Checklist for Book Writers

These are the three checklists I use to write the chapters of my new Management Workout book.

Yesterday, in my hangout with Jason Little, I discussed the benefits of having a checklist for book chapters. I already published a blog post checklist on this blog earlier. So I thought, “Why not share my book chapter checklist as well”?

For me, writing chapters for my book involves three stages:

Stage 1: The Vomit Version

The first version of a chapter is just a brain dump of everything I want to say, written as fast as I can. The resulting text is uglier than an orc’s bathroom wall, and I don’t care to show it to anyone. It’s purpose is to get the thoughts out of my head and into a document, and to create a decent structure for the whole text. This is my definition of done for the vomit version:

  • Is there a story or metaphor in it?
  • Does it have a good opening?
  • Does it arrive at a proper conclusion?
  • Does it offer something new?
  • Does it have a proper version number?
  • Would I want to read about this myself?

Stage 2: The Shaped Version

The second version is the one I dare to share only with my best friends, when I’m in a good mood, after a mojito or two. It is the version I enjoy working on most, because I mold, shape and sculpt the barf into something that could have a hint of beauty, when seen from the right angle, in the proper light, with the eyes half closed. It’s now more like an elf’s bathroom wall. This is the definition of done for this version:

  • Does it have a proper document template/styles?
  • Did you check all your notes (for me: Evernote)?
  • Is it funny?
  • Is there science behind it?
  • Does it have a good/unique title?
  • Does it have a proper file name?
  • Does it start with a quotation?
  • Does it end with a call-to-action?
  • Does it have proper references/bibliography?
  • Does it have good quotes from other books?
  • Does it have a proper header?
  • Is there a copyright notice in the footer?
  • Does it have social network links at the end?

Stage 3: The Polished Version

No, not a Polish version, the polished version! The third version is where I spend all my time tweaking and tuning the details, making sure that I’m proud of what goes out to readers. Because that’s what it is: the first version that I send to beta readers. It is also the version that gets nicely designed and published as a PDF on my mailing list. This is the definition of done for this third stage:

  • Did you write for a specific persona?
  • Is it keyword-optimized?
  • Did you check the spelling?
  • Did you check apostrophes/punctuation?
  • Did you check for double spaces?
  • Did you check italics vs. bold words?
  • Are all styles properly used?
  • Are all headings properly capitalized?
  • Are all hyperlinks clickable?
  • Are all references compatible with MLA?
  • Does it have tweetable take-outs?
  • Does it have interesting side bars?
  • Does it have illustrations?
  • Are all illustrations referenced in the text?
  • Does it have good photos?
  • Does it start with a summary/pitch?
  • Did you read it out loud?
  • Does the footer show the title and version number?

Stage 4: The Final Version

Yes, there is a fourth stage. It’s the version that gets published in the book.

I don’t have that checklist yet.

I might share it with you when I’m done. 🙂

What’s on your definition of done?

p.s. Of course, I checked this text with my checklist for blog posts!

  • People Stop Reading at the Word ___
  • Management and Task-Switching - 15 Minutes on Air with Johanna Rothman
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