Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing Another Textbook - Everyday Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs

A few science books in the collection ... and now I
can add one of my own among them!  Happy!
I wrote my textbook "Inner Planets" during a very difficult time.  It was a struggle to write a single word, let alone the 80 thousand necessary to finish the book.  Without my courageous co-author, it would not have come together.  Still, I'm very proud of the outcome.  We worked hard, and the textbook is a great undergraduate introduction to the inner planets.  The chapters on different processes are especially well done, with my favorite being the one on radiometric dating, a subject near and dear to my heart.  The introduction is actually very useful as well, with a glimpse at major ideas in science and how scientists approach their subject.  My co-author did an outstanding job with the history of the various missions to the planets.

It was gut wrenching to get that book out, but times have changed, and my health is much more stable.  I'm also in at a point where my science and education contracts are not carrying me for 100% of my time.  With all that in mind, when a friend hooked me up with a publisher last year, a publisher looking for a graduate text in planetary sciences, I jumped on the opportunity.  I convinced my previous co-author that this was an opportunity not to be missed, and we put together a winning book proposal and signed a contract.

So January has been filled with writing and research.  Tough going in places.  Fortunately I know lots of experts in various fields, and am interviewing them as often as possible.  My co-author and I want to create a really useful and gracefully written book.  As I said, it's still been tough.  Writer's block isn't just a fiction writer's problem, it's just a problem in general ...

Going through exercises like NaNoWriMo means I can put my head down and just produce text, no internal editing (or not much internal editing), giving me something to work with.  It's a very good skill to have acquired.  I have created a good outline to work from, but the reason why the book will be useful is that there really isn't anything quite like it out there.  So I'm doing a lot of trailblazing in terms of content.

And every month from now until October requires me to turn in a draft chapter.  About 7K words each (on average) plus figures and images for each one.  Trivial in terms of word count, but a challenge in terms of highly targeted, effective, and informative word count.  It's going to be a wild ride, but I am committed and focused on creating something any instructor of planetary sciences will want to use, and any graduate student of any related science will want to own and read.  It will also be useful as a resource for scientists who want to either brush up on some things, or get a head start in an area that's out of their discipline of choice.

AND of course ... I'm still trying to jam in a bit of fiction writing.  It's been about ten months, I think, since I've submitted any of my work, anywhere.  Much too long.  I've plenty to get out there, but submission takes a solid, dedicated effort, and I want to be sure I'm sending my material to the places that it really fits.  Again, that takes research.  But research is something I'm supposed to be good at :) 

Image Credit:  My pic of my books