How to Write a Book in 18 Holes

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

Bestselling author John Coyne.
Bestselling author John Coyne.

I recently published a book entitled How To Write A Novel in 100 Days. Now I thought I might attempt to tighten that frame of reference (and time) and focus on, How To Write a Book in 18 Holes.

Over my writing career I have published three novels on golf, and edited three books of golf instruction. I have some advice on how to do both for anyone who writes or plays golf, or both, like myself.

In my mind, playing golf and writing a novel are incongruously connected. Let me try and explain.

Golfers enjoy playing alone, often playing early in the day or late in the evening after the sun has set when it’s cool and quiet and the course is empty. Why? Well, as all golfers know, we have to work on our game without the distractions of others.

The same is true for writers.

The first task for a writer is finding a quiet place to work. A comfortable room where it’s just you and the blank page. Writing a perfect sentence takes as much time and effort as grooving one’s golf swing. You have to do it more than once to get it right.

Nothing is more intimidating to a writer as a blank sheet of paper or an empty computer screen. It sits there in its emptiness. Staring at you as if to ask: Now what do you have to say?

Golfers face similar fears. Standing on the first tee, for example, staring down the empty fairway, they tell themselves:

  • Keep it straight.
  • Keep it out of trouble.
  • And whatever else, don’t top it!

So, staring at a blank sheet of paper or empty computer screen, or standing alone with a driver in your hands on the first tee, the fears and demands for both writers and golfers are similar: Get me off to a good round of golf! I’ll start writing my novel now!

Still, the writer might secretly think at that moment: I’m going to write a bestseller!

The golfer might secretly declare: I’m going to break par for the first time in my life. Continue reading “How to Write a Book in 18 Holes”

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5 Writing Tips Inspired by Ernest Hemingway

A few summers ago my daughter read A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway’s World War I novel. She liked it for the most part, which I consider a compliment to the old master since he has to compete with J.K. Rowling and other modern authors who hold sway with the Instagram generation.

I intercepted “Farewell” from my daughter’s book stack because I like to reread Hemingway’s spare prose from time to time. It’s solid instruction for copywriting–or any writing, for that matter. For example, if you ever write dialog or quoted material, Hemingway is worth studying.

In addition, revisiting Hemingway reminded me of his tips I ran across at Copyblogger.com. I share them below because they’re durable little gems that apply to any medium or format.

1. Use short sentences.
Author Larry McMurtry once wrote this about the first sentence (although it’s sound advice for any sentence): “Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.”

2. Use short paragraphs.
I think Hemingway actually suggested short first paragraphs, but apply this tip to all paragraphs, especially if persuasion is your communication goal.

3. Use vigorous English.
Word choice and, specifically, verb choice, are a key to vigorous writing. Infuse copy with strong noun-verb combinations that carry the reader along.

4. Be positive.

Hemingway’s tip to “be positive” refers to word choice, not tone or perspective. For example, instead of saying “he did not win,” say “he lost.” Instead of saying “his writing was not clear” say “his writing was vague.”

It’s more powerful to tell readers what something is than to tell them what it is not and asking them to choose from the remaining possibilities.

5. Break a rule.
Sometimes breaking a rule is the right call. Hemingway was certainly a man and writer who went his own way.