First, take copious notes on life. See something that sparks a what-if question? Jot it down. Hear a humorous conversation? Do a journal entry. Wonder why 80-year-old Dad suddenly lost the number six when he counts? Record it. All these details may be important in years to come, especially if you notice numbers or words go missing from your own repertoire. If you rely too much on memory, you may need to turn that biography into a fictional account because who can remember what color dress Grandma wore for the 50th-anniversary celebration?

Next, write the thing. Write the sloppy copy, the details, what needs to be said. Later, go back and fix, polish, and spit shine. Take out the extra uses of just, that, up, out, down, and in.

After you’ve written a chapter or two, give it to reliable readers for feedback or to hear someone say, “This is good!” (Note – husbands and mothers do not qualify as valid critique partners of your work. Teenagers do count because they have no sense of propriety or concern for your self-esteem.) 

Attend a writer’s workshop and learn that your beautifully crafted literary work may not be saleable because…um…it has no plot whatsoever. 

Start over.

Save the good parts; throw away 10,000 words that have nothing to do with the newly devised plot. Give the finished version to more friends and join a critique group. 

Attend more conferences, take an online writing course, read articles on ten things agents look for, twelve ways to keep your reader’s interest, and nine things publishers hate. 

Realize you’ve done all nine things publishers hate in the first three chapters.

Start over.

Send a proposal or query letter to agents and small publishers after thoroughly researching likes and dislikes and Instagram/Twitter/FaceBook posts. Begin a collection of rejection letters. Use them to wallpaper your basement. 

Attend writers’ events and meet with publishers, agents, and successful authors. Listen to a published author rip your story to shreds and say you can’t use italics and don’t use this word, and publishers won’t like that. 

Plan to pack up and go home and never write again. Take up quilting. Ask God if this writing gig was a mistake.

Before closing the suitcase, attend a small group critique session. Listen to the editor who loves your story so much that she offers to do a professional edit for a significant discount.

Ask God if He’s telling you to stick with writing. When He says, “Yes, but use half the number of words,” sign up for more critique sessions.

Show your book proposal to a literary agent who says he won’t represent you because he only does non-fiction. Then when he reads the pages, and he tells you to send him the entire manuscript…

Send him the manuscript!

Several weeks later, cry a little when he responds, “I am retiring and will no longer work as an agent. Please submit your proposal to one of my associates at this company.” 

Send the manuscript off to the new agent and the excited professional editor. Wait for replies. Continue to build your author’s webpage. Don’t give up the day job.

Write a newsletter called “How to Write a Book in Only 15 Years.”

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