As you may have noticed, I dropped off the face of the planet last month. Around the end of Summer 2019, I had found something of a groove here with my regular posts, and I won’t lie — it felt great! I loved bringing you all new thoughts, opinions, and breakdowns of whatever was tickling my brain because, you know, that’s what bloggers do.
Then November hit.
November was the month I agreed to write Discord for Dummies though, and being back in the saddle with my Wiley crew meant my blogging would have to take a pause. This would be the first book ever to be published on the platform. Pretty exciting stuff. I had a great start to the title when in December I got an email from my editor at Wiley asking if I could turn in the first draft earlier than initially slated. Part of this was due to projected demand for the title, so again — exciting stuff. “How much earlier?” I asked. “By a month,” my editor replied.
Well, okay then.
So, just to be clear — there’s usually four months needed to deliver a draft to Wiley Publishing. Twitch for Dummies was something of a challenge as I was writing that one solo, and now the Dummies crew wanted me to deliver the Discord for Dummies draft in three. Last week, I delivered the first draft to Wiley a week ahead of the new deadline.
Along this roller coaster ride of writing, I learned a few things…
Reputation is nice. A paycheck, however… The fact that Wiley believed I could pull off a solo title within three months I took to heart. As mentioned before on this blog, Wiley deals with a lot of authors, many of them authorities in their respective fields. I was already flattered last year when, in a pinch, Wiley reached out to me to write a chapter in a week for one of their top titles. But this? That is a publisher who trusts you. And someone as big as Wiley? I’m humbled. Truly, I am.
That being said, I’m a professional.
Already this book was going to be a test as I was writing it during Thanksgiving and Christmas which were not going to put themselves on “Hold” while I cranked out a book. The loss of a month would also cost me time to reach out to people like the Discord staff, successful server hosts, and streamers who have made this platform a place to grow their Twitch streams exponentially. This new deadline would also mean stepping up research and triple-checking work while checking a Jack Bauer-esque countdown clock. I offered up a number which I considered fair compensation, and we came to a nice financial agreement. Time is money. Stress is worthy of a bonus. Don’t shortchange yourself or your talents.
Make time for a project, even if it cost you another discipline. This may seem like common sense, but what is particularly frustrating when you decide to kick in the afterburners is what you know will take a hit. For me, as stated earlier, it would be blogging. Not a big deal, you think, until you consider — at least, for myself — how hard it is for me to blog on a consistent schedule. Another aspect to take a hit: streaming. You all know how much I dig Twitch, but when I would get unexpected pockets of time, I couldn’t just fire up Streamlabs and launch an unexpected stream. I had to be disciplined and say “Got to get those words out tonight.” On the train. At home. On weekends. If I had a pocket of time, it was all about the word-herding.
Make time for yourself, lest you burn yourself out. The deadline for Discord for Dummies was closing fast, so my January weekends were to be word-packed. February looked about the same, until scanning Instagram revealed our local Alamo Drafthouse in the first weekend of February was planning a special screening of a remastered-for-4K edition of the 1962 cinematic masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia. I was just over the 50% mark, maybe 60% at best. A few hard pushes, and I knew I could have this draft done…
…but this was Lawrence of Arabia. On the big screen. Remastered. Surround sound audio. With newcomer Peter O’Toole in the title role.
Tickets were purchased before dinner was on the table.
An assessment concert of my kid’s orchestra, a night out with my wife, or something like Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen — make time for those special moments, be they moments for you or moments with significant others (or both), because those lost opportunities may not come a second time. Whether it is knocking out a few hundred more words during lunch hours or making progress later in the evening, that time lost on self-care can be made up. It’s worth it.
Don’t panic. Communicate. I’ve said it before on my stream and I don’t mind saying it here: Discord for Dummies was the toughest book, fiction or non-fiction, that I have ever put together. Anyone who would shrug and say “How hard can a book on Discord be?” has never written a how-to book, let alone a Dummies book. When the new deadline was presented, I needed to start producing content quickly. What I didn’t count on was how efficient I would be in my writing. You see, when you start a Dummies book — or really any non-fiction book — you begin with a complete Table of Contents. Yeah, you can work with outlines in fiction, but I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. While you can do that with fiction, you can’t do it as easily with non-fiction; and things I intended to cover at the end of the book I had covered unexpectedly at the beginning. I found myself powering through later chapters while hopping back to the beginning to clear up any missed details. On wrapping up Chapter Eight, I reviewed my project. I had three chapters in the outline remaining. In my head, I only had one. I asked my daughter, my tech editor, and my friends on Discord if I had missed anything? Everyone looking ay my Table of Contents had the same reaction: “You covered it.”
Instead of freaking the fuck out or just saying “That’s it! I’m done.” I reached out to Wiley. They said I was 20-30 pages short for what they needed to make a Dummies book. “Think you got another 20-30 pages in you?” my editor asked.
I strapped in and started writing.
In the end I had produced roughly 12,000 words in a week. If I guesstimated correctly, before figures, marginal art, and formatting for sidebars, I managed to push over the finish line for the draft.
Communication is paramount in a project like a Dummies book, or any project for that matter. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark. Ask questions. Risk hearing answers you may not want to hear. Benefit from the times you hear what you need. And most importantly, get shit done.
One of the coolest things about being a writer is the takeaways from each title, and how each title continues to teach you. A writer’s journey is far from dull, and you are always learning. You have an opportunity with each byline to grow, and while this is my fifth title with the Dummies title, by no means do I think writing these books are easy. Doesn’t matter the project — each title comes with its own set of unique challenges.
Now, we edit. My favorite part, as this is where the draft takes shape and becomes a book. Let’s make this happen, shall we?
See you all starside.