Sunday, May 8, 2016

Writing a Book Is Easy


Gather your stuff and find a place where you won’t be disturbed too often. Put your working title at the top of your page. Jot down some elements of an outline. For your memoir: crisis, background, aftermath, significance. For your novel: who, what, when, where, why, and how…the journalist’s questions. For your “how to” book: problem, significance, solutions, and resources. You are on your way!

Next, start adding details to the outline. Try the mind-map. Do some writing. Build momentum.

Check the clock. Ideally, you would measure your effort by results, such as word count, or sections completed, but at the very least you can mimic our governments and measure the inputs, your time. Determine to sit there for 30 minutes or even an hour.

Have a goal for your output, or your input. Keep it simple. Keep track.

“Open a vein” if personal revelations or strong, emotive language is needed. Tap your inner comic or your inner tragedian.


Finding time is as “easy” as getting up early or turning off the television. The news is repetitious anyway. You’ve seen sports before. The commercials waste your time. [Aversion therapy for the TV-addicted.] Finding space requires closing doors or going elsewhere. These take discipline and practice. I’ll show you next how I handled the need for self-discipline toward the beginning of my writing career:

Self-Discipline Exemplified: No Email until Noon

        “No email until noon.” It is a simple rule, designed to reduce the distractions plaguing this novice freelance writer. A person of stronger character could peruse his email, look only at the most pressing items, and get back to writing. Not me. Better, “Not I.”

I established this email rule yesterday. The allowable exceptions are yet to be determined. After I called our printer this morning, I broke it. They had sent me files I really wanted to look at. The files were from a two-page spread in our local weekly paper, with pages 4 and 5 all about Tina and me and my just-finished book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. I had to read it.

The paper’s editor had given the assignment to a “stringer,” a part-time, freelance writer, who herself is a poet and author, Lara Edwards.

“This one is for you” or words to that effect, the editor had said. He did not assign it to the writer who covers our local “beat,” town meetings, open-air market openings, etc.

Ms. Edwards, daughter of a highly educated Turkish and American couple, a social worker herself, was the right person to do the piece. She did a magnificent job, breaking the first rule of journalism as practiced today: she read the book before interviewing me. She came prepared, adapted well to our conversation, wrote an article too good for the editor to abridge.

Enough about Lara Edwards, let’s talk about me.

Rather than continue writing, I drove down to the printer and arranged to get one hundred copies of the article. Admittedly, I don’t have that many friends and family members, but someday I will be sending the copies to people I hope will review the book. I may also hand them out from a stall at a county fair, to entice the rural visitors to buy our book about an interracial couple who have dealt successfully with the challenges of almost twenty years of separation, followed by Tina’s increasing disability due to multiple sclerosis.  It’s upbeat, inspiring. I swear it is.

Now that I am home from the printer, I have resumed writing, by writing this. It is already eleven, which is almost noon. I’ll sign off here and check my email.


Excerpted from my new tome, Write Your Book with Me, published this year by Outskirts Press and available from online booksellers like and in paperback and ebook formats for laughably low prices.

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