5 Things I Learned While Writing My First Book

There’s no best way to do it. Do it the way that gets it done.

I didn’t ever have an outline. Writing and editing would have been easier if I did, but I needed to write my story before I found the story that I wanted to tell. I didn’t have cohesive chapters until draft 9 of 20. I was still adding characters in draft 17.

Write the story that makes sense to you. Get it down, read it over (a lot), and get it out there. Many people work best with writing an outline. Just start, and you’ll figure out what works for you. You can always make changes later.

Books are created by a team of people.

I asked almost 30 friends and family to read over my book. Many of them provided me with specific, detailed feedback. This book would be terrible if it weren’t for their suggestions and advice. At one point I asked 7 people to read the same draft, and when I went through and marked all of their changes in different colors, it was remarkable how they all caught different errors - but rarely the same errors. Writing is a solo activity, but editing has been a team effort.

Follow your intuition.

Listen to what that small voice in your heart tells you. Is it time to get to work? Time to take a break? Time to work on something else? My book felt like a 2015 book, so I did a huge push in August to get it done, even though I was moving August 10th.

It will probably take much longer than you think.

Life happens. Editing is a really long process, especially with memoirs when you have to carefully remember what actually happened, how you want to tell it, and how to depict all the other characters in your story who were there and might read your book. My original aim was to publish last February, but I needed 9 more months than I thought I did to finish editing.

It will be done at the right time.

Even if it takes longer than you think. I wanted to be finished a long time ago, and it was easy to think that if I was a better writer, I could get it done much faster, but now I’ve finished, I know it’s the right time.

The Reluctant Missionary will be released in March, 2016.