Tips on writing a book

Hi all,

Apparently I’m not the only one considering writing a book. Perhaps this could be the space to share and discuss the process and tools around it:

  • Choosing a topic
  • Finding a Publisher / Self-publishing
  • Writing tools: Word, Google Docs?
  • Writing habit / Getting stuff done

What did I miss?

/Jesper

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I have a topic around aligning business strategy and testing strategy, as on my blog. The Leading Quality book, has some of the notes but not specifically for what I’m aiming for. Is there an audience - I expect so among the test managers and test architects out there.

I’ll probably go for LeanPub, mostly inspired by A Practical Guide to Testing in DevOps by @katrinaclokie.

I haven’t decided on writing platform yet.

Getting stuff done: Consider this the first bold move - and something to do when it rains.

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How exciting!

@mwinteringham is going through this process. Perhaps once he’s back from paternity leave he’ll be in a position to share his learnings.

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Sounds a great idea ! Keep it up :slight_smile:
@jesper leanpub is a good option !
Let me know if you need any help.

  • For 21st skills for testers, we used overleaf (let me know if you want template) then we integrate it in leanpub as external PDF.
  • For agile testing Condesed we used directly leanpub, it’s easier but it doesn’t offer lot of options to customize the template.

Other tips:

  • Yes, we choose google doc it’s good to visualize every chapter for reviews/correction (you can also use a seperate document for every chapter then integrate them all in the platform)
  • You can allocate times in your calendar for different milestones review so that you will be motivated to reach the goal you fixed (the next meeting date is always my motivation factor to get things done by that date, can’t ignore that working in group of 2 is very helpful and motivating)
  • Ask for review, a second or third eye are very important
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My mother wrote a book and she had some sponsors also I believe. Not sure if it’s valid in your case but you could look into that, if it requires a bit of money to start out.

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Hello @jesper !

I had a few topics in mind for books and recently started writing. While I’m presently writing sci-fi, I hope this information might be relevant.

I have not considered the publishing phase yet. Today, it seems a long way off. I understand that finding a publisher is like finding a new job: send out a lot of cover letters with a manuscript and wait for feedback. I’d be willing to self publish.

I have been using Google Docs from my writing. I briefly tried Scrivener but found it limiting.

With respect to the writing habit, I encourage you to read The Artist’s Way (Cameron). For me, writing requires some warm up. The first five hundred words might be crap. But, they also might contain gems of ideas. As Cameron recommends, ignore the editor voice in your head and get words on a page. The next x-hundred words will be better. As with most stuff, daily practice will show improvement. Recently, I started writing haiku as a means getting in some writing practice while searching for words to fit in that format.
Since we are familiar with software development methodologies, I approach new writing as a series of iterations. One MVP might be something to build on, it might be something to discard.

I joined a local writer’s group. We meet monthly and critique each other’s work. I have found it very valuable for sci-fi writing. It helps me get stuff done.

Joe

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I’ve just accepted a commission to write my second professionally-published book. (Not on testing.) My first book was published nearly ten years ago, and I’ve been trying to sell my ideas for a second one ever since. The book I’m now working on isn’t the book I wanted to write, but in trying to drum up interest in that book, I talked to a lot of publishers and agents in my field.

As with so many things in this life, there’s an element of it being not what you know, but who you know. I responded to something in a magazine, and the editor/publisher came back and said “I hadn’t planned doing a book on X, but if you write it, I’ll publish it!”

So when it comes to choosing a publisher, I’d say it was a matter of knowing your field, knowing the people in it, and networking.

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The best tip I can give is write now, edit later.

I find it’s very tempting to let my brain slide into ‘edit mode’ and try and perfect everything while I’m writing, which causes cogitative overload. It’s much easier to just let the words flow and worry about editing later on.

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Thank’s @devtotest - I also looked into Scrivener, but found it hard to get a good grasp on too. It had to be better than that for the €55 price point.

I like google docs for that portability across devices - thanks for confirming too @emna_ayadi . I had started using Word online but found it got confused by the language settings on the different devices. It had smarter book features (Bibliography) - but Google docs more simple approach will do.

Platform so far is LeanPub, but ping me if you hear anything for a “real book”.

Now to get stuff “on paper” -thank you @kylegawley @robertday @kristof

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In my mis-spent youth, I hung out a lot with writers, both paid and wannabe. Back then, the only platform available was called “a typewriter”… :grinning:

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LeanPub caught my eye, also (I may even have a book started up there but not public - I’d have to check). Didn’t “The Martian” start out as self published?

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My dad had a facit in a suitcase, but I fear its gone. Will have to save for this instead :slight_smile:

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The topic for your book sounds very interesting, I had a similar topic in mind to consider trying to build out (if/when I find some extra time somewhere).

I’d be happy to review any content you have or support you in any way Jesper…

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I wrote a kids book a few years ago and tried to get it published, but could never get someone to publish it.

I would try and self publish now, but would need to find an illustrator… If anyone knows of anyone, i’d still love to try and get it published :slight_smile:

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Hi @jesper,

Here are my thoughts on your bullet points:

Choosing a topic

If you plan to write around a specific topic you’re going to be around it for a very long time. Like a year or more. So I would pick something you’re passionate about writing. If not, your motivation will drop and that’s a killer for your book.

Finding a Publisher / Self-publishing

There is a load of pros and cons and discussions between each option and I recommend doing a good bit of googling for more detailed blog posts to make a decision. However, I can share my thinking. I opted for reaching out to Publishers because I felt if I was going to succeed with writing a book I needed the infrastructure and support of experienced people to help me get the book done. It was definitely the right call for me. I have a fantastic development editor who is really supportive and helps me with the thornier issues. I also have the support of a marketing team to get the book out as well, but the support of the editors and feedback systems they’ve set up are more important to me. In short, yes you earn less (likely make a loss in terms of real hours put in) but there is less noise and more support than self publishing. The question to ask yourself is how do you work, what support do you feel you will need and what are you hoping to achieve.

One thing to add after reviewing comments in this thread is that the submission process for fiction and non-fiction is different. For fiction you have to have a fully written draft to submit, that’s not the case for non-fiction / technical books. A lot of the publishers will take a clear description of your book and a Table of contents that clearly communicate your books intentions. I learnt a lot about this from this video: How To Get A Book Deal in Ten Years or Less - YouTube

Writing tools

I use a tool called Ulysses for Mac. It’s $5 a month and it’s worth its weight in gold. Its main feature is to make writing as seamless as possible, so no formatting drama, no popups, etc. It’s highly configurable and has great backup features (I’ve been bitten once and saved by this tool).

However, there are loads of tools out there beyond Word and Drive and I encourage you to trial them out and see what works for you and doesn’t. The goal initially is getting the words on the page, if you aren’t getting them out then the tool might not be right for you.

Writing habit / Getting stuff done

Write every day, simple as that. Just keep writing, don’t stop. When I first started I would do a page a day (300 words approx.) but when I joined Manning publishing I upped it to 3 pages a day to up my output and get the book done asap. Some days the page comes out quickly, some days it’s a complete grind. But you stick to your pages per day and you will see progress.

Also I second @kylegawley:

Focus on getting it out of your head first before cleaning it up to make it clearer.

Being with a publisher also helps as you will have deadlines in your contract to work towards. These are usually flexible as long as you’re demonstrating that you’re making progress.

Hope that helps.

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