How to write a book

Now I have published my 8th book I have had a couple of emails asking how I do it as these people(or their friends Jesper) have books of their own they want to publish. I have no idea about a fiction book and I suspect different things work for different authors. This is what worked for me.

  • 1)      A mentor
  • 2)      An idea
  • 3)      Years of research and knowledge
  • 4)      A copy editor
  • 5)      Using Word properly

 A mentor

My mentor is my old friend Colette Mason who has written a number of books herself and mentored other authors. She nagged me, made me believe in myself, nagged me some more. You hardly dare mention “someone gave me an idea for a new book” before she is on your case night and day.


An idea

You must, or in the case of my latest book someone else must come up with an idea. An idea which you are fluent about, which others say you should write a book about that.


Years of research and knowledge

I have been living in Luxor for over 11 years now and coming here for 35. For the first years of our business I used to guide our tourists. Now the sort of tourists we get are ones that know quite a bit, have come to Luxor before and really want to know more. So they didn’t want to zoom around a site in 20 minutes before racing back to the bus to go shopping. They wanted to know more, a lot more. They would ask complex and intelligent questions. Sometimes I would know the answer, sometimes I wouldn’t and I would have to come home and look it up.


I also did academic studying at the University of Manchester, that was a 4 year course and we had to work had producing essays and a dissertation. I had to do a lot of reading both of my own Egyptology books but much more useful the library at Chicago House. That library has obscure books going back years, decades even and it is a joy to explore.


Finally I had the advantage of the lectures in Luxor. For example when I was developing my tours like Grandfather Father Son, I was also attending lectures on the sites and the new discoveries at the Mummification Museum. We had Peter Brand talk about Seti I and as a consequence I bought his book on the subject. Rainer Stadelmann talked about the Seti I temple, Christian le Blanc talked about the Ramasseum and Horst Jaritz talked about Merenptah’s temple.


As a consequence I knew these temples like the back of my hand, I knew their differences and similarities, I knew their pharaohs, I knew their excavation. The tour I used to give Grandfather Father Son was so well researched and people loved it. When guests discussed with me which temples they should visit I was able to advise them. What happened next was a guest asked me about the Seti temple and why she should visit it and what was different. She videoed the answer, a facebook friend said you could make a book of that and I got my idea.


I know someone who is the same about chickens, he lives and breathes chickens, he keeps chickens, he blogs about chickens. For him the content of a book on chickens was easy but the mechanics and editing were hard. So make sure whatever you are writing about, you really know.


The way I write is to write down a list of topics I want to cover, this will often be my chapter headings and become my table of contents. Now a word on this, literally a Word. Use Word and use it properly. If you do then you will end up with a Kindle formatted document. Use headings, table of contents, section breaks, forced new pages, all that stuff. If you read Amazons guidance on formatting for Kindle it is all there. I also use word captions for my pictures which automatically numbers them and if I reference a picture I make sure to auto link. I also use their referencing to producing a bibliography.


Then I retreat to the bat cave and write. With a topic like my latest book I don’t come out until I finish, because it was all in my head. I did reread some of my books and I did revisit the sites to check for changes or something remembered incorrectly. Other books I will ferment longer, doing more research or reading but that one I rattled off in two weeks (plus 11 years research lol). I then sent a draft to an Egyptologist I respect asking for comments about the Egyptology not the language, had I missed anything, were there any glaring errors? I incorporated those comments and then……


A copy editor

Now my English is appalling, readers of my blog know this. I can’t spell, my grammar and punctuation is terrible so I use the services of a copy editor, Val Warner. She is excellent and picks up all the errors that I just don’t see. She also checks that it makes sense to her. After all my target audience is ordinary tourists and guests, not academics. So obscure terms she forces me to explain and to give background to throw anyway remarks. Things that when I was guiding people would have asked me questions on, a good copy editor will pick up and Val is good, very good.


Use Word properly

I already mentioned about this. Word has rich functionally and you need to use every bit. Want a new page then use that function not loads of new lines until you get a new page. Use headings, sub headings etc this will make any eBook or if you are submitting to Amazon for Kindle correctly formatted.


So those are all my secrets and I hope they enable you to write your book.

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