How to Write a Book as a Novice Author

I’d written hundreds of blogs, but nothing prepared me for the roller-coaster of writing a book.

I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted writer and I started a weekly blog to develop the skill. I discovered a publisher was on my email list and they approached me – a book wasn’t on my radar.  Initially, I was flattered, quickly followed by a cloud of self-doubt, but I still said yes. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down – I know how powerful they are for a small business.

Even though the publisher had reached out to me, I still had to create an outline for approval. A few hundred words and a working title later, I received a contract and I was going to write a book.

I already had hundreds of articles, surely it was going to be more of a job of organising and collating it all.  Or so I naively thought!

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How to Write a Book as a Novice AuthorHere’s how I wrote my book as a novice author:

Structure first

how to get organised in your holistic businessI find working on some sort of structure helps me to focus. Occasionally I wing it with an article, but the book was a totally different animal and had to flow from one topic to another.

I thought about the journey I wanted to take people on. It’s not the type of book that people are likely to sit down and read from cover to cover, but I wanted it to be logical.

An A3 art pad was the perfect visualising tool for me. I had a chapter per page and then used post-it-notes for the individual topics so I could move them around until I was happy with the order.

Repurpose existing content

repurposing contentWorking from the skeleton, I cross-referenced the topics with the blogs I’d already written.  I was surprised how many gaps there still were, so I made a list of the topics and turned them into blog posts too.  This way, I was able to keep up with my weekly posts and create content for the book at the same time.

In addition to the blogs, I also wanted to include case studies of thriving practitioners creating their businesses in their own way. This added interviews and transcriptions to the list of new content that needed researching and creating.

Setting up the book

I researched how to set up a book to get it right from the start. An hour spent on YouTube and aided by the help function in Word, I got my head around what I needed to do. The publisher also provided a writing style guide which helped and gave me their rules.

Then came the time to create the document which would become my book. I copied and pasted the blogs into a monster document to start refining.

The blogs had a lot of information but because they’re standalone pieces of content, they didn’t always work together.  There were also a lot of crossovers so the process of editing and deleting was immense.  This took far longer than expected and I ended up going over and over the information to make it flow.

Team of readers

Luckily, I’m surrounded by people who are great proofreaders and generally have a much better grasp of the English language than me. I was also far too close to it to be objective and needed external opinions.

Once I’d gotten the book to a position where I felt it was working, I rallied my proofing team. Each person had different strengths and it really was a team effort to finish the book.  There were endless revisions and lots of late nights. I frequently questioned what the hell I was thinking of, writing a book.

My sister Lisa was the first line of checking as a medical herbalist and an education specialist. Her knowledge of my client group was invaluable, and her experience of teaching helped me explain concepts. Next was Siobhan a proofreader and queen of grammar picked up my total overuse of the simple comma. Between them and me, there were another 3 revisions before it was ready to present to the publisher.

It really did go to the wire with the manuscript finally being submitted at 11.45pm on the night of the deadline! By this time, I was sick of the sound of my own voice and was glad to hand it over.

Book tennis

Whilst I’d done the best I could, a few weeks later the publisher’s editor sent over their comments and corrections.  The book was like a boomerang – the never-ending job.  Having taken a break from it, I looked at it with fresh eyes and decided there were a couple of sections that just weren’t right, so I still had work to do.  That followed a succession of different proofs and checking that went on and on until we were all happy.

Another member of my support team, Judy, gave my book a final read-through with a fresh set of eyes.  She helped to ensure everything was clear, and even at that stage, she picked up a few mistakes.

Moving parts

I discovered, there were still lots of moving parts to finalise.  A long list of tasks from the cover design to the endorsements, from the launch plan to the synopsis were all still required.

It certainly hasn’t been a quick project and I totally underestimated what was involved in bringing a book to life. It has given me whole new respect for authors and the work that goes into creating a book.

I’m currently going through some mixed emotions about the book, excited, scared, can’t wait, want to hide. I have learnt a lot and it has been one of the best personal development journeys of my life.

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