From Planning to Publication: The 4 Main Stages of Writing a Book

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You want to write a book but don’t know where to start or where to go next? Writing a book is a daunting endeavor, and it’s not uncommon for an author to get stuck somewhere in the process. There’s a lot involved in writing and publishing a book, so there’s much for a new author to learn. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together this roadmap for writing a book so you can see where to start and where you’ll end up, with the required pit stops along the way. Of course, every book project is different, but this roadmap can help guide you through the most difficult obstacles on the path.

While writing a book can be broken down into several small steps, it can be more helpful to pull back and look at the big picture: the main stages of the writing process, from an initial idea to a fully formed book. We outline the major steps, how to handle them, and at what points you may need the help of a professional.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, we have experts that can help, so make sure to check out our services for authors

1. Planning

This first stage involves exploring ideas and building on them. You’re daydreaming, brainstorming, jotting down notes, researching, and outlining. You’re shaping your story and characters. At this point, you should also think about your target audience and cater to their tastes and expectations. Of course, you don’t want a cookie-cutter book, but you don’t want to stray too far from the conventions of your genre, either.

It takes time to flesh out a great plot, so don’t try to rush the planning stage. It’s a good idea to draw up an outline to steer you through the writing stage, too. A rough one is fine—you don’t want anything too constricting. A basic outline can help keep you on track, preventing you from straying into irrelevant side plots that you’ll just have to cut out later.

2. Writing

Once you’ve formulated your idea and outlined your story, you’re ready to start writing in earnest. Try not to be overly critical as this is the first draft. You don’t need to worry too much about your book’s length or grammar mistakes—just get the story written down. Constantly nitpicking and editing your own writing will only hinder the process—focus on the transfer of words to the page, even if they don’t quite sound the way you want. 

It’s okay if you lose focus, if the story meanders, or if your characters’ dialogue is less than perfect. The first draft will probably be pretty rough around the edges, but you’ll fine-tune it later. The purpose of a first draft is simply to get your story in its entirety onto the page—no one’s first draft is that great, so don’t worry if you’re not pleased with it.

Professional services at this stage

Once you have a completed manuscript, you can get a manuscript critique or a developmental edit. Both of these services provide feedback on the big picture, looking to identify issues such as plot holes and poor character development. 

With a manuscript critique, you’ll get an assessment of your story’s strengths and weaknesses and a plan to improve them. With a developmental edit, you’ll get the same feedback as with a critique in addition to detailed notes on specific sections of your manuscript. Neither service is concerned with linguistic issues, so your typos won’t be addressed here. Your plot needs to be polished before you can worry about spelling and grammatical errors.

3. Revising

At the revision stage, you take the feedback from your manuscript critique or developmental edit and start applying it to improve your book. You may need to flesh out your character’s motivation, fix plot holes, or rewrite confusing sections. You’ll add and cut scenes, move things, and change details. Erasing scenes, details, and even characters can be painful if you’ve grown attached to them, but sometimes that’s necessary to realize your book’s full potential. You’ll repeat this process until the manuscript is as good as it can get. There’s no right answer to how many drafts you’ll need, but remember that multiple rounds of revision are common.

Professional services at this stage

At this stage, you’re fine-tuning your manuscript, so this is the time to hire a line editor. Line editing focuses on writing style and sentence structure, looking at each line and paragraph. These editors not only fix your typos and grammatical mistakes but also identify unclear or awkward writing and offer tips on improving it. 

The end of the revision stage is the time to hire a proofreader to fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors and any formatting issues. This should be the final step in the writing process, with the proofreader giving the manuscript a final read to identify any typos that survived all the previous rounds of editing.

4. Pitching

Once you have a finished book, it’s time to get a publisher. Finding a literary agent is probably your best bet, especially if you’re trying to land at a bigger publishing house. In general, major publishers won’t work with authors who aren’t represented by an agent, so you might not even have a choice. 

To get a literary agent, you’ll need to write a query letter with information about the book (such as genre and word count), an author bio, and a short description of the book. You’ll also need to pitch to the right agents since each one specializes in different types of books. Don’t get discouraged if you face rejection—every writer does. Even the biggest authors of our time were rejected at the beginning of their careers.

Professional services at this stage 

If you’re not sure how to pitch your book, get us to create a query letter for you. Our query letter package includes not only the letter but also a book synopsis and a targeted list of literary agents you can contact.


Whatever stage of writing a book you’re at right now, the tips above offer some guidance on where you’re going so you can prepare for the next stage. 

Are you stuck somewhere in this process? That’s where professional help comes in. If you’re at a dead end with your story, you can get a developmental edit. If you’re working on revisions, you can turn to a line editor. If you’ve finished your manuscript and don’t know how to get it published, you can have a query letter written.

The takeaway is that you’re not alone! Read more about the services we offer—you’re sure to find a professional ready to help, no matter what stage you’re at. 

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