How to Write a Good Book

A friend of mine is writing a book and she asked for some ideas on how to do it.

Here’s my process.  It worked pretty well on my first go, and it’s working again with my second (I’m more than halfway finished with it).

There are three hurdles to writing a book:

  • Quality.  Is it good enough to engage readers?  Do people like the writing or ideas?
  • Writing.  The daily process of writing it.  The grind of researching it.
  • Packaging.   Putting all of your ideas into a cohesive whole.

If you fail to clear any of these hurdles, it won’t be worth the effort.

To make it easier to do, do it in public.  Use a blog.  Share it with everyone that would be interested in it.  Here’s how it will help you get it done:

  • A blog post generates feedback.  You will be able tell which ideas resonate, and which ideas don’t.  The feedback almost always enables you to improve you clarity, style, and delivery.  Further, the pressure of writing in public makes you try harder.
  • Daily blog posts provide a structure to your work.  The conversation you have with your readers along the way makes it more fun to do and their feedback often spurs new writing.
  • Your blog posts are packaged ideas. When you are ready to publish your book, take these posts and use them to flesh out an outline for the book.  To finish it, write the narrative by stitching these posts together (rewriting them as necessary) to create a smooth logical flow.

That’s it.  Simple.  Effective.

It also launches you into the marketplace with a small audience of people interested enough to read it.


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Discussion — 5 Responses

  • Richard Lee February 22, 2014 on 8:52 pm

    This is sound advice. I think the best part is getting feedback; you see what resonates and what doesn’t. BTW, I think what your writing about now ( this blog ) is was ahead of its time. Or at least it seems that way to me. I hope it will still resonate outside of your core audience.

    • John Robb Richard Lee February 24, 2014 on 11:37 am

      Thanks. It’s particularly good if you don’t know where to start. JR

  • James Bowery February 24, 2014 on 10:18 pm

    One principle of writing is knowing your audience. Kurt Vonnegut’s advice for good fiction included narrowing it down to just one person:

    “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

    — although he also said the greatest writer of his generation broke all of his rules except one, and that was his rule #1:

    “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”

    Those rules seem in opposition.

    Something I’ve considered is a different form of book that takes advantage of hypertext — one that has multiple presentations for possibly radically different audiences. A lot of material can be factored out and reused — sort of the way you can write different interfaces for the same services.

    This would produce possibly umpteen books — all guilty of plagiarizing from each other with the only justification that you are plagiarizing from yourself.

  • Vernondo February 28, 2014 on 12:40 am

    I think you present a sound methodology, John, as long as you stay true to your core thesis, and do not pander to those who agree with you to make money.

    I doubt that is why you write. I sense you write from a passion, the same passion and ethic that has propelled you from your earliest memory.

    That’s why I trust you……..

  • tiya March 9, 2014 on 11:55 pm

    Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing