How To Write a Book in 30 Days


10. Better Writing

Let’s talk about write-craft. That is, the craft of writing. Writing, like any other occupation or art, is a craft; it is learned. You’re likely to get better at it the more you work at it.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The abilities to read, write, and string two words together are required skills, but they don’t make someone who writes a writer.

Module 10: Better Writing

by Steve Spillman | How to Write a Book in 30 Days

 Definition of a Good Writer

A suitable definition of a ‘good writer’ is that people enjoy reading the writer’s work (not including the writer’s mother, who is probably just faking it). Unfortunately, since by this definition, you’ll only know if you’re a good writer after the fact, you’re going to first need some advice on how to become a good writer.

Writing isn’t different from tennis, oil painting, singing, or operating a front-end loader; the more you study the basics and the more you practice, the better you become at the craft. And believe me, if you’ve ever seen a front-end loader operator skin an inch of dirt off the surface of a construction site sitting atop a 14-ton steel and hydraulic mastodon, you’d know that you’re witnessing art.


About the basics – there are basics. These are the rules that tether our ‘art’ to the earth so other mortals can actually understand what we’re trying to communicate with our words. Don’t let your ‘muse’ or your ‘hubris’ (writers often confuse one with the other) get in the way of what you’re actually trying to say.

So, what are the basics of good writing? Here are five simple tips:

  1. Put the reader first
  2. Use simple words and short sentences
  3. Use jargon only when necessary
  4. Write with verbs and nouns
  5. Format to improve readability (Thank you, CSUS for a great PowerPoint presentation! (click here to download the presentation )

Great Mentors

Writing is an art one must study, and if we’re going to study, we might as well be schooled by the best. Over forty years (Has it been that long?) of studying the craft of writing, I’ve collected my favorite six writing mentors and their books. We don’t live in a vacuum. Those greater than us in this craft have come before us, and those are the ‘professors’ we must sit under – if you’re serious about writing, become a student of great writers; start by adding these books to your library.

    1. On Writing Well, William Zinsser
    2. On Writing, Stephen King
    3. The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
    4. The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield
    5. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on the Writing Life, Anne Lamott
    6. Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
    For more of my thoughts on these books and writers, visit https://www.truepotentialmedia.com/the-five-best-books-on-writing/


    In the immortal but not too foresighted words of William Powell (I’ll let you look him up), “A cook a book does not make.” Study until your eyes are red and all your participles are past, but write. Good writing comes from practice. Write, write, write, write. Study what you’ve written, rewrite what you’ve written, and then write some more. Practice may not make perfect, but it makes you a heck of a lot better than you were when you began. Ernest Hemingway, according to not so reliable legend, was said to have addressed a group of students on how to improve their writing. He took the podium, said, “WRITE!” and walked off. Good advice.

    If you’ve been writing your book through the steps in this learning series, the chapters in your manuscript should be fleshed out and researched, each one of them complete in expressing its own complete sub-idea within the ‘big idea’ which is your book. Now it’s time to tie all of these semi-independent little stories together into the big story – your book. For a cohesive, well-balanced book, your chapters should be roughly the same size and style, and they should fit naturally into the whole.

    Size and Style

    The chapters of a well-balanced book should be roughly similar in size and style. I don’t mean that all chapters must have the same word count and amount of heads and sub-heads, just that their structures should be similar – they should look like parts of a whole. If most of your chapters are two pages and you’ve got one that’s forty-two pages, either you’ve got too little information in the two-page chapters, or you’ve got too much in the forty-two-page chapter. If some chapters are filled with sub-heads (those bold-type subtitles that begin a chapter subsection) and others don’t have any, go back to those chapters that seem to ‘stick out’ as different from the rest and make adjustments. The chapters of your book should be semi-independent parts of a whole (your book) and should look to the reader to have a similar size and structure.

    Segues (not the two-wheeled city scooter)

    Segues are smooth transitions from one thing to another. In this case, each chapter of your book should easily move from the preceding chapter and set up a smooth transition to the following chapter. Remember back when we talked about the logical progression of ideas that would eventually become the chapters of your book? The reason we set that up in the beginning is so that the ideas, your chapters, would naturally flow from the previous idea and into the next. An example in How to Write a Book in 30 Days Coaching Course is that lesson two, ‘Gather Ideas,’ naturally flows into lesson three, ‘Plotting Your Course,’ which shows us how to organize the ideas we ‘gathered’ in chapter two. Likewise, ‘Plotting Your Course’ naturally flows into, or sets up, lesson four, ‘Creating an Outline,’ which shows us how to take the ideas we organized in chapter three and put them into a formal structure from which to flesh out our book.

    How are the chapters of your book balanced? Are they close to the same size? How are they structured? Do they have a similar amount of sub-heads with similar lengths? Do the chapters of your book naturally flow from each preceding chapter into the next chapter? It’s time to take a look and fix those chapters that seem to ‘stick out.’ Remember, the chapters of your book are semi-independent parts of a whole; like siblings in a big family, each has its own personality, but each fits into and resembles family traits as a whole.


    1. Keep writing. How is your writing habit developing? Practice makes perfect (or at least better). As they say at the gym, You’ve got to get the reps in. In the writer’s world, our reps are daily word count. 
    2. Read what you’ve written out loud. When you speak and hear your words, you’ll pick up rough spots and grammatical mistakes that your eye-brain connection might miss reading silently.
    3. Choose and read one of the books on writing I recommended in this lesson. If I had to choose only one starting out, it would be On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.
    4. Review your chapters. Does the previous chapter flow naturally into the next? Do they seem to be in the proper order to take the reader from one point to the next in a logical progression? Do all your chapters look like they belong in the same family – similar size, similar sub-chapter count, similar style? Chapters don’t need to be clones of each other, but they do need to show that they’re related.

    Next: Module 11: Balancing Chapters (which is a great segue!)

    Click here to visit module 11 “Your Conclusion”