Writing my manuscript in just 5 months

Writing My First Manuscript in Just Five Months

Friday, January 4, 2019

If you’re like me, you probably didn’t wake up one morning and think, I’m going to write a book today. But this week I’m doing an editorial pass on the manuscript for my first full length book. What’s even more exciting is the cover is finished, ISBN numbers assigned, and the Library of Congress Catalogue number is under application. It’s happening!

So how did I get to this point? Several factors played a role in contributing to this moment. And most of them were pretty simple things.

Write, Right?

This was probably one of the most obvious steps I took to get from a blank page to completed manuscript. Writing. Without words, there’s no book. So putting words on the page is pretty important.

I do have to admit that at first, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just capturing ideas. Sometimes I would just have an idea for a chapter title that I liked. Sometimes I’d have the entire story arc for two or three chapters.

Every day I forced myself to write something. Anything. Much of my early work no longer exists in its original form. I either completely rewrote it or deleted it as I edited, realizing it didn’t fit the narrative I was telling.

I knew some of what I’d write would never make it into the book, and I knew sometimes it was just an idea I wanted to capture. But I made it a point to get something on paper (technically, bits on a screen) every day.

Building that habit was my biggest advantage, and I’d need every advantage possible to overcome my poor writing!

Write, Right Here

The second helpful thing I had at my disposal to write the book was being able to write at any moment.

While I tried to set specific times of the day to write, it became apparent that inspiration does come at random moments and I had to be ready to capture those thoughts on the spot.

My iPad went with me pretty much everywhere. I had tried several writing apps for the iPad, and the one I fell in love with was one called Ulysses.

Ulysses works great for me because it allows me to organize each chapter as its own file, sync, and use something called Markdown. Markdown is a basic (but powerful) text only markup syntax for writing that lets me keep the file as basic text. This lets me focus on the writing and not worry about formatting things like headings until later.

The app also lets me design how it will look when I export as a PDF file, or ebook. The PDF export is what I uploaded to the printer and also send out preview copies to a few people for proofing. Because each chapter was its own file, I could export just a single chapter easily for someone to proof, too, or export the whole book.

But the most important thing was I had my most current manuscript with me at all times and could jot down ideas or edit any part of the book at any time. (When I didn’t have my iPad, I could make changes or additions on my phone due to the sync.)

Let Ideas Simmer

Sometimes I would get stuck on an idea. I would have a basic idea of where I might want to go with a narrative, but just not know the way to get there. The solution? Just put down the keyboard and wait, letting the idea simmer. That idea might simmer for an hour or two, or it might be for a week or more while I work on other items.

Using these ideas, the manuscript itself has evolved slightly over time. In the beginning, I thought it was about one topic. Midway through, I realized I was focusing on the wrong big picture and that I had something else. The first topic was just a vehicle to expand on the second topic. Something much more emotional and powerful. So from that point on, I refined that second theme and to my amazement, I was able to write even faster. The ideas flowed like crazy once the manuscript found its direction.

These three ideas got me from that first blank page to a finished manuscript in about five months. Writing every single day to capture something (even if it seemed insignificant at the time), having a way to capture those ideas at a moment’s notice, and giving myself permission to set aside a stumbling block temporarily all contributed equally to getting to where I am now.

So get writing! This has been a rewarding experience for me, more than I could have imagined. And I haven’t even announced the book yet!

Speaking of which, I’m going to give away the first chapter exclusively to those joining my email newsletter. Click here to

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ, author, AI programmer, and animator. I spend my time split between the countryside of Lancaster, Pa, and Northern Italy, near Cinque Terre and La Spezia.

In addition to improving lives through data analytics with my BS in Computer Science, I also published, Searching For Me, my first memoir, about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith.