Writing the book–during

You’ve got the contract, you’re banging out chapters, life is good. Here are some things to keep in mind during the writing process.

  • Store your backups away from the computer. If a fire breaks out in the office, it’ll toast whatever is there. If someone steals your computer, they’ll also take whatever disks, tapes, and/or CD/DVDs are lying around. Publishing contracts invariably make you responsible for maintaining a copy of your manuscript in a safe place. Also consider buying a small safe for more secure storage, but remember that fireproof safes just keep the contents from burning up. In a fire, the temperature in a fireproof safe goes high enough to erase disks and tapes.

Note: Don’t rely on a single backup format. These days, I use Carbonite (an automated online backup service I like), I periodically burn backup DVDs (which I’ll keep most of here and mail some of to friends in other cities), and I’ll even email files to myself because the files will then stay on the email server wherever it is. You can use Gmail and other free email services for this kind of offsite backup system: just attach a zip of files to your email and send it to your Gmail account and voila! I also have taken to using a 1Gb flash drive to hold an entire project’s files and carry it with me whenever I leave the house.

  • Learn your editor’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, several of my editors on computer books have been relatively unfamiliar with computers. This caused me some frustration at first trying to explain things, but I soon realized that this was a great asset. Whenever I presented a concept that was technical, I had to be able to explain it to a live, non-technical, person first, rather than just say, “The reader should be able to figure that out.”
  • Keep a journal of how you’re feeling about the project. Although this probably won’t help you during the first book, you’ll be surprised at how your patterns will repeat from book to book. Once you know your patterns, you can make more accurate plans and estimates based on your working style. After years of writing books, I know that I always hit a slow spot somewhere around chapter 6, after which I have relatively smooth sailing until just before the last chapter, at which time I need to take a long weekend off before the final push.
  • Make sure that the sound system in your office is in good repair. Buy a few extra CDs or treat yourself to something extra on iTunes, Pandora, or Hearts of Space.
  • Take a lot of vitamins. Take a 20-minute walk once a day to relax and to get exercise.
  • Keep a list of the people who have been helpful to you and remember them in the acknowledgments. Be sure to include everyone on the staff at the publisher who had anything to do with the book, even if it’s only a lump acknowledgment with a long list of names (which should be in alpha order for this kind of acknowledgment, by the way). Make sure that everyone’s name is spelled correctly and (oddly enough) that they want to be acknowledged in print–some people don’t.
  • Budget time after the manuscript is complete for questions, revisions, corrections, and reviewing the page proofs. Some of this will probably happen while you’re writing the book, but most of it is after you’ve handed off the last chapter to the publisher.

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