How to Write a Book

Today I thought I’d share with you how I write a book.

There are probably a lot of ways to write a book, the same way that there are a lot of ways to clean the kitchen or knit a sweater. What works for one person doesn’t make a lot of sense for another person. This is what works for me, but you know… results will vary. As you can see from the pics above, I have lots of help from the pets, and I write in a variety of places (back porch, AirBnB, office). Sometimes I’m on my desktop and sometimes I’m on a laptop. Whatever is handy.

  • The first thing I do is spend some time deciding WHO I want to write about. Who are these people? What are there dreams? What is their past? Why are their paths crossing at this moment? And how does that complicate things? How does it, ultimately, resolve things?
  • Once I have the main characters in my mind, I write a short synopsis (summary) of the story. It’s not chiseled in stone. I can change it. But this is what I think will happen. I send that off to my fabulous editor who makes suggestions and/or simply approves it. For a series, these books are all approved at once–not in detail, just the overall idea. I’ve been working on a new series, Indiana Amish Market, and those books have all been approved in theory.
  • When I receive that approval, I begin writing. For me, the beginning is easy. I start the story in the middle of something happening (usually the two characters meeting), and then I see where things go. It’s important to establish who these people are, intrigue the reader, and detail the setting. It’s crucial to hint at the problems to come. Once I have close to 50 pages, I send that back off to my editor and work on something different while I wait.
  • When I have approval (which takes 2-4 weeks), then I’m off and running. It takes me about 8 weeks to write the rest of the novel. Each morning, I begin by looking back over the previous day’s work (for no more than an hour), and then I tackle my word count for the day. Yes, I have a set word count. It’s usually between 1,500 and 2,500 words a day. Maybe one good scene or half of a chapter. Somewhere toward the middle of the book, I stop what I’m doing and go write the ending–the BEST ending I can imagine. Then I go back to where I stopped and write to the end. That’s a little strange, but it works for me.
  • Once I finish, I send it off to my pre-readers–Kristy and Tracy. They’ve been doing this for me a long time, and they are great at catching my mistakes. This also serves to give me a break from the story so I can look at it with fresh eyes. I receive it back in 2-4 weeks (in the meantime, I’m working on something else or taking a small vacation which is usually a STAYcation). When I receive it back, I start on page one and work through to the end, considering Kristy’s and Tracy’s suggestions and adding in more details and tension. This takes another 1-2 weeks.

This is when I finally allow myself to type the words The End, and then I send the finished product off to my editor. This is a happy day! I celebrate by watching a movie with hubby or going out for dinner or casting on a new knitting project. Yes, my celebrations get wild like that.

Yesterday, I sent the second book in my Indiana Amish Market to my editor. YOU won’t read this book until next spring, but no worries…we’ll have other books coming out between now and then. In fact, The Amish Twins Next Door releases later this month.

So that’s it. That’s how I write a book! Of course, those are just the first steps. Once my fantastic editor has it, we start the editing and proofreading phase. I’ll talk about that in another post.

In the meantime, comment with the name of a book that has delighted you recently. It doesn’t have to be one of my books (eyeroll). I recently finished These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon. It was lovely. You can read my review here. Now tell me, what have you been reading? Or, if you have a question about writing, feel free to post it in the comments section, and I’ll try to answer it.


Posted in


  1. Shirlee on April 16, 2022 at 6:46 pm

    That’s very interesting! I’ve not given it much thought about how a book is written. I’d like to write a book sometime, lol!

  2. Mary Gessner on April 16, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    You seem so organized and focused. I’m envious. But you have several great ideas, especially how you develop your characters. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Shirley Dieu on April 17, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Do you have a good contact for printing hardbacks? Thank you.

  4. Lelia “Lucy” Reynolds on April 19, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    It was interesting to see how organized you are. Recently I read The Souls of Lost Lake and All That Really Matters and both were excellent. I have The Amish Twins Next Door on my TBR pile. Have a blessed evening. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Jane Casey on April 19, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    I like it. Sounds very practical and workable. Makes a lot of sense

  6. Cindy Duez on April 19, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    I recently finished and really enjoyed is The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People by Rick Bragg. I also loved An Amish Flower Farm by Mindy Steele.

  7. Lynette on April 19, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    It was interesting to hear about your process.

    I just finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. It’s been recommended to me by several people, and I finally got around to reading it.

    • Debbie Rhoades on April 22, 2022 at 12:59 am

      I loved reading how you write a book. I have never read anything that you have written that wasn’t awesome, though! I just finished ” The Booksellers Promise” by Beth Wiseman and it was truly outstanding!

  8. Patricia Shrader on April 19, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    I recently enjoyed “Kew Gardens Girls” written by Posy Lovell. This is about a few women who stepped into formerly mens’ jobs to take care and maintain the Kew Gardens in London during WWI.

  9. Doris H Lankford on April 19, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    I have just found Jan Moran as a new author to me. I have been reading her Seabreeze Inn series and really enjoying them.
    Thank you for the insight into your writing process.

  10. MS Barb on April 19, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing on how you develop your plot & characters! (I didn’t realize there were many steps to having a story approved!)

  11. Arleen Curry on April 19, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Wow, thanks for sharing the way you write. Love your books. I live vicariously through you anyway. 😉. Living in Texas also. I’ve been reading Amish novels for several years. I used to read other types of books, but became disappointed in the violence, sexual content and foul language that has become prevalent in so many books nowadays. I enjoy some cozy mysteries also. Right now I am reading a series by Jana DeLeon. The Miss Fortune Mysteries. A friend recommended them and said they made her laugh. They are making me laugh too because they are Cajun themed, and I have Cajun relatives so I’m familiar with the customs and language. Thank you so very for the books you write.

    • Cindy Jines on April 23, 2022 at 9:01 am

      Your writing details are interesting. I know that is very hard work. I give you kudos for everything you go through to get books out to all of readers! WOW! Your work is truly hard & tedious, but yet it sounds fun & exciting at the same time. I don’t think people, sometimes, realize how much go into writing a book. Thanks for sharing this.
      I’ve currently been reading 2 Series by Samantha Price, The Amish Bonnet Sisters & The Ettie Smith Mystery series. I love both of these series.
      I, also, read all of your books that I can, along with all the other authors who write Amish Books! I am addicted to them😂

  12. Anne Rightler on April 19, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    It was interesting to read how you craft your books. So now if I’m in the middle of one of your stories and feel compelled to go to the end to find out what ultimately happens, there’s a reason for that. It’s how you wrote it. 😁 I do enjoy your books. However you write them, keep it up! Your readers like reading them as fast as you can write them!

  13. Jane Squires on April 19, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    I have read several books recently. One by Shelley Shepherd Gray and two by Dana Mentink

  14. Kendra Muonio on April 19, 2022 at 5:54 pm

    I recently finished the books fatherhood lessons by Gabrielle myers and the adoption surprise by Zoey Marie Jackson.

  15. Barbara Jill Oosterhof on April 19, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    I Can Tell You Have It All Together As You Write Your Books Which I Totally Love. I Read Alot Of Amish & Mennonite Books Because They Are Very Interesting. I Go To My Library All The Time To See What New Books They Have. I Used To Live About 11 Miles From Them In Northern Mich. I Have Some Friends That Are Still Amish & Some Mennonite Too. They Are So Friendly. Keep On Writing Your Books. I Certainly Love Them.

  16. Marilyn on April 19, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    You seem to have a great routine and organization. I am reading the 12th book in The Mitford series: ‘Somebody With Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

  17. kim hansen on April 19, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    I’m reading Edgewater Road by Shelley Shepard Gray

  18. Elizabeth Dent on April 19, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    I love your books and it is great to hear how you write your books . It sounds like a very good way . I have just finished your new book The Amish Twins Next Door and absolutely loved it . Thank you for sharing how you write .

  19. Susan Heim on April 19, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    I recently read “Life’s Too Short,” by Abby Jimenez, which I greatly enjoyed.

    Thank you so much for describing your writing process. It’s fun to see the differences in how various writers write. There doesn’t seem to be any “right way” to do it — only what’s right for the writer!

  20. Jan on April 19, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    I love Amish fiction because it’s a good clean read. I recently finished Marly in pieces under a read and review program. I selected that book because Marly is my daughter’s nickname. It looks like you also have some 4 legged writing assistance to make sure that you take breaks!

  21. Faith Creech on April 19, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    I love Jan Karon’s books. They are so enjoyable and down to earth and funny! Thanks for the chance to win!

  22. Elsie on April 19, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    I got your wonderful, heart felt newsletter. Thank you very, very much caring that I get your newsletter. Thanks for your tips on writing. I enjoy responding to all the book giveaways. and your Facebook posts. I think the Lord helps me with what to write. I am reading Liz Curtis Higgs book – The Easter Women, The Grim Reader by Margaret Welch, Queen Esther’s reflection by Ann Platz, and a friend just loaned me The Robe by Lloyd C. Duglas. I have read all of Jan Karon’s books and These High Green Hills was one of my favorites. Thanks again for your special style of writing and answering our questions about the Amish. The Lord be with you and your family. I love all of your pictures of your cats and dog.

  23. Suzanne Sellner on April 19, 2022 at 8:19 pm

    I was fascinated by the description of your writing process. Apparently it works well for you! I just finished listening to The Letter from Briarton Park and The Mozart Code, both of which were excellent. I’m currently serving as an advanced reader of another novel and have not quite finished it. My normal procedure is to listen to one book while I’m getting ready in the morning and getting ready for bed in the evening. In addition, I read a book in print before any naps and before I retire for the evening. Then if I have any appointments or errands, I take the book in print with me to read in the waiting room, while standing in line at the post office, etc. That way I get in as much reading as possible without neglecting my part time work or my family.

  24. Debbie Earls on April 19, 2022 at 8:20 pm

    Wow! I didn’t realize writing a book had so many steps to it and so much waiting time. It sounds very interesting. Thank you for sharing. You would have to be very organized and focused to keep it all together and see it through to publishing. I really enjoy your books. I enjoy Amish books and mysteries the most. Right now I am reading Wanda Brunstetter The Sugarcreek Surprise. Thank you for this opportunity to win and for your fun giveaways.

  25. Gloria Anderson on April 19, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Your writing process is very interesting. I enjoyed reading about it. I am reading The Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher and just finished Fatal Code by Natalie Walters.

  26. Ola Norman on April 19, 2022 at 9:22 pm

    Loved learning about your writing process. Keep up the good work!

  27. Cindy on April 19, 2022 at 10:03 pm

    Love your books…have read many…love the pictures of all your pets!

  28. Lucinda on April 19, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    Everyone has their own way of doing things and that’s OK. Lately I’ve been into the amish murder series with Kate. Most of the time I get engrossed into what I’m reading I don’t focus on what race or religion is. You see their personality and how they deal with the situation. I know it sounds odd . You have a lot of great books, they’re a little bit of everything.

  29. F. Coody on April 19, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    I really enjoyed the information on your process for writing,
    I don’t think I could ever write a book. It seems very difficult to me. Thank you for your newsletter and blog. They have lots of insight into the life of an author.

  30. Celia Harbin on April 19, 2022 at 11:10 pm

    I enjoyed learning how you write a book. I can see that you are right about everyone having a proven method that works for them. How did you find your publisher in the beginning? I think I remember reading that you were writing a column or article for Zondervan but I may have that all wrong.
    Thank you for answering my questions in the email you send to your followers. Your answer made a lot of sense.
    I, too, love seeing the pictures of your pets and your crafts.
    Celia Harbin

  31. Pam Whorwell on April 20, 2022 at 12:57 am

    I admire your organization to the writing process! Can’t wait to read more of your work

  32. Vivian Furbay on April 20, 2022 at 4:59 am

    It takes a lot of hard work to write a book. I never had any talent for creative writing when I was in school. Best wishes with your writing.

  33. Melissa Ellison on April 20, 2022 at 7:53 am

    Interesting how you write a book, I would get confused what I was writing about switching around like that lol . You do a great job though . I’m reading Mistaken for his Amish bride. It’s a real good book..

  34. beth a scott on April 20, 2022 at 8:14 am

    I love your books. I read LI suspense, mostly K-9 while waiting for your next book to come out. Currently I am reading the ‘Alaska K-9 Unit’ series.
    You put so much into your characters that I feel like I know them. The characters are so complete with their personalities, dreams and quirks.
    Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us.

  35. Gail Sarkisian on April 20, 2022 at 8:35 am

    Vannetta: You are one of my most favorite fiction authors. I pre order your books from CBD as soon as they are available on their website. I work for an author and I love hearing him share how he goes about his day writing his books. I really liked reading how you go about your writing journey. It’s fascinating! I think you are amazing!!! I love the history you share about the Amish and that you strive for accuracy in your writing. I had no idea you answer questions about the Amish until I received and read the email I just got. Also, thank you for presenting the Word of God in a true and concise manner. Thank you for all you do for your readers!!! I love your books.

  36. Lori Smanski on April 20, 2022 at 10:03 am

    I cant wait – The Amish Twins Next Door will be coming soon. Thanks for sharing how you go about writing a book. I enjoy these little insights into a writers life. It really is similar to quilting: who is it going to? what is the reason? what are the colors that would best fit that person? etc. I know you are aware of this also. Smile

  37. Tammie Edington Shaw on April 20, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for sharing about your process. The new series name sounds interesting. I just finished Tracie Peterson’s Along the Rio Grande. I love reading about places I know little about and love historical fiction.

  38. Audrey W. on April 20, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Loved reading about your writing process, which I always find fascinating from different authors. Great word count goals day to day, too! I’m sure that helps. 🙂

    Write on! 😉

  39. Joan on April 20, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    I just finished “Tea Rose” by Erin Kelley Marshall The blog is very nice.

  40. Cecilia on April 20, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    I enjoyed reading about how you write your stories. I love reading different books and wondered how authors came up with their ideas and characters.

  41. Loraine Nunley on April 20, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    I just finished Jaime Jo Wright’s The Souls of Lost Lake. It was spooky but awesome at the same time. I love learning about other writers processes. I always find some tips to incorporate into my writing. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  42. marion on April 20, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    The blog is lovely and interesting. I just finished Book 1 of The Ivy Hill series “The Innkeeper Of Ivy Hill” by Julie Klaussen.

  43. Denise on April 21, 2022 at 4:50 am

    Thank you for sharing on how you write your books. So interesting.
    I have always wondered how to start. It all seems a bit daunting, but set out like this it sounds much easier.
    Love your writing.

  44. Connie Ruggles on April 21, 2022 at 6:59 am

    The writing process amazes me. I think I’d find it hard to “keep my place” in the story. You know how much I love your books. I’m always patiently waiting for the new one!
    One book I finished recently and absolutely loved was “Mrs. Witherspoon Goes Off to War”.

  45. Linda McFarland on April 22, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    I have recently read ARC’s to be released in May. It’s hard to say which is my favorite book as it’s usually the one I’m reading at the time.
    Your writing process is amazing and the best part is it works!

  46. Karen on April 23, 2022 at 11:23 pm

    Thankful for authors like you who go through the process to give us good books to read. 🙂

Leave a Comment