Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing a book about what you know = authenticity

By Dennis Mellersh

Finding ideas from the experiences of successful writers can be an effective means of finding out what’s involved in the process of learning how to write a book.

One Canadian writer who wrote a lot of great books and enjoyed significant sales is Pierre Berton. You could profit by reading his book, The Joy of Writing, published by Doubleday Canada.

One of the ways Berton explains what it is like to be a professional book writer is by showing the stages of how a manuscript is edited as well as showing some examples of the research he did for his books, which were primarily non-fiction.

One of the key chapters and one which should benefit the beginning book writer is titled, Writing What You Know. In keeping with the importance Berton attaches to this concept, this is a lengthy chapter.

One of the geographic areas that Berton was familiar with, because he lived there for some time, was the Klondike. This gave him an understanding of life in this section of Canada, and as a result, he was able to write Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1886-1889 with authenticity.

Pierre Berton comments in The Joy of Writing that he had a great interest in the subject of the Klondike; he was familiar with the area; and so he had a “feel” for the subject matter.

Advice from James A. Michener on How to Write a Book

By Dennis Mellersh

One of the best ways to learn about how to write a book is to investigate what successful authors have written about the craft and study the advice they might offer.

James Michener wrote a number of books about his experiences in the world of writing books as a profession. One of them, the James A. Michener Writer’s Handbook, published by Random House, New York, could be helpful to you in your book writing ambitions.

I got my copy at a used bookstore, and as Michener’s book was written some time ago, it may no longer be in print. Last time I checked it was available used on You could also check your local library and also your local used bookstore.

One of the interesting aspects of the book is that it takes the reader through the process of editing and revising the original manuscript from first draft to the final version, which helps give the reader a good insight into this part of the publishing process.

The various stages of the editing process are illustrated with actual edited manuscript pages of some of the sections of Michener’s novels.

Michener gives credit to the editing process at his publisher with helping to improve the original manuscripts of his novels.

One of the myths among aspiring writers, who are in the first stages of writing a book, is that well-known book authors do not have to have their manuscripts edited. As this book shows, however, even famous authors fall under the blue pencil of the editing staff at a publishing house.

One of the sections of the book that could be quite helpful to new book writers is the section in which Michener answers questions that are most often asked by beginner writers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

If you don’t care about it, don’t write about it

By Dennis Mellersh

In your efforts to learn how to write a book, there is a lesson to be learned from the advice most experts today give about starting any creative project: if you aren’t passionate about the project; if you don’t care about what the project represents, then don’t spend effort on it. Because it will not likely succeed.

Expanding on that thought, there is a saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” From the standpoint of writing a book, we could modify this and say “Write about something you enjoy, something you care about, something you are passionate about, and the creativity will follow.”

Although the act of writing a book is creative and satisfying enough to perhaps be its own reward, most of us would like to know that there is a potential audience for our book’s contents, and that this audience would hopefully pay money to purchase our book, read it and be happy that they spent the money and effort on doing so.

In terms of the types of books in both content and genre  that people can choose to read today, the choices are so vast  that no-one in the book-reading public will be satisfied by a less than a passionate writing effort by the book’s author.

The Internet with its almost limitless information offerings in virtually every niche area of interest means that people can be choosy about the information they decide to spend time on.

The days of simply cranking out a book, having it published, and then publicized by a gate-keeper publishing company, and then reaping royalties are over. With all of the social media and inter-connectivity available today through the Internet, insincere or hack book-writing efforts are quickly perceived and accordingly dismissed.

The writer Anais Nin puts the subject of passion in writing this way: “If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.”