Book writing tips.

How I wrote this book: the nitty-gritty

avatar
by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Book writing tips.

Alright, so I promised to give you a few more of the details behind the how of writing my recent book. It’s a great question, how to write a book, because on the one hand, you can simply open up a word processing document and start typing. On the other hand, there are a few things that’ll make the process a bit easier and more enjoyable.

Just like I already shared, I made my environment work in my favor as much as possible for working smart and not hard. I had our babysitter come as often as she could, Kyle rolled up his sleeves even more than usual and cooked most of the dinners, and I cleared my calendar to do almost nothing but write.

But I picked up on a few tricks of the trade that helped me, and I’d love to pass them on to you. Read on.

Evernote is my best book-writing friend.

Whenever I’d research quotes or statistics, I’d click on the Evernote Snipping Tool in my Chrome toolbar, and it’d immediately toss it into my Evernote file. I’d add tags to help me filter my stuff—I’d use things like “quote” or “stat,” and I’d also include the chapter number where I thought I’d need it.

Then, when it was time to work on that section, I’d simply open Evernote, and voila—there it was, waiting for me. Another helpful thing—Evernote timestamped my bookmarking, so when I needed to write the bibliography, I could easily reference when I accessed it.

A shout-out for Clearly.

Clearly is a little compendium to Evernote, and I love it. It’s another extension for Chrome, and when you click it, it slides away all the needless clutter and gives you a beautiful thing to read. If you get annoyed by ads, sidebar flashies, and general clutter on a site that otherwise has great content, you’d love Clearly. So helpful when I needed to concentrate.

Let me show you an example—here’s a screenshot of an article on the New York Times:

The New York Times

And here’s what it looks like in Clearly:

The New York Times using Clearly for Chrome

Lovely, no? Made for much easier researching and reading when I needed to focus on my book and not on the shiny thing in the sidebar. And even cooler—Clearly has a highlighting tool:

The New York Times using Clearly - highlight tool

When you highlight text, it automatically dumps it into Evernote. Beautiful!

Evernote after using Clearly

(I promise, I’m not affiliated with Evernote in any way—I just love their stuff.) All this brings me to…

Bookmark as you go, whatever tool you use.

Even if you’re not an Evernote fan, use something to bookmark your stuff as you go. Because in the end, you’ll need to cite your sources in a bibliography, and it’ll be a PAIN if you don’t catalog it along the way.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online was a helpful tool—I kept this open the entire time I was writing the bibliography.

Use Pages, if you can.

I prefer Apple Pages over Microsoft Word, a thousand times over. But not many people have it (including my editor), so I love that it seamlessly converts to Word without a hitch.

Use Pages - it's better than Word.

It’s an incredibly intuitive program, it’s easy to make inner links (meaning, the Table of Contents links to the start of each chapter in my document), and the Full Screen feature means everything around my doc is a lovely black. No distractions. (Can you tell there’s a theme? I don’t like distractions when I’m writing.)

Write digitally, edit analog-ly.

I obviously write my book on my laptop. But then? I harken back to the 90s when I had dial-up Internet and had that get-on-get-off mentally with the Internet, and I print my chapters. I file them away in a white binder, which I would collect and watch my book grow. (A good motivator.)

Print a copy of your book and edit the old-fashioned way: with a pen.

Then, when I finished, I took a pen (the four-color clicky type from junior high, if you were curious) and edited with the classic editing symbols. And then I passed it to Kyle, who did the same thing, though with more comments than carets. Which brings me to…

Let other people read it, and have thick skin.

For the first few chapters (mostly for my proposal), I had my friend Sarah read and edit my chapters. She’s a brilliant editor and gifted writer, so I trusted her judgment. But she’s busy with some of her own work, so for the bulk of the book, I had Kyle and my friend and assistant Katie read the rest. They gave lots of feedback, and I agreed with most of their edits, so I’m thankful. Katie would read straight on her own computer and add notes in the Pages doc. Which leads me to…

Save your stuff in Dropbox.

I saved every bit of my writing in Dropbox. For one thing, I was scared of my laptop doing something crazy and deleting all my hard work some unassuming weekend when I wasn’t paying attention. But secondly, saving it in Dropbox makes it a breeze to share.

Dropbox

I gave Sarah, Katie, and Kyle access to my book file, and they could open it up whenever they were ready to edit. No need to send more email attachments—my latest versions were immediately in this file, which they already had on their own computers.

Another option for this is Google Drive, which I use a LOT for blog work, but for the book, I preferred Dropbox so I could use Pages.

Capture your thoughts.

Your best ideas WILL come as you’re drifting off to sleep, when you’re stuck in traffic, as you’re taking a shower, or when you’re otherwise not sitting in front of your computer. My absolute favorite tool for collecting these thoughts? The Voice Memos app on my iPhone.

Use the Voice Memos app to capture thoughts during book writing.

I’d just hit the record button, start rambling, and it’d automatically save as a file in my iTunes, whenever I was back at my laptop. Remember that Seinfeld where he thought of a brilliant joke as he drifted off to sleep, so he quickly jotted it down, only to find an indecipherable note from himself the next morning? Yeah… ain’t nobody got time for that.

Also, I love Evernote for thought-capturing as well. If I was reading something on the Internet that I thought may come in handy down the road, I’d quickly clip it in Chrome—I wouldn’t even bother opening up Evernote. But the next time I did, I’d have all those clips waiting for me, and I’d organize and tag to my hearts’ content.

Leverage good ideas when you’re stuck.

There were definitely days that I just did not feel like writing, or if I did, nothing good came from my time in front of my computer. This is when I was incredibly thankful for the outline I already wrote for my book’s proposal. I’d just look at the chapter summaries like a to-do list, and start writing wherever I last left off. And the cool thing? Inspiration usually came.

Very rarely did I actually stick to that original outline, but it certainly helped me stay on track when I didn’t know what to say. After all, the publishers have already said they liked the idea based on those chapters.

Tsh's Writing Inspiration pinboard

I’d also read posts from my Writing Inspiration pinboard whenever I needed a pick-me-up. It was so encouraging to read words from friends (and crazy-smart mentors) in the writing trenches with me, to hear how they’ve all been there, too.

Okay, this is already a crazy-long post, but I know you all have more questions about how to secure a book deal with a publisher. That’s a whole other topic all together, but I’m willing to address it if enough of you are interested. Though I’m a bit reticent, because nothing I’d say would be gospel—this whole book thing is different for everybody. But I’m happy to, nonetheless.

Anything else you’re curious about?

Join the Conversation

Like This? Subscribe for free and have it delivered to your inbox.

Comments

  1. Would it be cool if I shared a link to this post in a course I teach where the students have to write longish reports? The research phase always gets them confused and your advice is right on for them, too.

  2. I totally love this “how to” thank you so much for sharing. My hubs has been on at me forever to use Evernote… I think it is time to click on it and explore what is inside!!! Well done on getting that book out, you really are incredible!!!

  3. Thank you for the insightful blog post. I wasn’t aware of these tools and will try using them. Yes, please write about how you went abut securing a book deal with a publisher. That would be much appreciated! Glad I found your interesting blog.

  4. avatar
    Sona Jacob says:

    Thanks for sharing this! Lots of good tips, here!

  5. This is so helpful. I’m not writing a book right now, but it’s still great to hear the nitty-gritty. I downloaded Evernote but haven’t gotten much use out of it, mainly because my computer is so old and slow. I love dropbox too..I’m always afraid of losing stuff!

  6. I’m not a writer, but this information is fabulous! I had no idea of all the tools available. Definitely sharing with my kids for their research papers and reports for college and jobs. Thanks!

  7. Great ideas in this post. I pinned it just so I could refer back to it and check out all the apps. and programs you mention.

  8. This is all very interesting. I’m checking out Evernote today! Thanks for sharing your process.

  9. this post is so helpful. I may need to give Evernote another try soon–I used it in the past but then I don’t think I understood how helpful it can be. Need to re-explore. Also, I have no idea what chrome is. Guess I need to figure that out. As far as the book writing–I’ve written a novel but have yet to set foot in the nonfiction world, though I’m contemplating it. I’d love to hear your experience in getting your proposal sold, though I know large part of the success has to do with developing a great platform. can’t wait to hear what your newest book is about by the way!

  10. This is so interesting and helpful. Yes, yes, yes, more information. A novice like me has had no idea where to start.

  11. Yes – would love to read about getting published, if you are willing to share!

  12. Thank you for this post. As of Sunday I had put a deadline on finishing my book that I have been slowly writing for the past month or so. Since this is my first time at this I am so grateful you shared some of these resources, they are very helpful. I would love to know more about developing an outline and submitting it to a publisher. Please share if you are inspired. Thank you again for the inspiration!

  13. Bookmarking! This is a great resource. Thanks!

  14. Tsh, these are amazing tips! I used several of these methods for our book (definitely an oldschool girl when it comes to editing – I like a pen and paper) but I’ve noted several of these ideas for future writing. Thanks!!

  15. You’re totally motivating me to start on that book I always said I’d write someday!

  16. Even though everyones experience is different it would still be valuable information to know your experience getting a punlisher /editor. In what order? Etc. Thanks for sharing this info. It’s very helpful.

  17. Publishing tips, please! I’d like to know that process por favor :) Congrats!!!!

  18. Very insightful post, thanks for sharing all those tips. I do feel like I don’t use my computer to its full capacity and this will help me use it better, even if I’m not currently writing a book.
    And, yes, I’d be interested in learning more about the publishing part. It’s not the same across the board but sometimes it helps to hear a variety of ways a book gets published.

  19. This is really fascinating. I write historical fiction, and much of my research is done with books from the library or things I purchase, but I’m loving this idea of Evernote for Internet research. Thanks for the tip.

    It’s interesting to see how you work with your readers for revision and feedback. So much of what I do with my critique partners has to do with character motivation, growth, story arc, etc. It’s a very different way to write, what you do, and I’ve really enjoyed this glimpse you’ve given us.

  20. Aw, Tsh! Thanks for the shout-out! I love working with you, and am sad that I had to bow out. I can’t wait to read the rest of it!!

  21. Thanks for sharing these great tips…I’m looking forward to implementing a lot of what you shared! =)

  22. Like another comment, this will be great for my high-school students! Writing in the modern era, so-to-speak. So many techno things to help, but so much to get bogged down and distracted with if you aren’t purposeful in how you go about doing it.
    I have a goal for a book of my own, someday, someway, so thanks for sharing what worked for you!

  23. This is great, Tsh! Thanks so much for taking time to share it. I have some ideas in my head, and I know I just am going to have to clear my schedule and make the time to sit down and write. I can think of all kinds of excuses…homeschooling, blogging, church, housecleaning, taxes, relationships, and more. I am easily distracted by the 1001 other things on my to-do list, but I just need to prioritize during this season!

    I especially love your idea of recording your thoughts. Mine always come in the middle of the night or right before I fall asleep. I’m not sure what John will think of me talking to myself though! ;)

  24. Thanks for sharing your tools and methods with us! I love Evernote, but never used the web clipper thing until now. Clearly sounds like an amazing tool as well!

  25. The spirit of this post, the generosity of it, has me blown away. I’m bookmarking it, as you advise, for students and for my own reference. Thank you!

  26. I just clipped this to Evernote :)

  27. Great advice. I agree; I would love to hear about the publishing process, please.

  28. I have been lurking your blog for years, its so inspiring! Thanks for such great information, I have to buckle down and learn to use helpful apps like “Evernote.” One of my goals this year is to write my first ebook, I love the idea of having a Pinterest Board for writing encouragement.

    Thanks again for these wonderful resources.

  29. As an avid reader, I have so much respect and admiration for writers. I loved reading about your processes and tools and especially the organization aspects of your research. I love me a good outline :) Thanks for the behind the scenes!

  30. Thanks for sharing all of these great practical tips and tools–I found almost all of it super helpful!

  31. I’m so Evernote dumb. I’ve downloaded it and have no idea how it can help. So, once you put your manuscript file in Evernote, does it magically update it when ever you make changes in Pages or do you have to tell it to do that? Or do you have to resave the entire file? Or do you hire some little mice to retype everything?

  32. Wow, thanks for all the tips and tricks! I am working on my first non-fiction book and I will take advantage of these tips. I am writing an ebook, but I am wondering if I should search out a publisher instead? Do you have any tips for publishing ebooks vs regular publishing? Thanks so much.

    Amanda

  33. Thanks for sharing about Evernote, I have it and have been using Scrivener mostly. Are you familiar with it? I didn’t realize Evernote had all those options though (and Pages links chapters to your TOC? Really?) I’m thinking I should learn the tutorials sometime.

    • I love Scrivener! It combines the writing with being able to save the research, just like Evernote. But it is nice that Evernote syncs to the web for you. I’ve started using it again after a long time away from it.

  34. Feeling super inspired after reading this post and your last one on the subject! When you say that you “research” stuff for your book, do you mean looking for ideas online, statistics, and inspiration, or are there bits of your topic that you actually don’t know much about but would like to add to the book, that you have to learn about and put in there?

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing your amazing and practical experience with your readers. You truly are a gift to me!

  35. Wonderfully thorough description, Tsh. Just the kinds of things I always wondered about book-writing! I write mostly magazine articles, but you’ve convinced me that I need to take more advantage of Evernote. Clipping your post right now, in fact!

    I’ve been using Dropbox more, too. Did you know you can put a file into Dropbox, then create an alias (I’m on a Mac) of it and put it on your computer in whatever location you like? I like to keep certain files together on my hard drive (for organizational reasons) but thought I couldn’t if I “Dropboxed” it. But this system works great!

  36. I have tried and failed Evernote before, but I am giving it another go.
    Also, all the extensions you mention are available in Firefox too. :)
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, friend. SO excited for your book. xo

  37. LOVE your tools.. Best part, love that I’m using quite a few of them already:-) I do have to start using Apple Pages more and wean myself off Word slowly:-) Thank you for another amazing, insightful post:-)

  38. I love this, Tsh! My manuscript is done and with my agent (squeal!), but I’m taking away two things from your post: Clearly (YES!) and printing pages to edit with a highlighter. Love. Can’t wait to read your book!
    ~Kendra

  39. Your thoughts apply to anyone assuming a big project (like my dissertation). Though I had never heard of Clearly. I am so going to use it!! Congrats on your book!

  40. Thank you for the great information! I’ve been following simple mom for a while and always get something out of your posts. I am a relatively new blogger, and have found lots of great tips. I’d also love to write a book some time soon(ish) so this is great info!
    Thanks :)

  41. Your thoughts apply to anyone assuming a big project (like my dissertation). Though I had never heard of Clearly. I am so going to use it!! Congrats on your book!

  42. This is such a helpful post! I am thinking of writing my first book, and I will definitely hark back to your experience when I do. The evernote stuff is awesome!

  43. Thanks for writing this! :) I would love to know more about the editing and publishing process. Thanks, again!

  44. I love this post, and all of your stuff. Thanks for sharing! As a mother of a 3 year old and a 9 month, a full-time college Composition instructor, and a writer, I can only say that your website and blog is my favorite go-to for inspiration, assistance, and oft-needed motivation to keep on truckin. :-) So here’s a little piece of possible advice, just in case you didn’t know about it–the Evernote iPhone app allows you to record voice memos. When I am lounging around (ha ha ha ha ha) reading on my iPhone, sometimes I’ll copy and paste a link for something I find useful into an Evernote note and then record an audio note to myself to save in that same file with the link so I’ll remember why I wanted to look at it again later. This is much more efficient when my hands are too busy to type. I used to use the Voice Memo app and then access files in iTunes, but I’ve found this is a more streamlined method to organize my research. Like you, I keep everything in Evernote. Thanks again for a great post. I’ll be sure to credit you when I share the nuggets of wisdom with my students.

  45. I thought a lot today about what I could do this week to move my goal of writing an e-book into a reality. I knew an outline was necessary, but hearing from you about just how much you relied on it throughout the entire writing process has made it clear that that is my next step. Thank-you! Also on the list are Dropbox and Clearly. Thanks for sharing your process. Congratulations on finishing your draft.
    Best,
    Heather

  46. Thanks for this great resource, Tsh! I am putting the finishing touches on my first solo-authored eBook. I am using Word, but I cannot figure out how to make the TOC like you said. Any tips?

  47. I have a very motivate group of women who are all dedicated to getting an eBook done. I’ve found that their support – and the fact that they are getting the work done – very motivational. Did you have a writer’s group?

  48. Oh Tsh!! What a fabulous follow-up in your series on writing your book. I adore your blog and have wanted to respond to just about every post…but these three kids and email notifications! You are doing a fabulous job and I love all the helpful tidbits…filed away for my book writing journey-to-be.
    Blessings!!!

  49. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve “evernoted” everything. I do hope you have time to write about publishing and getting a book deal also.

    Thank you, again.

    Mikey F.

Speak Your Mind

*