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Zen's avatar

How to get started on a book: tips, please?

Asked by Zen (7743points) September 18th, 2009

So many writers here. Good writers. I’ve heard from many that they have started on a book or are thinking of writing one.

I’d like to put my poetry and prose together. Not necessarily to publish it, just to have it – maybe as a gift for family and friends, and for the grandkids one day – you know.

I do not know how to begin.

I have to add – I am lazy. If you (anyone) were to ask me to do it for them (she/he or whatever the non-specific gender fucking thing is nowadays) I would in a New York minute. But I find it hard to do stuff for me. Like buying clothes: I’m great at buying for others, hate buying for myself.

I’ve strayed again.

How would you go about “putting together” and publishing a book of poetry prose and short stories, with illustrations, a la WILLIAM BLAKE (not that I am comparing myself, heaven forbid).

(I should add, I have a friend who has offered to include her designs together with my poetry. Could be about 100–120 pages all in all).

Thanks jells.

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21 Answers

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

First step: Figure out what you want to say. Second step: Figure out HOW you want to say it. Third Step: Do it.

There are many places online that will allow you to put together a book of your works, or you could do it like i did a decade or so ago and type everything out, photocopy it onto some nice paper, put a bplastic binding on it with a thick cardstock front and back cover.

I used to publish a fanzine and did a poetry chapbook for everybody that contributed. I then gave them away to the people who contributed, as well as gave a few to friends. I got one back when we were cgoing through my deceased mother in laws things a few years ago. It was an interesting moment.

Just do it, you’ll be disappointed if you don’t.

Zen's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra Thanks you missed the lazy part.

Fanzine? Tell me more.

Blondesjon's avatar

You have to get over the lazy part first.

The best part of that is, as soon as you get rid of lazy, self doubt, moves in and sets up shop.

I don’t know what comes after that. . .success?

Jeruba's avatar

I’m assuming you’re talking about writing that you have already done. You want to know how to turn that collection into a book and not how to write a book.

So—you need a way to make up pages, a way to incorporate illustrations, a way to get them reproduced, and a way to get them bound. And you need a cover.

Depending on how fancy you want to get, you have many options. You could pull it off with MS Word and Kinko’s. How much detail do you want me to go into?

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Jeruba, I knew I should have waited and let the Goddess of Editing answer, but I just had to be first. forgive me?

Jeruba's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra, you are embarrassing me. The Goddess speaks through you, not me! I am nobody’s pet zebra. But I do know how to do this.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Zen, if you do it for your kids or your family, then the laziness goes away, right?

@Jeruba, Evelyn is the Goddess of Everything. I was going to put Mistress of Editing (since Master seems wrong in the feminine gender way) but then, that sounds rather like you have lewd tendencies. I don’t know you well enough to know your proclivities for lascivious behavior. =)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Zen, how is it currently saved?

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Make yourself accountable to a group of friends? Promise them and yourself that you’ll make such-and-such amount of progress by this-and-then. Constantly approach them for ideas and how to edit certain troublesome sections. Make writing this book a part of your life.

Zen's avatar

@Blondesjon Success after self-doubt after laziness? I hope so. From your pen to God’s ears (or eyes).

Sides, I’d like to just have it, let alone publish it and have success.

You gave me an idea for a question but I’ve asked too many for the next 24 hours.

Fluther: If I publish an e-book or real book, would you buy it? I’ll buy yours if you buy mine, then we could all encourage each other to publish our books and help to promote them. Fluther-power.

Zen's avatar

@PandoraBoxx That’s part of the problem. Most have been typed up and are on hard copy, but not on disc, as they were typed up on somethign before computers (smith corona if you are fmailiar with it – I no longer have it, and don’t even have the strange sized disc).

Several hundred poems (not all suck) have been handwritten over the years uin various journals and diaries.

A few dozen are on napkins and the occasional toilet paper or paper placemat from a restaurant.

Newer ones are online, on hard drive and disc-on-key.

A MESS!

Jeruba's avatar

You can use an optical scanner to convert hard copy to digital, but you do have to proofread it to death.

First step is to get everything into electronic form, with frequent backups (promise me), including burning a CD often once you get going.

Zen's avatar

@Jeruba Oy. Scan. Work. Brain. Hurts. Need Coffee. Book. Not gonna happen.

Jeruba's avatar

You could Xerox them as they are.

This can’t be done without some work. If that’s a deal breaker, maybe you’d better just put everything in one box.

Zen's avatar

@Jeruba I know I know I know I know.

Must do something about it… Neil Young said it best: A Man needs a Maid.

DarkScribe's avatar

There are no lazy successful authors. Writing is work and self discipline. The end.

(You might like to try looking at Nuance’s voice dictation software – I am using it now. It can type with extraordinary accuracy at over three hundred words per minute.)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Zen, your choices are:

Transcribe them yourself. If you do one a day, then you will have them transcribed in less than a year, and can take the remainder of the year to edit the collection.

Hire someone to transcribe them for you, either a transcription service, or a retired grandma type who used to be a secretary and is looking for a little extra money, or an impoverished student looking to make money.

Or you can take the lot to a copy center, have them copied on to three hole punched paper and put into binders, and leave them for your sons to deal with after you die.

You could try to cajole a girlfriend to type it, but you run the risk that she is underwhelmed by the magnitude of your talent, and will refuse.

Personally, I’d vote for the type one a day approach. It has a Zen-like quality to the daily discipline required. no pun intended.

Zen's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I loves it – and have begun my first one today. I’ll show it to you and you can decide whether you are underwhelmed or not; and if you’d like to be my girlfriend.

Ommm

Jeruba's avatar

You could hire me to make a book out of your random pages, and I even used to be something like a secretary in one of my first jobs. But doing the work would be much better for you. I like @PandoraBoxx‘s recommendation of typing one a day. When you come to anything you don’t think is worth the effort of typing, chances are it won’t be a big hit with readers either.

After that, come back and we can steer you through the book-making process.

kyanblue's avatar

When embarking on any big project, the first thing to do is commit to the hilt and tell everyone you know. Tell your friend, the one with the pit-bull tendencies that will question and question you about it until you finally say, “Okay! Fine! I’ll do it today!” Tell people on Fluther that every time they see you they have to ask, “So, how’s that book going?”

Make sure you have tons of people around you to remind you of your goal when you feel lazy. I’m incredibly bad about dreaming up ideas and lacking the follow-through, but if I tell other people of my intentions, I feel an obligation to get it done. If I don’t, I live with the shame of lying or misrepresenting myself to my friends.

And since your collection is scattered everywhere, the first thing to do would be to go through it all. Block out several hours (or multiple several-hour sessions) to get all your stuff together and begin reading through it. You don’t necessarily need to type it all up into one folder right now.

Find the things you’d like to include, or the things you feel you could polish and incorporate into your collection. Spend a few days looking those over, editing them, and so on. A good way to stay motivated at this point is to ask a friend to bug you every three days or something if you haven’t emailed a new piece of writing to them. This is, again, shifting the accountability from yourself to your friends.

When you’ve edited the pieces you like (or culled the ones that you’ve realized are unsuitable) start looking at them and figuring out how to organize your stuff in a book. You could divide it into two sections: poetry and prose. You could divide prose even further if you wrote some memoirs, some short stories, and miscellaneous flash fiction. You could organize chronologically and see how your viewpoint and writing has evolved. There are quite a few options.

The last part (putting it all together) requires the least thinking but the most busywork. I think the easiest way would be to format it in Microsoft Word, unless you have experience with a page layout program (InDesign). There are also quite a few companies that help you publish nice bound books. I’ve heard good things about Blurb, although it seems to be primarily for photos. If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo you might have a coupon for Createspace, another POD company.

(I write too much.)

Jeruba's avatar

Great advice for some, @kyanblue, but it would never work for me. I hate to have people looking over my shoulder. And if everyone I knew started hounding me, it would trigger all my resistance and I would not do a thing except start avoiding my friends. So I prefer to work mostly in private and say little about it until I have something polished and ready to show. But I do have inner motivation, which is what our @Zen seems to lack.

I also would not accept such a charge from a friend. If someone asked me to keep after him and bug him about something he wanted to do, I would refuse, saying that it’s up to him to assume his own responsibility and that I want to be his friend, not his watchdog or nagging conscience. He has to do it for himself and not for me.

Maybe the best thing is to find the energy that drove the creations in the first place and draw upon that to accomplish this final phase. Those process steps are good.

@Zen, you could try joining our Some Progress thread and see if group support and a weekly report will help you stay on track. The encouragement does help me without causing me to transfer my own responsibility to others.

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