I just finished my second book. The writing process was completely different from that of my first book.
For my first book, I contacted the publisher before I had even written a word. I described my idea, which I had, all worked out, in my mind. Since the publisher was interested, I filled out a questionnaire and sent it together with the book’s table of contents. The publisher was still interested and wanted to see two chapters. I promised two chapters within the next two months. In those two months I had written half of the book, but only sent the publisher the promised chapters. While waiting for the reply, I continued to write. It didn’t take the publisher long to offer to publish the book. In the next few weeks I finished the first draft of the book and sent it to two friends for feedback. After getting their feedback, I revised the manuscript several times. The editor responsible for my book gave me feedback as well. After revising the manuscript once again, I sent it to an external editor for editing and proofreading. After another round of revision, I handed in the manuscript. Except for another and final look at the proofs, my part of the production process had been finished. Half a year later the book was published.
Of course, I thought that I would write my next book just as quickly and nearly effortlessly as the first one. That was not the case.
For my second book, I waited a few months until I knew what it would be about. I didn’t have a plan so much as a general idea about the book’s goal and some of its chapters. That’s why I started out by writing everything I knew about each chapter topic – myths about academic writing – without yet worrying about the book’s structure. Writing like this for several weeks, I ended up with fifty pages of the first draft. Because I didn’t know what to add and didn’t know whether it was any good, I gave the manuscript to a friend for feedback. His feedback showed me that I had not yet discovered the basic issues of the text: Whom was I writing for? What tone and style should I use? What’s the main goal of the book? With these questions in mind, the publisher contacted me about a second book – talk about coincidence. The publisher asked me, whether I could write a book about one topic or another that they had in mind, I told them that I had already a book project running. They wanted to know more so I sent them a brief description. Since they were interested in the project, I sent them a table of contents and an exposé some weeks later. While waiting for their answer, I continued to work on the manuscript. It almost doubled in length. I received feedback on the expanded manuscript from another friend. The publisher decided to publish the book, so I sent the manuscript to their editor. After receiving the contract and an external edtior’s assessment, I finished the text and sent it for proofreading.
The first book developed according to a writing strategy we could call the planer’s strategy. The second book developed according to one that we could call the writing-away strategy. The planer’s strategy starts with a clear plan and structure and is followed by writing and revision. The writing-away strategy starts with a vague idea, which is written down as quickly as possible. Having a first draft, the writer revises the text, trying to find its structure. In my case, the second feedback helped me to determine the text’s structure. In contrast to the first strategy, writing and revision may alternate more often.
Whatever strategy you might use to write your texts, it’s a good idea to choose it deliberately. And whenever you think that the chosen strategy doesn’t work out for you, don’t hesitate to change it for the better. I don’t know what my next book project will look like and what strategy will fit it best. Therefore, it could be entirely different to the two I’ve used so far.
– “Der Schreibzeitplan: Zeitmanagement für Schreibende“, 2015, Verlag Barbara Budrich/UTB (“The Writing Schedule: Time Management for Writers”, translation pending)
– “Mythen des wissenschaftlichen Schreiben” (“Myths of Academic Writing”; working title, in press)