How to write a book

how to write a book

Word count: 868 words

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Does the idea of writing a book seem impossibly delicious and ridiculously improbable? I’m here to tell you, you can do it! You can learn how to write a book, if you do it with me.

When I first dreamed of writing a book, I had no idea what to do. I knew how to write, of course, but I was so naïve I didn’t even know the standard word count required (it’s 60,000 to 80,000 words, by the way).

From my experience as a newspaper editor, I understood how to work with printers and graphic artists, but I certainly didn’t know the ins and outs of shopping carts. I also had no idea how to chain my butt to a chair for the necessary amount of writing time.

Well, I learned. It was hard. It was lonely. And I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I struggled with maintaining my momentum – a slippery beast. I had to sever my habit of editing while I wrote. And I had to figure out how to write AND do my “day job” at the same time.

But, I finished. And 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better, has sold extraordinarily well – better than I ever expected. Now, I’m thinking about doing another book; this one will be a memoir, not related to writing.

Do you want to join me?

Loneliness and lack of knowledge are two challenges that can turn your writing-a-book dream into a nightmare.

Take a look at what Ernest Hemingway had to say about writing-related loneliness, on the occasion of his 1954 award for the Nobel Prize for literature (for The Old Man and the Sea):

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing.

I’ve posted before about the perils of writing groups, and I share Hemingway’s view that they can sometimes distract and discourage rather than help. I know I used to belong to a business website that had me posting a dozen times a day and breathlessly awaiting responses from others. When I finally noticed how much time it was costing me, I left the group.

Here’s the problem with associations like that: They’re too big, too diffuse. They don’t direct their attention at a specific enough goal.

So, I’m doing something different. I’m creating a small, highly focused group that will concentrate on just one objective: Writing a book. While the program is likely best suited to those who intend to self-publish, even those who want to find a conentional publisher can use the group to produce a manuscript.

Here’s what I promise you:

  • Personal attention: There will be no more than 25 people in the group, maybe far fewer. You can’t join simply by paying the fee – you’ll have to fill out an application form, convincing me you have the necessary time/commitment to succeed.
  • Vital information: There will be at least one webinar per month (for every month EXCEPT August), perhaps more if necessary. These webinars will present tried-and-true tips about writing and self-publishing and will allow you to ask me any questions you like. If you aren’t able to attend, you’ll be sent a recording.
  • Group support: You will have access to a membership forum where you can ask questions of me and other writers in the group at any time. You’re also welcome to email me privately.
  • One-on-one advice: You’ll receive two one-on-one coaching sessions with me, each 45 minutes. You can schedule these at your convenience throughout the year. (I like to use Skype or Facetime so you can do this from anywhere in the world.)
  • Accountability: We will all be required (I’m including myself in this) to commit to producing a certain number of words each day for five days per week. I will expect you to email me, five days per week, the number of words you actually wrote. (Participants can have three weeks of “writing holidays” per year.) I will record our results on my website for everyone to see.
  • Individual support: You will be assigned a “writing buddy” from the group and you will be expected to email or phone this person at least once a week for mutual support.
  • The secret sauce: You will have access to the names, emails and phone numbers of my own copy editors, graphic artists, printers, web developers and shopping cart providers.

By the way, anyone who is writing a thesis — and looking for a good accountability lever — is also welcome to apply to the group. (I will need at least two thesis-writing applicants for this to work.)

In addition to writing my own book, I’m going to be devoting considerable time to managing this group. As a result, it can’t be inexpensive. But the current price is the lowest it will ever be, because the program is new.

Write A Book With Me will start in mid-October. Registrations will close at 4 pm Pacific, Friday, October 4 and the price will be $1,195.

You probably have some questions so check out the FAQ on my website, and listen to the recording that’s available there, as well.  Alternatively, you can also ask me any questions you like in the comments section below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

If you’ve been putting off writing a book or thesis then now’s the time. Let’s spend the next year helping each other write.

Have you ever tried to write a book? How did it go? Do you have any questions about my new program? Ask them here.We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

Posted September 10th, 2013 in Power Writing

  • Tracy Isaacs

    What a great idea, Daphne! I’m unable to commit but it does sound like a fabulous way to write a book. I struggled for TWELVE YEARS to write my last book partly because I wasn’t ready when I started, but largely because I lacked (a) a supportive community of other writers and (b) someone to whom to be accountable. Accountability is scary, but it works! Good luck with your memoir. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Tracy. It’s hard work if you have to teach yourself how to write a book. But accountability makes a big difference. So sad you can’t be part of the group. Would love to have you in it!

  • Bill Paarlberg

    Brilliant idea, Daphne!

  • yehudit

    I was in an online writing group of academics when I was working on a grant application, and the daily reporting in and being accountable really helped me to write daily. There were a couple times when I felt too tired to hold my head up, but could not go to bed until I had put in my minimum of 15 minutes writing. (most days I did much more than the minimum) I’m seriously thinking about signing up–just have to figure out where the $ will come from.

  • Edith Kurie

    The Hemingway quote is spot-on. I stopped writing having become discouraged while part of a very large writers “club” (in existence they claim for nearly 80 years). I wrote a children’s book a year ago about a little girl and a sea monster. No idea how to proceed.

    • Are you looking for a traditional publisher or are you hoping to self-publish, Edith?

      • Edith Kurie

        Not sure… I haven’t done much research on the benefits/drawbacks of either. I am so conservative I would probably be more comfortable with a traditional publisher but don’t I need an agent?

        • Yes, you will need an agent to get a publishing deal. It’s really hard to find one these days so I always recommend thinking seriously about self-publishing. (And this, in itself, can lead to later deals with agents/conventional publishers.)

          • Edith Kurie

            Ok, I will look at self-ub. Would I qualify for your course (I still need some rewriting)? Thanks. (Hope you had a lovely time away!)

          • Yes, writers and rewriters are both welcome to attend. My trip was interesting…you’ll hear more about it in my column next week!

  • Charli Mills

    What about revising a book, Daphne? I have a manuscript, but know that it is not polished enough to market. I’m prepping to draft a second one in November. Last year I retired from a marketing career to work at home as a freelance writer, editor and emerging novelist. I also blog frequently. I don’t have issues with putting fingers on the keyboard, and I’ve attended several useful work-shops to finish my first novel manuscript. However, my struggle is with revision. I’ve never revised something so large and find that I’m clever at avoiding it. Would this group be an appropriate fit or not?

    • I think it will work equally well for first-drafters and revisers. The main benefit of the class is that it will ensure accountability. Your progress will be noted on my website, daily! If you want to hold your own feet to the fire in terms of revising, I think this will help.

  • Jenny

    Sound great – I am seriously considering it!
    Two questions:
    How long is the course? 12 months?
    Would you say the course just as helpful to self-publishing writers as well as to writers who are looking for a traditional publisher?

    • Yes, the course will be 12 months. The purpose is to write a manuscript so I think it would be equally helpful to both self-publishing and more traditional authors. That said, if you are self-publishing, I’ll be able to provide you with a wealth of knowledge about how to do it.

  • Mike

    Sounds interesting. Questions: How does one obtain an application and what are your selection criteria? How will “writting buddies” be matched up? What is the course start date? Do your connections/information about self-publishing include knowledge of e-books for electronic reading devices (e.g. Kindle, Nook, etc.), working with sellers like Amazon, and pricing models?

    • Thanks for the questions, Mike.

      1) The application will be available following the free teleseminar on Sept 19. If you are interested in the program but unable to attend the seminar please register for it anyway because then I will be able to send you a recording.

      2) Writing buddies will be matched up based on the information you’ll provide on the registration form (including your topic, how many words you can write in 30 minutes, amount of research complete etc.)

      3) Yes, I am very familiar with e-books, working with sellers like Amazon (in fact, I’m publishing my next book with them) and pricing models.

      Anyone interested in learning more, at no risk and with no obligation should register for the teleseminar. Please go here to do that:

  • Michele

    Hi – the way you’ve phrased the info about your teleseminar seems to indicate that I’m not *required* to register and listen in order to apply for your program. Is that true? I’m working during the teleseminar and I think the considerations I’m pondering re: to apply or not won’t necessarily be influenced by what’s said in that call. Thanks!

    • Hi Michele, No, you’re not *required* to register OR listen but if you want to receive a recording of the tele-seminar AND the link to the application page (this is the important part) then you should definitely register.

  • Virginia

    HI Daphne,
    I’ve been putting off a major update/rewrite of my non-profit’s employee handbook. In part, because I’m undecided on whether to simply accept the fact that employee handbooks are dry, legalistic documents that employees rarely read (and thus just update for current laws and policies) OR strive to do a major redesign that will be inspiring and useful. The first option is time-consuming with little payback. The second options is even MORE time-consuming with possibly great payback … or not, if I fail on the inspiring/useful goals.
    Do you think your program will be a good fit for this type of project? Will it help me with the choice between these two approaches or should I make the choice before the program?

    • Hi Virginia, My program is aimed at people who are working on a VERY BIG project (60,000 words or more.) Is your employee handbook really that large? If so, I think either approach would work. That said, I’d vote for the second approach (being more inspiring and useful) because I think it would be far more interesting for you to write that! But, it’s YOUR project, so you have to be the one to decide.

      • Virginia

        Helpful feedback, Daphne. You’re right – this will only be about 12-15,000 words. Big from a legal research and consensus-building perspective but not from a writing perspective. What I’m in need of is some way to keep me accountable for moving forward consistently. Have fun with your program!

        • Sorry this won’t work for you. Good luck with your project, Virginia!