It happens every time I start to promote a new book. Lots of people respond to my blog posts asking NOT about the new project, but about how they can write a book of their own.
Usually their questions about how to do it start with an email explaining that the writer has a book inside them, and needs to get it out.
Groucho Marx said it best: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Continuing with this line of thought, if you’ve got a book inside of you, you need to get it out because it’s too dark to read inside of you, too.
Next, people want to know how to get started. Most are waiting for inspiration to strike; for their muse to give direction; for their story to make itself known.
Here’s a tip: If you’re waiting for something to happen, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. As Faulkner said, “I only write when I feel the inspiration. Fortunately, inspiration strikes at 10:00 o’clock every day.”
Finally, lots of people seem to think that writing a book is hard. Maybe that’s because so many renowned writers have reinforced that idea.
Amy Joy said, “Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.”
Hemmingway claimed, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
And Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
If you’re still interested after all that cheery inspiration, here are ten tips for anyone who wants to start writing a book:
1. Write as often and as much as possible — writing is a muscle that gets stronger when you exercise it.
2. Read as often and as much as you can. You’ll only know good writing once you’ve encountered it over and over and over. As Louis L’Amour wrote, “A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in it first.”
3. Take advantage of democratized social media (FB, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) and get as much of your work out to the public as possible. After all, you don’t want your work to be like the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest and not making a sound, do you?
4. Write a blog. Besides being good exercise (see point one), it’ll allow you to both build an audience of people who appreciate your writing and demonstrate to a future publisher that you are both prolific and will meet deadlines.
5. Keep a journal of input, observations, fragments of ideas, whatever crosses your mind or fires up your imagination. They will come in quite handy when you have nothing to write about. And that will happen — ask me how I know…
6. Read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. Read “Bird by Bird” by Ann Lamott. Read “On Writing” by Stephen King.
7. Stop asking people what they think of your writing. Instead, when you’re done writing, write some more.
8. Learn to put your thoughts down without editing them. Then edit relentlessly and mercilessly. Editing is where the craftsmanship lives.
9. Understand that regardless of what Hemmingway, Joy, and Parker said, writing your book is the easy part. Selling your book is the hard part. Or, as my friend and New York Times bestselling author of The Go-Giver, Bob Burg told me, “Always remember that they don’t call it “The Best Writer’s List.”
10. Start writing. 10 and 1/2. Don’t stop.
Finally, follow Faulkner’s advice. “Don’t be a writer; be writing.”
Thanks. Very helpful. I’ve been writing the opening chapter of my book for 45 years. I plan to finish the first sentence today.