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So You Want to Write a Business Book...

Inc.com columnist and five-time author Phil Simon reflects on five hard-won lessons every aspiring writer needs to know.

My fifth book is going through final edits as I type. I'm not going to lie: Even the fifth time around, the process is still hard. But I've picked up a few hard-won lessons along the way.

So if you've ever thought about blogging or authoring a business book about your experiences as an entrepreneur, here are some thoughts to consider.

Writing is a skill that requires practice.

I have no doubt that some people are born with the an innate ability to communicate, whether via a keyboard, the spoken word, or some other means. To say that it's 100% nature and 0% nurture just isn't true. I look back at my writing from 2008 and see vast improvement today.

I didn't take a course. I just kept at it. When you do something every day, you're bound to get better at it. Period.

The Web makes writing easier, not easy.

I'm old enough to remember card catalogs, microfiches, and needing to go to a library to find what I needed--and even then I was sometimes disappointed. Not anymore. I have at my fingertips the largest trove of information the world has ever seen.

But let's not overdo it.

You still have to do the work. Research doesn't come to you. I'll never say it's easy to write a good book of any reasonable length, but today it certainly isn't as hard as it was before the Web.

Writing is educational.

There's long been an adage: If you want to learn something, teach it.

Very true.

I have no desire to write the same book again because I like to learn. Scratch that. I need to learn. I won't judge authors who churn out essentially the same text or bands that don't mess with their formula. If it works for them, so be it. There's something to be said for giving your fans what they want, right?

I just can't. I have to extend and stretch myself. There's something gratifying about going to sleep knowing something you didn't know in the morning.

Good writers read.

When I meet other authors, the topic invariably turns to books at some point. Scott Berkun and Matthew May are bibliophiles, and their writing benefits as a result.

Writing is cathartic.

There's something satisfying about putting your words to paper or screen. Beyond that, you save money on shrinks. Workplace nonsense used to bother me because I would usually internalize it. Now, with writing, I have an outlet for my frustrations. As events are taking place, I often think about how I'll write about them one day.

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Last updated: Jan 11, 2013

PHIL SIMON | Columnist | Author and tech consultant

Phil Simon is a frequent keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of six management books, including The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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