My Top 10 Tips For Writing a Book Worth Reading
This progression represents the wisdom I have learned from helping thousands of writers start, finish, rescue, revise and publish their books. Many of the resources listed here are free. The ones that have a fee attached have a $ sign next to them.
1. COMMIT TO SUCCESS
There is a time and a place for taking writing slowly. Sometimes you just want to write, and sometimes there are skills you need to develop — including the skill of sharing your work with someone else. But in order to write a book worth reading, you’ve got to get your head in the game. You have to commit to doing the work. You have to play to win ➤
Not sure what book to write? This PDF might help ➤
2. KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS
You have to know why you want to write a book. Why must you tell THIS PARTICULAR book? Why would you spend more than a year of your life obsessing over it? What is the core belief that is driving you to do it? Tapping into that motivation will help keep you going when the going gets tough, and it can shape your entire project. Here are the most common answers to “why?” ➤
You can read two case studies on writers finding their “why?” — one written and one on the MomWrites podcast, where crying definitely happens ➤
Want even more? I have a long discussion about the importance of knowing your “why?” on The Creative Push podcast ➤
3. DEFINE YOUR POINT
All books make a point, and chances are excellent that the reason your ideas has been nagging at you is because you have something to SAY – something about life or love or sports or crime or God or death or magic. If you didn't have something to say, you would probably be spending your days knitting or planting zucchini instead of trying to write a book. Start by thinking of your point like a bumper sticker. Be clear and concise. Don’t worry about it being a cliche.
Fiction | Nonfiction | Memoir ➤
4. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Who are you writing for? Knowing this very specifically, and knowing why they are coming to your book, will help enormously as you write forward. People read for solace and escape, for education and entertainment, for inspiration and insight. What are they coming to you for?
Fiction | Nonfiction | Memoir ➤
5. VISUALIZE THE WHOLE BOOK
If you are one of the rare geniuses who can write a whole book without really stopping to think first, this advice is not for you. For the rest of us mortal, we must be able to visualize the entire book before we write it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it is not set in stone, so it can be changed. But you have to be able to see it to create it. Writing into a black hole just makes things too hard. For novelists and memoir writers, my Inside Outline (formerly called the Two Tier Outline) ➤ is a simple, flexible tool to help you see a novel thing before you start writing.
For nonfiction writers, use my One-Page Book Summary ➤ , and focus on writing a killer Table of Contents that lets us see the entire sweep of the idea
6. ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET
Writing a book is a complex intellectual and creative undertaking. It demands an enormous number of skills. Odds are good you are going to have to learn some new tricks. Be open to what you don’t know, and seek help if you need it. This post I wrote on the growth mindset ➤ for writers should inspire you to learn and keep learning.
Take Your Inside Outline to the next level with Author Accelerator's Inside Outline Coaching. $$ ➤
A growth mindset is what helps you stay motivated as you write. If you are committed to learning and growing and doing what you need to do in order to make your dream of being an author come true, you will be able to persist when things get hard — and they will get hard. For a sense of what the tough moments in the writing life look and feel like — and wisdom for moving past them — check out my book, The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat: The 43 Worst Moments in the Writing Life and How to Get Over Them ➤
7. DEVELOP SUSTAINABLE WRITING HABITS
The writers who succeed are the ones who establish habits that work in the context of their life. As David Bayles says in Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, “The hardest part of art-making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, find-ing a host of practices that are just plain useful. A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns.” In this podcast I did with Gabriela Pereira at DIY MFA, we get into the importance of sustainable habits. ➤
8. FINISH THE BOOK
Nothing will matter if you don’t finish. This is where working with a book coach pays huge dividends. We give you accountability, feedback and support while you write so that you don’t go off the rails, don’t give into doubt, don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t stop doing the work. Here is my client Lisa Cron talking about working with a book coach ➤
Here is a six-part series: What Does a Book Coach Do? ➤ Click on the link at the top of the post to go to the whole series.
If you are inspired to work with a book coach on your novel, memoir or nonfiction book, check out our Manuscript Accelerator $$$ ➤ program at Author Accelerator.
Interested in BECOMING a book coach? Check out our book coaching hub at Author Accelerator. ➤
If you are inspired to become a book coach, check out Author Accelerator's FREE 6-part Book Coach Basic Training course ➤ to get started.
9. REVISE YOUR MANUSCRIPT
One of the biggest mistakes writers make is they rush to market. They think a rough draft is ready for prime time. It’s not. Revision is where a book goes from good to great. This 30-page guide gives you an overview of what to look for as you revise your own work. How to Edit Your Own Work ➤
If you want a more robust explanation of the revision process, this course walks you through all the steps. I teach a method for revision that cuts down on the overwhelm and help you take your work from good to great. How to Revise a Novel course $ ➤
I developed a mini course for Creative Live on how to take your work from good to great. It has some great examples and case studies. Take Your Work from Good to Great $ ➤
A book coach can guide you thought a revise and keep you on track. Check out our Manuscript Accelerator program $$$ ➤
10. PICK A PATH TO PUBLICATION
Determining a path to publication is a very personal and nuanced decision. The best quick resource for understanding the choice is from guru Jane Friedman ➤ which she updates every year and generously shares with everyone.
For a more in-depth discussion of the pros and cons, you might consider our course on Navigating the Path to Publication $ ➤
If you are going to try for an agent, consider these resources:
How to Write a Query Letter course $ ➤ A step by step guide
The Pitch Track course for fiction (coming soon!) $ ➤ Learn all the key steps for pitching with confidence.
The Pitch Track course for nonfiction (coming soon!) $ ➤ Learn all the key steps in developing a book proposal.
If you are writers serious about developing a killer book proposal with step-by-step personal on-the-page guidance from me, check out my nonfiction book proposal masterclass. This is my highest level offering. $$$$ ➤
More Writing Resources
7-Day Writing Challenge
The 7-Day Writing Challenge ➤ This email course walks you through some of the key foundational questions with videos and assignments.
CreativeLive Course: Write Your Book: Start Strong and Get it Done $ ➤
A 6-hour course filmed in front of a live studio audience, with downloads and step by step instructions on my Blueprint for a Book method. Approximately $59 — for a six hour course. It’s kind of a great deal! This is a great place to learn about my philosophy and my strategies and systems. If you enjoy this course, come back to work with an Author Accelerator coach on your novel. We’ll get you all the way to “the end.”
Self Publishing Formula podcast
I have been the editor in residence on Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula’s BookLab, as well as a guest on the podcast.