Monthly Archives: August 2015

Writing a book? Ha ha (step 1)

BOOK blog lillianRight. I sat down behind my desk with nothing but empty white sheets in front of me. Writing sounds really fun! And creative! What I’ve learned in the past years however, is that every creative process, whether it is a story, a blog or a brainstorm, is based on structure. That sounds rather boring, right? Well, get over it and start making a plan – I said to myself. I needed a table of contents and some sort of guideline. I needed to know how many hours this project would roughly take me and I needed someone to guide me in the process with more knowledge about writing books than me, which couldn’t be hard considering the fact that I had only written blogs and articles so far.

Step 1. Write down the summarised story

I wrote down the conversation I had taped. That’s lesson 1a and 1b at the same time btw: Tape everything. Especially when you’re a Dutch person interviewing Chinese people in English. You probably won’t even need to listen to it (I never did, because more important than taping is listening while you’re interviewing) but that might be because you taped it. I wrote down what Maggie and Lillian told me in a summarized version. They both read it and we agreed that this summary would be our starting point.

Step 2. Create a table of contents

Based on the story I had written down, I created a table of contents. Joost squeezed it into a frame with his amazing excel knowledge (I’m not downplaying this at all, I’m actually quite serious). It made it very easy to gain an overview of ‘interview time per chapter’ and ‘editor time per chapter’ and more stuff that doesn’t seem relevant, but is or could be very useful. In the end, it roughly summed up how much time I would need to write this book. I say roughly because you tend to underestimate tasks and how much time they consume. Let’s, for example, talk about packing suitcases. In the end it always takes up 20% more time than you imagined (and you probably bring 20% more stuff than you needed). Having this excel file created an overview that made the hours insightful to me and to everyone else.

Step 3. Surround yourself with great minds

Joost is my great excel mind. Besides that I needed someone to edit my English as nothing is more horrific than errors in grammar, style and punctuation.Errors will distract you from the content and it makes reading less fluent. Besides that I needed someone to guide me in the process. I decided that, although I was writing in English, I would love to discuss the content of the book and the process of writing with another Dutch person. Via a good friend, I came in touch with the wonderful Sarah who will be my Dutch sparring partner and I asked Melissa to be my first (American) editor.

Step 4: What are you waiting for? Just get started

That’s how I kicked off. Or well, I organized a Skype session with Sarah whose main advice was to ‘just get started’. Which is the truth and something you KNOW but ignore because it’s much harder than it sounds. Of course I procrastinated (again) but after a few weeks – when there was nothing left to tidy – I planned a first Skype session. I sent out invitations and that was that.

How it went? You can read about it next time! Hopefully I will draw a less dramatic picture although I have to admit that this kind of reflects my ‘base’ attitude towards fun but challenging projects.
And yes, I like coffee.


Writing a book? Ha ha!

Book lillian tekening blog 1It was just another Monday (a few months ago) and I was on my way to fetch the children from school when husband Joost phoned me: ‘Could you write a book for someone I know? More specifically, a biography?’
No, of course I couldn’t.
Yes, of course I could.
No, of course not.
And that’s how I emailed the ‘someone I know’ to make an appointment for a week later when she happened to be in Bentonville Arkansas.

Someone I know

In an enormous hotel (yes, Bentonville has one) I met Maggie, a wonderful, stylish, dedicated, energizing, Chinese lady living in NYC. We chitchatted for an hour as if we had known each other for years. We rushed through her life, only to discover in the last few minutes that the book was going to be about her daughter. Writing a biography about a 17 year old? Hmmm, I wondered if I would be able to write an interesting story about such a young girl. Then I met her daughter Lilian via Skype. Lilian was great! She was born in the year of the Ox; hard-working, creative, funny and at the age of 17 already mature enough not to take herself too seriously. Both Maggie and Lillian were amazingly open and I felt that we could make this work.

Decision making? Use CCCD

How do you make a final decision to embrace a project or not? I came up with the criteria CCCD, which – I think – are actually applicable to almost (I don’t know why I write down almost btw) every relationship.
1. Content. There definitely is an interesting story to share. I liked the bits and pieces of Chinese culture they both shared and ideas immediately popped into my mind.
2. Click. Maggie and Lillian are very special ladies and we instantly bonded. All three of us highly valued trust and a safe environment. There were a few jokes and loud laughs and it just felt right.
3. Confidence. Maggie was convinced that I could do this based on my experience and the conversation we had. There has never been any doubt, which boosted my self-confidence and made me eager to work with her.
4. Dedication. We agreed that it would be an adventure. We were going to do something we never did before which was exciting and I felt that we could make it work!

I was going to write a book!

Yes, yes, I could write this book. Content, a click, confidence and dedication were key elements for me to make the decision. Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity. The only thing left was to actually write it. And (Oh my gosh), I had never written a book before. Where should I start? A few nervous breakdowns and acts of procrastination later, I broke the process down to a few steps. I will share these steps next time. Nice cliffhanger, right ;)

Then one final remark: I have no experience writing a book. I’m just doing what feels right and to be honest, writing it down makes it real, it keeps me motivated. Feel free to share whatever you want, whether it’s feedback, tips or tricks! Happy to hear it all!