10 Kooky Tips On How To Write A Book

My writing nook at home. Don’t be fooled, it looks Pier One, but really, it’s a hodgepodge of thrift store and Craigslist.

I receive emails from people asking how to write a book.

I have written a book but I haven’t actually published it (yet, God give me patience and faith).

So when I am asked, it feels a bit like someone asking a person coloring a picture in a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book how to paint a still life.

Here are 10 kooky tips that popped into my head about writing a book if you absolutely don’t know how to start:

1) Start with a dangerously low self-esteem

This is vital. If you don’t, you may not be able to handle getting knocked off the height of your perch daily from rejection. It’s much easier to begin writing from the depths of despair.

2) If you have kids, get a lock for your bedroom door

My reasoning is two-fold: 1) my bedroom is where I write, and 2) my bedroom is where I cry when I am convinced that I cannot write, and it seems to upset the children when I cry uncontrollably.


Or at least be able to stomach it, if you want to embark on a long project. Seriously, in order to write a book, you have to spend countless hours writing, which may stop you right there. Luckily for me, I love to write and see where it takes me. I also love to sit!

4) Make sure your writing desk has an economy size box of Kleenex.

I cry when I write. I cry over a beautiful sentence (both other people’s and my own). I cry over the fact that I can’t spell. I cry about God’s work in my life rendered on the page.

5) Listen to Papa Hemingway

I talk about Hemingway often, but I believe the goal is one true sentence.

Sometimes sentences string together perfectly and send shivers up my spine. One true sentence is the payback for locking yourself in your room to write.

6) Read books

Readers usually make good writers. Some of my favorite books include “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo, “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott, and “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. (I’m just kidding about Twilight. Sorry, not a teen vampire fan.)

Read books on craft. For memoir, I love Vivian Gornick’s “The Situation and the Story” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”

7) Join a writing class

Most writing classes will require submissions and offer critique. This forces you to write. For years, I attended a memoir workshop in Chicago.

8) Buy business cards on-line and slap “writer” under your name

Call yourself a writer.

Even if you don’t have anything published, if you write, you are a writer. You may not be an author until you are published, but by golly, you are a writer. Put it out there! (And if you buy 250 business cards and have no one to give them to, the kids love to make up card games with them.)

9) Call or text or email people who love you, often

Writing is solitary. You show up and put words on paper and wonder if you actually have anything of value to offer the world. Call your mom, or your best friend, or Joe, the creepy guy at Starbucks who saw you writing one day and gave you his business card. Call anyone who loves you (OK, maybe not Joe) and ask for encouragement. You need cheerleaders. Buy pompoms and pass them out to friends.

10) Don’t write for attention

Believe me, an easier route for attention would be to hold up a Seven Eleven.

What’s your advice about writing a book?


27 Replies to “10 Kooky Tips On How To Write A Book”

  1. Good one on the 7-11! 🙂 I will always adhere to the personal conviction that the best writers are voracious readers. If a writer doesn’t have the time to devour a book or two (or ten) a month, they don’t have time to be good writers.

  2. A clean and organized desk. If I sit down to a messy desk, all I can think about is how messy it is. If I don’t do something about it, I’m stuck.

  3. Good advice! I would tell someone to sit and interview your main character. Sounds strange, I know, but it helps you get into their head….what’s the lie she believes? What’s his motivation? What was her blackest moment in life? (All courtesy of Susan May Warren at My Book Therapy!!)

    I find that by writing down as much information about my character at the start, it helps form the story line as I write.

    And yes…do call yourself a writer!

  4. What a fun post! Some great thoughts, too. I’ve met many people who seem to love the idea of writing a book, but actually sitting down to finish one is another story. I guess I’d add not to get too caught up in revising along the way. There will be plenty of time for that once the whole book is complete and the author has a clearer picture of what they’re really writing. I know one woman who has been writing the same book for nearly 20 years . . .

  5. Love this – especially number 8. I blogged about this earlier this year and one of my comments was “The ultimate flattery is having people see in you what you’ve set your heart on becoming.” Somehow, acknowledging to yourself that your are a writer is a great confidence booster and ultimately helps you raise the level of your writing. Thanks for the thoughts.

  6. #10 hit the nail on the head for me. I have been writing for 4+ years, deciding early on I could not write for statistics or comments. I love to write!!!

  7. Almost had to reach for my gigantic box of Kleenex when you mentioned One True Sentence. So powerful. My advice is to do what you’re doing.. hang on to your sense of humor. Thanks, Gillian. Fun post!

  8. Just do it! I vacillated for years about writing. I always wanted to, but could never get up enough courage. Low self esteem, I suppose. Finally, I just did it. I have a great friend who is also a writer and we encourage one another. I completed my novel in April of this year and am currently looking for representation. While waiting, I started my next manuscript.

  9. You made me laugh, Gillian, which is almost better than hearing from a reader who loves my books. My advice? Write who you are, because that’s how you connect with the people who will value what you have to offer.

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