So You Want To Write A Book… Or Do You?

by Anne Wayman

Most of you know I often ghostwrite books for people. I also coach writers (you can find out about both services at AnneWayman.com), many of whom contact me saying, at least in the beginning, that they want to write a book.

I ask them to tell me more about that and at least 60 percent of them tell me that “everyone” they tell their story too says they “should” write a book.

They get in touch with me or another ghostwriter or writing coach in hopes we can help them finally get the book so many people have told them they should write written.

I used to take projects like this until I had several of them fail.

That is, one way or another the client quit communicating with me and quit doing the reading and updates that are necessary if a ghostwritten book is to be completed.


Interestingly only a few of them ever picked up the phone or sent an email saying they were quitting the project. Apparently writing a big often digs deeper than most people realize.

Now potential ghostwriting clients have to convince me that they really want to write the book, regardless of who tells them they should or shouldn’t.

Writing a book is hard work. Even if you hire a ghostwriter there’s still a ton you have to do. For example:

You have to get the information to the ghost so the ghost can get it on the page. Or, if you’re writing your own book, you have to get the words on the page.

You have to read what the ghost has written and make comments and edits – often, in fact always,  more than once.

It all takes serious time, and even more time if you’re doing the writing yourself.

Oh sure, there are people who will tell you you can write a book in a weekend or in a month.


From my point of view you can probably get a book outlined in a weekend and if you have a short, simple book you can get it out in a month if you approach it full time. But most books, in my experience, take six months to a year and even more to complete.

And, if you want your book to be a success, you have to market it, even if you get a trade publisher. As a general rule you’ll have to market it pretty much full time for about a year… talk shows, press releases, interviews, blog interviews, blog updates, etc. etc. etc.

Not surprisingly many of the people who think they ‘should’ write a book aren’t up for this kind of intensive work, and that’s okay. Although writing a book, actually getting it finished and published, either through a trade publisher or by self-publishing, is tremendously satisfying, it’s okay not to write a book too.

If you’re thinking about writing a book I encourage you to examine your motives and your willingness – if, after doing so you’re still determined it will probably work out. Anything less and you might want to rethink the whole project.

What’s your sense of getting a whole book written?

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Cea.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jorgekafkazar October 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I have one book now entering the distributor’s chain, another being considered by my publisher, a third in first draft as of last month, and a fourth just off the back burner about half done. All of these books have been workshop tested over the years. More important, a workshop keeps me writing every week, even if it’s only in the hour and a half before the workshop starts (wouldn’t want to wait till the last minute, you see). I write every day on at least one project, usually my screenplay. A thousand words a day add up to a novel in one year. Love what you write; write what you love. Look for synchronicity in your life.

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annew October 4, 2012 at 9:19 am

Jorje! Congratulations. We want to know about your books. I love the ‘just off the back burner about half done’ phrase… I know that one for sure. And your formula is perfect.

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Michal October 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

So, this is my question the first week of October: What about NaNoWriMo?

What do you think of this process? I understand that it’s going to be a sh*tty first draft at best, in need of a lot of work, rewrites, etc. before I even give it to an editor to work on.

I have so much trouble just getting started, no matter how thin I slice the book into pieces. I want to write a memoir, and I have an idea for a detective novel, too.

thanks, Anne.
Michal in Israel

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jorgekafkazar October 4, 2012 at 9:07 am

I find that my stories take shape over a long period. I can force the process to some degree by sitting under a tree at the botanic gardens and focusing on whatever part of the story is either the least developed or immediately follows the last material written. I make notes and then type them into my idea file that parallels (in a way) the text file. My manuscript files tend to be a jumble, initially: character sketches (often in the form of an interview with the character), unrelated lines of dialogue, location ideas, names, lists of wants and needs, ideas for scenes, disconnected scenes or beats, tentative titles, a rough timeline, the initiating incident, a prologue, a list of possible themes as they rise to the surface, and notes for my future Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech. My most productive days might involve no text at all, just a few words on location, names, and a character sketch or two–no final copy whatsomewhoso. Quality has only a little to do with how much I write. NaNoWriMo does have value: it may teach a new writer to write every day.

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annew October 4, 2012 at 9:21 am

Oh so well said, Jorge… worth rereading.

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annew October 4, 2012 at 9:18 am

Michal, I think I’ve signed up on NAMOWRMO every year for the last 5 or so and have written maybe 100 words total… okay, maybe 1,000. The truth I keep running into is I don’t want to write a novel enough to actually get it done. NaMo is as good a way as any to at least draft a novel… but it still takes real dedication. How important is it to you?

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Amandah October 2, 2012 at 8:58 am

I think it’s a good idea to release the pressure for writing a book in 30 days or less. You can write a book in 30 days or less, but will it be your best work? What about having a professional editor look at it? Do you want to publish a book simply to have a book published?

I have many ideas for books that range from YA to non-fiction (I’m working on one right now), but I’ve released the pressure to finish my books within 30 days. You don’t have to rush your writing. Take your time and go at your own pace. The publishing industry isn’t going anywhere.
Amandah recently posted..How to Use Twitter Better: 7 Quick and Simple TipsMy Profile

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annew October 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

All good questions… I’ve never tried to write a book that quickly and am suspicious of even the idea.

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