Writing the Manuscript
Earning a book contract may give you a great sense of accomplishment, but don’t rest on your laurels for too long! Signing the final contract starts the clock ticking toward your submission deadline. You already have three chapters written from the proposal, so you do have a head start. Your detailed table of contents will now become the roadmap for your writing project.
Chances are you already have a full-time job and a family. How can you find the time to write a 200-page book while you are answering work email until 9pm and coaching soccer on weekends? Completing a project of this magnitude requires some self-reflection: knowing how and where you work best will make the writing process more efficient.
Some authors commit to writing two pages a day, every day. After a mere 100 days, they have a 200-page draft manuscript. Others research and think through their topic for months, and then sit down and binge-write over a matter of a few weeks. Which method meshes better with your work style?
Writing is a solitary activity. Will you steal away and write in a quiet corner of the town library, or will you be happier writing at the kitchen table with family life swirling around you?
Once you decide on how and where you will work, you need to gather your tools. Request the Quality Press Style Manual from your editor, and read it thoroughly. This manual gives authors direction on how to properly present abbreviations, label appendices, cite sources, present equations, number figures and tables, format footnotes, use italics, create lists, represent numbers, punctuate sentences, and present quality terms. Adhering to the style manual as you write will save you and the copy editor hours of time during the production cycle.
Buy a Chicago Manual of Style now so that you can properly cite your sources. If you are like many people of a certain age, you might not have written a bibliography since the advent of the web. The manual will help you cite web sites, articles, white papers, and books. As you research, be fanatical about recording sources at the time you read them. This will make writing the bibliography a much easier and faster task.
Your choice of font and manuscript layout is actually not very important. Quality Press has a standard font and layout template for its publications, so the final manuscript will be typeset according to these standards. In the meantime, choose a font that pleases you and double space to make your text easier to edit.
I used three levels of numbered headings in my manuscript, and had the navigation tool opened at all times so I could easily move around my document. Microsoft Word also has some time-saving and sanity-preserving features that you might not have used before. My advice is to become very familiar with the References tab! The commands on this tab allow you to insert footnotes, citations, and cross references for figures, and will automatically update them for you. For example, each figure in the manuscript must be referenced in the text by number. Using cross references automatically updates the figure numbers as figures are removed or added. There is no need to make a table of contents or a list of figures and tables in your manuscript, since these will be generated during the production process.
Give yourself enough time in the schedule to let the completed manuscript sit for a month. Then go back and start editing with fresh eyes. I also strongly suggest sending out your “final” draft to several colleagues for review at this point. Assign the reviewers specific sections of the book to proof. Otherwise, you will get a detailed proofing of the first few chapters, and then, less scrutiny as the book chapters go on, as the reviewers (and you) run out of steam. You will be amazed at how much the SMEs can catch! Incorporate their suggestions and make the corrections, and remember to thank them profusely in your acknowledgments page.
Once your manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, it will be scheduled for the three-month production cycle.
© 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn