Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
It’s often said that we all have a novel inside us. In my case, it’s less a novel and more a “How-To guide”, simply because I really enjoy reading books that teach me how to do stuff.
Having failed to complete the Marathon des Sables at the first attempt in 2014, I felt compelled to write a book that would capture all of the lessons I’d learnt, to provide a complete guide for those looking to attempt the same race for the first time. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the time, effort, training and cost that I went through in attempting this race, only to return home without a medal. I wanted the book to explain to even a non-runner every single element of the race – from kit, to fuelling, hydration, training, foot care, etc.
My original plan was to write a purely technical guide, however this turned out to be very dry. In fact, one of the reviewers of my initial manuscript even asked, "…who are you and what would drive you to run the Marathon des Sables? And why would you attempt it for the second time? If I were a reader, I would want to understand your psychology."
This observation is what led me to write the autobiographical aspect of the narrative, meaning the finished article is essentially a book of two parts. For those interested in the story-telling, you get this upfront, whist those looking for the technical stuff can "dip in" to relevant chapters and avoid the narrative entirely if they wanted.
My second challenge was actually writing the book. The idea of sitting at a laptop to write is so depressingly solitary for me. I dislike the idea of being tied to a device, especially since I spend all day in front of a screen at work. However, I love using my iphone because it gives me the flexibility to write anywhere and allows me to use tiny pockets of time that really do add up. As I spoke to friends about this, I discovered an innovative way to write my book. Having created the basic structure using the storyboarding technique and mind maps, I started to write using an app called Evernote on my phone. In fact, I wrote my entire manuscript on my iPhone, using Evernote.
I wrote the first draft within eight months, finishing it just three days before heading to Morocco to attempt the race for a second time. Having successfully completed the Marathon des Sables, I returned to the U.K. to start the first of many edits. Although many people helped me, I could not have achieved this without my friend and partner in crime, Hannah Paine.
My book was published in April 2016, following which, I tweeted the CEO of Evernote to ask if I could send him a complimentary copy as a thanks for this amazing app - imagine my joy when he said he’d already bought a copy!