How I Wrote My First Book

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 β€’ 18 minutes to read

Cover by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Recently, I wrote my first eBook. Yes, I finally wrote it. πŸŽ‰
It was on my list for a long time and when it finally completed and I like to share my experience with everyone.

In this post, I'll try to document my complete journey of writing the book. From motivation, hurdles, tips to tools everything.

I wrote the eBook on Hyperledger Composer Blockchain tool. It is completely free and right now only available in PDF format.
Link

Table of Content

Motivation 🎯

I am writing articles and tutorials from late 2018. By now I am quite comfortable on how to write an article or a tutorial. How to approach the article and which tools should I use? But when it comes to book writing, the arena is quite different. My motivation was curiosity, how authors write books? What is their thought process? What tools do they use? And of course how it feels to write a book. πŸ˜„

I am a Software Engineer and I am working on Blockchain since 2018. I learnt different blockchains like Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. I used many tools like truffle, remix and hyperledger composer. I had a few options to write on like Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric. Since it was my first eBook, these topics were not ideal for me. Because these topics require a lot of time and efforts. So, I picked the simple one, Hyperledger Composer.

First Hurdle 🚧

Which tool or editor should I use to write the book?
Should I write in MS Word, Google Docs or use something else?

I read lots of articles on What are good tools available for book writing?. I tried many tools but I wasn't happy with any of them. I wasted a lot of time finding the perfect tool.
In the end, I realize that editors ease your writing and managing the book but what matter is the content. So, I stopped searching for a perfect editor and went to basic.

Basic

In the end, I used my favourite code editor. Yes, VS Code πŸ₯°.
After, spending days of finding on Internet, not a single article suggested that we don't require any specific tool or editor to write a technical book, VS Code or Atom is more than enough.

I wrote the complete eBook on VS Code in my favourite markdown format. To ease my writing, I used a couple of markdown plugins like Markdown All in One and Markdown Preview Enhanced.
The first plugin helps you writing markdown while the second helps in preview and how the markdown will look and behave after converting into HTML or other formats. The Markdown All in One also has a preview but Markdown Preview Enhanced has multiple themes and options to export the markdown file in HTML, PDF and other reading formats like epub or Mobi. The other formats require the Pandoc installed in the machine.

I am a Windows User. For Mac Users, I found there are many great editors available bear, ulysses and many others.

Recently, I found there are many markdown editors available on Windows and MacOS which you can use for book writing. Like Notion, Typora, iA Writer, SimpleNote.

Bottom line Don't waste too much time on finding the perfect editor, start writing on your familiar editor. With time you'll find it.

Second Hurdle 🚧

From where should I start writing?
How should I write?
How should I approach it?
In short, how well should I write it, so that the reader will get most of it?

These questions made me scratch my head a lot. In the beginning, I changed my approach 4-5 times.
At this point, I suggest spending some time to ponder about the approach. Because once the book is in the middle, it is not going to be an easy task to change it.

Ask the questions

I asked these questions to myself about the book and noted it down.

  1. Who is my targeted audience?
  2. How should I maintain the sequence of the book?
  3. How should I name the files or chapters? So, if I have to refer to any particular topic, it should be easy to go there.
  4. How should I track the progress?
  5. How should I maintain the versions of the chapters and drafts of the book? There will be no. of occasions when you will think that last edit was much better than this.

These are a few basic questions which I asked and they were helpful.

My approach

I followed the below points as my approach:

Create a to-do list πŸ“

I created a to-do list. In this list, I note down all the points, topics, sub-topics, references, preface, cover, title etc.
I almost added all the thoughts which came into my mind for the book.

I would suggest creating 2 to-do list, one on paper and the same as a soft copy.
First, note down all the points on paper. Once you note down everything, read it 2-3 times. Then whatever new ideas are popping in your head, note down. Like, how you're going to explain a particular topic. Note it down. It will ease your work. When you will start writing that topic, you can refer to these notes.

Once you have a to-do list on paper, it doesn't have to be complete. Create a soft copy and save all the points in chronological order.
This was my to-do list use to look like.

Tasks

  • Index
  • Cover
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Preface
  • What is Blockchain and Hyperledger Fabric?
  • Introduction to Hyperledger Composer
  • Environment Requirement and Setup
    • Azure
    • AWS
    • GCP
  • Project Objective
  • Project Setup in Composer
  • Model File
    • Definition
    • Modeling Language
    • project code
  • Script File
    • Definition
    • syntax
    • project code
  • Query File
    • Definition
    • Query Language
    • project code
  • ACL File
    • Definition
    • syntax
    • project code
  • Deployment in Composer Playground
  • Testing in Composer Playground
  • Export the .bna
  • Composer Rest Server
  • Frontend
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • About Me
  • Grammar Check 1
  • Grammar Check 2
  • Read the draft
  • Read the final draft
  • PDF format
  • Add page no. to PDF
  • New chapter starts from the new page
  • Thank You Note
  • License
  • End cover

I used the markdown format for my to-do list. You can use any of your choices.

Start Small but Start πŸ§—

You should keep this in mind, that you don't need to write in order. There can be many topics which are dependents on previous topics. You don't have to write the complete topic at once either. Whatever topics you are feeling comfortable start writing on that.

Your goal should be to start the book. Aim to write 10-20% of your book within a couple of weeks. Once you'll start, it will keep reminding you that you have to complete the book. In time you'll realize that this turns into a great motivator.

If there is a topic which you're not good at, don't worry. Don't hesitate to get help from the Internet. Read how other people explained it. Take inspiration and then write it in your way. If you're taking any content from other people's work, then make sure you inform them and least mention them in the references.

Consider this as a professional courtesy. – John Wick πŸ˜‰

Chronological Order

It took me a while to understand the importance of file naming convention. First I started following Chapter 1, Chapter 2 naming convention for the topics. It was a terrible idea. The problem with this naming is that you have to maintain a separate file in which you brief of what is in the file. Or you have to open each file to get it.
Another problem is, if you are adding a new chapter in between then you have to rename all the following chapters.

These are 2 conventions I found helpful, but each has its disadvantages:

  1. chapternumber-topic: Name the file as chapter number followed by the topic of the chapter. Like this 10-Introduction-of-Blockchain. Name the chapter number in 2 digits. It will help you to add sub-section of the same chapter in different files. Like this 11-History-of-Blockchain. Another benefit of this naming convention is it will show all the files in the order of your book chapters.

Disadvantage: Adding new chapter in between will require to rename all the following chapters.

  1. filename as topic: Name all the files as the topic name. It will give you the freedom to write topics in random order. And you can maintain the order of the book in the to-do list.

Disadvantage: All the files will arrange in alphabetical order. After 10-15 files it will be difficult to track all the files and also while creating the draft.

I followed the second method. Actually, by then I didn't figure out the first one. πŸ˜…

For creating a draft, I created a nodejs script. In this script, I entered all the topics in an array. Then I created a draft file and appended all the topics in it. Of course by reading them first 😜. A few perks of being a Software Engineer 🀭.

This script was a saviour while doing the editing. Many times I updated the topics or pics in them. Grammatical mistakes. Here Grammarly saved my ass from grammar nazis 🀭. But not completely as I am using the free version. πŸ˜…

Chronicle of the book journey

Writing a book is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Always save your work when you complete a topic or done for the day. Next day, you might get a new idea for the same topic which you already completed. You might spend an hour on this and it doesn't look good like the previous one. The UNDO is great but it also has limitation and its limit varies from editor to editor. Do not Test its limit.

Instead of relying on the editor or making duplicate copies, I used git for version management. Don't limit git as it can only be used for code management. It is a tool and its application is completely on your imagination.

For the readers who don't know about git.

Git is a distributed version control system for tracking changes in source code during software development. It is designed for coordinating work among programmers, but it can be used to track changes in any set of files. –Wikipedia

You don't have to learn the complete git. The basic commands like init, add, commit, logs and checkout. These 5 commands are more than enough for you to maintain the versions. If you want it to be accessible and safe. Then their are many Git code hosting platforms available, like GitHub, GitLab etc. To host your book on one of these platforms, you can follow the below steps:

  1. Create an account on one of these platforms. My personal choice is GitHub.
  2. Create a private repository with default choices. You can change its visibility to the public in future.
  3. Follow the instructions provided once the repository created. Basically, in this step, you're connecting your local Git to your hosted repository.
  4. Learn 2 more commands. push and pull. Use push to push the local changes to cloud repo and use pull to get the content from the cloud.

After this, whenever you make any changes just add, commit and push. Simple! isn't it? πŸ˜…
After a couple of commits, you will feel comfortable with git.

A Glance on the tools and the resources I used 🧰

I used many tools and resources while writing, editing, formatting and designing it.

Writing

For writing, I used the VS Code editor with a couple of markdown plugins.
For emojis, I used the copy and paste emojis.

Editing

For correcting the grammatical mistakes I used Grammarly. I used the Free version. In the free version, it corrects all the basic mistakes like incorrect or missing articles, preposition, commas etc.

I used the online pdf editor to add page numbers in the book.

Formatting

I used the Markdown in Preview plugin in VS Code to generate the PDF format. I used the default git markdown formatting. You can change the formatting in the settings.

Page break in PDF

As I was writing in markdown format, the PDF output was inconsistent. For example, It starts the new topic from the same last page instead of from the new page. For this, I used the page break html code at the end of each topic.

<div style="page-break-after:always;"></div>

This will make the following content to be on a new page.
You can also add the end of the page-sequence like ***** this.

<div style="page-break-after:always; display:block; text-align:center; border:none">*****</div>

About Me Page

In About Me section of my book, I divided the content into 2 columns. A brief about me and a profile pic. It took me a while to realize the capabilities of the markdown format. We can add plain html code in it.

<div >
  <img align="right" style="padding-left:65px" src="../images/profilepic.JPEG" width="400px" height="450px" />
</div>

Hello, I am **_Shubham Kumar Chadokar_**.

I am a Software Engineer and in my short career of almost 4 years, I got the opportunities
to work on Blockchain, Nodejs, Golang, and Docker.

There are other techs also but these are my primary ones. I love to write articles and tutorials on
new tech by following the hands-on first approach. This is my first eBook.

I am not good in Frontend Development that's why I didn't include it in the eBook, apologies for that.

If you have any query or question, please feel free to drop me an email.

πŸ“§ [hello@schadokar.dev](hello@schadokar.dev)
🌐 [schadokar.dev](https://schadokar.dev)
<img src="https://github.githubassets.com/images/icons/emoji/octocat.png" style="width:20px;" />[github.com/schadokar](https://github.com/schadokar)

For octacat, I used the img tag.

It looks like this.
about-me

Thank You Page

I added a thank you page for the Hyperledger Composer Community for their work. I tried to add the content in the middle of the page.

<div style="padding-top:40%; text-align: center; font-size:35px;">
Thank You <img src="https://emojipedia-us.s3.dualstack.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/thumbs/240/microsoft/209/person-with-folded-hands_1f64f.png" style="width:40px" />
</div>
<div style="text-align: center; font-size:25px;">
I specially want to thanks the entire
<a href="https://github.com/hyperledger/composer/graphs/contributors">Hyperledger Composer Community</a> to create such
an amazing tool. Many developers entered into the blockchain domain because of simplicity of composer. <br />
It is unfortunate that it is deprecated but it sets the great example of automation with ease,
wrapping a complex Hyperledger Fabric into the easy to use Hyperledger Composer.
</div>

It looks like this. thank-you

Book Title, Sub-title

The book title should tell the complete content of the book in a few words or 1 sentence. While writing the book, note down all the keywords used in the book. This will help you to come up with a great title. The logic is to get the essence of the book content for ex. is it theoretical or a hands-on book.

A sub-title should tell readers, what they will get from this book or what they are going to learn. One sentence sub-title is ideal and max 2 sentences. Don't overdo, let the readers read the book. The idea is to tell the complete book in 1 sentence and still don't tell anything 😜.

My book title is Playtime with Hyperledger Composer and sub-title is Create a supply chain management project in Blockchain using Hyperledger Composer.

When you start writing your book, don't spend much time on the book title. When your book completes that time you'll be in a much better position to decide the book title, because everything is written, you know what it is all about and what others will get from it. In my case, I changed the book title and book cover at the last moment before publishing it. Previously, it was so boring πŸ₯±.

Designing the Book Cover 🎨

I start designing the book cover by taking the references from other books, tried to edit them in the paint. The result was a complete disaster, can't think of anything good. That time I realized, designing is not my β˜•οΈ. I thought to hire a freelancer for this, I went to the freelancing sites like UpWork, Fiverr.

Then, I found Canva. Such a great tool. Amazing! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Canva is a graphic design platform that allows users to create social media graphics, presentations, posters and other visual content. It is available on web and mobile and integrates millions of images, fonts, templates and illustrations. Wikipedia

I used one of the templates from the canva book cover section and created my eBook cover. Not bad, isn't it? πŸ˜„

cover

License πŸ“œ

I wrote this book out of curiosity and for fun. So, I want it to be free, open-source, but don't want others to monetize it. Without a license, there is no restriction.
I searched for a while and found a great answer on StackOverflow regarding free licenses, Creative Commons Licenses.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges.

They have provided a form with a couple of questions related to what kind of license you want. Fill the form and voila πŸŽ‰, your license is ready. Copy and Paste it or use the embedded link.

License

Publish πŸš€

There are many options to publish your book. You can approach the publishing house and send your draft. If they like to publish you can go ahead and secure a deal. After this, publishing house takes care of other processes like formatting, editing your book, creating an attractive book cover, all the licensing, publishing process and most importantly marketing. In short, if you want to monetize your book and expecting a good amount, then publishing house is the best option available.

Another option is self-publishing. Yes, we can self-publish our book. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing provides a great platform for this. It is free and it publishes the book worldwide. You'll get 70% royalty for each sale. The kdp take cares of all the publishing process. You just have to write the book, upload it and format it. Enter the price of the book and basic details of the book and yourself. You can follow their tutorials. They have done a great job.

I want to keep my book free and didn't have the patience. So, I self-published it without using any third party. I converted the book in PDF format and saved the book in AWS S3 Bucket so that anyone can download it. Then I hosted the book on my website. Simple. πŸ˜ƒ

Checkout here

Share your work πŸ“€

Once you complete your masterpiece, it is time to show this to the world.
If you haven't teamed up with a publisher or even if you did, you have to spread the words.

These are the few platforms I used but don't limit yourself.

  • Linkedin: This is a professional platform and almost all the professionals are on it, irrespective of the profession. Technology, Sports, Writing, and many more. You name the profession and you'll find the professional here. Share your work with them, ask for the feedback, 90% time everyone replies. I shared my work with Dan Selmon, one of the Hyperledger Composer contributors and Srinivas Mahankali, he wrote many books on Blockchain. They both were very helpful and gave their honest feedback. I am thankful to Dan, who even offered to share the book among his network on Linkedin and Twitter. πŸ˜ƒ
  • Reddit: This is a community hub. You will find many active communities on various subjects here. You just have to join the community of your work and share your work with them. You'll find a lot of active members there and they are not shy to share their opinion. If there is a room for improvement, some of them might offer to help. But before sharing, DO READ THE GUIDELINES. If you violate any of it, they will remove your post.
  • Twitter: This is not just a social platform where people share their opinion. Don't restrict it and don't underestimate it. If you like facts then, there are 1.3+ Billion accounts on twitter, 330 million monthly active users, 152 million daily active users and 500 million tweets per day. This is huge. You just have to craft your message and select the right keywords within the 280 characters limit and it will give you a wide range of audience.
  • Blogs: Find out the publications or digital magazine of your book category. Share your book summary and details with them. Ask them if they can write an article on this. Or you can write an article and share the draft with publications to publish it.

There are many other platforms you can try.

Conclusion

This is my first experience of book writing and it took some time but it worth it. Now, I have another badge under my belt. πŸ₯‡ I learned a lot from this. This article is a documentation of all my learning for anyone who wants to write their first book or the next book. Below is the final list of tools I used so far.
Any suggestion is most welcome to make this article a worth read.

Thank you for reading and don't forget to share your first book with me. πŸ˜‰

Final List of Tools I used πŸ“


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