Yesterday’s blog was about defining the purpose, type, and length of your ebook. Today I want to dive in and discuss the mechanics of writing an ebook. But first, let’s get motivated to write.
Now I am of the opinion that anyone can be a writer. You may not write the most compelling or informative material coming out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean you never will. Regardless of what writing snobs tell you, anyone can become a writer. In fact, I think most people MUST be writers in some aspect of their careers, if not the entirety.
Take me, for example. I work for an MEP engineering firm. We provide commissioning services and consulting as well as design of MEP systems. It sounds like we sit in a hole and punch away at our calculators, doesn’t it? That happens a lot less than you would think. Design engineers may spend hours performing calculations and laying out plans, but the only way they can express their calculations and designs is by writing. All plans have very specific notes that are imperative to proper design, and sometimes, will save your behind if something goes wrong. We also must write extensive specifications for projects. After all that, we still have to communicate to our clients and other team members in emails, reports, and presentations.
Writing is extremely important in this industry. It is even more imperative in other industries. So chances are, you are already writing on a consistent basis. So think of writing your own ebook as an extension of that work, not starting over from scratch. Even if you are writing about something new, you will learn about it in the process. That is the beauty of writing. You learn while you create. Don’t let anyone tell you that you already need to be an expert to write about something. No one is born an expert, everyone started somewhere, and they probably started by reading and writing about it.
Ok, are you excited about writing your FREE ebook now? Good. Now let’s talk about how to start. Your first step is going to be writing an outline. I abhor this process. But it is the single most important part of writing. Think of it like baking a cake. You first need to find all your ingredients and utensils. Start with your main ingredient, the main idea of your ebook and write it down. Put a number 1 by it. Now write 3 subcategories underneath it that you plan to discuss and categorized them as A, B, and C. Now think a little more about subcategory A and break it into three more subcategories and number them i, ii, and iii. Repeat for B and C. Now go back to the beginning and change your main idea to a number 2 and make number 1 ‘Introduction’. Go to then end and make number 3 ‘Conclusion’. Now you have an outline for your book. You probably learned how to do this in high school English. It’s a simple exercise that forces you to formulate in depth ideas about your topic and organize them in a chronological order. It is unlikely that you will use those exact categories. You will probably add some to some sections or only have one or two in others. The point is to do the exercise.
The next aspect is free writing. A lot of people might argue that research should be your next step before you write, but I disagree and here is why. Free writing forces you to write down everything you know and everything you feel about a topic. Take your outline and try to write a paragraph about each section. This may even cause you to create more in depth subcategories. This is good, because it will allow you to reach the absolute depth of your knowledge on a subject and express it in your own writing voice. Now you can start your research and adapt it to that voice. That is the key problem with researching first. You may find a source or two that expresses a lot of information, but can confuse your when you come back to your outline. Do not make your book fit your research; make your research fit your book.
So you have an outline and some paragraphs. Your ebook should be taking some shape now. It might even be several pages already, or even longer. Now it is time to do that research. First, go back to all your free writing and do some fact checking. This process will help you expand on your points or discard ones that now seem irrelevant. It will also help you focus your research on specific areas, thus decreasing the time spent doing it.
When you begin your research for your ebook, expand beyond your normal resources. You will likely go to Google first, but also check out Google Scholar for scientific and technical documents on your topic. Contact individuals with experience in your topic area as well. They can provide a wealth of information beyond Wikipedia and general Google searches. Be creative with your research and you will find more information than you need for your book.
Now take that info and organize it. How does it fit into what you already have? Does it add value for my readers or is it just filler? Does this support my premise or does it detract or confuse? Answer all these questions as you incorporate your research content.
When you are done with this process you should have a nice little rough draft of your book. Do a spell check and grammar check. Now save it and go take a nap, or a walk, or a jog. Then get something to eat, talk to your husband, kids or best friend, and watch a funny movie. Whatever you need to do, distance yourself from your book for a time, however long you feel you need to recharge your batteries. Novelists often put their completed rough drafts down for an entire month so they can return to it with a fresh and at least somewhat objective perspective. When you feel refreshed, go back to it and start editing.
Take out the parts that are superfluous. You don’t want your ebook to sound like a car commercial. Sometimes I start reading an ebook and by the second or third page, I realize they are repeating the same thing over and over. This sort of makes me angry that they are wasting my time. Some how-tos require going over key points later in a book, but repeating the same general idea over and over without providing any new information is just fluff. So comb through your content and make sure you are providing new ideas in each section.
Now that you have just the good stuff, read it out loud. Does it flow from one section to the next? Readability is important. If the subjects don’t seem to complement each other or you jump from one subject to the next without joining them, your reader will become confused and eventually discard your book. You want them to know the direction they are going when they are reading your book.
When you have edited your book to your satisfaction, let someone you trust proofread it. Try to find someone objective that will give you some good feedback. Take the useful information from that feedback and apply it to your book. Then give your book a title, format it to your liking and post it to your site! Congratulations, you are now a published writer! Now it is time to market your book and get started on the next one.