Process Part 2: 19 Months in the City
The next stage of product development was to take those two streams of text and weave them into a continuous flowing story which actually looked like a book.
Seventy per cent of the creative process was complete. Nonetheless, each paragraph still had to flow seamlessly into the next for 144,000 words and, throughout all those words, the reader has to be kept wondering, page by page, what on Earth is this bloke going to say next?
I tackled the 10 chapters in reverse order of how difficult they were to get right. Between 3 June 2008 and 23 June 2008 I arranged chapter four (8,000 words) and chapter six (14,000 words).
On 23 June 2008, following two years of travelling around the world and a year living in a shed, I returned to full-time employment. From then on I continued to arrange my life around completing the book, despite the not inconsiderable distractions of London.
Arranging the twin-narrative structure took about four weekends per 10,000 words. However, I also had a full-time job, lots of people-related commitments, friends kept getting married and there were only four weekends a month. Securing time away from the madding crowds meant upsetting a lot of people.
I finished arranging chapter eight (11,000 words) on 3 August 2008 and chapter two (7,500 words) on 21 September 2008. The work to design and build this website was ongoing between October 2008 and January 2009 and coincided with a further spell of time-consuming external issues. Nonetheless, during that period I completed chapter three (4,000 words) on 11 November 2008 and chapter five (5,100 words) on 15 December 2008. I went public with my mission statement – in the form of this website – on 1 February 2009 and finished arranging chapter one (25,000 words) on 1 March 2009.
At that point I began incorporating the extensive feedback I’d been receiving on my draft chapters. That involved a meticulous back and forth of editing and re-editing, then going through copy line by line with my heroic and patient editor (and the Oxford Style Manual) so that the hyphenation, punctuation and capitalisation were spot on.
As that review process was ongoing I arranged chapter seven (12,000 words) on 17 May 2009 and chapter nine (36,000 words) on 16 September 2009. Concurrent to that I was also supporting my mother through the final months of her life. It was insanely intense – zooming between my work desk, my writing desk, Liverpool Street Station and Mum’s deathbed.
After returning from bereavement leave in October 2009 I completed chapter 10 (17,000 words) on 17 October 2009, organised my mother’s wake, spent an evening feedback session in Crystal Palace, a day-long editorial session in east London, a day-long feedback session in Wimbledon, a two-day feedback session in Hertfordshire, updated the website, re-edited chapters six and seven, did the first drafts of the YouTube scripts, drafted sales documents and had 1,000 business cards designed and printed.
The final feedback session was a 24-hour marathon with Si, over the 23rd and 24th January 2010, after which we kicked back and smoked cigars. Actioning the resultant changes took another weekend, then I spent two days doing a final read through, before declaring the manuscript to be complete on 7 February 2010.
The next task was to get it published.