Show/Hide Navigation

Advice on Writing a Book

Treehouse Life - the bookshelf

I receive loads of emails about how to go about writing a book. In fact I think I need to add a section to my FAQ’s page with advice about finding a publisher (be a genius, get lucky or don’t bother). Here are a few thoughts, glib and over-simplistic as always, about the most important aspect of getting published: writing the damn book in the first place!

  • Sit down and write. Quite simply the most important thing you can do.
  • Wage war with the Three T’s of Temptation (tea, toast and t’internet).
  • I use an app called Self Control to block the internet for periods when I need to just write and my own self control is failing me.
  • is another good site for shaming yourself into productivity. There are loads of productivity aids out there. Finding ones that work for you is a nice source of procrastination! But, seeing as the internet seems to be the scourge of most of my efforts to simply write, you could go for the approach endorsed by a friend of mine: give your modem to your wife when she goes out to work in the morning. Simple! No internet till she gets home so you might as well get writing…
  • Don’t worry about the quality of your work. Just write. Seriously – splurge it all down, page after page after page. Author Anne Lamott famously wrote of the sheer inevitability of “Shitty First Drafts.” Don’t worry. Don’t re-read it. Don’t edit it. Do NOT throw any of it away.
  • If I’m not in the mood for a certain chapter I just work on another one. This teeters close to allowing myself excuses to do nothing, but sometimes -genuinely- I’m just not in the mood for a certain chapter.
  • Drink tea, drink coffee, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, sit on a big yoga ball or in your granny’s living room. Do whatever it takes. Just don’t confuse “seeking inspiration” with “procrastination”. I bet Shakespeare could have written some half-decent stories even without a top-of-the-range MacBook Pro and a Moleskine journal…
  • Counter-intuitive to the need to get everything written down is the need to have a break. I believe that having one fallow day a week will increase your yield overall. Pause, relax, then return to the story with new fire in your belly.
  • Make a public declaration: tell friends or family members how much you are going to write this week. And then do not let them down.
  • The long, long, difficult hours of writing tens of thousands of words are truly the most frustrating, disillusioning stage of writing a book. But they are so crucial that I am not even going to touch on any of what happens after you’ve written your first draft. Get that written and then we’ll talk some more. OK? Don’t despair. Keep going on your lonely road: you’re not alone.
Read Comments

You might also like

Spielberg A few years ago I used to watch a lot of films, particularly documentaries, and jot down notes for my blog (like Jiro, Sugarman, Man on Wire, and Anvil ). The death of Lovefilm led to me stopping, unfortunately. So […]...
The Proust Questionnaire I enjoy writing blog posts where questions force me to think hard and be honest (like this interview and these 20 questions worth answering honestly.) The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlour game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel […]...
Committing to Providence, Creating Your Life  OK, so it’s a bit weird to post a blog post about yourself, especially one filled with so many kind things said about me. But if we leave that aside, I think this is a really interesting article about allowing […]...


  1. So very true Alastair!

    I’m very close to finishing my first ever book – which is good news because it’s due out next week.

    Books don’t write themselves, you’ve just got to do the work.

    I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield before I started, a great book for focusing the mind.

  2. I would advice following and in my opinion VERY important thing Create the overview of your story; create an outline, take a notebook to take notes about characters – all details not to get lost.
    It will give you new ideas for your story as you describe different parts of it (write those down!)
    Nothing should go wasting

  3. Write if compelled to write. Otherwise, don’t write. In the meantime, go do something. How else can you find inspiration?



Post a Comment

HTML tags you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

© Copyright 2012 Alastair Humphreys. All rights reserved. Site design by JSummerton