How to Write a Quality Book Fast

Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, you've tasked yourself to write a book in four weeks. How will you do it?

Writing a book can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow. I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks. Here's how:

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don't always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it'll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You'll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book.

Trust me, it's never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book's structure isn't working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It's also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I'm hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer's toolkit.

I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good.

I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you'll find it on Amazon for $0.99 during NaNoWriMo. 

Using Split Screen for Editing

4260085353_5c0efc3f39_oby C. K. MacLeod

Word and Scrivener's split-screen functions are handy for editing long documents. At some point in the editing process, you may need to compare facts or details in one section of your book with facts and details in another section. Scrolling back and forth through pages and pages of writing can be frustrating, but with the split-screen function, you don't have to.

Here's how it works in Word and in Scrivener:

Split Screen in Word 2010

  1. In the Home tab, go to View and in the Window area, click on the Split button.
Word split screen button
Access Word's split screen in the View tab

A horizontal rule, or line, will show up across your document. Click anywhere in your document to anchor the rule. You can move the rule up or down at any time.

Note the horizontal rule in Word's split-screen view
Note the horizontal rule in Word's split-screen view
  1. In the split-screen view, the Split button has changed to the Remove Split button.To return to a single pane, go to View, Window area, Remove Split.

Split Screen in Scrivener

  1. Click on the Horizontal Split button in the top right of Scrivener's middle pane.
Horizontal split button
Scrivener split-screen view

The button will immediately change to the No Split button and Scrivener's horizontal split- screen view looks like this:

Scrivener's split-screen view
Scrivener's split-screen view

If you prefer to see your split screens side-by-side instead of stacked on top of one another, you can click on the Vertical Split button to the left of the Horizontal Split button.

  1. Click on the No Split button to return to single-pane view.

The next time you're working with a long document, and you're having to check facts, cross-references, or even write a concluding paragraph, consider using the split-screen function in Word or Scrivener to make the job easier.

Image by Nina Matthews

 

Getting Started with Jutoh

Jutoh website

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated, December 12, 2015

Jutoh is an inexpensive ebook editor that allows you to convert Word docx files to mobi or epub formats. Below are resources and a cheat sheet to help you find your way around Jutoh.

Jutoh Resources

Manual

Julian Smart, the creator of Jutoh has written a detailed manual titled, Creating Great Ebooks Using Jutoh. It's available as a free download in a variety of formats on his website. I prefer to access the online HTML version because I can find answers to questions fastest if call up the manual with search terms in Google.

For example, if I key in the terms "Jutoh" and "pictures," Google will call up Chapter 11: Working With Pictures in a matter of seconds. If you prefer to scroll through a PDF or view the manual as an epub on your tablet, those options are available, too.

Video Tutorials

There are a few detailed video tutorials that demonstrate how to Jutoh:

How to Format .epub and .mobi (Kindle) Ebook Files, by India Drummond is about twenty minutes long and will give you the fastest way in to setting up a fiction book with limited styling in Jutoh.

Geoff Shaw has a short seven-video Jutoh training  series that walks you through creating an ebook in Jutoh, and John Griffin shows you how to use a template in Jutoh. Templates are useful if you'll be creating a lot of ebooks in Jutoh.

Dr. Julian Smart

If you've combed the available resources for an answer to a conundrum, but you've come up with nothing, don't worry. I was delighted to discover that the Doctor was indeed in. Dr. Julian Smart, that is. If you have a question that the manual and videos don't answer, you can email Julian Smart for help.

Jutoh Cheat Sheet

After viewing the videos, searching through the manual, mucking about in Jutoh, and contacting Julian Smart, I compiled a cheat sheet—a list of how-do-I questions that I can return to the next time I use Jutoh to create an ebook.

While this is not a comprehensive list, I do believe that it contains some of the tasks you'll want to accomplish in Jutoh. Feel free to let me know if I've missed anything.

The items in this list are alphabetical. I'd recommend reading through the left column quickly so you know what's there, and later, when you have a question, you'll be able to find that item quickly. 

You'll understand the items in the table better if you know what Jutoh looks like when you're working in it. Here's a screenshot of the various panes:

Jutoh panes

One final thought: the first time I converted an ebook using Jutoh, I did everything in Word—applied styles, inserted hyperlinks, and so forth—and then exported the file to Jutoh.

The second time, I created a document in Word, stripped out all of the formatting, exported it to Jutoh, and then applied all of my styling in Jutoh.

I found the first method more efficient, probably due to my familiarity with Word. Both methods created a nicely styled ebook.

3 Essential Tools for Publishing

By C. K. MacLeod Number three

Self-publishing authors are doing everything that traditional publishers once did: writing, editing, and designing and formatting books. These tasks require authors to be more tech aware than ever before.

Tech tools can help with tasks once handled by traditional publishers. Below, I'll share with you the three tech tools that I use for my self-publishing workflow.

Criteria for Choosing Tools

These are my criteria for choosing the tools I'll use...

A tool must

  • have the right features for the task
  • make a task more efficient
  • be inexpensive, from a cost-per-use standpoint
  • not take too much time to learn (there is only so much time for steep learning curves when you're a jack-of-all-trades)
  • have adequate support in the way of tutorials, videos, guides, forums, or someone to answer questions, if necessary

The tools I describe below meet all of these criteria.

Sure, it'd be wonderful if one tool could do it all, but I haven't found that tool (let me know if you have). No tool is designed to do everything, and using some tools for editing, for example, is akin to using a spoon to dig a hole to plant a tree. The smartest thing you can do is choose the best tool for the job.

These three tools are the best tools for the jobs I do...

Scrivener

For writing book-length works, I haven't found a tool that beats Scrivener. Scrivener shines in the way it allows writers to arrange and manipulate sections of a book. If you're a plotter, panster or tweener, you can begin writing your book from the beginning or middle because you can arrange your book's sections with ease later.

Scrivener will let you store your book alongside research notes and pictures, and it has nifty colour coded labels that can help you to indicate your progress on a section of writing. You can also set word count targets, which can help you reach your daily or weekly writing goals.

Scrivener Labels
Assign coloured labels to files in Scrivener

This handy Scrivener cheat sheet will get you started.

While Scrivener has track changes and comments features, it isn't my favourite tool for editing my writing. As a professional editor, I know that there are ways to automate editing tasks, which helps with efficiency, but more importantly, helps me to catch errors I'd otherwise miss.

Microsoft Word / WPS Writer

My tool of choice for automated editing tasks is Microsoft Word. Most professional editors use Word for editing, and with good reason. If Word isn't in your budget, try WPS Writer(part of the WPS Office suite). The free version mirrors many of Word's powerful features. Upgrading to the Pro version ($60) will allow you to run macros—tiny programs that automate hours-long editing tasks with a few clicks. If you can cut and paste, you can learn to use a macro. This free 20-Minute Macro Course will teach you how.

For the record: while I do everything to make my writing as polished as it can be, I know that I'm not the best person to copyedit my own writing. I have my editor do that. If you hire a copyeditor, your copyeditor will most likely work in Word (and if she doesn't, and she charges by the hour, you may pay more for editing than you should).

Jutoh

After the editing stage, you'll likely format your book for e-reading devices. Word is notoriously finicky for formatting ebooks, and Scrivener creates ebook files with unsightly gaps between words. So, while you can format ebooks with Scrivener or Word, they aren't the best tools for the job.

To format ebooks, I prefer Jutoh for a more reliable outcome. You can export an edited Word document into Jutoh easily, and if you've had the foresight to style your paragraphs and headings in Word, those styles will transfer, too. Jutoh will then create an epub or a mobi.

Having the right tools for the right tasks will help you produce better books, faster. While the tools I recommend aren't the only tools to get the job done, they are the best tools I've found to date.

Image by Hubert Figuière

Most Popular Tech Posts of 2014

Top 10by C.K. MacLeod

Here are the top 10 Posts on Tech Tools for Writers in 2014.

  1. 20-Minute Macro Course (free)
  2. Retrieving a Backup File in Scrivener
  3. Improve Your Writing with Macros
  4. Scrivener Cheat Sheet (Downloadable)
  5. How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener
  6. A Self-Editing Toolkit
  7. New Tool for Writing and Editing: WPS Writer
  8. Creating and Checking Your Epub in Sigil
  9. How to Add a Macro to Word
  10. A Macro for Commonly Confused Words

Which tool will you try in 2015?

Image by Sam Churchill.