So You Want To Write A Book?

This post from the archives has been freshly updated and expanded with Paula’s three main tips for those who want to write a book. Enjoy!

I often hear from aspiring writers asking for tips on how to make their dream of becoming a published author come true. Here are three steps I recommend for those whose eyes are set on a writing career.

Explore Your Motivation to Write

Why do you want to write? Why do you want to publish a book? Motivation matters—big time.

In 1 Samuel, we see the Israelites demanding the prophet Samuel to appoint them a king. There was nothing technically wrong with wanting a king (see Deuteronomy 17:14–20 for proof). The problem was why they wanted a king. Here it is, straight from their mouths:

“There shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:19–20, emphasis added).

God had a flawless record in fighting their battles for them, but they wanted a king who looked and acted like the kings of the nations around them. This was a direct rejection of God:

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7, emphasis added).

God gave His people the king they wanted, but He warned them through Samuel that the day would come when they would cry out to God for relief from their king. On that day, God would not answer them (see vv. 10–18).

Motivation matters to God. And it should matter to us.

I’d encourage you to take some time to journal through these questions. Ask God to search your heart. Why do I want to become a well-known writer? Why do I want to publish a book? If you find less-than-lovely motives (or more like when you find less-than-lovely motives), confess them to God. Ask Him to cleanse you from sinful desires and to replace your ungodly motives with pure ones.

Write Like You Mean It

If you want to become a writer, you have to write. And write. And write. Dreaming won’t put words on the page.

If you’re anything like me, it’ll take you awhile to figure out what routine fits you. Try different options until you’ve figured out what works best in this season of life.

  • Are you an early riser . . . or could you be? Wake with the roosters, and write at a set time each morning.
  • Do you need a good amount of time to “get into the zone”? Maybe an extended Saturday date at Barnes & Noble would be just your thing. Consider inviting a friend along for accountability and an occasional laugh.

Warning: This will feel like work. Hard work. Because it is. This is why it’s important to know why you’re writing (back to that motivation thing). You’ll need a solid reason to sit down at your laptop again when others are out enjoying the sunshine with friends.

Don’t always choose writing over time with friends, though. You’ll need to read diversely and live well so you actually have deep thoughts to ponder, adventures to write about, questions to answer.

Once you’re into a rhythm of writing regularly, you might want to think about starting a blog (I recommend WordPress), so you can begin to grow an audience and so others can benefit from your words.

Once you’ve mastered the discipline of writing regularly, there’s one more thing to do.

Something Your Profs Won’t Tell You

Bestselling author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (author of nearly twenty books, with more than three million copies sold worldwide) never set out to become an author. She was approached by a publisher for her first book when she wasn’t well known. When I first heard that, I thought, Well, that worked for you, but then . . . you’re Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. You’re special!

But then, miracle of miracles, it happened for me, too. Unbeknownst to me, a publisher had been reading my blog, and then they approached me about writing a book. Professors never even tell you that’s a possibility when you’re sitting in Writing 101! They spend all their time warning you that you’ll have to submit countless query letters and will receive scores of rejection letters.

There’s nothing wrong with sending query letters, but I think those writing profs would do well to also remind hopeful students that they live under God’s providence. While we were still unformed, God wrote in one of His books every day that was formed for us (Ps. 139:16). This same God opens doors no one can shut and shuts doors no one can open (Rev. 3:7).

Wait on God

One of the twelve “Cutting-Edge Commitments” of Life Action Ministries (the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts where I’ve worked for the past eleven years) is faithfulness. They say it like this:

God has not called us to be “successful,” as the world measures success, but to be faithful. It is not our responsibility to promote ourselves or the outward, visible growth of our ministry. If we will take care of the “depth” of our lives, God will take care of the “breadth” of our ministry” (1 Cor. 3:12–14; 4:1–2).

So my counter-cultural advice to you would be rest. Wait. Stay close to Jesus. Be faithful with what God’s entrusted to you, even when it looks like no one is watching, when you don’t know how this could possibly be advancing your own dreams.

Regularly talk to God about your dreams. He will most likely ask you to die to them. But then, He is the resurrection and the life, and I’ve found He will often resurrect dead dreams when you least expect Him to.

How about you? What dream could you begin to work toward today?

As I share in this post to college grads, be patient if it doesn’t happen right away. Trust God and know that He doesn’t waste anything; He is still writing your story. True contentment is found in Him; not in a dream job.

Pursue your dream job (as long as you don’t have to sin to do your job), and trust God to open and close doors in His perfect, infinite wisdom.

About Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. (She's married to a wonderful man now!) She spends her days caring for her son, Iren, and writing for Revive Our Hearts. She's the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, and she and her family live in New York.

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  • Rose

    Thank you so much for this! I love writing and writing fiction for young people and advice for young women has been my passion for about five years now. I have written two books and one I am in the process of editing and Lord willing, publishing. I have received a few rejections over my book so far, and I admit, it has brought me down. But God always reminds me that He has given me a talent for writing and He will bless me in His timing, not mine. I am forever giving back to Him my plans, and asking for the Father’s alone.

  • Tiana

    I’m currently working on 2 books, a teen novel, and a children’s picture book. I love to write and i’ve been told multiple times that i have a talent for writing, because i have a very vivid imagination. Thanks for these tips!

  • Rachel

    One of my friends (who has been approached by a publishing company) wrote on her blog yesterday about how to write and what helps. So two consecutive days I read posts about writing…maybe God is trying to tell me something. I am currently working on a novel, and trying to become a better writer. In fact, I was relaxing and thinking about starting a blog, and then when I got up, I read this post. So, anyway, thank you for this, because this is what I needed. (Oh, and my motivation? I want to write good, clean, Christian fiction. And I love writing. I love taking an idea, expanding it, changing it, and polishing it until it becomes a thing of beauty.) Once again, thank you.

  • Rachel

    Don’t worry. Poems are beautiful things. Many writers are known simply for poems and that’s okay! Maybe poems are a talent, while novels may not be. Wait and see what God has for you. Also, writing ANYTHING is good. I found that when I’m stuck on ideas for a story, poems are a good way to fill time. And I will pray for you, Ethel.

  • letmywordsspeaklife

    This is an inspiration to me. I just started a blog and I hope that someday I can use it to help people. Thank you

  • Wow, Paula! That’s so encouraging to hear how the Lord orchestrated your journey to becoming an author! This article really blessed me! I have been contributing to a Christian women’s blog and have my own, and I’ve definitely seen how writing can be such a great avenue for discipleship and leading others to knowing Him more. Although I don’t think I’ll be writing a book anytime soon, your post had so many important points that have totally encouraged me! Your little phrase toward the end is one I want to remember, ” Be faithful with what God’s entrusted to you.” Such an important point that’s applicable in every area of life! Thanks for blessing me @phendricks:disqus!

    • I’m so glad it encouraged you, Cassidy. What’s your blog? I’d love to check it out.

      • You are too sweet @phendricks:disqus! My blog is Letmylifebealight.com (but the other one I just contribute to is theoverflowblog.org). 🙂

  • Joyce P

    Hi, Paula!
    What are some of the reasons you recommended Word Press for blogging? I currently use Blogger, but wondered if it would be beneficial to switch? Thanks, and thanks for the encouragement your writing brings to women’s lives!! I also have a girl in our youth group who wants to write a book, so I shared this with her.

  • Avigail

    What a great post! Thank you! It’s funny I never thought I would like writing, but this past summer, I felt G-d telling me to start a blog.. so I did even though I didn’t really want to…. fast forward to now, God has really used my blog in such amazing ways and I absolutely love blogging! Wow having my blog has taught me so much, it’s been so much fun!
    https://avigailife.wordpress.com/

  • Elleanna Marie

    I’m a bit new to the LYWB blog, but I just had to speak up here… If God wants you to write, you will write. Still, writing anything from Sci fi to biographical essays can be SO FUN, believe me, I know. I write fantasy, and have been fairly successful so far (I wrote a novel and four novellas), but my USB drive (which contains every story I’ve written) just disappeared!😞 However, I have a plan for moving forward- girls, if things look bleak, keep doing what you love. It’ll pay off!

  • Great article! Writing IS a lot of hard work, but it can be very rewarding!
    I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but kingdompen.org is an awesome website for Christian writers. I’m not affiliated, just wanted to pass it along!