“I’m going to write a book someday” is a frequent statement heard by every editor, agent, or published author. I tend to believe the sentiment, but that is where it ends for many–a sentiment.
A survey done for Thriftbooks in late 2021 (link here) found that more than half of the respondents thought they had an idea for a novel. Of those, six percent were halfway done, and eight percent were finished. That means, of the other 86%, quite a number have yet to begin.
Sounds to me that one of the keys to writing your book is to start writing it. That may seem a silly thing to suggest, especially to this audience; but there is method to that obvious advice.
For those writing fiction, remember there is a craft to good storytelling. Everything from pace to characterization to dialogue to setting. Each piece creates a tapestry. It’s not easy, but it can be fun! A number of novelists try their hand at flash fiction or short stories (not necessarily for publication) to get a feel for the craft.
In nonfiction, consider short-form writing first: articles, blogs, guest posts, and more. Dozens of successful writers developed their writing by starting small. These shorter pieces can be used to attract readers and build a platform. Often nonfiction puts the author in a position of being a Subject-Matter Expert, a go-to person on a particular area of interest.
But none of this can happen until you start. How about today?
Stumped on where to start? JournalBuddies.com has a list of 64 writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing. (Example: “If the color blue could speak, what would it say?”)
Some say I should write a book
on how to live with cancer,
and I reply, hey, bubba, look,
I really have no answer
that the wide world wants to hear,
because I just accept my fate,
treasure that which I hold dear,
and in God’s sunshine thus I wait
for that bladed mortal doom
to make its bloody entrance,
knowing that an earthly tomb’s
not my final sentence,
and feeling that eternal save,
I gaily dance on my own grave.
I really do wish I could write a book that could help people find the peace I have, but that peace is born of experience distilled down into a shining dew-drop of grace, shining in the morning Sonlight.
It doesn’t come from theology or Scripture (the only passage I have memorized is “Jesus wept.”). It’s far more transfiguration than teaching.
Maybe someone else could write it. I sure can’t.
I’ve been writing short form non-fiction for well over a decade, have a platform of over 17,000 readers, with over 300,000 views a month, and have two books unfinished. Seems like I’m in the right place–but I am stuck.
My problem is taking my work *from* short form and turning it into a book instead of just a collection of essays. This is clearly not a skill I have. And though I am eager to learn that skill set, I have been unsuccessful at finding a course or book that can teach it to me.
Books and classes on fiction writing are plentiful. How to write non-fiction seems scarce; especially lacking is instruction on how to turn a pile of essays into a cohesive book.
Any suggestions for where I could learn the skills I need?
When I teach this at conferences I suggest doing it as a thought experiment.
Think of your topic. It cannot be something like “The Story of My Life” or “Random Thoughts on Everything” but a topic on which you will be speaking for two full days…as the main speaker.
That means you will speak for four hours on Friday and four hours on Saturday. You will talk for an hour, then a break. Talk for an hour, then lunch. Talk for an hour, then break. Talk for an hour and dismiss for the evening…. Day one. You must be so engaging and thoughtful that the audience will return the next morning.
With that structure, how do you address the topic? How do you present “Problem” “Solution” “Application” so that people are cut to the heart, then blessed and inspired?
That’s how you winnow all the essays youv’e written.
Take this blog for example. There are nearly 30,000 words on this blog related to book proposals. Enough for a book, if they were combined, culled, edited, and organized.
Thank you, so much Steve! Your advice jibes well with my subjects and with who I am. Thinking about them as two day seminars helps me improve my sense of how to recognize a good title and better define my audience. Both of those help create a mental paradigm for pulling them together.
While this doesn’t quite get me the nitty-gritty I am seeking, it definitely gives me an excellent reframing of the problem.
It is particularly helpful for one of my books, and getting one completed is infinitely better than getting none completed.
The “nitty-gritty” is the author’s job. 🙂
Advice can only go so far because each writer approaches their topic in a unique manner. It is almost impossible to teach a generic content development process that matches the needs of every author.
That’s a great idea. I AM a speaker and using a two-day conference with hour long sessions is a clever way to break down the chapter process into bite-size goals. Very applicable (for me). Thank you, Steve Laube!
Cathy Marie Van Atta
My fictional story has been in my mind for five years, and in WORD for two years. I printed it and had two relatives read it. I rewrote it using Grammarly, and read it three times myself. I want to submit it to Tamela Hancock Murray after it has been professionally edited. I knew to use 12 point New Times Roman, single space sentences, double space lines. I am struggling with removing manual line breaks, learning how to key EN dashes, EM dashes, and other formatting requirements. I am terrified if a submit it to one of your editors in the Christian Writers Market Guide, they will not read it because of a formatting problem. Is this a valid concern?
We don’t have editors over at CWI. Our resource guide points you to freelance editors that can be hired to fix content and copy editing problems. Over at CWI (a separate business from this agency) you’ll find a resource to teach you and connect you to the right help you need.
The agency is here to support our clients and their careers. CWI is a place where writers can get the information which may some day help create what gets the attention of an agent.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Yes! I’m editing my NaNo project again today.
Thank you for sharing this. I have found there are so many layers in writing fiction. You are right, it can be hard (and for me long learning process), but it is so fun!