Tim Lewis: Well I think you know the drill now in terms of these episodes. We have been following the people who I have been helping to write and self-publish their books. This week we come back to May King Tsang, and we find out how she’s got on with writing her book plan.
Tim Lewis: So now over to the interview. Hello, May King.
May King Tsang: Hello, Tim. How are you?
Tim Lewis: I’m not too bad. So the question I think the audience will be on the edge of their seats waiting to hear the answer to, is have you finished your plan for your book?
May King Tsang: Yes. Yes. Yes. Like that Herbal Essences, I bet, yes I have.
Tim Lewis: And did you finish it by the date you were supposed to, or did you just finish it a few days ago?
May King Tsang: No, I finished it about an hour ago.
Tim Lewis: Okay, well it’s still done, so that’s the main thing. How did you find the process of writing a plan for your book then?
May King Tsang: Do you know, it was absolutely amazing. For those listeners who listened to the last podcast, I talked about how … and I’m sure a lot of your listeners may have been in this position as well, where I’ve threatened to write a book for years, and I’ve got in my Google Drive seven different ideas, and I may have written a paragraph, a page or something, and just never got back to it, so by you giving me a deadline of having this plan was just absolutely brilliant. The tips that you gave me last podcast, again, absolutely brilliant.
May King Tsang: I think for a lot of people who want to write a book, they sit down, and they just start writing something, and then procrastination sets in because writer’s block kind of comes in, but if you have a plan, and break it down … like in business generally, whatever goal you have, you need to break it down into manageable chunks, and then just get on with it.
May King Tsang: The fact that you gave me a plan, I had a deadline, start, middle, and end … I broke that down even further, and I know this date was looming, this date was looming, it was just fantastic. I’ve managed to have the chapter headings. I did as you suggested, which is great, just focus on one chapter and just write as much as you can until you stop, and then you can go back into it and sort of refine it.
May King Tsang: I’m at the stage where I’ve just written all the chapter headings. I did a blast of each chapter heading, and so I guess the next stage is going back into them and refining those chapters. But yes, that’s how I did it.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So have you actually written large chunks of the book already then, within these sort of plans? Or is it like the plan, a chapter heading, and then a sort of rough description of what that chapter will be?
May King Tsang: So what I did was, … the title of my book, which came to me at 3:00 in the morning, it is From Making Mistakes to Making it Happen. It’s an autobiographical account of my business journey, so I knew that a chunk of it would have to be when I first started my business in London, I knew that the middle would be, the main part of my six years of being in Australia, and then the remaining part would be when I came back to the UK two years ago.
May King Tsang: Because I wanted each chapter heading, I had this crazy notion that the first letter of each chapter was going to spell the word Making it Happen, so I already have that in mind. So then it was a case of how much time do I portion to the London bit? How much time do I portion to the Brisbane bit? How much time do I portion to the Sheffield bit? And then it just kind of naturally flowed.
May King Tsang: With each chapter heading, I’ve written about … well some chapters I just went a little bit crazy, so some chapters I’ve written a couple of pages, some of them is a paragraph, just to sort of remind me of what this particular title was going to feature, and I’ve also got a whole host of notes as well on the side. Does that make sense?
Tim Lewis: Yup, that makes sense. So I suppose the next question we should talk about is the future. When do you … well I’ve done this with the other two interviewees, well I’ve had a third interviewee, but she’s already done her book, so that’s kind of moot.
May King Tsang: Brilliant.
Tim Lewis: Let’s think about a potential completion date for the whole project. Actually, that’s two dates because … I haven’t asked the other people for two dates, but I think you need a date for when you actually finish writing the book, and then a kind of target date for when you actually release the book, and there should be some time between them because there is things like editing and cover design and marketing plans, and all the rest of it.
May King Tsang: So that’s a very good question, ’cause I’m actually going to divert that question back onto you, because when you say … I see you as my book mentor and accountability buddy as it were, which I think is a fantastic idea for any wannabe writer. They need an accountability buddy to keep them on track.
May King Tsang: So when you say finish the book, do you mean finish the first draft of the book or do you mean completely finish it?
Tim Lewis: Well, I’m talking the first draft
May King Tsang: First draft.
Tim Lewis: My advice to people … I mean this is what I generally do. I didn’t do it my last book, but what I’ve generally found is the best way to write a book is to write a plan, and then once you’ve got that plan, you’ve got a framework, and then you try and write … I would try and write the book as fast as possible, the first draft.
Tim Lewis: The reason I say that is if you think about it, you’re gonna have all of the concepts and all this stuff in your head as you’re writing it. If you try and write one sort of … you do 10 minutes a day for two years, you’re gonna forget what you were writing about like two weeks ago, and then you’re gonna end up constantly going back and trying to work out what on earth you were trying to do, and that’s not a great way of doing it.
Tim Lewis: The other advantage of having a plan is I see you’ve got chapters, or sections within it, so at the very least you can try and finish off a chapter, each one of these sort of sprints, and a lot of that depends on how … there’s a couple of things that are important here. Like how fast do you type, and have you got any experience with your voice-to-text software?
May King Tsang: Okay, so what’s really interesting is on this occasion, ’cause as I’ve mentioned, I’ve had probably 10, 15 attempts at writing a book in the past, about seven of them Google Drive.
May King Tsang: I don’t want to lose the art of writing, so this is really strange, but do you remember our wonderful book that we received at the MarketEd.Live conference? I’ve actually used that to write my book. So I haven’t actually typed any of it at all, and I think that writing it for me is a lot more powerful than typing.
May King Tsang: I know typing’s easier to edit and so on, but I think what I’ve found in the past is that I get a stint where I’m just really creative. I’ll write lots and lots, and then I’ll get writer’s block, and then that’s when the procrastination starts.
May King Tsang: So like in business generally, if you do … what was it that Albert Einstein said, “If you do the same thing using the same methods, then … ” I can’t remember the phrase. You know what I mean.
Tim Lewis: I do know the quote. It’s, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result,” I think something like that.
May King Tsang: That’s right. That’s right. Yes, so because I’ve attempted to write a book online, with my Google Doc and so on, and it hasn’t quite worked, I thought I’d do something different. So I’m actually writing it out. And it’s also partly because I don’t want to lose the skill and art of writing. As much as I love social media, as much as I love my computer, we don’t really write anymore. I don’t have a calendar anymore. My calendar is my Google calendar and so I’m actually writing it out which is quite interesting.
Tim Lewis: Well we can’t argue with the fact that at some point you’re gonna have to get it onto a computer somehow.
May King Tsang: I will. I will. I will definitely.
Tim Lewis: There is software that exists called OCR, optical character recognition. Though whether that can deal with your handwriting or not, I have no idea.
May King Tsang: I don’t think so.
Tim Lewis: But the same principle applies. The important thing is not really where it goes. From a kind of electronic point of view, it’s gonna save you time if you typed it into the computer, but you still want to be trying to finish off these sections, even if you’re writing it down by hand, just so that you’ve got the rest of the chapter in your mind when you’re writing it, ’cause otherwise it’s so easy to kind of end up contradicting yourself or saying something, because you’ve forgotten what you wrote in the previous bit.
Tim Lewis: So I would look to see in your timetable, or your sort of schedule for the next couple of months, anywhere where you’ve got a block of time, where you can concentrate, generally … it would be ideal if it’s like you’ve got a week or two where you can just concentrate on trying to write this book.
Tim Lewis: Otherwise it’s like try to get the sections done as much as you can. That would be what I suggest. A lot depends on your diary and availability over the next few months really.
May King Tsang: Thank you. That’s great advice, ’cause I think I have a tendency to max my calendar out with meetings and follow up calls and this, that, and the other, so actually booking a week off in order to concentrate on writing the book is gonna be a great challenge. I like the idea.
May King Tsang: Again, I’m one of those business learners, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners are, a lot of starters who have a gazillion things going on, and of course all the great entrepreneurs and business owners out there will say, “Just do that one thing, and don’t worry.” So maybe I should listen to them ’cause I’m sure … well, of course they are right. So I’m gonna have to find some time in my diary, and probably over the festive period, or just shortly after that to book out a whole week. I think I’ll really enjoy it too, where i just write, write, write.
May King Tsang: So your original question was when do you think you’d get that first draft done. Gosh, I don’t know.
Tim Lewis: Well, I mean … well let’s be a bit scientific about this.
May King Tsang: Okay.
Tim Lewis: How many chapters have you got in your plan?
May King Tsang: So, Making it Happen is three, six, seven … 15 chapters.
Tim Lewis: Okay, and roughly how big do you think the chapters are gonna be? Are they gonna be huge or they gonna be 5,000 or 2,000 words?
May King Tsang: Golly, I don’t know.
Tim Lewis: Because 5,000 words is one huge book, actually. 15 chapters …
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: Well, let’s say …
May King Tsang: Say 500 words for a sheet of A4, isn’t it? Is that what they say?
Tim Lewis: Yeah, 400, 500, something like that.
May King Tsang: I couldn’t even tell you. It’s really funny ’cause when I started writing my plan, and I had a quick look at some of the stuff that I’ve done in the past, and you know, you do a Google search on yourself, and it’s just so fascinating the kind of things that came up. Oh, gosh, I’ve forgotten I had to do this.
May King Tsang: Several years ago I was really into Pinterest, so I pinned a lot of stuff there, so I had a look at that and I thought, “Wow, I completely forgot about that,” so you know, yeah. I don’t know what to put in and what to leave out I suppose.
May King Tsang: Primarily I really want this book to help readers to understand that it is possible to start a business, and like Gary Vaynerchuk often says, “It’s about being patient and enjoying the process. Enjoy the journey as well.” I did a lot of things. Not all of them were moneymaking stuff. A lot of it was brand awareness. A lot of it was ’cause I just enjoyed it.
May King Tsang: But what I didn’t do was sit down and reflect on what I did, and so what I need to do is figure out what will be useful to the reader, ’cause that’s ultimately what I wanna do. I want to try and help people to understand the tools of how I did stuff, why I did certain things, and also share a little bit of my personal journey as well, because the business and personal journey’s intertwined. So that doesn’t really answer your question.
Tim Lewis: Okay, well given an average non-fiction book’s about 8,000 to 45,000 words long. Let’s say you write 3,000 words for each chapter, which is a lot, so that would be 45,000 words. And then we gotta work out how many … well how many A4 sheets do you manually, using your pen and paper, how much could you write in an hour, do you reckon? Do you write an A4 sheet in an hour?
May King Tsang: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: So that’s like 500.
May King Tsang: I like this. I like this math thing.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, so that’s … each one of your chapters will take you six hours approximately.
May King Tsang: Right. That’s interesting. Okay.
Tim Lewis: And then six times 15, this is where my math starts to get … so that’s 30, that’s 90. 90 hours. So how long is that …
May King Tsang: 90 hours. So that’s potentially, if I do a 40-hour week, a 45-hour week, that’s about a fortnight then to finish the book, right?
Tim Lewis: And that’s kind of right in … I mean, that’s not taking the fact that you got to somehow type all this stuff out, or pay somebody to type it all out. So it’s kind of like when you think you’re gonna have let’s say three weeks, or free-ish activity, and then we add on a month or so for luck.
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: So I’m guessing some sort of April time. That’s just picking a finger in the air kind of-
May King Tsang: Okay, let’s go for that then.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So should we say you’ll get your first draft done by the 5th of April?
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: Totally arbitrary date, but … and well you’ve got to get editing and the rest of it, so you’ll get the book done by … we’ll put June the 7th in just as a totally arbitrary date. I think that might move though.
May King Tsang: And the 7th of June to have the …
Tim Lewis: Book released.
May King Tsang: Oh, wow. Okay. I like this. This is awesome.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, well I mean it’s like any kind of estimation. I mean the peculiar position. The … I’ve came from a sort of … well, I’ve never actually been in a scientific background, but I was fairly good science and art. Well I suppose I a computer scientist … I have a computer science master’s degree, so that’s kind of scientific, but I’ve always been social sciences. It’s always about estimation and then I’ve switched over to much more kind of artsy fiction side of things.
May King Tsang: Yeah, I really like the way that you really broke it down because I think that I have seen those books that say, “Write 10 minutes a day and you’ll get a novel in two years,” and that kind of stuff. But I’ve never been very methodical and structured the way that you’ve outlined here in writing a book. So I love it.
May King Tsang: We managed to arrive at … you mentioned, what was it? 3,000 words a chapter approximately.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, it probably won’t be that much, but …
May King Tsang: Yeah, but it’s nice to have that sort of indicator, and then because I’ve got 15 chapters, that’s about 45,000 words for the book, six hours a chapter, which means 90 hours, which equated to about a fortnight for the book, give or take other things that come … so I love that. I think it’s great. Yeah, thank you.
Tim Lewis: It might not be completely true, but you need a figure to start with.
May King Tsang: Yeah, and going back to the Albert Einstein quote. I’ve always just thought, “Right, I’m gonna write a book, and I’m just gonna write … ” and it hasn’t gotten it anywhere. So to have some kind of structure like this is fantastic, so I really appreciate that. That’s awesome. That’s awesome, Tim. You rock.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, cheers. Okay, so what else do we need to worry about in the moment? Not really anything apart from you going back. Maybe I better look at your forward plan diary, and you’ll need to find probably three weeks somewhere between now and the 5th of April to try and get this … probably not having the last week just before the 5th of April.
Tim Lewis: And to be honest, if you wrote 2,000 words a chapter, that’s completely fine. I mean, if you write 500 words a chapter, then that’s like … well, that’s probably too short, but 30,000, 45,000 words is more than … and for non-fiction books you can get away with really short books.
Tim Lewis: I wouldn’t like to say what the minimum size is for getting a paperback book, because you do get to the point where it’s like a leaflet. That’s too small. There’s all sorts of tricks you can do with print size and actual the size of the books as well. There are different sizes for books. I always go 6 inch by 9 inch for the book, but there’s a smaller 5 by 8 size, and you’re gonna get more text in that, so … as long as you write a reasonable …
Tim Lewis: You can even get away with 750 word a chapter. I have no idea what add up to, but that will be probably enough for a non-fiction book.
May King Tsang: Right. And where do these numbers come from? I assume you’ve done a lot of research on this. You’re the author are seven books, so is this a general consensus that’s 2,000 to 3,000 words a chapter is considered to be okay? ‘Cause there are of course a lot of books out there that are, quite frankly, rubbish, and like you say a leaflet.
May King Tsang: I want to make sure that I give the best that I can for my readers. I want them to learn from someone who has started a business, who has not gone to the dizzy heights of success, whatever success means to different people, but I also want to make sure that I do a good job as well, because I have met many authors in my time. A lot of people have given their books to me, and I’ve read them, because they answer … I show respect for them for giving me that book, but then I have to say that some of the books that I’ve read are just not oh … there could have been a lot more there.
May King Tsang: So, I just want to make sure I do a good job. Where does this number of 2,000 to 3,000 words come from?
Tim Lewis: By dividing 30,000 and 45,000 by the number of chapters. I wouldn’t say … I have no idea really. If you’re interested you could just literally find some of your favourite … and this would have actually been interesting exercise, maybe I’ll do it as well. Find some of your favourite non-fiction books, and then look how many chapters have they got?
Tim Lewis: I think 15 chapters is a reasonable number from my experience. It’s all just like figure in the air stuff. ‘Cause I know my fantasy books are about 50,000, 55,000 words, which is short for fantasy. Fiction is always a lot longer, but that would be long for a non-fiction book.
Tim Lewis: I shouldn’t … I don’t know off the top of my head how big my own book is. I’ll word count. I’ve got word count on.
May King Tsang: Like I say, it’s good to actually have a structure. I wanna try and do something different. I wanna complete this project of course, which would be great. Now, my next question I suppose is, so we’ve got the arbitrary date that we’ve pulled out of the air, 5th of April for my first draft. Now I don’t know about you … you’ve had seven attempts, not seven attempts, but seven times you’ve written a book. When do you stop editing?
May King Tsang: You can just be the greatest perfectionist in your life and just write, write, write. Go back to the chapter, think, “No, not happy about that. Oh, I need to add something more in.” So when do you actually stop? When is a good time … yeah, when is a good time to stop?
Tim Lewis: Well, since I … with your first draft, don’t … well if you see an obvious mistake, go back and change it, but I would say just don’t do any editing at all, literally priority is to finish the first draft, because there’s nothing like having a finished book. Well you know, you’ve got the same problem I had before I kind of … I read this book about self-publishing and they said this … it’s so important to finish that first draft.
May King Tsang: Okay.
Tim Lewis: It doesn’t matter if it’s riddled with mistakes and … you go back and you change that in the editing process. Now, ideally … well I’m saying 90%, you want to get somebody else to at least proof read any of your book if you can. Ideally somebody who’s a professional, but I’ve got my mom who used to work as an editor in about the 1960s.
May King Tsang: Oh, amazing.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, ideally you want a professional editor to look at the book if you can, but that’s gonna cost.
May King Tsang: Right.
Tim Lewis: So kind of the price is why it would work is you finish off your first draft, and you’re not bothered about any mistakes or anything like that. Then you, yourself, go through the book, and that’s where you start worrying about the big changes like are you missing anything, is there anything that needs to be added in, kind of major issues. Not necessarily worrying too much about spelling mistakes. If you see them, correct them, but don’t … and then you probably wanna have another go through it.
Tim Lewis: Something which I found is a very useful trick, and I kind of wish I had done more with me book, but I was in a bit of a rush. The reason one is … if you use text-to-speech software and get it to read the book back to you, that makes so much difference in terms of the tone of the book, and also for like obvious … ’cause sometimes there are phonetic errors and things, and errors that you just don’t read that creep into your book. It takes ages, but that’s a very good way.
Tim Lewis: And then, when you’ve kind of got to that point, you maybe give it to an editor or a proofreader, depending on your budget and how much you wanna spend on it. And once you’ve done that, you’re thinking about … well the formatting of the book, which you can probably do yourself, or you can pay somebody to do. That’s more or less … things like the title and the cover and everything you need to worry about as well.
Tim Lewis: We’ll talk about that when you’re next on.
May King Tsang: Fantastic.
Tim Lewis: You’re right. It can be a bit like how long is a piece of string in terms of how many edits do you go through. I would suggest that you at least do one round of editing yourself, and you read it out … you get some software to read it out, and you go through and listen to it all the way through as a bare minimum.
May King Tsang: Okay.
Tim Lewis: Ideally, you’re paying professionals after that because you really wanna be getting the professionals involved. It depends on the level of editing as well, because you’re not really … there are editors who are almost like book coaches. We’ll call it developmental editors. I can never pronounce that word properly, which I suppose is kind of the role one taking in the why.
Tim Lewis: I’m not a professional editor at all, and they would be like … they would be people who would give you case studies as to which format they would want and this kind of thing. Much more detailed. And then there’s called copy editors who are people who will go through saying, “Well, maybe you wanna move this section here, and you wanna do this section there,” and then there are proofreads who are people who are checking the typos.
Tim Lewis: So there’s a lot more to the editing process than just kind of making sure it’s got no errors in it. There’s lots of badly written books that have got no typos in them. There are also lots of well written books that have got loads of typos in them. That’s depending on editing versus proofreading. That’s kind of the way it goes.
May King Tsang: So that has just been absolutely amazing, Tim, as usual. Thank you so much for inviting me to be back on your podcast. I’ve got a lot of homework to do, but at least I’ve got a structure behind it, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you and going, it’s finished. Finished.
Tim Lewis: You put your hand up, “I’ve done. Done it.”
May King Tsang: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: I know the next show … when’s the next show gonna be? Well, you’re not actually on ’til mid-December-ish time. We’re actually in November at the moment still. But your show’s actually gonna be air mid-December. Then Jen’s on Christmas time. Ben will be on sometime … some probably the end of January I’ll have you on the show again. We can plan that.
May King Tsang: Oh, great. Just to see how I get out.
Tim Lewis: And I’ll expect you to have at least written some words by then. If not, you’ll have some explaining to do.
May King Tsang: Will there be detention? Will I have to write all the lines?
Tim Lewis: You’ll have to write lines. Well, lines in the book anyway.
May King Tsang: Oh, my book.
Tim Lewis: Anyway, it was great to have you on the show again, May King. I was like, I didn’t breathe in the right place there.
May King Tsang: Do you know this week half-hearted threatens what you pull with a wet tea leaf, by calling me May. But that’s just part and parcel of my name, isn’t it. So you’re not the only one. Well, thank you again, Tim, and I will speak to you in January sometime.
Tim Lewis: Yes, I’ll speak to you then.
May King Tsang: Lovely. Bye now.
If you liked this show you might like Making TEA Right Book Decision with May King Tsang, Jen Finishes Her Plan and Ben Finishes His Manuscript