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How I Write a Book

Here’s how I wrote my latest book

Come up with a really good idea.

Go do a really cool trip.

Write a diary every day.

Carry a small diary in your pocket so that you can even write whilst you are walking and don’t have to stop to jot down something interesting.

Come home, drink tea, recover.

Get down to work.

Type up all my diaries.

Start brain-storming ideas for the story and structure. (This often happens up hills for me. My notebooks often get wet.)

Continue Brain-storming on trains, tubes, buses and loos

And when I’m at my desk on boring conference calls

Shuffle all of my notes and diary content into some sort of structure

Eventually turn all of this into the legendary shitty first draft. Celebrate. Have a beer. Print it out.

Realise that the hard work is only just beginning!

Return to the computer and axe 33,352 words

Eventually turn all of this into a shitty second draft. Celebrate. Have a beer. Print it out.

Sometimes I do a digital version of the highlighter pen. I shrink all the text to tiny tiny, then highlight paragraphs by colour according to the theme it covers. This helps me avoid repetition and keep the structure tight.

Repeat the above few processes about ten times over a couple of years.

It gets quite tedious, so do it in all sorts of locations.

And then one day I wake up and decide I simply can’t face reading it any more. I just no longer care. At this point the book is finished, and I send it out into the world.

The first copies arrive at my house, I get very nervous, and wish I had read it through just one more time! 

Sit and stare at the book over lunch without daring to open it. Get REALLY cross that the bloody text title is not centred!

Take a deep breath and launch the book out into the world…

And now the next phase of hard work begins – getting anyone to read the damned thing!

I hope that YOU might give it a read…😉

My Midsummer Morning is on sale here.


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  1. Hey Al – really interesting 😀

    Was there much to-ing and fro-ing with the publishers? Did you have an editor or other proof-readers? I love reading about other people’s process!

    The photos from your notebooks are particularly fascinating – and I’d never thought to shrink things down and highlight, that’s inspired. I have done corpus analysis on a few of my books before, looking at word frequency and distribution. That usually picks up some interesting anomalies.

    For our sitcom, the process seems about 1,000 times less stressful than for a whole book, but we still get through loads of iterations. We also get our producer to note a couple of drafts and have input from a bunch of other comedians for a few hours. Then, of course, the actors sprinkle their comedic stardust over every line!

    Thanks for taking us back stage 🙂



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