How to Write a Book in Ten Days


…of which three are spent in a car driving from Des Moines to Kitchener.

It’s hard, to be sure. I spent a couple of nights staying up until three in the morning, trimming some extraneous words, adding a last bit of researched detail, but I did it. Yesterday, I handed in the second of three commissioned manuscripts for a new “Mysteries Revealed” series of non-fiction books — this one on Earth — for young readers aged 8 to 12.

Despite the extremely tight deadline, this was less of a challenge than trying to explain E=mc2 in seventy words or less, but it was no less fun. I got to talk about volcanoes, why the weather changes, and how our Moon formed. Even though the books are short (3,700 words, in this case), they were remarkably satisfying. The biggest challenge, believe it or not, is not finding things to say in the space you’re allotted, but figuring out what to cut. There is very little room for extraneous facts or flowery language or a humorous turn of phrase when you’re confined to segments of 100 words each, and yet the writing still has to be compelling for young readers.

This might actually be a good writing exercise for aspiring writers. If nothing else, it helps them figure out what’s important and what’s not very quickly.

Anyway, now that this is done, I turn to the third and final commission: Animal Mysteries Revealed… also due in ten days. But at least I’ll be able to use all ten of them…

The writing is going well. My mother and my wife, who as you know are both published authors, have given me some great advice on The Night Girl, which I’m implementing, and of course a circle of my author friends have been giving me good critiques on each chapter of the story. The Night Girl should be ready for submitting by the middle of September, and we’ll see what becomes of it. The Dream King’s Daughter is also in the hands of my agent, and I’m looking forward to hearing her comments. After that, I’ve been thinking over some plotting ideas for Icarus Down.

We’ve mostly recovered from our long trip, although we still have to put the suitcases away (I’ll get right onto that). Vivian and Nora are now mostly used to their beds. One complication we’ve had is that first Nora, and then Erin and myself came down with a cold. And we can identify the precise moment that this virus entered into our family. Back when we were at the Shedd Aquarium, and Nora was a cute penguin, we were jostling for space with a number of summer camp groups. One older toddler came running along, bumped into Nora, and sneezed. All over her. Direct hit. And then she later said, “I have a cold.”

Is it wrong of me to wish that, for the rest of her life, she’ll be afflicted with people sneezing at her and not bothering to cover their mouths?

But fortunately Nora got over her cold quickly. The same cannot be said for Erin and I. Oh, well.

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

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