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Writing and Self-Publishing a Book on Amazon

Part 1: Pre-Writing

Planning and Getting Started

I recently released my book, Follow Your Detour and have gotten asked numerous times, “how did you do it?” and more specifically, “how did you do it so fast?” I wrote the entire rough draft in just 25 days! The following 35 days were spent editing, re-writing, and self-publishing. So I was able to fully write and publish my entire book in just 60 days.

I should also mention that my book is 42,000 words and became an Amazon #1 best seller by noon the day of it’s launch. Weeks later, it has over seventy 5-star reviews and I’m consistently receiving messages and emails from people (friends and strangers) who have been touched by the book. I share this because sometimes people associate time with quality. 

While my timeline was tight and my turnaround was fast, I was completely satisfied with how my book turned out. I was able to devote a lot of my time and energy into it during those 25 days and the words flowed out of me pretty easily because I made it the priority it needed to be. 

It was a life changing experience and I now tell everyone that if they’ve considered writing a book or if it’s something on their “bucket list” to go for it. It’s never been easier to self-publish with the help of Amazon. It’s an accomplishment you’ll be so happy you achieved so what are you waiting for?

So if you’re ready to finally write the book you’ve always dreamed of writing, you can do it too! Whether it takes you 25 days or 90, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have something to share with the world and you owe it to yourself and others to share it. I’m sure glad I did it and I know you will be too. 

“Where do I begin?”

When I first got the idea to write a book, this was the first thing I said to myself because I honestly had no idea where to start. I sat down a wrote the first chapter and then didn’t look at it again for another two months or so. I couldn’t figure out how to get my thoughts out in an organized way, I was super intimidated by the process, and didn’t even know what I didn’t know in order to do Google research.

A friend of mine who had written and self-published two books recommended I read the book Published by Chandler Bolt. The book steps you through everything you need to know to write and self-publish your first book. It was through this book that I discovered Self Publishing School, the program the author created to help support first-time authors.

I’m not usually one to buy online courses for a variety of reasons but I signed up and knew that the financial commitment and accountability through the coaching was what I needed to actually complete my book. Besides, I wanted to my 100% of my effort into creating my book, not researching the steps of how to do it.

I knew I could work my way through the course and it would provide me with the information I needed throughout each step, which would keep me from feeling overwhelmed or stressing about whether or not I knew what I needed to do next. If you’re interested in the program, let me know. With my referral, you can save $250. I’ll share more about the program and my honest review of it in part three of this blog post series. 

Ask me to about my “Golden Ticket” to get you $250 off Self Publishing School!


The reason I am writing this three part series, however, is provide a framework for you. If you’re feeling like I did – unsure of where to start, the steps that writing and publishing a book requires, and not even aware of what you don’t know, then I hope this helps. I’ll provide the basic steps you need to know so you have a clear path.

Then, whether you choose to sign up for a program to guide you along the steps, or decide to research the steps along the way on your own, is completely up to you! Either way, I’m here to support you so feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to help you achieve the dream of writing a book – it’s incredible!

Start with your why!

I’m a firm believer of always doing a “heart check” before starting any endeavor. Ask yourself why you’re wanting to write a book and especially why now

For me, I felt I had a powerful, life-changing message I wanted to share with others. It was a message of hope and inspiration that had greatly helped me through some of the hardest years of my life and I knew it could help others too. 

I felt a stirring in my heart from God and I couldn’t ignore it. I prayed about it and while writing a book was always something I wanted to do someday, I felt compelled that the time was now. I had always thought I’d wait until I got through the current season of my life. I thought that I could offer more inspiration “on the other side”.

But then God reminded me that there is more power sharing my message in the depths of this season. It’s a season of waiting and staying faithful in God’s timing. I knew that many people could relate to that in their own lives. My story and message is most powerful right in this very moment of it and I told myself, “I can write book number two from a different perspective when I’m through this part of my journey“. 

Women on rooftop patio in Lisbon Portugal with arms open wide

I don’t want to get too much into my own book, you can read the story behind why I wrote it in this post, Our Story: From a Dead End to a Detour. You can also read a description of my book, Follow Your Detour on my author page.

But, in this three part series I want to help you with your book. So lets get started. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to write a book? Do you have something you want to teach others? How will it help them?
  • Why do you think now is the time to write it?
  • How would writing a book be helpful to you? Could it grow your business, help you heal, or connect you to others?
  • What are you goals for your book? Do you want to use it to establish authority or credibility? Are you wanting to launch your career as an author? Leverage it for other opportunities? Or maybe you just want to get your message or story out to as many people as possible? 

Your why should be your driving force and should be at the forefront of your mind throughout the process. It will keep you focused and motivated, which will help you get through the hard times. 

Get out of your head!

If you’re like I was when I first got the idea to write a book, I immediately thought it was a crazy idea. Who was I to write a book? I’m not a real author! Could I really write 40,000 words? Do I even have the time? My minded was flooded with questioning and doubt along with fear about the process and my abilities. 

These doubts and questions continued throughout the process. In fact, they still creep up even though my book is published. Even now as I promote my book, I wonder if people really do like it or if they’re just saying they do. I worry about getting negative reviews and question whether it could really be successful. 

There’s an actual term for this and it’s called Imposter Syndrome and the truth is, everyone gets it. So first, just know you aren’t alone and those thoughts are not only common but more importantly they are not accurate. 

Whether you’re a perfectionist, over achiever, procrastinator, etc, you need to understand and believe the following truths:

  • There will never be a “perfect time” to write a book.
  • Your book will never be 100% flawless and perfect, aim for completion and growth. 
  • You’re allowed to make mistakes and you will make them, just learn from them. The biggest mistake is not trying. 
  • There are tons of people who you are an “expert” to, who can learn from you, and who need to hear your message or story. 
  • Don’t compare your beginning to someone who’s been working at something for much longer. You’ll get there too. 
  • You have everything you need to be an author. Just start! You don’t need an extensive background or degree in writing. 
  • You don’t need, nor does it have to take years to write a best seller. The more you delay starting, the longer it will take. 

The 3 Important Pre-Writing Steps 

1. Set Goals 

Dates and Deadlines

It helped me tremendously to set a timeline for my book. My biggest goal was to release my book to the public on March 12th, as it was the anniversary of my brother’s passing. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him and accomplish this lifelong goal of mine. Once I picked the date that my book needed to be completed, I worked backwards and set dates for the various phases and milestones of the process.

calendar with due date for rough draft written on it
In order to release my book on March 12th, I knew my rough draft needed to be complete by February 1st.

I’d suggest choosing a date that is meaning for you as well. Is there someone you’re dedicating your book to? Is there a date that is significant to them or to you personally? Choosing a special is a great motivator. 

You’ll also want to choose a date for: when you want to begin, complete the rough draft, submit for editing, publish, and launch. If you don’t set deadlines for yourself, you’ll drag out or delay each step and reaching completion will only get harder and harder.

There are a few things to keep in mind while setting these deadlines. You’ll need to take into account the amount of time it will take to get your book edited, designed and launched. I’ll provide more information on this in the other parts of this blog series.

But, generally speaking, give yourself at least 4-6 weeks between completing your rough draft and your release date. While there is some overlap you can do, for example, you can be working on and planning your launch while your book is with your editor, you’ll want to allow for some wiggle room in case issues come up…and they will! So if you choose a release date, you can work backwards from there to select a rough draft date. It’s ultimately up to you, your personal timeline and plan for your book to determine how soon you’d like to give yourself complete your rough draft. 

Get a Plan

Once you’ve set a date to complete your rough draft by, you can get a writing plan together. As they say, “a goal without a plan is just a wish”. Depending on how many days you’ve given yourself to write the rough draft, you can then set aside the right amount of writing time you’ll need each day or week.  

To determine how much time you’ll need to write each day or week, you’ll want to estimate the amount of words your book will be. You can use this guideline to help you set a realistic goal for word count, based on the average word counts of the different types of books. Obviously, everyone’s book is different and it’s hard to know exactly how many words you’ll write, but try to set a goal to aim for.

For me, I set the goal of 30,000 words. I ended up writing way more than that, but at the time, 30,000 seemed really high to me. When I broke up 30,000 words into 25 days (the amount of time between the date I set for my start date and my rough draft date), I knew I needed to write about 1,200 words per day.

Someday’s I would write three times as many words, other days I would get stuck after 500. But, I kept a spreadsheet and knew that every week, I needed to be close to 8,000 words to know that I was on track. So it was perfectly fine for me to take days off, if I was ahead of my word count, and other days I knew I needed to spend more time writing to catch up. 

Make a plan for yourself so you know approximately how many words you need to write per day to reach your rough draft date based on your anticipated word count. Be diligent about keeping track of your word count so you can have a basis for gauging your progress. Remember to allow for flexibility and not be too strict or structured. As long as you are aiming for your daily word count goal, remember to allow yourself to take necessary breaks as needed. 

Find a Way to Stay Accountable

If you go through the effort of setting deadlines and establishing a plan, don’t let yourself down. Find someone who will keep you accountable. Hire a coach, join a writers group, or pair up with an accountability buddy. Don’t depend on yourself alone to keep you on track. We all need someone to keep us in check sometimes!

2. Mindmap

When I sat down and started writing my book, I wrote one chapter, got stuck and then didn’t write another word for over a month. I had so many ideas in my head, but had no idea how to get them down. My plan to just wing it failed real quick.

Mind mapping is a great tool for getting your thoughts and ideas out of your head so you can begin to organize them. It’s like a mental dump and you’ll immediately feel so much more at ease knowing that you won’t forget something. You’ll also generate a lot of new ideas to write about. Allowing yourself dedicated thinking time is very helpful.

To create a mind map, you simply set aside 10-15 minutes to write down anything and everything you’re considering writing in your book. You can write them on sticky notes, a large sheet of paper, or even create it digitally, whatever you prefer. You can even draw your ideas if you prefer picture cues over words.

The important thing is that you write down everything that comes to mind, even if you aren’t sure its a good fit. This activity is meant to be a brainstorm, not a time to evaluate or organize ideas. For a better instructions, tips and ideas on mind mapping, go to

photo example of a mind map for writing a book
This was my crazy mind map!

3. Outline Your Chapters

After you complete your mind map, you’ll want to begin categorizing and organizing your thoughts and ideas. You can use colored highlighters to categorize topics, put your sticky notes in similar piles, or re-write your mind map into lists of similar ideas. This is how you’ll plan the framework for your book, which will help guide you in your writing. It’s like creating a map for your book that will give it clear direction for you and for your future readers.

After grouping similar ideas, concepts, stories, and ideas together from your mind map, you’ll need to decide the sequence of how you’ll write them out. Again, you’re creating a map, so think about the journey you plan to take your readers on. 

Your book should be designed with your audience in mind from the very beginning, even before you begin writing. The outlining process is the best time to do this. Think about where your readers will be when they pick up your book and where you want to take them as they read it. What is your end goal for them? Be strategic! If you’re writing a story, think about the sequence of events and make sure your outline follows that.

Your outline will start to fall into place but may take some time. Don’t rush or skip this step though, as having a strong outline will help immensely with the writing. It will also ensure that your book flows well. You may change or adjust your outline several times before it feels right, but you’ll get there!

Your outline will then guide you in selecting chapters for your book. Don’t worry too much about chapter names, just get a pretty good idea of how many chapters you’ll have and what their topics will be.

If your outline isn’t perfectly laid out, that’s okay too. You may adjust it as you write. For me, some areas still felt a little messy or fuzzy but I didn’t let it hold me back from starting to write. I worked it out naturally after I began writing. So while you don’t want to skip or rush the outlining phase, you also don’t want to get stuck in it either. 

By the time you’ve completed the outline, you’ll feel so ready to start writing and will have clear direction. You’ll be much less likely to run into writers block! 

Following the steps I suggest in part one of this series, the “pre-writing and planning phase” will help you get off on the right foot with your book. It will help you feel more prepared and exciting to get started. I hope, most of all, that it shows you IT IS POSSIBLE and YOU CAN DO IT!

Ready for part 2? Read about the producing phase of writing your book and tips for writing, editing, and designing your book. 

What questions do you have about getting starting with writing a book? How can I further support you in this stage? 


Do you have an idea for a book? Share it in the comments!


Read the Other Posts in this Series:

Writing and Self-Publishing a Book on Amazon Part 2: Producing (Writing, Editing & Designing Your Book)


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how to write and self-publish a book on amazon part 1 pre-writing planning and getting started

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Lindsay McKenzie

Lindsay is a proud Colorado native who loves Jesus, her family (especially her 3 nieces and 5 nephews), and of course, adventures with her husband Dan and their 2 dogs. She's a simple kind of girl. All it takes to make her happy is a cold beer, some country music, a sunset, and maybe a fishing pole!

All posts by Lindsay McKenzie

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Terry Stafford
Terry Stafford
5 years ago

Congratulations on your launch! As an indie author and editor myself, self-publishing doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality. You’ll always need a good cover and a great editor.

Denise Bumby
Denise Bumby
5 years ago

This is an awesome post Lindsay! Thanks for the info and helping to organize some of the things I hadn’t thought of yet. I do have some loose goal dates in mind but I am still in the research phase and I am not sure how long that will take to get done so I feel like I need to get that done before I can set date goals. Any thoughts on that?