Five Things I Learned My First Three Years as a Serious Writer

Continuing with our series of first-time bloggers for Inspire, today Bruce Kirkpatrick will be sharing with us some things he’s learned over the last three years. Please welcome Bruce to the Inspire blog!

Three years ago I closed my public relations business, moved to the beach, and embarked on a writing career. If I learn as much in the next three years as I have in the past three, someday I may be a decent writer.

First I’ll cover two critical mistakes I made; then three positive practices I learned.

1. Prioritize Marketing over Writing

One of the first pieces of advice I read about—build your writing platform, build your author brand—derailed my writing. In the midst of writing my second book (I had self-published a novel 10 years ago), I spent too much time marketing.

  • I posted to my Twitter account regularly and gained 5,000 followers
  • I opened a Facebook author page and posted 4 or 5 times a week
  • My Goodreads account needed nurturing
  • My new website demanded attention

I began to populate all those planks with content. Guess what? I didn’t actually make much progress on my book. My efforts and enthusiasm went to marketing something that I hadn’t written yet. Do you see the problem there?

Yes, you will need a platform with many planks before you publish, but writing the best manuscript should take priority over marketing. Even if you self-publish, produce a great first draft because you’ll continue to produce second, third and fourth iterations before it becomes a book. You’ll have plenty of time to work on marketing before it releases.

And without a great book, you may not have much to market.

2. Forget Publishing

Now I know why Jesus waited until he was about 30 years old to tell his message to the world—it wasn’t ready. After my second book came out from a small press, I began work on my next. After a rough draft and several quick edits, I began to query agents.

Nothing. Zip. Nada.

I eventually paid a small $99 fee to have the non-fiction book proposal professionally evaluated. Humbling to say the least. The agent liked very little of what I had written but offered great advice for a path forward. A slim path, like getting that camel through the eye of the needle.

I was so anxious to get published, I forgot to write a compelling book. That $99 would have much better spent upfront, so the book could have been researched and shaped before it was written.

Now let me share three positive practices I learned.

3. Study the Craft

That crusty agent turned me on to several books for writers. I bought them, devoured them—and they are making me a better writer. Because I write both fiction and non-fiction, these two transformed my writing.

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
  • Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Both offer very practical advice. My writing is sharper and more interesting because of them. I continue to study how to be a better writer from these books and others.

The disciples studied under the Master for three years—and they still didn’t understand the power of the Gospel. The more you study how to write, the better writer you’ll become.

4. Keep Writing

When I’m not working on a book—when I need a break or when the words don’t flow—I still write. Often I’ll write a blog post for my website (yes, it’s a necessity). Many I don’t publish, but I’ve found the more I write, the better I get at making sense with the written word. And if I forget about publishing, then I can write whatever moves me or what I need to express.

5. Believe in Your Work

Even with two unpublished manuscripts looking for an agent and two half-completed ones—what I would call a lack of success—I still believe in my work. I’m my own best advocate.

When you think of the apostle Paul’s journey throughout the Bible, you realize he faced every roadblock imaginable. And yet he persevered. Sometimes his faith, his belief, was all that pulled him through.

My unpublished work will get better the more I practice and study my craft and if I’m lucky and blessed, I’ll find that traditional publisher that loves my work as much as I do.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to learn and grow as a writer. Paul almost always faced opposition to his preaching. Once we realize we’ll face similar roadblocks as writers, we can move forward with passion and determination.

About Bruce Kirkpatrick 1 Article
Bruce Kirkpatrick is the author of "Lumberjack Jesus: How to Develop Faith Despite Pitfalls," "Roadblocks, Stupidity and Prejudice" and the Christian novel, "Hard Left." You can learn more at but he’s abandoned his Twitter account. He writes from Santa Barbara, California.


  1. Welcome, Bruce! I really appreciate your encouragement of not focusing so much on marketing that it takes away from our actual writing. I always push myself to go to a marketing workshop at writers conferences and usually walk away feeling overwhelmed! Also encouraging is putting into perspective Paul’s perseverance, setbacks and roadblocks.

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