Some of you have expressed some interest in hearing about the process of writing a UX book. This post is the first in the series discussing the writing process for my first book-length project, on UX niches and specialties.
The first step of any journey is always the most difficult.
Writing a book isn't any different. It's easy to make the decision to embark on a long writing project. Actually starting one is the tricky bit.
Some time ago, I made the choice to start my first book-length writing project, on niche UX specialties. Then, I strode confidently up to the edge of the Great White Abyss for some time, kicking rocks and muttering about all of the reasons why this was the absolute worst time to begin writing a book.
I have a 3-month old son that requires the usual amount of sleep sacrifice, which, for anyone who has never had children, is "all of it." I'm on a huge fitness push at the moment, sacrificing my lunch breaks to hit the gym while also limiting my calorie intake. The Rockies are on a playoff push, and Broncos season is just starting.
I'm tired, sore, hungry, and distracted.
And I'm writing a book anyway.
This will not be easy, but it will be worth it.
The First Steps
I'm working off of the premise that all writing projects are actually pretty similar. In the interest of full disclosure, this is probably a good time to mention that this is not my first writing rodeo. I studied journalism in college, and worked as a sports writer for The Denver Daily News as well as the Denver Broncos, where I wrote for DenverBroncos.com and their "Gameday" magazine.
What many people don't realize is that you can be successful in any writing project so long as you follow a consistent, proven approach. It's worth noting that there are literally thousands of guides to writing nonfiction books. While their approaches might vary slightly, the basic advice will almost always boil down to the same four instructions:
1. Define your project.
2. Research your subject.
3. Thoroughly plan & outline your writing.
4. Write, while sticking to your plan.
5. Edit and revise the ever-living crap out of your manuscript.
Currently, I'm sort of wandering between steps 1, 2, and 3.
Over the past week, I've spent some time brainstorming with the wonderful members of this community and gathering thoughts and feedback from the Twitterverse in an effort to help define which UX niches have the most interest, and which I may have overlooked.
I'm also beginning to build a list of articles and books to read to get me up-to-speed on the various UX disciplines I plan on including in the book. The community here has been immensely helpful in gathering resources, as have my friends on Twitter. To say that I have a lot of reading to do it putting it very, very mildly.
One of the great results of writing an outline is that it helps break a large project down into much smaller, easier-to-digest chunks. It makes the whole thing seem way more manageable and organized, which is why it's always the first major piece I start after defining a project.
For this large of the project, I actually have a few separate outlines. One will serve as a sort of master outline, covering the book as a whole. Another will serve as a template for each individual chapter. I'm also working on an outline of the introduction, which I plan to use to frame the discussion of the topics in the book in terms of importance, growth potential, and ethical practices.
The great Terry Pratchett once said "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story." While this is true of your first draft of your manuscript, it's equally true of the first draft of your writing outline. Until the final manuscript is handed over, a project is a living, breathing entity that inevitably will change as it's written. I fully expect as I research and generate ideas that my overall outline and chapter content will change drastically.
The Coming Week
Over the coming week, I'm hoping to narrow down the list of topic contenders to the most interesting and relevant, read as much as of my research materials as I can, and firm up an overall book outline.
The journey will be a long one. Already I can see that there is so much to do. It will be difficult.
But I have taken the first step into the Great White Abyss, and I am confident.