Five Things I Learned About Writing a Book

Draft a Table of Contents

This will give you the structure you need to stay on track. It is quite easy to meander away from your topic and find yourself on a totally different path than where you began. That said, don’t think of the TOC as a static document. My co-author and I revised ours several times, in response to things we discovered in our interviews that we hadn’t thought of previously. Ultimately we think this made the book stronger by giving it more balance and a better flow.

 Reformatting is a pain so try to minimize it

Find out how the editor wants the pages formatted (i.e. Times New Roman, one-inch margins, mix of bullet points and text) before you head to your computer. Write that way from the very beginning, even if it feels uncomfortable. It will save you a lot of time and frustration down the line.

Discover your weaknesses and stay attuned to them

Everyone has certain words they consistently misspell and phrases that they overuse. I know I have a propensity to use clichés and to write run-on sentences. These personal quirks make your writing weaker and frustrate your readers so it’s important to try to catch as many of them as you can. Readers can help with this!

Having readers is unbelievably helpful

I’ve never used readers for my articles but I found them invaluable for reviewing and commenting on my book chapters. Because the book I’m co-authoring is about college transfer I asked eight people, parents of college-age students, friends who had transferred, people who had careers or experience in education, and college kids, to critique a chapter or two for me.

Carla reading

Think of a book as if you were writing an extra-large article

Trust me, you are much less likely to get overwhelmed this way. Remember it’s a step process: come up with a topic, research, interview, and draft. Then proof, revise, and edit. Repeat as needed until you’re done.

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