How to Write a Book: Editing, Criticism and Agents

Thank you to all for your encouragement as I write my first book. I know I talk often about my overloaded inbox, but the amount of emails I have received offering support and encouragement is staggering. Thank you, FWJ community. Many of you are finding my blogging the book process to be helpful for your own book aspirations, which is why I’m doing this. Welcome to part two of my series.

So let me tell you where I am now.

Writing a book is both easier and harder than I thought. I know what I want to say and where I want to go, but not taking my audience for granted is a challenge. I have to stop assuming my readers will know what I’m talking about and remember to put in explanations and terminology. One thing that isn’t a challenge is the subject matter. I often wonder if I’m adding too much to my outline because there’s just so much to talk about.


I asked an editor friend to look at my first chapter. Usually if there’s publishing interest they’ll request a first chapter so I wanted that in the can. My friend offered good tips and practical advice and I ended up hiring him to edit the entire book. This is kind of a relief for me as  I wanted to find someone who is a kickass editor but also who understands me and what I’m going for. Also, I wanted to hire someone I can trust. I’ve known this editor for about eight years now and trust him implicitly. I also wanted someone who didn’t know my topic very well. This way he can let me know if I’m targeting beginners well enough, while not talking down to the vets.

One worry down.


The problem with having someone edit your work is the criticism. I’m not good with it at all. When someone leaves a negative comment on this blog, or I receive negative email or read negativity directed upon me at another blog or Twitter, I dwell upon it for weeks. The criticism can be perfectly respectful and kind, but I always take it to heart. Isn’t that funny, though? I talk here about writers having confidence and thick skins and I don’t always practice what I preach.

My editor friend’s comments and nitpicks were kind. On a whole, he enjoyed my writing but requested I fix a few grammatical errors and  some things that didn’t make sense to him.  It wasn’t bad though. I did dwell on his comments, but since his edits were better than I expected, I walked away from the experience with more confidence.


Though I did pitch my book to a publishing rep at a party, I’ve been advised by several other successful authors to get an agent. This is kind of scary because I don’t know a thing about agents or where to find them. However, some of my author friends are asking if I want introductions to their agents, so it may turn out to be easier than I thought. I’ll still have to work out a proposal, but at least getting some names will be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on that one. The part about publishing a book that I find most daunting is finding an agent and shopping my book around to publishers.


I want to thank my friend Kate Lister, who wrote the wonderful book Undress for Success. Kate has not only been a wealth of information, but she boosted my confidence during a time of self doubt. She really knows her stuff and I’m going to see if I can get her to do a guest post or two here as part of our book writing series.

Other notes…

I’m keeping true to my promise of at least one page per day, but am averaging two or three. I also asked an online friend to write the forward and I’m still waiting to hear from him. This book has me both excited and afraid, just like I was when I began writing for a living. Hopefully, by documenting it here, you’ll know what to expect and what to avoid.

I hope you’re finding it helpful.






6 responses
  1. Aubree Avatar

    I love your enthusiasm as you tackle this new adventure of writing! It reminds me of myself! I am a new mother and searching for something I can do while staying home with my 6 month old son. I have been getting many ideas lately about children’s books and how to go about writing a best-seller. The problem is I have never written anything with the intent of publishing it. I have many poems and short stories that I have written in the past but nothing that I have readied for publishing. How would you suggest I go about finding an editor and push on to publishing?

  2. AprilMay Avatar

    I love that you are documenting this, as it makes interesting reading! I do find myself reading these posts and thinking things like, “That won’t work for me”. Most of us don’t have the connections that you have, Deb. I don’t personally know any editors, agents or published authors, nor do I have a web presence or any other way to build a platform for a book. For these reasons, I doubt that I will ever write any of the stories floating around inside of my head. All of the groundwork that you have completed by building yourself this successful blog network (and KUDOS to you for that!!) enables you to skip over a lot of steps that beginning book writers like me would have to overcome. So no…I don’t think reading your posts will let me know what to expect or overcome, should I choose to try to write a book. But I do think reading your posts will be interesting nonetheless! 🙂
    .-= AprilMay´s last blog ..Quick Takes =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Hi April,

      Thanks for your thoughts. You know what, though? I didn’t think I had these connections either. I honestly thought I’d be doing this whole thing alone. However, friends and colleages are writing to me offering my assistance.

      Yes, I do have the benefit of online connections. However, there will be things that I hope will benefit the book writer. For example, I have to create a book proposal and write to agents, shop the book around to publishers, etc. I don’t even know if anyone will be interested in publishing my book.

      I do hope my experience will be of some help to aspiring authors. I appreciate your feedback.

  3. Rachel Rueben Avatar

    You don’t have to have connections, you have to be tenacious! On Writer Beware they did a small survey and found a whole lot of authors don’t have the connections or even agents when they published their first books. It sometimes takes years to get published and most writers give up in the beginning. Which is great for people like me, because it means less competition. I’ve written a children’s story that I’m currently seeking representation for and I understand that the rejection, criticism and the wear on my ego has only begun. In the meanwhile, I blog, write other books and oh yeah, I pimp my story. That’s the writing hustle!
    .-= Rachel Rueben´s last blog ..Dumb Sh** Writers Do =-.

  4. Anne Wayman Avatar

    Deb, missed the announcement… congratulations! And commiserations 😉 Book writing is one of the most daunting and most satisfying things you can do.

    Sorry criticism is hard for you… I can only tell you that over time it’s gotten less difficult for me, although sometimes it’s just plain awful even now.

    An editor is a must! Glad you’ve got a good one.

    A page or two or three a days is great progress! Are you finding ways to pamper yourself just a bit? Some rewards? You deserve it.

    Thanks for sharing this with us all. And if I can help….
    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs For Monday, March 29, 2010 =-.

  5. Carol Avatar

    I’m glad you are embracing your writing self and taking action. Keep on working, look at criticism as an opportunity to be even better and don’t stop until you are done.

    There is nothing like seeing your own book on the shelves of a major bookstore. It is a total rush and I am choosing to know that you will experience it for yourself!

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