This year we are writing a new book at Adopt & Embrace. Although the topic will be a surprise as more details will be revealed in the coming months, once again, it’s a collaborative effort.
In the past, I have contributed to various books that have been published by authors in the Learning and Development or Education field. I have provided quotes, stories, use cases and for some, I have written sections and chapters. For others, I have received the manuscript to proof and edit.
I don’t mind doing this for others especially if the book is co-written and we all have some form of acknowledgement for writing and yes, I do like to receive a copy of the book once it’s published. However, I’m always pleasantly surprised and somewhat miffed when you don’t get a copy of the book, a thanks, a recommendation on LinkedIn or any acknowledgement. Or worse, they expect you to purchase a copy of the book!
At times like this, I do reflect and think “am I being overly needy here?” One measly recommendation? A public thank you on a social media post? A LinkedIn testimonial or something on their website saying “thank you to those who have helped me write this book”. Is that too much to ask? (Sure, I know that some social media influencers say “don’t expect anything in return; do it without expecting anything!”
Sure, I understand that but a simple thank you is all that is needed. It’s just plain etiquette 101.
My Process for Writing
Leaving that aside, we are writing a second book that leaves from where our first book Microsoft Teams: A Manager’s Guide to Communications, Collaboration and C-ordination jumps off. (Check the website, Amazon, Audible and all good book stores for a copy!)
For the last six (?) or so weeks, I have left my Wednesday mornings free to write without disturbances. After my morning walk, I find I have the best ideas and motivated to sit down and write freely. I put my Do Not Disturb On and close down all social media and then it’s head down and write.
I’m responsible for an entire chapter which is split into sections related to the skills that modern workers need nowadays for a hybrid working and learning; and then provide some tips on how to use the Microsoft365 applications to do these. I’ve enjoyed both the writing and coming up with the specific activities because the writing allows me to share some personal stories and also wrap them with resources I have used myself.
For example, you may have seen my tweets where I share “What’s In My Ears This Morning?”.
Well, there’s a reason I’m listening to these. It’s because they’re giving me ideas for what to write in my chapter. As I listen to each podcast, I get some idea, a little nugget or an activity that I can then explore with Microsoft applications to incorporate into the writing.
What’s in my ears this morning? Me, I’ve realised I’m lacking creative projects in my life that enthuse me & buoy me up with ideas & spontaneity. It means I’m not bored enough to let my mind wander – I’m too anxious about current lockdown/life. https://t.co/NM9xsABvzh
— Helen Blunden #AlwaysBeLearning 🤔🧠🦉📚🥇 (@ActivateLearn) September 15, 2020
While I’m walking, any idea that comes up, I’ll flash up the OneNote 2016 Notebook and tap it out in there (or just dictate the idea with a voice memo – whatever is easiest).
Prior to writing, I planned all the sections of the chapter out in the same notebook. I deliberately didn’t split into sub-sections of the Notebook. Just one page, everything dumped in there with headings, links and ideas all on the one page. (Some people may baulk at this idea but as everything is easily searchable in OneNote, you can just type what you’re looking for and it’ll find it for you on that same page so no need for long scrolling).
Also, I didn’t want to spend any more cognitive load figuring out the best way to categorise everything. Sometimes we spend too much time trying to come up with a decent folder and sub-folder structure that it detracts from the real work which is writing to get your ideas down and besides, you end up not using the folder structure or not being able to find where you were up to. It gets to be a bit of a mess. I think it’s time we let go of having to overly structure everything into nice neat folder taxonomies rather than doing what we need to do and that is creating, writing, working, learning.
Anyway, I digress.
My OneNote page is a dump of ideas, links, photos, videos, that are there to give me some inspiration for the chapter. Here’s an example of the last section I will be writing (this is only a snippet so not the entire plan obviously…
I dump any links with ideas for activities in here as well. I also tap out the main skeleton of the section plan here. I’m using the OneNote simply my dumpster.
I then colour code things depending on what I want to do with that section.
Yellow means “YET TO BE WRITTEN”
Green means “TRANSFERRED TO THE TEAMS BOOK”
(Yes, I know I could have “tagged” these sections but bear with me, we all have our own different systems that work for us). 🤣
What Happens Next?
Strangely, I don’t use OneNote to draft out the text for each section.
Initially, I did it but found that I wasn’t used to using a clean OneNote page for my draft. I know that this is WRONG. Technically, I should just keep it all in the OneNote notebook so that it is discoverable and searchable. Also, I can change the template of the OneNote note book to make it “look” like Word.
For some weird reason, maybe it’s just habit or using Word for 20+ years of my working life, I wanted to tap out my drafts in Word. It felt “nicer”. I knew my way around the Word navigation bar.
However, this is a habit I WANT TO BREAK. (Everything should and must be done in OneNote).
I have a Word document that has all my draft sections and which I write it all out in there – in full. All writing, editing and proofing is done in that word document by myself (no one has access to it). Only after I am happy with what I’ve written, all references have been placed into the document, will I then go to the next step.
Using Microsoft Teams Channel
We have a Teams Channel where we all collaborate within regarding the book. We have specific channels regarding the working manuscript, research, marketing and others. Within the manuscript channel, we have the book template formatted exactly to the standards we want – that is, all chapters, heading, sub-headings of a typical book layout is there. It’s our choice whether we want to write into that book directly (because it automatically does the formatting) or what I do which is COPY the text of what I’ve written into the section of the book and it automagically formats.
In effect, it LOOKS and FEELS like the real thing.
I can’t begin to tell you the JOY I feel once I PASTE my text into the book and it automatically BUILDS OUT the chapter. I then view the pages side by side and sit back to see what it looks like on screen. The only thing I don’t remove is the colour code sections where I highlight my references. That is, every quote or reference, I highlight in yellow and leave the FULL URL in it because we haven’t decided how our bibliography will be like. That way, in the near future, once it is decided, I don’t have to go back and forth into my OneNote to copy and paste URLs, they’re all there in the document.
Although I’m not across the publishing and marketing of this book, admittedly I do find the process of writing cathartic and a way to pull in and capture everything else I have researched, curated, written before (I also add links to this blog plus some of my unlisted Wakelet collections).
Also it gives me satisfaction to be part of a project that blends both team work (writing a book together) but also has elements of individual work where we can choose what we want to write; how we want to write it. It’s also given me an appreciation of the myriad of Microsoft products out there and then putting a LENS over HOW these products may be used in workplace contexts with activities that teams can use to get more out of their teamwork, collaboration and productivity.
We will have more information about the book in coming months and I’m excited to see it in print…soon!