do you need to start writing a book?

To start writing a book, you need a book idea, a way to record your words, a writing space, time to write, and motivation. For nonfiction, you need a topic. For fiction, you need a character with a problem. You will also need an outline, research, tools, and a process.

Keep reading because, in this post, I’m going to break down exactly what you need to start writing a book.

21 Things You Need To Start Writing a Book

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Woman with books—What Do You Need To Start Writing A Book
Image by the author via Canva—What Do You Need To Start Writing A Book?

There are at least 21 Things you need to start writing a book.

Here are the bare minimum things you’re going to need, what you don’t need, and what you might want.

1) You Need a Good Idea

The first thing you need to start writing a book is a good idea.

The idea you need is the seed from which your book will grow, the impetus for your daily writing habit, and the connecting factor in your entire writing process.

You can get your idea from almost anywhere.

Some of my favorite places to generate ideas:

  • Reading widely about different topics
  • Watching shows and movies
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Brainstorming
  • Mindmapping
  • Talking to other writers
  • Combining two different ideas (Die Hard but in a tiny house)
  • Taking a small idea and making it bigger and more dramatic
  • Creating a character
  • Coming from an opposing perspective
  • Asking, “What If…?” (What if the only way to save the world was to sacrifice your best friends?)

The idea you need differs depending on the kind of book you write:

  • For nonfiction, you need a topic
  • For fiction, you need a story

We’ll go into more detail for each type of book in this article, so make sure that you read all the way through.

2) You Need a Way To Record Your Thoughts

The first step to writing a book is to have a way to record your thoughts.

That may seem obvious, but there are so many ways to capture your ideas these days that it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.

Some people prefer the old-fashioned method of pen and paper, while others prefer to type on a computer or laptop.

There are even apps that allow you to record your thoughts directly onto your smartphone. The important thing is to find a system that works for you and that you feel comfortable using.

You don’t need a computer but it can really help.

If you do get a computer, here are my recommendations:

ComputerPrice RangeLearn More
Apple Macbook Pro $$Learn More
Microsoft Surface Book$$Learn More
Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga$Learn More
Recommendations for computers

3) You Need a Writing Space

If you’re thinking about writing a book, one of the first things you need to do is find a writing space.

This can be anywhere that’s quiet and comfortable for you, where you can focus on your work. It might be a corner of your bedroom, a spot in your local coffee shop, or even a dedicated home office.

The important thing is that it’s somewhere you feel relaxed and able to concentrate.

Once you’ve found your perfect writing space, make sure it’s well equipped with everything you need to get the job done.

This might include a laptop or desktop computer, printer, comfortable chair, notepads and pens, and anything else that will help you write effectively.

With everything in place, you can finally start work on your book.

4) You Need Time to Write

Time is a precious commodity.

And when it comes to writing a book, you’re going to need plenty of it. This is because the process of writing a book is not a linear one. It’s more like a winding road, with detours and dead ends along the way.

The only way to reach your destination is to keep moving forward, even when you don’t know where you’re going.

The good news is that there are ways to make the most of your time and get the most out of your writing schedule.

One way is to set realistic goals for yourself.

Whether it’s writing 500 words a day or spending an hour at your desk every morning before work or school, the important thing is to maximize the time you have.

Once you find that sweet spot, stick to it as best as you can.

There are several ways to make the most of your writing time—habits, routines, and tools.

5) You Need Motivation

Writing a book is no small feat.

It’s often a long and arduous process full of successes and setbacks. One of the things that have helped me write several books and novels is to get my motivation right.

There are a few ways you can motivate yourself:

  • Set small daily goals (Write 1 page, write 500 words, research for an hour)
  • Celebrate your small milestones (finishing one chapter, finishing 10 chapters, writing 5,000 words, etc)
  • Write about an idea that excites you
  • Make a list of all the reasons you are writing your book (then post it somewhere you can read it daily)
  • Make a vision board
  • Surround yourself with positive, inspiring quotes
  • Visualize finishing your book and how you will feel
  • Get an accountability partner

6) You Need an Outline

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 :).

You might also want an outline for writing a novel.

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 a 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 (paraphrasing and 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)

—Anonymous (Printed in the Washington Times, 1922)

7) You Need Research

If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, you may have been overwhelmed by the prospect of research.

After all, it’s not like writing a term paper, where you can just do a quick internet search and call it good. To write a truly great book, you need to dig deep and do real, in-depth research.

This can be a daunting task, but it’s also essential if you want your book to be accurate and believable.

The good news is that there are plenty of resources available to help with your research.

Here are a few:

  • The library is a great place to start, but don’t forget about the internet, too.
  • There are countless websites and databases that can help you find the information you need.
  • You can also talk to experts in your field to get their insights.
  • Run your own tests and experiments (original research is going to make for a stronger book or novel)

If you have the budget for it, you can even hire a virtual assistant (VA) to do the research for you.

8) You Need a Process

If you’re thinking about writing a book, the first thing you need is a writing process.

This is the plan you’ll use to turn your raw ideas into a finished product.

For nonfiction books, I like to start by making a list of questions for each chapter. Answering these questions will help me focus each chapter and make sure I’m covering all the important points.

For fiction, I like to focus each scene on the premise of the story.

This helps to keep the novel deeply connected and always progressing toward the climax. By always keeping the goal in mind, I can make sure each scene is contributing to the overall story.

Of course, there’s no one right way to write a book.

But having a writing process will help you stay focused and organized, and ultimately produce a better book.

9) You Need Robots

Robots can actually be a big help when it comes to writing a book.

Here are some examples of how bots can help you out:

  • Final Draft is software that can help accelerate and maximize your writing for fiction.
  • Jasper AI Writer is software that can help with writing nonfiction.
  • Canva can generate images for your book or novel.
  • Scriqqle can automatically turn your written text into an ebook in minutes.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways that bots can help with the writing process. If you’re feeling stuck or just want some extra assistance, don’t be afraid to utilize some robotic help.

Here are some of my favorite writing bots:

Writing ToolWhat It Does
Jasper AI WriterAutomatically writes for you
Final DraftOrganizes and streamlines novel writing
CanvaGraphic design and images
SqribbleAutomatically creates books
Nuance Dragon SoftwareTurns speech into text
Recommended Writing Tools

10) You Need Patience

You definitely need patience when writing a book.

Writing a book is no easy feat. It takes hours of dedication and commitment to produce even a rough draft, let alone a finished product. And the process of editing and revising can be even more daunting.

Every published author knows that writing a book requires a tremendous amount of patience.

You’ll need patience at every step, falter, backslide, emergency, and obstacle.

Writing and publishing books never go as fast as you want. But, if you practice patience, you’ll reap the rewards.

11) You Need Hope

Along with patience, you also need hope.

All writers need hope. It’s the belief that your words matter, that your story is worth telling and that you can make a difference in the world.

Hope is what motivates you to keep going when the rejections pile up and the editing process is hard.

Hope is what allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even when everything else seems dark. Hope is what makes you believe that your book will find its way into the hands of readers who need it.

Hold on to it tight, and never let it go.

12) You Need Grit

Grit is that inner strength that allows us to keep going when the going gets tough.

It’s what pushes us to keep writing even when we’re feeling uninspired or our characters are giving us trouble. Without grit, it would be very difficult to finish a book.

Writers who manage to make it to the finish line are those who possess a powerful combination of passion and perseverance.

They refuse to give up in the face of adversity, and they continue to strive for their goals even when the going gets tough. If you’re serious about writing a book, then you need to develop a thick skin and an unshakeable determination.

13) You Need The First Sentence

You can’t start writing a book without the 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

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 guarded 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 disappeared, 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.

14) You Need The First Chapter

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

It’s also common for authors to describe their personal experiences 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 about the first chapter of a 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 various 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.

15) You Need a Plan For the Middle Slump

Writers often refer to the “middle slump”—that point in a book or story where the plot starts to drag, the characters seem stuck, and the writer themselves is struggling to push on.

It’s a common problem, but it doesn’t have to be insurmountable.

One of the best ways to overcome the middle slump is to have a plan. Before you even start writing, take some time to map out the main beats of your story.

What needs to happen for your characters to reach their goals? What conflicts will they face along the way?

By having a road map, you’ll be less likely to get lost in the slough of despondency—and if you do find yourself flagging, you can always refer back to your plan and get yourself back on track.

Nonfiction writers go through a “middle slump,” too.

To get past this troubling period, take a break, get help from other writers, and remind yourself of your end goal.

16) You Need to Revise

To start writing a book, you’re going to need to revise.

You can revise after each page or chapter, or you can wait to revise until your first draft is complete.

It doesn’t really matter.

However, revision is essential if you want to publish a book that’s actually worth reading.

Here are four reasons why revision is so important:

  1. Revision helps you tighten up your writing. First drafts are usually full of redundancies, padding, and other unnecessary words. By cutting out the fluff, you can make your writing much more concise and effective.
  2. Revision helps you improve the flow of your story. Even if your plot is strong, readers will lose interest if the story feels disjointed or difficult to follow. Revising can help you fix these problems and make your story much more enjoyable to read.
  3. Revision gives you a chance to add deeper layers to your topic, characters, and worldbuilding. As you revise, you’ll likely find ways to make your characters more three-dimensional and your world more realistic and believable. These added layers will make your book much richer and more rewarding for readers.
  4. Revision allows you to fix any plot holes or inconsistencies in your book.

17) You Need Beta Readers

As a writer, it can be difficult to get honest feedback on your work.

Friends and family may be reluctant to hurt your feelings, and professional editors can be expensive. That’s where beta readers come in. Beta readers are volunteers who read your work and provide feedback, often in exchange for a free copy of the finished book.

While beta readers are not professional editors, they can still be a valuable asset to any writer.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider using beta readers:

  1. They can provide an unbiased opinion. Because they don’t know you personally, beta readers can offer an objective opinion of your work. This is especially helpful if you’re struggling with self-doubt or impostor syndrome.
  2. They can help you identify plot holes. Even the best writers sometimes miss small details that can make or break a story. Beta readers can help you identify these plot holes so that you can fix them before publication.
  3. They can point out typos and grammatical errors. No matter how careful you are, it’s impossible to catch every mistake yourself. Having another set of eyes go over your work can help you eliminate errors before publication.

18) You Need Experience (But Maybe Not What You Think)

You don’t need years of writing experience or publishing credits to write a book.

You need to have something to say, and the only way to have something to say is to have lived.

To write well, you also must understand human nature—what motivates people and why they do the things they do. You can learn this by reading books, sure.

But there’s no substitute for first-hand experience.

You have to live a little. Make some mistakes. Get your heart broken. Grow up a little. Study a topic. Then, when you sit down to write, all of that life experience will come rushing out onto the page.

And that’s what readers want: honesty, authenticity, and a book that feels true.

19) You Need To Know It’s Going To Suck

The first draft of a book is almost always terrible.

It’s dull and long-winded, disorganized, and poorly written. The story is full of plot holes, flat characters, and boring dialogue.

And that’s okay!

Every writer needs to come to their work with realistic expectations about their talent and the end product. If you’re fixated on making your first book perfect, you’ll never get it written.

Don’t worry about writing a great book from the start.

Just focus on getting the words down on the page, and trust that you can fix it in the editing process.

20) You Need The Right Resources

There is a lot of misinformation and overcomplication when it comes to writing a book.

It’s easy for beginner writers to get lost, lose focus, and head off in the wrong direction. However, with the right resources, you can keep writing a book fairly simple and straightforward.

While resources are not required, they did help me.

You might want:

  • Books on how to write
  • Writing courses
  • YouTube tips on writing
  • Software to help you organize and edit your writing

21) You Need To Enjoy the Journey

Becoming a published author takes blood, sweat, and tears (and sometimes a little bit of luck).

But even if you never see your name in print, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process of writing a book. Detach yourself from the outcome of your work and take pleasure in the journey itself.

After all, it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

You’ll probably spend more time writing a book than enjoying the success of your book. Writing is an opportunity to explore new worlds, to meet new people, and to learn new things.

Even if your book is never published, you’ll still have gained something valuable from the experience: knowledge, understanding, and maybe even a new perspective on life.

Enjoy the ride.

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 not absolutely necessary—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 Do You Need To Start Writing a Nonfiction Book?

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 Nonfiction Book Topic?

Here are a few ways to choose your nonfiction 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 boilerplates, 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 nonfiction 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 Nonfiction Topic

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.

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 of 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.

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 about a person with a problem.

Character + Problem = Story

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

Here’s a good video by a bestselling author about how to write a book:

YouTube video by Jerry B. Jenkins—What Do You Need To Start Writing a Book?

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!

Related posts:


Sagepub (Research about writing)
American Psychological Association (Research on Creativity)