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