How to Write Good

March 2, 2021

If I asked you, “Are you a writer?” your answer would probably vary depending on what your definition of “writer” is. So let me ask it this way:

Do you use words to communicate with other human beings?

If your answer to that one is “yes,” then I wrote my latest book for you. It’s called, How to Write Good (Or At Least, Gooder) and I just published it — but I’m not going to tell you where you can buy it. Because you can’t.

No one can.

It’s not for sale.

Yes, it’s a real, full-length book (130 pages), but you won’t find it listed on Amazon, or BN.com, or anywhere else but right here, because I’m not offering it anywhere else but right here. Because, again: I wrote it for you.

It’s my love letter to writing — an ebook exclusively for people who download from this site, on the house, by joining the JDM Readers Club.

Joining the JDM Readers Club simply means (1) you add your name and email to my list of readers, and (2) I’ll let you know when I have a new book coming out and (3) tell you about any special offers connected to new book releases before I tell anyone else.

To get your copy of the book, click on the red badge on the Home page. Or on the “Free Ebook” link on the menu. Or HERE.

Here’s what’s in the book:

  • Introduction: Why I wrote this book and who I wrote it for. (Spoiler alert: for you.)
  • Chapter 1: What it means to be a writer.
  • Chapter 2: How to tell a good story.
  • Chapter 3: The business of writing; what it takes to make a living with words.
  • Chapter 4: The writing process, what it looks like behind the curtain.
  • Chapter 5: The hard part and how to survive it.
  • Chapter 6: An example of the craft: a detailed look at the first (terrible) rough draft and rewrite (better) of the first page of The Go-Giver. A real-life before-and-after.
  • Chapter 7: Secrets of rewriting: how to take a rough draft (even a mediocre one) and make it sing. With lots of real-life examples of before-and-after.
  • Conclusion: How to live good (or at least, gooder).

And now, an excerpt from chapter 1.

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HERE’S HOW TO to tell writers and nonwriters apart.

Your writing may be published, or not; you may earn an income through your writing, or not; you may think of yourself, or be thought of by others, as a “professional,” or not. Those things aren’t what determine whether or not you’re a writer.

So, what does? Just this:

A writer is someone who has decided to make their writing better, and who works at that, in earnest, every day.

A writer, in other words, is someone who strives to write good—or at least, gooder.

Why does good writing matter?

Because writing itself matters only to the extent that it has an impact. The point of writing is to transfer ideas and feelings to others. (Another word would be “communicate.”) Making your writing better means you have more impact. Stronger, more positive, more far-reaching impact.

Although I think it goes deeper than that, too.

I believe you work to make your writing better because it makes your thinking better. So when I just wrote, “The point of writing is to transfer ideas and feelings to others,” that wasn’t quite complete. We need to add something there. The point of writing is to clarify your thoughts and feelings and transfer them to others. The act itself not only communicates ideas but also improves those ideas.

Good writing is good thinking.

Bad writing is lazy thinking.

Lazy thinking leads to unnecessary suffering.

Good thinking can change the world.

SO WHAT MAKES good writing?

Having something to say, and saying it well.

Having something to say means it has to be real, authentic, to come from you. Otherwise it’s just noise on the page.

A lot of writing is just noise on the page.

My father once told me about an assembly he witnessed at his high school in Germany; the visiting speaker that day was a man named Adolph Hitler. “Terrifying,” was how he recalled it. One day during those years he tried to take a shortcut during a Nazi parade in town by scooting through the parade column with his bicycle. The soldiers trampled both bike and boy.

That event made a lifelong impression on him. The memory of him telling it left one on me.

I’ve also watched my father conduct rehearsals and performances with large choirs and orchestras, dealing gently and masterfully with dozens of sometimes temperamental talents and personalities and bringing them all together in the bliss of Bach and Handel. Played in some of those ensembles myself.

He grew up with horror and beauty and insisted that beauty prevail.

When I write about leadership, whether in the boardroom or on an aircraft carrier, those experiences and scores of others whisper in my ear.

A few other elements from my biography: I lost a child, my first, at ten months; messed up two marriages to the point of divorce; went through bankruptcy court; once owed the IRS well in excess of $100,000. Also: started my own high school at age 17; won a national composition prize at age 13; was kidnapped in London (briefly) at age 5. I’ve made dumb mistakes and done foolish things. Broken hearts, had my heart broken.

All these things inform my writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean I write “about” them. It means they hover in the background, adding color and depth and purpose to whatever other stuff I happen to be writing about.

You, too, have these experiences. All humans do. Different from mine, of course; different from everyone else’s, too. That’s why you write. Nobody else can write what you write. Nobody.

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This is an excerpt from chapter 1 of How to Write Good (Or At Least, Gooder). To download a complete copy of the book, click here or go to “Free Ebook” on the website menu above.

2 Comments

  1. Carol L Montgomery

    John! What a wonderful idea. I have, actually, completed the first extremely rough draft of my first book, Go Green Gently, so this free ebook would be gratefully received if only I could find how to download it! Not seeing a red badge or anything in the navigation to say ‘free ebook’ (which may have something to do with being an Apple girl) I am calling for help.
    Love to you and Ana.

    Reply
    • John David Mann

      Hi Carol! As I’m sure you know by now . . . the reason for the confusion was that my new website jumped the gun last week and posted this post a few days early — before the new website was actually up! So the red badge, the free ebook, and all the rest, wasn’t, um, there. LOL. I hope all is clear now — and if you DO have any trouble at all downloading the ebook, let me know!

      Reply

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