Sunday, 6 March 2016

Thoughts/Experiences on Writing a Book and Publishing

A friend of mine is going to write their first story soon and asked me to write down my thoughts and experiences on writing a book and the publishing world. What I've constructed is not perfect by any means, but I hope it gives a good overview for anyone interested in writing a book.


There seems to be two motivations for writing a book.
One is to have a fun story you can share with friends and feel the joy that comes from creating a story.
The second is writing a book to be published and try to make writing a career.

When I started I had both motivations and it was the joy of writing that got me through the tough times. I think if you’re only motivation is to make a career out of writing it won’t work. I believe this because it takes a lot of time to do so and most don’t actually achieve this goal (I’m into my 7th year and not my career…yet lol). At your core you really need to write for the love of writing, otherwise you’ll most likely give up on this long journey.

I’ve broken this discussion into two sections. The first is things to do with writing a book itself. The second is about publishing said book. It might be an idea to read the first part but not the second until your book is finished. It’s up to you.

Writing a Book

When it comes to writing a book it’s very important not to get ahead of yourself (a lesson I learned the hard way). When I had my first draft done I was very excited and edited a little and got the story to what I felt was a good stage. I just wanted people to read it. I then self published so friends and family could read it. They brought the book but it wasn’t up to a good enough technical standard in terms of storytelling. The concepts, characters etc were fine but there is a difference between writing a book and telling a story.

Now I’m not saying this will be your problem, but hopefully you see the overall idea of making sure the story is at its best it can be before putting the story out there to friends or as a published book.

Writing Skills

When writing you can either get the whole story out then check it over, or write it bit by bit and check it for quality as you go. What I’ve written in this section applies to both ways.

Some important skills you may want to think about is Pacing, World-Building, Plot, Character Development, Themes, and Originality.

Trying to figure out if what you’ve written is going to grip readers with tension, twists etc is hard. This is mainly because everyone is different and responds to things differently. I’ve had one or two people hate my book for all the reasons most love it. It’s just the nature of the beast.

The best thing I could advise is find five loyal and honest friends, who would likely fit into the marketing bracket, and ask for their honest and brutal opinion on the story. This way you can get a relatively good look at what people think of it. Of course some of the opinions will be things you will have to ignore, but some will be very good points that will help you develop as a writer. You just have to discern which are which. If the feedback is very similar, both negative and positive, then that’s a good indicator, but then again, might still not be right.
With that done, find some beta readers who do not know you. can be a good community for help on these things. Again, it’s just their opinions so take them lightly but look for patterns in feedback and things you might have missed.


Thinking your story is worse than it is:

It is important not to be too harsh on yourself!!! Enjoy the writing process and don’t over think the technical things. Get it all out on paper if that’s what you feel is best. Set yourself reasonable word count goals if you’re struggling to get things on paper. A little every day for a long period of time tends to be more effective than an explosion of words for a week and then nothing for ages. Again, everyone’s different so find what works best for you.

Once it’s all written it can be tidied up and it’s important to have a fresh pair of eyes from people you trust and have some capacity to critique the story. Other writers are always an idea but make sure you state what you want help with. Things like pacing, world building etc are what should be looked at and any plot holes. But make sure no one tries to change anything they shouldn’t. This is your creation. It requires wisdom and objectivity to see what points are good from people and what points can be ignored.

Thinking your story is better than it is:

For the first few years of writing I struggled with thinking my story was better than it was. Here’s a couple of possible reasons for this.

One is that in your head most things look better, at least they do in mine- if you leave any writing piece for a period of time it’s easy to mentally go over it and over it while away, and then when you go back to what you have you project that image in your mind, not the image of how it looked previously, and it can be confusing.

In time this can actually change to the opposite. I now write stuff and go back to it and it’s better than I remembered it, still has errors etc, but often I get surprised. I think this is a time thing. When you start writing your first story it’s so exciting, and all that energy and enthusiasm is great, but it can distort our view on the reality of the writing as we get wrapped in the potential of the story, not the actual written story itself. In time it will reach that potential but putting that from mind to paper can be a tough journey. At least that was my own personal experience. In time it can balance out.

Another point is it can help to take little breaks and go back over things, but that’s better left to the editing stage (in my opinion). We all write differently and have different style, I prefer to get the whole story out in about 6 months (depends on the word count, life etc as to length of time) and add rough chapter breaks as I go.

Once that’s done I take a short break. Then read back over it and see if I've missed any plot stuff, and I add it if so. Then go through each chapter and make sure they are a natural length and good exciting cut off points. Then I take each chapter into a separate word doc and go through it very detailed. Eventually, all the chaps go back together one by one and at that point it should be a good first draft. I then read through it again and find any spelling mistakes, punctuation etc that has been missed (I always miss loads even after this, but that's what an editor is for lol). Then I read it again.

For me it is now be time to show people at that point i.e a few beta readers. See what they think. They might highlight things I haven’t seen. If so I either change things, or ignore them if the changes aren't needed. Then it’s time to send to publishers etc.

This is the process now, but when I first started I had a lot of help so lots of people saw it at various points and helped me- I think doing this is important with a first book as how else do you know if it’s right. I’m confident enough to do it the above way now, but it took 4/5 years to get to that stage where I can do most of it myself and be happy with the end result- knowing not as many changes will be needed.


I would also suggest building a thick skin. It can be instinctive to defend our work but sometimes we have to separate ourselves emotionally from our creation. It is part of the learning process. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s especially good preparation for when you get someone who is very critical. It helps to start making sure you can discern what is good criticism, what is bad criticism, and what is outright stupid mean people.

Making sure you don’t lose your updated work

It’s always important to email each edit to another account of yours so that it’s always there in cyberspace. This way you can download it if you happen to lose other copies, which should be your own computer hard-drive and a usb stick. That’s just what I do and has helped over the years when I think I’m not on the right version.


I was very worried about intellectual theft at the start etc, but don’t worry about it too much. Send copies of your work to another email account you have and that digitally backs it up. Plus, every document you save has original date of file creation so that pretty much covers your back. There are standard copyright terminology you can use i.e.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven J. Guscott
Steven J. Guscott asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of the works on this website All rights reserved. All work written and drawn by the author, or any portion thereof, may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

You can copy and paste that to any work you do and change the details and that also covers you I guess.

Publishing a Book

The great thing about publishing ‎is there are many options available. The bad thing about publishing, exactly the same thing! With so many options the book market is swamped with writers. When it comes to basic economics and the whole supply and demand thing, it is a challenge as the ‘supply’ is far far greater than the demand.

However, with patience, hard work, help from loved ones, help from those in the same boat, a lot of progress can be made.

The traditional publishing method is to get an Agent to represent you and then they will send your solid manuscript to mainstream publishers. This is the best option for quick(ish) success (i.e finding and audience and money) but very difficult to actually get an agent as it is very subjective industry and at any point the market can change and what is ‘popular’ can be completely different. Once again, this requires your story to be as good as you can get it before sending it to agents.

Make sure you research each agent you submit to and follow their requirements. The submitting process can be long and difficult but worth giving a try. At the end of the day agents are very subjective and I hate the whole process and structure, but it actually can be a good way to break the market and get the exposure. Also remember if agents do end up wanting to represent you, you can just say no if you want to go down another path.

One of the traps writers fall into is thinking agents are super special awesome, but actually they represent you, not the other way around. The problem is there are 100,000’s of writers so the agents can pick and choose, unless your story is a unicorn and exceptional, and you have a number of agents fighting over it (very very very very rare). If that’s not the case, unfortunately the power is in their hands to begin with, but in time once established it will be the other way around.

This is why other options should always be considered.

Self Publishing

Because it is so difficult to get an agent, self publishing has emerged and it has become possible to achieve financial success this way. There are different ways to self publish but always be patient and think about quality and risk. It can be easy to fall into the trap of investing money but get little back. It all depends on what you’re willing to do, but make sure you research options first.

Indie Publishers

Research smaller publishers and learn about them. If you find a good one it can become a family. I have been lucky to have my work published this way by a wonderful growing publishing house that is a family. It is a good way to begin work within the writing world and you learn a lot from all those you come into contact with.


As I have stated, all this information is just my own thoughts and experiences, but will hopefully give you a general view on writing a book and what it takes to get it published if that’s what you want. All the best with your own journey! Any questions just ask me.

Steven J. Guscott

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