5 Skills You Need to Write a Book

Written by Mary Pero

Surprise! Writing is only one of the skills you’ll need to become a successful author. Let’s talk about the 5 skills you need to write a book.

I started my first business by accident. I was fourteen and my guidance counselor asked if I would be willing to teach a fellow student to play the piano. Word soon got out that a high school student was teaching piano for next to nothing. As my calendar filled up, I quickly realized there was more to teaching piano than well, knowing how to play piano. I had to schedule lessons, talk to the parents, watch the clock so I wasn’t late to my next lesson, and keep track of my car mileage for taxes. I was learning to run a business.

As a piano teacher I was constantly asked if I thought the child had a special musical gifting. While some people are prodigies, it’s rare. For most of us, music is 95% developing your skilled through practice and consistent playing and 5% natural aptitude. Writing, like music is a learned skill. You’ll need to develop a new set of skills if you want to be successful.

Let’s talk about the five skills you’ll need to write a book (that don’t include writing).


The road to writing and publishing a book is long. If you want to make it, you’ll need endurance. The Oxford Dictionary defines endurance as the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. But is that a skill? Think of the olympians who develop endurance to train for long hours and push their body to the limits of what seems physically possible. They made mistakes, got up and tried again. They repeated the same process over and over for years.

This is endurance—to keep going even when you don’t want to.

Any time you engage in a creative process, you will face opposition. Your inner critic will do everything possible to stonewall your efforts. What makes you think YOU can write a book? Who’s going to buy this book anyway? No one’s going to buy it, so why start? Why are you so full of yourself? Trust me, I’ve heard it all. Is there a magic formula to overcome our fears and silence the critics? Not really, but it helps to know your WHY. Your WHY—your reason for writing this book—will help you develop endurance. If you want to write and finish your book, you’re going to need it.


Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of your manuscript. It requires you to step back to see analyze and evaluate your work. This is often hard for authors to do on their own. A book coach, writing critique group, or trusted friend may also be of assistance. Here are some of the most common manuscript issues:

  • Bifurcated Audience: You’re trying to write to two or more different audiences.
  • Language Tier: You’re using the wrong language tier (i.e., you’re writing to mainstream audiences but using an academic or scientific language tier)
  • Misguided Problem/Solution: You’re either not meeting your reader’s pain point, or you’re solving a problem they aren’t aware of.
  • Marketability: The book you’re trying to write is not marketable for various reasons.

None of these problems are a reason NOT to write your book. They will, however, require focused ingenuity to overcome.


Focused ingenuity is the ability to be single minded in creatively solving your problems.

Let’s look at the aforementioned problem of marketability. This is the problem of a book that, once written, will not sell. There is no market, or group of people purchasing this type of book. Focused ingenuity looks for creative ways to solve this problem. First, could we package your content differently? Meaning, would there be a market if you wrote your content in the form (or genre) of how-to rather than memoir? Second, is the problem that there is not a large enough audience or that the audience is not interested in purchasing books on the topic? If the latter, could we find an active (purchasing) crossover audience that might be interested in this topic? Or could we adjust our content to speak to what our audience is purchasing without sacrificing our WHY? (We discover and work through these problems and more in my course, Discover Your Book’s Gold. It’s much easier to identify and solve these issues BEFORE you start writing.)


Communication is the sharing of information or the exchanging of ideas. Writing is just one form of communication. If we hope to inspire, encourage, help, educate, inform, or delight our audience through our book, we must learn to communicate well. Communicating well through writing involves three key elements—message clarity, concise and to the point, and for the intended audience.

  • Message Clarity: You are familiar with your content and understand WHY it is important to both you and your reader. You understand your target audience’s problem and have a viable solution.
  • Concise and to the Point: You can clearly and effectively communicate your message and the content of your book, in three minutes or less. If it takes you longer than three minutes, you are likely including too many ancillary details that will only distract from your message.
  • For the Intended Audience: You know who you audience is—their deepest desires and fears—and you are empathetic toward them and their struggles. Your audience will know if you really care about them as they read your book.


Do you remember the debate club in high school? They would find hot topics and debate them, except you didn’t get to choose sides. You had to find and convincingly argue the topic from whichever side you were given. This skill is widely overlooked today. Understanding how the other side arrived at their conclusions creates empathy. You may not agree with their position, but in the understanding of where they’ve come from, and what their values are, you have developed empathy.

Debate protocol can be extremely useful as you write your book, as all books are an argument for something. But in order to be able to convince your audience, you must first understand how they’ve arrived at their current position, both physical and worldview. Let me give you an example. In most circles, the word prostitute is taboo. It instantly conjures up negative impressions about the person. As a society, for years we used that word to describe children too, until we realized that children—not having a choice in the matter—cannot be prostitutes. We now call this sex trafficking. Additionally, we have come to realize that the community of men and women whom we label as prostitutes have a past history that indicates no one really chooses a life of prostitution. We now discuss this in terms of sex trafficking or the act of prostitution. Notice how the understanding of where they’ve come from and the removal of the label prostitute instantly changes how you think about them.

This is the power of understanding the other side of the argument. How did your reader arrive where they are? How did they become obese, or out of shape, or full of anger? If you want to help them, you must empathize with them, and in order to empathize, you must intimately understand their story.

I’ve detailed how these skills will help you write your book, but there’s no question in my mind that they will help in the publishing and marketing of your book as well.

Writing a book is about so much more than the writing.

Last Updated On April 7, 2022

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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