Nonfiction: My One-Day Book, and How I Wrote It

Yesterday, I woke up with an idea for a new, nonfiction book.

Since I’ve spent the last couple of months refining my fiction-writing process — and feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels — I desperately needed to publish something. Anything, really.

So yesterday, when I sat down at my cluttered desk, I gathered up all the papers, reference books, and stray Pringles potato chips (guilty pleasure), and put them on top of the nearest bookcase.

I decided to write and publish a book in one day, even if it meant going without sleep to complete it.

The process took 14 hours. That includes two walks — for exercise and to clear my head — time spent browsing the Internet for references for a totally different book, and several breaks in front of the TV.

alarm clockHere’s what I did, hour-by-hour.

4 AM – 5 AM

  • A brief breakfast.
  • Jotted notes and a mini-mindmap of the book idea.
  • Checked my email and Facebook to see if anything needed urgent attention. (Only a couple of things needed my attention.)
  • Researched the book topic and printed a few references to look at, later, as I was writing.

5 AM – 6:30 AM

  • Created my book cover. I always start with the cover. When I don’t, my books don’t seem to have enough focus. For me, the cover is what the book is about.

Supplies & tools I used:

  • A cover illustration from GraphicStock.com. I have an annual subscription. I think this is my second year with them, but it might be my third. They’re good, not great, but certainly useful enough for my purposes.
  • Fonts from FontSquirrel.com. They’re free and safe for use in commercial projects.
  • Photoshop. I’m using Photoshop CS3, bought from eBay. (Yes, I know the risks of that. My original, legal copy of Photoshop didn’t transfer well to my new computer, and my original CDs are in storage in NH.) This copy isn’t perfect, but it’s more than enough for my needs. Support from the seller (an authorized Adobe seller) was excellent, the one time I had a question.

6:30 AM – 9 AM

  • Gathered my notes. Set up my computer for writing.
  • Started dictating my book, and completed the first 1,692 words of it. That’s about 800 words/hour. Not bad, for first thing in the morning.

Tools I used:

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking (Version 11, already on installed my computer). When I upgrade, I’ll get the Premium edition, so I can dictate books into a voice recorder when I’m on the road or taking a walk.
  • My microphone, an old Samson Q1U mic that seems to work better than my Blue Snowball, for dictating to Dragon. (I also have a standard foam cover for the mic, which helps filter any pops or sputters.)
  • The hands-free hardware that holds it so I can lean back in my chair and look out the window, and talk.
  • I dictate into Notepad. It uses the fewest computer resources, and seems to play nicely with Dragon. Better than OpenOffice does, or Scrivener.
  • All of those tricks (and more) came from reading The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon.

9 AM – 10 AM

  • Took my morning walk to clear my thoughts, and to come up with fresh ideas to include in the book, or at least improve it. (And, oh yes, the exercise is good for me.)
  • Had an opportunity to promote my coloring books to friends-of-a-friend that I saw during my walk.

10 AM – 11:30 AM

  • Tweaked the book cover. (During my walk, I’d come up with a better title.)
  • Talked with my husband.
  • Corrected and lightly edited what I’d already written.
  • Did more research online. Well… to be honest, I got sidetracked. I probably spent an hour reading news stories, catching up on friends’ blogs, and watching ridiculously cute animal videos.

11:30 AM – 4:30 PM

  • Wrote, and wrote some more. (All of it via Dragon.)
  • Went through the usual phase of “I hate this book, it’s awful, no one will ever read it, and I’m a terrible writer.”
  • And then I got past that.
  • Kept writing, taking 5 or 10 minute breaks every 45 minutes or so. (That’s not enough. I should be taking more frequent breaks, and a longer one every hour or so.)

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

  • Went for another walk. Had another “ah-HA!” idea to improve it.
  • Took a break for dinner, and to catch up on what’s new at Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. Added far too many things to my queues.

5:30 PM – 7 PM

  • Completed my book. Before edits, it was around 7k words. Maybe a little less.
  • Edited the book with the desktop version of the Hemingway Editor, formerly called the Hemingway App. I edit inside the editor, and then cut-and-paste the results into Scrivener. (I could not use that software until I took David Lee Martin’s course, Scrivener Unleashed. He was the first person to explain Scrivener in a way that made sense to me.)

7 PM – 8:30-ish

  • Re-read the book and edited it again. Fixed typos that Scrivener pointed out to me. The final version was around 5,000 words. That’s a “short read,” exactly as I’d intended.
  • Formatted the book in Scrivener. (It took me about four tries to remember which settings do what. I need to jot them down, so I don’t do this with, oh, every single book.)
  • Published the book in KDP.
  • Sat back, then went to the kitchen to make dinner, and spent the rest of the evening flipping through our Roku channels, deciding what to watch.

Around 9:30 PM, I realized how exhausted I was, and my husband convinced me that I needed sleep. (He was right.)

But, I woke up this morning with another book selling at Amazon. That’s a victory. I feel UNstuck as a writer/publisher.

Okay… it’s a kind of embarrassing book (but not porn), with a throwaway pen name I’ll never admit to, but it’s a book. And, for the intended audience, it’s a pretty good book.

I set it to sell for 99-cents (US), and it’s in Kindle Unlimited. I know that the intended audience tends to borrow books (via Kindle Unlimited) rather than buy them, so that’s where I expect to see the most income from it.

So… that was my day. I’m pleased with the results. And, I hope those insights and tips are helpful to you and your writing.