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I wrote and published a book during Thanksgiving

Derek C. TillotsonDerek C. Tillotson, Doer of things
As I went back to work on Friday (after two days off), I was hoping to hear people exchanging tales of their Thanksgivings. I was prepared for the conversation to turn to me, so I could say the line I had been dying to say:

"I wrote a book."

And it's true. I did. Since I wasn't working on Thanksgiving (or the day before), and since most of San Francisco is shut down on holidays (something I forgot to mention in this post), I decided to use that time to be productive. Inspired by the idea of Game Jams, where game designers and developers plan and make a game under strict time limits, I tried that with a book. Here were my rules:

1) I had all day Wednesday and Thursday to write, edit, and submit for publishing.

2) I could write about whatever I wanted.

3) My goal was about 30 pages (or 7500 words).

4) I took an extra day to polish the publishing details (price, cover, etc.) and one more day to format for Kindle.

I wrote about how I gave up caffeine during college, did a bit of research on caffeinated products, and talked about chocolate (my biggest dietary weakness) a bit. While I primarily focused on personal accounts and statistics, I did learn a few things. I learned more than just how much caffeine is in chocolate (and how I should remove it completely from my diet). 


Here's what I learned:

A) Words come easily when you know and care what you're writing about. I'm not a caffeine expert, but I had a story to tell, so it wasn't difficult to push out 7500+ words in two days' time. I remember in college when I needed to write papers. I would dread writing a three-page, double-spaced essay. I didn't frequently care about the topic and I didn't want to do the work because I wasn't interested. I always got it done, but it wasn't always done well (I still passed). When writing "Overcoming Caffeine Addiction," everything flowed smoothly. I also had fun writing it. When you're having fun writing, you'll never struggle with writer's block.

B) I waste a lot of time. I could have finished this in one day. I didn't because I spent a lot of time doing other stuff. I went grocery shopping (a necessity), played video games, watched some videos on Netflix, watched part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Thanksgiving marathon on Youtube, and wandered around town on Thanksgiving Day for no reason. I enjoyed myself and I got done before bed on Thursday, and I'm happy with the results.

C) I enjoyed writing this far more than I enjoyed writing fiction. I've touched on how I tried writing a novel earlier this year. I gave up because I didn't enjoy it. I liked my stupid idea, I liked planning it out, but I didn't like writing it. This should have been apparent, since I'm not much of a fan of reading fiction, either. I haven't been one since high school. Most of my reading this year has been non-fiction (my favorite being "Fargo Rock City" by Chuck Klosterman), so it makes sense that my preferred writing would be real, as well.

D) Editing a book you just wrote isn't fun. I'm used to editing my own work under tight deadlines. I write about video games on a part-time (freelance) basis, and I'll proof my stuff after writing it. However, most things I write are no more than a tenth of the size of this book. I can churn something out, and come back to it in a couple hours and edit it without burnout. Doing the same thing with a 30-page book is tough. I considered killing that part of the deadline, but I decided against it.

E) The self-publishing process is fun. I used Createspace for the print version and Kindle Direct Publishing for the ebook. I enjoyed making the covers, writing the descriptions, choosing the prices, and filling out the dedication page used in the Createspace template. I still have a lot to learn about the process. Because I formatted the Kindle version myself (I didn't want to spend seventy bucks), I've run into some issues, such as the two formats not linking together on their pages. That problem should be fixed in the next few days. KDP not asking for a middle initial is a bit of an obstacle.

F) I want to write another book. I'm not sure when that'll be or what I'll write about, but I'm itching to write something. Perhaps that's why I'm writing this post.

G) I'm terrified that I screwed up somewhere. I've little doubt that I've left some sort of spelling or grammatical error in the final product. A book that goes from idea to finished product in 48-hours is bound to have to problems. I don't plan to go back to fix any of those errors, though (unless something is so bad that it needs to be changed.

H) "Book jams" should be assigned for all college students. Colleges force students to write a lot of stuff they don't like, so why not encourage them to do the opposite for once? It'd be an excellent activity for all incoming freshmen to write and publish a 30-page book during a set few days or weeks, and have no penalty if they don't finish. I learned more from writing this than I did any of my assignments during school. Unfortunately, I'm afraid colleges would take over by adding a theme or a topic that most students wouldn't care about. The idea wouldn't work unless students are given complete control over their ideas.

I) In fact, everybody should try it. What's the harm in it? Everyone who wants to do it, should. You have enough free time, and I know you'll find enough if you think you don't. It doesn't have to be a 48-hour limit, either. It could be a week. It could even be a month. The average page is estimated at about 250 words. To write a 30-page book in a month, you'd only need to write 250 words per day. That's about a quarter of this blog post!

You can purchase the paperback version here and the Kindle edition here.
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