The 5 elements for every aspiring writer

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve been asked how to get a book into print. In almost every conversation, someone dreams of becoming rich and famous after writing the next bestseller. 

I have no idea why anyone would ask me this question, given how my books have performed over the years.  No matter how many times I get a question, I always answer with a warning about the challenges of writing a book.  

It might be one of the most intellectually and physically demanding parts of the art of writing. There is nothing easy about writing a book. Getting a book published is even more challenging.  And for most authors that survive the brutal challenges of getting their work into print, the total payoff for a finished book usually equates to far less than minimum wage.  

That’s why I tell authors that you’d better love the challenge of writing.  -because you’ll be a slave to it for a long time and likely will only break even for all your hard work. 

Alton Gansky has mastered the martial art of conquering the flashing cursor on the blank screen. He has more than 50 books in print and has authored countless other works in his literary career.  Al is not only a great writer personally but has spent the past several years as a coach and leader for other great writers. Here are some things I’ve learned from him.

Writer’s block is a beast

Al acknowledges what every writer experiences when finishing a book… the dreaded BLANK PAGE.  For some writers, the first page is always the hardest to complete.  For others, they start strong but hit a wall at some point before the book is finished. I’ve been here myself on many occasions.  

This blank page is known as writer’s block.

There is no way to measure the number of life-changing books or bestsellers that never made it to market because they never got past the blank page.  You will face obstacles and challenges to accomplish any remarkable feat in life.  No one arrives at greatness by traveling down an easy road.  Only grit will get a writer past the flashing cursor or a blank page.

Discipline beats talent every time

When writing anything (like this article), quality always beats quantity.  Therefore, the number of Al’s literary works is impressive, but the awards and recognitions his books and articles have racked up are even more inspiring.  He is the most talented writer I know.

During my recent Unbeatable interview with him, Al reminded aspiring writers that the discipline to continue working on a book, even when you don’t feel like it, will always produce a better product than the person that only writes when inspired. 

Like every other great endeavor in life, writing has some common challenges.  I’ve dedicated the rest of this article to explaining the challenges and giving you some steps to get a book into print successfully.  

I recognize that most readers will never attempt to write a book, but these challenges are common to every great endeavor.  And the suggestions that I recommend are transferable to whatever challenge you’re facing in your personal or professional life. 

Never stop getting better

More than 50 books later, Al is living proof that the writing process never gets easier.  However, two disciplines will help any writer create a better product at the end of all the hard work.  The first is to be a great reader.  All great writers are great readers.  Some writers ensure that they read many books, while others read fewer books deeply.  There’s no single approach to being a great reader- but you won’t become a great writer unless you’re already a great reader.  

The other discipline that every great writer practices are daily writing and refining.  I cut over 100 pages from some of my finished works because they didn’t fit or weren’t good enough for publication.  I don’t feel any of those pages were a total waste. Instead, they were the early morning fodder that made a few pages worthy of publication.  

If you’re going to get a book into print one day, start writing every day… even on days you don’t feel like writing.  Then go back over your written work again, and again, and again… until a publisher says you’ve run out of time to go over the work anymore. 

If I haven’t scared you away from the challenge of writing a book, here are my…

5 elements for every aspiring writer:

1. Start with a strong idea: A novel needs a strong concept to grab readers’ attention and engage them. Think about what unique story or idea you can bring to the table.

2. Paint a masterpiece with your characters: Characters are the heart of any story. Take the time to develop well-rounded characters that readers can identify with and root for.

3. Outline your work: Before you start writing, it’s helpful to have a clear idea of where your story is going. Outline your plot and ensure a clear beginning, middle, and end.

4. Edit ruthlessly: Writing a novel is a process, and it’s essential to edit your work ruthlessly. Cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward or add to the characters

5. Keep writing: Writing a novel can be a long and challenging process, but the more you write, the better you’ll get. Keep pushing yourself to write daily, even just for a few minutes.

Listen to my whole conversation with Alton Gansky here to get more tips from a top-tier author.

Further reading

Why injustice is your fight

It's time for you to stand up and speak out against discrimination. If not, what prevents others from doing it to you in the future?

Great places are calling you

Not one to back down from a challenge, Will Hatton was able to see some amazing views by scaling the mountains of obstacles in front of him.