The learning of a novice author

Writing a blog post is easy, writing a book is very very difficult by comparison. My first book, An Englishman in Nepal, took a long time despite the fact that I had a lot of notes, diaries and previous blog posts from the last 10 years to use as content. I suppose it all goes to show that the well worn adage “content is king” only kicks in AFTER your book is written AND published!

Now I’m writing my second book, about wine, I’m finding it a lot easier, which means that another old adage, “without changing there has been no learning” is perfectly true. I used to drum this in to our team of education consultants in Kathmandu week after week, initially badgering them to hold weekly team learning reviews every Friday afternoon to get them each to commit to implementing the following week what they said they had learned in the previous week. It’s too easy to say that accumulating knowledge is learning. It isn’t! Changing behaviour IS learning.

Writing my first book I learned how to use some new tools, particularly KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Amazon’s self publishing platform and Scrivener, an app or programme for “writing” that goes way beyond using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Then, connecting your manuscript in Scrivener with the Amazon platform is the Create Space tool that converts the manuscript into the required format and gives you lots of options for adapting chapter headings, adding images, changing fonts, and a lot more. What Create Space is doing is showing you what your book will actually look like ……. in whatever book format and size you choose.

Reflecting on the time it took me to write that first book, despite having most of the content, I was horrified to have to admit that my weakness was organisation and planning! Here I am a retired Organisation Psychologist, highly trained in a technique known as “systems thinking” who’d just written a book on the hoof so to speak wondering why it had taken so long. I had no clear vision of an end point, no structure or skeleton of chapters or sections, no plan for what would go best in each chapter or how to link them together. All I had done was to create a list of 10 topics then wrote them as ideas came into my head, occasionally using previous blog posts or articles I had written elsewhere. Ridiculous! To make matters worse, my reflection showed me that I had grossly underused Scrivener, completely missing it’s massive range of features because I was using it as a simple word processor. Wrong!

My only excuse was that I was using the free version of Scrivener on my iPad which was “feature lite” compared to the Mac version for laptops. So, I bought the “paid” version of Scrivener for my MacBook, not cheap at £47, but considering I use it every day that works out at 15p a day spread over a year. Having followed various tutorials and played about with features and sections, I created a project just called Wine Book and started to create an Outline Plan which has 27 sub sections which are potential chapters, sections, or standalone pages of the book. Each one has a brief sentence or two saying what that chapter is about. Next I created a Research Folder which has sections roughly corresponding to the chapters of the book. In each of these sections I paste web links, articles, book notes and highlights, ideas, and pieces of prior written content. Everything is placed in there either randomly as I think of things, or in a focused way because I’m deliberately researching a topic. Finally I have a draft manuscript folder in which I place chapters as I write them and using items from the relevant Outline Plan and Research folders. None of the chapters are numbered, yet, and each is a separate document in the manuscript. This may seem strange at first but it gives you the option to move chapters around into any sequence you wish, clearly works only for non fiction books! Finally, the best feature is called the “compile” instruction in which you identify when and how you want the final manuscript to be put together into the final format and structure. Its then ready for interfacing with the Create Space tool of Amazon whether you want a Kindle digital version of your book or a print/paperback version. Brilliant!

I do realise that there are some very experienced authors who follow my blog and who might have a bit of a laugh at my post here, I’m still no expert, but I do know how to learn and change ……. Mostly anyway. As for the wine book, I’ve now completed 16 chapters so not many to go, with any luck published in time for Christmas when plenty of wine needs to be drunk. Should make a nice present!

Categories: books, Our Book

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5 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing your process and tools that you use. I’ve been writing Boozy Lifestyle in MS Word so far but am very interested in Scrivener and KDP for compiling and publishing. Excellent information for another newbie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I recently paid to have Scrivener for laptop on my Mac, absolutely brilliant but not cheap! So many features almost unseen on an iPad


  2. Writing is a learn as you go activity. I have always been considered a very organized person, at work and at home. But I am very unorganized when writing. I have tried to be organized about it but it just doesn’t work for me. The creative side of my brain is very haphazard. Good luck with the next book. It would be a great Christmas gift.

    Liked by 1 person


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