Omega Writers

I want to Write a Book. What Are My First Steps?

I’m a lifelong reader.

And I’ve been working as a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction for the last seven years, which means I’ve seen a lot of manuscripts, good and bad. I’ve learned something about the craft of writing from each one.

I’ve attended conferences featuring internationally recognised speakers such as James Scott Bell, Michael Hauge, Margie Lawson, and Damon Suede. I’ve undertaken online training courses from the Christian PEN, Author Accelerator, and Lawson Writer’s Academy, and I’ve completed a hands-on immersion course with international speaker and writing coach Margie Lawson.

I’ve also read dozens of books on writing craft and dozens more books on book marketing. Each has contributed to my understanding of how to write, edit, publish, and market books.

Based on that, here are my seven keys to writing your first book:

1. Understand Genre

Publishers publish by genre, booksellers organise their stores by genre, and readers read by genre. Your book (fiction or nonfiction) has a better chance of succeeding if you understand what genre it is, and meet the expectations of readers of that genre.

Understand your genre and write to the norms of that genre.

2. Write What You Love

If you love romance, write romance novels. If you love deep Bible studies, write deep Bible studies.

Write what you love for two reasons. If you’re writing in a genre you love to read, you’ll know the conventions of the genre and what the reader is looking for. And your writing will flow better because it’s something you want to write (unlike so many of those creative writing assignments in school).

3. Read What You Write

Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read old books. Read new books.

Just read.

4. Understand the Mechanics of English

There is no point in knowing how to craft a great novel or nonfiction book if you don’t have the technical writing skills to get it on the page so people can read and understand it. Christian editor (and founder of The Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network) Kathy Ide calls this the PUGS: Punctuation, (word) Usage, Grammar, and Spelling.

5. Join a Community

You’ll learn as much from your fellow writers as you will from books, so join a community of writers. This could be online (e.g. Facebook groups such as Australasian Christian Writers or Christian Writers Downunder).

It could be a formal organisation (e.g. Romance Writers of America or Australia or New Zealand, American Christian Fiction Writers or Omega Writers or New Zealand Christian Writers).

It could be a Christian group or a general market group. It could be for fiction writers or all writers. Just find a group, join it, participate, and learn.

6. Write

You can study too much. It was true when Ecclesiastes was written and it is true today. Study, but ensure you get words down on paper as well. Or pixels on a computer screen.

7. Learn to Revise and Self-Edit

Yes, I’m a freelance editor so you’d think I’d have a vested interest in people not editing their own work, to give me more to do. But lots of simple mistakes means I might focus on correcting commas and hyphens at the expense of fundamental issues.

The cleaner the manuscript in terms of writing mechanics, the cheaper the edit. (If you write fiction and you’d like some self-editing tips, sign up for my free course at

Tools like Grammarly, the Hemmingway app, and ProWritingAid can help with the most technical side of this self-editing, identifying things like passive voice and overused words and commonly misused words. But you need a human editor to tell you whether your plot makes sense, or whether your segue from Ecclesiastes to John is logical.

So those are my top seven tips. What would you add?

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and writer. She holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and works as a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review.

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