Getting The Words Down – The Writing Path Blog Tour

Andrew Knighton invited me to take part in IC Publishing‘s writing path blog tour. I try not to post too much about writing, since that isn’t really the focus of this blog, but I thought it might make an entertaining diversion. Here goes…

How do you start your writing projects?

Since I write non-fiction, I write about subjects that I’m interested in. The difficult part is choosing the next subject, since I have a lot of topics that I want to write about.

I normally write out the chapter headers first, and they serve as an outline. Normally I have a good knowledge of the subject to start with, but more research is always necessary. This can involve requests under the Freedom of Information Act, visits to the National Archives, or searching archival websites such as the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Wherever possible I store the research in digital form, because I find it easier to organise digital files, and I can make sure I have good backups.

Citation Needed

By futureatlas.com (CC-BY)

I’ve tried various tools for doing the writing. Many people rave about Scrivener, but I didn’t get on with it, possibly because I use Linux, and the Linux version is still in beta. I’ve tried writing in a text editor, using HTML or Markdown. Currently I’m writing in LibreOffice, which seems to be the best fit for me. I’ve also tried various ways of organising my research. I used Zotero for a while, but at the moment I’m using Referencer.

How do you continue your writing projects?

If I’m honest, with difficulty. I find it much easier if I can keep up momentum, so try to find time to write frequently and often. Other commitments make that difficult sometimes, but I generally manage at least one evening a week. If I have a break, I have to really force myself to sit down and write. Once I’ve done that, though, I find it easier to get back into the routine of writing (until the next break).

Sometimes I find that starting a second book helps. It gives me a break from the first book, but it keeps me writing.

How do you finish your project?

When I start the project, I have a good idea in my head of what I want to cover, so it’s easy to know when it’s complete. Then, of course, it needs to be edited. I’m gradually building up a list of regular expressions that I can use to find errors that I tend to fall for (missing Oxford commas, for instance). Once it’s as good as I can make it, I send it to my editor, Alexis at Word Vagabond. Meanwhile, I contact Kit Foster to get a cover, and try to write a description, before contacting The Blurb Doctor for help.

Give one tip that our collective communities could benefit from.

When you’ve finished editing and proof-reading, use text-to-speech software to listen to your book. The computer will read exactly what is written, which will help find some errors and typos that your eyes skip over. I often use the text-to-speech function on my Kindle, but there is software available for phones and PCs, too.

Passing the BuckPen

Next week, Larry Jeram-Croft is going to continue the tour. Larry is a retired Royal Navy pilot and aircraft engineer. After thirty years service and another seven years in industry, he turned to writing. Following the principle of “writing about what you know”, he has created a series of adventure stories about the modern navy as well as two about sailing, another of his lifelong hobbies.

2 thoughts on “Getting The Words Down – The Writing Path Blog Tour

  1. Hi Russell. A very interesting article. I have not heard of using text-to-speach before as a method of checking your editing. I will certainly experiment with that. I tend to have an initial outline of the story, but it is amazing how one event when completed, can influence chapters later in the novel.

    Thanks for this, most useful. HB

    1. Thanks, Harvey, I’m glad you found it useful.

      I don’t find that the text-to-speech tip finds a lot of errors, but it’s very good for some things that the eye simply skips over, such as repeated words and some mis-spellings. I heard of an edition of Treasure Island where Blackbeard was mis-spelt as Blackboard :)

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