I’ve almost completed my newest just-for-fun nonfiction book.
This one has taken me close to two weeks. It was a “101 Answers to Questions about…” book.
The current book is about 50 words short of 20k words, and I still need to write the introduction, the closing, and fill in the bibliography. (Btw, I use Noodletools.com for the latter; it’s free.)
1. I selected a topic that would be interesting. It’s one I’ve written about before, and I have an eager audience that will buy more of my books in that niche.
2. I chose a couple of very simple keyword phrases related to that topic.
3. Using scraper software (that visits sites like Kindle Answers or Jack Duncan’s system), I collected lots & lots of questions.
4. I copied those to a Notepad file and printed them.
5. I went through the list, crossing out the useless questions and highlighting the best of the rest.
6. Using cut-and-paste, I reorganized the good questions so they are grouped together, logically. (That is, if I were writing a travel book, I’d put all the questions about travel with pets in one section, and all the questions about tours in another, etc.) I deleted the rest.
7. Then, I turned on my voice recognition software and started dictating the book, using the sheets of questions.
8. About ten days later, I had my first draft completed and edited.
Now, I’m filling in the rest of the book, designing the cover, etc.
Also, I’m writing this book under a pen name; one of my related websites gets about 80k unique visitors/month, and I have tremendously loyal fans. So, anything I write for that audience… it has to be very good. I can’t just throw together an easy “tips” book and figure it’s good enough. If I did, they’d be outside my door with pitchforks or at least rotten tomatoes.
My next fun book will probably be either a UFO book (under another pen name) or a cookbook. I’ll want a break from the Q&A format. (I have a low boredom threshold, so I like to mix things up regularly.)
However, I think this is a good model for a fairly easy book. I’ve already researched the questions I’ll need for three more Q&A books.
A few tips if you try this idea, yourself:
1. Don’t number the questions until the book is finished. If you get halfway through and realize there are better ways to organize the questions, renumbering is a royal pain. Trust me on that.
2. When you’re getting ready to edit, do that the old-fashioned way… away from the computer. Before printing your draft, number your pages. Then, if they get mixed up because you dropped them, you’re not staring at a sheaf of disorganized papers with no idea how to reassemble them. Ahem. (If you skip the numbering step and the worst happens, here’s what to do: Go back to the file on your computer. Use what’s on your screen to help you see which page goes where. If you’d manage to drop, oh, about 30 pages, I recommend copious amounts of chocolate to keep your sense of humor afloat.)
3. Print your manuscript, double-spaced, and use a red pen. That combination make the editing easy, and — when you’re typing your corrections into the final manuscript — the red-ink corrections are easy to spot. (You could use blue, green, or purple ink, but those colors are not as easy to notice.)
4. Take at least two days off between dictating and editing. Then, pretend you didn’t write the book. Be ruthless with the red pen. Tighten everything, journalistically.
(Tip: Dramatic music can help keep you in the mood, and provide the gusto to boldly wield that red pen.)
5. After you’ve edited your book so it’s as concise as possible, go back and add the colorful phrases and anecdotes that will charm your readers.
6. Save the scribbled-on draft pages. Consider having them bound at Kinko’s or something, and then offer this (at a suitably high price) as an autographed, one-of-a-kind insight into the creative process of a best-selling author.
My most successful work schedule seems to be:
1. Write (dictate) 3k – 5k words per day, for two days. I usually start out writing about 1,000 – 1,500 words/hour, but things can go downhill pretty rapidly after the first two or three hours. (When you know you’re babbling, or you’re convinced your voice recognition software is misunderstanding you on purpose, it’s time to call it a day. *grin* )
2. Do something else (research, cover design, or a completely different project) for a couple of days.
3. Edit what you’ve already written.
4. Write for two more days.
5. Rinse, lather, repeat until the first draft is completed.