How to Write a Book in 19 Days


Well, actually, don’t look for instructions, here. I still don’t know how I did it. I’m just celebrating the fact that I did.

Late last month, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a Tom Jackson, a U.K. editor writing on behalf of The Brown Reference Group (BRG), who had asked him to edit a series of books called “Science Solves It”. These non-fiction books were meant to appeal to reluctant readers, with content appealing to 11-12 year olds but written in a language aimed at 9-10 year olds. Orca Book Publishers has made waves here in Canada with a similar series of high-interest, low-vocabulary (hi-lo) novels, so the market is good and growing.

There were six volumes in the series, each to be penned by a different author. The subjects ranged from crime scene investigations to rescue missions, to saving endangered plants and animals to sports champions. A Canadian publisher was participating in this venture and wanted Canadian authors for some of the books. I got the e-mail, as did a friend in an online critique group that we both frequent, suggesting that somebody there, with connections, put our names forward (thank you, whoever you are!).

The content of the books would be very tightly controlled. I was told that I would be writing to a strict, page-by-page outline, and very likely the layout of each page spread had already been determined. Given all that, would I be interested in giving this a try? I said I was interested. At which point, my editor handed me the subject of Rescue Missions, sent me the outline and added:

Now for the bad news: Can you do it by Feb 18? (This was on January 31).


So, 19 days to write 3,500 words, or 32 pages. No pressure (ha!).

Did I mention that I’ve never written for the hi-lo genre before? So part of the research that I ended up doing was looking up other non-fiction books for young readers and seeing how the authors did it. And let me tell you, 3,500 words may not seem like a lot. Neither does packing a small suitcase, until you end up having two suitcase-fulls to pack and only a couple of hours in which to pack it. Bare essentials! Nobody knows what it really means until we’re forced to cut ourselves down to it. Getting the material that I found to fit in the confines of the manuscript, and writing the text in a far simpler way than I was used to, amounted to one of the greater challenges of my writing career.

But, I did it. And, fingers crossed, the publisher likes what I did. I submitted the manuscript earlier today, and I’m looking forward to feedback. Would I do it again? Yeah, occasionally. It’s a good rush, and a nice and tidy little job in between novels. Hopefully this gig leads to more such ventures.

I’ll let you all know when the series is in stores.

(The photograph above, incidentally, is entitled American Flag, Finish Line, & Security Camera by Caleb Sconosciuto and is used in accordance to his Creative Commons license.)

Happy Love Day, Everyone!

This is officially one of the weirder holidays I’ve ever experienced. How so? Well, for one thing, I received mail in my mailbox today. And then I went to my local 24-hour Sobeys and discovered that the supermarket was closed for the day.

This holiday is so new (Dalton McGuinty enshrined Family Day into law just hours after his re-election victory last October), that federally regulated jobs and businesses haven’t had time (or much inclination) to adjust to it, while many provincially regulated jobs and businesses took the day off. This marks the first holiday where mail delivery took place for me.

If local traffic were anything to go by, I’d say that many other people took the day off as well, though whether that was voluntary or not is anybody’s guess. The roads were quite light and, though the TTC rather boldly scheduled holiday service in the city without knowing how many people would take the holiday, I’ve heard no reports of overloaded buses or frustrated commuters. News that a derailment has cut off GO Service to Aldershot is dominating the transit news, and not the fact that GO Transit service went from its usual 20-minute rush hour frequencies to its lazy weekend hourly service.

I did appreciate the day off, and I hope you were able to as well. Thank’s Dalton. Pity about the name.

Largest Collection of Music Recordings Goes up for Auction on eBay

Hat tip to Boing Boing:

From Thomas Edison to American Idol, this is the complete history of the music that shaped and defined five generations. 3 million records and 300,000 CDs containing more than 6 million song titles. It’s the undisputed largest collection of recorded music in the world.


We’re going to need a bigger iPod.

(Edited to add: I loved this comment: “Apple released the first iPod in 2001. It was 5 GB. Six years later, in 2007, they released a 160 GB iPod. That means the iPod’s maximum capacity has been doubling approximately every 1.2 years. If Apple keeps this up, they should be releasing a 40 terabyte iPod some time in 2017, which should be able to hold all 6 million songs with room to spare. (Assuming 3 minutes per song and a bit rate of 256 kb/s, the 6 million songs will require about 35 terabytes.)”)

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