Writing, compiling and formatting the first draft of my first book

Writing, compiling and formatting the first draft of my first book

It was time to stop talking about being a writer and get down to writing, compiling, and formatting the first draft for my first book.

As mentioned in previous posts I was the somewhat dubious owner of 4 previously published ebooks on starting a home-based business that thankfully no one had purchased.

But they were the starting point for my second foray into KDP publishing and I spent almost a whole year hacking, pasting, rewriting, and adding new content until I had one 250-page book that included the best from the previous books.

But before I explain my compilation process, it is necessary to point out that there was an ulterior motive to publishing a nonfiction book as my first attempt at becoming a writer. Besides the fact that the material, in one form or another already existed and making money from it would be a bonus, I also needed to test my understanding of how KDP worked and the research needed to ensure I published correctly. It would also give me greater insight into the pro’s and con’s of using KDP Select (more about this choice in a future post).

Writing, compiling and formatting the first draft of my first book

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The mistake I had made with my first publishing attempt was to assume that all I had to do was whack it on Amazon and the money would roll in. Sure, I marketed it through my social media platforms and websites, but there had been no plan. My efforts were arbitrary and piecemeal.

In short, the whole process needed to be structured, and each step planned and connected. Writing the book was only one step.

Writing and compiling the first draft

I spent most of the first quarter of 2019 methodically working my way through each of the 4 existing books, highlighting what was relevant and what parts got executed. At this stage, I paid no attention to format or grammatical correctness of the pieces I identified as keepers. It was the content I focused on.

What was also needed was a complete revamp of the outline—what message was I trying to convey, what would the reader hope to get from the book and how best could this tutorial type information be presented?

Slowly, the outline took shape (I probably wrote, scrapped and rewrote a dozen outlines before I settled on the best layout). The book now had shape. It would comprise 3 distinct parts. Once this decision was made, it was simpler to allocate what I had extracted from the previous books into the relevant parts.

Writing, compiling and formatting the first draft of my first book

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After, what I referred to as the “old” content, was pasted into the new template I began writing the revised version, adding in new information and rehashing what was already there. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I found the whole exercise tedious and at times boring. Some mornings took sheer willpower to force myself to open my laptop and face another day of grinding through the material.

But 3 months later the revamp was done, aesthetically, it was an eyesore!

Formatting the book

Oh, boy! What a nightmare. I had written the first 4 ebooks using MS Word of which I have a better than working knowledge and therefore felt comfortable in compiling the new version in the same software. That meant copying, cutting and pasting sections and chapters from the 4 books into the final manuscript. Simple. Not really, unless you obey certain formatting rules. Like making sure all 4 books are identically formatted in terms of style and layout before you chop them up and move the content to a new template. And that recommendation that before you paste any text into a Word document, you make sure you first paste into a text editor, is spot on. Something I forgot to do before it was too late.

My first effort resulted in a mangled version of what was supposed to be a book. I had to start all over again and create a new template for the manuscript and move everything over from the mess I had to a uniformly styled document.

With this mind-numbing task completed, I began fine tuning the layout. Because the book is constructed into 3 distinct parts, I needed to have different page headings for each part. It took days before I got a semblance of what I wanted done.

MS Word and I have done our time together, and we have parted on less than amicable terms. It’s back to Scrivener for me for longer works although I still use Word for short documents like this post.

And here I need to share my gratitude for the podcasts and blog posts of authors and publishers who have given of their time to share meaningful information on exactly what is needed before you make an idiot of yourself when publishing your book. The manuscript needs to comply with specific guidelines as laid down by Amazon and being able to go to reputable sources to learn how, halved my input time and reduced the learning curve substantially.

Here are several videos on formatting Word manuscripts that comply with Amazon requirements. Take the time and watch them, they were tremendously helpful.


After compiling the book into what resembled a finished article, it was time to confine it to the bottom drawer and move onto other matters such as getting my website launched and learning how to go about publishing my ebook.

I left it stashed my external drive for around 2 months before starting my rewriting process. I had been dreading this step; partly out of fear that once I began the rewrite it was taking me another step closer to publishing, and I might discover that attempt number two was as disastrous as my first effort.

To my pleasant surprise I found it was not as debilitating as I feared. Truth be told, I enjoyed it. New ideas surfaced; I was adding practical implementation steps for the reader and finding smarter ways to present the information, thus improving the overall presentation of the book.

Writing, compiling and formatting the first draft of my first book

“This is a great primer for anyone thinking about writing a non-fiction book. Penn covers all the basics and makes even the most reticent or inexperienced writer realise writing and publishing their own book is well within their abilities. Packed with links to useful stuff, my only criticism was that I’d kind of heard it all before on her podcasts. But, given that her podcasts are excellent, that’s no problem for anyone new to Penn’s world”.

Amazon review by Patrick Sherriff

Draft two was completed and went back into the filing drawer but a noticeable difference in my attitude had taken place; I was looking forward to tackling what I hoped would be my final draft before I began editing.

One week later I was at it again. Slowly and systematically going through each chapter and section looking for ways to increase the added value making the product more outcomes based. I was also spotting spelling and grammatical errors, but at this stage in my work flow I opted to ignore them until the editing phase—not an easy task. I get extremely agitated when I see red or dotted lines under words or phrases knowing that I’ve made mistakes, but my workflow process forced me to ignore them.

Finally, the revised version of my existing 4 books was complete. I was now ready to edit and more about that in the next post.

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