Danielle Hanna

Hearth & Homicide Fiction

My First Book Was a Guide to Writing Books

2015-05-18 Kindle ereader mThat’s right, folks. I also call it my “oopsie baby.”

I was at my bank one day a few months ago, working with a new representative. (My old one was moving to a new job.) We chatted a bit, and she learned that I’m a published author.

“What’s your book about?” she asked enthusiastically.

“It’s a writing guide about how you can use your journal to practice writing better fiction.”

Her eyebrows wavered. “Oh!” she tried to say cheerfully. But the unasked question hovered in the air: How can you write a guide book for writers before you’ve published any books?

Well, that’s where the “oopsie” part comes in.

Nativity of a How-To Book

Indie Plot Twist BannerJournaling to Become a Better Writer originated as a series of blog posts which I published at Indie Plot Twist, a blog I run with my friend Carrie Lynn Lewis where we share what we learn as we pursue careers in indie publishing. The journaling posts were so popular, it was just obvious I should roll them into a book.

In the beginning, my strategy was pretty simple: Stick the original posts into a short booklet, maybe add another chapter or two, and pepper them with a few excerpts from my journal for illustration. Maybe I’d throw it up as a freebie at Indie Plot Twist.

Haha. I shoulda known better. Once I got started, I realized I had far more material on hand than I’d anticipated. What started as a 5,000-word project I thought I could turn around in a few weeks expanded into a 46,000-word book that occupied me for several months.

The Irony of Starting My Career Here

2015-05-18 bookshelf mDespite the popularity of those blog posts, there’s no getting away from the fact that no author in her right mind kicks off her publishing career with a book on how to write. Does this damage my credibility? You bet. Is it affecting my sales? Probably. Do I care? Not much.

If it’s credentials you want, here they are:

  • I learned how to read and write at age 4
  • I’ve been keeping a journal since age 5
  • I knew by the time I was 7 that I wanted to be an author
  • I had finished about 25 short stories and two novellas by age 14
  • Seven of my plays were produced between the ages of 14 and 18
  • I’ve had my work critiqued by professional authors and editors
  • I’ve been published in periodicals
  • I dropped out of an English major in college because I found out I already knew everything I needed to start a writing career

I’ve taken my career as an author seriously since I was about 7 years old. Before that, I was just writing for the fun of it. No, I have not yet published a novel. For just one reason.

Why I Started Here

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair in front of my bank representative’s desk. How to explain in as few words as possible? “I would have started publishing my novels a long time ago, but the people I was with at the time weren’t very supportive.”

“Ohhh,” she said, relieved that I wasn’t simply crazy. She took my business card, parked it in front of her computer screen, and said she couldn’t wait to look up my book. Her graciousness was a relief. The long look down some people’s noses has gotten pretty old.

All those accomplishments over the course of my life were achieved more or less despite the criticism I received from my family in response to my writing passion. A trickle of small but negative feedback over the span of years had me questioning myself. But it eventually dawned on me that just two people who read my work habitually cast doubt on my ability … and everyone else was pretty much converted into an instant fan.

To anyone who would lift their nose at me, I playfully retort, “What business does anyone have publishing a novel until they’re so good at their craft, they can write a book about it?”

And if that answer won’t do, I say, “Just read it and tell me what you think.”

I never intended my first published book to be a guide to writing craft. But it happened. My “oopsie baby.” And I’m proud of it.

If you’re interested in a free copy of the ebook, just leave me a comment on this post before 11:59 p.m., CDT, on Monday, May 25th, 2015. 

About the Book 

Book Cover: Journaling to Become a Better WriterWhat do your novel-in-progress and your journal have in common? Maybe more than you think. Your life, after all, is a story. The tools you need to take your craft to the next level may be hiding right under your nose.

Danielle Hanna has been penning fiction since she was only four and keeping a journal since age five. In Journaling to Become a Better Writer, she bares pages from her own journal to illustrate the emotional depth and storytelling skill that can be achieved simply by writing the events of your life.

Side-by-side with her examples, she delves deep into seven techniques you can discover and perfect in your journal:

  • Recognizing a Story Worth Telling
  • Using Basic Story Structure
  • Getting in Touch with Your Emotions
  • Honing Your Observation Skills
  • Describing Your World
  • Capturing Characters
  • Finding Your Purpose

Where You Can Get Your Copy 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Blio | Smashwords |

Or … leave me a comment below and I’ll give you a FREE copy! Between now and 11:59 p.m., CDT, Monday, May 25th, 2015.


  1. Danielle,

    Your publishing story so closely mirrors mine and your self-doubts so clearly reflect mine that I could have written this post!

    What I wouldn’t have thought of are the reasons why it makes sense for someone who has yet to publish a novel to write a book telling other people how to write a novel! Those tips are worth their weight in gold!

    By the way, don’t put my name into the list for the free book. I already have a copy so give my chance to someone else!

    • Every author has doubts – and it gets worse when you do things non-conventionally! I didn’t *mean* for this to be my first book – but it was the book that needed to be written now, so I just rolled with it!

      And to be clear – I’m being generous and giving away a free ebook copy to EVERYONE who leaves a comment! But since you already have a copy, I won’t annoy you by throwing unneeded books your way!

      Thanks, Carrie!

  2. Danielle, you should be proud of your book. I think it’s great! I never really thought about whether you had previously published books. All I looked at was that you could write well. I’ve already bought your book so you don’t need to give me a free one. 🙂

  3. As a long time journaler and blogger, your explanation made perfect sense to me! Actually, your list of credentials is quite lengthy despite not having published a full length novel. So yes, you are an authority on your topic.

    I look forward to your book. I find for myself that many of my blog posts start from entries in or notes for entries in my diaries.


    • Thanks, Nancy! Yes, I draw a lot of inspiration from my journal, too – both for my fiction and for my blog. I’m glad I’ve been keeping one for so long.

  4. I would also be surprised if someone says their first book is about becoming a better writing.
    But maintaining a journal to become a better writer? I would understand that. As some one has said, the act of continuous writing is the main ingredient of becoming a better writer. You become a better writer than what you were yesterday; journalling is an excellent way to do that; I would imagine blogging would also be the same.

    (I would love to get a copy of your book.)

  5. I love that you shared your journey on how this book came about. One does not have to be a published novelist to have a bunch of valuable knowledge about writing, which I am glad you had the guts to share. That said, I review books, so if you want me to review your book for you, I would love to take you up on your offer of a free copy. Thank you – oh and beautiful blog you have here!

  6. I think most authors before they become an author go through the learning curve to become a writer first. For instance, it took me about 40 years.

    It makes sense that your first book was “Journaling to Become a Better Writer”.

    For me, I became a better writer after I became a teacher and realized that teaching something is the best way to learn, and that is why I included peer teaching in my classes where I had students plan lessons and teach the class while I sat in the back and graded their teaching and how well they taught the specific lesson. Of course, I didn’t do this all the time with my students. I taught too, but I found that when students became teachers, the skill set they taught, they learned more than if they had been the student.

    Teaching to become a better writer worked for me too, because I taught my students how to write poetry, short stories, reports, essays and research papers, and eventually I became the adviser and teacher of the high school’s student newspaper and I was teaching those students how to write news, feature, sports, and opinion pieces.

    I was also a big believer of having students learn from the most successful students when an assignment was difficult. Even for difficult assignments, there would always be students who created great work, and I used that work to help teach the rest of the students who were struggling to get it right. Of course, I always asked the student permission to turn their assignment into a lesson that would help the others learn how to do that work right. In addition, I asked the student who had turned in the work right the first time to become a peer tutor during that lesson to help the others get it right.

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