The chapters of my book are due to a publisher in one week; these tips for writing for publication will make those chapters lively, concrete, and strong! These writing tips focus on the craft of writing (not the mechanics, such as grammar, spelling, or sentence construction).
You’re here, which means you want to get published. It was a dream for me, too! My first book (Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back) came out last week. It took years to find the right literary agent and publishing house – and lots of reading of writing books such as John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Writers.
My first traditionally published book is nonfiction, but I read fiction writing books – and listen to podcasts for novelists – all the time. That’s one of my best tips on writing for publication: use fiction craft techniques even if you’re writing nonfiction. But wait, there’s more!
Have you heard this writing quote from one of the most successful authors in America (and perhaps the world)?
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug,” said Mark Twain.
Writing for publication involves finding the exact right word — and stringing your sentences together carefully and deliberately. It helps if you love the writing craft and editing process.
7 Tips for Writing for Publication
Not only does it help if you enjoy writing and editing, it really helps if you can take feedback. Editors want your book, article, memoir or magazine article to be the best it can be. Don’t take their revisions and edits personally; your book is not your baby.
You may be writing your life story, but you must detach from an agent’s, publisher’s, or editor’s thoughts on your work.
1. Detach from your writing – especially if you want to get published
When revising or editing your writing – the stage I’m at now with my sample chapters – you need to detach. Take a cold hard look at how your sentences work together to capture the reader’s attention, how your paragraphs flow, how your whole article or chapter is linked together. Writing isn’t just about expressing yourself and playing with metaphors and creating sentences for readers to drool over. Writing for publication is about tightening your ideas with specific strategies.
2. Drop crumbs throughout your writing
To keep readers (including editors, agents, and publishers) reading, sprinkle crumbs of your story throughout your chapter, starting with the first sentence. For instance, in Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back I wove snippets of my life story with stories from She Blossom readers, strong biblical women, and Blossom Tips. I dropped crumb after crumb through the chapters of the book, to keep readers engaged. It works – it’s one of the smartest tips on writing for publication.
3. Learn how to keep readers engaged
Think about the last novel or article you read – or even the last movie you watched. What kept you reading, watching, engaged? For example, Darin Strauss’ crumbs in the novel More Than it Hurts You involved unanswered questions, suspicion, mystery, foreshadowing, and end-of-chapter hooks. This tip for writing for publication involves analyzing your writing make sure your crumbs are tantalizing enough.
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4. Tie your crumbs together with the same thread
If, for instance, I mention my love of blogging for She Blossoms in the introduction of Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back, I should follow up with more information through the book. I could describe how I first got published in Reader’s Digest magazine, or share how I make money as a blogger. If you’re writing for publication, you need to tie your whole article or chapter together with one thread, into a tight little package. To practice this, notice threads in the magazine articles or book chapters you are currently reading.
5. Look for ways to include literary techniques
Learn how literary techniques such as personification, alliteration, dialogue, symbolism, contrast, parallelism, oxymorons, etc can improve your writing. Here’s the most recent example of personification I’ve read: “Normality strolled back into the Goldins’ home, then hung around as if it’d never left.” (From More Than it Hurts You). Take your writing to the publication level by keeping a list of literary techniques nearby, and looking for ways to insert them in your writing – naturally.
6. Know your writing weaknesses
I tend to use too many run-on sentences. So, when I edit, I deliberately look for places to insert short, snappy sentences. Do you struggle with grammar, sentence fragments, verbiosity, excessive flowery language? Figure your flaws. Fix them. Read Writing Help for Common Non-Fiction and Fiction Mistakes for more tips.
7. Send it out with a kiss
This tip for writing for publication isn’t about craft as much as the writing life: after you’ve poured your heart and soul into your work, after you’ve detached yourself to revise and edit with specific strategies, and after you’re satisfied that you’ve done the best you can…let go of your writing. Give your manuscript a big fat smooch, and send it off to the editor or publisher. It’s not yours anymore.
Writing for publication is hard — but if it was easy, everyone would do it! Getting a book published is stimulating and satisfying, especially if you can put your desire to get published second to enjoying the writing process. The more you enjoy writing for its own sake, the better you’ll write. The better you write, the higher the changes you’ll get published!
If you found this article helpful, read 17 Reasons Book Manuscripts Are Rejected.
What do you think about these tips for writing for publication? Do you have anything to add? I welcome your comments and questions below…