As a software engineer, I use a program called git to track the changes I make to source code files. So, when I started writing The Ethics of Anarcho-Capitalism, it seemed natural to use git to track changes to the book as I went along. I am glad that I did, because now I can look back and visualize how the manuscript changed over time.
Here is a plot of the word count I had over the four years I spent writing. I averaged a blazing 55 words per day.
Looking at the graph above, a few things jump out at me. I spent four months in the outlining stage, just thinking and taking notes. I then spent 8 months working on core theory, after which I had a measly 10,000 words. I remember thinking at the 10k mark that I had said everything there was to say. I was also really busy with work, so I would get home and go to sleep instead of writing. So ten months passed until the third stage began.
The third stage was when I started writing about how to apply the theory and adding the narrative. It was the most fun and easiest part of the process. I quickly doubled the size of the manuscript, and a month later it had doubled again. The little dip in word count at the beginning was when I moved my notes into a separate file.
If I had been a more experienced author, I probably would have jumped into the applied chapters immediately and finished the book a year earlier.
Once I had the applied chapters done, I found Hugh Barker on reedsy.com who did an editorial assessment. His feedback was gentle, but clear, and led to the big dip in word count at the end of the self-editing process. The drop was due to the removal of long tracts that were boring, repetitive (sorry Hugh), and had only been kept around to pad my word count and ego.
In parallel, I started to recruit beta readers. Simon Franek was first up, and he spent a lot of time going over the manuscript with me, helping to improve both the theory and the story. Then Anders Mikkelsen, Yuriy Skobov, and Dominik Franek each read through and gave a lot of useful, and occasionally hilarious, feedback as well.
Then came professional editing, which was a rather humbling experience. I learned a lot about English grammar. But the most important lesson was that editors are worth their weight in gold. Professional editing is long, expensive, and completely necessary.
First, Susan Cahill did amazing work with developmental editing, tearing apart the chapters and reorganizing the concepts. She looked at things from a high level, without worrying too much about grammatical mistakes (though could not help fixing some of those as well).
Then Harry Painter took over with copy editing. He is not only a talented editor, but also happens to be very knowledgeable in the subject matter of the book. So, he was able to improve the grammar, narrative, dialog, and theory all at the same time. While Harry was editing, I took the time to create the interior layout. Keeping the layout file and ebook file in sync was a pain until I realized I could directly edit the layout file in vim.
After proof-reading by Barry Lyons, I publishing on KDP and IngramSpark and that is where the timeline ends. Finishing was more a relief than anything else, but the journey was a great experience. If you have an idea to explore, or a story to tell, I highly recommend it. I also recommend documenting as you go, if only to help you recall the journey after it is over.