Do not buy that book!!

Amazon is saturated with books that claim to help you to become a writer. They claim to tell you how to write a book, what steps you need to take, how to become successful – blah, blah, blah. Do me (but mostly yourself) a favour – don’t buy them.

A writer is a writer – it is as simple as that. Either you can write or you can’t. That is not to say that you will write well all of the time; you won’t. All writers experience lulls in creativity. At one time or another we all fall off the writing horse. Then there are those that just need to find something else to do – harsh, but true.

Whether you are a fledgling writer or a writer thrown into despair and desperate to get your writing back on track, buying a ‘How to write a book’ book is not going to help you. So don’t do it.

There is no uniform way to write a book. No proven strategy to stick to. Nope! There are various ways to write a book. In fact there are so many that I don’t know exactly how many there are!

If you are having problems and are looking for a new way to do things there are plenty of writers out there that genuinely care about helping you to do better. They will share with you how they do it. That does not mean it’s the way you should write, but it is insightful and free. You never know, one of these styles may work for you.

The last book that I wrote, I based upon a scene that played out in my head. I sat down with a pen and paper and started writing. I drew up a list of characters and their attributes and then I wrote and wrote and wrote and edited and edited and edited until it was ready for a Beta. That is my style.

Others write outlines so they have a good idea of the most significant parts of their story and then they write around it. Others write chapter by chapter outlines. I tried this method lately and it worked pretty well. You see? There are so many ways and none of them are wrong. Only YOU can find what works for you.

Of course, there are key things that we all need to consider when we are writing. Setting, plot, characters, description (show don’t tell), prose, POV, protagonist. And if you feel you need a little help – instead of purchasing a book, search online! Read the multitude of blogs that are available from published authors.

We all need to find our own style. If I try to write in someone else’s style my book goes off on a twisty bender because I’m not being true to myself.

I cannot stress this enough – write in whatever way you feel most comfortable.

Remember: No-one can tell you how to write! You must discover this for yourself. So leave those ‘How to write a book’ books on the shelf. You don’t need them!

Love E.L

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21 thoughts on “Do not buy that book!!

  1. Having purchased many of these I have to come realise that starting a blog and interacting with other writers was far more beneficial…and free!! I also agree that you just need to write to improve. Good post!

    • I have found myself on the cusp of buying these books before. It was actually Nat Russo’s blog that helped me to avoid it. There is a lot of support out there free of charge 🙂

  2. I agree and I’ve also noticed a big difference between the feedback you get from readers, compared to the feedback you get from professionals. In my (pretty limited) experience, it seems readers are more likely to tell you about characters they loved/hated and story elements they were engrossed in/bored of. A professional will sometimes talk at length about technical writing and minor things that someone without a trained eye, would ever notice.

    That’s not to say every guidance book and editor is a waste of time, but I’d definitely take their advice alongside that of as many readers/other writers as possible. And that’s really where social media connections really come into their own.

    Rambled on a bit there.

    • I agree with paying for an editor – definitely! With regards to readers giving feedback you are also right. My Betas have been excellent, pointing out exactly what you said. The feedback I have received from them is excellent, some are even hot at grammar and punctuation. What I hate is people knocking up a quick ‘how to’ book and chucking it on amazon etc for unsuspecting people to buy. Some of these books have good reviews but honestly, if it’s not common sense then it can be found on the multitude of blogs out there. Another thing that I spotted today was a writer that had set up a website, charging quite a lot a year, to simply tweet promo’s for your book. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t tend to follow promotional twitter accounts, their constant marketing tweets get on my nerves. Fancy charging 3 figures for that? I had respected that writer up until that point too. Shame that some are motivated more by money than anything else.

      Now I rambled on Darryl lol!

      • There seems to be a lot of that going on. I think they’ve taken advantage of people’s uncertainty around self publishing and SM marketing in general.

        I’m sending my MS off to an editor this weekend and have whittled my choice down to a few reputable companies. It really is a minefield out there and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to just send your money to anyone!

      • I agree!! I had one that I was thinking of until a fabulous woman that I Beta read for told me that her sister edited hers (it was flawless) and that she would do mine for a good price in order to build her portfolio. There are some genuine treasures out there but there is also a lot of cubic zirconia charading as diamonds!

        If I ever try to flog a ‘how to’ book or a promo tweet you have full permission to kick my heiny!

  3. I only realised the verity in this after reading a handful of these self-help books. Just like you say Emma, you can get the same advice anywhere on the web and from a multitude of very friendly and helpful authors. And also, nothing compares to experience – 10,000 hours they say is how much practice you need before making it perfect.

    However, I wouldn’t say the books are a total waste of time as sometimes you get an insight into that particular author’s journey and all the pitfalls they encountered. But definitely not a requirement to ‘learning to write’.

    • I would certainly buy a book that followed a writers journey from their first word on a blank page through to publication because I like to read about others experiences and I am always curious to hear how they found it physically and emotionally.

      I was probably a bit unfair in this post as I basically applied a blanket over all of these books. There may indeed be some very useful books out there that can give you hints and tips like overuse of adverbs or detailed education on grammar, punctuation etc. The books that really rub me up the wrong way are the ones that claim that they can teach you how to write a bestseller or how to write a book in X amount of time. Most of these books are shoddily thrown together in very little time as far as I can see. I just feel that writers should help writers, not try to con them out of their already limited amount of funds.

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