12 days ago, I wrote Writing a Business Book in 30 days and I’m now 15k words through. I’m probably a couple of days behind, but I’m at peace with that given my travel schedule has picked up. It seems preferable to prioritize phoning home, to adding to the book.
What’s more it’s clear that I’m now in the final stretch of the first draft. I’ve got only 2-3 sections left to write, and they are the ones I’m struggling with most. Probably by the end of today, I’ll have finished the first draft, and it will be time for an extensive re-write.
In particular, it’s interesting that the advice from my friends and colleagues has shaped this to be far better than I ever imagined. Here’s a few things I picked up along the way
Write the draft in MS Word
Jeff Word gave this advice and I think it’s definitely the way to go. It enables much easier editing, moving sections around, and is easily legible by colleagues. You do have to be careful to keep formatting simple, but more on that later when I write a blog about workflow.
I was tempted at one stage to use a dedicated eBook publishing software like Scrivener, but in the end, I found this was a real workflow killer, because you can’t easily get in-line edits from friends and colleagues.
Find a place and time to write
I’ve tried to find my place and time to write. When I’m at home, it’s the first hours of the morning, on the balcony with coffee (this will only work for a few more weeks before it gets too cold, so I’d better hurry up and finish!) and when I’m traveling, it’s usually on a plane, which definitely makes writing harder, since I’m flying 4 days a week. That can’t be helped, it’s my day job!
Having that time which is mine, and my book’s is an important thing. I also added to this to write 1000 words a day, which has been a nice target to get me to breaking the back of the book.
Separate Writing and Publishing workflows
This is significant for me and has really relaxed me, because I’ve just spent an hour finding a publishing workflow that works (more on this later, when I’ve actually used it in anger), and reliably gets me from a MS Word document to the two major eBook formats (MOBI and EPUB). Phew.
Before that, I was definitely a little stressed because I was concerned that I’d have to totally rewrite all the formatting in my book – something that as it grows, is getting incrementally harder. That worry has totally gone away now, and I can focus on writing.
Get an early view from your customers
This is a book where I seek to reach out to two particular demographics – consultants, and salespeople in consulting. My book has to resonate with them, and I feel it’s been incredibly important to get their feedback.
Thanks, for example, to DJ Adams, who pointed out that the introduction didn’t connect to him as a consultant, which would have made him reluctant to finish reading, if he hadn’t agreed to review it. This enabled me to be a lot more customer-focussed in what I did, which is essential to the success of this project.
The 80:20 rule applies
There is a rule of thumb in IT projects that the first 80% of the work takes up 80% of the time, and the last 20% takes up the other 80% of the time. That definitely seems to be applying here, because I hit a wall at around 15k words. It’s partially because I have said most of what I want to say, and partially because the parts that need writing are the parts that I put off because they are hard, or needed research.
I know I have to live with that, but also push to get the first draft. I know this is important… because once the first draft is complete, the book is probably only 30-40% complete.
Everything is a priority
Everything we do in life is a matter of priorities, or choices, and that’s never more clear than committing to a project like this. People ask how I make time for it, with work and home and everything else, and that’s the simple fact.
I can’t take time out from the working day to work on this because there’s plenty going on there (and my employer isn’t paying me to write a book, though they should benefit from it). Nor do I choose to take time out from my personal life, because, well, that’s a priority.
And so this writing this book (and this blog) fits into the cracks between them, which is probably why enjoying the leaves falling from the balcony is such a workable time.