The LAST Word with Louise Harris
So often, I get asked the question, “How do I write a book?”. This column is designed to answer that question from start to finish. Before I begin, you need to know a few things about me.
I always knew I would be a writer. I wrote in diaries regularly using my writing as a way to get out my emotions. I used to write poems for my friends and family when they were sad or happy. Whenever I felt lost, joyous, afraid, sad or some other emotion, I wrote a poem about it. Many of those have since been published in various places. For example, my first was published when I was 12. I used to dream about being on television when I watched the news. I held that dream until I interned at a television station and found out how competitive the job was. However, I have been writing ever since. I have written for newspapers, newsletters, television, radio and online publications. I have two published novels. I worked full time for publication companies and a small publisher in Baltimore. I understand the publishing industry. I am more than qualified to talk about how you can write a book.
How to Start
The publishing industry that exists today has a major flaw. Everyone can write a book and have it published without any problems. While everyone can write, not everyone should write. Some of the millions of books available on Amazon are terribly written while others are of no interest to anyone except the author.
You might think this is a harsh statement, but I can give you examples. I once critiqued a memoir of a computer expert. He spent his life in the computer industry. His book read like a technical manual. He didn’t focus on stories of his life that would make the book worth reading. He focused on his life in the computer industry. Another person was related to the Eisenhowers, the president, his wife and family. Her book read like a history lesson except when she added color and personalized the accounts. Even though I recommended that she use those stories to make the book more entertaining, she felt the history was more important to the book. Those who read it, fell asleep.
Therefore, if you plan to write a book, here is my first tip. You have to have something to say that people want to read. Otherwise, don’t write a book or hire someone else to act as your guide and writer. Professional writers would help you. If you decided that you do have something that people want to hear and are able to make the book entertaining, then you should proceed.
Organize Your Thoughts
To be successful in book writing, you have to have some organization to your ramblings. Some writers create an outline. Others use note cards. Others list bullet points they want to cover throughout the book. Whatever your method, you have to organize your thoughts. Many people use journals, otherwise known as journaling, to write their thoughts. The problem with journaling is the thoughts are not in any flow. They are put on paper when people think them so the thoughts aren’t gone. You have to put them in order. Writing coaches can help with this.
For example, one of my clients was a caregiver to her mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. While she took care of her mother, she wrote in a journal to help alleviate the craziness that surrounds Alzheimer’s patients. She talked about her feelings during sundowning situations, how she dealt with her mother’s paranoia, and more situations relating to caregiving of Alzheimer’s patients. What we did was go through her journals and organized them into themes. I found the ones that made good examples of advice she wanted to give to other caregivers. Each theme became a chapter. The book became a guide to other caregivers instead of a compilation of journal entries. People don’t read diaries today. The exceptions are Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Dork Diary series and Diary of Anne Frank. Two of them are fiction and children’s books, and one was published decades ago. If you are an unknown writer, do not write a diary and expect it to be bought.
Turn your journal entries into examples of a more salable theme. If you are an expert in something and write in journals, organize your ramblings into tips relating to your area of expertise. Use the entries as examples or stories to make your book more exciting. Organization is an important step prior to writing a book. It is the first move toward making your book flow.