Are You Building a Body of Work?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Are you writing consistently? Are you continuing to work at building relationships with the gatekeepers (magazine editors, online editors, book editors, literary agents and other professional writers). I know it is basic but consistent writing and working at this business is critical. It rarely comes easy or quickly to any of us. In fact, we often fight the discipline and consistency of writing.

Occasionally someone will look at the volume of my own writing and exclaim, “How do you do it?” As writers, we write one sentence then one page at a time. Some days I’m amazed that I’ve written over 60 books and the first one. When I Grow Up was published in 1992. In these years, I’ve been able to build a body of work. The concept of consistency and building a body of work may be new to you.

Years ago on the way to a writer’s conference, I chatted with a literary agent. I was just beginning to be published and he encouraged me to continue building a body of work. It’s not a single book or a single magazine article but the sum of your work in publishing that eventually makes an impact. Are you growing in your understanding of the publishing business? On a consistent basis, I learn new terms and new aspects.

Some days I don’t feel like cranking out some words but I do it. As I’ve traveled the country and worked with different writers. I know some writers are inspirational writers. They only write when they feel the story in their fingers and put it on paper. Others are journeymen and professional writers. They pound the keys day in and day out—whether they feel like it or not. I fall into that latter category (most of the time). It’s helped my consistent writing.

As a young journalist training in news editorial, one summer, I interned on the Peru Tribune, a small town newspaper in Peru, Indiana. We had no computers and the typesetting was done with a Linotype machine in the back of the building. We had our story meetings at 7:30 a.m where the managing editor talked with the reporters about the stories to be written that day. In that short meeting we received our particular assigned stories, then hit it with the full knowledge of our 11 a.m. copy deadline. Our stories went quickly through the editor and appeared in the printed afternoon paper at 3 p.m. We had no time to sharpen our pencils or hem and haw about writer’s block. We had a deadline to meet—which we met day after day.

Whatever you write (children's books, fiction books, nonfiction books, magazine articles, online publications or anything else) what steps are you taking to build a body of work? It will not happen overnight but can certainly happen if you are consistent. I’m committed to writing consistently. I want to keep my fingers on the keyboard and keep them moving to write articles, chapters for books and book proposals. I’m committed to building a body of work. It might not pay off immediately but in the long run, I know consistency counts.

How are you building a body of writing work? Tell me in the comments below.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. 
He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is  Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) released to online and brick and mortar bookstores. 
Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief at Midwest Book Review wrote, If you only have time to read one 'how to' guide to getting published, whether it be traditional publishing or self-publishing, Book Proposals That Sell is that one DIY instructional book. You can get a free Book Proposal Checklist on the site. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers



Unknown said...

Thank you Terry—your words resonated. I read your book few weeks ago. I am in the midst of writing my proposal for my upcoming memoir ‘ Shadows of The Ivory’, a project I started 17 years ago. To your question: Are you building a body of work? I am saying YES with no restraint. In fact, today, after all those years I would call it: a labor of love. This is my first book but I also have a poetry book in progress. Writing, for me, is a need; a need to expel the emotions I can’t express in any other forms, except on paper. Although, someday I’m stuck; nothing moves. Even worst,I feel sometimes as if I landed in quicksand.
But to your point, we hold the key and ” As writers, we write one sentence then one page at a time’’—and that’s ok. I remember this fable I learned growing up in France:’’ Le Lièvre et la tortue’’ written by La Fontaine. The morale of the fable is that ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Et oui!
I chose this example because I’m an athlete. Nothing great happens on Championships days if we don’t build a body of work in training. ‘’Are you building a body of work?’’ sounds like a universal question applicable to many endeavors.

Thank you Terry for your insight—it is good to be reminded at times that we are not alone.

Maryline Roux
Boulder, Colorado

Terry Whalin said...


Thahk you for this thoughtful and detailed feedback. Your memoir sounds interesting. When you are ready to submit, please send it my direction. I'm easy to reach my New York email

To Your Writing Success,


lastpg said...

Terry, what a terrific post! And so right on! I spent eight years writing my first book and wrote little else. The main reason is that I had so much to learn I couldn't get beyond it until I landed on my feet. This is in spite of the 50-60 articles I had written for newspapers and magazines. Fiction was a different story. I finally finished that book and am publishing about a book a year now. During the COVID shut-down I wrote two books. I have solid project plans for the future, so am "living the dream" as they say. I couldn't agree more that an author needs to amass a body of work in order to interest gate keepers and readers in their works.

Terry Whalin said...


What a journey you have been on to build your body of work. Well-done nad keep going. It's what each of us have to do. the process takes time but is possible if we keep at it. Thank you for this comment and feedback.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, great advice on how to build a body of work. It's all about the one sentence, one page. And, I agree with Maryline that it can apply to just about anything - keep moving forward. As a ghostwriter I've written lots and lots of books, but unfortunately that doesn't translate into my own body of work. But that's part of being a ghostwriter.

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for this comment. One idea to help you build your own body of work is to move from a ghostwriter to more of a collaborator . A number of my writer friends have gone in this direction. Their name may only appear on the title page of the book but they get credit for their work and build this body of work.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, in my line of work, that's really not a good idea because the majority of my clients self-publish. Once I hand the manuscript over to the client, I have no control. I've seen what can happen to the manuscripts when they're handed over to these self-publishing companies. I wouldn't want my name associated with those books.

I did connect with an author through one of the workshops I did and we've decided to team up for a book. Should be interesting; first time I'll be collaborating.

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for that explanation and it makes sense. There are many different ways to handle such things in the publishing world. I wish you well with the coillaboration project. I've done many of them through the years and I learn something for my own life with each one.


deborah lyn said...

Great article, Terry, thank you!
Building a Body of Work is key to our growth as writers. We learn a great deal as we build, new awareness comes up, we grow & polish our style. We also find where we fit, which is a wonderful place to be. Yes, I'm on the writer's Body of Work path.
My first touch with growing a Body of Work came as I pushed toward a Professional Artist designation. Consistency and diligence as our focus, we day by day build.

Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

Thank you for this comment and affirmation. It's a little by little process but as we work at it, we build that body of work and get there.


Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hi, Terry,

Nice post. I find it amazing how much work a writer produces over time - if he/she writes consistently. You're right. It adds up over time.


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