Completely Useless Advice For Aspiring Authors: Pre-Write Your Book

M writing process is brutal. It takes me three years to do a book. Here’s why:



  1. Outline


  1. Pre-Write the entire book


  1. Research what’s in the pre-write version


  1. Book Proposal


  1. More Research (Primary documents like scholarly journals and books, secondary documents like links and online articles.)


  1. Write for knowledge


  1. Edit


  1. Distribute for feedback


  1. More Research (Specifically, interviews with everyone named in the book.)


  1. Write and edit for humor and clarity


  1. Legal Review, line Edits, proofread. Get blurbs.


  1. Publish



Every author has their system. My system is not better than yours. This system is just how I do things.



I tell you this because, while I’m in the pre-writing stage, you’re going to see a lot of stuff go up on this website that looks like it’s from “The Internet is Magic” (project title, not the actual book title.. yet).



About 70 percent of that material will not appear in the finished book. It’s just me working some shit out in steps two and three.



What Do You Mean By Pre-Writing?



You always start with an outline. If you don’t have one, stop everything you’re doing and don’t proceed until you have one finished. Seriously.



Don’t be like my sister and have no plan and no outline and then randomly tell people, “I’m finishing my book” for like 40 weeks in a row. “Oh no, the killer doll has more people to kill. I can’t finish the book yet.” (Yes, this is something she said.)



For me, pre-writing the book means banging out the entire book in its roughest form. There’s not a whole lot of editing and research in this phase. It’s just me following the outline and writing it all out. That may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but it’s not.



For my second book (the ghostwritten one), pre-writing the book helped me figure out that the original thing we wanted to write about: 1) Wasn’t enough to sustain an entire book. 2) We were only talking about the symptoms and not the disease itself. In pre-writing the book, I identified the actual ways that X does X successfully and repeatedly, and that’s what the book became. Had I not done this, we would have wound up with something short and fun, but not quite what the author had wanted regarding being authoritative and knowledgeable.



(No. I can’t tell you what X is. Use your imagination. I CAN tell you the first X is not “B.J.” and the second x is not “procreate” because it’s been five years and, despite wanting to be the world’s greatest Dad, there are no takers on that front.)



So with “The Internet is Magic,” I have the outline for the book completed. What I need to do now is just write it all out in its roughest form, and then start looking at the research. This allows me to do a few things that I think are important for authors to do:



  1. I can look at the entire project in a fully fleshed out form and make a lot of cuts. If something is repetitive and unnecessary, I can spot and remove it now before it’s too late.


  1. Anything in the pre-written version is open to debate. I’m not married to or committed to anything that appears there. Meaning if the research says that Snapchat is an entirely reliable platform to use and their metrics are honest (LOL), and if I said otherwise in the pre-written version, the research is going to win. Out goes the dismissive statement and me making a wanking motion. In goes the research once I’ve verified it with two or three different sources.



Assembling the book as quickly as possible, even if it’s in a raw form, lets you then bang out a solid book proposal too.


You’ll know exactly how to describe the book, what’s in it, why people should buy it. You’ll have data you can share to help pull an editor in and keep them interested. You can’t do an excellent book proposal without having that first draft done. (Again, my opinion. Every author is different. I just prefer you know what the fuck you’re talking about when you go to an agent and publisher.)


And hey, if you buy into that “platform” nonsense (most do), then the pre-written version of the book, once you’ve started to check your work with the research, gives you things you can roll out as op-eds, columns, guest posts, and use the soundbites in interviews. That allows you to build out the platform BEFORE you even need to do so with a publisher.



And So, A Word About Content For “The Internet is Magic.”



You must know your audience. If you don’t, you’re fucked. It’s as true as it is in life as it is in business.



The response to “The Internet is Magic” (again, placeholder title, not yet the actual title for “Social Media is Bullshit 2”) has been good. I am open to all suggestions from everyone and welcome them. The best thing is to email me constructive thoughts / comments / suggestions to, so I have it all in one place.



Remember: The ideal situation for this book is that I get an agency to cut me a check, I write the thing, and then it’s distributed for free to the press, the agency’s clients, companies, and everyone who wants a copy. Maybe they throw in some money for a researcher and co-writer so I can get the thing done in a year. Will that happen? I don’t know. It’s being discussed. I will continue to have those conversations as I pre-write this thing.



For me, I just want people to read the thing. I want to get it in as many homes as I possibly can. The specifics of the distribution don’t matter much beyond that. If I can make people laugh and inform them at the same time? I’m good with everything else.



That said, with the pre-written version that’s going to run on this blog, I want to make sure I firmly establish something. It’s going to be my content my way because I know, as other authors should that the audience for the website is not the same audience for the book.



They may overlap, but it’s a mistake to treat them as if they’re the same.



For that reason, the book itself likely won’t have many swear words, references to my Wonder Woman fixation, or other screwball stuff that I find hilarious but doesn’t appeal to a mass audience. There WILL be jokes because it’s impossible for me not to make them, but I’m going to exercise some restraint this time.



The book’s audience is a broad, global audience. We want my niece’s grandmother in Malaysia to read it and enjoy it.



What I want to also avoid is another situation where I’m right about everything, but I gave people (looking at you, The New York Times) an excuse to ignore the book because of the style of content.



But that doesn’t mean those jokes are gone. This website’s audience is not a broad, general audience. It’s for people who like me, like my writing, and already know what they’re getting.



So as I roll out the pre-written version on this site over the next few weeks and months, we’re going to have some fun with my style of humor. For those looking for the clean-ish version, you’ll have to wait for the thing to be released in print.