Writing While Sailing – A Self-Publishing Journey

Writing While Sailing Diane

Writing While Sailing

It already sounds like the title of a book and maybe, no make that probably, is.

Thinking back over the last six months of writing and illustrating my first children’s book, In the Very, Very Beginning, for the Cat under Sail series, I certainly could write a book about writing a book while sailing along the notoriously challenging East coast of Southern Africa!

One of the book’s chapter headings would go something like this: What could and did go wrong?

The problem with writing and publishing a photo journal, hard copy book of 115 pages about cruising to Madagascar from South Africa, for family and friends – “Mora! Mora!” (not for sale) – in just under two weeks is, I mistakenly thought I could duplicate this effortless feat writing and illustrating a children’s book of just 38 pages long.

In fact, I thought giving myself a month to do so was being overly indulgent considering the lofty mission impossible (No.5) this little book is burdened with – to make enough money from the sale of the book to afford to visit my then newly born, first grandchild. So far, based on the sales record for the book,

I’ll have to hike the whole way there and she’ll be old enough to hold a conversation with!

6 months later after finding there is indeed life after failing to meet several desperately self-imposed deadlines – for the record they make a sort of pathetic “whoosh” sound as they fly past – I have the following insights about writing and sailing to share:

Boats move a lot and almost all the time. Catamarans are better at not leaning from side to side though, which led my husband to remark rather wittily I thought, as boats tend to have women’s names a good name for a mono-hull is “Eileen” and a catamaran, “Noleen”.

1. Did I mention boats tend to move a lot? Try painting a delicate illustration of a seashell while a southerly blow is in full swing. No, make that weeks of enthusiastic southerly wind blastings!

2. The moving bit again – very distracting – especially when there are new vistas to explore and unrelated to Cat under Sail paintings to be painted.

3. Aside from the much moving thing – dirt. Those photos of pearly white sailing vessels imprinted on any mind fantasizing about living the sailing life – are fantasies. In real life, up close, boats are dirty and need a lot of cleaning. This obviously takes time away from the essential business of writing and illustrating one’s own book. Not to talk of the creativity numbing effect of hand washing clothing and bed linen.

4. Not to belabour a point, but all the moving makes one hungry which inevitably leads to time spent making food, mostly from scratch because all the easy to prepare food gets eaten first, instead of writing.

5. On a completely different tack – don’t assume the book making software you are using will save a copy of your book as you go along – as it very clearly says it will do – and do expect to lose all of the book just three pages short of completing months of formatting, for good, when the laptop inexplicably crashes. Not even hubby who is a software engineering wizard could dig up something usable.

6. Do not e-v-e-r be in a hurry to write a book, and especially so from a boat with a dodgier than Ryan the dodger internet connection. (Ryan is a conman we have met on our travels)

7. Do eat lots of spinach – it apparently kept Popeye fighting fit which is what you need to be if you are planning to write a book while sailing.

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More reading: How To Write A Book With The Best Book Writer Software Tools


One thought on “Writing While Sailing – A Self-Publishing Journey

  • February 24, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    That is a tough undertaking in a small boat! I work up to 200 days offshore as a geophysical survey consultant, usually, onboard quite large boats with good internet connections. Whenever the weather is bad we go into Standby mode and during these periods most of the survey team read books, watch movies or go to sleep. I have now written two novels – one centred on piracy and ransom during the wreck hunt for an East Indiamen off Zamboanga and the other a murder mystery. The first book is partly based on a real experience after being attacked offshore Nigeria- so I do know what it is like! Unfortunately, I have never been able to find an agent interested in reading beyond the first 3 chapters. Admittedly for ‘Mission Albatross’, these chapters are pretty bad but I plan to rewrite and improve them! My second book is called ‘The Somerset Pond Murders’ and, so far, the few agents and friends I have shown it to have not been blown away. All I would like is someone to read the whole book because, like a fine wine, it gets better the more you read. So my conclusion is writing on boats is an excellent plan but best to choose a large and stable vessel.


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