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  • Writer's pictureCatherine L. Haws

How to Write a Book (when you don't know how to start)

Hello! I’m Catherine Haws, author of I Did NOT Choose This Adventureand

I’ve recently been talking with some friends that have never written a book, but would like to and have asked me for advice on specific questions.

This is not actually a step-by-step How To Guide, but rather a backpack with tools that have helped me in my writing journey that hopefully can help you in your writing journey!


(Note: at this time, links included in this post are not affiliate links. Future posts may contain affiliate links.)


Firstly, YAY!!!! Saying out loud that you want to write a book is the first step to writing a book!

Next I would like to share a list of resources that I have found helpful, and then I will give some advice for beginning your first rough draft.


Resources that I’ve found helpful:

-The Plot Whisperer (link here)

If the only thing you take away from this video is this book, you’re in good shape! This book will help you understand how stories work, and it also has practical homework for you to use when writing your story.


-One Year Adventure Novel (link here)

This was designed as a high school writing curriculum. I took the class twice learning about what makes a story a story, how to plan a plot, and how to draft a 12 chapter hero on a quest to defeat a villain type of story.


-The War of Art (link here)

This is a quick read book that hypes you up to really work on your art and kick resistance to the curb. Writing a book is a long haul experience that drags and makes you want to give up multiple times. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up.


-If you are wanting to write non-fiction or a memoir, I don’t have much experience with that, so I would suggest looking into Hope*Writers or Googling the resources out there to help with that.


-Writing Picture books (link here)

This is a fantastic, ultimate guide on writing picture books. It’s been invaluable to me as I’m working on a series right now with my family!


Writing tools

-Google Docs (link here)

It is free! I’m considering making a video about how to organize a novel draft and brainstorming in Google Docs. If that interests you, let me know!


-Scrivener (link here)

This is a buy once download application that you can use without wifi. I did need to upgrade when I bought my new computer, and all of my files from 2016 were able to transfer and update with my new version.

I love Scrivener because I can have one big Scrivener file dedicated to a project, and within the file I can have folders, documents, pictures, scenes, there’s even a focus mode.

I know about one inch of Scrivener, and it has a mile of features! There are templates for fiction, blogging, screenwriting - I just love it!


-Good pen/pencil and notebook

I love this big grip mechanical pencil that I used in high school & college. I’m now more of a pen fan, and I would rather strike through than erase, so I haven’t used my pencils lately.

My favorite pens are Pilot G-2 7millimeter black. I also love Papermate Flair.

Personally, I like my notebooks to be spiral bound, because I fold back to work on one page at a time, out of habit, and especially if I’m writing on my knee outside LOL


I encourage you to actually think about what your favorite types of notebooks have been like and embrace that preference. It also helps me when I’m at a store and can tell myself, “Yes, that notebook is gorgeous, but it’s not spiral bound. You would actually hate using it.”


So, all that to say, having pen and paper to write with nearby, in your bag, in your car - have a pen handy in every room where you live. You need to prepare for jotting down your ideas.

Also, having the Google Docs app or the Notes app on your phone is super helpful.


Okay, so shifting to practical advice on how to begin a rough draft of your story.

You can begin doing these things right now!

Before getting any of the books that I recommended.

Before you think you’re ready. If you’re here and you have something to write with, you are ready!


You don’t have to begin by writing the opening line.


Phew! The pressure is off! Forget about trying to craft the perfect opening line.

I don’t fret about opening lines until the entire novel is done, and I’m on like draft 2 or 3!

Begin jotting down the things that you know.


Create a section in your writing file of choice dedicated to brainstorming.

Dump out all the jumbled ideas that you have floating around. Questions, character names, scene ideas, just write it down.

If you think you don’t have any novel ideas yet, brainstorm the names of books and movies you like, what you’ve wondered about recently, questions you are asking, funny characters you wonder what they’d say - anything.


So, keep adding to your brainstorming section throughout your writing process, and start another section.

If there is a scene snippet that you can picture, write out the scene.

It doesn’t have to be “good.” You don’t have to know all the characters names. You don’t have to know how the story ends. Just write the scenes that play out in your head and get them down.


After you’ve got the gears turning and the juices are flowing, here is where I would suggest reading The Plot Whisperer as a guide to help you next.


That’s all the time we have for today.

Let me know if you would be interested in a video guide to organizing Google Docs to build a book.

Or if you have other questions that you would like to see a video address, let me know in the comments!

Remember your words matter. You are here and the world is better for it. I hope you have a loverly day and ciao for now!



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