Writing a Book – How to Do It In Record Time
Would you like to write a book in record time?
It may sound like a snake-oil pusher’s dream but it isn’t. It actually is possible. Now I’m not going to snow you and pretend that it is easy. But it is possible.
And I’m going to prove it to you by giving you a quick look into one of my typical book writing weeks.
Writing a book is a process. Just like flipping burgers at McDonalds or building a house. We tend to think of it as a magical creative endeavour carried out by little wizened drunks pounding on typewriters in a Paris garret. Sorry, it just ain’t so. I don’t drink anything but tea and coffee, and being wizened is the least of my problems. And the closest I’ve been to a garret in Paris was a hotel on the edge of the student district 35 years ago.
Like any process, writing works best when it has been turned into a system. In this blog entry, I’m going to illustrate a real writing schedule for a real book. But what exactly is a real book? Let’s set the stage here so we know what we’re discussing.
First off, I only write non-fiction books. Fiction books are much harder to write so if you write fiction, your own results will vary.
Secondly, how much you can write in a day varies from person to person. Partially because some people write faster. Partially because some people write using a different schedule. In my case, I’m not a particularly speedy writer. I can only put in about half a day (four hours) before I’m exhausted. In that time, I can usually finish about 5,000 words or about 20 pages.
Third, how long a book takes to write depends on how long the book is. Many eBooks are really only a long report or a white paper. However, I did mention writing a real book. So this book is going to be about 25,000 words long or roughly 100 pages. While this is short, it does fit in the executive length which is common for give-away books and business books. These are sometimes referred to as continentals or airline books. Why? Because you can read them in the time it takes to fly from New York to Los Angeles.
Finally, I always begin by knowing exactly what I am going to write. That’s one very important part of my writing system. I know the reader I am writing my book for. I know what they are worried about. I know how I’m going to solve their problem. I know that there are enough people just like my reader to make the effort worthwhile. I know exactly how long the book will be. I know what style of writing I’m going to use.
The process of writing a book usually begins on the Thursday before. If I really know what I am going to say, I’ll prepare my book design in an hour or so, using a proprietary tool. If I don’t know then it may take an hour spread over several days or it may take an afternoon. To make my editor’s life easier, I’ll usually take another hour or two and write up the design as a traditional outline. I’ll send him the outline to review and comment on.
When I get his comments back, I’m ready to begin the actual writing process. I prefer to have the weekend for my family, so I usually start on the Monday morning. I’ll take my plan and begin writing the second and third chapters. I will keep writing until I finish the two chapters or until I’ve written 5,000 pages. I always stop on a chapter end, so if I go into the fourth chapter, I will try to finish it. As I’m writing, I never look behind me. If I can’t remember a word, I’ll use a marker to identify that I need to look the word up. If I spell a word wrong — too bad. I’ll put a marker there too. The key is to keep writing and get my words onto the paper.
On the Tuesday, I’ll begin by reading and revising the first three chapters. Because of the system, I seldom have to rewrite. Typically, I’ll find spelling errors or words that I couldn’t remember. Most have been marked but there’s usually the occasional mistake that got by me. I do put a limit on how much time I can spend editing, although I’ve never actually used the whole time. When I’ve finished rereading Monday’s work, I’ll go on and begin writing the next two chapters (four and five). I typically spend the afternoon working on my business by reading and writing emails, returning phone calls and researching.
Wednesday and Thursday are repeats of Tuesday. I begin by reviewing and repairing the work from the day before and then go on to finish two more chapters.
On Friday, I’ll begin by reviewing and revising Thursdays work on chapters 8 and 9. Then I’ll write chapter 10. The concluding chapter follows this. This chapter is always half the size of the preceding chapters. I will do a very quick review of my feelings about the book to this point, and then write the introduction. Again, the introduction is really only a half the size of the other chapters. At this point, I usually take a break which may last an hour or so or may last for the rest of the day.
Finally, after a reasonable break I’ll review and revise the final two chapters and the introduction. After 24 hours of work, all that’s left is to email off the result to my editor. Oh, and go have a nap with the cat.
- DT – A good book without a reader is just a waste of bookshelf space.
- DT – An efficient writer’s motto: write first, write fast, edit later
- DT – There’s no getting around it. Writing is work no matter how much fun it is. So make it as easy as you can.
- DT – Writing is a business. Treat your writing like a business not a hobby.
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