John Patrick Grace: Want to write a book? Here are helpful hints | Opinion

You may be “up in years,” you may be ill or handicapped, or you may be going through hard times. No matter: If your mind is agile and your fingers are nimble, you can write a book.

A recent survey showed that 43 per cent of all American women have thought of writing a book. Men’s percentage might be lower, but probably not by much.

At Publishers Place, we get many calls from people wanting help with writing or publishing a book – everything from children’s stories to church histories to personal narratives to exposes to, well, you name it. Some people have a completed draft, others a chapter or two, others just an idea.

We always try to be helpful, even if the caller’s project does not fit into one of the categories we publish.

Here are some of the tips we offer:

Research your subject thoroughly. Unless you can generate material that truly deserves to be packaged between hard or soft covers and put on a bookstore or a library shelf, your wonderful “way with words” or your stellar command of grammar and vocabulary won’t cut it.

The terrific thing about memoirs is that your life, or the lives of those you’ve known, provide the fertile fields to dig in for stories that will make your readers want to keep turning pages. And that is the main reason that the writing classes I’ve taught in central West Virginia for the last seven years have been focused on “life writing.”

If the subject is outside your life experience, then you must interview, read, sift and weigh all the reliable material you can possibly get your hands on, and do it better than others delving into the same subject, if you hope to produce a worthwhile book.

Outline the whole book. You will proceed at your peril if you attempt to do a book without an outline. And this rule holds even for many kinds of fiction writing (though not all).

Start anywhere. Some professional…

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