So, You Want To Write A Book, Eh?

purple pen

Just about every month, I get an email from someone who wants to write a book. Usually, the emailer has about twenty questions…most of them are about how to get published.

I try to back the truck up (beep, beep, beep).

First, before editing and submitting and rejection…First. You. Have. To. Write. A. Book.

After that come the questions about how To. Write. A. Book.

Is there a “how to” guide?

Where can I get the “Write A Novel For Dummies”?

Where do I start? How long  will it take? HOW DO I DO IT?????

Again. Let’s back the truck up. (beep, beep, beep)

First, before fretting over how and where and when and why to start To. Write. A. Book. First. You need to know what you like to read.

Yup. Read.

This is where librarian Susie pushes up her glasses, tightens her bun, shushes you, and tells you to put that nose in a book.

Move it, move it, move it. (to be read in my best drill sergeant voice)

Before I was a writer, I was a reader. Writers must must MUST be readers first. Can I say it again? If one wants to write, one absolutely must be a reader.



Everything you can get your hands on.

The best writers I know spend as much time reading as they do writing. The best writers I know learn more from reading than anything else. The best writers I know learn from other writers.

People who never move beyond “I want to write a book” are those who, sadly, don’t understand how essential it is to read. It hurts my soul when someone says, “I want to write a book…but I don’t read…I don’t like to read.”

Yowch! That’s like telling an Olympic 100 meter sprinter that you want to compete, but you aren’t going to train…that you don’t even like to run.

It just doesn’t work that way. Sorry.

I’m not trying to scare you, but writing is a lot, a lot, a lot of work. And a massive part of that work is…you got it…reading.

I stayed up far too late last night so that I could finish Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt. It is beautiful. It is raw and subtle and moving. I cried. A. Lot. I laughed just as much. I gasped at the luxurious prose somehow delivered in the voice of a 14 year old boy. Often, while reading, I paused and thought, “Now, this is how a novel is written. This is how it’s done.”

Okay For Now is the 40th book on my "read" shelf for this year.
Okay For Now is the 40th book on my previously empty shelf for this year.

Yes. Read how-to books about writing. Go to conferences (meet other writers!). Join a critique group if you’d like. Those are good things.




Then, after you’ve done some reading, get in a chair and start writing. It doesn’t have to be good. It can be junk. All first drafts are. But sit and click.

Then read some more.

Then write.

And repeat, repeat, repeat.

That’s how you write a book.

Tell me, what books have you read that inspired you? Do you want to write a book? What’s holding you back? What are you reading these days?


4 Comments on “So, You Want To Write A Book, Eh?

  1. I wonder why these people who don’t read want to write a book? They must think writers spend their spare time sailing yachts and eating at posh restaurants, spending all that money flowing into the bank account from book sales.


    • Don’t forget the caviar!

      I really don’t understand it myself, Jeff. I think writing has romantic ideas attached to it. But if they saw me whacking my head against the wall when I can’t get a scene right, they’d understand that romance has nothing to do with it!


  2. Susie, this post was so encouraging because as you know I do want to write (finish) my book and I am a furoucious reader! Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m reading instead of writing but when I do read I always feel inspired to go and write and I find that when I read books by good authors I makes me a better writer. The two do go hand in hand and this post was a great reminder for me to keep doing both…As much as possible! There is no shame in getting lost in a book! EVER!

    Right now I’m lost in Liz Curtis Higgs’s, A Thorn in My Heart. It’s a beautiful story and as I read my fingers are literally twitching to get to the keyboard and work on my own story.


    • You know, I think that if it inspires you, you MUST do it! Read, Jen, Read! I’m glad you’re writing. Can’t wait to read more of your work.


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