What I’ve Learned About Book-Writing So Far

by Mike Sententia on December 19, 2012

You found my old blog. Thanks for visiting! For my new writing, visit mikesententia.com.

I’m no expert at writing books. I’ve been working on one for about 6 months, and focusing on it for the past month or so. But I’ve learned a few things, and I want to share them.

Learning to Write

It’s almost trite, but writing is re-writing. I mostly learned to write by writing a post, reading it, then fixing bad sentences. (I also get feedback from friends — thanks, guys!)

The point isn’t to fix that one post. The point is to slowly write good sentences, to practice your art. Over time, you’ll start writing more good sentences in your first draft, which lets you raise your bar for what constitutes “good.” (The same applies to paragraphs — sometimes, the problem is the overall organization, not the wording.)

I’ve known this for a while, and I always revise my blog posts, but I don’t really wrestle with them anymore. But I’m wrestling with this book, writing to a level that requires focused effort, major rewrites, and the kind of mental reaching that I used to make for blog posts, back when blog posts were hard to write. And I expect that, over the next few months, it’ll make me a better writer.

Bonus tip to spot bad sentences: I’ll wait a day, then read the chapter out loud. I notice places where my words lose rhythm, where I’m not sure what a sentence really means as I read it, where I have to read the entire sentence then go back and decode it. Those sentences need a cleanup.

(For example, the sentence, “Over time, you’ll start writing more good sentences in your first draft,” is not a good sentence. It’s imprecise and contains unnecessary words like “start.” It’s in the post because I don’t see an easy rewrite, but wrestling to bring it up to book quality would definitely make it easier to spot the rewrite next time, which is the very definition of being a better writer.)

Outline = Progress

Until recently, I had a rough outline of topics, but not the chapter-by-chapter outline I have now. I thought knowing the topics would be enough. It wasn’t.

Two problems with not having a chapter-by-chapter outline:

When I started writing about a topic, I had to figure out how to approach it. But to do that, you really want to know how you’re presenting the topics around it. Which you don’t, because you don’t have a detailed outline.

There’s no progress bar. But now that I have my outline posted, I can see links go up, and I want to fill that page with links, which makes me write more.

This outline, by the way, was the main new skill I learned in writing the book. I hadn’t done anything of this scale before, and it was hard to think through — there’s a reason I put it off. But now that it’s done, each chapter is basically one blog post, which I know how to do. So I’ve reduced the problem to one that’s already been solved.

(Incidentally, I would not recommend attempting a book until you find it easy to write a substantive blog post.)

Comments are Awesome

Whether it’s feedback from Ananael on a sentence that readers might take the wrong way or requests from Yvonne to clarify some topics, having reader feedback as I write will help me produce a better book.

I’ve heard that, to become a good writer, you have to care more about your book than you do about perceiving yourself as a good writer. So true. It can be unfun to hear about your writing’s shortcomings, but I’m glad for all the feedback.

Also, I love how the comments section lets us explore ideas that wouldn’t fit into the book, like Yvonne’s question about perception vs external reality. I’m going to put something in my book to encourage readers to join the discussion in the comments, and include a link to each chapter’s comments in the electronic versions.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

T December 19, 2012 at 6:10 PM

In your situation I would set an intention every morning or so to become a better writer, faster and faster, with each passing day. This kind of ritual works almost immediately, to be honest, and you can’t go wrong with it.

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Mike Sententia December 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Thanks, T. I always enjoy getting new ideas from readers. Welcome to the blog -Mike

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Carl December 20, 2012 at 9:20 PM

All of which seems to have helped you find a clear, concise, information dense writing style, judging from your first three posts. But do you realize that the price a book can fetch in more closely correlated to the number of words it contains that the amount of information it contains? :)

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Mike Sententia December 21, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Thanks Carl, I’m glad you like it so far. I’m not sure on the price, but that’s not my main goal. Books on magick don’t make money, unless they’re overly simple (“The Secret”). My goal is to get these ideas out there, get other mages trying direct magick, and get more folks to collaborate with. Enjoy!

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Jesus Boadas December 23, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Hello.
I just notice this site today (I don’t believe in coincidences).
I have to say that direct magick always, always, always works for me, rituals are boring to me, sigil magick give me a slingshot effect most of the time and its boring to make a sigil every time, natural magick its just not for me, new-age magick remember me that im not men of faith also godforms and such imaginery make me fill lost too.
Its hard to find this kind of site, almost all earnest information on thought magick that I found was on the books of William Walker Atkinson and also just found it by sincronicity because their writings belongs to the new tought movement (some kind of new age from 1900’s) but its not, there is serious magick in there.
Just want to say thanks and hope the book will include all information from this amazing website and I will looking for buying it when its ready. Sorry if i mispelled some words because english its not my native language.

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Mike Sententia December 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Thanks for writing, Jesus, it always makes me happy to hear from readers excited about my work. Welcome to the blog, and happy holidays.

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