The Future Is Here
For the last eighteen days in a row, I’ve been working on ‘finishing’ my book.
There are 8 days left until it must be uploaded to Amazon. Thanks to the seventy or so hours I’ve put in since 30th January I’ll now meet that deadline.
Another 3 or 4 days of formatting and I’ll be there.
I thought it might be interesting for you to see how I got to this stage.
I’ve no idea how many hours the book has taken to write. It took eighteen months to create the first draft. Most of the work done during that time was, unsurprisingly, writing.
But before putting fingers to keyboard there had to be a plan.
‘A Foolish Odyssey’ is a memoir. It covers a thirty year period of my life. The starting point had to be a timeline.
A piece of software called AEON TIMELINE helped me with that.
Using my memory, journals and blog posts I added as much information to it as possible.
News events act as a useful trigger. It’s amazing how memories return once you associate time and place with what was happening in the world at that moment.
Once the timeline was complete I moved over to a mind map.
I use MINDNODE on my iPad and Mac.
Here I started narrowing down which events I was going to write about. The themes I wanted to cover. What I wanted to say.
I knew I wanted to tell the story of my life post ‘Mor Gwas’. I needed to show how I got to the point where I decided to build ‘Gleda’. After that, it got trickier.
It took nearly eight years to build the boat. The actual construction process would be of limited interest to most. ‘I cut this bit of wood, I glued that bit of wood. I painted something’; you get the idea.
But I knew those eight years also held the meat of my story. The life-changing stuff. The real reason for writing the book in the first place.
‘A Foolish Odyssey’ had to provide hope and inspiration.
Mind mapping allowed me to get to the essence of my writing. To see where I was going.
Only my readers will be able to tell me if I’ve succeeded in providing those two all important elements.
There was one last thing to do before starting to write.
I needed a cover.
For me, this has become an important part of the self-publishing process.
I’d already decided to stick with the ‘Foolish’ theme, and ’Foolish Odyssey’ had been the working title for a while. Next stage was to come up with a design brief and set up a competition at 99 Designs.com
I’ve found that investing a few hundred quid in a decent cover is a worthwhile investment in several ways.
Having a group of talented designers sending you their ideas is fun and can get you thinking differently about the project.
Here are a few of the designs I rejected.
Laying out hard earned cash also focusses attention. If you don’t finish the book that money has been wasted.
Having the finished cover long before the writing is done acts as a great incentive for me. I set it up as a desktop background to remind me what I’m working towards.
Now the writing could start.
I now write exclusively on ULYSSES. I have it on both my Mac and my iPad and it syncs seamlessly using iCloud.
I love having the flexibility to write on either device as the mood takes me.
I need my writing software to do two things.
First, it has to be a nice place to write, without distraction. Ulysses allows me to use a full-screen editor. No menu bars, no clutter. I particularly like the dark theme on my iPad.
Second, it has to let me organise my writing easily. In Ulysses, you write on individual ‘sheets’ which can then be moved around as you wish. You can set up an unlimited number of folders and subfolders in a hierarchical tree structure and navigate through them easily.
I used to use SCRIVENER software but found it too bloated. It’s an amazing tool but for me, the learning curve is too steep.
So that’s all there is to it.
Roll forward seventeen months or so and I had nearly 100,000 words sitting in Ulysses. ‘A Foolish Odyssey’ in the rough.
I don’t know who said it first but there’s a much-touted phrase used by writers along the lines of ‘Writing is rewriting’.
According to myth, Ernest Hemingway rewrote Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied with it.
Well, I’ll never be a Hemingway and I don’t do a lot of rewriting. What I did do though was read through what I’d written and change a few things.
I had planned to spend a lot longer on the all-important editing stage. Some kind folks had offered to proofread. I was even considering paying for an editor. Unfortunately, events conspired against me.
Having set a hard deadline by making the book available for pre-order, I then lost a full month of work due to my unexpected trip back to the UK.
By the time I got back it was obvious I’d just have to do the best job I could on my own.
I decided to do what I did at the beginning of the project; apply a system.
Once again software made life easier. I decided to run the entire book through three separate tools.
I mentioned Ernest Hemingway earlier. The first one I used takes its name from him.
HEMINGWAY EDITOR claims that its aim is to cut the dead wood from your writing.
It highlights wordy sentences in yellow and more glaringly bad ones in red.
It also highlights adverbs, use of passive voice, and dull, complicated words.
It’s supposed to be like having Ernest looking over your shoulder and telling you what a crap writer you are.
It does that pretty well.
I needed to cut and/or change a lot of red highlighted text.
Next up was GRAMMARLY.
This one is good at picking up common grammatical errors, such as subject-verb agreement, article use, and modifier placement, in addition, it spots contextual spelling mistakes, phonetic spelling mistakes, and irregular verb conjugations.
Once again there was plenty for me to put right.
Lastly, I read the entire manuscript out loud.
Actually, I didn’t. I used VOICE DREAM WRITER on my iPad.
This app uses text to speech software that ’reads’ out loud. It does so in a not disagreeable, slightly robotic, female voice. I listened on headphones whilst reading along on the laptop.
It’s amazingly effective at picking up errors the other tools missed.
With the editing done all that remains is to get everything formatted nicely.
That’s actually a big deal. Breaking everything into the correct parts and chapters. Adding front matter like copyright, dedication and preface pages. A table of contents, images, other marketing stuff.
Formatting is an area where I made a big investment last year. I purchased VELLUM.
Their tagline is ‘Easily Create Beautiful Ebooks’, and that’s exactly what the software does.
OK, the word ‘easy’ is relative. But I’m no genius and find it pretty straightforward.
Vellum where I’m spending a lot of my time right now.
So there you have it. A snapshot of my writing and self-publishing process.
I get a real buzz out of using these tools and getting my work out into the world.
Writing this book has reminded me how much I and the world I live in have changed.
‘A Foolish Odyssey’ starts in 1984.
The internet was still 10 years away. Mark Zuckerberg had just been born. Important folks had pagers so that they could be told to find a telephone and call in. We listened to music on cassette tapes. Computers were for science geeks.
Today I’m sitting on a boat in Spain. I’m connected to the world, instantly.
I can write a book. I can edit, produce and publish it myself. I can make it available to buy around the planet at the push of a button. I don’t need permission, there are no gatekeepers. I spent a few hundred quid to do a better job, I could have done it for free.
If someone buys my book they can be reading it electronically within seconds. If they want a paperback it’ll be printed and shipped within hours. either way, seventy percent of what they pay for the book goes into my bank account within days, 24/7.
How amazing is that?
I just spent eighteen months looking back.
I’m more than ready to start looking forward again.
Forward is the future.
The future is already here.