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A Book Apart

Writing real talk: “don’t give up!”

May 10, 2020

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Have you ever dreamed of writing a book but weren’t sure where to start? Or tried to sort out how long it really takes? Or wondered how the heck you’ll know when you’re ready?

Writing a book takes time, commitment, and occasionally some tears. It can feel challenging and lonely. It can sometimes even feel impossible and never-ending. Writing a book also takes fortitude to keep moving forward and to stay open to profound moments of growth and collaboration along the way. That’s when it feels joyful and satisfying, and like a true labor of love.

We asked our authors and team to tell us about their experiences getting from pitch to publish—and they gave us the good, the bad, and the surprising! We’re so delighted to share their insights with you, and we hope they’ll make the writing process more visible and approachable to everyone.

DON’T WAIT AND DON’T GIVE UP

Sometimes just deciding to start feels like the hardest part. We hope this advice makes it feel a little easier.

“I thought I needed to know everything about a topic before I started. But that’s what research is for! If you wait till you have ‘enough’ knowledge you’ll always talk yourself out of doing it.”
—Sara Wachter-Boettcher

“You don’t need to be a literary genius to publish a good book.”
—Danielle Small, editor

“You don’t have to know everything about a topic to write a book on it. You just have to be very interested in something and keep your audience in mind. Curiosity and purpose will sustain you through the process.”
—Erika Hall

“Don’t wait! Don’t wait until you feel like the time is perfect (it’ll never be perfect, there’s no such thing, I promise).”
—Katel LeDu, CEO

“Just start writing something. It’s advice I've read from many authors before, but it works well for me. Momentum is a powerful thing, and if you start writing and getting ideas out of your head, even in the most awful half-formed sentences imaginable, it’s a start. I’ve found it’s much easier going to revise bad prose than to face a blank page. As a bonus, you magically arrive at a place where a friend or editor can help you make the writing better.”
—Jason Santa Maria

“Have patience with yourself, don’t give up, appreciate your support system. —Tim Brown

THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE A BOOK

It turns out that there’s no big secret to writing a book. Except that you eventually have to _start_ and then you have to keep going.

“There is no one right way. There are just _ways_, and you only find those ways by starting. And then continuing.”
—Caren Litherland

“It isn’t as daunting as it seems, especially if you break it down into small chunks.”
—Karen McGrane

“Buckle in! It may seem like you have a lot of time, but you really don’t. You need to block off a lot of time, every day, to work on your manuscript and keep things moving.”
—Senongo Akpem

“A good trick is to not be afraid to move around the outline. Technical books don't have to be written in order. If you have a strong outline, you can hop to some other part of it if you are feeling stuck on the bit you are working on.”
—Rachel Andrew

“I was surprised at the level of detail I needed in my outline to be able to get the writing done. I revisited my outline again and again, and would often stop to make a mini-outline for individual paragraphs.”
—Scott Kubie

“Though some people find it's most productive to dedicate a particular number of hours to writing each day (and hold themselves to it, because the practice and process nets them great results), I had the opposite experience! I ended up being the most productive if I wrote when I wanted to, and on the topic I wanted to (which meant I jumped around chapters a lot as I wrote).”
—Lara Hogan

WHEN YOU’RE DONE WRITING...YOU’RE NOT DONE WRITING

We believe in taking a holistic approach to publishing, so there is a lot to do after the writing is done. But we know that’s what makes a good book (and a good author), great.”

“The hard work starts after the writing! The initial draft is tough—you and your screen, alone, for months—and hitting that milestone of a complete first draft is a true accomplishment! But the real down-and-dirty work (i.e. your best writing) comes through the editing process. The back-and-forth between editor and author is where you see the most heart-wrenching, gut-punching, brain-breaking efforts—and the most rewarding steps forward.”
—Lisa Maria Marquis

“You're not finished when you've finished writing. The editing process is hugely important and although the "big" milestone is done, you'll need energy and enthusiasm to tackle the edits and changes required to get your book into shape for all your eager readers.”
—Remy Sharp

“The ‘writing’ part of writing a book is just a part of the larger process of consolidating your thoughts, gathering materials, and editing, editing, editing. Be ready for all kinds of work beyond the writing.”
—Luke Wroblewski

“Find the very best editor you can. Seriously: find a person who’ll give your drafts a careful, close read, and who’s capable of giving you the kind of clear and direct feedback your drafts need to improve. That feedback’s got to come from a place of compassion.”
—Ethan Marcotte

“I didn't realize how emotionally challenging it can be to receive thorough edits from a professional editor! It's TOUGH but it’s part of the process—and an editor’s skill, and their pushback—make the book SO much better.”
—Lara Hogan

“Creating and launching a book into the world takes a village, and many authors I’ve worked with are surprised at many people they both need to rely on, and how many show up to help, unasked!”
—Leslie Zaikis, marketing lead

We hope some of these words have inspired you! If they have, tell us: what will you write? It doesn’t even have to be a whole book. There are articles and blog posts and field guides that need to be written by someone. Why not you?