A few months ago, I traveled home for the holidays. This time was filled with loud family political rants and way too many sugar cookies. I had an amazing time traveling all over the Northeast, and in my travels, I got a lot of great life and writing advice.

The Best Book Writing Advice I've Ever Gotten

The Best Book Writing Advice

I was inundated with advice from older friends and family about life, money, and relationships. But the best advice I received came from the an unexpected source: my seven-year-old cousin.

I was visiting her family in New Hampshire and one afternoon I received a reminder about my upcoming chapter deadlines. I pulled out my computer to start working. A few minutes later, my cousin, sad that I had stopped playing with her, roller-skated over to me and asked, “What are you doing?”

I explained, “I'm working on some chapters for a book I'm writing.”

“A book?” she asked.

“Yeah, a real book! It's kind of hard to write . . .” I tried to explain, but she interrupted my excuses.

“No it's not!” she said. “All you have to do is start with ‘Once upon a time' and then turn the page, then turn the page again and again.

“Yeah? Until the ‘And they lived happily ever after?'” I asked sarcastically.

“Exactly!” She smiled as she roller skated down the hallway.

And that is the best book writing advice I've ever received. Although this seven-year-old didn't realize it, she told me everything I needed to know about writing a book in that one sentence.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Book

As simple as it sounds, my cousin is right. Writing a book doesn't have to be as complicated as we make it. It's as easy as this:

1. Start With Once Upon a Time

Not that I believe every story should be a fairy tale, but I believe most books start with the concept of “Once upon a time.”

“Once upon a time” is a reminder to start your book. So often we wait for the perfect storyline and characters. But what if you started with “Once upon a time” and went from there? You can't help but finish that line. Do it, right now.

Once upon a time…

“Once upon a time” gets our imagination thinking. Our creativity is channeled and we simply have to write.

The concept of “Once upon a time” takes the reader out of their world and instantly transports them to another place and time with new people. What better way to start writing?

Try putting “Once upon a time” at the beginning of your next novel, and take it out afterward. I think you'll be surprised at the creativity and inspiration channeled by those four simple words.

2. Turn the Page

Because when you write a book you just gotta turn the damn page.

Remember constantly Hemingway's advice about this:

The first draft of anything is shit. —Ernest Hemingway

When you write your book you have to constantly turn the page because you're not editing; you're writing. You have one job. Fingers on the keyboard and turn the page.

3. Then Turn the Page Again and Again

There comes a time every writer faces while writing a book—the crying, torture, anger, and hatred of your own book. I've written two books in the last year and came to that point both times.

Here, you have to remember to turn the page again and again. In this place I often tell myself, “The more you write, the more words you add, the faster you will be done with this book.”

Just keep writing. Keep writing. Every day. Hit every deadline, because once you fall behind, catching up is nearly impossible.

4. Until the Happily Ever After

This is my favorite part. “Happily ever after.” (I'm an optimist.)

Although not all books have happy endings, I do believe that most books end with hope. Most books, fiction and non-fiction, have an underlying message and a “call to action.”

End your book with something meaningful.

I don't believe a book is worth writing (or reading) unless there is some hope or call to higher.

We've only got one life to live, so let's write something that makes an impact.

Write Your Book

No, writing a book isn't easy. But I think my seven-year-old cousin was on to something—it's not as hard as we sometimes make it, either.

Try out her writing advice: Start with “Once upon a time” and turn the page. Then turn the page again and again until you reach the happily ever after.

What's your best writing advice? Let us know in the comments.


Take fifteen minutes to finish the sentence “Once upon a time . . .” and then keep writing. Then share your practice in the comments below. Let us know how this writing advice worked for you.

Happy writing!

Kellie McGann is the founder of Write a Better Book . She partners with leaders to help tell their stories in book form.

On the weekends, she writes poetry and prose.

She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.

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