So You Want To Write a Book?


Happy Monday, everyone!  It’s a week of writer-tips here on the porch at Southern BelleView!

One of the questions I’m most asked via email, or when I’m out speaking is, “I’m interested in writing. How do I begin going about getting a book published?

Six Steps Toward Getting Your Book Published

Step 1 — Write, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing…  First, remember that everyone starts out as a yet-to-be-published author. I know it sounds elementary, but don’t attempt to set out into the publishing world until you’re fully ready. In other words, begin by finishing a novel. It’s almost impossible to sell a partial manuscript or idea if you’re unpublished.

Step 2 — Polish until it shines, then stop polishing and get moving. Polish it and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer.  If you don’t know where to find editors, check out a copy of The Writer’s Market for information on the details of how and where to submit a book.  Consider connecting with writers’ groups and writers’ conferences in your area and signing up for appointments to pitch your book to editors and agents there.  Writers’ contests can also be a great way to get your feet wet.  Yes, showing your work to the world involves some risk. Don’t let rejections wash you up on the beach and keep you there. While you’re waiting for news, write another book. If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you have eggs in another basket.

Step 3 — Refine if you need to. Don’t take a critique too seriously if you hear it from one person. Editors, agents, friends, and readers are individuals. What works for one may not work for another. If you receive the same comment from multiple sources, consider revising your manuscript before you send it elsewhere. Be tenacious, be as thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news.

Step 4 — Keep learning, always.  If there is a particular area of your writing that seems to be holding you back (action scenes, dialog, description, characterization, etc) devote extensive study to this area. Seek out conference sessions and online workshops devoted to the topic. Study other authors’ techniques in this area. Don’t just read and admire—dissect, break down, make notes, keep a scrapbook of examples and notes-to-self. Read these notes-to-self when you’re stuck/struggling/editing something that isn’t working.

Step 5 –  Avoid some common mistakes. Watch for overbalance of narrative in your writing. Nothing slows down the pace of a story like huge patches of narrative. Narrative produces pages with big, blocky paragraphs that read slowly, and that tend to “tell” rather than “show”. When possible, work story elements into dialog, action, reaction, and short thought sequences, rather than using narrative. For example, rather than describing the main street of your town, have your character walk down Main, greet a neighbor or two, and reflect on a few random childhood memories of people/places. Be careful that you don’t slide down the slippery slope of having characters engage in meaningless chatter designed only to dump information to the reader, but always seek opportunities to work details in naturally during character interactions. Remember that body language speaks volumes, too.

Step 6 – Move on when necessary.  Lastly, never marry yourself to one project. Keep creating new material—that’s where the joy is, and if you keep the joy of this business, you keep the magic of it.  If you have a God-given desire to write and a story to tell, then don’t let anything hold you back!

Good luck and happy writing!  The world can always use one more great story.  May your story change lives, as all good stories do!


Blue Moon Bay one of BOOKLIST’S 10 Must Reads Of 2012!

Firefly Island hits shelves in February, 2013!

  Click for sneak peek at Blue Moon Bay

 Click for sneak peek at Firefly Island 








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  1. Rachel Hauck says

    Wise words from a wise and beautiful writer. Listen to her, y’all, she knows what she’s talking about!

    Rachel :)

  2. Lisa Wingate says

    Thank you, Rachel! The process can seem so daunting, but it shouldn’t. Like any journey, it’s one step at a time, but until you start taking steps, nothing happens ;o)

  3. says

    Good advice. I’ve spent a few weeks trying to figure out how to turn a (rejected) novella into a longer book. Pulled up by the boot straps after the rejection, I determined to add to the middle. I became so stuck.Had no idea how to do this. How was I to find that subplot? I did write some meaningless narrative, trying to force the brain block out of me. It put words on paper and gave me a direction. I’ll be deleting, but it got it moving. Brainstorming with my hubby helped find my subplot. Now more work continues. That is the key. Work. Write. Write some more. But write meat not pablum. Thanks Lisa.

  4. admin says

    Sage, sage tips, Lisa. This inspires me to move one w/ a new project today! Wishing everyone long and productive hours in a chair in front of the computer this week!

    Beth Webb

    • lisa Wingate says

      Any post that inspires a new Beth Webb Hart story is worth it! Here’s hoping for some productive hours and inspired stories this week… and beyond, Beth! Your beautiful writing is a treat for the rest of us ;o)

  5. Sharon Mannion says

    This is all such good advice Lisa and nicely put. Let’s all forward the link to friends who want to get published.

    Some of us, though, just like to write down our thoughts. That’s me. I think it is kind of therapeutic. One time you mentioned that your grandmother would write some of her stories in letters. That would be me. I get to thinking of past happenings and write on and it’s often in letters or sometimes in a blog comment. Many times I’ve thought of putting these things in a journal but it’s still just a thought… I even have some lists of writing prompts, but I only listen to the brain prompts, I guess. I’ll be watch what the other belles say this week…

  6. Lisa Wingate says

    Hi Sharon and Denise! Thank you for stopping by and thanks for sharing with friends. I hope it helps bring some new stories into the world!

  7. Mandy Knighton says

    Great tips, Lisa! I actually feel less anxious about a story I’m currently writing after reading your words of advice. I’ve allowed anything and everything to hold me back and now it’s time to move forward. No more self doubt. Thanks!

  8. says

    Finally getting back to the porch…sorry I’m a few days late for the chat. I’ll take writing advice from you anyday, Lisa. As you know, I want to be YOU when I grow up :) Thanks for the tips. j

  9. Lisa Wingate says

    Sister-girl, you are doing just fine on your own. Keep sending those awesome stories out into the world and I’ll keep readin’!

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