Writing a Book: Not So Fast

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Anyone can do bad work quickly, and that includes writing a book. Once upon a time, that might have worked, but today more and more books are hitting the market and competing for the attention of readers. To stand out from the crowd, you need to write the best book that you can and that takes time.

The process of getting from commitment to published books usually takes a year or more, even if you self-publish. You want it to go faster. I get that. But most of the time you go fast at the expense of quality.

If you’re wondering, “What takes so long?” Here are a few important things.

Preparation Pays Dividends

When you do your preparation thoroughly, you’ll find it easier to write a great book.

Thorough preparation means sharpening your understanding of your reader and your topic. It means understanding the competition and determining how your book will be both different and distinctive. Good preparation includes preparing a project plan and outlining your key points and stories before you start writing.

Write Enough Drafts

If you’re thinking that somewhere in the universe there’s an author sitting down and cranking out a high-quality book in one quick draft, think again. That doesn’t happen in the real world. In the real world, great books are built through an iterative process of one draft after another. When things go right, it looks something like this.

The first draft gets the big pieces of your book out of your head, into a file, and in order. When you look at it, you see certain kinds of themes and ideas that you didn’t see before. The second draft incorporates them, adds research and examples, and sharpens your expression. At this point you’ve got the book just about as good as you can get it by yourself, but not quite. That’s what the third draft is for.

After the third draft, you should send the book out to beta readers. Beta readers are a concept borrowed from software development. There, the development team does everything they can during the alpha phase. The, they send the software out for user testing in the beta stage of development.

Get Feedback from Beta Readers

Ken Blanchard said that, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” That’s as true for authors as it is for anyone else. Beta readers give you important feedback.

There are usually four kinds of beta readers. One group is made up of people who are like your ideal reader. Other groups include experts, people you’ve mentioned in the book by name, and your friends and relatives who want to help you with your book.

No matter how good a job you’ve done in the first three drafts, beta readers almost always give you feedback that will make the book better. It takes more time, but it’s crucial to writing a book you’ll be proud of.

Have A Professional Edit Your Manuscript

No matter how good a job you’ve done in writing your book and no matter how many spell-checkers and grammar-checkers you’ve run, you need a professional editor to go over your work. A quality professional editor will catch things that you and your software have missed. He or she will usually ask questions that help you sharpen your presentation. And the editor will harmonize the manuscript and make changes so it conforms to standard writing style.

Good Things Take Time

All these things take time. It takes time to do thorough preparation so you understand your book, how it will serve your reader, and how it’s positioned in the marketplace. Writing several drafts takes time, too, but great books are the result of that iterative process. It takes time to send your manuscript out to beta readers, but their feedback can make an immense difference in the quality of your book. And, it takes time and money to send the book off to a professional editor, but he or she will make sure that the quality of your manuscript is worthy of your content.

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