Here’s how this conversation went:

Me: God, what do you want me to share this week?
God: How to start writing a book.
Me: But I am not qualified to talk about that. I haven’t written perfect books, and I made such imperfect progress in writing both of them, and I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH.
God: You’re right. But, when you wrote your books I was always with you. Tell people your story and how to get started when they too feel imperfect and unqualified.
Me: Okay. But I’m afraid.
God: I am with you! Do it anyway.

I am unqualified to write this post. If you are looking for advice from someone who has written perfect words and made perfect progress in writing books, that someone isn’t me. Writing both of my books was a miracle (more of my story is in the video at the end of this post!)–something done not by my own strength, but His. Writing books is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, childbirth included. I don’t say that in jest. I haven’t written a post about this till now because that sounds dramatic if you’ve never experienced it. For me, putting my story into words–all the messy parts included–has been an act of surrender. Maybe some people find great joy in the process of writing books. I am not one of them.

Lara Casey Writign CultivateNotes I posted on my wall while I was writing Cultivate.

Now, having said that, let me tell you why these experiences have changed me in powerful ways, and why great joy–greater than I ever imagined–came through writing Make It Happen and Cultivate (releases June 27th!). How often do you get the opportunity to wrestle with your thoughts, and talk to God all day about them? As I struggled to put words on the page, there was a constant inner dialogue with God–sometimes complaining that the right words weren’t coming, sometimes crying as I relived the hardest parts of my journey, often worrying that my words weren’t perfect (and God reminding me that He didn’t call me to write perfect words!), yet in it all, drawing closer to Him. That is a gift I would never trade for easier experiences. Like spring flowers growing through the soil of winter, good things grow through hard things! I am so grateful!

I often get asked about this book writing thing, and where to start. Like I said, I’m no expert, and my book writing experiences may be totally unique to me. But, if I were to give myself advice before starting, this is it!

Here are 10 tips to get started on writing your book:

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1. Start by answering these questions:

– Why do you want to write a book? Why book format specifically versus blogging, or some other medium? Book format may seem glamorous in many ways–you may envision your book on the shelves at a bookstore, or getting to add “author” to your bio (and there’s nothing wrong with those things!), but choose the format for your message intentionally. It’s entirely possible that your message will reach more people–or more of the right people–in a different format.

– What is your message? What do you hope to communicate in your book? This may seem like a basic question, but this question is everything. I struggled to answer this question about Cultivate in the early stages of writing because it wasn’t clear to me yet. I started over on the book completely for several reasons, but one of those was because my message finally became clear. I’m so grateful I started over!

– Who are you writing this book for? I wrote Make It Happen to one specific person. Yes, I hoped it would help a variety of women in various life stages, but God kept bringing one person to mind and I wrote the majority of the book to her. It helped me to make the book a conversation, and helped motivate me to get this message out!

– Are you willing to sacrifice your time and heart and resources and pride for this message? Because, for me, that’s what it took. Writing books, just like doing anything meaningful, comes at a cost. It’s not like writing a blog post. Writing a book is an all-consuming experience from start to finish. Are you ready to dig in?

2. Learn from other writers. Reading great books is helpful to learn how to be a better writer and communicator, and many writers have excellent training resources! My friend Lysa started Compel Training, and I used it when writing both of my books. Registration is currently closed, but get on their email list and you’ll know when registration opens again. You can also read this collection of advice I contributed to through Proverbs 31 for first-time writers. There are far wiser writers in there than I who contributed, and their advice is golden!

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3. Sketch out your book. Make a detailed and clear outline of your entire book, and the key points you hope to deliver. There are millions of ways to do this, but the point here isn’t do make a perfect outline, it’s to just make an outline! I wrote the key points I wanted to deliver on paper first and brainstormed stories I wanted to tell to illustrate each point. Then, I put all those points and stories on PostIts above my desk and tried to put them in an order that made sense. This was so helpful for me! (Thanks to my friend and author Renee for helping me with this!) Later on, I typed up an outline on my laptop, and it changed a ton as I went! A note of freedom: you have permission to change your mind, start over, and re-do your outline as you go. In fact, it’s inevitable that you will. The chapters of both of my books were re-ordered at least four times. The chapter titles changed a dozen times. And the outline I started with is nothing like the one I finished with!

4. Don’t start writing with a blank page. A tip I learned from Lysa! Once you have a working outline and you open up that blank document to get started, start with something on the page. Try adding your outline text for that chapter to the page before you begin. This helps to keep you focused on what needs to be communicated, and gives you a starting point. Staring at a blank page is no fun, and doesn’t help you to get the words flowing.

5. Capture your thoughts. When you are in the thick of writing a book, it is like doing an all-consuming puzzle. Pieces may come together in the middle of the night, in the shower, on a walk, or while you’re cooking dinner (speaking from experience here). So, be prepared with something to capture your thoughts! I found it helpful to keep notes in a little notebook, and when that notebook wasn’t around, I’d jot them down on my phone or on any scrap piece of paper in sight. Evidence below.

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6. Use helpful writing software. Most publishers want your files in Word format, but writing in Word is not ideal when crafting a 60,000-word manuscript. That can be challenging to navigate between chapters. I used Scrivener to write both of my books and LOVED it. Definitely worth the $45 investment. When I was done, I reformatted everything into my publisher’s desired Word format. Everyone’s process is different, though! My friend Hannah writes her books longhand on yellow legal pads, then transfers them to type.

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A screenshot from my Scrivener file (which has drastically changed since I captured this–most of those chapter titles have been changed!). But, you can see how easy this is to navigate. Love this software!

7. Compose your words in good form. Whether you go the traditional publishing route or choose to self-publish, you will likely still have (need!) a copyeditor and proofreader. Learning to compose your thoughts in good form from the start is very helpful, though! I’ve had many editing rounds where words were changed into proper grammar, and they lost my voice in the change. So, I had to go back and change entire paragraphs to communicate my message authentically and naturally–in proper grammar. A great resource: Grammarly.com has been a great help to me in this arena. You can sign up for a free account and it checks your writing as you go.

8. Clear the clutter. I have learned to be a better writer over time by learning how to communicate thoughts more clearly–and avoid words that clutter.Here are some words to avoid. And these too. There are always exceptions to these suggestions but wow these have been helpful for me!

IMG_1440-2Have you ever used the word sagacious? ; )

9. Stop typing. : ) Yep! Try voice typing. I have used Dragon dictation software, the free voice plugin on Google Docs, and the voice-to-text feature on Scrivener. When you are working through a challenging section, this can be a great alternative to get the words out, and go back and edit them later.

10. Read your words out loud. This has been huge for me! When I read my words out loud (or use the speaking feature on Scrivener), I can hear what needs to be changed to make my message clearer. It can be helpful to read your words aloud to someone else too!

One final bonus tip: just do it. If God has told you to write a book, get to it. Don’t wait till you are “qualified,” or your circumstances are perfect, or you have it all together. As I wrote in Make It Happen, God does not need you to be a superhero in order to use you for His great purposes. He just needs your humble, willing heart. He will help you.

Here’s my writing story and more tips from Facebook live today!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Amy for encouraging me to write this post! Go write that book, my friend. (And you too, dear reader!)

P.P.S. Have you considered writing a book? What has been holding you back? I’d love to hear from you. I’ll choose a few people who comment to win copies of Make It Happen (for you or a friend!). I loved hearing your thoughts here too!

44 Show Comments
  1. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing your story and advice! Writing is a huge undertaking. I love that you posed thoughtful questions to prompt future writers to know their why. Saving this for future reference and to share. Hugs!!

  2. Catherine

    Thank you, Lara! I so appreciate your earnest sincerity and kind heart. You have been a great source of encouragement to me. Blessings to you and your team!

  3. Casey

    Fear. You put a name on it for me. I always get to “fears” and think, eh, I’m not really afraid of anything. But you called it out for me today. I’ve started and stopped blogs with such passion and purpose and then never dive in, because I can’t find the perfect words or time. That’s fear! Yes! Okay! So glad you shared ALL of this today. I love you so much friend!

  4. Colleen

    You know those moments that God puts something right in your path that you KNOW He wanted you to hear? That was your FB live today. Thank you for pushing past your comfort to do this post. I hear you Lord. Thank you for never giving up on me.

  5. Abby Cirkles

    Celebrating your obedience with gratitude! I’ve desired to write for many years now because literature is my love language and I value the impact it has on generations. I’m passionate about pointing children to Jesus, and train those who love and lead them, however I feel there are so many amazing books already, my words don’t hold great worth. But today has encouraged me greatly! I learned, it’s not about the audience’s response but the obedience you make to the Lord. Thank you! You’ve watered my wilted dream.

    • Lara

      Yes, Lord! Thank you for watering this parched dream of Abby’s!!

  6. Amy

    For the past few years, God has consistently put the title to the book I believe He wants me to write on my heart. I often wondered how it would ever get published. Do I start a blog? That seems to be where everyone starts. But I don’t know if I’m ready to blog again yet {I used to write a family blog}. I virtually attended IF:Gathering this past weekend, and was relived that maybe I don’t need to write a blog. But still convicted to write a book, I’ve been in prayer that God would open the logistical doors. Just today, I’ve come across resources of how, and then THIS POST!! Thank you, oh so much, Lara! While I will continue to pray and seek God in every step, I feel like my path is being revealed step by step. And your words helped!

    • Lara

      Yes!! I loved IF this past weekend too, and I’m excited for your words to be born–whether on a blog or on a computer or on scrap paper! : )

  7. Lauren

    Love love love your daffodils you posted on IG. Mine bloomed again this year (after taking a break last year) and it brought me such joy! Sorry not about writing a book but seeing yours reminded me how happy I was when mine made an unexpected appearance. I’m thinking about doing some planting this year. Pray for my plants – I am not a gardener!

  8. Lacey

    Ever since I fell in love with the Lord when I was 17, I have felt this tug on my heart to write. I started a blog but I have felt called to more. I’m not sure if that is to be more intentional with my blog, or to write a book. I am 21 now and I have only told a few people about this call that I feel on my life because I feel the absolute least qualified. Thank you for sharing this! You are such an encouragement to me!

    • Lara

      I’m grateful this was encouraging to you! There are so many ways to write – a blog, letters, books, in art – so many options the Lord has gifted us. I’m excited for you!

  9. Bethany Davidson

    I almost didn’t watch this Facebook live, since I’d long dismissed the idea of writing a book or blog (although I have frequently thought about it before) but you happened to come on while I was washing dishes and I had nothing to do but listen, so I did, and I’ms o grateful! I have so many thought on my heart and so many things the Lord has been teaching me, but I definitely feel unqualified. There have been so many people to go before me and say what I have to say, only better–why would anyone want to read my words? What could I truly contribute?

    Your advice about simply getting your thoughts down, even into some notes on your phone, stuck with me, and this morning I wrote a page and a half in a Google doc, just doing a stream-of-consciousness jotting down of thoughts. It’s not fully coherent, but it felt so good to put into writing these thoughts in my heart. And while I still believe that today is not the right season for the world to read these words, and it may never be, to write it all down was so sweet and encouraging to myself, and it planted a seed of hope in my heart. I believe that this season of my life is a season of digging down deep and learning lessons that later on I will be able to share with others. I know this season will be a fuel for my ministry, and if I don’t drink deeply of this season today, I won’t have anything to give later on. But thanks to your encouragement, I’m not waiting to write about it until that time. I’m starting now, imperfectly, little by little–even if no one but the Lord ever reads my words.

  10. Emily DeArdo

    Thanks so much, Lara! I’m actually in this process right now–I’ve got a manuscript but it needs work. :) I know that God has put this desire for me to tell this story in my heart, and He’s going to see it through to the end–I just have to write it!
    I think I’m going to have to dive back in to Scrivener. The first time I used it I was just SO lost, but now that I see so many people using it I think I can figure it out!!

    • Lara

      I didn’t use even half of the functions it offers. I really just used it to be able to navigate through my chapters well. I hope that helps! You can keep it simple : )

  11. Katie Westenberg

    Gah! Your timing (God’s timing?) is perfect. I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to step forward with my burning book idea and the biggest caveat is me wondering if this is the right stage of life . I don’t want to compromise my time with little and I don’t want to step through a door I’m not ready to walk through. Your brave words were helpful. Thank you!

    • Lara

      I’m so grateful this was helpful, Katie. And I understand your feelings! I wrote Cultivate right in the thick of having two new babies and it was HARD. But, if that fire is burning, get those words out little by little – even if it’s on your phone in the fringe hours. Cheering you on!

    • Lara

      Katie! You are one of the winners of the Make It Happen book! : ) Send me your info and I’ll get your book to you – laracasey.com/giveaway-winner

  12. Lauren

    Thank you for this, Lara! What are your thoughts on writing a book before you have a publisher? Or starting with a book proposal?

    • Lara

      Hi! If you are wanting to go the traditional publishing route, start with the proposal and a few sample chapters. A publisher will work alongside you to guide the content of the book, so better to start with the sample content : )

  13. Casey

    Thank you for your post! How inspiring! I’ve wanted to write a book for years and as you mentioned I’ve felt in qualified. Plus timing of course. I’d probably call it fear! It would be called Breaking Point 10:13 and it’s based on the myth of God not giving you more than you can handle! Well it came to me over 6 years ago while my ex husband was in afganistain abd I had a new born son.. let’s just say God’s placed many many more breaking points in the way, yet I’m still here and lived through them!

  14. Katie Blackburn

    Lara I am always so inspired by your faithfulness- you keep ‘the main thing’ as the main thing all the time, in all your work. And all you’ve shared is so good, so helpful. Thank you!

  15. Candace Bright

    I actually *didn’t* want to write a book for the longest time, even in spite of exchanges like,
    my Mom: Hey, I think it would be cool to write a book some day, don’t you? I bet you could write a book!
    me: Nope, I’m not a good enough writer.
    Now though, I’m surfacing from some pretty tough years where the Lord taught me so much and I I feel much more burdened to keep those lessons and not forget them (a la SO many verses in scripture to remember God’s works!). Additionally, one of the most crushing weights while I struggled in some areas was the thought that I was the only one, that no one else struggled with such messy, ugly things as me. Now that I’m gaining more footing I know that that can’t be the case, and my heart burns for other women who might be walking the same path, that they would know that they are NOT alone.
    One of the hurdles in this season of little kids is just finding time, coupled with the fact that I am not at all a fast writer or thinker. You said that writing a book is different than blogging and I’m sure that’s true; some of us, alas, write blog posts like they’re books chapters – intense pieces of thought. I think that’s something I do to myself though. ;)
    The other hurdle is that my darker side does struggle with self-promotion and that seems like an awful place from which to write. When I catch myself thinking that way it’s very easy to want to swear off writing forever just so that I don’t ever go down that road. I’m beginning to wonder, tough, if God could ever call me to write more if I’m still, ahem, a sinner. When I think of it that way it seems a little silly to wait until I’m absolutely sure I have perfect motives all the time. If it’s His story, He ultimately has the rights to it anyway, not me.

  16. Raven

    When I was very young I used to want to be a writer… in fact I would always get an idea for a title for a book before I even had a theme for the book. I’d collect my potential titles on note cards with little notes on what the book could be about and I’d keep them in a recipe box. I never actually wrote anything because I felt (still feel) like I don’t have enough content or the world wouldn’t be interested in what I have to say. Today I barely write in a journal and I used to do that ALL the time! I don’t know if I’ll write a book, or a blog, but you’ve inspired me to at least write in my journal regularly! Thank you!

    • Raven

      And I used very…. haha It must be on my brain now that I’m trying to avoid it!

  17. Tammy+Ingram

    Boy, is God a good, good Father or what? The Lord will not let me run any longer without finishing my book. The first thing I opened after my prayer this morning was your email. The first two sentences were, “Me: God, what do you want me to share this week?”
    God: How to start writing a book.”
    You are such a beautiful beloved, Miss Lara, so full of excitement and encouragement, a true gift to even us Grammy Tammy’s out in the world. Thank you for your obedience and joy grabbing a few of us by the bits. Hugs!
    God: How to start writing a book.”

  18. Dee

    Hi Lara~ I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am that you listened to God’s nudge to write this. I have a story to tell you in why I am grateful, and completely humbled at how God can use someone I don’t even know to confirm what He started yesterday.

    Yesterday in my morning journal time, in the middle of writing this idea FLOWED about writing a book for those who have just recovered from Lyme Disease (and encouragement for those who are still in the throws of it, for it is a devasting illness.) As I wrote it out it seemed my pen could hardly keep up with the thoughts as they flowed.

    The book is mainly encouragement of how to heal after you are “clear” and actually a compilation of many people I have met that have taken a year or two of continued healing to fully recover. So while my story would be in there, I’ve only been clear for 6 mths. Yes, I had Lyme…for over 15 yrs and I am, by God’s mercy…CLEAR!

    My nervous system has some repair and my adrenals are holding on, but my lifestyle has had to drastically change. Hence, I have been searching for those who have shared “Life after Lyme” and I’ve only found a few.

    It is for this reason I want to contact these people and ask them to contribute their journey “after”. And thanks to the many people that have inspired me along the way with inspirational quotes, I want a whole chapter on Inspirational Quotes.

    I am not a writer, I am not even familiar with technology (I still have a flip phone), and I am certainly not qualified to write a book! I have been out of college for ….a long time.

    So here I am, praising God and telling everyone for the past 6 mths to join me in praising the God of Mercy. And now, after writing all that came to me yesterday I am seeing He is asking me to do something that I don’t know if I am physically up for the stress yet. He does.

    As I write, I paused and glanced down at your quote “There is no fear in love” 1 John 4;18. His Love.

    You see I went to my BSF group this morning and wanted to ask the ladies in my group to pray for me, but I was afraid. Afraid that THAT would make this is real. Thinking..maybe this is a dream. Maybe this is just me in a hormonal flux (that seems to happen way to often if I get stressed or over active). Besides, who is going to help a housewife write a book of inspiration for those who have just recovered from Lyme! I don’t want to make money from it, and I don’t want the cost to be more than $10 since most people have spent WAY too much money in there journey.

    I just got home and opened my email and guess what! There was a email in my inbox titled “How to write a book” by Lara Casey!

    I think I heard my chin hit my desk! My knees are so weak I can hardly stand to get up out of my chair. Lara, how do I do this!! I am no body! Why is God asking this of me and where do I start?? It already feels overwhelming. Please pray for me that I LISTEN and don’t put it aside because of fear.

    Wishing you God’s peace,
    Dee

    • Lara

      Wow, what amazing timing! Thank you for the encouragement and I’m so inspired by His story in your life!

  19. Misty Krasawski

    I’ve been considering writing a book … probably since I was born. Ha! So many thoughts, but suffice to say that your post yesterday felt like one more writing in the sky telling me that the time is now to at least actually START. You know that saying … all those things you want to do … you should do them? Yes. That. Holding me back … life! Eight children. Two grandchildren. Laundry. Dinner. All of the things! And yet … I find time for other things, right? And so, the truth is that it’s probably insecurity that’s the biggest monster in this equation. So here’s to say … I’ve kicked that to the curb. Taking your advice, and grabbing the bull by the horns– making an appointment to talk to an agent next week so I’m MAKING IT HAPPEN! Thanks, friend!

  20. Emily S.

    Oh my gosh, thank you for this. I have written one book, a novel, published by a small independent press, and I’ve been toying with the idea recently of starting on another. It was my goal for this year, but I’m feeling so daunted. Your words came at just the right time. And I love your comparison to childbirth. I have not had any kids (yet! this year’s other goal!), but I FEEL like the process is kind of similar. So you totally validated my suspicion :) You rock, girl.

  21. Carolyn

    Like many people, I know there is a book inside me. There is a passion for marriage and family (and let’s get honest – a STRUGGLE as well… doesn’t the devil like to do that with our passions???) I have shared specific words from God formally in blog format… but the task of creating a clear message for an entire book is daunting, as is the idea of continually generating content for a “real” blog. Timing also plays a role in stopping me… in the meantime, I am enjoying writing my first children’s book that aims to help parent and child reconnect after they’ve been apart (spoken from the heart of a working mom!). I would love to read your books – they are on my list!

  22. Jillian

    I think I hesitate to write or share because I tend to think it must be perfect in the first go-around. And the act of just sitting down and getting started, even with something short, seems daunting. But I so appreciate your perspective on the little by little!

    • Lara

      I struggled so much with wanting to get perfect words out the first time, too! : )

  23. allison

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is exactly what I needed to hear this week as I’ve been wrestling with getting my story out for several years. The process seems overwhelming. I have struggled with not seeing how everything is going to fit together, or how to begin gathering my notes to start putting it all together! However, I know that this is a process, as it is my story, and that I am on a journey with Jesus. He will give me direction daily as I yield my heart and words to Him. Thanks for the practical advice!! This blog was a answer to prayer!!

  24. Katie

    I’ve totally thought of writing a book before. The good thing is I can rest in God knowing it’s not time yet. Someday but there’s other dreams I’m pursuing right now and putting all my energy into those. I love the tips though. Very helpful and pushes me to do other things I may be afraid to do. And just do them!!! Your awesome!!!

    http://Www.katieskronicles.org

  25. Em

    I am not sure if I’ve ever used the word “sagacious,” but I have most definitely used “squalid” – many times :)

  26. Reyna

    Wow Lara! Thank you for being obedient and publishing all the words God has given you. I’ve been following your journey for over 2 years now, read your book Make it happen, also read your friends book Dreamers & Doers, and I read your blogs and watch your videos. You are truly a gift sent from heaven to encourage us kingdom women. So I’ve overcome many hard things in my life and there is a story of hope that is wanting to be shared. Since I’ve been following you I’ve started to blog, share my testimony at women conferences and churches and I’ve also began to write the book, and then I stopped because of distractions and fear. But, I saw your email and it convicted me that I haven’t finished what God has called me to last do. I just had my first child she is 5 months old, that alone was a big fear, but God got me through it. You know how that is lots of work and a big transition. With all the change God is doing a new thing in me, I believe He is choosing now to share this story of hope. It is tough to share, but I know God is my strength. I know you hear it a lot, but honestly you are truly a gift to many. You are so loved, I am thankful for all that you’ve overcome because your story has helped set many free! This is just the beginning for you and your family!!! I didn’t go to school for writing and my first language is Spanish so that has been the lie the enemy uses to keep me from sharing my story. But I know I’m suppose to write this. I’m excited to finish this book. Thank you for all this great info.