Turning 400,000 words of notes into a non-fiction book.

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kewms
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:22 am Post

rt.free wrote: And one thing I have to admit is in the last few months, as I have continued to write, it has seemed to me to be far more 'coherent', as if I was bringing together all my previous thoughts and writing together in a new way. Maybe that indicates that writing from scratch is the best approach at this point. It is just hard, since whenever I read through my 'notes', wherever I turn, I really, really like how it sounds, well, 80% of it. I guess that was why I also never thought of it as research, I was just so darn certain the book was there!!!!


Your brain has been hard at work behind the scenes...

It may turn out that large chunks of your research notes are usable. Hooray! But stepping back and re-evaluating is still the best way to decide if that's the case.

Fiction writers are often told "kill your darlings," but the same idea applies to non-fiction. Don't let your attachment to a particularly appealing section drag down the book as a whole. In your case, with 400,000 words, it's quite likely that some of them might spin out into articles, blog posts, maybe the start of another book. As you sort out the materials relevant to *this* book, it's easy enough (yay, Scrivener!) to create folders or keywords for things that you're setting aside for associated projects.

I often use Scapple for this sort of thing. As I visually cluster related topics from my notes together, it becomes clearer which ideas "fit" and which don't.

Katherine
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lunk
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:18 am Post

rt.free wrote:It is just hard, since whenever I read through my 'notes', wherever I turn, I really, really like how it sounds, well, 80% of it.


I can completely understand this, but that is also the strongest reason to write it from scratch. The thing is, you want to write something that others "really like how it sounds", not you, right? As Katherine put it, "kill your darlings" is just as applicable in non-fiction writing as in fiction.

So, like others have said, outlining and synopsis are wonderful tools, but at the core is the three key questions: What story is it you want to tell, why do you want to tell it, and to whom?
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Jordi Mora

Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:49 am Post

rt.free wrote:
Dr Dog wrote:
A few years ago I finally hit on the winning combination of analogue A3 sheets and Scapple daily; a larger and very organic overview in Tinderbox; and - informed by all of these - what Abbott calls writing (and linking) `mini-analyses' in Scrivener. (Abbott's *Digital Paper* is intended for graduates - which I've not been for 30 years - but it has some great ideas). Overviews and re-writes (all very plural).

Come Armageddon I could probably finish the book with just the A3 and Scrivener.

I am not familiar with those other programs. Would you mind briefly telling me what you liked about each, or how you went about using them?
Also, if people have scrivener tutorials they know about and thought were very good, please link them. I am sure I could be doing a whole lot more with scrivener as well. Are people using Scrivener 3, the latest version? Like it, love it....


Scapple is the companion software to Scrivener - basically a digital whiteboard - very simple, very flexible. I use that or an A3 sheet of paper and pencil depending on whether I'm in an analogue or digital mood.

Tinderbox is much more complex and much more expensive and has a pretty steep learning curve. Some here love it, some have taken against it, but it is a way of organising notes which combines outlining with graphical interfaces and a very sophisticated system of linking and use of metadata (which helps enormously in my work with keeping track of conceptual, historical, institutional etc relationships). It can read Scrivener files, and can export its own documents as a Scrivener (readable) file.

I used it fairly superficially at the beginning of my adventure, but it was still extremely useful for keeping sight of - and developing - the larger picture, I dug in rather more deeply last year after I'd helped the software designer to edit the new edition of his own manual of use for it - The Tinderbox Way - and in so doing came to a better appreciation of its potential for my work. It might help you wonderfully, or it might be a dreadful distraction,

Yes: Scrivener 3 - love it: peerless.

rt
rt.free
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:10 pm Post

kewms wrote:
I often use Scapple for this sort of thing. As I visually cluster related topics from my notes together, it becomes clearer which ideas "fit" and which don't.

Katherine

I'll have to check Scapple out. I like the idea of it. Thank you for your responses....

rt
rt.free
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:13 pm Post

lunk wrote:
So, like others have said, outlining and synopsis are wonderful tools, but at the core is the three key questions: What story is it you want to tell, why do you want to tell it, and to whom?

Right. I will begin doing this this weekend, along with trying to outline the progression of the book, TOC, etc. Thank you.

rt
rt.free
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:16 pm Post

[quote="Dr Dog"

Scapple is the companion software to Scrivener - basically a digital whiteboard - very simple, very flexible. I use that or an A3 sheet of paper and pencil depending on whether I'm in an analogue or digital mood.

Tinderbox is much more complex and much more expensive and has a pretty steep learning curve. Some here love it, some have taken against it, but it is a way of organising notes which combines outlining with graphical interfaces and a very sophisticated system of linking and use of metadata (which helps enormously in my work with keeping track of conceptual, historical, institutional etc relationships). It can read Scrivener files, and can export its own documents as a Scrivener (readable) file.

Yes: Scrivener 3 - love it: peerless.[/quote]
Great. I will definitely try out Scapple and probably hold off on Tinderbox, even though it sounds great. I am still not utilizing Scrivener to it's full capacity so adding on an even more complex program would probably not help. And I will upgrade my Scrivener 2 to 3. Thank you for all of your thoughts.

rt
rt.free
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:22 pm Post

JimRac wrote:
Instead, I would sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil, and take a stab at writing a few things:
- My goal or goals for the book
- A synopsis of the book
- A TOC for the book
- A paragraph describing what each chapter will cover and why the chapter is important to the book

I specifically would not do this at the computer, because I'd need separation from those words. I've spent so much time with them already, that I'd expect to have internalized the important ideas by now. So I wouldn't reference them. In fact, I'd try to trick my mind into forgetting that they're there and just focus on the thing that's important now: Defining the book I'm going to write.

Jim

Thank you Jim. I will be working through what you wrote down and use it to guide my brainstorming in the coming days.
I guess one of the challenges included as well, which ties in what several other people said, is I do not plan to do another book after this one, nor any blog posts, articles, etc. I know that can always change, but it seems pretty certain, given my personal goals for the short and long-term future. So, I can't honestly tell myself, what I cut now will make it into another book or piece of work.
But having said that, your advice, and that of everyone else here, does show me a clear path forward to deal with my circumstance!!

CT
CTinling
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Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:28 pm Post

I'm really surprised that nobody seems to have suggested that you seek out some editorial help. [Full disclosure: I am a freelance editor, so I may be biased as to the benefits. :wink: ] Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can do a world of good when you hit a point with a project that you're overwhelmed and the logic of the next steps feels elusive. You can easily find help through the Editorial Freelancers Association (http://the-efa.org).

Both aside from and in addition to getting someone else to take a look at it with you, I'd recommend the same step-back-and-do-some-envisioning approach that others have brought up, including seriously considering whether you don't have more than one book's worth of material. Think about what you want the book to be, and write up a quick paragraph about its overall arc. (Yes, even nonfiction books need an arc!) Sketch out a TOC, with a quick paragraph about your vision for each chapter and how it serves that arc. Next, I'd create a new project in Scrivener and populate it with what you just wrote. Set your chapters accordingly, and then search through the original project for bits of text to add to each one, and watch it start to take shape!

Good luck! I hope it comes together for you. That's a LOT of work you've already put in; it'll be great to get it into shape to share with the world!

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Jordi Mora

Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:07 am Post

CTinling wrote:I'm really surprised that nobody seems to have suggested that you seek out some editorial help. [Full disclosure: I am a freelance editor, so I may be biased as to the benefits. :wink: ] Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can do a world of good when you hit a point with a project that you're overwhelmed and the logic of the next steps feels elusive. You can easily find help through the Editorial Freelancers Association (http://the-efa.org).

Both aside from and in addition to getting someone else to take a look at it with you, I'd recommend the same step-back-and-do-some-envisioning approach that others have brought up, including seriously considering whether you don't have more than one book's worth of material. Think about what you want the book to be, and write up a quick paragraph about its overall arc. (Yes, even nonfiction books need an arc!) Sketch out a TOC, with a quick paragraph about your vision for each chapter and how it serves that arc. Next, I'd create a new project in Scrivener and populate it with what you just wrote. Set your chapters accordingly, and then search through the original project for bits of text to add to each one, and watch it start to take shape!

Good luck! I hope it comes together for you. That's a LOT of work you've already put in; it'll be great to get it into shape to share with the world!


I'm a freelance developmental editor too - which is partly why I didn't mention it. But I actually think that RT would do well first to follow the excellent advice given by experienced Scrivener users and then maybe think about formal editorial help at a later stage.

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pigfender
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Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:52 am Post

I’m not necessarily in the “start from scratch” camp as I’ve not seen the quality and structure of your work so far. You might be just a language polish and slight re-order away from perfection for all I know. Certainly, once you’ve decided on the narrative thread for your book, I’d be amazed if you couldn’t pre-populate significant chunks of that with sections of your pre-written material.

I’d still follow the advice of everyone here and take a pause to think about what you want to say and the best structure for getting that across.

This link has some of my previous thoughts on how to go about that structuring exercise which may work for you (or not!):
http://www.pigfender.com/index.php/2013 ... n-fiction/
http://www.pigfender.com | http://www.novelinaday.com
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rt.free
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Sat Apr 14, 2018 10:52 pm Post

Hello everyone, Thanks again for all of the feedback. I have been answering the basic questions about what my goal for writing the book is, and who it is for, as well as, working with a TOC from scratch. I also started using Scapple and find it to be very, very useful for me. So, thank you again for all the suggestions. I am back to enjoying this process and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. :D

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ZackFerrum
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Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:45 pm Post

So how's the light at the end of the tunnel? What do you see now, as you're coming closer?
Will there be blog posts based on the cutout pieces?
Will the book be fully from scratch?
Did you hire someone to take the whole task off your hands?
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