Enjoying the Book-Writing Process

by Dianne Van Dien

Thus far we’ve focused on the challenges, hard work, and discipline required to write a book. So, lest you begin to think writing a book is all drudgery, this time we’ll take a look at what University of Utah Press authors who participated in the survey shared about what they liked most about the book-writing process and what helped keep them motivated along the way. Because while writing a book may not be easy, it does have its rewards.

Click on the book cover to learn more about a book or author.

Book cover of the Spiral Jetty

Hikmet Sidney Loe, The Spiral Jetty Encyclo

“I love the research, the rabbit holes that appear which seemingly following a straight path. There are no straight paths in what I’m researching: there are so many layers of cultural and geographic histories to consider. Sometimes one history leads to another; other times I will spend months trying to get to the heart of a topic.”

Cover image for the book New Children of Israel. Couple from Africa marry in Jewish ceremony.

Nathan P. Devir, New Children of Israel

“I thought that the subject matter was fascinating, and it truly captivated me. I hoped to be able to convey even a fraction of that interest to a broader readership. And so, the deeper I got into it, the greater responsibility I felt to produce a product worthy of someone else’s time and reflection…. I most enjoy seeing the finished product (perhaps that’s not too uncommon). There is a great sense of gratitude and accomplishment once things have been completed.”

Book cover for Stories FInd You, Places Know. Aerial view of flat, green landscape with some lakes.

Holly Cusack-McVeigh, Stories Find You, Places Know

“I would have to say that I really enjoy the very earliest stages where I am just getting it to paper and the very final stages where I polish what I have written.”

The middle part of the process (organizing and ordering paragraphs) is the most difficult part for me. I also really enjoy the research because it is an exciting process — the opportunity to learn something new!”

Book cover with dark sky with visible stars in the background and an outline of an arched rock formation

Frederick H. Swanson, Wonders of Sand and Stone

“I find I enjoy all phases of book production, having performed most of them myself at one time or another. I especially enjoy working with a good editor to identify weaknesses in the manuscript and craft a more polished product. (I learned long ago that one can usually trust an editor’s judgment.)”

Book cover with watercolor image of fox in grass and an outline of an island coast in the background

Corrine Laverty, North America’s Galapagos

“The story kept me motivated. I found it fascinating and intellectually inspiring. Also, I had a writing partner that I shared my work with. We exchanged work every ten to fourteen days. We set up specific times and did FaceTime calls. Our comments to each other spanned line edit, typos and more conceptual questions. We were both first-time book writers and her material was very different from mine, but that was fine. Knowing I had to produce for my partner was great incentive!”

“I loved it all! I loved the archival research. I enjoyed learning new things. I loved figuring out how to make my characters interesting and whole people. It was a challenge and a pleasure to bring the environment into view for the reader. Toward the end when I worked with the U of Utah staff, I took great pleasure in their feedback. I also really enjoyed working with the artist to illustrate the book. That was a blast!”

Book cover with a close up photo of a Prairie Dog standing upright in a grassy background

Theodore Manno, The Utah Prairie Dog

“Key motivating factors were the professional duty to produce a book on a species threatened with extinction, and the desire to one day see the final product on shelves and know that people would read it and learn about prairie dogs.”

“I most enjoy the later stages of viewing page proofs and copyediting, and then the anticipation of seeing the book in print and on shelves. I also enjoy sharing the book with people after publication, and talking with folks about the animals during book signings.”

Book cover with image of frank J. Cannon on a background image of capitol building.

Val Holley, Frank J. Cannon

“Each phase—research, writing, editing, indexing, and promotion—has its own rewards. It’s hard to choose a favorite. The principal motivation was the inherent fascination of Frank Cannon’s story and my notion that I was rectifying a serious omission in Utah’s recorded history. Not to mention the thrill of unearthing long-forgotten episodes, and solving mysteries, in Utah history. Then there was the monastic atmosphere in the New York Public Library Wertheim Room where I wrote. At any given time, several other scholars were in the room working away. There was never any conversation, and I never learned anyone’s name, but the collective energy of scholars plugging away was a significant motivator.”

Book cover is a close up of tan or blonde fur

Donald K. Grayson, Giant Sloths and Sabertooth Cats

“I am fascinated by the stuff I write about, or I wouldn’t be researching or writing about it, and I love bringing it to a broader audience. Same reason I love teaching. Motivation just never flags. I most enjoy the writing process itself. The research part is hard, hard work. The writing, where you get to retreat into your head and have fun with the intricacies of language, is, for me, a real pleasure.”

Book cover of three koi fish, white, orange, and yellow orange, in a dark pond

Joanne Jacobson, Every Last Breath

“I find the entire book-writing process very anxiety-provoking, even a bit frightening (will any of this work at all? I still often wonder); but probably the most enjoyable phases come as I find what I want most to do with the material—and revise with those priorities in my sights.”

Book cover of an abandoned wooden homestead with old photos of pioneers man and woman on bottom left and to men in hats on the right with drinks at their table.

Jerry Spangler, Last Chance Byway

“I love the creative process. I love words and how they convey not only meaning, but emotion. I am admittedly jealous of those who can actually make a living doing nothing but creative writing. It is fun and challenging to make nonfiction interesting to the average reader (hence, I tend to use casual or popular vernacular to the chagrin of the peer reviewers). I enjoy turning a phrase, using a metaphor, coming up with a phrase that is memorable. The actual writing is the icing on the cake (cliché, I know, but the cheese is always better than the bread). The cake is all the research that goes into it. Fun in a different way.”

This article is part of a series called “What Does It Take to Make a Book?”

See previous posts:

Writing the Edited Volume

Revising a Book Manuscript

On Writing Schedules, Routines, and Daily Goals

How Do Writers Make Time to Write?

Books Take Time

What Does it Take to Make a Book?

Dianne Van Dien began working for the University of Utah Press (UUP) in 2010 as a graduate fellow while earning a MS in Environmental Humanities. Later she shifted to her current role as UUP’s freelance marketing associate. She lives in rural Missouri, from where she also writes and edits for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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