You’d think you’d know the answer to this question, if you want to write a book. I didn’t, though. I was convinced I’d write a novel.
Instead I wrote a textbook.
I’d tried writing novels in the past and it’d never quite worked. I’d get so far, then give up; or I’d get right to the end, then start editing and realise how much was wrong with the first draft and feel overwhelmed. I’d plan, or not plan, and neither way would work.
I was, in other words, directionless.
Then a digital forensics publisher came along and asked me to write Windows Forensics Cookbook, which I did not want to do, because it sounded boring and technical. But in fact the process was interesting, and at least I finally brought out a book.
I then started planning my next book, which is also about digital forensics but is a little less technical. It’s a guide for people who want to get into computer crime investigation, rather than a technical deep-dive for people who are already there. I thought this might be a good way to gradually ease myself into a more creative style of writing.
This year I’m also working on some academic stuff: a paper with a deadline of October, which sounds far away but isn’t.
And I’m blogging every day. That might have to decrease as the other writing work increases, because even I only have 24 hours in my day, and there’s only so far that being a very fast typist can take you.
I’m not the only one who’s tried starting out with something not very creative and then moving into more creative stuff: Matt Haig’s first book was about marketing, an area he knows about but which doesn’t fill him with enthusiasm. And gradually he moved on to write novels, many of which I have enjoyed.
So if you’ve been trying to write a book but you keep getting stuck, maybe it’d be worth trying to write a book on a completely different subject. Something you know about, of course, but maybe something you’re less enthusiastic about. I for one found it much easier not to get distracted and go off on mad tangents when I was writing about Skype analysis than when I was writing a chapter in a novel and thinking, Oooh maybe I’ll just look this word up and see where it comes from.