How to bottle lightning

The world of crypto moves so fast that taking a realistic snapshot of its development is like trying to bottle lightning. But this is exactly what I was asked to do by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, for my new book “Getting Started with Cryptocurrency: An introduction to digital assets and blockchain“. And not only was I trying to catch blockchain and crypto at a fixed point in time, but I had just a month to deliver the manuscript!

The reasoning behind this fast turnaround is clear – because technology innovation and adoption are accelerating they usually outpace traditional publishing cycles. I was given the rare chance to write an up-to-date, peer-reviewed book for BCS that would hit the shelves just weeks after the final edits, and it was an intensive yet fun writing experience. Fortunately, there’s something of a correlation between impending deadlines and high creativity. The last time I wrote something this quickly was when I bumped into one of the team behind the Harvey Duckman anthologies in Tesco one Friday evening who asked me for a submission by the Monday. He still says it was the best short story I’d ever written. So what are my go-to strategies when I want to bottle lightning?

Structure is a bonus

One of the advantages of writing a non-fiction book is that the skeleton of the text has already been developed before you start the writing process. It isn’t set in stone, of course, and plenty changes before the final submission – I flipped whole chapters around as the work took shape. This also means that you don’t need to start on page one. I unashamedly went straight for some low-hanging fruit in Chapter 3 as my first day’s writing before diving into new research.

You can’t edit a blank page

20,000 words in 30 days while also teaching, doing client work, and herding cats and teenagers, is no mean task, and this mantra rang in my head the whole time. Write something – anything. This is true of all writing, whether that’s a blog or a novel or a manuscript on a tight deadline. When you read it back the next day, it will always make more sense than you expect.

Bolts of inspiration

Once your mind is focused on the task, the universe listens. Every idle scroll through LinkedIn or WhatsApp served up new inspiration, sources, research and news. Conversely, the day that I was struggling to finish the chapter on regulation, I put the manuscript aside in frustration – and a few hours later the ruling in United States vs Binance Holdings Ltd was announced. That helped me to rework the text and gave me a new case study into the bargain. Bottling that lightning strike was particularly gratifying.

Avoiding distractions

I started writing this book on 1st November, 2023, over a Premier Inn breakfast near Kings Cross. That’s also where I wrote large chunks of Blockchain Hurricane, when I holed up in the same Hub for two days and emerged only to conduct interviews for the book. Being away from the usual distractions focuses the mind. This also works on long train journeys and transatlantic flights!

Draw a line in the sand

When you try to bottle lightning, there’s a point at which the cap has to be firmly closed. One of the hardest things is sitting on your hands because regardless of the latest news and developments, nothing can be added. But readers know this, and what matters is the quality of the lightning in that bottle, not the storms that follow.

Pre-order “Getting Started with Cryptocurrency: An introduction to digital assets and blockchain” out on 17th April from BCS Publishing.