A psychologist once told me, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.”

I said, “Interesting. I’ve always wanted to be a counselor.”

He said, “I didn’t know you were trained for that.”

Apparently one has to be trained for his profession, but not for mine.

How well you write isn’t a matter of life-or-death. But in five decades of writing, I’ve learned a few things that might boost your chance for success.

Have something to say

Boil your book’s central message down to one sentence. As you write — then as you edit — that purpose statement will keep your writing on track.

Know your reader

Whenever I sit at the keyboard, I keep my reader in mind. Not a room full of people, but one person. I write to an individual with specific concerns and interests.

Say it simply

I never try to impress with my words. Writers who show off their vocabularies are like adolescent girls using make-up for the first time. Less is more. Unless you’re gifted as a literary stylist, let the power of your story speak for itself.

Practice your skills

I don’t say this just because I run a writers training program. Fifty years since earning my first dollar for writing, I’m still polishing my skills. I belong to several writers groups, subscribe to magazines for writers, and read every book I can find about the craft. There’s always more to learn.

Polish your words

Every writer needs an editor. At writers workshops I often condense the first pages of people’s stories by two-thirds. I’ve learned that skill by doing it to my own work. Dare to cut, replace, and polish until every word fits perfectly.

Publish the right way

There’s never been a better time to achieve your dream of a published book. But beware. Many companies prey on would-be authors, promising success in exchange for expensive packages. Before you invest, investigate. Know what you’re buying and how a company defines its promises of editing and product placement.

Plan to sell your book

If you take the responsibilities of self-publishing, that includes your book’s sales and marketing. Here’s a link to a great article on this topic. Don’t wait to make these decisions until your printed copies are delivered.

Start small

In the words of Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” To get copies of your book at an economical price, you no longer have to order hundreds of copies. Thanks to print-on-demand technology from such companies as Believers Press, independent authors can produce a handful of books, then order more to meet demand. Paying less for inventory means you can invest your up-front dollars in editing and design, as well as in help with marketing. 

This is a great time to publish your first book — especially if you commit to do it right.

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