How to Write (and Edit) a Book


an earlier version of this post appeared in a newsletter for RandomHouse Publishing


I hear this a lot: “I’m writing a book…”

What follows are questions… many questions. Because it’s overwhelming, right?


*insert silent scream face*

I often see the person’s confidence flag the moment I quote Dean Koontz and recite “Books are not written, they are rewritten.”

Every great author knows that a first draft is just that: A DRAFT.


My process looks something like this:

1) Write the first draft of the book

2) Do a read-through

3) Do a round of edits

4) Do another round of edits

5) Do a round of copy edits

6) Do a final proofread

Sometimes each of those steps fly, and other times ...the process is so painstaking that moving furniture with your mind seems like an easier task than reading the book one more time.

During those many, many read-throughs, your brain gets in the way. Your self-confidence wavers. When you’re in the position of being on deadline with a publisher, there’s no time to hide under your bed and wait for the bogeyman to go away. You have to face the beast!

Anyone still here?

Good. If you haven’t fled, you passed the first test.

Writing is not easy, but it is fun. It’s rewarding in a way that nothing else in my life has ever measured up to. The struggle may be real, but on the other side of that trek, there is the sweet, sweet reward of knowing that I started with a blank page and ended up with a world.

...the process is so painstaking that moving furniture with your mind seems like an easier task than reading the book one more time.
— Jessica Lemmon

Better yet, I am able to share that world with readers and move them emotionally. I’ve received emails from readers saying my books helped them grieve, made them laugh out loud, and made them cry. My heroes have earned coveted spots on keeper shelves and in cemented their roles of “book boyfriend” to readers around the world. I’ve received photos of my books in the Philippines, and I’ve sent mail to Italy.

This whole book-writing gig? This isn’t a small thing.

New Releases from Jessica Lemmon


The Journey

Every author has a tale to tell about how they got started on their journey to publication. I had a bit of a late start… and quite a few false starts. In my bio, I state that I’m a former job-hopper, and that is the truth. I’ve worked retail, administrative, and managed a pet store. I was a server at Outback Steakhouse (where I met my husband), attained a graphic design degree, and sold candles in a direct sales company for six years.

This should encourage you that you don’t have to go to school to learn to be a writer. LOL! The short story is that while these were all jobs I was good or even great at, none of them made me leap out of bed excited to go to work each day. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make a living creating things. I wanted to touch other people’s lives. I wanted to be just a little tiny bit famous. Is it okay to say that?

There is the sweet, sweet reward of knowing that I started with a blank page and ended up with a world.
— Jessica Lemmon

This burning passion culminated in 2009, when I decided the candle-selling business wasn’t for me any longer. I told everyone I was going to write and publish a book so that I wouldn’t back down, then put my mind to researching just how the heck to do that. My methods ranged from reading On Writing by Stephen King to going to my local bookstore, writing down the publisher names from spines of books, and going home to Google to find out how to submit.

Important side note: Any action you take will help you on your journey. Even if it’s in the wrong direction. My husband says I’m “Ready, Fire, Aim” and he’s right. I am. My method may be sloppy, but I always end up somewhere, and I always end up with results.


My journey also involved joining the RWA (Romance Writers of America), attending a local chapter’s monthly meetings and workshops, and stepping out of my comfort zone to show my critique partners (friends on Twitter I’d never met) samples of my writing.

I chronicled my journey on a blog, deciding that a blog was the best way to practice writing.

Bonus tip: starting a blog is free and you can publish immediately! There is nothing like the instant satisfaction of having something to say and getting feedback. (That’s why so many of us are social media junkies.)

Fast forward two and a half years later, I’d penned five books. Now that number is over twenty-five. I wrote and kept writing because I knew I had to be good to get published, and I knew after receiving rejections from publishers that I wasn’t good yet.

Practice makes perfect, or at least makes published, so practice was what I did.

Any action you take will help you on your journey. Even if it’s in the wrong direction.
— Jessica Lemmon

This involved some days where I was punching the air in triumph for conquering a plot or character motivation, and others where not even wine and block of chocolate could console me. It was a roller coaster, and in many ways, still is, but being a published author is the best choice I ever made.

My first book was released (digital first) in January of 2013. I sold Tempting the Billionaire in a two-book deal with Hard to Handle, having no idea what the future held. Now I do.

I’m living my dream.

Life is not always easy, not always sexy, and sometimes is downright stressful and frustrating. I am published, but still human (darn it). But #writerlife is also rewarding and fun, and makes getting out of bed in the morning make me feel more like I’m on a mission from God.

Which is exactly why I do what I do.

No matter what your dream is, I advise you to chase it down with dogged determinedness. Don’t let a setback or fear (fear is a big one!) rob you from your future rewards. Us published folks don’t always have groceries in the fridge, and some of us have kids who need dropped off and picked up on a near-constant basis, and demands for deadlines or day jobs or family priorities come in the form of the old adage “when it rains it pours”. But we also know deep down (even when we complain about forgetting to exercise—again—and how we shouldn’t have eaten that last slice of chocolate cake for dinner, but oh well, because: deadline) that we wouldn’t trade what we do for anything.

If you feel like your future may hold a book (or a few dozen), I have a link for you that will send you on a journey of a thousand links! Check out my FOR WRITERS section on this blog.

Live your passion. Find your why.

(And keep me posted!)

xo, Jessica


A former job-hopper, Jessica Lemmon resides in Ohio with her husband and rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an impressive frame. When she’s not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want. 

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