I just got a book deal. This means three in our family will be published authors; both daughters and me – I like that as much as getting the book deal. I’m almost 65 years old.

Would you like to walk together through the book writing process, the whole thing, as it happens up to the book launch? The contract, the agent, the editors. The angst, the self-doubt, the re-writes. Decisions on covers, titles, endorsements. Launch strategy (which, believe it or not, I’m making notes on now). And of course the glory, speaking engagements, hobnobbing with J. K. Rowling, and the Good Morning America appearances.

It will take eighteen months. Yeah, that’s hard for me to believe, too.

This is for you, if:

This series might be most helpful for you if you’re just starting as a writer and wonder how you get to a point of writing a book and you want to know how publishing works. Or, maybe you’re a few miles down the writing road, but it still seems mysterious and you have lots of questions. If you’re already published, this might not be nearly as interesting or helpful to you; you’ve got your own story.

First, you might want to know how you get to this point. Everyone’s story is different, and we get value from each one.

Here’s mine. It’s not exciting. But it might be encouraging because it’s not exciting. This part of the story is the root no one sees. The roots are always growing. Seeing someone else’s can help give perspective on your own. We’ll start there and then in another post or two move into the glorious book writing stuff.

In my 30’s and 40’s I started feeling like I wanted to write. I felt like I had something to say, but I didn’t know how to say it, or what to say, or how to start. So I didn’t. There was no one to talk to about this, no place like Hope*Writers to go to. Plus, I had a lot of beer I had to drink for about fourteen years. But I definitely felt like I was going to write, like I was going to teach something. Someday.

All writing counts

In my 50’s I began writing a few things just for myself. Mostly spiritual things I was thinking. I would write out lessons I taught at church, which is good practice for thinking clearly and learning to make a point.

Another helpful thing: answering complaint letters to the radio station where I worked. Lots of the complaints were about me – unfounded of course. This was a Christian music radio station and sometimes listeners think you’re not Christian enough or you’re not the right kind of Christian, and they complain.

So I’d write and explain what I meant when I said that thing that bothered them, or I’d say what the station was trying to do that they disagreed with. You try to do it in a gentle, persuasive clear way – even if they had written kinda mean – and often it turned out great and you end up friends. I worked hard on those little notes because I wanted to be understood, and I wanted to do good and persuade someone about something that was clearly important to them.

That’s great writer training. If you’re new at writing, I highly recommend contacting a Christian radio station in your area and volunteering to answer complaint emails. I’m half kidding.

Who do you write for?

Then I started blogging eleven years ago at age 54. I wrote three different blogs over eight years, from about 2005 – 2012. None of them had any real area of focus or usefulness, other than sharing my own awesome thoughts, which – surprise – no one seemed to think were awesome. When I answered the complaint emails, the reader was already interested. I was great at that. But when I had to come up with something on my own that the reader was interested in, I wasn’t so great.

Actually, I wasn’t trying to come up with anything the reader was interested in. I thought what was interesting to me would automatically be interesting to them. But even if it was, that’s still not enough. I think you need to write what’s meaningful to you, not just interesting. I wasn’t doing that.

If you want to write what’s meaningful to you, without regard for the reader, you should totally do that, but be satisfied with no readers. Of course, it’s possible the first thing that’s meaningful to you is also appealing to readers and they flock to you. If so, that’s great and you’re in business.

For many of us, if we write to make a difference with people – and that’s what a hope writer is – we’ll probably find ourselves on a journey to discover the thing meaningful to us that’s also meaningful to the reader. Reaching readers is much easier when you write about something already meaningful to them.

I had to go on that journey.

Can you relate?

NEXT: Keep writing no matter how bad it is or how stupid you feel

What do you think? Questions? Where are your roots growing right now?