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So You Want to Write a Book

Jul 29, 2008
The other night I was in a workshop with a lovely lady we'll call Marie who was a cancer survivor. She began to tell different stories about her life - not just about her journey with cancer, but other parts of her world that captivated me and everyone else in the room. I said, "You should write a book!" Marie replied, "That's what people tell me." But it was clear Marie had no burning desire to go do that.

This was an unusual exchange, since most people I encounter can't wait to pick my brain about how I wrote and published my book. Everyone I meet these days seems to want to write a book. The other day, while having a routine exam, my dentist told me his wife wanted to write a book. How did I go about getting it published, he wondered, as I opened my mouth to say "Ah."

It seems to me that it's natural for people to want to put down on paper (or in these modern times, on computer) their story. With the ease of finding out anything we want to know about anybody by just a click of our computer mouse on a search engine, comes a desire to be part of the global community. If they can blog about topic x, so can I. Yes you can!

The first thing to do is to get clear on your topic. Take a stroll through a book store and notice all the different headings: fiction, self-help, sci-fi, biography, music, health, cooking, love, history, success, psychology, literature, etc. The variety is endless. Once you've chosen your genre, just start to write. Try to write at the same time every day. This is training yourself to spend time just for you and your book. This is the step that most people never take! They have a great idea and can tell you all about it, but when you ask if they've started writing any of their thoughts down, the usual response is "Oh, I don't have any time."

Years ago I worked for a very successful businessman who had also written a very successful book. It had been translated in many different languages. If he wished, he never had to write another book again. However, he got up every morning at 6:00 am and wrote for one hour, then came into the office. Writing was his passion. I admired his tenacity.

If you're writing about a certain period of history or a particular part of the world, you might want to do research about that time or place to help bring out the spirit of that atmosphere in your writing. Research can also inspire you and help you see your story from a different perspective.

The old adage that you should write about what you know isn't so far off the mark. I recently published a book about my experiences as a celebrity personal assistant. Having never written much of anything before that, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. My life is comprised of a series of events which I turned into a book which is a reflection of my contemplation of what that all means in today's working environment. That was a mouthful!

Once you feel your book is ready to show a publisher, I suggest you first give it to someone in your inner circle to proofread. We get so close to our own product that it helps to have new eyes look for spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing drives publishers and their editors crazier than to receive a manuscript that is riddled with misspellings! Nowadays with computer spell check programs as part of all word processing programs, there's no excuse to ever send out any written piece with errors.

Now that you've written your book, checked it over for errors, and maybe gotten feedback from the friends you've given the manuscript to read, you're ready to submit it to a publisher. Being published by a traditional big house publisher is a great goal. If you're luck enough to snag a contract with a company, be prepared to wait to see your book in print. Most publishing companies once they sign an author to do a book with them, schedule the book release for 2 years or more from the date of the signing of the contract! You're put at the end of the line of the other authors that already signed up ahead of you.

The more realistic goal is to publish it yourself. Personally, I highly recommend going directly to a print on demand publisher. There are many different self publishing companies. The cost is not as much as you might think. All have professional staffs that guide you through the steps of having your book edited, a cover designed and finally printed. From start to finish, my book took less than a year from the time I submitted it to my publisher to the time it was on available on Amazon.

Nothing is more thrilling than the day your published book arrives and you're holding it in your hand. The process may seem daunting - doing the research on your subject, getting up every day and writing, getting up every day and not writing, agonizing as you wait to hear what your family and friends think about your book, finding a publisher, collaborating with editors to make changes to make your story more readable, writing marketing material, choosing a cover design, and finally, having the book printed - but if you keep your eye on the prize: you're sense of satisfaction for having followed through with your dream - it's all worth it. Go for it! Start writing today.
About the Author
Shelley G. Anderson is the personal assistant to self-help author Louise L. Hay, and writes the column Dear Miss Know It All. She is the author of Dealing With Divas: A Survivor's Kit for the Celebrity Personal Assistant (or Anyone with a Pushy Boss). To learn more about her, visit Dealing with Divas.
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