Data Points: What it’s like to write a book
As the publication of Data Points nears, I'm excited to hold it in my hands just like I was the first time. It feels weird to say that. In college, a 5-page report seemed like too much to handle, and I would hunt for fonts that took the most space and fiddled with margins to produce more pages, without making it look like I did. I guess a lot can happen in 10 years. Heck, a lot can happen in a few months.
I think the difference is that now I'm writing about something that's interesting to me — topics that I immerse myself in for fun — which makes the book-writing process fun.
Sure, it can be challenging at times, but in the best way possible. Here's my experience with Data Points.
The book-writing process is slow at first. You brainstorm, plan what to write about and how you want to write it, and eventually put together a rough outline with deadlines (that will change as you write). I scribbled a lot in notebooks, walked around the neighborhood, went on aimless drives, and sometimes just laid on the floor to organize my thoughts.
This was a great time for me to realize how jumbled my thoughts are. The challenge was to figure out how everything fits together.
Writing and graphics
With a rough plan in place, the writing, example gathering, and graphic making started. Things moved pretty quickly at this point. I would write a chapter (and make the graphics for it), hand it off to my project manager (who also held the fort down for Visualize This), and then I'd move on to the next chapter.
As I wrote, the chapter I handed over passed through a copy editor and the project manager for grammar, spelling, and flow. I also had a technical editor to make sure I explained concepts clearly and wasn't full of it. I was lucky to have Jen Lowe (@datatelling) assume the technical role.
The efficiency of the editing process still amazes me. In contrast, I'd write a chapter for my dissertation and it might be months before I revised.
Around the end of chapter writing and several cycles of revision, the book layout process started. We worked on a flexible template early on, so we knew typeface, chapter openings, figure labels, etc, and that helped mold the book from text files to PDFs that looked like something you might hold in your hands. This is pretty fun to see, because the book starts to feel more real.
Essentially, a chapter was laid out, and then we'd go through page-by-page and adjust. I must've driven the layout person nuts with comments like, "Move this label 2mm to the left."
Here's where we are now. Manuscript written, text and graphics edited and revised, book laid out, pages and cover designed. So the only thing left to do is wait. It's with the printers now, and then it'll ship off to Amazon, book stores, warehouses, and my desk.
Want to get Data Points fresh off the press? Pre-order it now. (Amazon has a look-inside preview.)