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Asking Questions


Want to write a book?


I’m starting to get more questions about how to write a book, get a book deal, etc. so I thought it’d be helpful to share all that info in one place!!

Here are the questions y’all asked in InstaStories.

Do you need a book proposal?

Even if you self-publish, this will be a tremendous help. I remember when my publisher asked for a proposal. I wasn’t sure what exactly they were but I AM sure I told her I could have it within a week or two. : ) It turned out it took me 2 months and ended up being 60 pages long. It was way more in-depth than I thought but literally saved me so much time and helped me know how to start writing the actual book.

Can’t I just write in a cabin and be an author? (Ok so I didn’t get this EXACT question but I’ve heard the sentiment several times)

Gone are the days (were there even these days?) where you could plop a book on a publisher’s desk and you could sit back in the woods, let them do all the work and reap the benefit. No matter how you publish a book, it will require LOTS of effort. I feel like I don’t really need to tell you this because you likely know it but I know it can look overly simple from the outside looking in. Over the last year, I’ve spent time not just writing and editing and working on a cover but thinking and planning strategically for marketing, writing copy, taking courses, getting endorsements, strengthening our platform, etc. A lot goes into writing that isn’t exactly writing. I don’t say that to scare anyone off but to give a realistic picture so that you don’t feel discouraged when these normal parts of the process feel like roadblocks because no one mentioned them.

How to write a book by Valerie Woerner | Val Marie Paper, author, writing tips, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, manuscript, editing, hope writers, timeline, behind the scenes, grumpy mom, motherhood

How do I get started when I don’t have a “platform”?

Create a platform. I know that’s not what a lot of people want to hear but the book world has changed so much from what I’ve heard it used to be like. Publishers look for 3 things: topic, tone (your writing), platform. It’s a partnership to sell a book and a traditional publisher will expose you to so many more outlets than you could do on your own but your role is creating a buzz around your own audience. If the idea is unique enough or the writing is just crazy good, it’s still possible to get the attention of a publisher but I’d ask you this tough love question: if you have a message to get out in the world, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of getting it out there? Why wait for someone else to do it? If it’s important to you, don’t limit the content of the message to a book but be willing to give and give before asking someone to purchase your content.

Book recommendations on the writing process and inspiration?

I have honestly not read a ton but I would recommend these personally: The Writer’s Diet

Others I have heard recommended a lot are Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott (I started but haven’t finished it), On Writing by Stephen King and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

Also, not a book, but I love Jeff Goins podcast, The Portfolio Life.

How do you write about situations involving other people without “throwing them under the bus”?

This is really tough! I think it depends on the purpose of the story and motive. If it is truly valuable to the reader, can you make it vague enough so it doesn’t point fingers? Or have a conversation beforehand if you are close enough and make sure they are comfortable with it. If you feel uncomfortable with the content, I’d see if there is another way to share the value without the story.

What is the most difficult part of the process for you? How do you overcome it?

As far as traditional publishing goes, the hardest part is not having the final say for everything. That sounds incredibly selfish but I’m used to running my own company and basically being able to do whatever I want to (led by the big guy of course! 🙂 So having other opinions has been a new challenge. I feel like what’s helped me overcome this is something that actually helped me choose traditional publishing this time around. I knew this would be the most difficult thing for me but I also knew God wanted to teach me patience and flexibility. I think working with the right publisher is incredibly important because you can TRUST that they want the best for your book and you are on the same team not fighting against one another. And that they know things you don’t. My instinct is to still struggle with this but God has definitely made me so much more flexible in this process!

How long does the book publishing process take?

The short answer? 2 years-ish? Your book is normally turned in a full year before it comes out so a year for writing the proposal, signing the contract and writing the manuscript.

Here was my process.

September 2015 – I first met my now publisher. I didn’t do anything immediately with this. Continued to work on growing my platform.

Summer 2016 – Idea for Grumpy Mom hits! I create an outline but that’s pretty much it.

November 2016 – Publisher emails to see if I’m working on anything.

December 2016 – Have phone call and they request a proposal

Spring 2017 – Proposal sent and revisions requested.

Summer-Fall 2017 – Revision sent and contract signed.

April 2018 – Manuscript for Grumpy Mom due

May 2018 – Manuscript for Fresh Start for Moms (the companion devotional) due

Summer 2018 – Edits made

April 9, 2019 – Book release day! 🙂

How much research is enough research?

I think this is ANOTHER reason praying before writing or doing any step of the process is so important. We could ere on either side and keep researching just to procrastinate the hard work of writing or we could skip researching and add no real value for the reader simply because we want to do the fun part of writing. You could swing either way so I’d just stay super in tune to the Holy Spirit and let him lead you!

How do you decide what to write about? How do you begin? Do I just start writing and see where it takes me? (So many questions on getting started!!)

If we are talking about a book, practically speaking, deciding what you write about needs to be a topic you are willing to talk about for YEARS! If it’s a fleeting idea or something you can’t come up with a ton of content on, it may just be a blog post.

Other things to think about:

  • what are you already passionate about?
  • what do people ask you questions about?
  • what do people seek your advice about?
  • do you have a platform already? who’s your audience?
  • if you could tell people one thing that would change their life, what would it be?

In the past, The Finishing School and Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday were ideas that sat for a little bit even to the point where I didn’t know what to do with them and then one day, outlines just kind of fell out of me.

Put together all your ideas and hold them up to the questions I mentioned above. Could this be a blog post? Could this be a course?

Once you have a book written, what’s the next step?

If writing nonfiction, I would recommend not writing the whole book before you get a book deal. Your publisher may want a slightly different angle or after speaking with them, your own book might change. This happened to me. I had the wrong tone when I first presented the book and am sooooo glad I didn’t have the whole thing written. I had to redo a few chapters but I can tell you, the book that was created in collaboration with the publisher is 1000 times better and FOR MY READER instead of just for me.

How much time do you spend writing on it a week?

During book writing, I wrote consistently about 6 hours a week. The last month it was 15 hours a week. During no book writing, I write about 2-3 hours a week for Instagram posts and a blog post.

How did you go about finding a publisher?

I attended a conference Influencer Network and scheduled a meeting with a publisher.

What are all my publishing options?

Traditional, self-publishing (through KDP, formerly CreateSpace) and a hybrid. I don’t know much about the hybrid or how credible it is but it looks likes a traditional publisher but you pay up front instead of getting an advance.

How did you find your agent?

I emailed a few author friends to see if they would connect me with their agent and basically let me pitch my book and see if we’d be a good fit.

What is your process and timeline for each major step?

I don’t have this super planned out but the proposal is super helpful! I use a program called Scrivener and can divide files into each chapter and there’s even a view that shows like a notecard where I can jot down bullet points. For Grumpy Mom, this included a Bible story, personal story, practical tips, verse, and prayer. From there, I’d start filling in the content and write as much as I could for each chapter. Then I went back through and finished each chapter.

Does it do any good to start writing a book before finding an agent?

Yes, but your agent knows a ton about the industry and can be so helpful with crafting the proposal. Basically having a good vision for the book is great, even a few sample chapters so they can make a good decision about whether y’all would be a fit, but a completed book isn’t necessary or something I’d recommend.

I sense that God wants me to write but I don’t know where to start?

If God is calling you to write, start writing! I prayed before my writing sessions that God would empty me of my words and make me a vessel for the message he wanted to share through me. I think it’s really important to obey when He calls us because the more we disobey, the fainter His voice can get and the harder our hearts become to His prompting. Specifically, when you get ideas not sitting at a keyboard, jot down a note. I add these to my to-do app for Friday and on Friday, I “process” these ideas and see how they fit in my writing. Is this a blog post idea, or short enough for Instagram? Is this actually beneficial for my reader or kind of self-indulgent?

Here are some resources to check out:

  • HopeWriters – This community could answer ALL your writing questions. It’s an investment but one I make every month and I feel like has been so worth it. They open up doors every few months so get on their list to check it out or check out their free content for now.Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday by Valerie Woerner | motherhood, faith, christian book, reading, mom life, parenting, anxiety, kids, children, prayer, how to
  • Hannah Brencher’s Year of the Book class – I did this while writing my book proposal and it was so motivating! The class will be in January so hop on her mailing list so you don’t miss when it comes out!
  • My Writing Routine blog post – I shared how I actually fit book writing into my already full plate.  
  • Conferences – Writers’ conferences are a place to meet with publishers and present ideas. Here are two to look into!

Want to get a sneak peek of my new book??

1. Pre-order Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday on Amazon.

2. Forward your receipt to

3. Get the first two chapters sent straight to your inbox!

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