Right. 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.