Why isn't my book done?
I started thinking about the idea sometime last year, started organizing my notes and outlines in August 2009, and started writing a little in November or December before shelving it.
I was on fire in Taipei, Taiwan in January. Everything was just right, I wrote 4,000 words on a bad day, and my best day was 17,000 words. Book was complete in rough shortly afterwards.
I was in Northern Thailand in February, in Chiang Mai. I was going to edit, but I didn't really. I was kind of flat. I played a lot of Conquer Club online, surfed around, didn't really get anything done. Then I was traveling around and I wasn't really working on the book.
In fact, I never sent anyone a copy until maybe three weeks ago, when I gave it to one of my friends who was asking. He's a great guy, amazing guy, but I was even gunshy about sending it to him. Lord knows why. If you do creative works, maybe you understand this. If you haven't done anything creative and this doesn't make sense to you, I can't explain it. I think creative people will understand a little.
So I gave it to my friend, and mind you, I hadn't actually opened up the book in a couple months at that point, it was kind of something on the back of my periphery of my mind. And then I wind up sitting down with a friend of mine who is also a writer, and trying to finish his book, and I think - we should set some accountability goals.
I ask him, "When could you have yours done by if you really geared hard to do it?" And he said - "Two weeks from now, August 25th."
And I thought - "Could I do that?" And my first inclination is no, I have lots of things on, and besides, my book's been a rough draft for seven months, there's no way I could edit it down in two weeks.
And then I stopped. Because I'd asked the wrong question. And so I re-asked, "How could I do that?" And I started sketching out ideas.
By tomorrow: Write down:
-Why isn't Critical Thinking ready to ship?
-What's wrong with it?
-What would have to be done for it to be ready?
-Able to sell the book without blushing
Do this for 2-4 hours per day
I prepared my rough guidelines over a few days, and figure I've got 11 days to cover the roughly 330 pages in the book - that's 30 pages per day. Yesterday I did all of section one.
Before editing, it was 34 pages and 18,028 words. After editing: 32 pages, 16,219 words. Took me about two and a half hours to do.
There'll be a lot to do after editing is finished, but I'll have a cohesive, proofable book that I wouldn't blush at selling someone a copy. Just deciding to get it done, being accountable to two close friends, and now making a public commitment - it'll be pretty much done on August 25th. A little scary, but very exciting.
Do you have anything 90% done? What would happen if you made a firm commitment to another person? A public commitment? What if you asked, "How could I get this done?" I bet you could it. I'm doing it. It feels good, exciting. A little scary, but good. What would it take for you to complete one of your projects?
On 16 August, I wrote, "Why Isn't My Book Done?" I committed to editing it and having it edited by August 25th.
August 25th: -Proofable -Cohesive -Able to sell the book without blushing
I set these goals with a friend of mine who is also a writer - it was a pretty ambitious goal, because I finished the rough draft back in February, and not much has happened in the six months since then. Now, I was going to get it to the point where my work is proofable and cohesive in just two weeks?
And yet, it's done. Actually, I'd still blush a little if I went to sell a copy, since I should clean up the formatting, add a title page, things like that. But content wise it's solid enough that I'd take a USD $20 note from someone and hand them a copy bound in hardcover, and I'd feel they got a really good deal.
If I hadn't set this goal and been accountable publicly, to my friend and to everyone who reads here, I wouldn't have done it in two weeks. Honestly - I'm pretty internally motivated, but I've had a lot of stuff going on the last two weeks, it wouldn't have happened. But it did happen, largely because I was publicly accountable.
I finally finished editing the first draft, it took five hours in about eight different pieces. It was rough. I couldn’t believe how many times I misspelled a certain word or wrote ‘two’ instead of ‘too’. I’ve been adding words to my list of Google Docs ‘Always correct to’ faster than a ten-year-old going through a Christmas catalog.
The actual writing process in Google Docs has gone well. I’ve found that the service is much faster if I switch my wifi off and this brings the added bonus of not looking up words or ideas. I don’t get distracted via Twitter while writing - but do so immediately before and after - but will click through dozens of Wikipedia pages. Doc’s spell check seems to work a bit different offline but for editing and making changes I’ve left the wifi on.
Following Jamie Rubin’s advice I’ve been limiting my documents to about ten-thousand words each and the speed of accessing different parts is acceptable. I don’t have anything to compare this to so I can’t really say if this is above or below some average.
In commenting on my work I’ve found that bolding ideas works much better than inserting comments. These bold ideas stand out just as well and let me keep anything I that write. They also require a bit less managing, it’s easier to delete or remove the formatting rather than approve or delete a comment. I’m also using the ??? string to indicate an area of writing I’m not sure about. After writing then I can search for ??? using CTRL-F and move through the document rather quickly.