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5 Questions for Aspiring Author-Entrepreneurs

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Some questions that I've learned are worth asking from writing 5 books in ~5 years along with advice:

* What are your motives?

* How long will it take?

* To self-publish or not to self-publish?

* Is it a project or a product?

* What is its expected shelf life?

I didn't realize how huge the opportunity cost is until I read your article:

Just a few of the opportunity costs that you should consider:

  • Missed consulting revenue
  • Volunteer work
  • Exercise
  • Social relationships
  • Entertainment
After writing 5 books myself, the base metric I’ve settled upon from my own personal experience is that it takes about 2 hours per page after all of the detailed are worked out. That figure includes the earliest stages of brainstorming, the amortization of time diverted into research activities that inevitably happens along the way, and everything else that leads into the final round of proofreading in which I (re-)read every single word of the final manuscript that’s about to go to the printer. That number may seem high, and your own mileage may vary, but you might at least consider it as a a starting point or as an upper-bound if you think you’re considerably more efficient.

2 hours per page makes me want to write short pamphlets for Kindle rather than full books!

YMMV, but I've found that there are lots of "hidden costs" that you simply can't know about unless you experience them for yourself (make those mistakes and learn from them), have the extraordinary gifting to avoid those costs, or just have the prudence to be realistic and take all of this into account from the beginning. But alas, then Hofstadter's Law (as described in the article) still kicks in...

Don't get me wrong, the benefits can offset the opportunity costs, but make no mistake, the opportunity cost is quite least in my own personal experience.

does it apply to fiction as well as non-fiction? 

The advice I was providing was all backed by experiences in writing tech books, though I imagine that it all still applies in some form or another. I have been flirting with the idea of writing a short novella [or two or three] but haven't gotten beyond the outline sketches at this point. I feel as though I need to have it all figured out as a written sketch before I can really commit the effort to writing it up.

So, while I imagine that it does apply (with a little bit of extrapolation here and there), my overarching concern would be that there might be a better list of 5 other questions that you'd want to consider as opposed to the 5 that I've presented here.

One of the bigger questions I'm asking myself as I start to consider fiction is how structured the activity should be. e.g. should I have a clean outline of the plot, sketches of the characters, etc. and "mechanically" put it all together like an essay or term paper...or is it more of a creative process that's a little more "romantic" involving the ebb and flow of creativity.

For me, I know that I'd have to be pretty mechanical about setting it all up and having it all very clearly defined in my mind...and then I'd probably use all of that background material to guide the actual process that would inevitably have to involve a more creative process in which spontaneity is involved in developing characters, etc.

The most fundamental thing I think that is common for *all* kinds of writing though, is this: successful written works are all about story-telling. Whether you're telling the story of a piece of technology, a story about a successful methodology, or a more creative story about fictitious characters in the same world that we live in (or not), it's all just story telling. 

Tell a good story, and you'll have a good book. Tell a not-so-good story...and you probably won't.

No idea if the ~2 hours per page applies for fiction or not. I'd really hope that it's shorter, but just can't say for sure since I haven't done it yet.

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