The two are somewhat different. There are lots of writing books out there. It seems after a certain number of years writing, each author tries to capture the essence of their craft and art. I first did this in the early 90s, which, yikes, is a while ago. My first draft of the The Novel Writers Toolkit was 11 pages long. And this was after I had published four books traditionally. As the years went by, I added and revised.
The Novel Writers Toolkit was picked up and published by Writers Digest in 2001. It earned out in less than six months. This version was quite a bit longer, needless to say. Once I got the rights back, I continued to revise and update as I learned more. The current version is current. And I just put it in Kindle Unlimited today.
The reason it’s called a Toolkit is I don’t believe you can ever tell a writer: “You can’t do that!” Because I guarantee I can find “That” in a bestselling book somewhere. There are many craft tools. We can only use them wrong.
But that’s how to write the book. What really surprised me in publishing was the lack of books on how to be an author. Every job I’ve held, I end up writing an SOP for it. Standing Operating Procedure. When I first reported to my Special Forces A-Team they had taught me in the Q-Course at Bragg to ask for the team’s SOP. So I arrived at 10th Special Forces, got assigned to a team, and asked for the team SOP. They didn’t have one. They said they knew everything they needed to know.
That didn’t help me much. So we wrote one. Turns out we didn’t know as much as we thought we knew.
Once I became published, I learned many hard lessons, usually by doing things the wrong way. I looked around for guidance and the attitude of agents and editors seemed to be: learn on the job.
Which is a terrible idea. But I understand where it comes from. They know 99% of the writers they work with won’t be around in 10 years so it’s kind of a waste of time to educate each one. But I always wondered: which comes first? The writer failing or the lack of education on the business side helping the writer fail?
So I started writing down what I learned. I had various names for it over the years. Even back when I used to comb bind my workbooks for workshops and conferences (that gives you an idea how long ago it was, well before Print On Demand), I quickly broke my Toolkit into a craft book and a business section.
The business section evolved into Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author. Not only did I write about lessons learned, I incorporated things we had done in Special Forces into it.
I have a unique perspective, not just because of my Special Forces background, but also because I have a wide publishing experience: 42 books traditionally published; 9 with an Amazon Publishing imprint, which is very hot right now; and the rest indie published. I’ve hit all the bestseller lists and have made my living as a writer for three decades.
I hope burgeoning writers take advantage of my knowledge as I continue to take advantage of the expertise and knowledge of others. I feel like every year I learn so much more about my craft and business. It’s always evolving.
But here’s something I truly believe after three decades: there’s never been a better time to be a writer!