6 Things You Need to Write a Book 

By Dawn Field · January 11, 2017

Don’t underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story and write a book. Boil your project down to its core components to see your project through to the end .   

Everyone who wants to should be encouraged to write a book, but you should also be aware of what’s ahead. At the highest level, there are some essential components you will need to get your project started and see it through to the end. A book that flounders will likely find its author lacking in one or more of these crucial areas.   


Every book needs a concept. This is the idea at the core of the book. It has to be a topic big and interesting enough to warrant a book-sized treatment. Equally important, it has to be dear enough to you to hold your attention to the end of the project. From concept down to each and every word in your book, the levels of a book hierarchy nest into one other like a set of Russian Dolls. Your concept is the biggest of the dolls and the first one readers see. She needs to be as breathtaking as possible so she lures people to pick her up and look inside.


Every book needs a premise: it is the specific instance of your concept. Premise is the next smallest Russian doll. You might want to write a book about a superhero. This is your concept. The actual superhero you pick, and her specific adventure, is your premise. The classic way to think about concept and premise is to imagine a series. Take Sherlock Holmes, for example. A detective story is the concept. Each case he cracks is a premise.   

Attention to detail  

You have a super concept and a brilliant premise, but you still have to fill in a tremendous number of details to complete a book. These are the rest of the Russian dolls: The best, most expensive sets contain numerous dolls down to one unbelievably small one at the very center. To build such a well-crafted set requires a lot of work, including writing out all the words you need to realize the premise. Starting with a great outline (third largest doll), your book hierarchy will eventually descend down through chapters, scenes, paragraphs to the selecting of specific words for every sentence – your tiniest doll. This structure brings to life the characters, back story, setting and plot, all of which should excel. Once done, you have a book.


The first three components I’ve mentioned are conceptual in theory. You could do the first two, concept and premise, in your head, and most people do. Once you get to the third, all but the most gifted need to turn to the written word. This takes time. You’ll have to devote enough time to fill upwards of 200 pages, or 50,000+ words, with riveting content.   

Time is the biggest and incompressible aspect of a book project. You just can’t get around needing time to finish it. And where does it come from? You have to make it if you are going to succeed. 

Imagine a book to be a painting. Some will start with a rough sketch outline. This is the concept. Them you might fill it in with the broadest shapes and colors. This is the premise. Then you need to fill in all the details until the painting is polished and ready to be seen. Depending on the size and intricacy of the painting, this process can take a lot of time. 

Do not underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story. It might take learning new software, editing of multiple drafts in an iterative fashion, and the physical time it takes getting your words into digital format. Many famous authors, like James Patterson, only write on paper. Paper drafts can be typed up, and luckily now it is possible to save more time by using voice to text software and expert transcription. 

A Catapult

Any book that you finish is a grand personal achievement in itself, but if your goal is publication, the next thing you need to do is get it out the door. A book languishing on your night table will be of use to no one except you. You need a catapult of some sort to fling it off your desk and into the wider world where it can be seen and read independent of you. This catapult, also known as a publisher, can be of the traditional type or it can now be you. Self-publishing is an increasingly viable path, and there are many ways of achieving success as a DIY author. No matter what path you chose, you have to embrace it to get to the final finish line. 


One final element necessary to the creation of any published book is resolution. Without it, you may falter at any step along the way. The road to a published book is likely a multi-year one, and while you want it to be all roses that you can stop and smell, it will have its fair share of thorns as well. You will need an adequate dose of self-confidence to get from start to finish. Finishing means possessing the mental fortitude not to give up under internal or external pressures until you reach the end.  The Script Lab is expanding on it’s writing in other formats content with more info about what you need to write a book. This post first appeared on the BookBaby Blog. Reposted with permission. From eBook conversion to print on demand, from cover design to editing and distribution, BookBaby provides independent authors the services and solutions to get self-published. The BookBaby Blog features hundreds of posts to get you motivated to write, on the right track to publish, and in touch with the dynamic world of self-publishing.   

Dr. Dawn Field is a book lover interested in what makes great writing. After a 20 year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by Oxford University Press. Now a columnist of The Double Helix, Dr. Field is exploring new writing venues and writing a second book. Based in Virginia, Dr. Field is looking to collaborate with a range of fiction writers as a writing coach, editor, and consultant on the publishing process: [email protected]