If you’ve always wanted to write a novel but don’t know where to start, or you start writing your book and get stuck, you’re probably asking ‘How can I get help writing a book?’ It’s easy to find help with each part of writing.
1. Join a writing group or community
Writing fiction is sharing. It’s satisfying to share your perspective through your stories and characters but gaining insight via critical response to your creations is crucial too. If you’re struggling to get started, supportive members of a writing group can give you ideas for how to make headway.
You don’t even need a local writing group to get helpful feedback from others. In an online group you can share the trials and pleasures of writing with others from all over the world who share your goals.
Things to remember when participating in a writing group:
- Be open and receptive to criticism: It’s often tempting to be defensive when it feels as though someone is tearing your work to shreds. This is why it’s great to have a policy in a group that if a member gives feedback, they must start with something positive before moving on to (constructive) criticism
- Share successes and milestone achievements with your group, because this positivity will help to keep the whole group motivated to finish book-writing projects
What if you need more extensive input and airtime for hashing out your story ideas?
2. Get a writing coach
One-on-one feedback and discussion around your work and writing process provides many benefits:
- You get complete focus on your story and close assistance with overcoming your personal writing challenges
- You set the pace you work at, but also have an external source of accountability to help you get on track if you fall behind your writing targets
- You have someone who may coach writing regularly and thus have accumulated practical knowledge in how to aid you in overcoming common obstacles
To get the most out of having a writing coach, here are some tips:
- Give your coach 3-5 questions on each piece of writing you submit for feedback. Be more specific than ‘how could I improve this?’ If your current focus is improving your characters, ask your coach for thoughts on what is working in your characterization in a scene or chapter and what is not. Just thinking how to phrase your questions will help you identify what you can and should improve.
- Share work using either a word processor that allows commenting or a free, cloud-based word processor such as Google Docs. The reply feature of Google Docs makes it easy for you and your writing coach to bounce ideas back and forth until you both agree on a finer point of language, characterization or another story element.
- Tell your coach what you expect of the process and let them know if any aspect of your working relationship isn’t meeting your needs – open communication is essential for a productive coaching process.
3. Proofread and spell check your work before asking for feedback to get the best quality of insight
Another writer or coach who also wants to see you reach your writing goals will happily alert you to typos and spelling errors. These are fairly easy to iron out before you submit your work, though, and this will leave the person critiquing you more room to comment on more important aspects of your craft such as style, characterization, plot and mood.
4. Find a co-author rather than ghostwriter
A ghostwriter, someone who pens a story on your behalf according to your plot and ideas, can help you write a book. But it is much more satisfying (and edifying) to be more involved in the writing process. If you are unsure you can write a book, completing the process in collaboration with another writer is a great stepping stone to writing a book on your own. The combination of both your and another writer’s strengths will give your writing additional richness and breadth of perspective.
5. Read the best books and guides on how to write a novel
Insights from published writers into how to set up a writing process, how they overcame specific challenges and how to perfect elements of a novel-writing such as narration and point of view will help you become a better writer. These are some lauded and practical books on writing:
- On Writing by Stephen King – packed with lean, good advice, such as ‘first write for yourself, then worry about the audience.’
- Steering the Craft by Ursula K Le Guin – Le Guin’s slim book is full of succinct explanations and she ends each section (such as her helpful chapter on point of view) with prompts and exercises to help you apply the details of craft discussed in the preceding text.
- How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever by Nathan Bransford – Bransford approaches the subject with wit and humour, offering advice from everything to creating strong plots to finding your most effective writing style
Use books on writing a novel as a source of inspiration and motivation – be wary of any formula presented as the only valid approach, however.
6. Keep a master list of helpful writing resources
When you’re feeling uninspired or blocked, getting words down on the page can be draining. To avoid this, build a list of helpful writing resources you can dip into for inspiration and motivation at any time. They can be writing-specific websites, but they can also be visual albums of inspiring photos, daily quote websites or other resources that stimulate your creativity and help you to write a book by giving you fresh perspectives and insights.
7. Use helpful programs and cloud-based apps for writers
There are various online tools that will help you write a novel. Some of the best online apps for writers:
- Hemingway: This app shows you which sentences in your writing are most difficult to read. It also shows where there are simpler synonyms you could use and points out adverbs that you remove and replace with more descriptive verbs.
- Draft: This free basic, cloud-based word processor is like a paired down version of Google Docs, also allowing collaboration. An advantage over Docs is that it displays your total word count as you go, as desktop word processors do. Helpful if you are keeping track of word count targets.
- Behind the Name: Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with a name you like. This random name generator lets you choose to filter names from specific countries, mythologies and character types. Try it next time you are stuck for great names.
If you’ve been asking ‘how can I get help writing a book?’ think about the kind of help you need. Do you need a community for mutual support and feedback? Or do you need more extensive assistance? Between online writing groups and helpful tools and resources for writers, you can find everything you need to motivate and inspire you to finish writing the book you’ve been planning for years.
18 replies on “How can I get help writing a book? 7 tips”
I love the idea of getting a writing coach, I’d be glad to receive one-on-one feedback about my novel from a professional’s point of view.
I bookmarked your list of helpful writing tools and use them almost everyday, btw Now Novel is my favorite resource 🙂 I think you missed another good one, a plagiarism detector https://unplag.com/ definitely worth writers attention. Unlike other services, Unplag won’t store your data or steal your time, it scans for plagiarism in under a minute.
So keep using high qiality tools and writing original stories.
Thanks for the resource suggestion, I’ll definitely give it a look. I’m glad you’re enjoying Now Novel!
For number 7 it says 10 online apps, but I could only see three of them..
Whoops, well-spotted Rain – an earlier draft was published accidentally instead of the revised one. That’s been corrected. Thanks for notifying. If you’re looking for more helpful apps, here are some more: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-productivity-7-tools/. Do you have any personal favourites?
I don’t use many. I use pinterest for inspiration and that’s where I found all the writing blogs I follow. I participate in NaNoWriMo. But that’s it =)
I like the idea of using Pinterest for story inspiration, Rain. Visual sources of creative stimulation are definitely helpful.
hi everyone, I am trying to publish my son’s book but it still needs work. He is nine and I need help editing his book. It’s like 20 lines. Can anyone help me please
Hi Honey, please feel free to share extracts for constructive feedback in the private members-only critique forum on the site 🙂
Hi I would like to tell my life story as I grew up in a very bad area and ended up in care , borstals , prisons and now run my own company. I think my life would fascinate and inspire so many people but I have adhd and dislecsic so I could never right it myself . Anyone help please ? Thanks in advance
Thank you for sharing that – it sounds as though it would make a fascinating memoir. With a good editor I’m sure you could overcome dyslexia. ADHD does affect focus, but perhaps writing it in smaller segments would help (writing in short bursts). Have you tried dictating your story using dictating software instead of writing it? I have a friend who is dyslexic who did this for his Master’s thesis and it really helped him get the bulk of it down on the page.
We have an article on writing memoir here you may find interesting: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/10-secrets-to-writing-a-memoir/
It really helps me to participate in a writers’ forum and communicate with other authors. I rarely discuss my ideas with them (as they do with me) but we share the problems that come up on the writing path. And I understand that I am not alone and that every writer has a crisis.
And also checking programs help me a lot – I hate to read my texts sometimes and programs often point to typical grammar and stylistic mistakes and save me time.
I also know that many authors publish their novels online, posting each chapter separately to get feedback and later improve their texts.
Super helpful! Thanks for sharing.
A story won’t be considered an inspiring one if you don’t highlight some lessons, recommendations, and tips.
If you want to write a story that can motivate the readers, then here are some tips Tips in Writing an Inspiring Book that might help you in your writing journey.
I have a great deal of life insight, which I have offered, at absolutely no charge, for almost thirty years. Because of a congenital birth defect, and a very toxic childhood, writing, for me, is not a practical option. Are you aware of a location for me to help writers and researchers “flesh out” there work?
Hi John, I’m sorry to hear about the challenges that make writing difficult. You’ll find our own critique community very supportive and encouraging generally speaking, so that’s a good place to get involved (it’s free to join). If you mean paid work, there are many platforms where you can advertise writing or editorial skills such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Problogger. Good luck!
Any insight/tips about a non fiction book? I’m not a writer but can’t shake the obsession I have about a book. A bit historical and a bit travel log. What is your opinion on ghost writers? Thanks
Hi Ed, thank you for sharing your question. There are many ghostwriters out there and many non-fiction books published with their help. If you’re passionate about this story to the point of being obsessed with it, I’d suggest writing a draft of it yourself and working on it with an editor (it may be more work but you will have a lot more creative control). This being said a professional ghostwriter will work with you to understand your aims, the style and tone you want and so forth and ensure that what they produce aligns with your vision.
The pros of using a ghost writer include saving time and actually finishing the project. The cons include not being viewed as having much authority in your subject if people catch wind of the fact your book is ghostwritten, and it is more expensive than doing it yourself. I hope this answers your question! Good luck with your story.
I need help on writing my story of my life coming up in the society, and to explain my pain fustration, depression, and how I got through it all with the word of GOD.
Hi Kisha, it’s great that your faith has helped you through so much. You’ll find a constructive critique community in the members area of our site (that’s free to join). Alternatively, we also offer guided support in the form of one-on-one coaching with published authors, some of whom specialize in memoir. Good luck!