50 writing tips from my 15 years as an author

One of the questions I get asked daily is a form of, “I want to be an author. Can you help ? There are definitely better people to ask than me. But after writing hundreds of articles and nine books in 15 years – both traditionally published and self-published, both non-fiction and fiction, both epic chess and national bestsellers – I have some thoughts on the matter.

1. There has never been a better time to be an author.

2. Writing a book is a wonderful gift for your children and a way to secure your legacy.

3. The root of “authority” is author; nothing will do more for your business or your career than writing a non-fiction book.

4. Becoming skilled at storytelling – writing fiction – will increase your enjoyment of movies and novels, and increase your ability to captivate and persuade others.

5. If you’ve ever given someone advice they found helpful, you can write a non-fiction book.

6. If you’ve ever taught someone anything – how to cook, how to code, how to be a parent, how to play soccer – you can write a non-fiction book.

7. If you’ve ever told your friends a story that made them laugh, cry, or say, “So what did you do? “Or” No way! You can write a novel.

8. If you can speak, you can write; you don’t need to have done well in English class – or even school – to be a writer.

9. “I want to write a book, I just don’t know what to write about. Well, you clearly have to have a life, or at least know more.

10. “I have a great idea for a book, but I just don’t have time to write it.” Oh, why didn’t you say so? Want to borrow my magical time machine? It’s right here… all writers have one. We call it the Facebook TV shutdown device and get your butt out of bed at 5 a.m. Doesn’t even need batteries.

Gallery: How to Become a Better Leader: Four Essential Tips

5 images

11. “But my grammar and spelling are terrible.” Alright, write a horrible book and hire a publisher to clean it up.

12. Write your book for a single person.

13. Spend a lot of time creating an “avatar” for your ideal reader, or spend a minute choosing someone you actually know in the real world and writing it for them.

14. Write in the genre you like to read.

15. The most important variable in the success of a book is the size of the author’s “tribe” (usually represented by a mailing list).

16. The second most important variable in the success of a book is its title.

17. The third most important variable in a book’s success is its cover.

18. The fourth most important variable in the success of a book is the number of positive reviews.

19. The fifth most important variable in the success of a book is the description of the book (back cover copy).

20. The sixth most important variable in a book’s success is the first page, before the first chapter, due to Amazon’s Look Inside feature.

21. The seventh most important variable in the success of a book is the quality of your writing.

22. Social media is a horrible way to find new readers.

23. Social media is a decent way to engage existing fans.

24. Social media is a great way to connect with influencers.

25. Traditional advertising does not sell books.

26. The one book marketing expense that actually has a positive ROI (that is, it doesn’t just build brand awareness but actually moves books) is paying for placement in bookstores. airport or displays at Barnes & Noble. Oh, and sometimes Facebook ads.

27. Readers are fascinated by authors; remember that in the midst of your poverty and despair, you actually have fans.

28. For non-fiction, your fans want to know your story from zero to hero.

29. For fiction, your fans want to know your (idealized) lifestyle and creative techniques.

30. New writers should spend more time building their tribe than writing. (Yes, reality stinks.)

31. Go out with other writers. You don’t know any? Then hang out with other aspiring writers. Either way, they’ll teach you things, make you write, make you laugh, and maybe even write recommendations or reviews for your books.

32. Yes, you can make a living as a full time author, but it is very, very difficult.

33. Many authors supplement their copyrights with income from speeches, courses, coaching, teaching and advice. (Yes, again, reality stinks.)

34. Most successful authors are prolific: they write one or more books each year.

35. Most successful writers kill the same dragon over and over again. (Lee Child has written 20 Jack Reacher novels; John Maxwell has written over 50 books on leadership.)

36. We are not thinking creatures with feelings, we feel creatures who sometimes have thoughts; whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, your readers want an experience, you have to change their emotional state.

37. Your book will be published with at least one typo, regardless of the number of editors browsing it.

38. “Is it better to be pants or a plotter?” Shut up, stop procrastinating and get back to writing.

39. Writer’s Block is not a reality; it does not exist.

40. Writer’s block is laziness or lack of preparation.

41. If you have “writer’s block,” try speaking your book into a microphone and have it transcribed; have you ever had the speaker blocking? I did not mean it.

42. Pictures, illustrations or scribbles immediately set your book apart from the competition.

43. Fiction? The hero’s journey.

44. Fiction? You have to make the villain much more powerful than the protagonist.

45. Stephen King On writing is the # 1 recommended writing book out there.

46. ​​If I had to recommend only one book on writing, it would be On writing by Stephen King.

47. Many people credit Dorothy Parker with the truism that writers hate to write, but they love to have written.

48. Never stop writing.

49. Write drunk; edit sober.

50. Life is about having an impact, not an income. And writers who know what they’re doing do both.

Kevin Kruse is a successful “entrepreneurial author” who shares tips and advice for freelance writers on his blog.

*To note: A previous version of this story did not attribute the axiom that writers hate to write but love having written to Dorothy Parker. The story has been updated to credit her.

Previous James Lee Burke on writing, inspiration and sequel
Next The problem with complex write prompts (Opinion)