A day in the life of an author

Not all authors have the same writing habits. In fact, most authors have a unique way of approaching the writing process. For myself, I’m also the Chairman and CEO of Thornhill Capital, an international consulting firm, so my day is split between writing and managing the company. Nevertheless, I love writing and publish a monthly Thornhill newsletter and bi-weekly blog, whose subjects vary according to what readers ask me to write about, or a subject I think might be interesting. I also write a bi-weekly Behind the Scenes blog for my author web site. It may sound like a lot, but I deal almost every day with the subjects I write about, and I don’t seem to suffer from writer’s block.

I start writing each morning, believe it or not, at about 3 AM. It’s an ungodly hour, I know. But I’ve always been a very early riser and find that I’m most creative and productive when my cell phone isn’t ringing and I don’t have other thoughts on my mind. I write until about 7 or 7:30 AM, then get ready for my day. Many evenings I’ll sit down with one of the books I have in my home-office and read. I don’t know how many business and informational books I have, probably in the hundreds, so I have quite a number of books to choose from. Usually, however, the book I select relates to the subject I’m currently writing about. I tend to desecrate the book, using a yellow highlighter to mark those sections I want to use as a reference. I’ll also write notes in the book margins. I have an iPad and will download e-books. But, don’t laugh at me, I really like the feel of a book in my hand and will have stacks of them piled around my desk when authoring a book.

I use a Dell laptop and Microsoft Word, which is the program most publishers want authors to use for the manuscript they submit. Before I start a book I have a pretty good idea of the subject areas I want to cover. I’ll lay out the titles for of the chapters, but don’t have a set number of chapters in mind. I let the number of chapters be determined by what subjects I want to cover.

Once I have the chapter titles down I’ll arrange them in the order that makes the most sense and that gives the manuscript a good flow. The initial title of a chapter rarely makes it through publishing process unchanged. The editors have their ideas of what they want the titles of the chapters to be, and I almost certainly will have my changes once the book is finished.

I write my manuscripts in a linear fashion, which means that I write the preface first, then the introduction, and then the individual chapters. My initial writing of a chapter is a brain-dump where I just want to get my thoughts down. This brain-dump process is the same as I use for my blog’s and newsletters. Once I get my thoughts down, I’ll then go through the chapter and make it more polished.

When I’ve finally finished the manuscript I’ll take my time and go through it line by line, checking for continuity and correcting any errors. I’ll also update the manuscript and bring it in context with recent changes that have occurred. Once I feel that the manuscript is complete and error-free, I’ll send an electronic version to a number of my corporate counterparts. I’ll ask them to review it and give me their opinion. Sometimes an author knows their manuscript so well they can’t see the forest from the trees. They almost have it memorized. Hopefully, having other sets of eyes on it, prior to releasing it to the publisher, will ensure that I haven’t overlooked anything or made an error. Once I receive these comments I make a final edit and the manuscript is sent to the publisher.

Alan Refkin

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