Happy Birthday Sheelagh, OR, How I Accidentally Wrote a Whole Book

My best friend, Sheelagh, lives in New Zealand. She moved there in January 2009 and therefore hasn’t been around for my transformation from miserable, much-abused receptionist who only talks about writing to slightly less miserable full-time writer who blogs, has self-published one book and written a novel. To make matters worse, Sheelagh doesn’t have the internet at home and has an aversion to internet cafes, and so she can’t comfortably catch up on all my caffeinated blog musings.

Sheelagh and I in Honduras, April 2008. I'm the one with the crazy banshee hair.

Today she turns 28 and as part of her birthday present I’ve sent her a blog book. Making it was a pain in the ass – an excruciating eight hour marathon of copying and pasting, formatting and reminding myself that she is, after all, my friend – but I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I ordered two copies so I have one to keep. I liked it so much actually that I’ve decided this is just volume 1, and I’ll continue to crank them out every six months or so, keeping Sheelagh up to date with my  writing life while also preserving my posts to serve as a memento (of what? That remains to be seen!) for me in years to come.

To make the blog book, I used CreateSpace – the same Print on Demand service I used for Mousetrapped. (For details on exactly how, see below.) The first step was copying and pasting all my blog posts into a Word document, so I could format them to look readable before converting it into a PDF.

After the laborious task of transferring all my posts to Word, my eyes flicked to the word count at the bottom of the page.

I squinted, looked again.

Did that really say…? Was that right…?

Had I really written 79,654 words worth of blog posts in only 5 months?

Yes, I had.

And easily too.

I started my WordPress blog on the 1st February of this year, bringing maybe 5 or 6 older posts with me from my previous Blogger.com life. Between then and June 30th, I blogged an average of 4.5 times a week. I find this number remarkable considering that most weeks I blog only once or twice, and some weeks I haven’t blogged at all. (Clearly I’m making up for it in other weeks where I do a series of five blog posts, throwing up one every weekday.) My posts vary in length, ranging from around 300 words to 2,400 words, with most being around the 1,500 word mark.

The thing is writing these posts is never a chore. I really enjoy doing them, and they don’t take me long – an hour, maybe two, at the most, with shorter ones taking only thirty minutes or so. Producing them doesn’t take up a huge part of my day; I fit them in around everything else. Sometimes I write them with one eye on the TV (hence the typos and spelling mistakes!) and I never spend Sunday evening guiltily thinking, I really should write some blog posts tomorrow.

And so, in five months and without any unease, stress or dread, I managed to write nearly 80,000 words, which is equivalent to a whole book.

In fact, Mousetrapped is only around 65,000 words, so that’s more than a non-fiction book.

My novel is 95,000 words, so that’s almost the whole way there.

As I write this, my desk is piled high with things related to my second novel, the novel I’m really having trouble getting stuck into to. I’m not worried – the start of the first one was like this to, I didn’t relax until I was past the half way point – but why should it be? Why not just treat it like the blog posts: enjoy it, do it a few times a week, fit it in around other things instead of setting blocks of time aside, take the pressure off and just go for it? Instead of trying to get 10,000 words done by yesterday, why not think about having 80,000 words done in five months’ time?

So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to relax. I’m going to attempt to work on my novel with the same chilled out attitude I use to produce my blog posts.

I just hope my novel won’t have as many spelling mistakes.

To make your own blog book:

This is basically publishing with CreateSpace except without the publishing bit. My blog book is 6 x 9 and about 230 pages and cost me under $10 per copy plus shipping. Just make sure you keep it private and never click the ‘Publish’ button – unless you want to sell your blog posts, that is.

  1. Create a CreateSpace account if you don’t have one already and pick a trim size for your book.
  2. Hop on over to Lulu.com and “borrow” a MS Word template that matches your trim size.
  3. Copy and paste all your blog posts into this new document. (Patience required.)
  4. Jazz ’em up with a bit of formatting here and there. For bonus points: match the font styles to the font styles of your blog.
  5. Create a new title in CreateSpace and take note of the free ISBN. As this title will not be available for sale, you can make up stuff to put in the fields or leave the non-obligatory ones empty.
  6. Put your assigned ISBN on page 2 of your Word document. (You’re just going through the motions: CS will check it’s there, but then you won’t have to worry about it afterwards.)
  7. Convert the document to PDF and upload it.
  8. Use CreateSpace’s Cover Creator to throw together a cover. (Again, bonus points for making it look like your blog theme.)
  9. Submit your files to review.
  10. Once CreateSpace says everything is a-okay, order a proof copy. This is your blog book. You can order as many proof copies as you like but keep in mind they will have a page at the very back saying ‘Proof.’ (I got over this. You will too.) Alternatively ‘Publish’ your book by okaying the proof, but opt out of Amazon sales, etc. This will keep it practically private.

(This is also a demonstration, now that I think about it, of how easy it is to self-publish with a POD!)

Happy Birthday Sheelagh! V.O. x 🙂

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