How to Write Your Best Book: Part One

Writing your first book can be both intimidating and exhilarating. You are scared and excited at the same time. Turns out, this never goes away. You are always learning how to write a book.

How to Write and Launch Your Best Book: Part One

After writing four books, I assumed it would be easy to tackle my fifth. I was wrong. As my friend Tim Sanders likes to say, genius is a team sport. Writing Real Artists Don’t Starve was no exception to this rule.

Genius is a team sport.

Jeff Goins

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When I first learned the truth about Michelangelo’s wealth, this nagging idea of the starving artist wouldn’t let go of me. I knew I needed to write about it. There was a message worth sharing in there, but it was evading me.

So, I reached out to author, friend, and writing coach, Marion Roach Smith, for help. During the course of several conversations, Marion walked me through her process of researching, writing, and editing a book, and what resulted was the book that became Real Artists Don’t Starve.

I’ve broken that conversation into four parts that I’m sharing with you here on the podcast in a series called “How to Write Your Best Book.” In Part 1, Marion and I talk about getting started with writing a book. Listen in as we cover how to clarify your argument, what it takes to create a “closet” structure to write within, and how to hit your most stubborn beliefs with a hammer. I think you’re going to like it.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Marion and I discuss:

  • Why doubt is an indicator of respect for your craft
  • How reading a book is like an adventure
  • What questions and doubts reveal about your book’s structure
  • The original title for Real Artists Don’t Starve
  • Attending a witch camp to research a book about redheads
  • The modular method of writing a book
  • Why you don’t have to be right to write non-fiction
  • A practical writing strategy for not wasting 40,000 words
  • Asking surgeons unorthodox questions about their experience in the world
  • How long to research before you start writing a book

Quotes and takeaways

  • You re-learn how to write a book every time you write a book.
  • “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” –Ernest Hemingway
  • If you have no questions or doubts, you’re not conscious of how textured the writing experience is.
  • “Books are a cumulative experience.” –Marion Roach Smith
  • “Once you understand the argument and can put it into a sentence, you can build the best book in the world.” –Marion Roach Smith
  • “How do you write a book? One word at a time.” –Marion Roach Smith
  • The best way to get someone to learn something is to put it to music or make it funny.
  • “You can never stop short of fulfilling that obligation to your reader to make it as good as it can be.” –Marion Roach Smith

When people cling to the idea that they have to starve to succeed, they’re going to starve.

Jeff Goins

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What does your research process look like? Where in your book do you start writing first? Share in the comments

16 thoughts on “How to Write Your Best Book: Part One

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I take that teamwork aspect of doing things with me, with all I do. I mean, everything. Writing eBooks, blog commenting, guest posting, consulting, product creating and I would do so for writing a full length book too. Everything is co-creating. We may appear to act solo and yeah, sometimes love taking credit, but everything is a co-creation. Super advice 🙂


  2. Fantastic discussion, Jeff and Marion! Like a private workshop with a couple of artists working out the steps to doing the work, right before your ears.

    Very insightful – maybe one of your best episodes ever. Cannot wait for Part II.

  3. This podcast was rich, Jeff! Thanks so much for sharing candidly. You blessed me the most today because this is where I am: stuck (because I wasn’t sure how much to glean before moving on while putting together my first book.) I took notes during this and feel better now. The Rex/Sex part made me chuckle too. Bonus. Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to read this book of yours when it comes out, to see where you went or who you talked to. You are making us more brave by sharing these tidbits.

  4. I haven’t had time to listen to the podcast yet, but I like the structure of your post. It’s easy to read, yet there’s a lot going on. It engages both sight and sound and offers many ways for the audience to participate.

  5. Just listened to your interview. It was interesting to hear your conversation. You, as a published author, opening up to someone further along the road. Your questions were genuine and her responses were very interesting. Thanks!

  6. Thanks Jeff; this post was simply for me. Just listened to the interview and it’s a great eye opener. I am in that category of ‘first book writers’ and I’m learning a lot. Perhaps what has helped me is moving with my notebook and a pen because I’ve realized ideas pop out sometimes at odd hours and places; if I don’t note them down, I lose out. Now I’ll add a note board in front of my computer. Thanks again, for sharing!

  7. Enlightening discussion – I have to find ways to make my upcoming book sound less like a librarian is writing it. Perhaps best to do that after all my main ideas are written first – ie: editing phase?

  8. Jeff, I agree with you completely when you say that we are always learning how to write a book! It’s great that you had such a writing coach while writing your fifth book but not everyone has such luck, so for guys like me who puzzled where to seek help, I advise you a great place of professionals that can help and consult you in any writing area.

  9. Before you start it you might want to practice you general writing skills as a freelance writer for your favourite website or start your own blog. You could even become a writer for different writing companies that are present on the market. It is up to you but the most important thing is – writing books has to be natural. When you feel it you write it!

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