How to Write a Book Part 1: Get Equipped
I am not an expert on writing books, but I get asked questions about it often enough that I figured I would share what I do know.
First a word of encouragement…
My memoir, “Scars and Stilettos” took 7 loooong years to write. And I am thankful for every moment in the process.
When God first put it on my heart to write a book in 2002, I started writing right away and got a publishing deal with a major Christian publisher before I could bat an eyelash. They even paid me a couple thousand dollars to write it! It seemed that writing a book was going to be easier than I thought.
I wrote my heart out over the next several months. Early mornings, late nights. I worked hard to have the first draft of the manuscript in by the deadline and was all ready to hop on a plane for the much anticipate “book tour”.
Then I got a phone call from the publisher with some startling news. “I’m sorry Harmony…but we aren’t going to be able to publish this.”
“What?!?! Why? Was it my writing style? My skill level? The content? I don’t understand,” I pleaded.
She paused before delivering me a dose of harsh reality. “Honey, it’s all of it.”
“But God told me to write a book. What am I supposed to do now?” I said trying to keep my voice from trembling.
“I don’t know…take a writing class. Join a writing group. Keep writing.” She said half-heartedly. They let me keep the advance. I was both thankful and discouraged because I knew it meant that they were so dissatisfied with my book that they were willing to lose money!
I put on my big girl panties and did what she suggested. I began taking writing classes with professional writers. I figured if my writing sucked, they would be the ones to tell me. I joined a writing group, and kept writing. And writing. And writing.
Over time, my skills improved. I got a stronger sense my voice, writing style and the audience I was writing for. Finally, in 2008 my writing buddies Jim and Steve told me it was time to give the publishing world another shot. They assured me that I was ready. I can’t say I believed them, but with my lovely daughter on the way, I figured it was time to make some moves while I still had brain space!
The writing classes and groups paid off because when I started looking for agents, several of them wanted to represent me. As it turns out, the woman from the publishing company that called me up to deliver the bad news became a literary agent and got her hands on my book proposal. Even she wanted to represent me! “Harmony, I want you to know that I have always believed in your story,” she reasoned.
I don’t say that to toot my own horn. I say that to encourage you that if I can do it, you can do it! God gave me a vision to write a book. Clearly, I wasn’t equipped at the time he first put this in my heart. He knew that. He wasn’t discouraged by my sucky writing or my need for writing classes. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
That brings me to my first point:
If you have a vision to write a book then I encourage you to hone your writing skills and practice writing. Here are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Take a writing class
I took classes through Media Bistro and had a great experience. They even offer online courses. http://www.mediabistro.com/
- Start or Join Writing Group
I met with my writing group once a week. Each week we brought in one section/chapter of writing (7 pages). We brought copies for each person in the group, read our work out loud, and commented on each persons writing with encouragement and constructive feedback.
- Keep Writing….and do it consistently
There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in the mood to write, but I made it a practice. Sometimes you have to just put your fingers to the keys. It’s really a discipline. It might help you to schedule blocks of time to write each week.
- Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
This is not only a great book on the art of writing, but it is an excellent read!
That should get you started!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of How to Write a Book!
Love, Harmony Dust