How Do I Write a Book? Fiction Writing Tips From a Bestselling Author

Asking “How do I write a book?” is the first step to getting published! These fiction writing tips are from bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford. She’s written dozens of books, and her advice applies to writers of all genres — including freelance writers, bloggers, and web writers.

Here’s what Bradford says about getting published:

“Basic writing ability is not enough. A would-be novelist must also observe what I call the five ‘D’s.'”

Below, I describe Bradford’s “D’s” in more detail. Remember that writing a book requires technical skill — it’s not just freewriting what your characters are doing and saying! Read Plot & Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish for writing help — it’s a bestselling book for novelists and short story writers.

And, here are Bradford’s tips for fiction writers…

How Do I Write a Book? Fiction Writing Tips From a Bestselling Author

To write a book, you need “D” for desire. Without the desire to write your novel — a desire that surpasses your yearning for anything else — you won’t make it to the final chapter. Can you fan the flames of a low-grade desire to create a consuming fire? You better believe it! To increase your motivation to write a book, figure out what your “carrot” is. For instance, my carrot as a blogger is making money blogging and seeing my websites grow. I don’t have the desire to write a book (at this point) — but I believe I can create the desire if I wanted. And belief is the key to success, right?

To write a book, you need “D” for dedication. This is a bit of a challenge for me — I tend to waffle on choices, sometimes for months after I made them! For instance, we adopted a dog two weeks ago, and I’m still wondering if we made the right decision. Should we find her a more suitable home? I’m not dedicated to my dog (yet), and I suspect it affects my bonding and interactions with her. Fellow scribes, it’s the same thing with the “How do I write a book?” question! If you’re not fully dedicated to writing your novel, then your efforts won’t be as strong or creative as if you were 100% commited. (This fiction writing tip applies to all types of writing and all aspects of life: relationships, careers, families, goals, money, etc).

To write a book, you need “D” for drive. With all your heart you may want to write your novel, but if you don’t have drive, you won’t get far. Drive is similar to motivation — but drive is more intense. Drive is almost like an obsession, an internal need to do something no matter what. I’m driven to blogging and creating websites (I’m addicted to both!), but I’m “merely” motivated to accept article assignments from magazine editors and writing gigs from clients. Do you have the drive it takes to write a book? Tap into it. Use it.

To write a book, you need “D” for determination. Determination is the will to continue writing, seeking an agent’s representation, meeting with your writer’s group, accepting rejections, and overcoming whatever stumbling blocks and difficulties you encounter along the way. If you’re determined to write your book despite what people say, what your internal critic says, and whatever doubts and fears you have, you quadruple your chances of success. Determination includes continually reading about writing and improving your writing skills.

To write a book, you need “D” for discipline. Ah, good old discipline: the fiction writing tip that never stops ticking! Luckily, writing discipline is a habit that can be built. You may not be born with the discipline to write every day (no matter how you feel or what you drank last night), but you can create a schedule that “forces” you to be disciplined. Remember that writing is addictive. After your writing time becomes an established part of your day or week, you’ll miss it if you miss it.

And finally, to write a book you need to avoid the final “D.” Bradford’s fiction writing tips include one “D” to avoid: distractions. Whether the distractions in your life are self-made (you can’t resist visiting writers’ forums or Tweeting during your writing time) or other-oriented (your kids, dog, job, or spouse urgently need your undivided attention at the exact moment you sit down to write), you need to find a way to deal with them. Knowing how to write a book — and getting happily published — is about setting aside distractions until you’re ready to pay attention to them.

Take control of your life, fellow scribes. Don’t reach age 85 and wish you’d written more, tried harder, or pushed yourself farther.

If you’re struggling with any of Bradford’s “D’s” or need motivation to write a book, read 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire!) the Muse.

Questions, comments, and writing tips welcome below!

7 Responses

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Yup, there might be overlap between these fiction writing tips — but sometimes we need all the information and encouragement we can get! For instance, I have drive but not determination…and being able to identify the difference may help me succeed as a writer.

    George, it’s great to hear from you again! Yup, there are lots of ingredients that go into “book pie” 🙂

  2. George Angus says:

    Hey Laurie,

    Thanks for the “D”-licious tips!

    I can never hear these kinds of things too much. It’s easy to focus on one downfall and forget the others. It just shows that there are a lot of ingredients that go into book pie.



  3. Gary H. says:

    Good tips, though I think there’s a lot of overlap there between several points. But that’s okay.

    I would emphasize drive, since that would tend to obviate the others. If you’re really ‘into’ the fiction you’re writing, everything else pretty well falls into place. All the focus and productivity comes to the fore when there’s a joy in writing and an anticipation to move ahead and build the world you’ve created.

    If writing feels more like eating your veggies rather than enjoying a giant bowl of ice cream, why do it?

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