Monday, January 31, 2011

So, you want to write a book on martial arts...

When's Your Book Coming Out?

I get that question a lot lately and the best answer I have is that our target is to be finished by the end of the year. In case anyone is interested in writing a book, I can tell you the process we're going through.

We've been asked,
Can't you just turn your blog into a book?

Well, yes and no. There is the option to use one of the many services that will turn your blog posts directly into a book in print. That method is cheap, fast and most likely turns out crap, to be honest.

Between the two of us, Jim and I have written over 700 pages of material on training, coaching, teaching and competing in the last five years alone. Some of it was just rambling on whatever we thought at the moment. Some was directed at activities at a specific tournament or other event. And some of it just kind of sucked. We did have our moments of brilliance, though, or at least coherent thoughts, if I do say so myself. The challenge is to separate the excellent suggestions on matwork from notices on upcoming camps, the stories about Beijing the cat and how to do judo on your dog.

First, we had to go through those hundreds of pages and delete out anything that was just not very relevant and stuff that frankly, isn't any good. In the process, we started fitting these into topics and putting those topics into an outline for a book.

Second, there are parts that are good but incomplete. For example, Jim wrote on training cycles and talked about the importance of periodization, but he never explained either the concepts of training cycles or periodization, assuming anyone who read this blog would know or could post a comment and ask if they didn't. We're expecting a more general audience for the book than this blog, so we are even putting in parentheses the translations of the Japanese terms.

So far, I've gone through about 200 pages, of which I threw out 70 or so off the bat. Jim took the second pass through the remaining 130 and crossed out a whole lot more as not fitting with the theme of the book which is "Making martial arts champions from the ground up". We talk a lot about "making champions not taking them", developing ground work, developing someone who has a decent base as a human being as well as an athlete. Some of what he crossed out may go into another book but not this one. At this point, he also wrote some more explanations of, for example, what a superset is.

We were discussing whether we should do a third pass through the material and write it into chapters before going through the other 500 pages but decided instead to make one complete read through everything first. Hopefully, I can get another 100 pages for Jim to edit on the plane before he leaves for Europe next month, but since I only have ten right now, that may be overly ambitious.

I'm going to be visiting my mother in Florida next month and then heading up to Boston from there. Since Mom is not exactly into wild nights out on the town (she is in her 70s and has a degree in Library Science - that should tell you something) , I expect I will have plenty of time to finish my first weeding of all the material by the time I leave. So, come hell or high water, I am going to have made the first pass through everything by the first of March. Overall, that part alone has taken almost four months, but keep in mind I have a business to run that is unrelated to judo and it's been a busy time for that. If you could devote full-time, or even half-time, you could get this done much faster. On the other hand, we did start with over 700 pages ALREADY WRITTEN.

One thing I think we have done right is to NOT do the editing in a linear fashion - with me going through everything and then sending it off to Jim. Also, as I've had a chance to look at his edits on the first 50 pages I sent and then the second 50 pages, I think it has helped me to be more critical (in a good way) of the rest of the material. There's also the obvious fact of doing it this way speeding up the whole process, because he's not sitting there doing nothing waiting for me to finish, and when I send the last couple hundred pages off to him, I can just start right in on editing a less rough draft of however much we have remaining from the first 500 pages.

My point - if you want to write a book on martial arts, I certainly don't want to discourage you, but I do want to warn you that if you think it's going to be quick and easy to write a good book, you are headed for disappointment. We started out with a huge pile already written and between the two of us, we have a basketful of medals, awards and degrees, not to mention two kids with Olympic medals. AND STILL, it has been neither quick nor easy for us. Hopefully, though, the book WILL be good.

If I have to settle for one of the three out of quick, good and easy, I know which one I want.

(If you had a different thought, you have a dirty mind. Shame on you! )

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