10 writing lessons (from writing my new book)

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

I've been in the process of writing my new book. The first draft is complete. Each book I have written has been a transformative experience, and this one is no different. In addition to my own writing, I also coach other writers who creating and publishing books.

Here are 11 writing lessons I've learned over the course of writing my current book:

1. Completing the first draft of a book is a major accomplishment and the world is filled with people who never get that far, but a book is truly made in the subsequent revision drafts. It's necessary for a manuscript to go through multiple rewrites based on the scrutiny of each word and sentence. This is where the magic (hard work) happens.

2. While it's true in most cases that any sentence will be better and stronger if it was shortened, the point is not the number of words. What's important is that a sentence employ only those words it needs - nothing more or less.

3. One good, pointed, perfectly-suited adjective is better than a pile of them trying to cover your bases.

4. Every writer has unhelpful habits of writing that they cannot see for themselves.

5. Writing when you are mentally or physically tired will cause you to settle for words and constructions that you shouldn't; it's best to take a break and come back to it with a fresh mind and rested body.

6. It's best to print your manuscript and read it page-by-page, which gives you a feel for it that you can't get on a screen.

7. When writing I use a thesaurus constantly. However, I also find it fruitful to examine the actual definitions of words and even their etymology, which aids in determining the best word or phrases to use to express my thoughts.

8. You're always taking some risk when specifically mentioning movies, books, or notable people because not everyone may know those you mention or have negative feelings about them. Keep this in mind when you weigh your options.

9. Just because words exist doesn't mean you have to use them. Generally, keeping it simple is a good rule of thumb. Just because you CAN use "sangfroid" or "pulchritudinous" doesn't mean you SHOULD.

10. There's a cat and mouse game to finding the right words, achieving the optimal grammar construction, and writing your best. It is both rewarding and maddening. A writer has to be willing to accept this cat and mouse game, and perhaps even love it.

11. I have spent all day in the revision process of my first draft manuscript. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: I have rebuked many writers for their transgressions of lazy and cluttered writing - of whom I am the worst of sinners.

©  2009 Jim Palmer Author. All Rights Reserved
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