Poynter’s Book-Writing Advice

Summary and excerpts from BOOKS: Tips, Stories, & Advice on Writing, Publishing and Promoting, by Dan Poynter, Para Publishing, Santa Barbara, CA, 2000

Chapter One: On Writing

Typically, four stages: rough draft, content edit, peer review, and copy edit.

“Write a page-turner: get the reader past page eighteen,” where most readers never reach.Make chapter one compelling.

“Don’t allow interruptions” while you are writing.” Find a time and place to be left alone.

“Take your time.” Books typically take hundreds to a thousand hours to write. Occasionally, they have been written within as short a time as three days…for a contest, for example.

“Allocate time,” preferably almost daily. Amateurs average about a dozen hours per week, but pros average about 30.

“Overcome writers block” by collecting even more information on your topic. Write something, almost anything, to get underway.

“Respect your reader’s time.” Be pithy, concise, non-repetitive….

“Be precise.”  Short sentences, one idea per. Active voice, avoiding prepositional phrases; put subjects and verbs toward the beginning, avoiding trite expressions and jargon.

“Combat procrastination.” Do it now.

“Write your very best.”

“Make your writing compelling.” Inform. Motivate.

“Make your book worth the money. Size matters.”

“Get editorial and design help.”

“Know when to call a ghostwriter.”

“Do not edit any of the chapters until you Rough Draft the entire book.”

“Make the project portable.” Have a manuscript binder.

“Fill in the blanks. The Second Draft is your content edit.”

“Writing is all about re-writing.” As long as your revisions are improvements.

“Know what to cut.”

“Be careful of collaborations.” Partnerships are difficult, like marriages.

“Use email. Save time.”

“Get help from experts. The Third Draft is the peer review.” Send out chapters and eventually the book draft.

“Keep your book to yourself at first.”

“Check your facts.”

“Hire a copy editor. The Fourth Draft is the copy edit, the cleanup.”

“Know when to call a book doctor.”

“Hire a proofreader. Do not try to proof your own work.”

“Use quotations. Relevant quotations confirm your advice.” Best when near your related words.

“Use anecdotes.”

“Use humor….the set-up and the punch line.”

“Add illustrations. Say it with pictures.”

“Combine writing with….” That is, write while doing something else also.

“Get a computer. You need the best tools.”

Consider using speech-recognition software to allow dictating First Draft.

“Practice your craft.” Write and re-write.

“Set deadlines.”

“You are finished when your manuscript is 98 percent complete– as long as it is 100 percent accurate.”

“Encourage reader feedback.”

Other material in this excellent book:

Chapter Two: Why Write?

Chapter Three: Why a Book?

Chapter Four: What to Write

Chapter Five: Research

Chapter Six: Build Your Book

Chapter Seven: Copyright

Chapter Eight: Finding an Agent, Finding a Publisher

Chapter Nine: Book Promotion

Appendix: Your Action Plan

Book includes numerous reference titles, links, resources.