Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: So as I mentioned last week, I am serialising a to be released audiobook about self-publishing in this podcast. Last week we talked about preparing for self-publish, and this week I talk about actually writing a book.
Tim Lewis: I had been umming and arghing about whether to make this book more generally about self-publishing, so audiobooks, films etc, or just to keep it about books. I’ve kind of made the decision to just keep about books because while there is value in self-publishing other projects, it actually varies quite considerably in terms of the other media. So I’m just going to stick with writing for this book.
Tim Lewis: So now over to the next chapter of the audiobook – A Quick Guide to Self-Publishing.
Writing a book
Tim Lewis: In terms of the actual work required to self-publish a book, by far the largest element is actually writing the book. Now, the trick that helped me from my personal perspective was to heavily plan out the book, and then write the first draught as quickly as possible to get it out of the way. I’ve most usually done this as part of the NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month competition that people in the US and … it’s also come to Europe now obviously because I’m based in Europe, where in November you spend a whole month writing 50000 words.
Tim Lewis: Now, this particular competition has got an awful lot of criticism from people saying that is not helping people to write literary books. And there all genuinely some terrible books writing at NaNoWriMo, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not very helpful to have that kind of intensive writing experience.
Advantages of planning when writing a book
Tim Lewis: Now, there’s other people who listen to this may not want to do the planning route for a book, and that’s perfectly understandable, it’s very much a personal choice. And it does that in some ways I transfer over the procrastination from writing the book to writing the plan for the book, and that’s all very well, but I think that you … If you’ve written the plan, and then you write the book as fast as possible, you’re way more likely to finish the book than if you just think you’re going to write a book eventually. And you do one chapter here and there, and it’s a bit of a mess really.
Tim Lewis: There’s also, and this may be a bit controversial to some people, there’s also in my mind less editing needed. If you write very quickly then you’re more likely to keep in your mind all of the things that you’ve already written. And certainly if you plan out a book, then a lot of the major plot holes would happen if you happen to write a book over months and months disappear, because you’ve incorporated them into the plan. Major plot holes are easier to see in a small plan than they are in a 100000 word manuscript.
Tim Lewis: The other great thing about planning a book is that it lets you work through concepts very quickly, so that if you write a plan for a whole book and then you realise that there’s a massive plot hole or you actually don’t like the concept of the book. You’ve only wasted the time in writing like say 2000 words for a plan, rather than spending ages writing 100000 word book, only to abandon it.
Tim Lewis: So there is an awful lot to be said for plans. The disadvantages of plans are that you do feel less creative if you work to a plan that you’ve already written. Even though quite a lot of the time I’ll go totally off plan when I actually write the book. The other issue is that you can actually end up procrastinating on creating the plan, rather than the main document. I think this is just transference rather than anything worse than that.
Software for writing a book
Tim Lewis: So that’s my best tip for getting advance in terms of actually writing the book. In terms of the software that I use, I use a product called Scrivener. I use this both for planning out the books and for writing and generating the ePub file, which is the thing that you actually take to self-publish. This is a paid project, but is great in that you can create little synopses for your chapters, so actually plan out the book in a document as well as then writing in the actual contents later on. So it’s ideal in that you can plan and create in the same place.
Tim Lewis: There are other free alternatives out there, like there’s the free Reedsy Book Editor, which you can use on the Reedsy site. There’s also other companies like Streetlib, their own online book editor processes. You can write a book in Google Docs or Word or any other programme though. It’s all very much a personal preference. But the way I work I prefer to use Scrivener.
Writing tips in general
Tim Lewis: In terms of writing say a fiction book, the things to look out for are that you actually have some idea about how the book will actually finish, and how it’ll begin. This is where planning in my opinion makes a big difference, because if you don’t plan a book out, it’s very easy to end up writing the most amazing story. You have no idea how it’s going to finish, and then you realise that you have no idea it’s going to finish, and that’s where you give up. So I think it’s worth coming up with a … Well, it’s a bit of a corny thing to say, but a beginning, a middle and an end. In terms of a general fiction story, you’re looking in most situations to put your character into a bind, and then get them out of there. And that’s more or less the fiction story arch, or the hero’s journey. To where somebody leaves their normal world, does something special and then comes back. And they are enhanced in some way or if it’s a tragedy then they can be broken in some way by the journey.
Tim Lewis: For non-fiction, you’re looking primarily to educate and or entertain. And you can obviously take elements from the fiction’s side of things for a non-fiction book, but your main priority is to be clear and accurate in what you’re providing people with. And I have to say, I think writing is the part when people most procrastinate in terms of finishing their book. Whatever you need to do to get over the writing the book stage, to something that can be edited is what you need to do. If that requires going and sitting in a coffee shop for five minutes every morning, and just writing five minutes of a plan, and then doing some activity like NaNoWriMo where you write the whole book in November, then do that.
Tim Lewis: Is one of these personal case things where depending on your own personality, you may be better writing in the morning in short bursts, or may be better writing in the evening. Or you may be one of these people who can just write whenever they feel like it. I would say that there is a real advantage to writing every day for most people, so it’s a case of just looking for your own rhythm. There’s a huge number of good books about writing out there, and if you’re feeling at all worried about the craft element side of things, I suggest you read those books. But just remember the main thing is to get it done, so even if you’re writing 100 words a day, as long as you keep writing 100 words a day, and you’ve got a good plan and an idea about where you’re going. And you will complete the book, often there is no pressure to actually finish it by a particular day. The main thing is just to keep going.
Tim Lewis: So that’s my main key advice to writing is just to keep going and to finish it.
This is part of 6 part series, the previous episode was A Quick Guide to Self-Publishing Part 1 and the next part is A Quick Guide to Self-Publishing Part 3: Covers
If you liked this show then you might like How to Write Short Stories with James Scott-Bell, Writing and Pitching Screenplays with Charles Harris and Should You Become a Full-time Writer?