News, Publishing a book in a year

Publishing a book in a year (ish): January

Re writing a book in a week

I love writing books. The days sat in a coffee shop, my email turned off, my headphones on, my finger dancing over the keys, are some of my happiest and most restorative. After a good days writing I feel refreshed, re-energised, ready to go again.

As much as I love writing, I hate editing. I hate rewriting, or reworking things. All those awkward details and references that I marked with a ??? (easy to find later using the search function) have to be resolved and filled in. I have to sit in the criticism that reviewers have provided. I have to accept, that the first attempt was far from perfect.

And so I find myself procrastinating.

But in December I made a bold promise, not just to you all, but to the publisher, that come January a second draft would be ready. I sat down with my diary and I block booked 5 working days (although they didn’t sit neatly in a calendar week). And I created a mega plan.

The way forward was unlocked for me by the re-writing of the introduction by my co-author that posed 5 questions. I realised that by attempting to answer those five questions we could answer many of the reviewers comments. And so I came up with a plan, in fact a giant spreadsheet. Oli and I then discussed and debated the content of the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet captured the new order of the content. The aim was to not have to create very much new content, but instead place the existing content in a more purposeful order, to make it clearer to engineers that this is something they can do.

We also needed to address some major comments from the reviewers. We needed to write as experts, with confidence. We needed to write as we, as a unified voice, not as I. We needed to make the book less self help, less based on our own examples (mine being based around my street, Oli’s around the wood where he is a trustee) and more based in the wider industry. And we needed more examples – more what does this look like?

I had, before Christmas, created three case studies, each designed to be a response to the specific question we had asked. And Oli, in January, created a fourth, based on a meeting he had with Yes Make.

And so, over 5 days I went through all six chapters. I first cut and pasted in the planned content. I then read through it all, making edits, cutting back where necessary (in one chapter I ended up removing 12,000 words) adding new content if necessary, and trying to make sure it all hung together, answering the key question for that chapter.

It was hard work. I felt exhausted after each day. Whereas writing a book feels like downloading my thoughts, and leaves me feeling like I have greater capacity for thought, this was the opposite, uploading all the content, trying to hold it all in my head as I juggled around the words, making sure I didn’t repeat things, but what I was saying was making sense in the context.

Whilst I could have spread the process over longer. Doing it in such an intense fashion was helpful. Now it is done, I have not just breathed a sigh of relief, I have let the content go again. Back onto the page, where it will stay until I tinker with it again.

And hopefully, by the end of this month I will have sent it back to the publisher for review, and things may go quiet here for a few months as we wait, first for comments, and then as we start to review proofs of the book.

So you may not hear anything from me for a few months (we will see). But once I have something to say on the book once more you will be the first to know.

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