A few people have asked me recently what it’s like writing a book. I usually tell them to go and read Andy Headworth’s eloquent summary of his book writing experience.
And now I also get the “I’d like to write a book someday” statements. My advice to you, unless you LOVE writing, then don’t write a book.
Thankfully I love writing and relished the hermit like existence that has been my life for the past six months.
I’m also conscious that only crazy nut jobs write a book in six months!
BUT, if you are a crazy nut job as well, and you LOVE writing, then here is how I did it.
Draft One – one month
I took part in an event called National Novel Writers Month (#Nanowrimo). It’s basically an event whereby writers from all around the world spend a whole month writing 50,000 words of a novel or book. It gave me the motivation to just write words, and keep writing words, because I knew I had to have a certain amount of words each day, week and at the end of the month. So, I worked out how many writing days I had that month (taking out weekends and client days) and divided 50,000 by that number. What I ended up with was a target of at least 2,500 words on days I was writing.
Thankfully I wasn’t short on content. The idea behind my book was to take all the #NZLEAD tweet chats and conversations and thread them together. So the logical place to start was with the content on www.nzlead.com. I wrote down a list of all the topics we’d covered and roughly grouped them together under headings (e.g. recruitment, learning etc.). I then methodically worked my way through the topics, capturing and writing down notes on refill paper. Yes, that was my method – old school paper and pen. I ended up with piles and piles of paper. I split up my days by handwriting in the morning and typing up all my notes in the afternoon (after my fingers started to cramp from the pen). If a subject sparked a thought, I didn’t censor it, I just wrote it all down. If a topic linked to more information, or needed further explanation, I followed the links and wrote down the key points from all of that too.
I reached the 50,000 word mark. I ended up with a whole lot of words of nonsense. Truth be told, I had no idea what I was getting myself in for and naively thought I could write a whole, finished, book in a month.
Lesson one: only crazier nut jobs can write a whole book in one month.
Draft Two to Six – One Month (although this was Xmas so I did take some time off!)
November finished – I had a lot of words. 50,665 to be exact. I started hacking at it. I grouped together themes that were related. I didn’t think about it too much. It was more an “oh, this idea is sort of similar to this idea” so I dumped them into the same area. I deleted stuff – duplications, nonsensical ramblings. Towards draft Six I had whittled the whole thing down to about 38,000 words. Each pass through of the document I saved a new version.
Lesson two: be ruthless with cutting. As long as you ‘Save As’ different versions you can still add stuff back in if you change your mind.
Draft Seven to Nine – Two Months
I had been adding some of my own stories throughout some of the writing process. But this was when I really amped them up. I added detail, I moved them around. By writing my own stories, that personal connection helped me get clear about what I was trying to say in each section of the book. They gave clarity to the key themes and that helped me streamline the content further.
It was about this point that I gave it to Richard Westney to have a look at. His feedback changed the layout of some of the chapters and clarified the theme of the book.
I say this part took me two months but I did start taking chunks of time doing non-book related stuff between edits so that I could go back to it with a fresh perspective.
Lesson Three: Take time off between edits otherwise it all makes sense to you – and making sense doesn’t help you edit.
Draft Ten to Thirteen – one month
It was about at this point that I stopped seeing any inconsistencies and the whole thing made sense to me. Which isn’t good because I’d looked at it for too long and couldn’t really see it anymore.
It was time to pass it on to some more critical eyes.
This is where I enlisted the help of my editor friend Tanja and her trusty sidekick Tamara. Tamara started with editing the whole thing for structure and flow. Tanja then delved into more of the detail and picking up on things didn’t make sense. The last edit here was spelling and grammar. I’d worked with Tanja on my masters thesis and she’s just awesome. Tamara and Tanja made a brilliant tag team (in case you need someone to edit your book).
Lesson Four: don’t edit it yourself, get someone else to do it. For the reasons I gave in lesson three.
Draft Thirteen – Two Months … ish
Lucky draft number thirteen was the one sent to PressGang to do all the final layout for the book. I self-published this book so I didn’t / don’t have a slick machine to do all this for me and had to foot the bill myself. I ran a pledgeme campaign to cover all the printing costs – with the added benefit of pre-selling about 80 books!
I found PressGang quite good to deal with once we got the timelines pinned down (which took a little bit of doing) – expect about six weeks from almost final draft to print.
Simon Heath did my cover art and I had asked Perry Timms to do my foreword some months prior. So the document I sent to PressGang was pretty much a complete word doc. There was a bit more going back and forth point though. Once they laid out the cover, I had to redo my authors bio. I also picked up things I wanted to tweak – it’s amazing what the extra pressure of getting it printed does to your attention to detail.
Lesson Five: Editing actually takes more time than writing a book – just FYI.
I then had to then edit the files that PressGang had developed for the print version into a Kindle version. Thankfully it’s really easy to load a book for Kindle (thank you Tim Scott for the pointers). Unfortunately the print publication was in InDesign and transferring the document back to Word was painful and included re-adding the 163 references!
Lesson Six: If you’re going to do print and Kindle, get it perfect in word first then have it laid out for print.
And here it is, available for pre-order and ready to launch on the 9th July….
The book is being printed and will be available as a Kindle E-Book. You can pre-order the e-book here.
You can also preorder a hard copy of the book here.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!