Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to Write YOUR Book

All along, an important part of creating these books on VIA Rail has been to encourage you to write YOUR book.  Though most people I tell this to will immediately roll their eyes or shuffle their feet, it's completely within the realm of possibility.  If I can do it, YOU can do it too.  I'm writing this post as a suggested course of action, as inspiration, not as a how-to.  Having read several books on the topic of writing a book, I distilled some of their contents useful to my projects. (Top photo - VIA hogger Terry Brennan receives his VIA Rail book at Kingston's VIA station)

Headings are followed by bulleted points - these are things to consider.
Numbered points are steps I took in creating my books on VIA Rail.

  • Reflect on what your book will be.
  • Do an environmental scan.  Has this been done before?
  • If so, take a different approach
  • Are you actually going to finish this?
  • If so, decide on an approximate timeline
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Write for them, remembering you want readers to be able to read and understand your book
  • Don't be self-indulgent, but write for yourself, too.
  • Three C's: Commitment, continuity, confidence!
Define your scope:
1. What will you include, what will you not include?
2. What timeframe will you cover?
3. What is a comfortable balance of text and photos?
4. How many pages, what format will your book be?

Define your approach:
1. Lone-wolf or team approach?
2. If team approach, make contact with contributors
3. Always keep contributors informed of progress
4. Remember - you need them more than they need you
5. So, treat contributors responsibly and with care.
6. Don't be surprised if you need to modify your approach as the project evolves.

  • Do a little bit every day.  I repeat, every day!  If you do this, you will ensure completion
  • Write what you know, then expand on it as you learn more.
  • Constantly envision the finished product.
What worked for me:
1. Create feedstock file keeping your scope in mind: newsletters, magazines, online material
2. Use Post-it's or flags to mark pages.
3. Transcribe information in chronological information into notebooks
4. Include original source and that transcription is correct before moving on.
5. Organize information to find headings
6. Shake it out, filter it through
7. Broad headings: programs, locomotives, cars, disposition, operations
8. Organize information again - photocopy notebooks, cut and tape under headings
9. Write text under headings - sleep on it then reread/revise.
10. Print off drafts, keep in binder as mockup of book.

  • Select to support text
  • Match to headings for readability, unity, logical order
  • Avoid duplication, include as much variety as possible
(Photo above - Amtrak Superliner consist at Portage la Prairie, by contributor Brian Schuff)

  • Start a to-do list, what is still missing, what needs to be done?
  • Develop need-to-do's on Post-it notes
  • Feedstock file should be shrinking rapidly
1. Fact-check and triangulate facts as many times as possible.
2. Consult experts for specific critical information
3. Proofread and proofread again!
4. Send critical information to peer reviewers for typos, correctness of content, readability.
5. Submit to printer for proof copy.
6. Check proof copy. This may be the moment of greatest excitement you've envisioned.
7. Go to print.

At that point, it's time for the Highball! (Above photo - first printing of my Cross-Canada Compendium are delivered by Bryan Babcock...right to my door)

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