Prepping: How to Write Your Book

You ARE going to write one -some day – aren’t you?

When you get to be a little older than you are now, the topic of  “Measuring Your Life.”  will matter more – and maybe writing a book is one of those measures.  Sharing of information and lessons of Life is key.  Maybe you’ll write a book?  For the kids?  To tell of America as you knew it before…well, before this

In today’s media-addicted world we all seem so competitive with one-another.  Yet, there is another way.

Simple Do Things.  Tell the story of your life.  But so many people are afraid to actually do that…

You see, there is a society-wide fear afoot – a fearing of doing– that has turned into a well-monetized economy.  But, if our dire outlook for the end of the current economic expansions is anywhere near correct, one of the things you’ll need to get over is any “fear of doing” residue.

What’s “Fear of Doing?”

It is programmed into you.  Part of it is due to the “childhood Olympics.”  You can find hints about this childhood competition for parental approval and attention in books like “Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives.”

The second factor feeding into “fear of doing” is the “feminization of education.”  Nowhere is this morning clear than in the virtual disappearance of “industrial arts programs” in public schools.

Back in 1996 we drew reader’s attention to the NY Times piece “The School Bell Tolls for Shop Class.”

To say America has been a little s  l   o    w….on the uptake is a ridiculous understatement.  In 2012, Forbes carried a good piece “The Death Of Shop Class And America’s Skilled Workforce…

Just a few years earlier (2009), a remarkable book came out dealing with this critical point “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.”  Matthew Crawford’s book is still worth reading today and it’s on Kindle for $6-bucks.

We could have a fine, if not ethereal, discussion about the nature of Work because honestly, young people today have only the vaguest notion of what it really is.  Wikipedia begins trying to make sense of it through a process of division into classes:

In the end, however, Mark Twain said it best:  “What work I have done, I have done because it is play.  If it had been work, I shouldn’t have done it.

Some of us old farts have lived a charmed life by this standard, and some day I promise to regale you with stories about a life well-lived.

But, our point this morning is about recapturing that elegant sense of play that turns “work” dust and sweat to the vital fluid of Life.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve talked to who have said “You know, when I’m done working, and run out of things to make in the shop, I’d like to write a book…”

Alt.Work: Mastering the Writing Process

My life-long pal (the Major) was down visiting recently and I ragged on him again about his potential to write a book about subtle energy medicine and his experiences on the fringe of medicine both in and after his service to country.

As we sat in the office, he admitted to one problem:  He didn’t   understand the Process.  As a result, being success-oriented, he was a bit slow (by a decade or two) getting started. This is familiar territory I went into excruciating detail about in my book The Millennial’s Missing Manual (there’s a link to all my books on the menu for this page).

Process!  That, I believe is what had slowed him down.  And, in case you are afraid of actually writing your own book – fiction or non – the process is very simple.

  • You need an idea – something burning down to the core of your being that will drive you to the hours involved.  A story to tell, experiences to share, or just a damn good investigation of a topic.  I’ve written a bit on each.
  • The next step is to come up with a compelling title.  It may not be the one your book goes to press with, but it will encapsulate your thinking and focus your thinking on what the book is about.
  • About here it’s time to look at other works in your field.  Has someone written something better?  Recently?  Better production values?  With course lessons for schools?  What is the competition like?
  • If your fire to write still burns, the next step is to sign up as a writer at https://kdp.amazon.com.  The KDP means Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • From here, you can download a writing template for your book.  It is a layout for MS Word (and clones) that will fit the Kindle uploading particulars and fonts.
  • Then comes the hard part.  Actually doing the writing.

I find that when I’m writing fiction, I just close my eyes and “go to the movies.”  I “paint the set” with words, doing my best to capture the feeling of a story location.  Here, experience with lucid dreaming if mighty useful.

With this done, I spend a day with each of my main characters.  I learn the strangest things about them!  Seriously, a “fantasy beer” or fantasy highball with each of your characters – and jotting down some notes about each will save you oodles of work down the road as I am finding out lining up the second book in the fiction series I’ve got underway.

A couple of 3-by-5 cards with chapter ideas can be useful, depending on how freely things are flowing.  Some people go to tremendous lengths and put hundreds of cards on their walls with masking tape so as to arrange and rearrange story elements just so.  Others don’t bother – they get right into the story and let it reveal itself.

My approach is more like this.  I do all this background thinking (including actually going to each of the places I write about and hanging around to get the “vibe” of a place) and then get into heavy writing mode..

Just sit down and let ‘er rip.

I play the entire movie through in my head and I have absolutely no idea how it all ends until over half-way through with the book.

The magic of the fiction writing process is that as you write, the story will begin to tell itself.  Your only challenge will be to write fast enough to keep up with the action playing in your head.  You can rewind, replay, modify, and so on.

A major stumbling block is perfectionism. I know people who write one paragraph and then tweak the hell out of it.  They’re damn fine writers. Others, more like me, tell the story and then iron out the rough spots later..

I kid you not.  When I’m actually writing a book, fiction or non, I crank out 3,000-5,000 words a day worth of content.  It’s grueling b ut addictive in an odd way.  I have to remember to set a timer to get up and move around now and then.

It’s almost a trance.  Oh, and the 3,000 words is on top of the 1,000-1,500 for daily UrbanSurvival reports and the typical Peoplenomics report which – by way of example – last Wednesday ran 3,200 words just in the Focus piece. News commentary and charts were extra.  Done 12+ charts in Excel lately?

At some undefined line on the screen, you can transition from recreational writer to production writer.  Don’t ask me where that line is.

On a weekly basis – when I’m not in “book mode” I figure there are 10,000 words a week dripping out of the fingers.  In book mode closer to 30-40,000.  I think my personal best was almost 50,000 words but that verged on real work if not mania.

Thing is that’s a hellatious rate. 35,000 works is only 5,000 words a day if you skip church.  And at 60 words per minute (a trifling speed to achieve), that’s only 84 minutes per day of non-stop writing.

What keeps me from higher output?  I mean besides body functions like a trip to the john  and getting some hot tea?  There are natural “breaks in the action” when writing.  You need to look up a few facts now and then – even for fiction books because without them, the book will lack the “ring of truth.”

My novel DreamOver weighed in 99,321 words, which works out to 22-days of modest writing at this clip. I went like hell for half the book, got sidetracked, and then another two-weeks to finish it up.

Producing that novel a month kind of pace takes focus.  My excuse for just a few books is that UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics are eating up (on average) 1,500 words a day.

In truth, figuring half-speed writing for a book or web report (30 WPM) the web content takes 2-1/2 hours.  On top of that, watching the markets eats another two or three hours.  Which means out of a 10-hour workday, five is spent toast already, so five are left for writing if the story or motive is good enough..

All of which might mean 30 WPM for 4-hours of intense writing which implies 7,000 words a day on a book…which happens rarely.

On your book, if you can crank out 300 words per day (which is plenty of time to bring a few paragraphs up to a glistening luster, your good-sized novel of 109,000 words would be done in a year and you don’t have to quit your day job.  That’d be 10-minutes of 30 WPM keyboarding and 20-minutes of second-guessing yourself.

Best:  Tell the damn story and correct errors later.

Anyone can do 30 minutes of writing at 10 words per minute.

OK, back to process to get your book into print:

  • Somewhere after the outline, and maybe first few chapters of a book at done, you’ll want to find a graphic artist do a cover.  Amazon has art specifications to be aware of.
  • One way to find an artist is to ask other writers (Chris Tyreman of www.thechronicleproject.org has done all mine except the “Live on $10,000 book and the one with Gaye Levy).  You can find Amazon eBook artists selling their wares on www.fiverr.com.
  • When you finish the writing, the real PITA is the proof reading.  (This one makes me crazy.)  Why should I have to read the damn book?  I just wrote it, for crying out loud.  In stepped Elaine, Chris McCleary, and my friend the Major for my latest book.
  • Again, you can find “proofreaders” on a contract basis, but if they are any good, expect to spend hundreds on the proofreading part.  People write for love but proofread for money.  I use friends because most books don’t generate a ton of sales…
  • At last the glorious day arrives and you’re ready to upload and go through the KDP Publishing wizard on the Amazon end.  If everything looks kosher, the approval process  takes 48-hours or so – they advise allowing 72.
  • If you want to publish a paperback using the Amazon print-on-demand product (which is great) you can either upload a suitably-sized PDF cover file, or you can get custom art uploaded.
  • When you run through the publishing wizard, the one land mine to be aware of is that if your paperback and your Kingle set up pages and descriptions don’t match exactly, you may need to have Amazon do a manual match-up to sell both books on a single page.  If they are exactly the same, the machines should hand-shake and put both titles on a single page.  If not, time to hit the help section.

You are not likely to get rich with a book – even a half dozen – on Amazon.  In fact, I think my hourly rate for all the writing I’ve done and published is in the five to 10-cents-an-hour range.

People publish books for a number of reasons; professional standing, expertise in a particular field, or just because they’ve always harbored this great story they need to pass on.  It’s a forced way to learn to type and get your ideas down.

In terms of enjoyment, novels are where you best chance of making a buck are…since fiction outsells non-fiction by a good margin. A view of business book sales and American politics will explain why people are so prone to escapism when not working.

Yet, if you have a curious mind and like to do original research to test out your own crazy theories, then non-fiction is fine.  Just remember, writing is a matter of love not money.  Creds come from footnotes.  There are more than 200 in Dimensions Next Door.

Send me a review copy when you get yours done.

Write when you get rich, not as a way to get there,

George@ure.net

9 thoughts on “Prepping: How to Write Your Book”

  1. I wish you and William Forstchen would have collaborated in his “One Second After” trilogy. He’s, of course, an author of many books but his writing lacks some depth in his characters. Didn’t stop me from getting the other two books of this set, though. Mainly for the “what if” background information.

  2. FYI Amazon has merged Create Space (print books) with KDP (digital books). This means that you should no longer have to be as concerned about the two versions matching up exactly in order to be sold on the same page since they are one and same just different formats.

    • I would have thought to, too.
      But, as soon as you launch the “Cover Creator” in order to upload a graphic as opposed to the pdf print-ready cover option, then they do have to match exactly on the fields like description and such. Just went through this 3-weeks back with Psychocartography cover…
      YMMV

  3. Good point on writing a book. It made me think of what kind of book I would write. Two came to mind.

    1. A Sherlock Holmes type of mystery, or
    2. A book where I could start life over, still knowing what I learned over the last 70 years, & outlining a story on how I would live my second chance.

    Unfortunately, I prefer hobbies that make money & get me out of the house.

  4. George,

    I apologize if I just haven’t noticed, really looking for some West coast port activity year over year info.

    You used to post that consistently or is it missing like M6 went missing?

    Paul

    • IK will include it in next Wed’s Peoplenomics. We’re traveling this weekend – so charts mainly Saturday AM

  5. I have always been an insatiable reader, and on a cross-country flight during the 70’s, I concluded that I could probably write as good as the paperback SF novel I had just purchased. During my engineering career, I wrote several manuals, patent applications and proposals. As a terrible speller, I always had access to a secretary to polish and finish my rough drafts. I started my own company in 1983, and my first piece of capital equipment was a KayPro 2, 40 pound, “portable” microcomputer. It came with a disk-based “Perfect Writer” word processing program, AND a disk with a Websters spelling checker program. It was liberating, and my writing productivity tripled. I never needed a secretary afterward. I kept writing fiction for my own amusement, never expecting to publish anything.

    In 1999. I investigated getting an agent and publishing a Greatest Generation novel, BB-39. I found little hope in getting a reputable publisher willing even to read my book. I did find lots of scams willing to promise the world, in exchange for a lot of my money. The book stayed on the shelf.

    When I retired from my 4th career in 2011, I looked into publishing BB-39 and discovered the self-publishing opportunities of Amazon’s KDP programs. I just pre-released my 12th book, “After The Days Of Infamy” the first of an Alt History trilogy series.

    No, I never expected to earn a windfall from my writing, and I haven’t, since I have chosen to spend my time and resources in writing and researching things that interest me (like reading Urban Survival every morning), instead of promotion.

    At 74, my eyesight and knees are degraded, but I get vertical every morning (some mornings slower than others) looking forward to the day.

    Even if you only write your life story, your children and grandchildren will treasure those memories. You can self-publish those memories on KDP as Kindle eBook at ZERO costs to you. As you write your life history, it will trigger memories that you will want to share with those you love.

  6. George, you’re a rare one who can actually play a movie in your mind, even if it’s one you watched on a screen! I can hear music in my mind, and even compose it, but was never able to do the movie thing. I also never got the knack of fleshing out characters – it’s easier to describe a machine in detail.

    I rarely read fiction – Dreamover was the most recent. I generally read to learn and listen to learn – that’s why radio music and words are so annoyingly meaningless. I wonder how many of us are in doing mode 24/7 and how many just veg out on music. I’ve been dabbling at the edge of enhancing my dream abilities but get bogged down if I overdo it and get a terrible nightmare. Mostly it’s still blank between bedtime and getting up, though sometimes I find myself talking to myself when waking up. Just weird. I’ve thought of writing a book or even two, but more for social utility than any other reason.

  7. Wikipedia seems a bit lacking in imagination regarding work!

    The thing that matters in successful companies is called Sales work.

    The thing that kills companies and saves bureaucrats in or out of government is called paperwork.

    A significant cost in manufacturing companies is called rework.

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