Wednesday, 15 July 2009

What I Learnt from Writing my Marketing Book

Six weeks ago Harper Collins commissioned me to write a 24,000 word book on marketing. I delivered the manuscript last week and they accepted it without any changes, which was great news. It was a hard five weeks where I wrote something most days. But I did it, and I learnt a lot about writing non-fiction.
  • Non-fiction takes longer to write than fiction which comes from one's imagination without the need for much research.

  • Preparation seems to be the key to non-fiction. Unlike fiction where my characters and scenes have a life of their own and develop in real time as I write them.

  • I found it easier to prepare a structure with the titles of each chapter and the headings for each topic. I agreed these with the publisher before I put pen to paper.

  • It was great to have a professionally designed format that the publisher insisted I stick to. It was relatively easy to write the contents and it made sure that I didn't waffle.

  • I seem to work best in two-hour chunks. After that my brain hurt and I lost concentration and flow. I've discovered that I write best first thing in the morning after a walk and breakfast.

  • You should write it all the way through before you read anything you've written. When I read previous chapters I got distracted and fiddled with them. In the end I just wrote it until I'd finished.

  • It's easiest to skip over the bits that need more research or effort and back-fill when you reach the end. Otherwise you lose momentum.

  • My brain is always miles ahead of my fingers on the keyboard. I wrote it all by hand in a notebook and then edited as I typed it in. I think that added extra time so I will go on a touch-typing course at the local college in the Autumn.

  • When I write fiction I always read it out aloud. I did the same with this book after I'd back-filled it. That took four hours but it highlighted some poor grammar, typos and the odd bit of weak structure.
I reckon that it took me around 60 hours to completely write, redraft and tweak 24,000 words on a subject that I know a lot about. Whether that's par for the course, I have no idea. But I am pleased with the result and, more importantly, so is Harper Collins. They plan to publish my book as one of a series in January 2010.

Peter Spalton, soon to be a published author.