Why You Should Write a Book

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re on the fence about writing a book. You already know why you want to do it, the same reason anyone wants to. It’s because you have a story in you, and you want it to be told. But there’s so much standing in your way. The work you need to put into the story, acquiring an agent to contact a publisher, or even trying to publish it yourself. The prospect of going forward can be intimidating, but now might be the best time ever to write a book.

Self-Publishing

Every leap forward in technology provides a larger voice to the masses. With the access to resources the internet provides, there are no more gatekeepers to publishing. You don’t need to prove it to anyone else that your work is worthwhile; if you put the hours and the sweat in, then you will be able to put that story out their yourself. It is a true meritocratic system, and if your work is good enough, then you will find your readers.

Show Your Perspective

It was once said that the person who reads lives a thousand lives. Well, the person who writes shares their life with others. By writing a book, you can leave your measurable mark on the world, putting down forever who you are and what you believe. Even long after you’re gone, your work will still be there.

Can Be Lucrative

Like any business venture, writing a successful book takes work. Not only in putting the story together and polishing it, but in making sure it gets out there to your readers. If you put the time in, though, it can provide a serious return on investment. Self-published authors are taking a larger and larger portion of the market every year, and you can benefit from this trend.

There are plenty of good reasons that you should write a book right now, but the one that matters most is that you want to. If your own personal desire doesn’t stand behind you, then it will be nearly impossible to write a book. Decide that it’s what you want, establish a goal, make a plan, and stick to it.


Ways to Publish a Book

If you’re considering writing a book to try to sell, you should be aware of the options available to you. Writing a book is a long, difficult, trying process, but it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Moreover, at the end of the day, it’s possible that it just isn’t a success, but that should never deter you from trying. Once you’ve written, rewritten, revised, and edited your book, and you’re ready to try for publications, you have three major options available to you: a literary agent, a publishing company, and self-publishing. Each of these options do have advantages and disadvantages.

Literary Agent

Most commonly, when you’re trying to get published by a traditional publisher, you’ll want to go through a literary agent. Literary agents will have contacts at various publishers, which can help you get into the door. More importantly, literary agents will be able to specialize in a specific market that serves your type of book. They’ll be able to connect you to someone who is most likely to want to publish your type of book. The literary agent will generally take parts of the profits of the book’s sales, which does naturally cut into your own profits, but it can be worth it to get the right contract. In order to attain a literary agent, you’ll need to write queries to them, basically summaries of what your book is and why it’s worth trying to sell.

Publishing Company

Some authors, however, will eschew using a literary agent, and instead try to contact publishing companies on their own. This will generally have a lower success rate, not only because of the sheer mass of manuscripts that publishers get every day, but also because it’s very possible to submit a perfectly good book to a publisher who is not interested in that market or niche. If a publishing company accepts your book, whether directly through a publisher or through an intermediary literary agent, they will generally purchase the rights to the book itself from you, and offer you royalties from the book’s sales.

Self-Publishing

More and more in the modern day, authors are choosing to self-publish instead of using a publishing company. It’s certainly easy to see why. New technologies have made the viability of publishing your own book much more attainable for the average person. The advantages of self-publishing include the much lower barrier to entry, and the prospect of receiving the book’s profits directly instead of merely the royalties. There are also clear disadvantages to self-publishing, however. It does have an upfront cost you need to pay, so if your book doesn’t return profits very well, then you will find yourself in the negative. And that is extremely easy to have happen. When you sign a deal with a publisher, your book gets that publisher’s advertising apparatus behind it. When you’re publishing on your own, all of the buzz for your book will have to be generated by you, and with so many thousands of books being self-published constantly, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

No matter which direction you choose, publishing a book takes a lot of hard work and hours of dedication. It’s not necessarily “easier” to get a publisher to pay attention to you than it is to successfully self-publish. Each option comes with its own obstacles, but when you have a story to tell, you do whatever you can to make sure it’s heard.


How to Write a Book

So you’re sitting there, staring at a blank page, hoping that inspiration will strike and the next great novel will flow out of your fingertips. This idea has been in your head for years, but every time you try to get it down, you hit a wall. You know that you could be capable of writing a bestseller, if only you could figure out how to get out of your own way. Well don’t worry; I’m here to tell you the secret of how to write a book.

There Is No Secret

Unfortunately, writing a book isn’t the type of thing that comes with a guidebook. There isn’t one way to write a book, nor any shortcuts you can take to make it easier. Writing a book comes with long, long hours of hard work and dedication. There is no one to keep you accountable but yourself, and no way to get it done other than to put the effort in. That doesn’t mean there aren’t guidelines that you can use to help you get there, though. If you really want to write a book, here are a few tips to keep you on the path.

There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

Writing isn’t something you do exclusively when you have inspiration. Writers don’t sit at their computers waiting for the perfect ideas to strike. Writers do one thing above all: they put words down on paper. The quality of those words, at the outset, isn’t really that important. What is vitally crucial is to have a word goal every day, and stick to it. Even if the ideas you’re working with don’t quite seem to fit together, even if you don’t love the phrasing of that bit. If you don’t get words down every day, you’ll never finish your first draft. Don’t worry how good it is. It won’t be.

First Drafts Suck

No one has ever written a good first draft. Maybe some genius has once accomplished it, but don’t try to be special. First drafts are supposed to be bad, that’s the point of them. A first draft is the rough forming of a piece of clay to vaguely resemble a primate. You don’t worry about fine details on a first draft. You get the basic shape of a story, then step back and think to yourself, “Alright, what the hell am I looking at?”

Good Books are Revised, Not Written

Too many aspiring authors find writing a story exciting, but revising and editing it to be boring busy work. Don’t fall into this trap. Find your story in revising the story, go back into it, and hone it down until it looks exactly what you want it to look like. Keep pushing your characters around until they fit naturally into place. Pull elements from later in your book and hint at them earlier to elegantly foreshadow your conclusion. Every good book you’ve ever read has been made that way through revision, not through initial inspiration.

Have a Writing Group

Writing with other writers might not be for everyone, but it can be an invaluable tool. Other writers provide multiple benefits for the aspiring author. For one, no one is going to be able to give you more useful or comprehensive feedback than someone else who is attempting to do the same thing you are. But moreover, having a group of fellow writers to report to will help keep you accountable. If you are the type to lose momentum and give on projects, you might find that the social impetus of not wanting to let down your writing group might be enough to keep you honest.

Know the Rules before Breaking Them

Some will tell you that there aren’t any rules to writing. This isn’t true; there are plenty of rules in writing, you just don’t need to follow them. There isn’t a single rule in writing that can’t be broken. Even something as fundamental as “show, don’t tell” doesn’t hold true in all instances. However, in order to know when you can break a rule, you have to understand why it’s a rule in the first place. Therefore, follow all of the rules that you’re told about writing until you have a clear understanding of why they’re recommended.

Read!

Good writers read a lot. If your number one goal as a writer is putting words onto the page, the number two slot should be reading them off the page. Engage critically with everything you read, whether it is a pulpy romance novel or an article in the Atlantic. Think about how you would have phrased things, what direction you might have taken the story. Only very stupid or arrogant authors think that they can work alone without influences.


Finding a Community

No writer is an island. Trying to go it alone might work for the occasional introverted genius, but in order to fully realize your potential as a writer, it’s important to have community. What that means can be manifest in very different forms, but there are a number of important benefits to writing with a community. Other writers will keep you accountable, and give you a natural impetus to meet your own deadlines. They can give you feedback on your work, share techniques that they’ve developed. Above all, other writers provide solidarity, since they’re trying to accomplish the same monumental task that you’ve put before yourself. Finding the right community can be difficult, but you have options available to you.

Take Classes

Some of us are approaching writing too late for classes to be a regular option. But if you’re still in high school or college, make sure you take classes, and take them voraciously. Writing workshops are particularly useful, providing hands-on experience, consistent motivation, other writers to bounce ideas and develop with, and strong instructors guiding your path. If you’re older, though, and not in an academic setting, don’t despair. Contact local public and community colleges, and see if it’s possible to audit any of their classes. You don’t have to pay for a college degree in order to benefit from the education provided in their classrooms.

Community Centers and Libraries

The academic world simply isn’t available to many of us, but fortunately, other resources exist to fill their slot in the community. Many public libraries or community centers will host writing workshops that you can just show up at. Inquire at the information desk or look for flyers to find information about what’s going on in your town’s public facilities.

Online Communities

Social media presents many difficulties to the modern age, but facilitates things that were never possible in years past. If you don’t have the inclination or resources to reach out to your physical community to find writers to work off of, then you can turn to online communities. Tumblr and Reddit both have a number of communities dedicating to connecting writers. Some are larger, groups numbering in the hundreds of thousands, where you can study what others are doing and search for collected wisdom. If you search a little deeper, though, you can find smaller communities based around writing just about every niche, and you can form relationships with the writers you meet online, providing and gaining feedback in turn.

Form Your Own

One thing about writers, they often know other writers. You don’t need to have a rigidly controlled group to benefit from the community of other writers. Even if you just have a few other friends who write, try to set up a weekly meeting with them. Agree to review each other’s work, and agree that you’ll have new work to present every time you meet. It’s easier than you’d think to simply become your own writing group.

Groups can be as massive as millions of people online, or as small as you and one or two other collaborators in a coffee shop. How it manifests doesn’t really matter, what matters is connecting yourself to other writers, gaining insight, and creating accountability. Whatever direction you decide to go, make sure that you get the most out of that community to help you on your own writer’s journey.


A Brief Overview of Different Genres

When deciding what type of book to write, it’s important to understand the concept of genres. A genre is an topic or subject which encompasses a group of books. There are some very large divisions between genres, and much more narrow ones as you go down the line. At the very top of the pyramid, all books are divided into two categories: fiction, and non-fiction.

Non-Fiction

Non-fiction books, despite what the name might sound like, refer to all books that aren’t made up. Some are told in a narrative structure just like a novel would be, with the simple difference that the events actually happened. Non-fiction books can be much more abstract, though; a simple cookbook, as it contains no fictional information, would also be considered non-fiction. Obviously, encompassing every non-fiction genre would be about as difficult as summing up reality, but if you’re considering writing a non-fiction book, there’s a good chance it fits into one of the larger genres.

Biographies

A biography is a book written that documents a person’s life. Generally, biographers have to do a great deal of research, speaking with the subject in the case they are still alive, interviewing anyone else who might have known the subject, and examining any primary or secondary materials that may be relevant. Good biographers will take all of the information gathered, and weave that into a compelling story about the subject’s life.

Self-Help Books

A huge amount of non-fiction books that are published, especially those that are self-published, are self-help books. Generally written by people who have been successful in one walk of life or another, self-help books compile the wisdom and life experience of the author into a form designed to assist their readers in achieving their goals.

Events

Some authors, especially journalists or people who have had particular experience with a significant event, will write a book detailing that event, how it happened, who was involved, etc. This can be about anything from sports victories to terrorist attacks. If you have a particular experience with any event that you think the public might find interesting, you might try writing a book about it.

Fiction

Generally considered the more “entertaining” side of writing, fiction refers to all books that the author makes up. These aren’t necessarily less constrained than non-fiction, they’re just constrained differently. Instead of sticking to a set of true facts, fictional stories stick to a set of narrative principles. Just like non-fiction is a huge term encompassing many different types of true stories, fiction can be about pretty much anything. Regardless, a huge amount books fall into specific genres. Furthermore, readers will usually go after a specific genre, so writing towards a particular genre might be an effective way of ensuring readers.

Literary Fiction

The next major divide within fiction is that between literary fiction and genre fiction. Generally speaking, literary fiction is more focused on character development and exploration of themes, whereas genre fiction is all about the plot, with the story itself driving the reader’s interest. These are extremely vague lines, and the argument about what exactly qualifies as genre and what as literary fiction rages in academic circles. Suffice to say, most books that you were assigned in high school probably would be considered literary fiction, though as authors push more and more boundaries, the lines between get further blurred.

Genre Fiction

Genre fiction stories are the blockbusters of the literary world. They’re the most “entertaining” books, and consequentially, sometimes considered the least “cultured”. These are all dividers that don’t really mean a whole lot, though. If a story has a compelling villain, a ticking clock, action packed scenes, or a thrilling conclusion, then it will likely be considered genre fiction. Does that mean that it’s less good than a literary story? Of course not. There are countless different genres within genre fiction, but we’ll take a look at a couple of the most prominent.

Mysteries

Go into any library, and you’ll usually notice that the mystery section is absolutely huge. Readers love mysteries, and just about always have. Mysteries all follow a pretty standard structure: set up a crime, introduce a detective, catch a criminal. The infinite variation within that formula, however, is what has made mystery stories such a persistent genre.

Speculative Fiction

Oftentimes, bookstores and libraries will lump fantasy and science fiction into one section, usually calling it just one or the other. Obviously, fantasy and science fiction aren’t the same, but they can be grouped into the larger genre of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction stories are those that aren’t about our world. Whether it be because minute advances in technology haven’t been achieved yet, or because magic saturates every part of the world. It all counts as speculative fiction, which is one of the most popular and prevalent genres among younger generations. As a result, many young adult novels fall under this category as well.

Knowing your genre is extremely important for aspiring authors. Not only does looking at other authors within that genre provide excellent guidance, but having a clear idea of where you stand is invaluable when approaching literary agents and publishers, or when trying to sell your work to prospective readers.