Publishing a book with minmum effort

Evaluation can take many forms and, over the course of time, as you grow your writing business, there may be benefit in considering different methods and using a variety of tools. For now, because you need to focus on using your time to produce written work, consider the following:- Have you achieved what you set out to achieve?

This is the outcome or deliverable, for example your completed your book or learnt to touch type at 30 words per minute.- Has the project provided the expected benefits? Has learning to touch type doubled your writing speed?- Are there specific areas you could improve?

Perhaps you spent longer than expected on research because you were unclear about what you needed to know.- If you were to do this again what would you do differently? After you have completed your first book you will adapt the way you work in order to maximise your productivity. Some people write detailed outlines that enable them to write a first draft that requires little editing whilst others write a brief outline and then take longer to write a first draft that needs considerable editing.

Once you have evaluated your project you can consider any areas for improvement and implement these during your future projects.

3- Plan your writing

If you want success you must plan to succeed. If you have defined your goals and turned them into projects with tasks, timescales and deadlines then you have already started the planning process. This section covers the major aspects of planning your book from first idea through to completion.

Outlining and plotting

Some fiction writers plan to the nth degree whilst others just sit down and write – often that you have carved out for yourself then planning your book and creating a detailed outline is the number one way to ensure that when you sit down to write you know exactly what you are working on and can get the words down without having to think about what happens next. When you finish a writing session you already know which scene or section you will be working on next enabling you to think it through before you next sit down to write.

Non-fiction writers nearly always plan their book although they may add or delete sections as the book progresses.

If you are already a productive and prolific pantser then carry on, if not then plan your book whether fiction or non-fiction. Plan effectively and you will save time on writing, research and editing – all of which will improve your productivity.

Fiction – planning enables you to see exactly where your novel is going (an end point or scene is always useful even if you haven’t yet decided if your main character will be successful), identify what scenes are needed (if a character is conveniently on a plane you need to establish a reason for them being there), ensure your characters develop throughout the book, check for plot holes and consistency (does the cousin in scene three become the uncle in scene ten), ensure continuity (the red scarf doesn’t become blue)

Get this right and in sufficient detail before you write the first draft and you will write faster and complete a first draft that requires less work during rewrites and edits.

If you find it difficult to plan the whole novel, or just don’t want to, or you want to get on with the writing, then write a brief outline and plan the next few scenes. When you have written them, plan a few more. The more detailed the plan the easier it is to identify any problems at an earlier stage and correct them before you need to rewrite. You can still make changes as you write however the outline makes it easier to see what else you will need to rewrite (which scenes contain the small red car which has now become a battered blue four-wheel drive).

Start with a brief narrative to describe your story. Don’t think too hard or worry about complete sentences – this is for your use. This is often better recorded and then transcribed as you will probably get a better flow. This overview will most likely raise questions that you need to answer in your book, you therefore now have a sense of some of the scenes required. This description might form the basis for a book description if you are self-publishing or for an enquiry letter if you are seeking a publisher.

An example of such a description might be:An example of such a description might be:A man boards a ferry for a coastal tour. He wanders around and sees what looks like an exchange of a package for cash. The people he is watching do not see him. Later the ferry develops a fault and is sti’anded. He sees the two people again and this time he is sure one is holding a gun and leading the other towards a car. Again they do not see him. He decides to investigate and waits until the man with the gun disappears. He goes to the car and finds a body. He tries his phone but no signal.

The man with the gun comes back and chases him. He escapes. He doesn’t want to attract attention to himself so doesn’t report what he sees. Hespends several hours playing hide and seek. During this time he tries to find out about both men. When the ferry docks he gets off intending to use a phone box to call the police. A car, the one containing the body, comes speeding towards him.There are quite a lot of questions here including:

– Why is he on the ferry?- Why is he reluctant to alert the ferry crew?- How does he find out about the two people? Perhaps he is a computer expert, he hacks the computer and obtains a passenger list with passport photos (might need to research what data is collected and where it is stored).- Who are these two people and what is being exchanged? Perhaps information about a revolutionary product which is being sold to a rival business overseas.

– At the end, and you don’t have to decide yet, does the man manage to contact the police? Does the car hit him? If yes is he killed? Is the man with the gun caught?

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Write these deadlines into your diary. For example, at the top of the diary page for 22nd February write in capitals – COMPLETED 50,000 WORD FIRST DRAFT. If you miss these deadlines you either need to become more productive, increase your writing time or extend your deadline.

Each activity is broken down into tasks which can then be scheduled into your identified writing slots. 50,000 words may become 100 tasks of 500 words. Each of these tasks requires a twenty-five minute writing slot (based on 40 hours required to write a first draft).

Of course, you can complete multiple tasks in one slot, eg, 1000 words in 50 minutes (2 tasks) or complete part of a task, 200 words in ten minutes. Note that usually you break down each activity into tasks after you have completed the previous activity because you may not know what you need to research until you have written your first draft. You now have a list of tasks that you can schedule over the coming weeks (see task and time management).

It is important to schedule the tasks and allocate no more than the time required because Parkinson’s Law states that a task expands to fill the time available to complete it. Give yourself three weeks to write 21,000 and, towards the end of three weeks, you may find you have only written 2000 words even if you sit down every writing session.

Give yourself one day with a half hour time slot to write 900 words and you will most likely achieve it. It is interesting that most people will not do a better job if they allocate more time to a task, they just become less productive. It is also interesting that many people when they have more time to write because they have reduced their hours at work, their children have become less dependent, or they have retired, still don’t become more prolific.

vintage books and a cup of coffee

They produce no more in four hours than they previously did in one.
In the task and time management section of this book you will identify your writing slots and then schedule these tasks along with your productivity targets.

Record and review your progress

You are currently creating clear goals and projects. At a later point in time, as you work on your projects and complete tasks, it is useful to review your progress and achievements. This will enable you to identify any problems and make further improvements.

For example, you have created the task of writing 500 words in 25 minutes – note this is also a SMART target -1 will write 500 words, Specific and Measurable, in 25 minutes, Time- bound. You know that you can easily type 500 words in 25 minutes so this is Achievable and increasing your word count is Relevant to your goal of writing a book.

After the 25 minutes Record your word count in your diary. At a planned point in time undertake a Review of your progress against your targets. If you find you are easily exceeding your target then you might want to increase your target word count. If you are falling short of the target try to identify why. If you type slowly consider investing some time in learning to touch type or use voice to text software. Maybe when you sit down you don’t know what you are going to work on and spend time thinking through a scene or even deciding which scene to write, you therefore need to improve your outline.

Perhaps you were distracted, if this is the case try to find ways to reduce distractions. You may also need to revise the time allocated to each activity and then decide if you can identify additional writing slots or, as a last resort, revise your deadline date.

Over time you will not only make progress on your projects, you will also complete them. As part of your monthly review look at those projects that you have either completed or will be completed in the near future. If, as a result of completion, your project now has operational tasks you need to decide how much time to allocate to these tasks each week or month.

Carefully consider how much time is needed and how these tasks progress you towards your longer term goals. If you don’t manage this time you may find you are spending 50% of your writing time “tinkering” with your website or posting to social media and, as a result, missing the deadlines for other projects. You could, for example, restrict the time spent writing blog posts to twenty minutes a week and schedule this time only after you have completed your writing.

When you have completed a project you may decide to replace it with another goal from your list, remember no more than three projects at a time. As before define the goal as SMART and create a project with activities and tasks.

Repeat the review exercise every month to ensure you remain productive, continue to improve your productivity, and continue to make progress towards your goals. You cannot leave even your creative goals as an open-ended wish list hoping, or expecting, that you will get there in the end. Define your goals, create a project, set a deadline and identify the tasks. You can then schedule the tasks, get the project completed and achieve your goal.

Evaluate your project

At the end of each project you will want to evaluate your approach to the various activities and consider the impact of the project. This is particularly useful for projects that you will be repeating such as writing a book – you’ll probably want to write another. At a minimum you want to avoid repeating any mistakes you made, change something that isn’t working and stop doing tasks that have no benefit.

How a great book can be written

Relevant – is this goal relevant to your vision. In this example completing a book to a publishable standard is clearly relevant to a writing related vision. It may be worth asking yourself if this goal is relevant now. Some goals may be relevant but will have little value if completed in the near future, for example you might have a goal of becoming proficient in photo-editing or drawing software to enable you to create your own book covers.

If you intend to self-publish this is a relevant goal however, you might be more productive if, initially, you focus on goals that enable you to increase your writing output. You can learn photo-editing or drawing software when you have completed the book. This is your decision but remember to prioritise your writing.

Timebound – When do you plan to complete this goal? This should be a date as is the case in the example. Avoid using timeframes such as six months or eight weeks as you run the risk of rationalising that the six months doesn’t start until you’ve started writing (easy to put this off) or that eight weeks doesn’t include the week you went on holiday.

Goals as projects

Now you have defined your goals you can turn them into projects. A project has a beginning point and an end point. In the example of writing a book the completed publishable book is your end point. If you are publishable book is your end point. If you are setting up a website the completed website is your end point. Some projects will then become operational and have regular tasks you will need to undertake in order to maintain the product or service.

For example, to maintain a website you may need to undertake weekly updates and a three monthly check to ensure everything still works or if any changes are needed because of new technology. At this stage only consider the project until it is complete.publishable book is your end point. If you are setting up a website the completed website is your end point. Some projects will then become operational and have regular tasks you will need to undertake in order to maintain the product or service.

For example, to maintain a website you may need to undertake weekly updates and a three monthly check to ensure everything still works or if any changes are needed because of new technology. At this stage only consider the project until it is complete.You are now going to break these projects down into manageable activities and tasks. You can use a large sheet of paper, a notebook, word-processing software, a spreadsheet or project management software, use what you are familiar with, you can invest time learning new software at a later date.Take each of your projects and break them down into smaller chunks or activities (some at this stage may still be large).

Taking the example of writing your book these activities might be:

– Complete outline of book

– Complete character description

– Researc

– Write first draf

– Complete plot/structure edit

– Proofread- Proofread- Format

– Create title.T

he next step is to calculate, or estimate, how much time you need to complete each activity and the timeframe you need to restrict it to in order to meet your goal. Taking the example of a completing a book in six months. Let’s say your book is going to be 50,000 words and at this stage you can type at 20 words a minute. As long as you have a good outline and know exactly what you are going to write at each session then the first draft will take a little over 40 hours writing time.

If you are in the earlystages of your career you may need 80 hours for edits and proofreading. Note the following timescales given in this book are estimates only. Outlining may require 20 hours. Research (after outlining and during edits) requires 10 hours. Formatting, 4 hours.

Title, 1 hour. A total of 155 hours. Note that some time will be needed to create or commission a cover if you self-publish. In order to achieve your goal you will need to allocate six hours a week for six months to this project.If you don’t have six hours available you can either extend your deadline, reduce the amount of time you allocate to one or more of the activities, or create more time to work on this project.

If you are going to reduce the time allocated to any activity you need to consider the options available to support this. You could learn to type faster or use dictation software. This would require an initial investment of time but you could then reduce the time needed for a first draft to 20 hours. You might choose to create a more detailed outline, this would require more time for this activity but could reduce the time needed for rewriting and edits.

You might limit your research and focus on only, and no more than, what you need.activities, or create more time to work on this project. If you are going to reduce the time allocated to any activity you need to consider the options available to support this. You could learn to type faster or use dictation software. This would require an initial investment of time but you could then reduce the time needed for a first draft to 20 hours. You might choose to create a more detailed outline, this would require more time for this activity but could reduce the time needed for rewriting and edits.

You might limit your research and focus on only, and no more than, what you need.For example, if you have four hours a week, 104hours over six months, available you could restrict the time for each activity as follows:

– Outlining with character analysis if a fiction book – 25 hours, deadline 6 weeks from start- First draft – (30 words a minute) – 28 hours – deadline 13 weeks (3 months) from start- Edits – 40 hours- Research – 6 hours – deadline combined with edits as research integrated – deadline 25 weeks after start- Formatting – 4 hours (this can be reduced in the future by investing time learning to use the features in your word-processor and/or by creating templates.

How to produce the better ebook with these tips

 Goals, projects, tasks and deadlines

What are your long-term goals and vision?

It is often said that most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year yet underestimate what they can achieve in ten years. It is also said that it takes ten years to become an overnight success.

You may dream of generating a full-time income from your writing, you might see yourself holding your bestselling novel in your hands, you might imagine your book being adapted for the big screen or you might wish you could travel the world writing a blog. Whatever you dream of doing or achieving write it down. Do not censor or restrict your vision. At this stage you might not have any idea how you are going to get there and you may not have any idea how, or even if, you can develop the skills and knowledge needed, however, do not think your dreams are unrealistic or that you need to scale them back.

Young man reading a book with alphabet letters coming out of the book

Write down short statements or paragraphs about how you see your ideal life – where you will be living, the income you will have, attending the screening of your film – include everything. This is your vision. Ensure you save this either in a journal or diary; you could even place this on your wall to remind yourself every day where you are heading.

Revisit this vision every month to motivate yourself to get your writing done. Revisit your vision every year when you undertake an annual review and plan for the year ahead to ensure that your goals are taking you towards your vision.

Remember, there was a time when many people dreamed of flying to the moon. One day someone decided this was their vision and made it their goal – a man would walk on the moon. At the point in time when the goal was set getting a man safely onto the moon was impossible – the skills, knowledge, experience and technology did not exist. And yet, after many years of working towards that goal, after many setbacks and failures, by using the skills of many teams of people, this vision was realised. You too can realise your vision and achieve your goals.

Define your writing goals

You are now ready to create the goals that will enable you to progress towards your vision. What do you want to achieve during the next year? What about the next three years? Write three books, undertake a writing course, set up a blog, use social media to engage with readers, create a website, enter a writing competition, write a newspaper column or speak at a writing festival?

Allocate an afternoon or evening to examine what you hope, and intend, to achieve. Use a large sheet of paper and either make notes or create a mind map to record your thoughts. You may not yet know how you are going to achieve your goal, write it down anyway, at this stage it doesn’t matter how you’re are going to do this, planning comes later.

Select no more than three of these goals to work towards during the next month, these goals will now become your projects, note they may take longer than a month to complete. Put the rest of the list to one side for now.

Make your goals SMARTER

You may already have come across writing SMART or SMARTER goals and targets -making your goals/objectives/targets Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound, along with Evaluate, and Record/Review. If you attend a presentation or read an article on creating SMART(ER) goals and SMART working practices you may find that there is some variation on the words used, this is not important as the essence is still about improving productivity and achieving your goals.

Start by writing your goal as a positive statement (state what you will do rather than what you won’t), in the first person (use I will because these are your goals) and apply a deadline. For example, I will complete a book by 24th April. Now check if this goal is SMART (you evaluate and record/review as you complete tasks).

Specific – what does complete a book mean? How many words are you planning to write? Does complete mean with a cover and description? Does it mean published? These are your decisions. If you intend to write an 80,000 word book and aim to find a traditional publisher you will need to produce a book written and edited to a publishable standard. You won’t need a cover as the publisher will organise one. You will need a synopsis and letter to send to prospective agents and publishers. In this case your goal might be written as I will complete an 80,000 word book, edited to a publishable standard and complete with a synopsis and letter by 24th April. If you were to self-publish you would need a cover and description.

Measurable – how do you know when you have achieved this goal? In the example above it is clear that once the book is written and edited to the required length and you have written the synopsis and letter you will have achieved your goal – it is therefore measurable.

Achievable – can you actually achieve this goal with the available resources including skills and time? If not you will need to improve your skills, increase your productivity, create more time to write or revise your goal.