Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Write a Book

It takes discipline: I spend most of my time trying to teach my customers how to be authors rather than writers. The distinction, you'll learn if you hang around me long enough, is that authors are all about the extrovert aspect of publishing (relating to their audience) and writers are all about the introvert aspect of publishing (creating the work). Great authors are not necessarily great writersand vice versa. Some time ago, I noticed that people who write booksespecially fictiontend to enjoy the writing but be a bit intimidated by the authoring. I chose to focus on that. Besides, consultants and coaches like Molly Wingate were available to help make the writing happen. 

Still, it hasn't escaped me that there is a relationship between authoring and writing. And lately, I've noticed that my "authors" can get plenty hung up on the "writing." Rookie writers often get lost in the process (or lack thereof) or worry their writing to death.

It is easy to get lost in the forest of writing. It's a right-brained activity that will take you from tree to tree, and soon you will have no idea where you've been or where you are going. Professional writers give themselves some structure, which will allow their creative juices to flow without taking them down paths to oblivion. A good structure has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The Beginning

I teach my customers to plan and visualize their books before they start writing. This initial process includes the following steps:
  • Define your core reader.
  • Define your message.
  • Define how you will changer your reader's life. 
  • Invent a working title and subtitle that suggest your core reader and your promise. 
  • Write your table of contents.
  • Determine your specs (trim size, number of pages, number of words, etc.)
This is the opposite of the all-too-common strategy of sitting down to write and letting your computer fingers take you to who knows where. If you follow my advice, you know your destination before you sit down to write. You might have some surprises along the way, but you'll always be able to find your way home.

The Middle

The next phase is to begin writing the book. Professional writers will follow some variation of the steps below:
  • Write an outline or summary. (Essentially, you map out your story.)
  • Write your first draft. (Do this as a freewrite. Keep self-editing to a minimum.)
  • Write your second draft. (Focus on the content, not wordsmithing; eliminate chunks that don't work; add missing pieces.)
  • First edit. (Fine tune your content. Get your characters, story, and information the way you want them.)
  • Second edit. (Your content should be in place. Now focus on your writing.)

The End

  • Get your manuscript copy edited. (Ordinarily, this is not something you should do yourself, though you should get the edited manuscript and amend it your satisfaction. The copy edit should not be about your content. It should be about polishing your words and making your grammar, punctuation, and capitalization correct, and consistent.)
  • Get your pages proofed (first pass). You should read your proofs, but you should get two others (preferably) to proofcheck the pages for you. This is not editing. It is checking for errors. 
  • Get your pages proofed (second pass). Same as above, but it would be good to have two different  proofcheckers.
  • Approval for printing. Do this yourself. All you need to do (if you have gotten good proofchecking) is to make sure that the errors from the second proof were corrected. You should be done. 
The Publishing Pro


Jean Hollcroft said...

Hi Ken,

I would like to know if I can use your information here to teach my students better writing skills?

Thank you,

Jean Hollcroft

Kenneth Guentert said...

Certainly. Let me know how it works for you.