What I learnt about writing books—part 1


Have you ever wanted to write a book but don’t know where to start?  Here’s what I’ve learnt about writing three books in three years.  I hope this will inspire you to take the plunge.


Starting the book

I was at a little bit of a crossroads a couple of years ago when I didn’t really have a quilt on the design wall and I’d just dislocated my left shoulder (the most important one of course!) and wanted to write a quilting book but didn’t really know to write about.  It had to be different to anything written before.  Basically I wanted to leave a mark on the quilting world.  I had done a course on Adobe Illustrator about 18 months before and had started to really play around with the pattern brush tool.  I found that I could generate many designs from a basic design, sometimes not even a completed one. I knew there was something in it and did a little research to see if anyone else was using my technique.  I couldn’t really find detailed information on manipulating the design as much as I did.  So I had a place to start.

The next hurdle was that I had a stigma that I wasn’t a good writer.  This stemmed back to writing essays at high school in the 80s.  I tried my best to keep on topic and follow the writing technique and layout the teachers set out.   Sometimes the feedback would be that I didn’t set it out like they wanted it.  This frustrated me no end and I kept thinking that I mustn’t be good at writing.  As an adult, I knew I could write funny anecdotes about my family so I had a glimmer of hope that I could do it.

After much deliberation, I suddenly realised I didn’t have a publisher and no one pushing me to write.  I was my own boss and didn’t answer to anyone about the project.  I hadn’t even started the book and was doubting myself.  This was ridiculous.  I could edit what I wrote too.  No one was going to mark it and give me a C!  This was a subject I was interested in too.  I wasn’t going to compare and contrast two boring books!

Now that I had made the decision to do it, the next question was when.  As I had been recovering from a long, severe stint of tennis elbow in both arms (not from quilting) and then did the shoulder in, I thought that if I didn’t do it now, it probably wouldn’t ever get written.  Would I regret it if I didn’t write a book?  I think so.  I then went through all of the quilting notes I’d written for classes and started to cherry pick bits that would be good for the book.

I didn’t have a plan or a complete technique for manipulating designs.  I had to dive in head first.  Everything I did to create designs was instinctive which I knew wasn’t going to help me write a book on it.  I took a step back and analysed everything I did to a design to create something new.  I had no idea I did that much stuff to each design.  It was fun to start formulating the technique.  This process took about 18 months to get on paper.  Each night I’d go to bed with designs spinning away in my head and questions like, “What if I did that?” or “How does this apply to other designs?”  It was exhilarating.  Even if it was a long day, I couldn’t wait to get started again in the morning.


This was the first pattern I manipulated with the pattern brush tool. The pattern may not be interesting, but everything I could do with it was! Now all I had to do was reverse engineer it to see exactly what I'd done to the original pattern (top left corner).

This was the first pattern (top left corner) I manipulated with the pattern brush tool in Adobe Illustrator. The pattern may not be interesting, but everything I could do with it was! Now all I had to do was reverse engineer it to see exactly what I’d done to the original pattern.


It was late in the game that the book felt like it was coming together.  Up until then, it felt like a random set of ideas.  Not having people around me that were quilters to read it and give me feedback didn’t help.  I had to steel my nerves and get it in shape.  After reading it so often I was rather blind to it and didn’t realise when I’d written the same thing two different ways but at least I had a basic manuscript and it was time to get to work on the details.

Happy writing and quilting,


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