5 Things No One Tells You About Writing a Book

Writing your first book is an exciting and scary thing. And if you’re embarking on this journey, you’ve probably been writing shorter pieces for a while. Maybe you’re a poet who’s had a few individual pieces published online, or a fiction writer who’s had a short story or two published in literary magazines. 

No matter your genre or publication history, nothing can really prepare you for the unique experience of writing a book for the first time; there are many things you’ll learn along the way. Here are my top five examples.

Note: I’ve tried to keep these topics broadly applicable to various genres of writing, although my personal specialty is in writing/editing poetry manuscripts.

1. You’ll hit a wall at some point.

Everyone deals with writer’s block — even if only for a few hours at a time. It’s completely normal to feel stuck, frustrated, and uninspired at certain points of the process. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to have a constant creative output with no hurdles along the way.

There are many ways to remedy this, which I’ve covered on the blog before in Stuck With Writer’s Block? Here Are 5 Tips for Pushing Past It. In that post, I mention strategies like journaling, listening to music, reading, finding local calls for submissions, and interacting with other writers. 

Another good post from the archives is 4 Alternative Ways to Up Your Writing Game, which mentions listening to intellectually-stimulating podcasts, watching interesting films, socializing, and meditating.

Those are all great strategies to consider — but I also want to point out that sometimes, it’s completely necessary to take a break from writing in order to boost your creative output. Maybe you’ve been working intently on your manuscript for weeks or months at a time, and you’re getting a bit burnt out. 

Give yourself permission to take a week or two off. Spending your time doing other things — AKA living your life — will help you feel energized and refreshed before returning to your desk. Over-working yourself is never the answer; writing a book is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t wear yourself out trying to hit an unrealistic daily word count if it’s not working.

2. You’ll re-read your manuscript so many times that it stops making sense.

Have you ever repeated a word out loud so many times that it stops making any sense? It doesn’t even feel like a real word! 

You should know that you’ll probably experience this same phenomenon while writing a manuscript. Polishing your manuscript will involve a lot of re-reading and re-writing, so you’ll likely feel a bit disconnected from the text. 

As I mentioned in tip #1, in order to get over writer’s block, you’ll often need to take time away from your writing desk. But that advice holds true for this issue as well. Take a week or two off from the writing/editing process, and try not to think about it too much. Give yourself a break from the entire book-writing process.

This may seem counter-productive. You might be thinking, I’m trying to write an amazing book. Shouldn’t I be working on it non-stop to make sure it’s absolutely perfect? Taking a break will just slow me down

And I understand that concern. I’m definitely guilty of overworking myself and obsessing over the details of my work. But I’ve learned from experience that taking time away from my writing can make a huge difference. Even just a day or two spent away from the keyboard often helps me return to the work with “fresh eyes.” Taking time off can help fight the fatigue of the entire process. 

And when I return to the work, I often pick up on simple typos/errors that I hadn’t noticed before. Spending too much time working on your book can get you too wrapped up in the manuscript itself. Step away for a little bit and watch how you become an even better writer in the process!

3. It will require a lot of collaboration.

Another great way to improve your creative output/editing process is to engage with others in the literary community. Finding friends, colleagues, and mentors you can talk to about your work is invaluable.

Writing a book seems, in theory, like an isolating experience. Unless you have a co-author, it seems like the whole process largely falls on your shoulders. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, if you go the traditional publishing route, you’ll likely collaborate with an editor at the final stages of the process. But as you write the manuscript from its conception, you probably won’t have a professional editor at your disposal to help you along the way.

This is where a writing community can seriously boost the quality of your work. For me, I first found this sense of community while in high school, when I was part of a creative writing group. That was when I started taking writing workshops and engaging with fellow young writers.

When I got to university, it was even better — I took creative writing seminars, was published in campus journals, and attended different poetry readings. All of this helped me make contacts in the Toronto literary scene. 

One of my professors ended up becoming a mentor and friend with whom I consulted on both of my books. I was also able to make friends in classes and at events. This helped me establish a wider network to collaborate on my work with. 

The great thing about making friends in your local literary community is that it’s usually a two-way street; everyone wants to get feedback on their work, so they’re happy to give it back. It’s common to swap work and chat about each other’s writing. Grabbing a cup of coffee with another writer friend isn’t just a fun social outing, but an easy way to get another set of eyes on your work. 

Nothing exists in a vacuum; your writing process shouldn’t feel isolating. Make it collaborative. Even though current social distancing restrictions make it difficult to take in-person workshops or attend live readings, try searching for digital literary events in your area, or just reach out to a writer friend of yours (if possible). You could always set up a Zoom call or just send emails back-and-forth critiquing each other’s work. Try to find a way to get (and give) feedback.

4. It will feel impossible at times.

I won’t lie to you; writing a book is extremely difficult. There’s a reason why most people who “have a great idea for a book” never end up writing it.  

But just because it feels overwhelming doesn’t mean you should give up. You’ll probably feel like giving up many times along the way. Don’t let that stop you.

My number one suggestion would be to keep going. Even if the quality of your writing doesn’t seem great, don’t stop writing. Maintain a regular writing practice, whether it’s daily, weekly, or on another schedule. Stay consistent. Don’t try to be perfect. You can always edit later.

And if you’re really concerned about your skill level, seek out information. Keep reading blogs just like this one, along with books on the topic. If possible, take some type of writing course (even if it’s just a virtual workshop). 

Or try to get shorter pieces of writing published, so that you can build up confidence in your skills. Once you’ve got a few publishing credits under your belt, you’ll feel a bit more comfortable with the process of writing, editing, and submitting work in general. That will make you better prepared for the book-writing process.

5. Your book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (and that’s fine).

It’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, your book won’t be for everyone. Once you’ve finished the writing process and start sending it out to publishers, don’t expect to get glowing reviews from every single one. Editors are people, too — and we each have individual tastes. You can’t please everyone — and you shouldn’t try to!

As an author, it’s your job to put in the work to write a book you’re proud of. You should take the time to work hard, get outside perspectives, and polish your manuscript. But you can’t control how other people — including editors/publishers — will respond to your work. 

When I wrote my first chapbook, I sent it out to multiple small presses. And guess what? The first response I got was a rejection email. The editor was not impressed with my work. They even sent me a list of other authors I should change my work to emulate. 

Sure, it stung a little bit. I felt a bit defeated. I wondered: Should I really be changing my work to be more like these other authors? Was I doing it all wrong? 

But the second response I got was from my now-publisher, who immediately picked up my book and published it (without a single additional edit). They thought my manuscript was great just the way it was. And after collaborating with my publisher on many other projects, I’ve realized how lucky I was to find an editor who really vibed with my style. 

Try not to take it too personally if you get a few rejection letters. Just keep submitting your work to different publishers, and do your best to find one that fits with your individual style. Check out their website: What kind of work do they publish? What kind of topics do they focus on? Do you fit in with their overall vibe?

There’s no “right” and “wrong” when it comes to writing. What one person loves might be the same thing another person hates. Regardless of outside perspectives, stay true to your authentic, unique voice. 

Conclusion

As mentioned, one way to keep growing as an author is to read blogs just like this one. So, don’t forget to subscribe to the Writing Advice blog to stay notified of each new article.

Happy writing!


And let me know in the comments: What has been your biggest obstacle when writing a book (or a shorter piece of work)?

What Poetry and Resume-Writing Have in Common

On the surface, poetry and resume-writing may seem quite different: the former is a type of creative writing, while the latter is a more professional endeavour. But there is one crucial point of overlap — both mediums are predicated on the art of being concise.

Striking similarities between the two forms of writing

In general, poems are short — and so are resumes. Sure, there are different styles of poetry — some lengthier than others — but poems are typically no more than a page or two each. The same goes for resumes; if they’re done well, the candidate has condensed their key features within one or two pages max.

Both forms of writing call upon the author to keep things short, snappy, and (most importantly) engaging

A 2018 study from TheLadders.com found that: 

Despite operating in the toughest hiring environment in decades, many recruiters are still skimming resumes for details—with the average initial screen clocking in at just 7.4 seconds.”

When a recruiter sees your resume, then, it’s your job to impress them in mere seconds. The process of engaging a poetry reader is remarkably similar. 

Oftentimes, a potential reader will come across your book at a library or bookstore. It’s your job to create a piece of art that is so engaging, it pulls people in. 

Even though the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” seems great in theory, the truth is that many readers will judge your book solely based on its cover (at least as a knee-jerk reaction). That’s why book design is so important — as is the art of choosing the perfect title. 

Once a potential reader picks up your book, they might spend a few seconds glancing at the first poem or two. And, within that very short time-frame, they’ll make a split-second decision on whether your work seems interesting enough to read in more detail. Then, they’ll either put the book back down, or end up purchasing it.

In either scenario (as a job applicant or author), your reader is basically saying: Impress me. Show me what you’ve got. And succeeding means keeping things concise. 

Even stylistically, poems and resumes have a lot in common. In either medium, there’s an art to the way you display words on a page. The formatting, punctuation, and line length all matter.

Your font style, size, and line spacing are all deliberate choices. Your use of em dashes, semicolons, and italics become more powerful. Your choice to keep lines short is methodical.

How to succeed at either art-form

Now that we’ve established the similarities, you’re probably wondering: How do I put this knowledge into action? 

Here are some tips that apply to either genre:

  • Keep things clean. The design of your page should appear sleek. Don’t overcrowd the page with information (especially in a resume). The reader wants to feel informed but not overwhelmed.
  • Recognize the added weight that each word carries. When writing in shorter formats, your words are so much more precious. You don’t have time to flesh out concepts and ideas; you need to make your point, and you need to do so efficiently.
  • Dig into the minutiae of your writing. Pause before choosing a semicolon vs. an em dash. Assess the length of each individual line or sentence. Pay attention to the aesthetics of each page. 
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Imagine if you were reading this particular resume or poem: What would it take for this piece of writing to truly catch your eye? Meditate on that.
  • Don’t be afraid to trim, trim, and trim some more. Many resume writers in particular try to cram as much information onto the page as physically possible. The recruiter does not need to know about every extra-curricular activity you’ve ever done, or every single task you carried out at a particular job. Challenge yourself to cut more words than you think you need to. The same goes for poems — you don’t need to include every little detail. Just the important ones.
  • Always ask for the opinion of others. Pretty much any writer would benefit from getting outside feedback. Have your friends, family, or colleagues read over your work. See what they think. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own heads that we don’t see our work clearly. 

As you can see, either form of writing requires reflection. 

Writing in 2020

With many of us now looking for jobs, the art of resume-writing has never been more relevant. The precariousness of work right now (across the globe) has stirred up anxiety surrounding our careers.

Even if we still have a job, we might worry: What if I don’t have it in six months? Keeping your resume polished is always a good idea.

And as I covered in a recent article, When Hobbies Become Everything: Finding Comfort During a Pandemic, the practice of creative writing is also more valuable than ever. Poetry is a very healing thing.

I hope you found these writing tips helpful! Be sure to subscribe to the blog to stay notified of each new article. And if you have the time, check out a little survey I recently put out for readers of the Writing Advice blog to give feedback about the site (linked here).

Happy writing!

4 Alternative Ways to Up Your Writing Game

When it comes to improving as a writer, there are some fairly obvious methods to try. For example, reading a diverse range of books, taking courses/workshops from experts in the field, and maintaining a regular writing practice are all excellent ways to develop your craft.

If you’re serious about becoming a successful author, those are great tips to keep in mind. It’s true that more-obvious forms of learning — through reading material, coursework, and dedicated work-time — are valuable. But you don’t need to stop there.

Instead, recognize that many alternative, seemingly-unrelated activities can seriously up your writing game. Here are four such examples:

1. Listen to intellectually-stimulating podcasts (they need not be about writing).

Yes, it’s useful to listen to writing-related podcasts. Ashley Gainer’s Copy Chatter is a perfect example. Such resources can provide insider knowledge and advice. But you can go far beyond them, too.

Any intellectually-stimulating podcast will do — just one that you find genuinely interesting, regardless of the genre. The Daily by the New York Times is one of my personal favourites.

The topics of discussion on The Daily vary wildly from day-to-day, but they’re always interesting and challenging. Host Michael Barbaro often covers recent political news in the United States (but also globally), and also bounces around from subjects like the dangers of e-cigarettes to the failing business model of Uber.

You never really know what you’re going to get, but it’s always an in-depth investigation full of balanced reporting. As someone who often instinctually leans pretty far to the left on political matters, the reporting of the New York Times often challenges me to reconsider my opinions and appreciate alternative viewpoints (like more moderate or conservative beliefs) before automatically discounting them.

The Daily is great because new episodes are often released each weekday (as the name implies), so you’ve got a steady flow of new content to consume. But feel free to find a mix of different podcasts you like, and just take the time to enjoy them.

Listening to intellectually-engaging podcasts won’t magically turn you into a creative genius. You probably won’t spring from your seat at the end of an episode, suddenly inspired to create new work, and write your greatest masterpiece.

But, over time, regularly indulging in content that interests you (such as podcasts) will help you become a better thinker. Challenging podcasts will present you with new ideas, viewpoints, and experts to consider. At times, you’ll dive deep into seemingly-obscure topics. You’ll laugh; you’ll have fun; you’ll get your mind turning.

And none of it has to feel labourious. When you consume content tailored to your interests, it will feel effortless. All of that new information will inform your thinking process, your opinions, and even your writing style

Becoming an effective writer means consuming information, processing your perspective on it, and formulating your ideas into words. Any type of intellectual activity — like listening to an engaging podcast — will improve your work.

2. Watch interesting films.


Similarly, watching interesting films can aid your writing process. Especially if you’re a fiction writer (or screenwriter, more obviously), movies can help teach the concept of world-building. You’ll get wrapped up in entirely-fictional storylines, each with unique characters, settings, and dialogue.

Take a second to think: What was the most interesting movie you’ve ever seen? Why was it so interesting? What did the writer, director, or filmmaker do creatively to build such an engaging storyline? Or, if it was a documentary, what kind of creative liberties were taken in presenting the facts?

You don’t need to pick movies about famous authors, or those based on classic works of literature, for this to be effective. Pretty much any film that you find interesting and engaging will serve the same purpose.

As with #1 (listening to podcasts), all you need to do is consume content that you enjoy, and that challenges you. Over time, such exposure to new viewpoints will naturally inform your creative process.

3. Spend time with your loved ones.

Many people believe that, to become a great writer, you need to lock yourself away in a secluded room and spend hours upon hours labouring at your keyboard. But that’s simply not true. Even though some legendary authors — think Emily Dickinson — were solitary individuals, that’s not necessarily what you should aim for.

To produce great work, you need to first be in a mental state where you feel motivated to do so. And we, as humans, aren’t meant to focus all of our time on working or writing. Our well-being is holistic in nature; if we don’t feel socially-connected to other people, we probably won’t feel great about ourselves. In turn, we might not be at our best, creatively.

Spending time with the people you love — even if just through a FaceTime call or socially-distanced walk — will inevitably lift your spirits. It can help you unwind and just have fun.

And if you feel fulfilled, happy, and loved, you’re probably going to have higher motivation levels. We need downtime to recharge and rest — that way, we can feel energized enough to show up at our keyboards and put in the work, when the time comes.

4. Meditate — even if only for 30 seconds.

In an article for Author Unlimited, Albert Flynn DeSilver summarizes:

“A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research discovered that mindfulness meditation actually altered the section of the brain responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”

So, when it comes to any kind of creative work, meditation is essentially a cheat code. It’s an effective way to centre the mind, calm the body, and find some stillness in this chaotic world

Whether you’re trying to reduce your stress levels or increase your creative output, meditation is a valuable tool. I was first truly introduced to a formal meditation practice by taking an MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course several years ago. My initial goal was to improve my mental health, but the benefits stretched into every facet of my life.

When I started truly understanding how to meditate, how to become more mindful, and how to step back from my thoughts in an objective way, my whole worldview radically changed.

Things that I used to see as inherently “bad” or “unfair” suddenly shifted: They just were. Even if I resisted them, even if I thought that I didn’t deserve them, even if I hated that I was going through them, I was able to step back and observe that they were happening. Plain and simple.

These things were happening, whether I perceived them as “good” or “bad,” and fighting against reality wasn’t helping anything — in fact, it was making things worse. Gaining that sense of perspective was huge.

Similarly to spending time with loved ones, taking time from your day to meditate can seriously help you relax. And if not relax, at least carve time out of your busy schedule to take care of yourself — to invest in self-care, and to invest in your well-being.

Becoming a more well-rounded, adjusted individual will invariably help you grow and learn as an author. When you develop new ways of perceiving the world around you, you’ll have new ideas, thoughts, and concepts to share — perhaps in a new piece of writing.

Some of my favourite resources for meditation/mindfulness include:

  • The InsightTimer app (with a comprehensive free version), which lets you find and listen to free, guided meditations
  • Palouse Mindfulness, an invaluable resource, which allows you to take an entire 8-week MBSR course online, at no cost
  • Buddhify, which is a paid app with extremely high-quality meditation tracks (it costs a one-time fee for lifetime access)

Try including even the briefest of meditations into your daily routine, and watch what happens — to your mind, your wellbeing, and your writing.

Conclusion


There you have it: four indirect ways to up your writing game. 

Thanks, as always, for reading the Writing Advice blog, and be sure to subscribe so that you’re notified of each new article.

Pride Month is also coming to an end, so check out this article I have pinned to the top of the blog, which includes info and a call for donations to The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. It will be highlighted here for the rest of June, but I encourage you to support such causes all year round, if possible. 

Happy writing!

5 Free Literary Resources for Writers (and Readers)

Reading is a great hobby, but can often be quite pricey if you opt to purchase your books brand new. Just the cost of a single hardcover can add up to $40.

So, whether you’re an avid bookworm or an author yourself, free literary resources are particularly useful. And especially during these difficult times, I think we could all use some low-cost options for staying engaged and entertained.

Here are my top five recommendations for literary resources to access while on a budget:

1. Crash Course Literature

While it’s mainly geared towards students (whether at the high school or post-secondary level), Crash Course is an excellent YouTube channel for anybody interested in learning more about complex literary concepts.

The channel covers many different subject areas like Psychology, Physics, and History, but I’d personally recommend their Literature series. Presented by John Green (the best-selling author and ‘VlogBrother’), the videos summarize/analyze classic works such as The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, and Hamlet.

Green does an amazing job of breaking extremely nuanced ideas into concise (and entertaining!) terms. When I was in high school and studying for the AP Literature exam, these videos were super useful. In fact, when I wrote the final exam, I specifically referenced Green’s analysis of The Catcher in the Rye in my essay.

But you don’t need to be a student to find these videos useful; pretty much anyone could benefit from watching the series. For example, the general public often regards Shakespeare’s works as dense, boring, and difficult to understand. I used to think the exact same thing. 

Until I studied Shakespeare in university, I was turned off by the language. Now, I love to read his work and see modern performances of his plays. But you don’t need to pay hefty tuition fees to have that same experience; the Crash Course video library is like having access to college lectures in your pocket. Definitely check it out if you’re curious about literature in general.

2. The Poetry Foundation website

The Poetry Foundation website is another great, free resource that specifically focuses on poetry. As a poetry lover, I often use their site to read individual pieces from authors that I enjoy.

There’s no need to go out and buy every single poetry collection you find interesting — sites like this re-publish many famous poems. 

I appreciate that this specific website is extremely accurate in terms of its spelling, punctuation, and line breaks. If you simply Google search the name of a poem you want to read, many websites that will pop up, but not all of them are true to the original versions. Opt for reputable sites like The Poetry Foundation, which are very precise in their re-printing.

Their homepage also features handy sections like the “Poem of the Day,” which can help you easily expand your reading horizons. The site is great for anyone interested in reading more poetry (and it certainly won’t break the bank).

3. Project Gutenberg

Another awesome resource is the Project Gutenberg website. It’s an extensive archive of free ebooks (with a focus on older works of literature, since their copyright licenses have now expired). It’s a great way to find digital copies of classic novels and plays.

For example, as I mentioned, I studied Shakespeare while I was in university, and I used Project Gutenberg to get free copies of his plays. Since they were written hundreds of years ago, they are definitely aren’t bound by copyright. 

My print copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare is extremely heavy, so the digital versions of the plays were convenient to have (I could even read them on my e-reader or phone while commuting to class).

Give it a look if you’re not too focused on reading brand-new, best-selling books; there are many classic texts available for free to keep yourself busy.

4. SparkNotes

Ah, the infamous SparkNotes: the best friend of students cramming for English exams on books they never read. While many people use SparkNotes as a complete replacement for reading books, that’s not really what it’s designed to be.

Rather, SparkNotes is a comprehensive hub of literary information. It has No Fear Shakespeare (a tool for translating Shakespearean language into modern-day English) and countless Study Guides for classic works of literature (which include plot summaries, analyses, break-downs, and even mini-quizzes).

I worked as an English tutor for a short time, and I loved to use SparkNotes with my students. Whether they were in elementary school or taking AP classes, I could always find useful features to help explain complicated texts. The mini-quizzes were especially handy, since I could use them to test my students’ knowledge quickly and easily.

I’d recommend treating SparkNotes much like Crash Course Literature; they’re tools that can help you understand classic works of literature much easier. But they don’t replace the act of reading — that’s still on you. 

5. The Toronto Public Library (or your local library)

Lastly, perhaps the best free literary resource of all is the humble local library. For me, that’s the Toronto Public Library system, which is a pretty fantastic option. 

There are countless ways to benefit from a library card — some of which require physically visiting your local branch, but many of which can be done from home. 

For example, a valid TPL card gets you free access to the career learning platform, Lynda.com (now ‘LinkedIn Learning’), which usually costs about $30+ per month as an individual. It also gives you access to resources like Overdrive (for ebooks + audiobooks), PressReader (for digital newspapers + magazines), and Kanopy (for streaming movies).

So, if you’re social distancing at home and in need of some free reading material, see what’s offered online from your local library — it could save you a ton of cash on digital media subscriptions.

Wrapping up

Thanks, as always, for reading the Writing Advice blog. Use the sidebar to easily subscribe, so that you can get free weekly content for writers delivered straight to your inbox. You can also learn more about my writing and editing services by browsing the rest of the site. 

And let me know in the comments: What’s your favourite, free literary resource?

How to Write Your First Ebook: Tips From a Professional Ghostwriter

With people staying home now more than ever, ebooks are having a moment

Just today, The New York Times released an interesting article about how the COVID-19 crisis has shifted American spending habits. The piece notes that, while many forms of entertainment/media have seen stark drops in sales, those of ebooks and audiobooks have actually increased.

So, if you’ve ever flirted with the idea of writing an ebook, there’s no better time to get started. And as a professional ghostwriter, I know a thing or two about the process.

When I ghostwrite an ebook, my job is to take a client’s rough work and turn it into a cohesive publication. They might give me a full outline or simply a working title. Then, I step in to research, organize, and write the text of the ebook itself.

I’ve ghostwritten over 100 projects for various businesses and authors, and I’m going to let you in on my top tips for writing yours:

Start with brainstorming.

The first step of any good writing project is to brainstorm. And if you don’t have a topic in mind yet, try asking yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the purpose of this ebook? If it’s to promote my business, what kind of industry am I focusing on? What do my potential clients need to learn? What kind of knowledge gaps am I equipped to fill?
  • What am I really knowledgeable about? What are my strengths? What am I interested in?

The goal of your ebook should be to teach the reader about something you’re an expert on. Look at your own background and skills to find a good topic to narrow in on.

You can also take a bit of time to research popular ebooks. For example, you can check out the Amazon Kindle Store to see which titles are selling well at the moment —  both in general and in your specific niche.

Pick a particular topic, and try to come up with an interesting title. (This can always be edited later — it’s just to get things started.)

Make a thorough outline.

With a title/concept in mind, the next step is to get organized. Consider the following:

  • How long do I want my ebook to be? 3,000 words? 5,000 words? 10,000 words?
  • How will I structure the book? What are some potential titles for my chapters?

With that in mind, start creating an outline for your ebook. You can always change this later, but start planning out different chapters.

For each chapter, you’ll need to conduct research. Using the internet or print books you have at home, find reputable sources in your field. 

Treat it almost like an assignment you’d write in school; come up with your topic/thesis and find some sources to reference. Your outline should have plenty of notes and links to various relevant articles.

As with writing a homework assignment, you don’t want to be caught plagiarizing anything. Keeping a handy outline with all of the links to your references will make it easier to cite them within your ebook itself. Even if you’re just paraphrasing something you’ve read, you need to link back to the original source.

(An added step is to later use Copyscape Premium as a final plagiarism check to make sure you haven’t missed any citations. I’d highly recommend this.)

Set a timeline/schedule.

After you’ve got a good handle on what you’re writing about and how you’ll actually organize it, you’ll need to look at when you’ll get it done. So, open up your calendar and see what your next 1-2 months look like.

Make a timeline for completing your first ebook draft. Schedule in work sessions (ideally at least 1-3 hours at a time) across several weeks. Figure out when you’ve got the time to write, and make a plan to do so.

Of course, if you’re writing a super short ebook, it might only take you a week or two, but if it’s more extensive, you could be looking at over a month’s worth of work. 

Whatever the length of your project, staying organized will help ensure that your project gets done.

Start piecing everything together.

Once you’ve made your schedule and are starting work on your ebook, you need to put a few basic things in place. Using your chosen platform (I often use Google Drive to write drafts of ebooks), get the skeleton of your ebook worked out.

Create a simple title page; write a table of contents; find some free stock images to include with each chapter. (Pexels and Pixabay are both excellent sites for finding images that are free for commercial use.)

It doesn’t need to be perfect, but getting down a bare-bone version of your ebook will allow you to fill in the blanks with your writing.

Complete your first draft.

Over time, you can start actually writing your ebook. Using your outline as a starting point, draft up your chapters. Be sure to properly cite each source.

When it comes to the quality of your writing itself, don’t stress too much about making it perfect — your first task is simply to get it written. You can edit everything later.

Keep things simple to read; most ebooks meant for the general public should feel quick and snappy. Your job isn’t really to create a highly-dense piece of writing — the tone of an ebook is typically short, sweet, and to the point. 

You want to communicate helpful information to your reader, but you also don’t want to bore them with complicated jargon and lengthy paragraphs (at least not in most industries). 

In a way, you can think of an ebook as an extended blog post. If you’re already an experienced blogger, you’ll know that writing for the web involves breaking complicated concepts into simpler terms. Your job is to streamline reputable information into a breezy, digestible format.

Get editing.

Congrats! You’ve finished your first draft. The next step is to start editing. You can obviously do this by yourself at first, but you’ll want to get a fresh set of eyes on your ebook, too.

Ideally — if it’s within your budget — the next step is to hire an editor. If you’re on a shoestring budget, sites like Fiverr or Upwork can connect you with low-cost freelancers, but the quality isn’t always the best.

(For reference, I’ve used Fiverr as both a freelancer and a customer, and the whole thing is really hit-or-miss. The extremely low rates aren’t ideal for sellers or buyers; the result is an oversaturated marketplace with many inexperienced freelancers essentially racing to the bottom/seeing who can do the most work for the lowest rate of pay.)

For this reason, I’d suggest researching freelancers on sites like LinkedIn, or simply through a Google search. Try to find somebody who’s experienced in digital content and has a thorough portfolio.

But if you don’t have the funds to spend on a professional at all, you can try asking family and friends to give you their feedback. Try offering them something in return, even if it’s just a small favour, for their time.

Start looking at next steps.

Once you’ve finalized your draft, you can start looking at next steps. If you have the funds, you can look into hiring a graphic designer or book designer to help with the formatting/layout of your ebook. 

Alternatively, sites like Canva offer free graphic design tools, and you can do some online research of your own to find technical tips on your ebook layout (like choosing between PDF or EPUB format, creating a clickable table of contents, etc.).

Personally, I usually opt for a PDF format and use free Google Drive templates to get my basic formatting done. But I’m not an expert on that side of things — I’m just the ghostwriter — so definitely do your own research to see what makes sense for you.

After that, you’ll want to look into distribution: Will you sell it on Amazon? Will you offer it as a free download for subscribers of your email list? Figure out the best way to get it to your potential readers. (A designer can often help you optimize the ebook for various platforms.)

Wrapping up

There you have it: a basic guide to writing your first ebook. I hope you found this article useful, and that you’ll consider drafting up your own title.

And if you’re ever looking to hire a ghostwriter or editor for your ebook, I’m also available to hire as a freelancer. Visit the Contact page to send me a message and get started.

Thanks, as always, for reading my Writing Advice column, and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with future posts.

Happy writing!

The Importance of Keeping an Up-To-Date Writer’s CV

For most people, the idea of keeping a resume is pretty par for the course.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or just trying to stay organized, keeping an accurate record of your employment history, level of education, and key skills is a common thing for professionals to do.

But what about a writer’s CV?

Well, if you’re embarking on a writing career, this lesser-known record of achievement is extremely important. And for many years of my career, I skipped this step altogether.

Let’s break down what a CV is, why you should care, and tips for keeping yours up-to-date.

What is a writer’s CV?

CV stands for curriculum vitae.

It’s kind of similar (in nature) to a resume, but is generally a more streamlined list of one’s professional accomplishments.

And as an author, your creative CV will be specifically focused on your writing career.

You’ll usually need a writer’s CV if you’re applying for contests, grants, or residencies. You may also be asked to supply one if you’re submitting a manuscript for publication or trying to get booked for a gig (i.e. a poetry reading).

In essence, your writer’s CV serves as an easy reference for all of your career highlights.

Why should I care about keeping an accurate writer’s CV?

As I mentioned, I actually went many years without keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV. I was still in the early days of my creative writing career and didn’t understand its importance.

I eventually had to draft one up when applying for an editorial position several years ago.

The problem was, I’d been writing for many years and hadn’t been keeping track of every little accomplishment, so I sort of had to scramble while putting my CV together.

The risk that comes with hurriedly drafting a writer’s CV is that you may end up forgetting important accomplishments. If you’re not maintaining a running list of your achievements, you’ll likely forget some.

So, I’d recommend keeping a CV as soon as possible — ideally from the beginning of your career. If you’re a new writer, this should be one of your top priorities!

This will help you stay organized and ready for any exciting opportunities that come up; you’ll be able to easily send one over when applying for a contest or residency. Keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV will help you look polished and professional.

Applying for such opportunities is the main way you’ll grow your career. Especially when you first start out, you’ll want to take every chance possible to get your name (and your work) out there.

An accurate CV will help you put your best foot forward.

How can I draft my own writer’s CV?

Now that we’ve established the basics of what a writer’s CV is and why it’s important, we can go through the steps of actually writing one.

I’d say that your first priority should be creating a detailed list of every single literary accomplishment you’ve had. For this, I’d write a simple list either by hand or in a blank Word document. (You can worry about the design later.)

Remember that, especially as a new writer, no accomplishment is too small! Even if you’ve only been published in small student journals or maintain your own blog, that counts, too.

As a general rule, I like to break my writer’s CV into three sections: publishing credits, notable appearances, and awards/distinctions.

Now, I’m primarily a poet (in terms of my creative career), so this format may not necessarily apply to your genre. For example, if you write personal essays, you may not give many performances (as opposed to poets who regularly give readings).

Be sure to write down every little detail that would make you look like a qualified writer. Every minor publication, performance, or contest you’ve won will help.

If there are particular accomplishments that stand out, consider highlighting them in a separate section.

For example, I have a section titled “Of note”, where I mention the fact that my book is held at the University of Toronto Libraries. This helps the reader zero in on a particularly important achievement of mine.

Once you’ve got a basic list done, you can fuss over the design. I like to use Microsoft Word templates, but you could also use one from Google Docs.

Plug in all of your accomplishments and spend some time playing around with the layout. I’d recommend making it as visually appealing as possible, so that it’s easy to read and gives off a professional look.

One last important tip: regularly update your writer’s CV. A CV is of no use to you if it’s no longer accurate. At least once every few months, take stock of your recent writing achievements, and add them to your CV.

An added bonus? It feels nice to reflect on how far you’ve come, so this process can also give you an added boost of confidence in your career!

Wrapping up

Hopefully, now you’ve got an understanding of why it’s important to keep a writer’s CV. Remember to start small and stay organized.

This simple practice of drafting one can help you give a good first impression to potential editors or contest judges.

Just as a job hunter needs an impressive resume, so too does a writer need a professional CV.

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As always, thanks for reading the Writing Advice column here on my site. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to follow the blog to be notified of future articles.

(I had to skip a couple of weeks, but we’re now back to our regularly-scheduled posts.)

Happy writing!