This Is a List of Everything You Have to Give Up to Write a Good Book


What does it take to write a book? Creativity. Perseverance. A healthy dose of stubbornness and a dash of insanity, to say the least.

But what does it take to write a GOOD book? What does a writer need to do to take a single string of ideas and turn them into a full-length novel?

It’s more than just waking up a little earlier (or staying up a little later – yeah, we’re definitely feeling the aftereffects of the latter at the moment). It’s more than just planting yourself in the corner of a coffee shop for a change of scenery even if you don’t like coffee (or people). Writing a book requires some sacrifice. But not necessarily the kind of sacrifice you might be thinking of.

Here’s a list of a few things you’ll need to give up in order to write the best possible novel. Don’t worry. You get to keep all your arms and legs.


As we mentioned yesterday, characters like to take control of our stories. Pretty much the more we try to plan out what’s going to happen, the less control we actually end up having over what happens. This is not something that can be taught, but it’s still worth mentioning. You’ll learn the lesson again and again the more time you spend writing: you have to give up your control.

Why? Because a story has to go where it needs to go even when you don’t know exactly what’s coming. Your brain, somehow, knows your story better than you do. All those plans you had for your book are next to nothing compared to what it’s going to be when you finish it. This unpredictability, once you get used to it, becomes one of a writer’s most powerful tools. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is like the epic fantasy adventure you’ll never actually have.


Writing is not supposed to be comfortable. Fun, yes. Satisfying, yes. That’s what we do it for. But if you’re caught in the same old story over and over again because it’s what you know and it’s what makes you feel at home, you’re never going to be able to write the book you really want to write.

You have to give up your need to be comfortable for that good book to emerge from its place deep inside you. Write that scene that makes your heart ache. Weave in that theme you’re afraid to include. If you ever think, “Maybe I shouldn’t go this deep,” go even deeper. If you even for a moment think, “I can’t write this,” write it anyway. Your discomfort will change the way those words appear on the page. Your readers will feel it, and that is the absolute best thing you can ever do for your audience.


All your life, you see the world through your own perspective. You view everything through a specific lens, one that takes into account your beliefs and your values and your experiences to shape the way things appear. Naturally, as humans, we are closed-minded in the sense that what is easiest for us is to write stories that narrate through this exact same lens.

Throw it out. When you are writing, do not close your mind. Do not peek through that lens. It is your job, as a writer, to tell stories from the most unlikely of perspectives. Why is To Kill a Mockingbird such a classic? Because it tells a heartbreaking story through the eyes of a child who does not understand the implications of what is going on around her. That is what makes the story. You need to be able to open your mind, explore other viewpoints and change the way you, and your readers, see reality.

Notice we’re not saying you need to give up your social life or good old-fashioned fun if you want to sit down and write a book that has publishing potential (and more importantly, one that impacts real people who read it).

Writing a book is hard. You have to make the choice to shatter your own comfort zone. Go there, to that place another writer won’t. Send that thematic message no one else would dare to send. You have to let the story sweep you off your chair and into a completely new reality. If you try to control it, if you try not to go too far, if you refuse to look at something in a different way, you will write many, many books. But you probably won’t write a good one, which is what this world can never have too many of.

There is more, obviously. Perhaps we’ll write a second post later. But these are the most important barriers to reaching your full potential, and we believe you can overcome them. We believe you can take a risk, and never look back again.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Which Parts of Your Book Will Your Readers Remember Most?


Why is writing a book so hard? Because everything has to be significant. Every random thing ideally has to tie into a less random thing. But it’s not like it always happens on purpose: sometimes you just come up with things on the spot, and somehow, they work. But they have to work—because if they don’t, the reader will remember them for all the wrong reasons. 

Looking at your current writing project as a whole, which parts of it do you want your readers to remember—and which will they remember whether you want them to or not—the most? 

The climax, and the very end

Notice the beginning isn’t mentioned here. The beginning of a story is what draws the reader in; it’s what syncs their brains with the world the author of the book has laid out on those pages. But, unless you have a plot that intentionally begins at a key point, draws back to the past and hits that beginning point at the climax, the very beginning of the book isn’t always what we remember most.

Reading and then watching Paper Towns, I’d almost forgotten the park incident by the time both stories reached their ends. The prologue exists so you catch a glimpse of Margo’s curiosity and fearlessness, and the line about strings breaking. But other than catching my attention, that particular thing—finding the guy in the park—isn’t what stood out to me the most. And it wasn’t supposed to.

Beginnings are hard, especially because you do need to come up with an effective way to draw your reader in. But if you’re one of those writers really fussing and fretting over your first line (points to self), take a deep breath. Relax. Your turning point, and probably your last line, are where you need to put even more of your limited creative energy when it comes time to revise.

The emotionally drenched pages 

I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels, Wintergirls in particular. The one thing that bothers me is that she writes on darker subjects, with narrators that often tend to be fairly emotionally detached from the story they’re telling because of the awful circumstances. This is great; I actually kind of like the darker tone (don’t judge). But sometimes, having a narrator that’s so emotionally detached makes it hard, as a reader, to get, well, emotionally attached.

This is why we don’t just read one author all day every day. I’ll read the next novel she publishes, and the one after that. But I also, every once in awhile, need a story that emotionally wrecks me—and there are a lot of other readers out there that feel the same way, probably.

Those scenes that even you get a little emotional writing (it’s okay to cry) can often turn out to be some of the most memorable scenes in your entire 300+ pages of work. So unless it’s purposeful for characterization and plot reasons, give your characters some emotional reactions to the things that happen to them. Your readers will thank you.

The parts you loved writing the most

One thing that really stood out to me in Go Set a Watchman, which I read out of interest and because To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite classics (I wanted to see what her original draft, which is what Watchman is, looked like) was how deeply the flashbacks pulled me into the story.

I didn’t realize until after I’d finished the book that I’d liked them not because they were the foundation for Mockingbird, but because I could tell Harper Lee put her entire heart and mind into those scenes, probably more so than the rest of the book. Thos scenes are what stick with me days afterward. She loved writing them; I loved reading them.

Readers notice when you can’t get enough of what you’re writing right this second, and as a result, they wish it would never end—and that’s exactly what you want their reactions to be.

In my fiction, I use a one-liner style to pack small punches into my prose. Those are the pieces I hope people will pick out and store away in their memory banks, so I separate them from the rest of the text and give them their own line to stand on. You’re not always in control of what your reader retains, but as long as you’re able to get a little lost in what you’re writing, you’re doing something right.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.