April 3, 2012

THE WHY AND HOW OF WRITING A BOOK

modern feather pen"I'm not a writer. I'm an author."
--- Charlize Theron's character in Young Adult


Why do authors garner such respect? It's not that all books are amazing or successful. By definition, most authors are close to average. Few books sell well. Few books get read. Still, more get written. Why add to the clutter?

For credibility.

Since writing a book is considered difficult, there’s an element of awe. Why not getting that working for you?

Why Not?

I've been advised to write a book for years. I certainly could based on my blog posts alone. With over 250,000 words, I’ve got lots of content. Some would be relevant and the writing skills are portable.

What about you? You probably have lots of content inside your head or as part of your visible digital tapestry.

You'll have portions of the year that are slower. Perhaps the summer. August in particular. If you're prepared, that's when you can do the bulk of your writing.

What's A “Book”?

There's such a range in what qualifies as a “book” these days. A speaker handed out an 8 pager. That's a lie, not a book. I’ve seen other self-printed titles that look puny compared with what you’d buy from a major publisher.

There’s no point padding a book with filler, large fonts or thicker pages. You need something worth writing about. And a potential audience.

How long should a book be? Answers will vary. I want a minimum of 50,000 words. Why? That's roughly what I write in a year of blogging (100 posts of 500 words each). I'll get a better estimate as I proceed. If I can't write at least 30,000 words, I doubt that I'd bother proceeding.

The Writing Process

I haven't written a book or read much about writing. As with blogging, there doesn't seem to be a "right" way. You can think of a book as a project.

I started with a mindmap to define the chapters. I then added brief summaries and did some re-arranging. A solid outline simplifies the writing. That’s based on my experience blogging and speaking.

I showed the outline to a several friends with connections to the world of books. They feel I can write a book. They see merit in my proposed topic (insider insights into insurance) but they don’t see a market. They’re probably right.  However, there was one chapter they couldn’t stop talking about. That might be worth a book but will take much more work. I’m preparing a new outline.

The Tools

Writing the content can get complicated. Do you have one huge document or do you have a separate file per chapter? I'd prefer to work with multiple files but have an overall structure that includes all the components into a master file. Microsoft Word can do this but there are apps just for writers.
Scrivener
I stumbled upon Scrivener and have installed the trial version. Scrivener is an all-in-one solution that lets you keep your draft and research in the same work environment. You can have many subfiles and work on your iPad via Dropbox. I like using iA Writer. An iPad version is coming soon. You can create ebooks in both major formats (ePub and Kindle). There are nice video tutorials. I don't see anything major missing.

Using Scrivener already makes me feel like an author. The pricing is very reasonable ($40 for Windows, $45 for Mac). 

How About …

If writing a book is too much to tackle, you could start blogging. While “blogger” won’t bring you the same accolades as an “author” or “writer”, you will be developing your skills, and showing your expertise. Maybe Charlize would play you on the big screen.

Links

PS How many books do you read in a year?

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