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Know Jack 412 How to Cook a Book

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with…”


The last two author conferences I attended provided me with a truckload of advice about writing, getting published, and marketing. Some of it is just plain wrong, some of it impractical, and the remaining conflicting advice is almost impossible to sift through and find a coherent recipe for success.

I know nothing about writing and therefore rely on the bit of wisdom that began this post. I picked it up during my years serving Uncle Sam. I’m just a jack of many trades. I am a master of none, brilliance is not one of my qualities. I rate it just below patience on my scale of endearing traits.

I am a successful author. I have never been anywhere near the New York Times bestseller list. I am successful because I have exceeded my expectations in number of books written/published and total sales. I still can’t believe that I actually have fans—it’s crazy.

I have not developed any advice for writers. I just repeat ad infinitum two simple personal reminders. The first is, writers write. I heard experts pooh-pooh this in favor of creative writing courses, critique groups, and attending conferences. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but I learn from doing—even doing it wrong. Sometimes doing it wrong provides the best learning opportunities. Some of the best writers break all the rules and they do it on purpose.

The other thing is a variation of baffling everybody: write your own story, your way. I say that, but I don’t always do it. There are these characters who live in my head that often dictate the story and I’m a people pleaser—sometimes.

I’m also a successful writer because, using just those two maxims, I’m better at it now than I used to be. Peter Benchley once said that by the time he realized he couldn’t write, he was too famous to quit. Well, I have the first part down.


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