How To Write A Blockbuster: The 10-Step System [Part 1]

    how to write a blockbuster

    Do you dream of writing a blockbuster?

    But you have no clue how to go about it.

    The blank page on the computer stares a hole into your soul, haunting you.

    Perhaps you’re writing your first book, and are terrified it’ll flop.

    Dismal sales. Indifferent reviews. Crickets on social media.


    The fear of pouring your heart into a book and watching it go nowhere stops you dead in your tracks.

    The brutal truth is that thousands of books are published every year, and nearly all of them get lost in the noise.

    Does that make you wonder if the idea of writing a book is a big fat waste of time?

    Not if you have the right system…

    The system that worked for me when my book Free Your Fear–Making the Leap to Six Figures became a bestseller in two different categories on Amazon.

    If you follow the 10 steps outlined below, you’ll have a fighting shot at how to publish a book that’s a smash hit.



    #1. Pick Your Topic

    This is no time for blindly throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Be scientific about uncovering a topic that people truly care about.

    Head over to Amazon and run searches on a few topics you’re passionate about. Keep your eyes peeled for keywords and themes that pop up repeatedly.

    What’s been written? What’s succeeded? What’s fallen flat? If you want your book to make a splash, your best bet is to choose a topic that sits at the intersection of:

    • Your strong interest or experience, and
    • What readers want to learn

    For example, in the past few years, people have been thronging to learn how to build tiny houses. Weird? Maybe. But hey, popular is popular.

    And popular means people buying books on the subject.

    So if you have expertise in this area, or interest in learning enough about it to write a book, congratulations! You’ve found your topic.

    Take verbatim notes on the reviews. Readers will tell you—in their own words—what they want, as well as what they don’t.

    Trust your gut when choosing a topic. If it’s popular and personally compelling, you’ve got a winner.

    When you pick a topic that resonates with both author and reader, your writing will ooze energy and passion.

    #2. Become a Mind Reader

    You’ve zeroed in on your topic.

    Go back to your Amazon notes. What powerful words and phrases cropped up throughout the reviews? This stuff is a copywriter’s (or author’s) fantasy!

    For instance, certain phrases crop up repeatedly in the reviews on a bestselling book on tiny houses and the minimalist lifestyle.

    • buy less stuff
    • feel weighed down by things
    • value experiences over possessions
    • simplify your life
    • get rid of clutter
    • inspiring stories
    • decrease stress
    • value experiences and memories
    • more time and money to travel

    You’ve got phrases verbatim from your target readers. Pepper them liberally throughout your book and your marketing.

    With a hypnotic opening that echoes the thoughts and feelings of your ideal reader, you’ve begun the seduction process. Your reader falls under the spell of your powerful words. They’ll nod their head and feel deeply understood.

    This is why the reviews from Amazon are nothing short of a goldmine.

    #3. Stand Out from the Noise

    Let’s assume the tiny house niche has a lot of competition. This is great.

    Because if there are many books on your topic, it means there is a horde of readers waiting to read your book.

    How do you stand head and shoulders above the noise?

    Easy. Ask yourself: what’s controversial about tiny houses?

    Is a tiny house only about saving money? Perhaps it’s more a statement of independence. Maybe it’s about bucking the norm, pulling up stakes and going off the grid.

    Find the unorthodox idea, technique or philosophy nobody else is exploring.

    When you find that new angle, put it unabashedly front and center.



    #4. Unleash Your Creative Genius

    Here comes the fun part. Write whatever comes into your head. Get a little crazy. Heck, get very crazy. Let the writing flow.

    Pour ice water on your internal critic.

    Watch as new, unexpected ideas and connections come gushing out.

    Some writers use mind-mapping software. Here’s one I created using the free software:

    bestseller book

    Others swear by a whiteboard. Some love word association. I love grabbing an old-school yellow legal pad. Choose whatever you’re most comfortable with.

    The medium isn’t important. The creative ideas you unearth are.

    With all your ideas collected in one place, you’re ready to build the scaffolding for your book.

    #5. Bring Order to Chaos

    You’ve got a pile of ideas about tiny houses, but you need to find a cohesive thread. Do any points or concepts group together logically?

    Think from the perspective of your reader. They’re reading your book to learn something about tiny houses. Your book needs to teach them to crawl before they can walk or run.

    Begin at the beginning and take one step at a time.

    Here’s what an example outline might look like:

    1. History of Tiny Houses
      • The Philosophy
      • Cultural Values Shift
      • Minimalism
    2. The Big “Why”
      • Saving Money
      • More Experiences, Less Stuff
      • Freedom
    3. Getting Started & Tips
      • Setting a Budget
      • Finding Experts
      • DIY Resources
    4. Case Studies
      • How They Did It
      • Where Are They Now?
      • Tips From the Pros

    This is only a partial example. The point is that your ideas will begin to form a logical, orderly structure, the backbone for a successful outline.

    Finally, you must learn, in the words of Stephen King, to “kill your darlings.” Your darlings are ideas and sections that seem intriguing at first blush but don’t gel with the theme of the book.

    Cut them ruthlessly.

    When you cut the deadweight, your outline truly starts to come to life.



    #6. Research, Research, Research

    With your mind-map and structured outline, you have a focused research blueprint.

    Now’s the time to research the technical data and facts. You’ll save loads of time by avoiding research dead-ends that have nothing to do with your book.

    The facts, statistics and concrete examples you dig up are what will give your book a boost of authority.

    And authority is what sets bestselling books apart.

    #7. Seduce with Stories 

    When you’re writing to teach and inspire, you’d better bring some storytelling chops.

    Because before reading and writing came along, stories were the tools our ancestors used to impart their knowledge, inspiration and wisdom.

    Use one of the following storytelling techniques.

    • An example from your own life. Have you made the switch to a tiny house? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
    • Interview / quote an expert. You don’t need a formal interview. Even quoting someone with in-depth knowledge of tiny houses is enough. The more experience and expertise they have, the more credible you’ll look.

    Remember, success stories are always in fashion.

    #8. Win Hearts and Minds

    This is where wannabe authors fall flat on their faces.

    When we put our work out there, we want everyone to love us and shower us with praise.

    But let’s get real. Tiny houses aren’t for everyone.

    If you take a strong stance, you’ll polarize people. Accept this fact of life. On the other hand, if you tiptoe around controversy, you’ll slaughter your chances of success.

    Readers fall in love with writers who have opinions and the guts to stand by them.

    Will some readers dislike what you say? Of course!

    But this also means that your tiny house book will resonate more strongly with the right audience. These are the readers who will champion your ideas.

    Here are a few examples of books written in an unapologetic tone.

    • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
    • The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson
    • The Power of No by James Altucher



    #9. Find a Ruthless Editor

    Most people are too damn nice.

    They don’t want to hurt your feelings. They tell you your writing is brilliant when it’s a pile of garbage.

    They do this because they like you. Nobody, save sociopaths, enjoys hurting someone’s feelings.

    But there’s a time for relationships and a time for business. (Tip: Your friends and family are fired as editors.)

    Writing a book is serious business.

    Your editor will help polish rough and rambling words into a sparkling, cohesive piece of prose that leaps off the page and sucks readers in.

    A great editor will bring tough love in spades. More importantly, you’ll love them for it.

    The editor you hire will ideally:

    • Have a portfolio of edited books.
    • Have a clear idea of what your book is trying to achieve.
    • Give dispassionate feedback.
    • Improve the grammar, flow, clarity, and cohesion of your ideas.
    • Not be afraid to call you out when your work isn’t up to par.

    So go on and pony up the cash to hire an editor who won’t sugarcoat the truth.

    #10. Become a PR Powerhouse

    It’s a sin to leave marketing to chance. Without attention, even great ideas die.

    “If you build it, they will come” makes for a memorable quote, but it’s a recipe for disaster when publishing your book.

    You might wonder how you’ll compete with established authors, and publishers with huge marketing budgets and distribution networks.

    Thanks to the explosion of digital publishing, the playing field has been forever altered in your favor.

    Sure, authors with a track record of success still get hefty advances from behemoth New York publishing houses.

    But as an upcoming writer, you have an arsenal of marketing tools at your fingertips.

    You’ll find marketing and promotion tactics in Part 2 of this series, but the starting point is this: You must begin to think like a publisher.


    How to Write a Blockbuster: What’s Next?

    You now know (nearly) everything I have learned about the process of writing a bestselling book.

    But all the tips, tricks and inspirational quotes in the world won’t help you—unless you commit to doing the hard work.

    The only silver bullet out there is your determination to take consistent action, even if it’s imperfect.

    Are you up to the challenge?

    Believe me, small, daily actions will obliterate your feelings of confusion, overwhelm and fear.

    Each step builds on the last. Trust the process, stay in motion and watch as your momentum, confidence and wins pile up.

    If you show up, I promise that the results will come.

    Imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel when you can call yourself a bestselling author.

    I’m rooting for you. And so are your readers.

    Now get to work, and create something incredible.

    What challenges have you overcome in writing your bestseller? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.

    And if you liked this post, share it on social media.

    Read Part 2 of How to Write a Blockbuster – 10 Tips For A Successful Launch (Click Here).

    About the author

      Mike Harrington

      Mike Harrington is on a mission to inspire smart entrepreneurs to write their first book. He's a six-figure corporate dropout turned entrepreneur and bestselling author, who'll show you how writing your book is like a business card on steroids. Download his 13-step infographic on self-publishing success here

    • Shahid says:

      It inspire me to be write down my childhood dream. Thanks for explaining everything.

    • Emi ku says:

      Thanks for complete guide I have been thinking to write one book for selling on Amazon so to make some money.

    • A. School says:

      Awesome post. Getting a physical book published will get ourselves more recognition.

    • himnold says:

      Writing a book isnt easy these days. But you made it so simple. Thanks brother.

    • good and benificial information

    • saketh says:

      thanks for sharing such a nice article
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    • Thanks for sharing this article
      This is quite an interesting Article
      Helpful for the students !

    • This all makes great sense and is very clear and easy to follow.

    • Angie Pants says:

      Do you dream of writing a blockbuster?
      No….not really. Isn’t “Blockbuster” one of those things you find in nearly-extinct video rental stores?

      But you have no clue how to go about it.
      NO clue. This, my friend, is why I am here today.
      (Wait-are we making a movie or book? I wanna make a damn movie.)

      The blank page on the computer stares a hole into your soul, haunting you.
      It’s like that little bitch you see crawling out of the TV on “The Ring”, only she just wants your soul…NOT your life. This is a definite improvement from the BLOCKBUSTER movie of 2002.

      Perhaps you’re writing your first book, and are terrified it’ll flop.
      FLOP: Flippitty Flop. Floppy Bunny Syndrome.Floppy Disks are like digital pancakes. “When you’re trying to get it on, but your business won’t cooperate….and it just FLOPS.”

      Dismal sales. Indifferent reviews. Crickets on social media.
      “Dismal Sales”. Yes. I believe this is correct, no? Woefully bad. Bleak and cheerless. I’m talking about the kind of despondent attitude your teenage self would have projected if mummy insisted you go to Great Aunt Gertrude’s funeral instead of staying home to play Fallout 4 on your new Xbox 1 gaming system (you know-the gaming system you got for Christmas because you’re a spoiled BRAT?).
      Additionally:rickets on Social Media are not the worst you have to go up against. I’ll tell you now what your worst enemy is: TROLLS. Yes;Trolls like me, my dear. Don’t listen to them. They’ll tear you apart until there’s nothing at all left for the crickets to feed upon!

      Oh, stop being a big baby. Did little Johnny never have his hair pulled or clothing made fun of in front of all his classmates?! Well, then;Johnny needs a lesson in humility and perhaps one of us is the person to give it to him(?) All I know is this: I drank toilet water overtime I were thirsty after PE, and ain’t nothing wrong with me!

      The fear of pouring your heart into a book and watching it go nowhere stops you dead in your tracks.
      Of-fucking-COURSE you’re afraid of sharing your heart! But only cuz there’s nothing left of it now, sweetheart. You stopped dead in your tracks a LONGGGG time ago before you even started writing this book.(back when Uncle Earl touched you in the “bad place”)

      The brutal truth is that thousands of books are published every year, and nearly all of them get lost in the noise.
      Oh, the noise. TELL me abut the noise! So many voices yapping at you at once-it’s a wonder you get your book written at all in the first place!

      Does that make you wonder if the idea of writing a book is a big fat waste of time?
      Yes. It absolutely does. I’m not gonna lie. It seems like a big FAT-FUCKING-WASTE-OF-TIME. (I think I just concurred with you on your question.)

      Not if you have the right system…
      “System” means “something to look at”. You must have a very high visual gradient to have systematization. In philosophy, BEFORE Descartes, there was no “system”. PLATO had no “system”. ARISTOTLE had no “system”.
      But that’s “none of my business”.

      The system that worked for me when my book Free Your Fear–Making the Leap to Six Figures became a bestseller in two different categories on Amazon.
      And now we only have to question WHY? How many of you leapt to “Six Figures”? Please…do share 😉

      If you follow the 10 steps outlined below, you’ll have a fighting shot at how to publish a book that’s a smash hit.
      I, in contrast, have just THREE steps:
      1) be engaging/funny and interesting
      2) have the history and experience to back it up
      3) make sure you passed high school English (preferably AP English, but today’s audience often doesn’t discriminate so heavily)….

    • Wonderful ideas. Definitely going to try them. 🙂

    • Megan says:

      Killer list! Im always working hard on #4 and couldn’t agree more with #9! Gotta have that tough love component AND develop an art of knowing when to accept or reject corrections and criticisms. Not really sure how #7 and #8 stand alone though. Seems like 8 doesnt have as much substance as your other points.

    • Mike- This is a great outline. Interesting that you suggest writing before you outline. That wouldn’t work for me- I have to have some more structure.

      Your suggestion of interviewing an expert is great. I actually think that is a better way to stand out from the noise than just an alternative point of view, since interviews add a much richer narrative than one’s own opinion.

      Love the Amazon suggestion- I am using it right now to find the words for my subtitle.

    • Shelby says:

      I’ve been writing since the age of 12, and though I have always been convinced that everyone, even me, had a book in them I just haven’t been able to do it. The culprit? It’s so overwhelming. Where would I even start?

      This article is a dream for me. Easy, actionable and inspiring. Though a book isn’t in my near future, this certainly has given me the kick in the ass I needed to get back to writing in my blog. Thank you!

      • Awesome to hear, Shelby.

        And yes, most people never get started because of the feeling of overwhelm and self doubt. It’s a huge undertaking, make no mistake.

        Glad you got some actionable tips and inspiration from the piece.

        Happy Holidays!

    • Hey Thanks for sharing great content on writing.

    • Nothing makes your writing grow like a ruthless editor. This is a pretty amazing framework that anybody can apply. Having just written a traditionally published book I see so many things that I actually did. And one of those posts I”ll be referring back to.

      • Thanks Srinivas.

        Coming from an author and entrepreneur I admire the hell out of, I’m stoked that you found some value from this framework.

        Happy Holidays

    • David says:

      Love the in depth detail of this case study. These are the articles that help me the most. Man I’m gonna start using that mind map tip immediately. Can’t believe I never used that. Thanks

      • Hey David.

        Yeah, the mind map is a total game changer for writing and planning any creative project.

        Glad you enjoyed it. Happy Holidays.

    • Luisa says:


      I’m not even a writer, at least I don’t think of myself as one, but this post really made it seem like writing a book is possible. I don’t think I’ll start yet, but I now have this post as a great resource.

      • Luisa

        Everyone struggles with confidence from time to time. I’ll say this….the day you believe that you’re a writer, is the day you ARE a writer.

        It’s an inside game first. Hope that helps.

    • Gus says:

      Great pointers, Mike! My favorite would have to be “find a ruthless editor”. My first attempt writing an e-book on digital marketing failed miserably. Looking back on things now I feel it was the result of using an “editor friend” that ended up sugar coated reality and told me my content was amazing. Moving forward, I’m going to take your advice and only hire an independent brutally honest editor which understands the subject matter to perfection. Thanks for the advice!

      • Gus,

        Yep you nailed it. My first 2 books flopped because I didn’t have critical editing support. I didn’t want to pay for it, so I left it in the hands of friends.

        Big mistake. You’ve got to believe in your work enough to want to invest in its quality.

        And there’s no better investment than a fantastic editor.

        Good luck on your next project!

    • Ive been writing for a little over 2 years now. And Im no writer. Im simply writing my thoughts and experience. So now I’m actually a lot more motivated to actually finish this project. Publishing has always been the end goal. And I’ve never published anything. Never had a clear picture on the “How to” part. Confidence isn’t my issue in writing. Its the follow through. Writing to perfecting obviously isn’t my strong suit. However handing this to a professional editorial staff and then sending it to print like you did with your book was what i need to do right now.

      • You’re 100% right about follow through. I struggled with this for years, he’ll I still do. It’s easy to start projects when you feel excited and inspired. But, it’s even easier to give up when things get hard and self doubt creeps in.

        I’m glad you found this helpful.

        Happy Holidays!

    • Eileen says:

      I’ve read a lot of books on writing, but I have to say your post is both encouraging and succinct. I’ve long thought about writing of my nursing experiences, without any clear idea how to begin. The process you have outlined combines the best of working from the inside out, and the outside in, simultaneously giving the write relevance and inspiration.

      • Hi Eileen,

        I’d say writing about your long career as a nurse could make for a fascinating read. Especially how you’ve seen the medical field change over the years, coupled with your personal stories.

        Glad this post provided some inspiration. =)

    • Jeffrey Richardson says:

      I have been a writer and editor for many years, and have at times been called upon to teach or advise aspiring writers. This can be difficult, because people bring so many self-imposed barriers to the process. Mr. Harrington’s post provides an excellent guide for starting a book, or even just an essay. It is authoritative, straightforward and compellingly simple in its approach. Being step-wise, it is a practical guide to systematically dismantling those barriers that even experienced writers often put in their own road to success.

      • Jeff,

        Always happy to hear when another professional writer/editor gives positive, insightful feedback.

        You guys (editors) have an incredible talent for taking good or mediocre writing and helping it reach its potential. Or at the very least, you’re kind about telling us to go back to the drawing board. =)

    • Billbo says:

      Wow. I could use a few thousand less posts like this. Shame on you, Write to Done, for featuring this.

      • I respect your opinion.

        I’m curious thought, what exactly was it about this piece that you found off-putting?

        Thanks for your feedback!

    • Jen F. says:


      This is an epic post with tons to absorb! I wasn’t gonna write a book, wasn’t sure I even had any good ideas. But after reading both posts, now I’m feeling inspired and encouraged that it might be possible.=)


      • Hi Jen,

        Always happy to hear when someone gets inspiration from my work.

        And yes, the confidence to get started is really the biggest obstacle. Once you start, momentum begins to take over.

        Happy Holidays

      • You’re most welcome. Glad to hear you’re inspired to get to work.

        Happy Holidays. 🙂

    • K Brady says:

      I hadn’t ever thought about the integral role that the Amazon Reviews section could play an in consumer research on nearly any and all topics, I like it! I also think that both steps 4 & 5 have an obviously critical role, however going from free flowing creativity to structure can be quite the challenge (for me). A work in progress!

      • Well, we’re all works in progress. We’re human beings.

        I’m glad the tip about reading Amazon reviews for ideas was helpful. As far as improving structure and flow of your writing, I can’t say it enough…

        Find a great editor.

        The good ones are worth their weight in gold.

    • Joe Moore says:

      1,3,4, and 7, definitely hit a chord. Combining these elements in particular, I thought that surgical, blow-by-blow descriptions of violence in a satirical type story would dazzle readers, and although I realize this type of writing is not for everybody, the main thing for the past several years seems to be that a writer, or novelist in particular, has to be more of a marketer or promoter.
      Thanks for the post, it was a trip down memory lane.

      • Joe,

        I love getting feedback like this. Thank you.

        When certain examples or steps strike a familiar chord, so much the better. Really glad you got value from this, and good luck!

        Happy Holidays.

    • Techician says:

      Thanks Mike, it inspired me a lot mike. Thanks for sharing man

      • You’re most welcome.

        I like to think that “inspiration” is my middle name. Or something less cheesy on my part. 😉

        Happy Holidays.

    • This is great advice for any aspiring writer,and I’ll spread the word. This should be handed out to all students beginning a writing class.

      • Jeff,

        Super nice words man, much appreciated. And yeah, if somebody had handed me this blog post a year ago, I think it would have saved me a lot of false starts. =)

        Happy Holidays..

    • Rosemary Harrington says:

      KUDOS Mike!

      Your personal commitment and clarity, in addition to processing tips combined with a ruthless editor, are brilliant!


      • Thanks Rosemary. (full disclosure, she’s my aunt..haha)

        Glad you enjoyed the style and the tip about finding a ruthless editor.

        Happy Holidays to you as well. =)

    • Easy format to read and encouraging. Thanks Mike.

    • Debra says:

      Thanks Mike this was eye opening. I wasn’t sure how to process this article at first but let it sink in and read it again. It is beginning to make sense. I am currently on draft 3 of my WIP. It went from a fiction with non fiction experiences from my life to a fiction story,,, back to a non fiction story. This is one set of stories I’m not sure just how to write yet. But it needs to be written because to not write it is a disservice to me and others who are in the same boat I’m in.

      • Hi Debra,

        Yeah, these 2 posts are DENSE with information and strategies. Probably best to read more than once, to take notes and process it all.

        That’s funny about your book doing the dance between fiction and non-fiction…sometimes the muse takes us in a different direction than we anticipated, eh?

        Can I ask what the topic of your story is?

    • Ohita Afeisume says:

      I’ve written a few things recently- poems stories, drama. How do I find a ruthless editor?

      • Good question.

        Well, as I said…close friends and family members are probably out. Do you know any other writers? You can offer to proofread and edit each other’s work, as a kind of trade.

        Otherwise, there’s plenty to be found on places like =)

        Good luck!

    • Carolina Jaramillo says:

      Mike this is really a great article inspires all those who want to write, the tips are very clear. It is also very nice to read your writings by the way you write each line … What was your inspiration to write?

      • Thanks Carolina!

        As much as I love writing (I do it every day), I get even more satisfaction by inspiring and encouraging other people to start writing.

        Something about seeing other people light up, believe in themselves and start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), that feels pretty darn good.

        Glad you enjoyed the tips, and good luck with your writing. =)

    • Paddy says:

      Hi Mike,

      Some good advice here – I especially like the mind map graphic. My grade 5 school teacher used similar and it has served me well thorough the years.

      But what if I already have a ton material written already? I’ve been collecting and expanding upon ideas and experiences over the past few years and have a couple hundred page collection of yard-sale-esque stuff that all has value… at least to me. Do I find myself an editor of sorts to help me sift out the nuggets? Where to begin exactly??

      • Paddy,

        You sound like nearly every writer (aspiring and professional) I’ve ever met.

        Some writers say 90% of the stuff they write will never see the light of day.

        I don’t think it has to be that extreme, and that’s exactly where having a great copy editor comes in.

        They don’t just help you with grammar and spelling, they are there to give you concrete feedback (and tough love), about how to improve structure, flow, voice and so much more.

        In short, a great editor can help you not only polish your work into a diamond, but carve it up so it becomes a work of art. (Or some better analogy I couldn’t come up with. Haha)

        Good luck, and go get yourself an editor!

        • Paddy says:

          Thanks for the reassurance Mike!

    • Jonathan says:

      Wow, thanks a lot for a super in-depth article on self publishing. The tip I’m gonna implement right away is doing my research on Amazon.

      I hadn’t even thought of that, and it’s a built in audience of readers telling you exactly what they want.


      • Jonathan,

        I’m glad that the research tip on Amazon “mining” was helpful. It’s a fantastic resource for new ideas, and communicating directly with your future audience and readers.

        Go get em. 😉

    • Kevin H. says:

      Excellent, comprehensive article.

      Man, this really fired me up to get cracking on my writing again…thanks for the great push and insights.

      • You’re most welcome, Kevin.

        Glad that this piece provided some inspiration.

        Now get to work. 😉

    • Loved this! A lot of what you’re talking about here is similar to any other creative process, even if the medium is different. I’m not necessarily looking to be a professional writer or publish a novel, but making YouTube videos has taught me a lot of these same skills (though I’m still a long way from being wildly successful).

      Maybe that means when I finally do “get” it entirely, I’ll be a successful writer, too! Haha. We can dream…

      • Interesting!

        I nevery thought about how this process would help YouTube creators be more successful.

        It makes perfect sense, however. And, with well researched and planned content, you’ll definitely stand out from all the mediocre crud out there….as long as you remember to promote your work.

        And, that’s exactly what Part 2 of this series covers, in excruciating detail. I hope you enjoy that follow up piece.

        And let us know if you start writing. 😉

    • Joel says:

      Mike, you continue to inspire me. I love how you used Mindmap software. I’ve never used that tool before but will try it for my next article!

      • Hey Joel,

        Yeah, I think mind mapping software (and outlining ahead of time) is one of the best secrets for anyone who wants their writing to stand above the noise online.

        Keep us posted on how your first mind mapped blog post shapes up 🙂

    • Maria says:

      Mike – awesome post! Writing and getting a book published is on my bucket list and when I’m ready to go for it (my best seller that is ;), I’ll definitely come back to this post. Thanks a lot! Maria

      • Sounds like a great bucket list goal, Maria.

        You’re a really good writer, so your bestselling book is only a matter of time, would be my guess. 🙂

    • FASE DOS says:

      Thanks for sharing this article. I needed an article like this to show me the basic guidelines in achieving my dream in being a writer.

      • My pleasure.

        Happy to hear it gave you some inspiration and motivation to get started. Take care!

    • DAVID KIM says:

      This is an excellent article.

    • RICHARD ODOM says:

      Thanks for the read. I think I can start off writing a novel now..

      • Thanks Richard.

        Always nice to hear readers enjoyed and got some real value from something I wrote.


    • BRIAN STUTES says:

      Great Read! Thanks for shedding some light, I will be sure to pass his along to other colleagues.

      • Excellent, share it far and wide with your aspiring writer friends.

        Hope it helps!

    • Awesome post with tons of actionable tips. Can’t wait to check out parts 2 and 3! Plus who isn’t obsessed with Tiny Houses 😉

      • Hey Liz,

        Glad the tiny house example helped understand the whole strategy. And stay tuned for Part 2, it’s a doozy. 😉

    • Scott says:

      Hey Mike! Reposting this since my original comment never made it (lost in cyberspace somewhere…if anyone is still using that term ‘cyberspace’).

      These are great tips. And I hesitate to use the word “tips” because they are so much more than that. And while this is geared specifically for non-fiction authors, I think every writer needs to pay attention to #9. People underestimate how much a gifted editor brings to the writing process—and yes, editing is part of the process, not an afterthought. Too many self-published authors have skimped or outright skipped this part entirely, and their work suffered because of it.

      The writing process is simple (but not easy!) but the magic happens during the editing. Thanks for making sure that we don’t forget that.

      Looking forward to part 2!

      • Oh you nailed it Scott.

        Editing, editing, editing. And editing some more.

        I think Stephen King says your second draft should cut at LEAST 10% from your first one. I personally err on the side of cutting more. I want each word, each sentence and each idea to stand on it’s own. Each one should do “work” of moving the story forward, and keeping the reader’s interest high.

        Glad to hear this helped!

    • Mark Tong says:

      Amazingly useful article Mike – number 9 is my favorite tip – a ruthless editor is worth their weight in gold

      • Hey Mark!

        A world class, no B.S. editor is truly a pot of gold for any writer looking to go from good to great.

        Hope you found a great editor, my man.

        Good luck

    • Pat says:

      Most helpful article I’ve read on the Internet in quite sometime. I really connected with #7, this is where many non-fiction books fall flat. Stories grab the reader and connect them to your topic. Do you live in a “tiny house” or was that just an example?

      • Hey Pat,

        Glad you enjoyed the example. I figured with a clear example topic, it’d make the whole process easier to understand and ultimately apply.

        And no, I do not live in a tiny house. I like a little more space, haha.

    • Bruce Sherry says:


      This was exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been hemming and hawing on writing a book for the last nearly two years. And you’re right, it was completely overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.

      Now I do. Awesome.


      • Awesome to hear this, man.

        Wish you a ton of success for your book. Take care!

    • I just want to thank everyone for all of your feedback on this post. It’s been awesome to connect with each of you.

      The better the comments, the better the quality of future content that I can write and share.


    • Ken says:

      This all makes great sense and is very clear and easy to follow. I’d say, if you were totally new to this, then follow Mike’s plan. My book just poured out of my head. It had been boiling inside me for years. So, the initial writing was simple.

      But my editor helped me turn it into something more useful than I’d first intended. To do so, required me to kill some of my “little darlings” and essentially write a second story from scratch to meld with the first. And Mike’s right. Family and friends are no help here.

      Also, get the thing professionally proofread. I did–when I hadn’t felt like it–and I was stunned at all that red ink bleeding off the pages from her corrections and comments! I was blind to all of it, and beyond grateful that she talked me into taking her help!

      Off the back of that comment, I can add, be patient with the process. Rushing to be done will only diminish the value of what you’ll eventually offer.

      • Ken,

        I read your book…and I loved it. Very touching, insightful and at times downright entertaining.

        And the red pen thing…yes, it can feel devastating at first. Especially if you’ve never had your little writer ego shattered by someone before.

        Like so much screaming drill sergeant during army bootcamp. Their job is to “break you down,” in order to build you back up into a stronger, more resilient and successful version of yourself. In short, to reach your potential.

        This applies to every creative pursuit in life, methinks.

        Thanks for commenting!

    • CJ says:

      Great article, Mike. You had me at the word “system”. I feel a lot of fear about publishing what I write. When I see the word “system”, I think, “If I just follow the steps, then I’ll I have no need to be fearful about the quality of what I produce.” Much like baking a Betty Crocker cake, I can feel confident that if I follow the tried-and-true methods on the cake mix box, I’ll end up with a successful bake.

      This bit of advice about finding out what is controversial about tiny houses really made sense to me:
      “Find the unorthodox idea, technique or philosophy nobody else is exploring…. put it unabashedly front and center”

      When I was growing up in small-town Alaska I was lucky enough to have teachers that pushed us to write with the aim of been published. I had a few things published, but mostly receiveda lot of rejection letters. I wished that I had had this advice back when I was 14 years old and less afraid of failing 🙂

      • Good analogy about the betty crocker approach.

        I had some resistance to doing a “paint by numbers” system with my writing (blog posts, books etc.)

        But, I’ve found if you have a system, a framework…you can “hang” your creativity and unique flair on that as a backbone. It makes the finished product that much stronger. Besides, once you master the fundamentals of structure and flow, your creativity really begins to take off like a rocket.

        Just like Picasso…. He mastered 100% realism (portraits and landscapes), before he went down his famous abstract path. I think the same is true for great writers.

        Focus on writing clearly, concisely and provide valuable information. Then, as you progress, you can go as abstract as you want. And people will probably love you for it. 😉

        P.S. I am from Anchorage, Alaska. Where were you born?

    • Hey Mike,

      Enjoyed reading this as I’m always curious to see how other peoples writing process differs to mine. 🙂

      Tip #9 is very true – find an editor that takes no BS!

      Looknig forward to reading part 2 and 3 mate.

      • Exactly Carlo.

        I have a total love/hate relationship with my editor. He nit picks, he challenges me and he calls me out when my writing or ideas don’t cut the mustard. (haha, i love that expression).

        But, my writing has improved in leaps and bounds this year due to our relationship.

        Nobody ever said growth was painless! 😉

      • Time to go find yourself a great editor, Carlo! =)

    • Mike,

      This is incredible!! While the whole article is awesome., #9 and #10 are my favorite points. A ruthless editor is highly recommended and much needed. I want only the best critique! And yes, PR is everything. Great job man and thanks for sharing all of your input and experience!!


      • Wow, very kind words Matt.

        Yeah, I wanted to make sure people got really tangible tips, as well as the inspiration to implement them!

        Having a great editor (ruthless, lol), makes all the difference. They can be a pain in the ass to deal with, but that’s because they’re pushing you to take your writing from good to great.

        Just like a coach with pro athletes or an amazing director with actors. It’s the same philosophy…get around people who push you to be the best.

    • Great content, Mike! I was going to ask what your recommendations for tip #10… but it looks like I’ll have to wait til part 2 of this blog post!

      Thanks for the tips.

      • Ah yes…the ole cliffhanger.

        I think you’re gonna really enjoy Part 2. Glad you enjoyed this one.

        Stay tuned!

    • Tori says:

      “Readers fall in love with writers who have opinions and the guts to stand by them.”
      I love this quote from Mike’s article…nothing rings more true. Years ago I started writing on a health subject and treatment that I thought would be of interest to many people…but I gave up shortly after because, directionally, I didn’t know where I was going with the book. Mike’s words and wisdom make me want to jump back in ASAP!
      Mike, you’re such a brilliant man who’s on the highway to success! Amazing article, as always!

      • Wow, thanks for those words Tori.

        I actually forgot I wrote that line you mentioned, ha! And yeah, I’ve noticed that the only writers I seem to be drawn to now (bloggers, authors etc), are the ones with bold opinions.

        Of course, they’ve got to back them up with experience, research or data in order to be seen as credible…but the powerful writing with real opinions (a voice) are what make them stand out from everyone else.

        Glad I inspired you to start writing again. =)

    • C Andrews says:

      Awesome article! This really breaks it down and offers great tips, awesome job Mike!

    • kathleen says:

      Thanks Mike, I especially appreciated the info about the necessity of good editing, which I have learned means “paid for” editing. It the secret sauce to “killing my darlings”

      • Exactly.

        Killing your darlings aka deleting your precious words if they don’t fit the project is a painful, yet necessary step for all writers to take. Sooner or later, that is. 😉

    • Ann says:


      This post makes me smile, I’m doing research on Amazon book reviews and I wasn’t sure if I was wasting time or not.

      • Ann,

        Well if I made you smile, I think I’ve done my job. =)

        And no, spending time researching and mining Amazon for good data on your target audience will give you a HUGE boost when it comes time to start writing.

        Good luck!

    • Thanks Nelson for the kind words.

      And yeah, I wrote this piece with a lot of entrepreneurs in mind. So many of us want to write and publish a book, but getting started can be overwhelming and confusing.

      I hope this series gives people the clarity and confidence they need to get started.


    • Wow – really enjoyed this article. I absolutely love the direct way in which you broke down your process and I think the example was perfect (tiny houses) – value packed stuff Mike, thank you – off to share with a few friends

      • Nelson!

        Great to see you here, man! Glad you enjoyed the post.

        It seems like a lot of entrepreneurs want to write a book these days, so hopefully my experience can give them the encouragement and confidence to get started with their writing.

        Thanks for commenting. Take care in Colombia!

      • Thanks Nelson for the kind words. =)

        And yeah, I wrote this piece with a lot of entrepreneurs in mind. Turns out over 90% of entrepreneurs now say they want to write their own book.

        But, just like any new venture, getting started can be downright overwhelming, confusing and a bit scary.

        I hope this 2-part series I created gives writers and entrepreneurs both the clarity and confidence they need to get started with their first book.


    • Hi Mike,

      I’m a big fan of mindmaps for dumping ideas. IMHO they’re an under-utilised resource. Good writing relies as much on structure as it does on creativity, and in the planning phase mind maps allow us to do both.

      Good article. I look forward to reading part 2.


      • Helen,

        Exactly. As soon as I started actually mapping and planning before I started my writing, it all became a lot more cohesive and smooth.

        Free-writing has it’s place, and is great for unearthing new ideas and directions, but nothing beats a great “roadmap” prior to getting started, at least in the non-fiction genre. 😉

        Thanks for commenting.

        • Totally agree. There’s a time for free writing, and a time to get down to business.

    • James Ranson says:

      Some great stuff here, Mike! Now when do I get to be your ruthless editor? 😉

      • Thanks James,

        Glad you enjoyed it. Planning on writing your own book in 2016, perhaps?

        As for editing, I’ve still got a great team with Jon Morrow over at BoostBlogTraffic…but things are wide open for my next book. 😉

        Happy Holidays!

    • Love how you break down the idea to action. The outline is really helpful, coupled with the mind map. Was just looking into this yesterday, so your post arrived at the perfect time. Thank yo!

      • Ashley,

        Glad the post came out at the perfect time for you. =)

        And yeah, having tools like a mindmap makes the process a LOT easier. Not to mention less confusing and stressful.

        Good luck in writing your book!


    • Ben Fishel says:

      Great article Mike.

      The second point on looking at repeated phrases in Amazon reviews is absolute gold.

      I’m always looking for ways to identify the certain words or terms that an audience may be conditioned to respond to – particularly with copywriting projects or blog posts. Will be looking in Amazon products reviews from now on.

      Keep it up!

      • Hey Ben,

        Happy to hear the article helped, my friend.

        Doing keyword research, and mining the reviews of relevant books on Amazon is a great strategy that not enough writers employ.

        You literally get your potential audience of readers telling you (in their own words) what they want.

        I’m looking forward to your book in the future. =)

    • Chris P says:

      This reads too much like selling a new gadget for the home… not about the creative arts. There’s not a mention of fiction writers anywhere.

      Choose your subject?… That sounds too much like a product.

      Pick some words and phrases from Amazon’s reviews and slap them together?

      What are we, lame hip hop ‘singers’ sampling everyone else’s work and doing none of our own?
      Or are we writers of original material?

      If your raison d’être is simply to sell numbers, then you’re in the wrong game.

      Write what stirs you, whether fiction or fact, and leave the ‘101 Reasons to Wipe Your Arse’, or ‘How to Win Friends and Not Have to Give a Shit About Any of Them’ type titles to the kind of soul less wannabe marketing people and their airhead customers who love these kinds of things.

      If people love your book enough to want to buy it, that’s great. But write because you want to write, not to buy yourself a new house.
      If you want to sell quantity, then sell something that everyone wants exactly the same version of… not a slab of paper that could have millions of different permutations of the words within, and yet there still wouldn’t a version for everyone.

      If you still want to write, and still hope to sell your book as we all do, then get it to a proper publisher, even a small independent, who’ll edit and advise, taking the costs of doing so from his own cut of any sales. If a publisher is prepared to risk his money on your work, then you’ve got it cracked. If you can’t get a publisher to accept it, then it probably isn’t ready to be published yet. (Don’t be too disheartened by rejections. There are a lot of books for publishers to choose from). Just keep e-mailing it out, but choose with care. I wouldn’t try to sell my books, (with a high class call girl and a gay atheist vicar as two of my protagonists), to a ‘Christian Publisher’. It would be like offering pork pies to a mosque’s canteen.

      If you must ‘self publish’, then learn the conventions of layout and punctuation for your type of work and get them right. After you’ve got that, read it, re-read it, and re-read it again. Then get it read by others, before finally getting it edited, if you don’t feel you can do it yourself.

      • Chris,

        I appreciate your comments. And, while we may not see eye to eye on how to approach writing non-fiction (which is what this article is about), I think I understand where you’re coming from.

        In fact, that’s why I haven’t published over 90% of my creative writing. Free writing is my release, and how I unearth my best new creative ideas. Do you do much free writing?

        What’s great about free writing is you can write for yourself, or just the trash can. No constraints and you can just go nuts. I personally love the process.

        I hope you do as well.

        Happy Holidays.

        • Chris P says:

          Thanks for commenting, Mike. We both agree then, that the piece was about non fiction, though it simply said ‘How to write a blockbuster’.

          One thing I do agree with is about getting the work edited properly. Amazon’s Kindle lists are filled with works that are clearly unedited. Some of them have the basics of a great book hidden inside fighting to get out.

          It isn’t impossible to self edit, but you have to know what you’re looking for, and be able to read the work you’ve written, rather than what you meant to say when you wrote it.

          It’s a shame you don’t get more of your own creative writing out there, but I suppose it depends on whether you need to sell words to live, or whether you are like me, effectively retired and can write whatever you want (or in my case, occasionally whatever my publisher suggests… if it suits me.) It helps that I’ve done a bit of editing of other authors’ work for my publisher. You can learn a lot from others’ approaches and mistakes.

          • Hey Chris,

            You compelled me to respond again. =)

            That’s an enviable position to be in, retired and able to write only stuff you personally love. And you’re right…I still have to make a living from my words and consulting (not always the most glamorous).

            But that’s why I still write 1500-2000 words, 7 days a week. Honing the craft, getting better in 1% increments..hopefully. Will I ever tackle the fiction beast? Who knows…that still scares the crap out of me!

            That said, I’m re-launching my own site/blog in 2016, and I’ll be publishing a lot of my creative writing there, even resurrecting some of my older works with fresh edits.

            What’s your favorite book or piece you’ve written?

            I’d love to hear more..

    • Thanks for making the steps so clear and concise.
      My favorite is #4 — I have a lot of fun in that phase, using index cards. I’ve filled two index card boxes with all of my ideas, organized by little dividers.
      My greatest challenge: too many ideas!! I get stuck in this phase and struggle to move forward. It’s not that I can’t organize them, because I do. In fact, it’s almost become a hobby of mine: keeping track of all of my ideas (in index cards, Evernote, Scrivener, Pinterest). I’m a born curator.
      My problem: I love so many of them! How to choose?
      I’m making myself sit with it and decide over the next few weeks. 2016 is the year!

      • Oh man,

        “Too many ideas.” Do I relate to that. You should see inside my Evernote “spark file.”

        It looks like a nuclear bomb went off….half baked ideas, deleted prose from other projects, headline ideas and a mish-mash of metaphors and other imagery.

        I think that’s par for the course with most writers. The ideas start flowing like a torrent…which isn’t a bad thing.

        The challenge is honing those ideas down, “killing some of your darlings,” and diving deeper on your BEST ideas.

        I find the less tools I use, the more my mind is able to focus and be creative.

        Hope that helps!

    • Thanks for your post. I really agree with point 9. I’ve grown to be much better by having a ruthless editor

      • Thanks for you kind words.

        And yes, ruthless editing is a skill to be learned and mastered like any other.

        It can be quite painful at first, but I promise it gets easier. Plus, your writing will go from good, to great.

        Editing, and great editors make all the difference.

        Happy Friday!

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