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Computers have made it so much easier to write a book! Gone are the days of making an outline, then writing a rough draft, then rewriting the book in full form, followed by months of agonizing editing. Gone are the days of having to rewrite it completely each time you need to make corrections. It is SO much easier with a computer!
A book can now be written in four simple steps:
- Write an outline.
- Write a rough draft.
- Write the final version.
- Edit for clarity and comprehension, and typos.
Wait! Didn't I say it had changed? It has! All that is now so much easier, and no longer three separate tasks, but one fluid evolution from outline to book.
Write your chapter headings in a new document. This is your outline, and it consists of chapter heads. Simply break down your topic into logical sections, and name each section. This works for stories, instructions, or listings. Arrange those into a logical order. Don't forget to save. You can take a break here if you want, because your book is already well under way.
Create your title page if you want to, and then write Table of Contents if your book needs one - use the list of topics you created earlier. Copy the list of chapters from the Table of Contents, and then put a page break after the original list. Paste in the copy of the chapter listing, and then put another page break after each chapter title. You'll end up with a title page, a Table of Contents page with full chapter listing, and then one page for each chapter. Go back through, and make notes in each chapter about what you want to include in it, and any other reminders that you need to put in.
Your book is roughed out, and all you need to do now is go through and expand each chapter. You can progress one chapter at a time, in a logical and ordered manner. Once you have your chapters sitting there ready to be filled in, you can see your progress visibly as you work through them one by one. This method also allows you to write 'out of order' if you like. I do that a lot when writing technical stuff. I'll come to a chapter I just don't feel like writing yet, and I can skip over it temporarily and write an easier one.
Finally you edit for comprehension, clarity, and typos (including spelling). That includes grammar, of course, because good grammar is really just words that you understand in context.
This process cuts the time for writing a book in half. Because you never have to rewrite anything from scratch, you just expand on what you have until it is finished.
I use a few other shortcuts to writing also:
- I search through old articles and see which ones I have that I can group together for most of an instructional book. I then write an outline which includes those articles as chapters (or sometimes more than one chapter for an article), and then paste them in. I can have a book half finished in a matter of minutes.
- Keep it short if I have very little. I don't pressure myself to write something long. I just write what I feel fits, and if it is not long, so be it.
- I write in the way that works best for me. I don't write chronologically very well, so I write by topic instead. I can gather my thoughts better that way, so my writing comes out better that it would if I tried to write in someone else's style.
- Write first, format last. When I write a chapter, I focus on writing it. Don't get distracted by formatting. Come back later when the chapters are finished, and go through the book again and format the text, bold headings, indent sections, etc.
- Use active spell checking. I use Open Office, and it underlines spelling errors as I go so I see them and correct them immediately. This saves me tons of editing time, and keeps me from making some of the more obvious errors.
- Use Auto-formatting if it helps you. Sometimes it just does things wrong and causes you more work, but if you are writing instructional materials, it can make it very simple to put together a numbered list, and saves you the trouble of formatting later.
- Make sure you type well enough to not peek. You'll get a headache if you peek. Get a copy of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and use it for about three weeks, and I guarantee you'll not only stop peeking, but that your typing speed will quickly double.
We have never had so many tools to produce higher quality writing in a shorter amount of time. We've never had so many tools to create vast volumes of bad writing either! I tried writing years ago, and failed. It was not until I got a computer that I ever succeeded at finishing anything, and that was just a short volume of verse. It took me another 5 years to develop a system for finishing a book, and then it was only because I had already written a great deal of preparatory information.
Because of the ease of writing using a computer, I have gone from dabbling to producing vast volumes of instructional materials. While the world may consider that to be no great miracle, or indeed, no great contribution to the world, it has been life-changing for me. It can be for you also.