Writing Hints


  • Think about your target market. Who are your readers? Age, interests, culture, values, beliefs, all come into play.  If it’s a book for all ages, think about an intro that conveys this and inclusion of photos/illustrations/graphics that support the topic and general readership.

  • Go through your draft and extract what is most important to you. Be honest and be ruthless.

  • Do your research. Readers will select your book because they’re interested in the topic or because you’re going to tell them something they didn’t know about a topic. Readers are quick to spot a mistake and once this happens, you’ve lost them.

  • Decide if there is too much for one book and whether you could look at dividing material into another complementary book. Additional books ensure you cut down on what you offer in one volume and give you a chance to use more of your knowledge/expertise/photographs etc.

  • Draft a short Foreword, so that the reader knows where you’re coming from and why. Set the scene for the reader.

  • Less text, more white space and illustrations/photos makes for ease of reading and absorbing. People cannot take in too much at once. Aim for a clean, fresh look, regardless of your content.

  • Keep chapters short and to the point. Avoid self-indulgence. If you’re writing an autobiography, keep it interesting.  All about you doesn’t have to be a boring read.

  • Keep the energy going from beginning to end.

  • Depending on your topic, you may wish to finish each chapter with a one page summary of dot points. For a novel, finish a chapter in a way that leaves the reader wanting to know more. Page turners sell.

  • Allow illustrations or photographs to do your talking for you (bit like illustrations in kids’ books).

  • No absolutes unless you are talking religion. (eg ‘people do/will/should…vs…..people might/can/prefer).

  • Think about deleting quotes from other authors and concentrate only on what you have to offer. Your own original quotes can work well, and people can then quote you. If you do want to use quotes, make them brief and perhaps head a section with them, or scatter throughout the text.

  • Copyright without permission is only for 100 words max. Copyright usually lasts for 50 years.

  • Do not plagiarise or paraphrase. You can use information provided by other sources, but you must quote the source.

  • Where possible keep text to short paras or bite-sized blocks. Many people are time poor. They want what you have to say in short bursts. Think web site rather than printed material when it comes to word count.

  • Try to avoid too much punctuation. Keep sentences short (think web site) and stay away from too many colons, semi-colons, exclamation marks. To break text up, think whether anything you’ve added (such as poetry or quotes) can be in italics.

  • Avoid being opinionated…some people can tend to perceive this as ‘preachy’. Try to avoid too much emphasis on your opinion but rather on your interpretation as you see it applying to the world in general.

  • Always look at your book from the reader’s point of view. What will they take from this?  How much will they want to read?  How important is your book going to be to their well-being?

  • Give some thought in the early stages to a cover image, use of colour. A good cover can sell a book. With e-publishing, covers are particularly important as people cannot pick the book off a shelf and browse.

  • Think through your title. Is it negative/does it alienate/is it inviting the reader to pick up your book just out of sheer interest. Does the title need a sub-title to avoid an overly long main title, or to give the reader a clearer indication of content. Maybe the title has nothing to do with content but serves to intrigue.

  • When your manuscript is ready, enlist the help of an editor. Friends are fine for proofreading, but an editor will offer you comprehensive advice on all aspects of your book.

  • Your manuscript is your writing style, your topic, your phrasing. An editor will give you advice on clumsy phrasing, but if you are happy with the way you’ve written something, be brave enough to say so and elect not to make suggested changes. Always remember – it’s your book.

  •  At no stage stop writing because you think you don’t have the expertise, confidence, or authority to write a book. Self-sabotage is never helpful. Manuscripts shoved into bottom drawers seldom see the light of day, let alone get published. If you don’t believe in the book you’re undertaking, this will come through in the text. Just go for it. If you never publish that particular manuscript, you’ve had the experience of writing and congratulate yourself for doing so.



©Leigh Hay               (Permission required for copy or use of these writing hints.)



Self-Publishing contacts (graphic design and print on demand):

New Artworx :                     Mark Collier  www.newartworx.com.au  (Dandenong North)         email:    d-print@newartworx.com.au

BookPod :                              Sylvie & Michael Blair  www.bookpod.com.au (Glen Waverley)

Busybird Publishing :           Blaise van Hecke  www.busybird.com.au (Montmorency)

Finding a mentor, choosing an editor, creative writing workshops:


Writers Victoria:                  www.writersvictoria.org.au