Should I Write a Book, You Ask? My Advice to People Thinking About Becoming Writers.

This is an email response I wrote to an acquaintance who, having survived a personal crisis, was debating turning some of her writings into a book. I thought my response to her questions might prove helpful to other folks out there debating if they should write a book.

Strung together journal entries won’t work. They might make for a blog, but not a book. To write a book you have to write a book that is clearly a book and adheres to all the conventions and requirements of being a book. This is a shit-ton of work and will take drafts and time and sweat and blood until it’s either good enough to submit or you give up. As one of my writer buddies says: One of these will happen first.

Unless you’re Whitney Houston’s daughter or the guy who cut his arm off with a pocket-knife, no publisher or agent will be interested in talking to you until you’ve written a manuscript. Since you’ve never written a manuscript, how good that manuscript is will be all that matters. So. Go to your bookshelves and look at all the novels or memoirs or inspirational/self-help books that you’ve read and loved, pick the appropriate format for your story, then start to create a manuscript along those lines. Set a high bar. It will have to be as good as your favorite books on your shelves, the ones that changed your life. As for what angle to take or how to approach it – that’s on you. It’s your life, your book, and your vision. No one else will care to tell you how to approach it, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be right since it’s your (highly personal) story to tell. Some jackass might tell you it must be second-person haiku but in your gut it’s a first person memoir. Which are you gonna write? Also, people who have experience don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. Your job is to have vision and to realize that vision in ink and paper in a fashion that will make that particular order of words on the pages the one in five hundred collections of words on pages that an agent will stake his or her livelihood and reputation on that month. And then that an editor, from the agent-culled collections of words on pages, will pick from worse odds to stake even more on. This may sound discouraging, but if you’re really a writer, it won’t matter. If you’re really a writer, you don’t have a choice anyway. Be bold and venture forth. And good luck.

Comments

  1. Great take on putting some reality on the crazy assumption that people have some undiscovered writing skill and the assumption that people really give a rats-ass about what they feel is important to write about.

    Like most things in life, real success takes pain beyond what people can imagine. Most people like to stay in ‘idea’ phase thinking that they can do the execution of writing a successful book while sipping coffee on the weekends at the local ‘free the heal, free the mind’ coffee joint.

    Most fear stepping out to actually take the risk required to do something…..most would prefer to just add noise. Kudos to all who actually take things past an idea but still need to listen to the right feedback as they drive forward.

  2. Barbranne Herrera says:

    My first book is in the works of getting e-published right now. It’s been a four year journey. I started off writing my story as a screenplay and then switched to a book. It is a fictional memoir and my first work. It broaches a difficult subject about a husbands gradual addiction to porn. I’m both excited and nervous over how it will be welcomed. I’m sure I will have many critics but hopefully it will get a lot of discussion going on :)

  3. Great advice, Gregg. Forwarded to my writer friends. I get asked the same thing. The second most frequent comment I receive when people learn I’m a writer is, “You should write a novel about…” I’ll have to give that some thought and blog about it soon. Well done.

  4. I didn’t find your letter discouraging at all–more like inspiring. Personal experiences can, and often do, inspire creative works, but they don’t create them. Thanks for this post!

  5. Wow! A hot realist. Nice – but what a slap in the face– a much needed one. I just finished writing the 13th chapter in a hilarious memoir that definitely reads as fiction. Then I started stringing along journal entries. You saved me from my ignorant, dreamy little self. Back to the drawing board. Thanks for the wake-up call Gregg.

    Warm regards,

    Joie

  6. Thanks! This was helpful.

  7. Great post Gregg. I recently came across your books and am currently reading your book Trust No One. I really like your style and as an aspiring thriller author working on my second book I’m taking notes. I especially like your description of what it takes to write a book. I right there with you on that one with no intention of giving up. Next up on my reading list is your latest – The Survivor. Great stuff.

  8. Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my twitter group? There’s a lot of folks that I think
    would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

Trackbacks

  1. […] a good thing, as I was kicking this idea around and a post today from one of my favorite authors, Gregg Hurwitz, brought back to the forefront of my mind. While his post has to do with the writing process (and, […]

  2. […] client, Gregg Hurwitz, recently offered some advice for people wanting to become writers. His key point is being a writer takes a lot of work and the easy way out is never the easy way. I […]

  3. […] to think about it, isn’t it?  You should take a look at the entire post here. Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  4. Anna-diana says:

    Anna-diana

    Should I Write a Book, You Ask? My Advice to People Thinking About Becoming Writers. | Gregg Hurwitz

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