Crafting a Book: The Manuscript

Welcome back to the Crafting a Book series! If you are new to the series, have a look at these earlier posts, too, and make sure to click over to the Stash Books blog to read about things from the perspectives of my editors!


I talked a little about deadlines in my last post, and the first major deadline I face is for the first draft of my manuscript. This deadline is coming up fast–my manuscript is due the first week of September, so I’ve been crazy busy over the summer.

To back up a little bit, back in July I sent a detailed outline of the entire book to my development editor, Michele Fry. I also sent her a couple of chapter drafts, which she returned to me with corrections for formatting to Stash’s particular guidelines. I’ve used her corrections as a guide for writing the rest of the chapters in the book.  I’ve also been able to go to Michele when struggling with a particular section, as I was with my Introduction chapter. I have a tendency to write in a pretty dry, academic style, and she gave me some good suggestions for attaining a more conversational style.  I’m really enjoying the opportunity to get editorial feedback with this project–I wish I had had an editor to bounce things off of when I was writing my dissertation!

The writing process for this book is very different from the type of academic writing I was accustomed to. Whereas before I would do research and organize my notes before  composing a draft, this process feels more improvisational and free. As the writing has progressed, I’ve found that the easiest way for me to write the project chapters is to write the directions first, then make the projects according to those instructions, adjusting and correcting them as I go. It helps that these chapters follow a formula–there is a clear-cut place for each piece of information–which speeds the writing step along considerably. Of course, the first draft will also include all of the other sections of the book, and I’ve spent the last week composing my introduction, acknowledgements, resource guide, and even the table of contents. I’ve been looking at a lot of my favorite craft books to get a sense of what sections are required, as well as the checklists that Stash provided. I have a feeling I’ll be returning to these checklists more and more as I get even closer to my deadline.

Each chapter needs to include notes about where to insert images into the text. These could be staged or flat shots of the projects, how-to photos (called step-outs), or illustrations–pretty much any picture that I want to include has to be noted in the draft. This means that when I submit the first draft, I’ll also be submitting rough snapshots or sketches of all of the illustrations that will accompany the text. (It also means that all of the projects need to be finished enough for me to take snapshots of, hence the crazy sewing that’s been consuming me over the last couple months.) Each and every image also has to be listed and described in an image log that gets turned in with the draft. When the time comes to submit my final “package” of materials for the book, information from this image log will be used to label samples and models for the step-outs. The manuscript also includes notes about what types of headings will be used for different sections and what text will be included as sidebars and tips. So as I’m writing, I’m also visualizing how I want the finished book to look with regards to the text.

Luckily for me, the actual photography and illustration of the book will be handled by professionals at Stash. For the manuscript I just have to include snapshots of how I envision the final photographs, which will be a guide for Stash’s photographers in making the final images. Although I strive to present attractive photography here on the blog, I have to admit that the snapshot approach is a relief. It makes the process of creating the projects flow so much more smoothly when I don’t have to worry about setting up perfect lighting or staging for each photo. I’m very, very happy to be leaving the photography to the professionals, and I’m excited to see what they come up with!

Right now, the biggest thing I’m struggling with is figuring out how to organize the snowballing number of images for my project chapters (over 200 of them!). Each snapshot/photo and drawing/illustration needs to be a separate digital file, and I need hard copies of them, too. Additionally, any models needed to illustrate step-by-step photos needs to be fabricated  and sent in to Stash for photographing–that’s what I’m working on today. Each step-out a needs to have its own models; at first I thought I would make these as I made each project, but it’s actually working better for me to make all of the step-out models at once, now that the projects are finished and the instructions written.

I’ve been having a lot of fun writing  the manuscript, and I’m looking forward to getting Michele’s feedback on my first draft next month. At this point, I’m not sure how the revising process will proceed, although I’m assuming the draft will go through several revisions. Again, I feel so lucky to have someone else supporting me through this process–it makes a huge difference having another second pair of eyes to look things over. Once Michele has my draft in hand, she’ll be weighing in about her side of this process at the Stash Books blog, so check there in September to read more about the editing process!

Thanks again for reading, and come back next month to learn more about my experiences making the sample projects for the book!


7 thoughts on “Crafting a Book: The Manuscript

  1. Pingback: Crafting a Book: Projects! |

  2. Far out, what a crazy summer!! I’m definitely realising I need to time my book proposal/potential writing for when both kids are at preschool. Thank you! And with the step-out models, do you mean each stage/step needs to be it’s own individual “piece”?

  3. Pingback: Crafting a Book: The Publisher’s Viewpoint |

  4. Pingback: Crafting a Book: Compilation Books |

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