How To Write A Book and Teach At The Same Time!
by Marjan Glavac
When teachers find out that I'm a full time classroom teacher and that I've written two books The Busy Educator's Guide To The World Wide Web 1ST and 2ND Editions http://www.glavac.com I'm often asked the question "how did you find the time to write the books?" I answer that finding the time was the easy part. Finding a way to organize and write the book was the hard part.
You see, I'm a closet perfectionist. I love to research. Although I love to write, I can't bear to hand in something that hasn't been thoroughly researched. All through university, I spent a disproportionate amount of time on my research, and too little time on organization and writing. Since I'm a slave to deadlines, I would force myself to hand in the essay on time, although I knew it wasn't the perfect essay. I could never bear to part with that essay, but a deadline is a deadline and I was taught that you honor a deadline. With every essay that was handed in, I would always say to myself "if only I had more time, then it would have been perfect."
Well, there never is enough time and nothing in this world is perfect. But I persisted. I kept telling myself that the book I'm going to write is going to be perfect because I'm going to take all the time in the world to pick the perfect topic and research it until it's perfect. In 1993, I found the perfect topic to write about. The big problem with the topic was that it kept changing, all the time. I could never hope to research it all. It was the Internet.
As I started to do more and more Internet projects with my students, more and more people wanted to read what I was doing. Reporters wanted to interview me. Editors wanted stories. Knowing that I couldn't take all the time in the world to research my perfect topic, I decided to research and write as best as I could and send it in. It was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
Tip Number 1: Research as much as you can then end it. Refuse to spend any more time or add any more information to your research. Don't read another thing. Now it's time to start writing.
The second great thing that helped me tremendously towards writing a book was when a publisher of educational books approached me and wanted me to write a book on the Internet for teachers. She was very enthusiastic. My ego swelled every time she mentioned one of my students' Internet projects and the need for an Internet book for teachers. Then came the catch. I would have to submit a book proposal. The proposal had to have an introduction, table of contents, 2 chapters, a marketing plan outlining who the market was for the book and who the competition was and what my book had to offer that the others didn't. I hated that proposal. I agonized over that proposal. I spent a good part of the summer sweating out that proposal. But I did it. I had an organizational plan for a book and two chapters of it already done. I e-mailed the proposal to the publisher at the end of July. Every day I checked my e-mail. Sometimes twice and three times a day I checked it looking for a reply. After follow up e-mails and a phone call, my proposal was rejected. The publisher already had two other writers writing an Internet book for teachers, she didn't need another one competing with it.
The material I had was very time sensitive, after all it was about the Internet. I approached another publisher who liked my material, but we just couldn't agree on the details. And the material was starting to get dated. So, I decided to take a risk and do it myself. I entered the field of self-publishing.
Tip Number 2: If you have a book inside of you, want control of the whole writing, creative and publishing side of your book, think about self-publishing. For a time sensitive subject, you'll be able to get your book out sooner. Although you'll be taking all the risks that a publisher would assume, you'll also be making much more, especially if your book takes off!
The third great thing that helped me finally write and publish the book was listening to tips on self-publishing by Dan Poynter http://ParaPublishing.com Among his many tips, he tells aspiring writers to carry a binder and put your notes and chapters in it as a way of organizing all your material and breaking the book down into manageable pieces. This binder followed me into my favorite coffee shop many many times where I would jot notes and rough out a chapter. For my second book, I used file folders for each chapter and a big file box. Whenever I came across something for one of my chapters, I would dump it into the appropriate file and put it back into the file box. Then when I started to write, I would take a file and write up the chapter. Always start writing your most difficult chapter first. The rest will seem easy. This simple bit of advice really got me going. One of the most important pieces of advice he gave me was to get help. Although writing by defi! nition is a lonely and solitary activity, you can't do it by yourself. You need help.
Tip Number 3: If you've read this far, congratulations! This is the tip that really paved the way for me on How To Write A Book and Teach At The Same Time. I got help. First, I got my spouse to help me. She became an invaluable support. She would take the kids and give me blocks of time on the weekends to write. Secondly, my goal to write a book became part of my goal planning at school. My administration were told of my goal. Thirdly, I used the Internet community to help me with my research, writing and editing. For the first book, I posted requests on teacher listservs about my book. I asked for reviewers, promising a book for any one who would review a chapter. Over 100 peer reviewers e-mailed me. As I finished a chapter, I would send it out to five or six of them at a time to evaluate. It was a big leap for the perfectionist, but I knew that if there were any big mistakes in any of the chapters, they would be caught at this stage before it was sent to the ! printe rs. And boy, did I have some mistakes! For the second book, members of my Busy Educator's Newsletter sent in wonderful sites for possible inclusion into the book. And there were many that I had never heard of before. For any of you thinking of getting help for your book, http://teachers.net is a fantastic place where the teacher community and special people like Kathleen Carpenter can certainly help you with your topic.
So, when teachers find out that I'm a full time classroom teacher and that I've written two books I'm often asked the question "how did you find the time to write the books?" I answer that finding the time was the easy part because no one has any time. You have to make the time.
Tip Number 4: The best way to make time for your writing is to determine when you write best. The mornings are best for me. There are no distractions and I can work in peace. So, I started to get up at 5:00 am every day. That gave me a good three hours of writing time before I had to head off for school. I also used my lunch hours and time after school at home when the kids went to bed from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. to write as well. On the weekends I often wrote for ten to twelve hours a day. For some of you, writing in the evening when the kids are asleep may work for you. Or, doing most of the research and preparation for your book during the school year and writing it up during the summer may be another option. Whatever you choose, I wish all of you the best as you write that book that's inside of you and teach at the same time.
Transcripts of live chats with Marjan Glavac:
Meet Marjan Glavac 6/29/98
Writing, Self publishing and other Internet Tips 12/11/98
More Classroom Internet Projects 11/13/98
The Internet as an Educational Tool 10/09/98
Internet Projects 9/11/98
Self Publishing Chat with Paul Chika Emekwulu