When writing a book, like most creative projects, the early drafts look nothing like the finished product.
A manuscript – double-spaced on A4 paper – is a totally different reading experience to a printed book.
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My first book began life as a handful of scribbled notes and unrelated Word documents.
I didn’t even know it was a book until I was a fair way towards completing it.
My most recent book was born of a pile of old diaries and dozens of Evernotes and MindMaps.
Even the project I’m blissfully immersed in now doesn’t look anything like I imagine it will when I launch it.
Or at least, it didn’t…. until I decided to play Creative Dress Up…
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Creative Dress Up
Creative Dress Up is a name I’ve just made up for the following game:
Take the raw material – the nuts and bolts of your project – and dress it up to look a little more like the final product.
In the case of a book, this would involve taking your manuscript – your rough draft, work-in-progress, typos-and-all document – and tweak the layout to look more like a finished book.
This used to be the exclusive domain of magical graphics departments, brought in at the very end of the publishing process – the final step, done only when the endless rounds of editing, polishing and re-checking are complete.
Only then could a writer get to see their ‘book’ looking like an actual book.
But the creative process can be a long and doubt-filled slog.
It can be really tough some days to believe that the scribbles and notes in front of you will ever make it to book stage.
So, being creatives, why not harness one of our most powerful resources – our imagination?
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Let’s burst out of the constraints of that A4 document and make it… book-shaped.
Lose the double-spacing, just for now. Create a Dress-Up version and fiddle with the settings.
Print out your unedited draft in double-sided, paperback-size pages.
Add page numbers and your name or title at the top.
See it how your fans will see it. (This alone is a great trick for spotting typos.)
It doesn’t need to look exactly like the finished article, just a little closer than the draft stage that’s so easy to get stuck in.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even have a stab at creating a cover.
Why not? No-one ever needs to see it, but it may have a powerful effect on your faith in the the project.
Playing this game can really help to visualise the end result – which, some days, will be essential if there is ever to be an end result.
I did this for my current work-in-progress. I spent an afternoon creating some rough temporary graphics, which I know I’ll never use.
It did feel a little like wasting my time… until I saw my swanky dressed-up version!
I got such a boost from seeing my project come to life, that those few ‘wasted’ hours felt more like a quantum leap forward.
And I’m sure I’ll recoup the hours I spent by needing less time for The Wobbles. (Ie, those fruitless, dithering, unproductive hours spent wondering how and if my project will ever see the light of day.)
When I used to work in design studios, we would call this step; creating a mock-up. We’d regularly spend time and resources on making a fake, temporary version.
Even though this would end up in the bin when the polished final version was complete, it wasn’t wasted work. It was an invaluable part of the creative process.
Of course, we still have to go back to the drawing board when the fun of Creative Dress Up is over.
But the insight and motivation we can get from this little trick may be just the thing to spot what isn’t working, or to envision how brilliant your book might eventually be.
Which makes it easier, and more likely, to reach that elusive finished stage – for real.
PS You could take this idea a step further and mock-up a bestseller list with your name at the top, or write glittering imaginary reviews for your finished book.
This is great for clarifying why you’re doing it. (For those days when you wonder why you’re doing it….)
Feel free to pen your imaginary reviews in the comments below. I’d love to help you visualise them!
PPS If you’re curious about what my dressed-up, rough-around-the-edge, work-in progress project looks like, you can take a look at my mock-ups here.
*** UPDATE *** : Whether or not it was my Mock-Up Magic, sheer tenacity, or labour of love (most likely all 3…) – my Muse Spa project did get finished and is now available. (This makes me very happy. 🙂 )
You can see how it actually turned out HERE.
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